Patrol Report

Blue Spruce 

Jim Southall

Jim Southall Web page

May 27th-31st, 1968 #349-68

Patrol Photos or Stories

or photos

Patrol Report #359-68

LCpl Mevin Riley

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Thoughts of that Day

Today is a particularly dreary, rainy day. Lookout Mountain is socked in good. It is not unusual for it to be socked in. Hell they fought the Battle Above the Clouds there during the Civil War.

However, today it put me in mind of another dreary, socked in ridge I was on for around 2 hours on 3 June, 1968. Known only to me as Hill 200, it was a desolate, indefensible place that somebody in the 1st Mardiv G3 shop picked off the map to insert my platoon on as an observation post & radio relay.

200 was a high hump on a triple canopy ridgeline running northeast to southwest. One could observe a small section of a river to the south if one looked closely and the hill wasn’t socked in as it was when I was there. Other than that, all you could observe was a lot of triple canopied high ground that surrounded the hill for aprox 320 of the 360 degrees of view. For those less trained in the fine art of surveillance
than myself………….You couldn’t see shit and the place was a defender’s nightmare.

On 29 May, 1968 team Cayenne 3rd Plt. Bravo co. 1st Reconnassiance Bn. (Rein) led by S/Sgt. Phil Hampton inserted on hill 200 to conduct a 6 day static OP mission & act as a radio relay for teams operating in the far reaches of the battalion communications network Hampton’s team was composed of his normal people operating with Cayenne, HM3 Earl Lerch, and the remainder of the platoon minus an 8 man patrol being conducted on Charlie Ridge by Team Blue Spruce, the other team in the Platoon. His patrol numbered 15. 14 Marines & 1 Navy Corpsman. (HM3 Lerch)

They were inserted by CH46 helicopters after fixed wing had prepped the zone and basically blown the jungle off the ridgeline for about a 100 meters along the spine of the ridge and about 75 meters of the sides of the finger. They immediately set to work digging 2 man positions, setting fields of fire, putting out their claymores, & laying a pitiful single strand of concentina wire on their perimeter. Only God and Phil Hampton knows why a request for extraction from this position was not submitted. Maybe one was, but the 1st Recon Unit Diary shows no such request.

From the insertion thru the day of the 2nd of June, the patrol was uneventful, other than 1 sighting called in on a sampan traveling upriver. The SALUTE report cited 2 male occupants dressed in black Pjs. No packs or weapons were observed and no request for fire was submitted.

The afternoon of 2 June marked a turn for the worse in the weather.
The rain came and the accompanying fog started to sock the team in. the team set in for a miserable night in the mountain jungle, but what the fuck, they were getting out in the morning.

On the 30th of May Team Blue Spruce had returned to Camp Reasoner from our patrol. We were debriefed, cleaned our weapons and gear, and proceeded to see who could get the drunkest on 3.2 beer. The next few days would be spent taking turns on guard duty on the battalion perimeter, going to freedom Hill PX, and getting briefed and trained up for our next mission. On the 2nd we were assigned the additional duty of acting as the Bravo Co. React team. We were briefed by our TL, Sgt. Jimmy Linn of our duties and advised that there would be no drinking. This fell on deaf ears partly because most of us were already drunk and partly because Shakey Linn was pulling on a Budweiser when he said it.

Sometime around midnight we we awakened by the Co. 1st Sgt. And Sgt. Linn and advised that Cayenne was in heavy contact, had reported heavy casualties, and had lost commo with Grim Reaper. (The Bn. TAC callsign) We were told to grab our shit and muster at the 3 shop for deployment to their pos.

The C.O., 1st Sgt., Linn, & Doc Domino were taken in the 3 shop for briefing and the rest of us were waiting outside for word about our team in trouble. The word we were getting was that the NVA were all over the hill, Huey gunships were on station and providing cover fire, Spooky gunships were on station, but unable to work because of limited visibility due to the hill being socked in, and there was no contact with the team on the ground. We were beside ourselves and begging to be inserted immediately. We were told we would be going in as soon as a viable assessment of the situation on the ground could be made and visibility permitted.

