A "Tale" Of Camp Carroll-The DMZ-Vietnam
Camp Carroll-16°45′47″N 106°55′50″E / 16.76306°N 106.93056°E (MGRS 48QYD062545),
The story that I'm emphasizing here is of the Surrender of Camp Carroll.
The "surrender" takes place in 1972.
Camp Carroll was a United States Marine Corps artillery base during the Vietnam War. It was located at 8 km southwest of the town of Cam Lo. Camp Carroll was also at the centroid of a large arc of the strategic Highway 9 corridor south of the demilitarized zone, which made it a key facility.
The camp was named after Navy Cross recipient Captain J.J. Carroll who was the commanding officer of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. He was killed by friendly tank fire on October 5, 1966 during Operation Prairie. The camp was commissioned on November 10, 1966 and became home for the 3rd Marine Regiment. It was one of nine artillery bases constructed along the DMZ and had 80 artillery pieces including M107 175mm guns from the United States Army. From a tactical perspective, therefore, the 175mm self-propelled gun was the most important weapon at Camp Carroll. The 175mm guns put Camp Carroll on the map, particularly the tactical maps of the North Vietnamese forward observers. The most powerful American field artillery tube, the 175mm could fire a 150-pound projectile 32,690 meters and effectively return fire on any enemy gun that could hit it.
Many of the grunt companies ran operations out of Camp Carroll. The 3rd Marine Division began relying on highly mobile postures rather than remaining in their fixed positions as sitting targets.
Danang, Dong Ha, Quang Tri, Conthein, Cam Lo Rockpile, LZ Stud
Camp Carroll. Five kilometers west of Cam Lÿ, an unpaved road turns left off Hwy. 9 to the old US base at CampCarroll. Four kilometers farther from the paved road lies a bunker foundation and a pile of rocks that marks the spot of the former military base, whose function was to supply the Rockpile and Khe Sanh with artillery.
I obtained much of the above paragraph searching the "web". I knew the area. We drove through Cam Lo often. I was very familiar with Cam Lo. I have no recollection of "Cam Lÿ" at all. It just doesn't ring a bell. So I don't know what "they" are referring to unless "they" are referring to Cam Lo which is the almost exact distance they are stating.
In 1968, I came into the country at Da Nang. We took a C-130 to Dong Ha. From there we were trucked to Camp Carroll.
We were there twice as security and a base camp. I got 2 strains of malaria at a base camp called C-2 which was between Cam Lo and Con Thien. I was at C-2 with malaria for more than four days. We then moved north to Con Thien. Con Thien was the closest point to North Vietnam and the DMZ. I was sick there for a couple days. The two types of malaria I had were vivax and falciperum. I would be sick as the bacteria grew. I would have ague- headache, fever, chills. I would toss my cookies and feel better which was just temporary. The cycle of bacteria growing would repeat. I was finally med·e·vaced by being told to stand on the road and wait for a vehicle going south. First- the road had to be swept for mines. Finally after hours of sitting there with a "repair tag" tied to my flak-jacket, with a temperature of 104, I was given a ride to the Cam Lo River where the truck driver and passenger were to fill the truck's tank with water for Con Thien. So I had to walk across the pontoon bridge and through the village of Cam Lo to the base camp. This individual story is much longer but I'm just pointing out I have no idea where Cam Lÿ is but possibly it's another name for Cam Lo.
Con Thien is famous for a siege it survived in September 1968. Con Thien means "Hill of Angels." It should have been named "Hill of Death." During the siege, 1,800 Marines were killed or wounded.
When I was there Con Thien looked just like this. It was barren like many or all "posts" but very bleak. You never minded getting the heck out of this hell!
I carried more ammo than anyone I saw. I would inherit bandoleers of magazines from parting Marines, those going home.
We had a "target practice" at Con Thien. Most of the magazines were full of dried mud and didn't work! I cleaned them all.
Camp Carroll- I'm pretty sure!
I didn't like Camp Carroll. We were often sitting ducks there. During the monsoons it was particularly bad. The NVA already had their "bead" on us and lobbed their rockets in the clouds and rain. It's one thing to have an enemy so lethal and then to have one that you couldn't reach out and be lethal back to was demoralizing. They wreaked so much havoc and we couldn't return the favor.
