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History of the 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines

From Every Marine, Robert A. Simonsen- Available For Purchase By Clicking Here


The 27th Marine Regiment was born out of World War II on January 10, 1944. It was formed at Camp Pendleton, California as part of the 5th Marine Division. In August of that year, the Regiment relocated to Camp Tarawa in the territory of Hawaii.


In January 1945, the 27th Marines received its first combat assignment; the invasion of Iwo Jima. The seizure of Iwo Jima was considered vital to the American war effort as it was approximately 750 miles from the Japanese Islands. American authorities felt that the island would provide the United States with an excellent base from which fighter planes could protect and escort B-29's on their raids.


The invasion of Iwo Jima began on 19 February, 1945. The 27th Marines stormed ashore at 0900 in its designated area of Beaches Red 1 and Red 2. The Regiment was initially assigned the mission of helping to cut off and isolate Mount Suribachi from the rest of the island. As the Marines pushed inland, resistance by the Japanese became more and more determined. Once Mount Suribachi was isolated, the Regiment was ordered to move north to join with the other units in continuing the attack on the main enemy defenses. Rugged terrain, heavy enemy fire, and well placed land mines all combined at times to hold the attacking Marines to a standstill. They repeatedly met the Japanese in hard, close combat.


On 16 March, Iwo Jima was declared secure, although some resistance continued for about two months. The severity of the fighting left 566 killed and 1703 wounded in the 27th Marines alone. Four Marines from the Regiment earned the Medal of Honor (the nation's highest award for valor).


In April 1945, the 27th Marines again found itself back at Camp Tarawa where it started to reform and prepare for the invasion of Japan.


The capitulation of the Japanese cancelled the plans for the invasion and on 16 September, the Regiment sailed to Japan for occupation duty. Returning to the United States on 20 December, the 27th Marines was deactivated at Camp Pendleton on 10 January 1946.


Due to the intensification of the American war effort in Vietnam, the 27th Marines was again activated at Camp Pendleton on 1 January 1966. The Third Battalion reformed on 10 November 1966 at Camp Pendleton's Camp Margarita. The Regiment embarked on a training program that was oriented towards operations in Vietnam. The primary goal was to bring the Regiment up to a high state of combat readiness. Not until the end of 1967, however, was this end accomplished. Personnel shortages and a high turnover of officers and men plagued the Regiment from its reactivation date. By the late fall of 1967, the overall strength of the 27th Marines had stabilized to the point where it had become an effective fighting force.


Due to the infamous 1968 Tet offensive, President Johnson gave signals to the Joint Chief of Staffs that he was willing to commit more troops to the war effort. General Westmoreland and the Joint Chiefs of Staff responded with an Army Brigade from the 82nd Airborne and the 27th Marine Regiment. Notified on 12 February 1968, the Regiment began to reform immediately. Hundreds of Marines had to be transferred out due to underage, time between combat tours and sole surviving son limitations. These restrictions, combined with the fact that the 27th Marines was used as a pool for normal overseas replacements, left the Regiment vastly under strengthed. After taking every available infantry Marine assigned to the 5th Division, the Corps had to take another 400 Marines from the ranks of non-infantry related occupations, including cooks, drivers, engineers and you name it! The 3rd Battalion, being the last to be brought up to strength, took the brunt of these non infantrymen. A typical squad had only 1-3 infantrymen and maybe 1 Marine with combat experience. After being met by President Johnson at El Toro, California, the 27th Marines became the Corps first regiment to fly into a combat zone, although the First Battalion sailed to the combat zone from Hawaii while on scheduled sea maneuvers.


These men were put together without any training as a group and began running combat patrols immediately upon their arrival in Vietnam. They were, however, professionals and they learned quickly. They would prove the old Marine saying that "Every Marine is a Basic Rifleman". They performed with distinction on a big operation, Allen Brook, where many were killed and wounded. They were credited with killing 270 NVA during Allen Brook and received the Meritorious Unit Citation. During this operation, members earned the Medal of Honor, 2 Navy Crosses, a Legion of Merit and several Silver and Bronze Stars (see the citation page on this site). The unit stayed in Vietnam just seven months before returning to the United States. The Marine Corps simply could not support units in Vietnam, as long as the 27th Marines remained overseas. Personnel shortages were affecting all combat regiments and unless there was a general draft increase, the 27th Marines had to return. Members who still had tour duty time left, were sent to other units while the others returned to the United States and were even given a parade in their honor in San Diego, California. The complete history of 3/27, a 350 page oral history, may be obtained thru the primary historians.