About 0300 we received the word that S/Sgt. Hampton had came up on Grim Reaper’s push and requested emergency medivac for Doc Lerch & himself. A CH53 pilot with a lot more balls than brains landed and picked them up. It has never been made clear to me if Doc Lerch died on the medivac or shortly after landing at Charlie Med. We were advised that Hampton was seriously wounded and reported the rest of his team were dead or missing. We would be inserting as soon after daybreak as the safety of the choppers allowed.

We boarded 2 CH46s just before dawn on the morning of the 3rd. The React team was composed of:

Sgt. Jimmy Linn TL
Cpl. James Southall ATL
Cpl. J. Boland Primary radio
HM3 Michael Domino Corpsman
L/Cpl. Jerry Kecker M79
PFC Delbert Enos Rear Point
PFC Nelson Livingston Alt Radio
PFC Doug Wolfe Point
L/Cpl. Dave Morris M60
& 2 Marines from 1st MarDiv graves registration who I didn’t know. I’m not sure , but believe Capn. Little, B Co. C.O. was co-ordinating the operation from the other CH46 in out flight.

We sat down on the south end of the hill and I remember seeing Campanella and McAdams lying in their hole on that side of the hill. They had both been shot in the head. I could not get off the side to my security position soon enough. I could see to my right another fighting position with bodies, but could not tell who they were. I found out later they were Petey Wedemier & Patterson.

If you were ever in a firefight with the NVA, you are aware that they didn’t normally leave brass piled up on the battlefield. This morning I was kneeled down in a virtual pile of AK brass. We were later told a force of aprox 30 overran the hill. Bullshit, I never saw a gook on my whole tour with over 3 mags of ammo and it was piled at least 30 to 40 yards up the whole side of the ridge. I think they were hit by at least a Sapper Co. and maybe more. Most of the claymore wires were still in position and had been cut. The claymores themselves were gone and no sign was evident that they had been blown. I was told by Phil Hampton months later that every position on the hill was hit by RPGs in the initial assault.

After we had been there about 15 minutes I heard a lot of excited shouting from the N.E. side of the hill. Jim Southall came to our side of the hill and said somebody off the side of the hill was whistling the Marine Corps Hymm and we might have survivors. PFCs Gorman, Mecedo, and L/Cpls Gonzales, Washburn, Ski (can’t remember his real name) and 1 other Marine who I have forgot his name were found in a streambed at the bottom of a cliff on that side of the hill. They had apparently been blown off the hill by the RPGs. I believe it saved their lives. All but Ski were injured to the extent they were sent home.

The KIAs, along with HM3 Earl Lerch, who had been medivaced earlier, wereL/Cpl. Terry Edgar, PFC Frank Huff, PFC Darrell Campanella, PFC Gerald. McAdams, PFC Peter Wedemier, & PFC Scott Patterson. I will never forget them. They are together on 60w & 61w of the Vietnam Memorial. We also recovered 1 NVA body. I have no idea why they left him.

I went on several missions with Hampton after the Cayenne mission and found him to be a brave and competent leader. I never asked him about that mission. Several times he brought it up and I just listened.

Thats what Lookout Mountain being socked in this morning made me think of. I hope the fuck its sunny & clear in the morning.

Doug Wolfe

LCpl Southall 16th Patrol 98 hours on Charlie Ridge.

The Jim Southall Story, Over 100 Patrol Reports.

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Members of Lance corporal Jim Southall's 16th patrol were:

Cpl Jimmy Linn, will work with Jim Southall 10 times in 1968. Patrols 14-18 & patrols 21-25. Jimmy Linn was the best patrol leader Jim Southall had in Vietnam.

Cpl Peavy will work with Jim three times in 1968 patrols 13, 16 & 17.

PFC Doug Wolfe will work with Jim Southall eleven times in 1968. Patrols 13-19, 24-27 before Jim Southall was wounded in action (WIA) on his 28th patrol. Doug Wolfe worked as a point man on most of the patrols.

PFC Jerry Keker will appear on thirteen patrols with Jim Southall in 1968. Patrols 12-19 & patrols 21-23 and patrols 25-27. Jerry died peacefully on February 7, 2015, in Denver, Colorado click here. Jerry carried the M-79 on most patrols.