It was like Khe Sahn- not as bad -but it was in the open. We were pigeons. That's what Vietnam was about though. We were to keep the casualties "up" for the North Vietnamese. To do that- and in many conflicts -we who are but serial numbers were left out in the open to draw attacks so that superior fire power from artillery and planes could reap the "harvest".
I hated Camp Carroll, C-2, Con Thien, etc. these were big clay open ares where we filled sandbags until we were spent. There is an unmistakable sound of a rocket missing you. It sounds like a rocket.
Toward the end of my "stretch" in Vietnam I was surprised to find out that Camp Carroll was abandoned and imploded like Khe Sahn.
I was doing a "search" on the web Marines I served with and bases a couple years ago.
I "searched" "Camp Carroll". What I got was "Surrender at Camp Carroll"
How could a "surrender" be possible? I was "in country" when Camp Carroll was abandoned and imploded!
I would find that Camp Carroll had been resurrected!
It was raised again as an artillery base.
North In South Vietnam
Quang Tri and Thua Thien, are more than 450 miles from Saigon, the capital. These are the northernmost provinces of the Republic of Vietnam, To the north is the demilitarized zone. To the east is the South China Sea. To the south is Quang Nam Province. To the west is the mountainous Laotian border and frontier.
The terrain is dominated by hills and the Annamite Mountains, except for the narrow piedmont coastal plains, The mountains have steep slopes, sharp crests, and narrow valleys. They are covered mainly by a dense broadleaf evergreen forest. Most of the peaks are from 4,000 to 7,000 feet high, but some rise above 8,000 feet. The narrow coastal plains flank the highlands on the east. They are sectioned by rocky headlands and consist of belts of sand dunes.
There is a "divide" at the crests that allow the drainage of streams to flow either east towards the South China Sea or west into Laos or Cambodia.
The streams flowing eastward are swift and follow short courses through deep narrow valleys over rocky bottoms until they reach the coastal plains, where they slow down and disperse over silty and sandy bottoms. The streams flowing westward follow longer traces, sometimes through deep canyons, other times through poorly drained valleys like the coastal plains in the east and are subject to flooding.
"Operations" were most affected by the rugged, forested mountains and hills, and the seasonally flooded lowland plains with various agricultural features. Much of the heavy fighting was to take place in the jungle , dense undergrowth, canopied forest, and steep rugged mountains along the demilitarized zone at the Rock Pile, Khe Sanh, and A Shau.
Weather played a dominant role during the Tet
offensive and with operations at Khe Sanh and A Shau. The northeastern
coast of South Vietnam
and the adjacent Laotian panhandle have distinct wet and dry seasons. The monsoon season is horrible!
From May through September across the mountains to the west in the Laotian panhandle is heavy and frequent rain, high humidity, maximum cloudiness. During the wet season in the northern provinces temperatures often drop to 45 degrees, requiring issuance of warm clothing to the troops. This is an important logistical consideration. I remember being above Khe Sahn on a Mountain we only knew as McClintock, we were cold. We had no warning about where we were going and it was a cold surprise. It was somewhere over here that I first heard banana trees growing. They make a crunching/squeaky sound!
In the mountain plateau and plains of the northeast coast from May through September it is a dry, hot, and dusty. season .
From November to mid-March the northeast monsoon carries the wet season to the coastal region of Vietnam while across the mountains in Laos the weather is hot and dry.
From January through April the mountain plateau and northeast coast are subject to the "crachin," a period of low cloud, fog, and drizzle or light rain which reduces ceilings and visibility. There is a lot of torrential rain and flash floods. Flash floods are many extra problems- even in peace times. Both the northeast and the the southeast monsoons exerted an influence on military operations unmatched elsewhere in Vietnam. This was I Corps Tactical Zone!
The roads in the region were poorly developed. There was only one all-weather road. Route 9, connected the coast of Quang Tri province with the western mountains. In Thua Thien an extremely primitive road, Route 547, ran south and west from Hue into the A Shau Valley. The major north-south road was Highway 1, which ran north from the port of Da Nang in Quang Nam Province through the Hai Van Pass to Hue. From Hue the road continued north through the towns of Quang Tri and Dong Ha to Gio Linh, almost at the demilitarized zone, thence on into North Vietnam.
The war in Vietnam was a fluid one with no front lines. The enemy was tough, versatile, tenacious, and cunning. He possessed strong entrenchments in the villages, mountain hideouts, and jungle redoubts. He was difficult to find and identify.
