|Hill 270 from the "Rocket
Pocket" Photo by Fred Riegel (2/A/1-6 Inf 1968-69).
This photo was taken from very near to BT 430 041 looking westward.
|Hill 270 was rebuilt in March 1969, in large part by the mortar platoon from Co. A/1-6 Inf. This photo was taken from the door of the command bunker looking northeast along the crest of the hill, showing the new observation tower and two of the rebuilt mortar pits. Photo taken on 31 Mar 69 by Fred Riegel (2/A/1-6). The next photo below probably was below was taken just before the monsoon rains in 1969.|
Hill 270 early in its development, probably in Sep 1969. Photo provided by Howard Walker (1-6 Inf 1967-70).
Later improvements clearly made the firebase more defensible. Note the vegetation growing on the right side
of the hill within easy grenade throwing distance.
Hill 270 used the Integrated Observation System (IOS) also known in USMC
terminology as the Integrated
Observation Device (IOD). Introduced in late 1969, this Marine Corps-developed 400-pound instrument
consisted of high-powered (50x) ships' binoculars combined with a night observation device and a laser
range finder that could be used to coordinate fire from 80 mm and 4.2" mortars, quad 55 cal. machine guns
and supporting artillery units. Using the IOS, a trained operator could sight a target at maximum range of
about 30, 000 meters in daylight and, employing a supplementary xenon searchlight, 4,000 meters at night.
He could identify the target and accurately establish its distance and direction from the IOS. Combining
the ability to provide exceptional range and an azimuth accuracy with a digital computer to prepare firing
data, the artillery batteries could 'fire for effect' on the first volley, thereby eliminating the usual registration
rounds which warned the enemy to take cover, while producing a 70 percent probability of first round hits.
One USMC commander called the IOD (IOS) the 'missing ingredient as
far as good fire support was
concerned .... We were losing targets because during the adjustment phase while we were trying to bracket
them they were jumping in holes.' The IOD, he continued, 'with its ability to give us the first round hit... was
just what we needed.'
Primary targets for the IOS included enemy supply and rocket launch units.
For example, on 27 Feb
1969, the enemy launched thirty 122mm rockets from the positions shown below in the Rocket Pocket.
Note the back blast holes and the graduated aiming stakes. The rockets were fired before dawn using
burning reeds attached to the stakes to make them visible as aiming points and bamboo bipods as support.
This is the prone shelter from behind the launch site where the VC fired the rockets. They used claymore klackers
to generate an electrical charge to ignite the rockets. Chu Lai is to the right in this photo. An OH-6A LOH
used by the S-2 (Intelligence Officer) to evaluate the site. Two photos from Fred Riegel.
Starting on 14
january 1969, the Americal Division utilized project "Duffel Bag" to emplace
remote sensors in
the Rocket Pocket to detect enemy movements. In the months thereafter, there were an average of 7 active sensor
strings in the Chu Lai "Rocket Pocket". In addition to providing target information for the mortars at Hill 270
(and for the artillery sometimes located there), the employment of sensors forced the enemy to take a longer
and more difficult route to rocket launching areas. During those troop movements they were subjected to
From 1 February
69 to 18 March 69 soldiers from the 1-6th Inf operated in the northern
and central sectors of the
Chu Lai TAOR (including the "Rocket Pocket") and conducted small unit patrols and ambushes to interdict
mortar/rocket attacks by elements of the 78th VCMF (Rocket) Bn against Chu Lai Base. Starting on 23 February 69,
with the commencement of the post-TET offensive and lasting for approximately one month, Chu Lai received eleven
attacks by indirect fire. Only the attack on 23 March 69, when 6 A-4 fighters were destroyed, resulted in any major
damage to the base and airfield. The Americal Division Operational Report Lessons Learned (ORLL) specified that
"Operations by 1-6th Inf were credited with minimizing the effects of the attacks for constant patrolling, supported by
elements of F Troop 8th Cav, forced enemy elements to operate from hastily prepared positions and precluded
any exploitation of the attacks by enemy forces." Soldiers on the ground and at Hill 270 were part of those efforts.
Soldiers from E Co. 1st Bn 6th Inf test fire their 80mm mortar for confirming close-in defensive fires. Note the
additional mortar rounds ready for action.
One of the last US Army soldiers to leave Chu Lai, Bruce M. Butler (aka
Butts) from Div Arty, worked with
the radar and the IOS squads. He spent Sep and Oct 1971 attached to E Co., 1st Bn 6th Inf on Hill 270.
After that he was with the rearguard for Chu Lai base during stand down.
In early October
1971, just before Hill 270 was dismantled, and while the monsoon rains
enemy activity was still being observed by the IOS in spite of the rain and fog. Bruce Butler and Bob Wiggens
pulled the late shift on the IOS one night when the weather cleared. While scanning the ridge line about 2 km
north of the hill, the soldiers spotted an enemy campfire. Excitedly they called in the coordinates for a fire
mission -- "Roger, shot" came the words over the radio as they adjuster artillery fire and then fired a 4 x 4
concentration from the 105 howitzers (i.e. four rounds from each tube in the artillery unit fired four different
times on the same small area). Bruce and Bob finished their shift at 0400. At 0700 they awakened to the
sounds of the "mortar crew firing like crazy and the sound of choppers overhead." At first light, a LOH
helicopter had flown over the target from the night before. The pilot received small arms fire and noticed
debris hanging from the trees. Then additional artillery was fired and Cobra gunships raked the area.
It turned out that the VC had established a convalescent hospital and Rec Center about 2 KM from the hill.
They made a mistake, however, in not hiding their camp fire. Bruce's reaction: "At the time, we couldn't
fathom having a VC hospital only 2 klicks away!! what else was out there that we couldn't find."
Soldiers at Hill 270 received all their supplies by helicopter.
This photo by Fred Riegel shows the "new" helicopter pad built in Mar 69 outside the wire on the northwest
side of Hill 270. The back side of the Ace of Spaces "Gunfighters" sign is visible next to the pad to greet
The old CP bunker on Hill 270 in November 1968. A Co. Commander -- CPT John R. Plese (May '68 to
May '69) to the left of the sign -- "Stand Tall, You're in Gunfighter Country." Photo by Fred Riegel.
photos from the index at left or link to the 1st Bn 6th Inf Home