Operation INDIANA
28 March 1966

1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment

Intelligence and Planning

Upon the termination of Operation Texas, the 3rd Bn/5th ARVN Regiment remained in positions near the hamlet of Lam Loc (1) and had repulsed several attacks by the enemy forces which either returned or remained in the area. On the morning of the 28th of March 1966 Col. Peatross received a phone call from the Senior advisor to the 2nd ARVN Division that ARVN units were in heavy contact with the VC. A decision was made to land the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines as a blocking force for a subsequent ARVN sweep to trap and destroy the VC. A meeting of the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion and supporting units was held and the helilift of the Marines into the Battle area began at 1400H that same day.

By 1700H LtCol. James P. Kelley's 1st Battalion, 7th Marines were helilifted from Chu Lai and landed in the designated Landing Zones without incident. The first Company had moved out to its designated blocking position at approximately 1620H and the rest of the Marines continued with the deployment to effect the entrapment of the enemy.

The Battle

Departing the LZ Charlie Company moved out in a column towards their blocking objective, but in the bush covered terrain the Marines made a navigational error and moved north of their objective. The point sighted a VC outpost and reported immediatedly to the Company Commander who order the 3rd Platoon to pursue. No sooner had the Marines approached the edge of the village than the VC sprung their ambush and took the Platoon under heavy machine-gun and automatic weapons fire. The Marines were unable to advance and orders were given for the 1st Platoon to envelop the right flank to relieve the pressure on their fellow Marines who had sustained numerous casualties and were unable to extract themselves from a precarious position. The Marines attacked the enemy with the support of the Weapons Platoon and they carried the position by use of anything at their disposal including grenades and bayonets.

Due to the heavy casualties and extreme enemy fire the 2nd Platoon which had been held in reserve was committed to the attack joining the 1st Platoon, and once again the attack was stalled. Marines fought hand-to-hand, one Marine attacked an anti-aircaft machine gun bunker which had been cutting his friends down in the open. He attacked the position with just a bayonet and hand grenades killing the gunner, and chasing down and killing the gunner's helper who had tried to escape in a tunnel. Heavy artillery and air strikes were placed on the hamlet of Vinh Loc, but the enemy would not let up with its withering fire directed at the Marines and by now the "C" Company CP was receiving heavy incoming 81mm mortar fire. With dusk arriving the 1st Platoon was ordered to withdraw and assist the withdrawal of the 3rd Platoon with their casualties. During the withdrawal the VC made an effort to cover the Marine dead and wounded with intensive fire but the Marines managed to reach the Company perimeter with all their wounded. Seven KIA had to be left behind until daylight.

As was the case in most battles the VC withdrew their able-bodied men, their wounded, and some of their dead during the night. At first light the Marines were ordered to enter the battlefield and recover their casualties and access the damage to the enemy. The fight was over, and all that remained was the broken and twisted remnants of a battle that was hard fought the day before. "Charlie" Company with the help of "B", and "D" Companies swept the area and recovered all of their men that lay on the battlefield, transporting them back to a rear area and eventually back to Chu Lai.

The Aftermath

During the short period of Operation Indiana, the Marine forces killed 69 VC, with an additional 160 who were probably killed or wounded. Five suspects were detained one VC captured, and several weapons were captured including two 12.7 mm Anti Aircraft machine-guns. Although considered a success, Marine casualties were high for the short but bloody battle. Eleven Marines died in action and 55 were wounded, the majority of the casualties were from Charlie Company which had borne the brunt of the battle. It was fate that transformed "C" Company from a blocking force to an attacking force and forever left its mark on the young men of that Marine unit.

Charlie 1/7 Marines killed on Operation Indiana March 28, 1966: Initial casualty reports included ten of the above men - and Pfc Richard Joseph Preskenis. When that casualty was reported in his home town area in Massachusetts it caused a considerable shock to Richard Joseph Preskenis, who was very much alive and not at all a Marine. It developed that William F. Joyce, who had been rejected by his draft board, had adopted Preskenis's identify when he enlisted in the Marines in 1963. Joyce maintained the deception throughout his service in the Corps - and it might not have come to light had he survived his tour in Vietnam.
From MarZone.com

The Virtual Wall, March 8, 2014