Go Noi Island is located in the Dien Ban District, Quang Nam Province, I Corps, Republic of Vietnam. It is approximately 15 miles south of Da Nang, west of Hoi An and 5 miles east of An Hoa. Although it is not truly an island, it is surrounded by rivers, streams and roads. To the south is a large mountain range which is used as an NVA infiltration route from Laos. Although the civilian population is considered sparse, they were all strongly VC oriented. Most of the men of military age were active Viet Cong. Traditionally, Go Noi Island served as a staging area for NVA units building up for attacks against the Da Nang area. In May of 1968, the 36th Regiment of the 308th NVA Division and elements of three VC Battalions had found their way onto the Island. The NVA troops were well trained and equipped. Their field packs were stocked with medical supplies, munitions, and gas masks. Their uniforms were immaculate and neatly pressed. The men were young and had fresh haircuts. They possessed great fire power. They had rockets, crew served automatic weapons and mortars. The standard weapon was the AK-47 assault rifle. They had Polish rifle grenades and the new RPG rocket launchers. Their supply lines and leaders were excellent.


By late April 1968, through reconnaissance observations and limited engagements, it was determined that the enemy had fed in an equivalent of an NVA Division in the area south of Da Nang. Major General Donn Robertson, the 1st Marine Division Commanding General, decided to change his tactics for the defense of Da Nang. Up to this time, the defense consisted of heavily patrolling the rocket belt extending in a semi-circle around Da Nang. With additional available troops(27th Marines), it was decided to fan out in deeper reaching, more mobile operations which would keep the NVA forces away from doing damage to the Da Nang area.


On 4 May, Operation Allen Brook began under control of the 7th Marines, commanded by Col. Reverdy Hall. The first unit committed was 2/7. This battalion went in on the western edge of Go Noi Island and attacked eastward toward the railway. Reconnaissance teams had earlier reported several sightings of enemy troop movements of groups with as many as 60-80 NVA. Prior to the initiation of the operations, no allied force had been in the western end of the Island for about one year. After several days of sporadic fighting engagements, 3/27 was notified of their pending participation in Allen Brook. Original plans called for 3/27 to enter Go Noi Island as part of a task force consisting of elements from the 7th Marines and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Several days prior to the planned coordinated venture with the 7th Marine forces, the concept was modified. The plan now was for 3/27 to eventually operated west of the railway bisecting the Island without the 7th Marines while the ARVN forces were to sweep the area east of the railway towards highway 1 and Hoi An. 3/27's mission was to seek, close with, and destroy the NVA forces within the Go Noi area in order to preempt enemy attack efforts against Da Nang. On 13 May, India Company 3/27, with a section from 81mm mortars, was attached to 2/7 and would act as 3/27's leading element.


13 MAY: Capt. Thomas Ralph, CO of Co I,3/27, moved his company by helicopters to Hill 148 in the Que Son Mountains, just to the south of, and overlooking Go Noi Island. Once landed, the platoons were dispersed around the crest and began digging in. The ground was hard and progress was very slow. There was no shade and the temperature was extremely hot. Water was a premium and there would be no resupplies that day. Later in the afternoon, two separate booby trap incidents resulted in 2 friendly KIAs and 3WIAs. From the hill, groups of NVA were spotted, and several air-strikes were called in on them with positive results. I/3/27 remained on hill 148 for the night and planned to join up with 2/7 the next day on the Island.


14 MAY: At dawn, I/3/27 hiked down a steep hill trail and entered Go Noi Island for the first time. Within 2 weeks, 36 India Co Marines would be killed on the Island along with scores of wounded. The Marines humped all day in the hot sun and eventually linked up with Golf Co 2/7. Signs of the enemy were observed throughout the day but no contact was made. For the second day in a row, there was no resupply of food or water. That night there was an enemy mortar attack, but little damage was done.


15 MAY: Control of Allen Brook was transferred to 3/7, under control Lt Col Roger Barnard. What was a little unusual was that there was not a single rifle company from 3/7 on Go Noi at the time. Co G 2/7, Co A 1/7, Co I 3/27 and the command group from 3/7 were the operational units on the Island. In a well calculated plan by the 7th Marines CO, the Marines swept all day towards Liberty Bridge, making a major effort into letting the NVA know they were leaving the Island. They crossed the river and were met with well needed food and supplies. Perimeters were established and, as a rain began to fall, the Marines got some sleep.