"Surrender of Camp Carroll"
The North Vietnamese were set on taking CampCarroll. An artillery regiment, along with infantry, from the west easily took Firebase Khe Gio and was to capture Nui Ba Ho and Sarge. The Easter Offensive on 30 March were aimed at CampCarroll.
The bombardment instilled fear and chaos to the South Vietnamese. Disorganized troops from the 56th ARVN Regiment rushed for the relative safety of CampCarroll. This made a mockery of the troop rotation that began at mid-day. 1,800 soldiers poured into CampCarroll. The rest of the regiment just fled. The regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Pham Van Dinh, tried to contact his battalion commanders. Very few answered the radio.
Lieutenant Colonel Dinh had been a hero in the South Vietnamese Army. In 1968 during the TET Offensive he had earned the nick-name "Young Lion". He had personally placed South Vietnam’s colors back on top of the citadel in Hue after his unit helped to take the old city back from the North Vietnamese. But Dinh’s leadership abilities seemed to have eroded. He was once a trim fighter in an immaculate uniform. But by 1972 he had become a pudgy man. He was now more a politician than a soldier. Military affairs were left to his executive officer. This was Lieutenant Colonel Vinh Phong, a man known for his dislike of American advisers.
Lieutenant Colonel William Camper was one of two American advisors assigned to the 56th ARVN Regiment. He was the senior officer. But Camper was probably the most experienced combat adviser on Advisory Team 155. He had first served with the 2d ARVN Regiment in 1964 and 1965. Camper was back in Vietnam again in 1972. Again he was assigned to his old unit. Camper found himself with a green unit caught flatfooted in the middle of an artillery bombardment. They were occupying the most crucial plot of ground in western QuangTriProvince.
He sweated out constant bombardment for two days. This damaged most of the radio equipment and all generators. Camper had only a backpack radio allowing him to talk with superiors. Even that was undependable. Artillery rounds shredded his outside antenna on a regular basis. During this time dense clouds kept most of the fighter planes or helicopter gun ships on the ground back in Danang. Air support would be limited to B-52’s. There were not even enough of the big bombers to go around. Because there were no American advisers at the battalion level, Camper had no clear idea of the condition of the 56th ARVN Regiment. Could the soldiers stand up to a concerted infantry assault and would they?
North Vietnamese Artillery
Camp Carroll was a formidable stronghold. It was situated in the low foothills on the eastern slopes of the AnnamiteMountains. The firebase controlled the terrain for fifteen miles in all directions. Behind heavy timbers, sandbags, and rolls of razor wire squatted a network of reinforced bunkers and one of the most awesome arrays of artillery in all of I Corps. There was a battery of 175mm howitzers. This was one of the biggest field artillery pieces in the world. The arsenal had been left by the last elements of the 101st Airborne Division when they departed in early March 1972. CampCarroll held twenty-two artillery pieces. Among these were 155mm and 105mm batteries. There were scores of heavy machine guns and small arms positions. CampCarroll was clearly the best hope for QuangTriProvince’s northwestern front. General Giai ordered the 56th ARVN Regiment to hold CampCarroll at all costs.
Camper was more concerned about the fate of his deputy adviser Major Joseph Brown. Major Joseph Brown, had been with the supply column during the opening salvo on 30 March and he had not been seen since. On the night of April 1st Camper got good news: Major Brown and part of the supply train had managed to evade North Vietnamese units. They entered CampCarroll from the east. The remnants of a battalion had been overrun at Khe Gio Firebase earlier in the day. They also wandered in. Khe Gio was one of the first defensive positions to fall. The Vietnamese divisions were gathering in the west. The two advisers settled down in their dank bunker lit only by a sputtering candle. They opened a pair of warm Cokes and pondered the future.
The next day was Easter Sunday and the pressure increased at dawn. The 24th North Vietnamese Army Regiment raged against CampCarroll. The enemy found the base was not as easy to conquer as the small firebases they had trampled in the two days preceding. By noon the attacks had died down.
"Happy Easter," Major Brown said dryly during a lull in the fighting. The two officers toasted the Easter Sunday over cups of warm C-ration coffee. Three 130 mm artillery rounds crashed into the compound. The advisers checked the perimeter between artillery rounds. Camper and Brown donned their flak jackets and stepped outside. A light drizzle cloaked the base and shrouded the silent South Vietnamese artillery positions in a ghostly gray pall. Nothing was moving. The South Vietnamese soldiers manning the perimeter had dug in as deep as they could. They were hoping to escape the artillery and the rain. The advisers ran from bunker to bunker, They paused to talk with the frightened soldiers. They were doing what they could to help.
