Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics

Doug Anderson: Operation Badger Tooth

Once a year, on December 25, a darkness comes up from the earth into my life.

On December 24th, nineteen sixty-seven, a battalion landing team comprised of three infantry companies from Third Battalion First Marines, left the ship and landed in an area just north of the Qua Viet River. They swept west through a village called Thon Tham Khe where intelligence had indicated a large unit of the PAVN was dug in. The marines found nothing and returned to the ship for Christmas dinner, the last Christmas many of them would see.

On December twenty-sixth, they left the ship and repeated the sweep. They got within grenade throwing distance of the village before the PAVN opened up on them with small arms, rpgs and mortars from deep camouflaged bunkers.

I had been rotated out of the battalion because I was short and sent to First Hospital Company in Chu Lai before being sent home. I read about the operation in the Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper that offered a highly redacted version of the massacre. My old company, Lima, was the point company and my platoon, the third, took the brunt of the ambush. Kilo company took fewer casualties because they had tanks. The tanks, however, had compromised radios because of the wet landing, and could offer little help. The PAVN ambush was expertly organized and the whole battalion was pinned down. Every time a marine got up to help another he was picked off by a sniper. By the end of the day, there were sixty killed and over three hundred wounded.

From the safety of the hospital company I read the names of men I knew from third platoon. The PAVN unit had planned its escape well and exited through tunnels that extended far beyond where a reaction force was expected to arrive. If I had been on that operation I would probably be dead or maimed. Nevertheless, the darkness.

All this in a war that should have never happened. All of this because of a huge political stupidity left over from the McCarthy era that assumed that communism would take over the world. It has not. It has gone the way of all ideological dreams. And apparently we have learned nothing at all: look at the condition of the world. Listen to the posturing of our politicians, and of a president-to-be who has no idea what it is like to fear for his life.


 

Copyright 2016 Doug Anderson

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Doug Anderson: 1967 Que Son Valley, Vietnam

5 comments on “Doug Anderson: Operation Badger Tooth

  1. Donald Gouthro
    November 12, 2017

    I was with 3/1 H&S Company Flames at that time. A few days or so before December 24 1967 I was out on a mission probably assigned to one of the line companies and no hostilities had taken place. We came back aboard ship, I was on the Valley Forge for Christmas dinner. On the 26th I was supposed to go back out for Operation Badger Tooth but at the last minute I was told to remain on ship. I remember early that morning well, I was assigned to the hangar deck were casualties were brought down from the flight deck and teams of medical personnel were standing by. They didn’t want the sailors getting in the way gawking or taking pictures and such I guess. I stayed there all day and guarded the Kia,s who were placed on stretchers stripped naked and wounds etc.exposed,I have not and never will forget the terrible wounds I saw that day. I had to help the mortician carry the dead into the morgue to do what he had to do and go back in and move our boys into the large freezers in those black bags. Anyway I counted 43 and I guess 5 more died down below later from there injuries. They reported 48 Kia’s on that operation I think. We kinda got revenge on Badger Catch even though I saw a couple of good friends die, and more wounded. Weird how after all these years one still has survivors guilt!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Stephanie Breithaupt
    September 19, 2017

    Thank you for your honesty. My father was in Lima company. He did not come home.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. drmikeolson
    December 30, 2016

    Glad you came home, and welcome back, every day.

    Here is a story from a friend of mine about his best friend and brother in law who didn’t come home. Ric appears at then end of this clip from a closely related movie, “My Father’s Vietnam” (also accessible from this link).
    http://www.calmfrenzy.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. pollybrown2013
    December 29, 2016

    From another poet grateful for the support of the Joiner Center: I respect so much your effort to tell the truth of this as complete as you can make it, including that last paragraph.

    Liked by 1 person

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