Week of May 28

Week of May 28

On May 26, 1967, Operation UNION II began in the Quế Sơn Basin in southern I Corps. The 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 5th Marine Regiments were initially supported by South Vietnamese Rangers. They drove off the entrenched 3rd North Vietnamese Army Regiment who left behind 118 dead. With the operation completed, the South Vietnamese forces departed.

On May 30, the Marine battalions continued to sweep the basin. On June 2 they returned toward the scene of the earlier fight and encountered strong opposition. The North Vietnamese ambushed from prepared positions and counterattacked. They enemy fighters were well equipped with heavy mortars, recoilless rifles and heavy automatic weapons.

The 2nd Platoon of Company F of the 1st Battalion was hit particularly hard. Company Commander Capt. James A. Graham organized an assault team that attacked to relieve pressure and allow the removal of the wounded. Wounded himself, he refused to leave an unmovable wounded Marine and ordered the 2nd Platoon to retreat. He was killed in a subsequent attack and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Casualties and enemy resistance mounted. Air and artillery strikes were employed, and divisional reserves were called in. The 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment arrived by helicopters and attacked aggressively from a different direction. They overran elements of the North Vietnamese attempting to withdraw. By nightfall, 71 Marines had been killed and 139 wounded, and 476 enemy dead were counted. The next day groups of North Vietnamese soldiers were observed recovering their dead. Instead of firing on them, Marines were ordered follow suit. An informal truce occurred as parties of Marines and their adversaries retrieved their comrades fallen intermingled in the same fields. Casualties and enemy resistance mounted. Air and artillery strikes were employed, and divisional reserves were called in. The 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment arrived by helicopters and attacked aggressively from a different direction. They overran elements of the North Vietnamese attempting to withdraw. By nightfall, 71 Marines had been killed and 139 wounded, and 476 enemy dead were counted. The next day groups of North Vietnamese soldiers were observed recovering their dead. Instead of firing on them, Marines were ordered follow suit. An informal truce occurred as parties of Marines and their adversaries retrieved their comrades fallen intermingled in the same fields.1

1Gary Telfer, Lane Rogers, Kieth Flemming, U.S. Marines in Vietnam - Fighting the North Vietnamese (Washington, History and Museum Division, HQ USMC: 1984) pp 68 - 74, and 304. Vietnam War Medal of Honor Recipients (A - L): http://www.history.army.mil/moh/vietnam-a-l.html#GRAHAM and the heading for Dien Bien Phu.