16 MAY: Just after midnight, the Marines returned to the Island and quietly headed off in a northeasterly direction, somewhat parallel to the Song Thu Bon River. After traveling in single file for 2500 meters, the Marines rested in place until dawn. The movement was a total surprise to the NVA. At daylight, with I/3/27 and G/2/7 on line, the Marines swept southeasterly and ran into an unprepared NVA Regimental Headquarters with attendant security. Actually, each side was surprised. After some initial confusion, a heavy fight ensued. Marine air helped carry the day as the enemy was routed, resulting in 160 KIAs and tons of equipment captured. 25 Marines were killed along with 38 wounded. Two of the KIAs came from I/3/27. It was the first fight with NVA forces for 3/27 Marines since they had arrived in Vietnam in February. After medical evacuations, resupplies, and destroying the enemy equipment, the Marine forces headed out in in southerly direction. That night they moved twice before settling in just to the north of Le Bac (2).


During 16 May, the rest of 3/27 was alerted, except for Co M, to be prepared to move by truck convoy to Liberty Bridge, and to then move on foot to the area of operations. On the eastern part of Go Noi Island, ARVN units had also begun their operation called Hung Quang 1-38. Two battalions of the 51 Regiment under Col Truong Tan Thuc, plus the 21st and 37th Ranger Battalions, were the operational units. They were to remain on the Island until 25 May.


17 MAY: The morning began early for Marines both on Go Noi Island and at the 3/27 Cau Ha Base HQ. Col Tullis Woodham Jr, CO of 3/27, prepared his Co K, Co L and H&S; Co to depart by truck convoy to the Go Noi area. On the Island, the Marines arose at dawn and headed off in a column with I/3/27 leading the way in a southerly direction with no defined objective.


Co I's leading platoon silently came into a small hamlet and surprised a small NVA force eating breakfast with several women, who were later identified as belonging to a medical unit. As the Marines opened fire, the enemy soldiers fled while the women screamed and vainly attempted to retrieve the NVA rifles from their hiding places and throw them to the fleeing soldiers. In a few moments the one sided fight was over with more than a dozen NVA killed and the women captured. They left packs and weapons behind, but did manage to send off a few mortar rounds to cover their retreat which wounded several Marines.


Shortly after the surprise contact, Co I started sweeping southerly looking for the remainder of the escaped enemy. They went thru some tall elephant grass and started crossing a dry river river bed in the Le Nam (1) area. All of a sudden, all hell broke out! In a tree line to their front, a large NVA force lay hidden in fortified positions. Deadly accurate snipers located in trees started picking out Marine targets while NVA machine gunners opened up with disastrous effect. One Marine after another went down. Some were killed instantly, while others lay wounded in the open under the hot sun. The enemy left them alive knowing that the Marines would try to rescue them.


Several Marines did manage to cross over the river bed and took cover along the river bank. One of these Marines was PFC Robert Burke, a former mechanic turned grunt. Burke exposed himself above the bank and, firing a machine gun, knocked out several NVA positions which allowed more Marines to cross over and rescue some of the wounded. Eventually, enemy fire killed Burke and he would later receive the Medal of honor posthumously.


Capt Ralph, CO of India, called his platoon leaders up to a position located in the elephant grass to plan a counter attack. As two of the Platoon leaders approached , the position came under fire and Capt Ralph, Lt Cummings and Lt Fiebelkorn were all killed. First Platoon leader, Lt Thompson, took over Co I and did his best to call in air and artillery strikes and tried to organize his spread out troops.


During this time, Lt Col Barnard, CO of 3/7, attempted to flank the ambush site from the west with A/1/7 and his command group and ordered G/2/7 to move up and assist the beleaguered Co I. Both of these efforts failed and India was basically left to survive on their own.


In the mean time, the 3/27 truck convoy was diverted to the 27th Marines HQ, and Lt Col Woodham and the 27th Marines CO, Col Adolph Schwenk, decided to leave the trucks and enter Go Noi by helicopters. The Marines landed south of the ambush site and Co K and Co L started to assault towards Co I's position. Capt John Ernest, CO of Co L, led his company to the east and then north in an effort to evade a large stream. Co K, led by Capt Joel Parks, found a small dam across the stream, and in single file crossed his troops over. Stiff enemy opposition slowed Co K, but they eventually drove off the NVA and linked up with Co I as darkness settled in.