PFC Delbert Enos will appear on fifteen patrols with Jim Southall in 1968. Patrols 10-13, 15-19, 21-23 & 25-27. Delbert worked as the Tail End Charlie (Rear Point) on most of the patrols in 1968.

LCpl Dorriety, worked with Jim Southall on ten patrols in 1968. Patrols 15-17, 19, 21-24, 26 & 27 in 1968.

HM3 Michael A Domino, worked with Jim Southall on eight in 1968. Patrols 11-18  Michael was one of the best corpsman in 1st Recon Battalion.

PFC Nelson Livingston, this is the only patrol he worked with Jim Southall on in 1st Recon Bn. Patrols 14-19 & patrols 21-27 in 1968.  Nelson worked as a Raidioman on all the patrols.

Charlie Ridge

The mountains were steep (over 1,000 feet) with rocky crags, boulders and outcroppings which stretched more than 10 miles long (off the map). Much of the time the top of the ridge was covered in clouds and mist. It was a natural barrier and refuge for the enemy. After every heavy rain, waterfalls and streams would flow down the mountain into the rice fields providing nutrient-filled irrigation for crops. Dikes and canals channeled the water to where it was needed.
The villes along Route 4 at the base of Charlie Ridge benefited from this runoff, and rice was the main crop. The people were “unfriendly.” Many along the route had been forced off their land in Arizona Territory. The local VC units were made up of these men and women. They were familiar with the lay of the land and could move quickly, knowing the hidden trails in the region. It was their home field advantage, and their uniforms were black pajamas.
Children living along the route were not only victims of the war, but in many cases, willing participants in it. They collected fuel (wood) from Charlie Ridge daily and delivered cooked meals to VC units in the area.
Some grids on the map were “off limits” to artillery because we didn’t want to inflict civilian casualties. The concentration of women and children made everything more difficult. A Grunt Sergeant told it this way: “When we approach a ville, all the small children start crying. Their Mama-Sans pinch them to make the babies cry, announcing our presence. To Marines, it’s confirmation of VC in the area.” The local population stayed because there was nowhere else to go.

West of Hill 65 loomed Charlie Ridge.

June 5, 1968 1st Recon Battalion Area, Just one day in time, and it wasn't a rest day either. It started out with a battalion working party, which meant that we had to pick up trash for most of the morning around the battalion area. Just before noon chow we got our orders, a five day patrol to Charlie Ridge. That is one of those geologic fingers which protrudes from the high, jungle covered mountains, to point accusingly toward the sea. There is very little vegetation on Charlie Ridge, a lot of rock formations and it is not very high, rising from only 50 feet or so in the east or seaward end to some 4,500 feet in the west as it disappears into the jungle coverage at the base of Ba Na Mountain. 

I have been assigned a special weapon, the M-79 grenade launcher, as my primary weapon. It looks like a sawed-off shotgun and shots a 40mm round of either high explosives, shotgun pellets, CS gas (tear gas), or illumination canister. I have trained with the M-79 before and am comfortable and proficient with it. Along with the M-79, I will be carrying a Colt .45 pistol for personal protection.

In the afternoon, I was assigned to help a FNG (fucking new guy) to get his gear ready for this patrol to Charlie Ridge. Unlike the razing which I got just before my first patrol, I was straight forward with Mickey (the FNG) and didn't bullshit him at all.

At 1500 ( 3 p.m.) we had physical training, gym exercises and a run. As we finished the run, returning to the landing zone (LZ), we stopped to catch our breath. One of the perimeter guards walked up to us and said, "Guess what! Kennedy just got shot!" They were exactly the same words I had heard once before, but I was in the wrong place now. I was supposed to be in freshman English in Gwinn High School in Gwinn, Michigan. Why was I here? It's too hot, it's supposed to be cold, with snow on the ground. Where is the English teacher? My momentary Deja Vu ended abruptly when I understood that this was Bobby Kennedy, not John F. Kennedy. Now the reality and chronology of events returned to me. It was 3:05 p.m. June 5, 1968 in Vietnam, it was 4:05 am June 6, 1968 at home in Annandale, Virginia. The concepts of time, space, history and their continuum washed over me with a chill. Had the world truly gone insane and I was being swept along in the tide of madness? Once again, Marine training resolved the issue and we broke for a shower, chow, final packing and final patrol briefing.