An FAC came up on the radio saying he had two Air Force fighters overhead. Did CampCarroll need them? Camper pondered the offer a moment. Firebases to the southwest were barely clinging to life. Camper told his support, "Send them to someone who needs them more."
The FAC acknowledged, and then the radio went dead. The silence after a conversation with a FAC was always a little depressing. The FAC’s were a vital lifeline between the vulnerable advisers on the ground and the awesome cudgel of American aerial firepower.
The advisers tended to the South Vietnamese. Many were wounded, though none seriously. Brown dressed a dirty shoulder wound on one man. Camper attended to some shrapnel in the leg of another. Then the two advisers noticed that there were no officers to be seen anywhere.
Camper asked the wounded soldier, "Where is your dai uy, your captain?" The man shrugged. He then grimaced as Camper tightened the dressing. He replied that he hadn’t seen any of the officers for hours, since the last round of fighting began.
A few hours later, Camper was still puzzled at the disappearance of the South Vietnamese officers. The answer would probably be with Colonel Dinh at the regimental command post. After listening for incoming rounds at the bunker entrance, they sprinted across to the command bunker.
Lieutenant Colonel Vinh Phoy was tanding in the covered entrance of the big regimental bunker. This was Dinh’s executive officer. Camper and Brown saluted. Phoy ignored them. Camper and Phoy hated each other. Phoy despised all Americans. Camper described their relationship as being "like matches and gasoline."
"We’re looking for Colonel Dinh. Is he around?" asked Camper
Lieutenant Colonel Phoy did not answer for a second. He was letting his disdain for the foreigners show clearly. When he spoke, his words were short: "The colonel is in a staff meeting."
Camper and Brown looked at each other. Advisers were supposed to be present at all staff meetings. Phoy blocked the way as they moved for the door. "The colonel does not wish to be disturbed," he said.
The Americans knew arguing was futile. As they turned to go back to their bunker, Camper looked back over his shoulder and said, "I’ll check back later."
The bombardment ceased at noon. This left the South Vietnamese to wonder what would be next. At 2:00 PM Colonel Dinh emerged from the command bunker and strolled over to see Camper and Brown. The advisors saw him coming and went out to greet him.
The two Americans saluted. "Everyone refuses to fight, " Dinh said, gazing down at his feet. "I tried to bolster their spirit, but they want to surrender.
Camper was stunned. In Camper’s wildest nightmares he never imagined anything like this. This was a disaster. He tried to reason with the demoralized commander. He tried to tell him that together they could talk the officers into fighting. Dinh shook his head. "No one will fight. I shot one man to persuade the others to fight, but they will not. I have been in touch with the National Liberation Front Forces and they have promised to treat my men well. This is the only way to prevent more death." Then Dinh asked, "Do you want to surrender with us?"
"NO," was all Camper could say. This was why the enemy artillery bombardment stopped, thought camper. He wanted to kill this coward. Dinh insisted that he had tried to get his men to fight. Camper doubted it. It was probably Dinh’s idea to surrender, thought Camper.
Dinh suggested, "You and Major Brown can hide among our troops as they go outside the gate you can fall into the tall grass and crawl away." Dinh was trying to show that he was not panicking, that the decision to surrender had been reached rationally.
Camper shook his head. It was not acceptable. He and Brown would find some way out of the camp. Then Colonel Dinh made another absurd offer. "If it will save face, we can commit suicide tighter," he offered.
"Americans don’t do that," Camper replied. Camper pointed out there were still a few operational light tanks in the camp. Two of them were mounted with 40mm cannons, called Dusters. These could be used to spearhead a breakout. Maybe they could link up with the defenders at Mai Loc just to the south. Some South Vietnamese Marines and their American advisors were still there. These were not scathed by the NVA yet.
"It will not work," Dinh said.
Camper was furious. However he could not show it now. Rage contributed nothing to the situation. All that mattered was getting out of CampCarroll. He and Major Brown were on their own. "Colonel, we wish you luck," Camper said as he prepared to leave. "Major Brown and I will take care of ourselves from this moment on. We can no longer advise you, and you no longer have any responsibility to us. You must do what you think is best and we will do the same."
Dinh had one request. "Please do not tell General Giai that I am surrendering," he asked.
