Operation Allen Brook


Go Noi Island is located in the Dien Ban District, Quang Nam Province, I Corps, Republic of Vietnam. It is approximately 15 miles south of Da Nang, west of Hoi An and 5 miles east of An Hoa. Although it is not truly an island, it is surrounded by rivers, streams and roads. To the south is a large mountain range which is used as an NVA infiltration route from Laos. Although the civilian population is considered sparse, they were all strongly VC oriented. Most of the men of military age were active Viet Cong. Traditionally, Go Noi Island served as a staging area for NVA units building up for attacks against the Da Nang area. In May of 1968, the 36th Regiment of the 308th NVA Division and elements of three VC Battalions had found their way onto the Island. The NVA troops were well trained and equipped. Their field packs were stocked with medical supplies, munitions, and gas masks. Their uniforms were immaculate and neatly pressed. The men were young and had fresh haircuts. They possessed great fire power. They had rockets, crew served automatic weapons and mortars. The standard weapon was the AK-47 assault rifle. They had Polish rifle grenades and the new RPG rocket launchers. Their supply lines and leaders were excellent.

By late April 1968, through reconnaissance observations and limited engagements, it was determined that the enemy had fed in an equivalent of an NVA Division in the area south of Da Nang. Major General Donn Robertson, the 1st Marine Division Commanding General, decided to change his tactics for the defense of Da Nang. Up to this time, the defense consisted of heavily patrolling the rocket belt extending in a semi-circle around Da Nang. With additional available troops(27th Marines), it was decided to fan out in deeper reaching, more mobile operations which would keep the NVA forces away from doing damage to the Da Nang area.


On 4 May, Operation Allen Brook began under control of the 7th Marines, commanded by Col. Reverdy Hall. The first unit committed was 2/7. This battalion went in on the western edge of Go Noi Island and attacked eastward toward the railway. Reconnaissance teams had earlier reported several sightings of enemy troop movements of groups with as many as 60-80 NVA. Prior to the initiation of the operations, no allied force had been in the western end of the Island for about one year. After several days of sporadic fighting engagements, 3/27 was notified of their pending participation in Allen Brook. Original plans called for 3/27 to enter Go Noi Island as part of a task force consisting of elements from the 7th Marines and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Several days prior to the planned coordinated venture with the 7th Marine forces, the concept was modified. The plan now was for 3/27 to eventually operated west of the railway bisecting the Island without the 7th Marines while the ARVN forces were to sweep the area east of the railway towards highway 1 and Hoi An. 3/27's mission was to seek, close with, and destroy the NVA forces within the Go Noi area in order to preempt enemy attack efforts against Da Nang. On 13 May, India Company 3/27, with a section from 81mm mortars, was attached to 2/7 and would act as 3/27's leading element.


13 MAY: Capt. Thomas Ralph, CO of Co I,3/27, moved his company by helicopters to Hill 148 in the Que Son Mountains, just to the south of, and overlooking Go Noi Island. Once landed, the platoons were dispersed around the crest and began digging in. The ground was hard and progress was very slow. There was no shade and the temperature was extremely hot. Water was a premium and there would be no re-supplies that day. Later in the afternoon, two seperate booby trap incidents resulted in 2 friendly KIAS and 3WIAS. From the hill, groups of NVA were spotted, and several air-strikes were called in on them with positive results. I/3/27 remained on hill 148 for the night and planned to join up with 2/7 the next day on the Island.


14 MAY: At dawn, I/3/27 hiked down a steep hill trail and entered Go Noi Island for the first time. Within 2 weeks, 36 India Co Marines would be killed on the Island along with scores of wounded. The Marines humped all day in the hot sun and eventually linked up with Golf Co 2/7. Signs of the enemy were observed throughout the day but no contact was made. For the second day in a row, there was no re-supply of food or water. That night there was an enemy mortar attack, but little damage was done.


15 MAY: Control of Allen Brook was transferred to 3/7, under control Lt Col Roger Barnard. What was a little unusual was that there was not a single rifle company from 3/7 on Go Noi at the time. Co G 2/7, Co A 1/7, Co I 3/27 and the command group from 3/7 were the operational units on the Island. In a well calculated plan by the 7th Marines CO, the Marines swept all day towards Liberty Bridge, making a major effort into letting the NVA know they were leaving the Island. They crossed the river and were met with well needed food and supplies. Perimeters were established and, as a rain began to fall, the Marines got some sleep.


16 MAY: Just after midnight, the Marines returned to the Island and quietly headed off in a northeasterly direction, somewhat parallel to the Song Thu Bon River. After traveling in single file for 2500 meters, the Marines rested in place until dawn. The movement was a total surprise to the NVA. At daylight, with I/3/27 and G/2/7 on line, the Marines swept southeasterly and ran into an unprepared NVA Regimental Headquarters with attendant security. Actually, each side was surprised. After some initial confusion, a heavy fight insued. Marine air helped carry the day as the enemy was routed, resulting in 160 KIAs and tons of equipment captured. 25 Marines were killed along with 38 wounded. Two of the KIAs came from I/3/27. It was the first fight with NVA forces for 3/27 Marines since they had arrived in Vietnam in February. After medical evacuations, re-supplies, and destroying the enemy equipment, the Marine forces headed out in in southerly direction. That night they moved twice before settling in just to the north of Le Bac (2).