Early to bed so we would be bright for the bush, or what there would be of it.

June 6 - 11, 1968 - Roving Patrol - Charlie Ridge

We were in the air at 9 am this morning. We circled and circled over the LZ (landing zone) in and endless spiral then quickly dropped like a hot rock to the ground. We were out and on our bellies, facing outward to protect the second helicopter's landing. It came in, hovered briefly right above my head and then side slipped into the center of the LZ before setting down. We had been inserted at the upper, western end of Charlie Ridge, so named because it usually belonged to Charlie (in the military phonetic alphabet, the Viet Cong were referred to as VC or Victor Charlie, Charlie for short).

After the helicopters departed, we moved off cautiously and steadily downhill for about an hour and a half. We then stopped to set up an observation post (OP) for the rest of the day. In conference, we decided to move early in the mornings and late in the evenings but sit in OP during the heat of the day due to the lack of ground cover.

At dusk, we moved a couple of hundred meters to our harbor site for the night, nestled in a circle of rocks. During the night, unknown artillery fired 3 rounds very close to us. The shrapnel whistled overhead and the concussions jarred us where we lay. Charlie must know that we are on his ridge, he saw the helicopters put us here and now he is sending us a calling card.

Next morning, before dawn, we moved out and "humped" (walked with heavy packs) over a "click". A click is one increment of movement on an artillery piece, it covers the distance of 1,000 meters, therefore a thousand meters is referred to as a "click". We set up an OP on a knoll in the middle of the ridge line. A very open and very dangerous position because of it's high visibility. We must remain very alert and cautious. Tedium and heat are our enemy now. We have seen nothing and just sitting has us soaked in sweat. The slight breeze stirs the heat a little, but it's like stirring molasses with a straw.

The afternoon was a mirror image of the morning. We moved at dusk, some 100 meters to harbor for the night. I have drunk 6 of my 8 one quart canteens of water. Tomorrow, we will try to find a stream where we can refill.

In the pre-dawn glow, we headed down the side of the ridge, intending to intercept a stream. What looked like a low grass meadow from our observations of yesterday is actually elephant grass, some 6 to 8 feet tall. We moved through it cautiously and found the stream. Like spooked animals, we took turns filling our canteens while the rest stayed at ready guard with weapons ready to fire at the slightest provocation. The reason being that, as animals, we know that the predators watch the streams for the prey to come to drink.

We moved off without incident and returned to near the crest of the ridge. Our journey of three clicks (3,000 meters or about 9,000 feet, about a mile and a half) took us 4 hours. During the journey, the seam of my camouflage pants ripped wide open. An asshole to belly button rip and I will have to live with that until we return from patrol, and remember, we don't wear underwear due to heat rashes.

Now sitting at our next OP with a little shade to protect us from the afternoon sun. Around 3 p.m. we were hit by one of those freight train thunderstorms, so we used it's cover to move once again to our harbor site for the night. I'm soaking wet and refreshingly cool, eating cold beans and franks from the C-ration cans, then a last smoke before the sun goes down behind us.

I had a front row seat last night to watch "Spooky" the gunship work out in the valley to our south. He worked for almost an hour and the red line of tracers seemed to be a string which tethered him to the ground. I'm glad I wasn't on the receiving end.

It's only 10:30 in the morning and it's already hotter than blazes. Watch, watch, watch and still we have seen nothing. Late in the afternoon it rained again and the clouds are so low that they are flowing along at the same altitude as Charlie Ridge. We caught a cloud on the ridge and "walked it" to our harbor site for the night, close to our extraction LZ.

A peaceful and quiet night, almost pleasant. We ate chow and broke camp to set up a perimeter around our LZ. By 11:00 we were set up and waiting, but the command radio said that there were no helicopters available to extract us. Sit and wait, hurry up and wait, wait, wait, wait.

Late in the afternoon, command said that the "birds" (helicopters) were on their way. GREAT! But, so is the fog, damn it. We can see the fog rolling in from the sea, faster than the birds will be able to get to us. And so it was, we were socked in by fog, could hear the birds circling overhead, but without visibility, they could not pick us up. Another day, another night in the bush, in Vietnam.