Camper had to consciously stop himself from aiming his rifle with the coward’s chest and pulling the trigger. But even if the other South Vietnamese officers did not kill him for such an act, he would still have accomplished nothing. Lieutenant Colonel Vinh would surrender anyway.
"I’m not concerned about General Giai. All I care about is us." Camper gestured toward Major Brown as he spoke. "I will call my senior officer and notify him of what is happening."
The gray mist was an appropriate somber backdrop for the incredible events unfolding at CampCarroll. The Americans returned to their bunker to come up with a plan of their own.
Brown destroyed classified documents and gathered up gear and ammunition for the escape. Camper radioed his superiors at the Team 155 headquarters in Ai Tu, the 3d ARVN Division forward headquarters northwest of QuangTriCity. Camper was vague on the radio. He did not want to give anything away to the enemy. They were certainly monitoring the airwaves. Because Colonel Dinh had quietly negotiated surrender with the North Vietnamese was strong evidence that there was American radio equipment in enemy hands.
"The American advisers at CampCarroll are no longer needed with the 56th Regiment. We are leaving the perimeter for Mai Loc at once," he said cryptically. He then waited for a reply.
The call came into Ai Tu just after 3:00 PM. The radioman at the division bunker asked for clarification. "What’s the reason for your departure?"
"Can’t say over the radio," Camper replied.
Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Turley was the U.S. Marine officer suddenly left in command of the 3d ARVN Division forward advisory base at Ai Tu. When he heard the message he was furious. There was a lot to worry about and now a couple of damned Army officers were trying to bug out when the situation got hot. He snatched the radio handset and barked his orders.
"Damn it, Colonel, stay at your post and do your job."
Camper was taken aback but it was an order from a superior. "Roger. Out." Camper put down the radio and nodded knowingly to Brown.
Turley was under great pressure as acting senior adviser and he had made the wrong call. Lieutenant Colonel Turley realized he had violated the unwritten "adviser’s code" by ordering Camper to remain at his post. Only the man on the ground could accurately judge the combat situation. Since there were few Americans left, it was imperative that decisions be left to the adviser in the field.
Neither man was intending to stay in CampCarroll despite the direct order. Major Brown dumped kerosene on everything that was to be left behind. They Gathered up their weapons and gear and put them just outside the bunker. Camper then lit several thermite grenades and threw them inside. The explosion set off the kerosene and soon the bunker was burning.
Two South Vietnamese radio operators asked to go along with the Americans. They were assigned to Camper by Dinh. The men had formed a good relationship. The more men the better reasoned Camper, especially if they would fight and he felt these men would.
South Vietnamese officers were moving from bunker to bunker, rousting out the frightened soldiers. They moved toward the center of the perimeter. There they milled around waiting for orders. What a tragedy, thought Camper. CampCarroll was not in bad shape and could probably hold its own against the present North Vietnamese attack. 1,800 soldiers inside the perimeter was a strong force. The artillery batteries could easily batter the enemy, if the South Vietnamese gunners would only emerge from their holes and fire them. They were willing enough to come out to surrender.
The Americans and their two South Vietnamese compatriots were packed up and ready to go. Each shed all but the most essential equipment. They were keeping mostly ammunition and water. At 3:20 PM Camper radioed Ai Tu again. This time his message was more specific. His voice was more adamant. There was nothing to hide. "We’re leaving CampCarroll," said Camper. It was a statement. It was not a request. "The Base commander wants to surrender. The white flag is going up in ten minutes."
Camper had a final word with the regimental operations officer, the only South Vietnamese in the camp who spoke English well. With nothing left to lose, and still insulted at being deceived by Colonel Dinh, Camper spoke his mind. "You don’t know what you are doing," he said. "You are a coward and should come with us and we will fight our way out." The man bowed his head and said he would have to follow orders. Those were the last words Camper spoke to any South Vietnamese officer from the regiment.
The four men walked down the low hill from their bunker toward the southeastern edge of the perimeter. They moved through groups of soldiers who were stacking their weapons in piles. Officers stood silently by. Camper did not want to look. Nothing was more discusting to a professional military man than cowardice. At CampCarroll it was especially demoralizing. There was no reason to surrender. It reminded him of a movie he had seen as a youngster about the American surrender to the Japanese at Corrigedor in the early days of World War II. Poor leadership was the only explanation for what was happening. Camper tried to stop thinking about it as he and the other three began cutting through the jagged coils of sharp razor wire.