During 16 May, the rest of 3/27 was alerted, except for Co M, to be prepared to move by truck convoy to Liberty Bridge, and to then move on foot to the area of operations. On the eastern part of Go Noi Island, ARVN units had also begun their operation called Hung Quang 1-38. Two battalions of the 51 Regiment under Col Truong Tan Thuc, plus the 21st and 37th Ranger Battalions, were the operational units. They were to remain on the Island until 25 May.


17 MAY: The morning began early for Marines both on Go Noi Island and at the 3/27 Cau Hau Base HQ. Col Tullis Woodham Jr, CO of 3/27, prepared his Co K, Co L and H&S Co to depart by truck convoy to the Go Noi area. On the Island, the Marines arose at dawn and headed off in a column with I/3/27 leading the way in a southerly direction with no defined objective.


Co I's leading platoon silently came into a small hamlet and surprised a small NVA force eating breakfast with several women, who were later identified as belonging to a medical unit. As the Marines opened fire, the enemy soldiers fled while the women screamed and vainly attempted to retrieve the NVA rifles from their hiding places and throw them to the fleeing soldiers. In a few moments the one sided fight was over with more than a dozen NVA killed and the women captured. They left packs and weapons behind, but did manage to send off a few mortar rounds to cover their retreat which wounded several Marines.


Shortly after the surprise contact, Co I started sweeping southerly looking for the remainder of the escaped enemy. They went thru some tall elephant grass and started crossing a dry river river bed in the Le Nam (1) area. All of a sudden, all hell broke out! In a tree line to their front, a large NVA force lay hidden in fortified positions. Deadly accurate snipers located in trees started picking out Marine targets while NVA machine gunners opened up with disastrous effect. One Marine after another went down. Some were killed instantly, while others lay wounded in the open under the hot sun. The enemy left them alive knowing that the Marines would try to rescue them.


Several Marines did manage to cross over the river bed and took cover along the river bank. One of these Marines was PFC Robert Burke, a former mechanic turned grunt. Burke exposed himself above the bank and, firing a machine gun, knocked out several NVA positions which allowed more Marines to cross over and rescue some of the wounded. Eventually, enemy fire killed Burke and he would later receive the Medal of honor posthumously.


Capt Ralph, CO of India, called his platoon leaders up to a position located in the elephant grass to plan a counter attack. As two of the Platoon leaders approached , the position came under fire and Capt Ralph, Lt Cummings and Lt Fiebelkorn were all killed. First Platoon leader, Lt Thompson, took over Co I and did his best to call in air and artillery strikes and tried to organize his spread out troops.


During this time, Lt Col Barnard, CO of 3/7, attempted to flank the ambush site from the west with A/1/7 and his command group and ordered G/2/7 to move up and assist the beleaguered Co I. Both of these efforts failed and India was basically left to survive on their own.


In the mean time, the 3/27 truck convoy was diverted to the 27th Marines HQ, and Lt Col Woodham and the 27th Marines CO, Col Adolph Schwenk, decided to leave the trucks and enter Go Noi by helicopters. The Marines landed south of the ambush site and Co K and Co L started to assault towards Co I's position. Capt John Ernest, CO of Co L, led his company to the east and then north in an effort to evade a large stream. Co K, led by Capt Joel Parks, found a small dam across the stream, and in single file crossed his troops over. Stiff enemy opposition slowed Co K, but they eventually drove off the NVA and linked up with Co I as darkness settled in.


28 Marines were killed (20 from Co I) and 68 were wounded from 3/27. At around 1900 that night, control of Allen Brook passed from 3/7 to 3/27. As the companies settled in for the evening, the 3/27 command group was situated in a rice paddy to the south, Co K and Co I remained in Le Nam (1) and Co L was to the east. Co M, 3/27, was also alerted that they would fly into the battle zone the next morning to relieve Co I which had been virtually wiped out. The remaining 3/7 forces would also leave Go Noi Island the next day


18MAY: By 0930 the command group had linked up with Co I and K. The day started off quiet and one could tell that it was going to be extremely hot. As Lima was approaching from the east, the 81 platoon was sent out to scout for a good CP. Within a few minutes, sporadic rifle erupted and it wasn't long before another full scale battle began with an enemy of unknown size. Co K moved north to assist in the fight while Co L, still approaching from the east, soon ran into heavy fire. The enemy showed no desire to leave. They were ready for a knock down dirty fight. As casualties started mounting, including numerous heat victims, Co M began to arrive by helicopters. They immediately attacked and also ran into a well dug in NVA unit. The temperature neared 120 degrees and most Marines discarded their flack vests