28 Marines were killed (20 from Co I) and 68 were wounded from 3/27. At around 1900 that night, control of Allen Brook passed from 3/7 to 3/27. As the companies settled in for the evening, the 3/27 command group was situated in a rice paddy to the south, Co K and Co I remained in Le Nam (1) and Co L was to the east. Co M, 3/27, was also alerted that they would fly into the battle zone the next morning to relieve Co I which had been virtually wiped out. The remaining 3/7 forces would also leave Go Noi Island the next day


18 MAY: By 0930 the command group had linked up with Co I and K. The day started off quiet and one could tell that it was going to be extremely hot. As Lima was approaching from the east, the 81 platoon was sent out to scout for a good CP. Within a few minutes, sporadic rifle erupted and it wasn't long before another full scale battle began with an enemy of unknown size. Co K moved north to assist in the fight while Co L, still approaching from the east, soon ran into heavy fire. The enemy showed no desire to leave. They were ready for a knock down dirty fight. As casualties started mounting, including numerous heat victims, Co M began to arrive by helicopters. They immediately attacked and also ran into a well dug in NVA unit. The temperature neared 120 degrees and most Marines discarded their flack vests


Air strikes were called in and they did an excellent job dropping HE and napalm. The Command Group was dangerously close to the action, but it did allow for very accurate fire missions. Napalm runs even scorched the hair and eye brows of many as the drops were within 100 meters of friendly forces. The enemy tried to keep the Marines pinned down so they couldn't pull back so that arty and air could be brought in on them. The NVA were in bunkers and they had also positioned snipers in trees. They were later identified as belonging to the 16th and 38th Regiments of the 308th NVA Division. The battle continued throughout the day with several strong pockets of enemy resistance. Marines fought alone or in small groups and it didn't stop until darkness when the NVA escaped into the night. Friendly casualties for the day were placed at 15 KIA, 78 WIA and 6 MIA. 94 were evacuated as heat casualties. Accurate enemy losses could not be determined, but at least 20 were killed. A farmer who was found the next day said he had seen NVA dragging back many dead and wounded during the night.


May 19: Early morning patrols were sent out in all directions to search for the enemy. Within the CP area, the Marines began policing and looking for weapons and NVA supplies. Tons of captured and abandoned enemy equipment and armaments was located and evacuated to Regimental HQ. In the tree line of the heaviest fighting, a number of NVA bodies and 5 Marine KIAs, previously listed as missing, were also discovered. The rest of the day was spent consolidating forces, evaluating losses and being resupplied.


May 20: 3/27 moved out towards the east with Co L in the lead. While enroute, there was sporadic sniper fire. The heat continued to play an important part of the troop movement and Col Woodham decided to halt at mid-day. Defensive night positions were set up with 3 companies on perimeter. At 2230, several NVA were surprised by a Co K listening post. One enemy soldier became disoriented and ran into the Bn CP. He was wounded and captured. Under interrogation, the detainee stated he was with the 2nd Bn, 38th Regiment. His unit had infiltrated from the North through Laos on a month long journey, and had just entered Vietnam 4 days earlier. His battalion's strength was 400 men but they had lost quite a few during the May 17-18 battles. He further stated that his unit had several heavy machine guns, but no mortars. Morale was reported as low due to a shortage of food and medical supplies.


May 21: The Battalion moved out in a northerly direction towards the village complex of Phu Dong (2). The heat was still unbearable. Most of the men had given up their flack jackets, but heat casualties still hampered the march. Several of the men had to be evacuated. As enemy bunkers were found along the route, combat engineers were dispatched to destroy them. At 1400, the lead elements began receiving small arms and sniper fire. Air and artillery strikes were called in on these positions. The Battalion set up and prepared night defensive positions. Resupply helicopters flew in water, food and new replacements just arrived from the States. Sniper and mortar fire kept the Marines alerted throughout the night.


May 22: At 0830, the Battalion again moved out in a northerly direction towards An Quyen (1). As tree lines were approached, preparatory fire missions were called in to avoid any potential enemy surprise actions. The night defensive position was reached at 1500. A 6 man scout team left the perimeter at 1630 on a reconnaissance patrol to the village of An Quyen (1). They observed and chased 2 Vietnamese males through some tall elephant grass adjacent to the village. They found 7 fresh camp fires and signs of about 35 people. They also observed pools of blood and fresh drag marks. The patrol returned to the CP position while artillery was ordered upon the area around An Quyen.


23 May: The Battalion remained in position the entire day. Several small company sweeps were made with negative enemy contact. An aerial observer reported sighting 27 fresh graves in an area that had received air strikes on 22 May.