The morning broke clear, with that familiar orange dot rising quickly in the East. The hill is enveloped in an orange glow, and as the sun gets higher, the glow turns to gold, then to lemon, then to bright yellow, followed by a pale yellow before it is lost in the heat haze of the day. Well, GOOOOD MOOORNING, VIETNAM!, and a very merry birthday to me. It's June 11th and I am 20 years old. I cannot legally drink in any state in the nation. I cannot vote in any state in the nation. But, I can be here and the government will let me drink on their military bases, so that is what I will do tonight, if we get in.

While we wait for the birds to come and get us, we got a radio call that an infantry company, the "grunts" were coming up the ridge and would be passing through our position. The heat became immediately oppressive and before 9:30 am, the grunts were here and the temperature was at 120. The grunts had a heat casualty and we took him with us when the birds picked us up. Riding up in the atmosphere, with no windows in the helicopter, it was cool, fresh and clean.

By noon, I had been debriefed, had a shower, had a shave, put on trousers without a hole in the bottom, and drank a beer. The rest of the day and night I devoted to getting plastered, I deserved it. Happy Fucking Birthday to me.

Tuesday, June 11, 1968

My Vietnam Experience, 50 years ago

by: Steve Kysor

Charlie Ridge

by: Robert "JungleVet" Baird


Look at me now! Nearly half a century wise and old am I.
I remember few of the days that passed and quickly said good-bye.
Yet Vietnam seems a crystal image through all that ethereal haze.
How long ago? Twenty five years, count ten thousand common days.
But not so for thirteen months, a young Marine, that tour in Nam of mine.
Time, a kaleidoscope for a year, from ‘68 in the spring, through May of '69.

"In-country" was out of this world, no sanity, no reason, chaos in its purest form.
Dumped off at a transit point, not knowing what to do, the calm before the storm.
The sour smells, urine, garbage and rotting fish and smoke from every ville.
The suspicious eyes as they all turned away, I can remember their look still.
The heat, it surrounds you, invades you, tries to melt you. How can I stand it here?
This is just the first day, the first week, the first month. I still have more than a year!

Raw boots of leather, loaded weapons, exhausted Marines with that distant look.
Can I become one of them? Will I measure up to things that never made the book?
Said the young Lieutenant, "Just do your job, listen well, and always stay alert."
I learned how my Brothers walked and how they talked and kept from getting hurt.
Like green phantoms we stalked the bush or sat bored observing from mountain tops.
We hunted and killed our enemy, man, and watched as old women tended crops.

The sound of Hueys, their rotor blades struggling through the stagnant air.
They dropped us off, we walked the silent bush, pretending we were not there.
F-4 Phantom jets shattered the quiet night, and tore blazing trails across the sky.
Our pointman stepped off to the left, and I off to the right. Now, can you tell me why?
A Phantom crashed somewhere out there, and now is scrap and turned to rust.
My Bro the pointman, triggered a mine, and disappeared and turned to dust.

Many served for extended tours and some toured less than I,
Some men earned the Purple Heart, and some of us did die.
‘Tis true that I did not pay anything near the greatest cost,
but neither did I return without the feeling of something lost.
How much of my existence since that time, has gone so slowly past?
Still I relive that tour of mine, from the first minute to the very last.

Both the Phantom crew, and the Bro I knew, are honored on the Wall,
and I visit there and on occasion dare, to stand there proud and tall.
I remember them, in my own way, the bad with the good, sometimes it makes me smile.
To have known such men must surely make my life complete and all the more worthwhile.
Why I survived and they did not is a question for sages to task and prudently ponder.
The fates I tempted only once, when I took that tour of mine. But always I must wonder.

~ Jungle Vet '95 ~

by: Robert W. Baird 1/1D, 1st Platoon, Team "West Orange"

Doug Wolfe

This patrol covered a period of 119 hours with contact with an estimated 40 or more VC/NVA that resulted in 8 USMC KIA,   7 USMC WIA on Hill 200 June 3rd, 1968.

The Jim Southall Story, Over 100 Patrol Reports.

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G2, Doug Wolfe and Herman "Jonesy" Jones July 1968 Bravo Company

Blue Spruce