Air strikes were called in and they did an excellent job dropping HE and napalm. The Command Group was dangerously close to the action, but it did allow for very accurate fire missions. Napalm runs even scorched the hair and eye brows of many as the drops were within 100 meters of friendly forces. The enemy tried to keep the Marines pinned down so they couldn't pull back so that arty and air could be brought in on them. The NVA were in bunkers and they had also positioned snipers in trees. They were later identified as belonging to the 16th and 38th Regiments of the 308th NVA Division. The battle continued throughout the day with several strong pockets of enemy resistance. Marines fought alone or in small groups and it didn't stop until darkness when the NVA escaped into the night. Friendly casualties for the day were placed at 15 KIA, 78 WIA and 6 MIA. 94 were evacuated as heat casualties. Accurate enemy losses could not be determined, but at least 20 were killed. A farmer who was found the next day said he had seen NVA dragging back many dead and wounded during the night.


May 19: Early morning patrols were sent out in all directions to search for the enemy. Within the CP area, the Marines began policing looking for weapons and NVA supplies. Tons of captured and abandoned enemy equipment and armaments was located and evacuated to Regimental HQ. In the tree line of the heaviest fighting, a number of NVA bodies and 5 Marine KIAs, previously listed as missing, were also discovered. The rest of the day was spent consolidating forces, evaluation losses and being re-supplied.


May 20: 3/27 moved out towards the east with Co L in the lead. While en-route, there was sporadic sniper fire. The heat continued to play an important part of the troop movement and Col Woodham decided to halt at mid-day. Defensive night positions were set up with 3 companies on perimeter. At 2230, several NVA were surprised by a Co K listening post. One enemy soldier became disoriented and ran into the Bn CP. He was wounded and captured. Under interrogation, the detainee stated he was with the 2nd Bn, 38th Regiment. His unit had infiltrated from the North through Laos on a month long journey, and had just entered Vietnam 4 days earlier. His battalion's strength was 400 men but they had lost quite a few during the May 17-18 battles. He further stated that his unit had several heavy machine guns, but no mortars. Morale was reported as low due to a shortage of food and medical supplies.


May 21: The Battalion moved out in a northerly direction towards the village complex of Phu Dong (2). The heat was still unbearable. Most of the men had given up their flack jackets, but heat casualties still hampered the march. Several of the men had to be evacuated. As enemy bunkers were found along the route, combat engineers were dispatched to destroy them. At 1400, the lead elements began receiving small arms and sniper fire. Air and artillery strikes were called in on these positions. The Battalion set up and prepared night defensive positions. Resupply helicopters flew in water, food and new replacements just arrived from the States. Sniper and mortar fire kept the Marines alerted throughout the night.


May 22: At 0830, the Battalion again moved out in a northerly direction towards An Quyen (1). As tree lines were approached, preparatory fire missions were called in to avoid any potential enemy surprise actions. The night defensive position was reached at 1500. A 6 man scout team left the perimeter at 1630 on a reconnaissance patrol to the village of An Quyen (1). They observed and chased 2 Vietnamese males through some tall elephant grass adjacent to the village. They found 7 fresh camp fires and signs of about 35 people. They also observed pools of blood and fresh drag marks. The patrol returned to the CP position while artillery was ordered upon the area around An Quyen.


23 May: The Battalion remained in position the entire day. Several small company sweeps were made with negative enemy contact. An aerial observer reported sighting 27 fresh graves in an area that had received air strikes on 22 May.


24 May: At 0700, the Battalion moved out in a southwest direction towards Le Bac (1). The Marines pushed through deserted and overgrown rice paddies, farms, and villages. Some of the villagers reported that an undetermined number of NVA had passed through their hamlet several days earlier carrying about 20 dead. The companies continued their march, passing several graves, and at 1130, they started crossing a large dry riverbed. Sporadic small arms fire erupted and this fire was answered by artillery fire called in by Co K. Friendly short rounds wounded 7 men from Co K. With Co K on the left flank and Co L on the right, the Battalion moved out until 1230 when heavy contact was made with NVA in fortified positions in Le Bac (1).


The fighting continued throughout the afternoon with several groups pinned down by heavy fire. Co M was called up to help alleviate the situation, and they too, soon came under attack. Pvt Charles Yordy, Co K, and Cpl Richard Buchannan, Co M, both earned Navy Crosses for their heroic actions that afternoon. Eventually, units were able to link up and slowly started to pull back, as gunships, jets and artillery pounded the enemy positions. At 1700, all units moved to the nighttime position in Phu Tay (1). There were 9 Marines KIA, 35 WIA, and 45 confirmed NVA killed during the days action.


25 May: After ordering more prep fires on Le Bac (1), the Battalion moved out with Co L leading the way. After receiving small arms and mortar incoming fire, the Battalion withdrew to avoid another heavy fight with a well dug in enemy. They moved westward towards the river and called in heavy air and arty strikes on the ville. Later in the afternoon, Co I, 3/27, one platoon from 1st Tank Battalion and some leading elements from 1/27 joined the battalion.


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