Fire Support Base Mai Loc was only two miles south of CampCarroll. It may as well have been a hundred miles away. Outside the perimeter lay a network of mines. Beyond that was the enemy. The small group neared the outer ring of concertina wire. The North Vietnamese spotted them. The enemy had refrained from firing on CampCarroll as surrender was proceeding. However, escape was not permitted. Some of the North Vietnamese moved to cut off the escape. As they closed in, Major Brown and the two South Vietnamese radiomen opened fire. Camper reached for the radio and called Ai Tu.
"We’re pinned down just outside the perimeter," Camper yelled over the staccato bursts of his teammates’ rifles. Team 155 operations officer, Major "Jimmy" Davis, answered the call. By this time, everybody at Ai Tu was aware of the touch-and-go situation up at CampCarroll. The safety of the American advisers was paramount.
Fortune smiled on the besieged quartet. A combination of lucky timing by a re-supply helicopter and quick thinking on the part of the radio operators at Ai Tu intervened against fate. The advisers were snatched from certain death.
"There’s a Chinook lifting ammunition to the Marines at Mai Loc in the air. I’ll try to get him," said Captain Amery. The Captain was one of the Team 155 operations watch team who were manning the radios.
The CH-47 cargo helicopter was going to Mai Loc with badly needed 105mm howitzer rounds for the desperate defenders. It was pure chance the radiomen were able to find the correct frequency.
"We’ve got two Americans at CampCarroll who need your help. The ARVN are surrendering and the bad guys are closing in."
"Roger" The pilot dropped into Mai Loc and released the ammunition pallets slung in a net beneath the helicopter. Instead of landing and shedding the rest of its cargo, the Chinook climbed back into the sky, heeled over, and turned north toward CampCarroll. The Marine advisers called frantically asking why the chopper was not landing. The pilot had already switched frequencies and did not hear the call.
Lieutenant Colonel Camper had no idea what was happening. Coachman 005 was just another straw to grasp at. He was told to switch radio frequency by the radioman in Ai Tu. He then called the big helicopter.
Coachman 005 replied immediately, "I read you loud and clear. We’re inbound to your position. Give me instructions."
Camper had little time to think. The North Vietnamese were closing in around them. The Chinook could not land outside the wire. They had to go back into CampCarroll the way they had come. "Look for the windsock next to the helipad inside the perimeter," he radioed. "Land there. We’re outside the wire, but will pull back through the wire.”
Camper motioned to the other three men. They were all still firing coolly and deliberately at the NVA. "Pull back. There’s a chopper coming in to get us."
The men ran for the cut perimeter wire. The North Vietnamese stopped firing. They thought the fleeing men had been driven back into CampCarroll with the others. The deep thump of the CH-47’s twin rotors were heard over the treetops, but Camper couldn’t see the helicopter.
The North Vietnamese saw the helicopter first. The pilot was oblivious to the sharp bursts of small arms fire that was targeted at the racing chopper,
"Watch out. That’s the enemy firing at you," radioed Camper. "Must be the same company that pinned us down."
The Chinook came into view. Camper and the North Vietnamese were surprised. Behind the Chinook was a pair of Cobra gunships. It was their job to protect the big CH-47 against this sort of threat. They slashed down and peppered the North Vietnamese with rockets. The North Vietnames scattered. The Cobras continued to circle back and forth as the cargo helicopter swooped in low.
The door gunner in the Chinook saw the wind sock first. He was leaning out of the chopper’s side door over his M60 machine gun. He kept his eyes on the landing pad while calling out directions to the pilot. Then he hammered away at the running shapes of North Vietnamese soldiers below.
The South Vietnamese inside CampCarroll watched the entire episode. None lifted a hand to help. They never fired a rifle to support the advisers as they were attacked. Now, as they saw the helicopter coming in, they sprang to life. Many of soldiers raced for the helicopter. As the wheels touched down they swarmed all over it.
Major Brown and the two South Vietnamese radiomen were the first on the Chinook. Camper turned to climb in and he was almost thrown aside by South Vietnamese soldiers. He sternly stood on the ramp and allowed only the soldiers who were still carrying weapons on to get on the helicopter. The rest were cowards who did not deserve to get out of the base. They decided to surrender. Let them live with the decision, Camper reasoned.
