George Allen / EducateMHC Blog Mobile Home & Land Lease Community Advocate & Expert

July 1, 2024

Victory Betrayed

Filed under: Uncategorized — George Allen @ 9:25 am

Blog Posting # 800; Copyright, 5 July 2024 via EducateMHC

This is a significant blog posting for two reasons. First, it’s the 800th blog I’ve penned during the past 15+ years! And herein, I’m sharing a passage from a recently published nonfiction book that describes a pivotal period in the Vietnam War – which happened to be the last firefight (i.e. combat) I was in, and how what occurred then was historical for the Marines who fought it, me in particular. The battle took place during February 1969, along the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, deep in the Ashau Valley in western South Vietnam. That conflict was memorialized upon capture of two large Russian field guns and ammunition (i.e. largest weapons captured in that conflict), and the deaths of non-U.S., NVA, & Red Chinese combatants.  

The book, Victory Betrayed, ‘Operation Dewey Canyon: The U.S. Marines in Vietnam’ was authored in year 2020 by Ronald Winter, a U.S. Marine who participated in that operation as a helicopter crewman and aerial gunner.

What follows here is quoted from the subchapter, ‘The Push Toward Laos’- specifically, pages #171-174, beginning with this quote: “The jungle was so thick you couldn’t see more than the man beside you.” Part I, sets the stage for Part II – where I have a life-changing experience.

Part I.

            “Some of the heaviest fighting of the Da Krong campaign took place from 18-22 February, the majority occurring within the sector assigned to Lt. Col. George W. Smith’s 1st Battalion. On the morning of 18 February, Company A encountered stiff opposition from an enemy platoon dug into camouflaged, reinforced bunkers on a heavily forested ridge line, five kilometers southeast of FSB (fire support base) Erskine. Armed with small arms and automatic weapons, the enemy ‘appeared to want to hold their position at all cost’. Preceded by air and artillery strikes, Company A assaulted and overran the position, counting more than 30 NVA (i.e. North Vietnamese Army) dead. The following morning, 19 February, Company C moved through Company A’s lines and continued the attack against the heavily reinforced hilltop emplacement, killing an equal number of NVA. Friendly casualties resulting from the two actions were on killed and 14 wounded. Pressing the attack through the bunker complex, Company C again made contact during the late afternoon on 20 February, engaging a large enemy force supported by small arms, grenades, and machine gun fire. Two hours later, the Marine assault, assisted by fixed-wing air strikes with napalm drops within 50 meters of the point marines, carried the position, killing 71 NVA. Equipment captured included two Russian-made 122mm field guns, and a five-ton, tracked prime mover. The two 122mm artillery pieces, the largest captured during the Vietnam War, were subsequently evacuated.”

Part II.

            “The task of hauling the guns out fell to George Allen, then a 1st Lieutenant, who was the rigging officer for the 3rd Shore Party Battalion at Vandegrift Combat Base. Allen was tasked with the Herculean responsibility of ensuring the non-stop demand for supplies – food, water, ammunition, for everything from infantrymen’s rifles to the largest artillery pieces, and myriad of other special needs – was met accurately and quickly.

            Since virtually all of Dewey Canyon’s resupply missions were carried out by helicopter, Allen’s team of riggers engaged constantly in selecting the proper supplies, laying them out on huge cargo nets – with each net containing the specific supply requisition for specific Landing Zones, Fire Support Bases, and units in the field. Then, at the proper time, they hooked those nets to the underbelly of cargo helicopters, ensuring each helicopter took that load to the proper destination, and doing it all over again and again.

            But after the intact Russian artillery pieces were captured, Allen was ordered to take a team out to the Laotian border to retrieve the big Russian guns that had made life miserable for the Marines since Dewey Canyon kicked off a month earlier. It was Allen’s job to dismantle the guns (which were far too big, if left intact, to be lifted out by any of the military helicopters) rigging the sections with netting and calling in U.S. Army, Sikorsky-built, CH-54 Skycrane helicopters, which were the only ones capable of carrying that load.

            Allen and his team arrived at the artillery positions not long after the last of the fighting had cleared the zone, and found the field guns intact, although the zone was strewn with the bodies of the gun crews. That was no surprise. What was surprising was that some in the gun crews were not North Vietnamese soldiers.

            What Allen found were Caucasian soldiers…in Russian uniforms! In addition, among the Russian soldiers’ belongings were firing tables, which contained the fire control information (‘FCI’),….The existence of firing tables at an artillery position was not surprising. What was surprising was that these tables were written in Cyrillic! More than a half-century after being assigned that mission, and successfully ‘hauling’ the Russian artillery out of the zone, to be reassembled in safer surroundings (i.e. Dong Ha combat base), Allen noted that he had been accompanied that day by a photographer from a stateside news magazine.

            The photographer took myriad photos, Allen remembers, but none ever surfaced back in the States. The existence of Russian soldiers involved in direct combat against American forces was declared to be Top Secret, Allen said, and remained that way for decades after the war ended. As General Westmoreland had stated nearly a year earlier, the Vietnam War would never be won militarily so long as America’s politicians and bureaucrats continued to insist that it not be ‘widened’. As the recovery of the Russian artillery, and discovery of the bodies of Russian combat troops showed, the war had already been widened. American troops were not only in danger as a result, but were denied the ability to respond appropriately, both to secure themselves, and to defeat an enemy that already was fighting against us. Today, one of the field guns is on display at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Museum in Quantico, VA.”

A personal epilogue.

Some near forgotten matters relative to the above-described battle and retrograding of two Russian field guns:

  • A graphic description of the actual assault and capture of these Russian field guns can be read in the late Don Myers’ Your War, My War (2000); pages # 350 & 351. The book describes his several tours in Vietnam as a Marine rifleman. Available via
  • The night before the two dissembled guns and hardware were lifted out by chopper, NVA regulars, and presumably Red Chinese mercenaries, attacked our hilltop position in a desperate attempt to recover their captured artillery. This was a pitched firefight, broken off in the early morning by incoming air-ground support Phantom jets, dropping napalm and strafing the forward slope of our position. Read the short story ‘PUC Beer’ in my autobiography for one of those ‘never can happen’ tales – that happened!
  • According to some reports, a dozen Russian field guns were captured during Operation Dewey Canyon, but only two intact; the other ones likely destroyed; presumably, by spiking their barrels (i.e. plugging barrel before firing a round through it).
  • The U.S. Army authorized use of their ‘flying crane’ to retrograde the two guns only if one of them was given to the Army as a war trophy. That was a bitter pill for Marines to follow, given their casualties during Operation Dewey Canyon in general and daring capture of the two intact guns. When the guns were lifted back to the Dong Ha forward combat base, they reassembled (i.e. barrels mated with carriages) and sent to the U.S.
  • One gun has long been on display, as a memorial to Marine lieutenants killed during the assault and operation. During decades to follow, it was parked outdoors, and then moved indoors when the USMC Museum opened in year 2006. The other gun? Allegedly sent to Fort Sill (Oklahoma) for field testing – given the ammunition and firing tables captured at the time. Then, again allegedly, it was sent to Afghanistan and was used against the invading Russian troops there during 1979-1989.

For more information about this historic event (i.e. Description of capture, & rigging notes per retrograde) during the Vietnam War, read ‘Pluck, Politics & Shore Party’ in the Appendix to From SmittyAlpha6 to MHMaven, PMN Publishing, 2021. Available via

Lt. Col. George Allen, USMC (retired)

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