Mayhem in the marketplace
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Just two miles from Vietnam’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Con Thien was a small remote firebase. To keep the pressure off Con Thien, the Marines initiated Operation Buffalo in the summer of 1967, two companies of infantry intended to establish forward operating bases north of the Trace — a 660-yard swath of land situated between Con Thien and Gio Linh. Then they would sweep the area separating the bases.
Oppressive heat and humidity greeted the Leathernecks on the morning of July 2nd, 1967. A Co., 1st Bn., 9th Marines, headed north, while the battalion’s B Company proceeded southeast. Everything went smoothly until B Company reached an area called the “Marketplace” — a road junction near the place indicated on Marine maps as “Market” — and started receiving enemy machine gun fire.
As the riflemen assaulted, they soon discovered they had encountered two battalions from the North Vietnamese Army’s (NVA) elite 90th Regt., 324B Div. The communists had constructed fighting holes and were using the 7-foot-high elephant grass and dense thickets of bamboo to their advantage. The outnumbered Marines from 3rd Platoon had become disoriented in the attack and were fighting in small, isolated pockets. NVA soldiers wearing Marine Flak jackets and helmets were hollering in English, further confusing the infantrymen. Things got even worse. As the Marines’ AR-15 rifles jammed, the enemy overran them.
Capt. Carter, B Company Cmdr., tried to maneuver his 2nd Platoon to outflank the enemy. The intense automatic weapons fire, however prevented this. He then instructed two squads from 1st and 2nd platoons to advance against a tree line. Another witness described the horrific scene. Snipers up in trees fired down on the pinned-down Marines, picking off anyone with a radio or anyone who made a hand signal. The survivors tried to withdraw, but most were shot down. Few made it back alive. Several NVA ran across the road between 2nd and 3rd platoons, taking the Marines under fire from both sides of the road. To make matters worse, mortars and artillery began crashing down, further cutting off the 3rd Platoon and the command group from 2nd and 3rd platoons. Bravo was getting murdered.