One unarmed soldier tried to slip by. Camper grabbed him by the shirt and flung him from the helicopter. Two more skulked up the ramp. They too were hoping to slip by. Camper forcefully pushed them back.
"Colonel, for God’s sake, let’s get out of here," yelled Brown. The North Vietnamese had recovered and were shooting at the helicopter from just outside the wire. The pilot revved the turbines in anticipation of a fast getaway. The Ch-47 bounced and jigged from side to side as the rotors pulled it slightly off the ground. Finally Camper was aboard. The helicopter roared into the sky and veered hard to the southeast toward QuangTriCity. About thirty South Vietnamese soldiers rode out of CampCarroll with the American advisers. All of them had their rifles.
The helicopter pilot reported over the radio that he saw white flags going up all over. What a tragedy and disgrace, thought Camper.
Some of the South Vietnamese inside CampCarroll did not surrender. One Marine artillery battery that was placed inside the firebase to augment support to the Marine units on the western perimeter, radioed Mai Loc saying they would not surrender. As the North Vietnamese marched through the front gates to accept the 56th ARVN Regiment’s easy surrender, Bravo Battery lowered its guns and fired point blank. They fought to the last man.
All the infantry units did not go along with Colonel Pham Van Dinh’s decision to give up. A battalion of 300 men rallied behind its commander and broke free of the perimeter. After a few days the unit made it east to Dong Ha. They were tired and shell-shocked but most of the soldiers still had their weapons. By mid-April almost 1,000 soldiers from the ill-fated 56th ARVN Regiment had filtered through enemy lines to Dong Ha, Quang Tri, and Ai Tu. Then they were sent south to Danang for refitting and retraining before being sent back to combat in QuangNamProvince.
The ordeal of the American advisers was not over yet. Ground fire hit a hydraulic line running the Chinook’s rear rotors. The engine pressure began to fall. It couldn’t fly to QuangTriCity. The helicopter was forced to land at the first level spot they could find. This spot was right in the middle of Route 1 near the coast. Unfortunately, the enemy was already there. The chopper alit in the midst of an enemy 122mm rocket barrage.
Camper and Brown dashed to the side of the road. They dove into a ditch. Bullets whined overhead. This was punctuated by occasional incoming rockets. They crawled along the side of the road. Finally the Americans ran into a jeep carrying two advisers from a tank unit forging north to reinforce the 3d ARVN Division. Camper was the senior officer. They all agreed to set up a defensive perimeter and wait out the North Vietnamese attack. Meanwhile, Camper radioed FRAC asking for a B-52 strike on CampCarroll. He didn’t care if the surrendering regiment was still there. He wanted the base destroyed before the enemy could take over the base artillery and turn it against the South Vietnamese who were still fighting. The enemy actually made no attempt to use the big guns captured at CampCarroll. The North Vietnamese knew they would be bombed into oblivion if they remained in the base. CampCarroll was quickly abandoned. A few of the artillery pieces were towed out. Much later a 175mm gun was placed on display in Hanoi as a symbol of the North Vietnamese Army’s battle prowess.
When the firefight died down, Camper called for another helicopter to take them to Ai Tu. The armor advisers continued their drive north. Camper and Brown flew up to the division headquarters in QuangTriCity.
Camper’s boss, Colonel Metcalf, the senior adviser to the 3d ARVN Division, asked what had happened. Camp Carroll was a crucial piece in northern I Corp’s crumbling puzzle but there were other pressing issues keeping Colonel Metcalf busy. He had to know the story.
General Giai too was in the command bunker. Camper recited the story about Dinh’s cowardly surrender. Giai was furious. His anger was directed at Camper, not Dinh. The "Young Lion of Hue’ could not possibly have surrendered his regiment. In Giai’s mind it was Camper who was the coward. He believed that the American advisers had run. He believed the South Vietnamese were abandoned to their fate. But the advisers at Ai Tu knew what had happened. They had radioed QuangTriCity. It was soon very obvious that CampCarroll had surrendered when all communication with the 56th ARVN Regiment suddenly went off the air at about 3:30 PM.
It was the next day, April 3rd, that the fate of the 56th ARVN Regiment became clear to the South Vietnamese general. A radio broadcast was picked up by American monitors. Colonel Pham Van Dinh was helping the North Vietnamese exploit their victory. He was fully cooperative with his new masters. He told his former brothers in arms, "I think that your continued sacrifice at this time means nothing….Find out how to get in touch with the NLF (National Liberation Forces, the Viet Cong) in order for you to return to the people. Your action will effectively assist in ending the war quickly and also save your life." Dinh also confessed that "My personal feeling is that the NLF is going to win the war. The NLF is ready all the time to welcome you back. The NLF is expecting you to return very soon." An orderly retreat was also out of the question he maintained, because "Most of the troops of my unit in all ranks refused to fight anymore."