24 May: At 0700, the Battalion moved out in a southwest direction towards Le Bac (1). The Marines pushed through deserted and overgrown rice paddies, farms, and villages. Some of the villagers reported that an undetermined number of NVA had passed through their hamlet several days earlier carrying about 20 dead. The companies continued their march, passing several graves, and at 1130, they started crossing a large dry riverbed. Sporadic small arms fire erupted and this fire was answered by artillery fire called in by Co K. Friendly short rounds wounded 7 men from Co K. With Co K on the left flank and Co L on the right, the Battalion moved out until 1230 when heavy contact was made with NVA in fortified positions in Le Bac (1).


The fighting continued throughout the afternoon with several groups pinned down by heavy fire. Co M was called up to help alleviate the situation, and they too, soon came under attack. Pvt Charles Yordy, Co K, and Cpl Richard Buchanan, Co M, both earned Navy Crosses for their heroic actions that afternoon. Eventually, units were able to link up and slowly started to pull back, as gunships, jets and artillery pounded the enemy positions. At 1700, all units moved to the nighttime position in Phu Tay (1). There were 9 Marines KIA, 35 WIA, and 45 confirmed NVA killed during the days action. In addition to the 2 Navy Crosses, at least 4 Bronze Stars and 6 Silver Stars were awarded for heroism that day.


25 May: After ordering more prep fires on Le Bac (1), the Battalion moved out with Co L leading the way. After receiving small arms and mortar incoming fire, the Battalion withdrew to avoid another heavy fight with a well dug in enemy. They moved westward towards the river and called in heavy air and arty strikes on the ville. Later in the afternoon, Co I, 3/27, one platoon from 1st Tank Battalion and some leading elements from 1/27 joined the battalion.

26 May: Co L and Co M, along with tanks, moved back in Le Bac(1)from west to east and discovered 29 dead NVA. Sporadic enemy mortar and rifle fire throughout the day caused several casualties and one enemy soldier was captured by Silver Star earner, Marlin Jackson. Rain broke out and the enemy withdrew toward Le Bac (2)in the late afternoon.

27 May: Co C, 1/27 relieved Co K and Co M, 3/27 who then returned to their Cau Ha base. Meanwhile, Co I and Co L continued to search Le Bac (1) and captured another NVA soldier and discovered 27 more dead NVA and a large number of weapons and documentation.


28 May: Orders were received that 1/27 would relieve 3/27 with a linkup at Liberty Bridge. Enroute to the bridge, 2nd Platoon, India Co ran into an NVA hornet nest in Cu Ban (4). A battle ensued and one tank was knocked out by RPGs. 9 Marines were killed and several more trapped in advanced positions. The Regimental CO then ordered 3/27 to continue to move to Liberty bridge, insisting that 1/27 would assist the trapped Marines and help recover the bodies. After much protesting by both 3/27 officers and men, the unit moved on towards their destination. Two Marines were awarded, posthumously, Silver Stars. The exchange of units was made in the afternoon during a heavy downpour of rain and India Company was ordered to remain with 1/27 until May 31. 1/27 did recover the missing and dead Marines later that day. Sgt. Ray Allison of India Company was awarded on Sept. 10, 2010 the Silver Star for his actions on May 28, 1968 as well as for his actions on May 17, 1968 at a ceremony delayed by 42 years, after final approval by the Secretary of the Navy and the President of the United States.


Overall Allenbrook Remarks: 3/27 lost 68 enlisted men and 4 officers along with 247 wounded during this phase of Allenbrook. There were hundreds of heat casualties but most returned to the battle within a few days. Known enemy losses were put at 225 and 6 were captured. A total of 586 fixed wing sorties were flown in support which expended 2628 rockets and 1,584,800 pounds of bombs. In addition, 660 artillery missions were fired utilizing 17,000 rounds of various ordnance.




During June, 3/27 continued patrolling the rocket belt with its never ending booby traps and VC skirmishes. In July, 3/27 returned to the Go Noi Island sector to partake in a land clearing/defoliation operation with few significant enemy contacts. Afterwards, it went right back to the Cau Ha TAOR until September when the 27th Marine Regiment was ordered to return to CONUS. This was the beginnings of Nixon's "Vietnamization" strategy. The Marine Corps could simply not maintain proper troop levels in Vietnam with the 27th Regiment overseas. Short timers and Marines on second or more tours returned with the Regiment and were even honored by a parade in San Diego, CA. The remaining Marines were transferred to needed voids in other battalions/regiments. Most non infantry Marines were returned to units based on their original MOSs.


During its 7 months in combat, the 27th Marines were credited with killing 2000 enemy soldiers/guerillas while losing 245 of its own (nearly 175 from 3/27 alone). It is estimated that 2000 plus Purple Hearts were awarded for wounds received in action.



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