By Sgt. Leo Dromgoole
FIRE SUPPORT BASE ROSS
- Farmers in the rice paddies stopped their work and stood still
beside their tools. Women wasjomg clothes near water wells dropped their chores and squatted quietly
under the morning sun. The only sound coming from Than Dong Hamlet was an occasional baby;s cry.
The Marines of Company E, 2d Bn., Seventh Marines, 1st Marine Division , slowly made their way
into the village of Thang Dong in the Que Son Valley, while most of the hamlet's 350 residents watched
in mixed relief and puzzlement.
Capt. Charles H. Mulherin (Monterey, Calif.), Echo Co."s
commanding officer, greeted the hamlet officials and, through an interpreter, briefly explained his
mission. He and his men had come to Than Dong to keep the enemy out of the hamlet thus, denying him
the many food
available there. "This operation in itself is not unusual or unprecedented," Capt. Mulherin said. "But
it is significant due to the fact that some of the bitterest fighting of the war has occurred right here around
this hamlet." Mulherin was referring to Operations Union I and II conducted during 1965.
is working with Vietnamese Popular Forces (PF) soldiers in the area about 28 miles south of Danang, to stop
the flow of foodstuffs and other supplies from the villages to the surrounding mountains where the enemy is
hiding. Besides conducting patrols, Capt. Mulherin's Marines will take a census of the hamlet's
residents, animals and food stuffs. The company's Navy corpsman will conduct MED-CAPS (Medical Civic
Action Program in each village and
hold morning sick call for routine ailments.
Working closely with the National Police and PF, Echo Co. is updating local force training in military tactics
so these Vietnamese may provide security for the area.
For Hospital Corpsman Second Class Jose Torres,
(Yuma, Ariz.), the company's senior corpsman, the labor just began when he and his fellow "Ben Casey's"
stepped into the hamlet. Less than an hour after the company arrived Torres and his Navy "docs" treated more
than 100 refugees living in a makeshift camp outside the hamlet perimeter.
"We don't expect much, if
any contact with the enemy while on this operation," said Mulherin. "In fact, if we don't make contact with him,
we'll know we've accomplished our job of keeping him out of the area and also keepin him hungry."