Major Ton That Man was an infantry battalion commander at CampCarroll. He also cooperated with his captors. In another radio broadcast he recalled that the base "shook and wavered at the very first shellings by PLAF (People’s Liberation Armed Forces)….In such a situation, how could we continue to fight? Our regiment’s commander then summoned a briefing…a meeting of particular significance for it decided on the fate of 600 officers and men in this base. Within only five minutes, all agreed to offer no more resistance and decided to go over to the Liberation forces’ side."
Colonel Metcalf ordered the weary advisers to FRAC headquarters in Danang for reassignment. Later in the day General Giai called and asked Camper to return to Quang Tri to talk. The general sounded understanding this time. He had heard the radio broadcast. He had spoken with some of the soldiers who had come out on the Chinook with Camper. He finally knew the real story. Giai apologized. Colonel Metcalf reassigned Camper as senior adviser to the 2d ARVN Regiment, his old unit. Major Brown was again his deputy.
To Lieutenant Colonel William Camper the surrender of CampCarroll was a betrayal honor. He was consulted by his counterpart, Colonel Dinh. And worse, from a tactical point of view, there was no need to give up. They should have continued to fight. The I Corps leadership was stunned at CampCarroll’s surrender. I Corps deputy senior adviser, Brigadier General Thomas Bowen, recalled later that "until CampCarroll was lost we didn’t get too excited."
Camp Carroll was now in enemy hands. The Ring of Steel was fatally punctured. The big 175mm guns had provided a security for the other bases facing the Laotian border. After April 2nd, only Mai Loc stood. But the loss of CampCarroll robbed Mai Loc of artillery support. This made it very vulnerable to ground attack. The North Vietnamese, smelled blood and quickly attacked.
Camp Carroll’s surrender came as a shock and terrible blow to the Marine advisers at Mai Loc. They knew they were next. Mai Loc could now be easily encircled by North Vietnamese forces. By 4:00 PM, what had been a sporadic enemy bombardment turned into a continuous and crushing pounding. The Marines identified this as the prelude to an all-out infantry assault. The South Vietnamese Marines bravely fired back. Their howitzers were no match for the communist 130mm guns. An hour later the Marines fired their last round. Mai Loc was evacuated on the evening of April 2nd.
Who Wrote The "Surrender Of Camp Carroll"?
This is not my document above and the same that is found at the website below.
The dates and figures portrayed here are documented as being factual.
If you follow the link you will find no author.
Surrender Of Camp Carroll!- Document!
Still in Saigon -Charlie Daniels
Old Crow Medicine Show - Big Time In The Jungle
I put this video of Sam Sanchez here because he and I were in the Vietnam at the same time and at the same places and took part in the same operations. He and I shared the same MOS. MOS is "your job". This is what you are trained to do.
A rifleman is 0311. A machine gunner is 0331. Mortars are 0341.(if I remember correctly)
Sanchez and I were 0351. We were trained in demolitions, the flame thrower, the bazooka or it's replacement the LAAW-light antitank assault weapon, and the 106 recoiless rifle.
Sanchez and I carried the M-60 machine gun which was not in our MOS but we were trained in all the other weapons as well. Our specific MOS was 0351.
I mostly carried the M-60 on mine sweeps.
Camp Carroll, Vietnam
The fellow above was at Camp Carroll in 1968 as I was-68 & 69.
He will mention Dong Ha Mountain. When I was "in country" we had Marines on top of Dong Ha Mountain all the time. I was there several times. The rats were horrible up there. They were running up my leg one night as I stood watch.
Later a cave was found below the top. Inside the cave there was a false floor. In there was a rocket that was used against us at Camp Carroll.
The videos below are a bit educational about the area around the DMZ as well!
It was recently "pointed out" by an American FOOL here on hubpages that I, being a Vietnam Veteran, should know better than to desire a "communistic health-care plan".
You damn fool- don't get me started! You are a fool!
Jesus gave His health-care away! Done deal-nuff said!
Vietnam 1968-1969 Or Was It Yesterday?
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