View Full Version : FOB-4 Attack 1968 & Marble Mountain Outpost

02-26-2015, 20:03

There were many valorous actions during the attack on FOB-4 in 1968 and many SF warriors were killed in this single deadliest attack in SF history. Little is known of this event outside SF and historical circles and I would like to share the story of one of those valorous actions that saved many lives that night.

Six Days On Marble Mountain
An Account of Special Forces Heroism and SSG Larry L. Trimble
21-26 August, 1968, Republic of Vietnam

On August 21st, 1968, Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group(MACVSOG), Spike Team Rattler, was assigned to occupy a listening and observation post on the side of the steep and rocky Marble Mountain overlooking the Special Forces and Marine compounds around Forward Operating Base 4 (FOB-4), Republic of Vietnam. Spike Team(ST) Rattler consisted of two American Special Forces Sergeants, a "One-zero" team leader and "One-one" squad leader Staff Sergeant (SSG) Larry Trimble, with seven Chinese ethnic Nung mercenaries.

ST Rattler stealthfully made its' way up the surreal environment that was Marble mountain, amongst the Buddhist shrines, vast cave networks, and areas known to be infested with enemy snipers. Ascending the steep and rocky mountain the first day, no enemy forces were detected. Ropes were required to make the ascent to the observation post located among the rocks and cliffs overlooking FOB-4 and the South China Sea.

Reaching their assigned post, ST Rattler set up a perimeter and began the mission of enemy detection. From the mountain, ST Rattler overlooked the entire area covering two US Marine outposts below, their own Special Forces compound, and a Marine Amphibious Unit stationed near the South China Sea.

The first night and following day were eerily quiet of enemy activity, with none detecting or suspecting the gathering forces of elite North Vietnamese Army Sappers and Vietcong deep inside the Marble Mountain caves below.

In the early morning hours of August 23rd, ST Rattler found itself front-row to a perfectly planned and executed enemy attack. The combined NVA and Vietcong assault initiated in the destruction of the two Marine outposts below. Sergeant First Class (SSG) Larry Trimble desperately tried to contact the Marines by radio, to no avail, then quickly changed frequencies to alert the Special Forces Compound at FOB-4 of the attack. No sooner than he contacted the Special Forces Compound, they too were assaulted by elite NVA Sappers. SSG Trimble and his team watched helplessly as destruction was wrought on his teammates in the shadow of Marble Mountain.

The NVA had not overlooked ST Rattler. Enemy forces were soon attempting to ascend the ropes to their observation post. Hearing gunfire from the Nungs guarding the perimeter, SSG Trimble relinquished the radio to his fellow American "one-zero" and rushed to organize the repulse of the assaulting enemy force. While dropping grenades and delivering accurate fire to repel the enemy, a Nung mercenary alerted SSG Trimble to a nearby enemy mortar position firing on the Special Forces FOB-4 Compound. SSG Trimble with precise accuracy used a grenade launcher to silence the enemy mortar that was killing his friends in the Special Forces compound below. Flares were requested and launched over the mountain the remainder of the night to observe for additional enemy positions and personnel.

In the morning light, ST Rattler could see the devastation wrought on the FOB-4 compound below. 18 American Special Forces warriors and over 80 allied indigenous mercenaries were killed that night, with scores more wounded. Though the battle at the compound had ended along with the single deadliest attack on US Special Forces in history, it was far from over for ST Rattler on Marble Mountain, surrounded by an enemy licking its' wounds and regrouping for a second attack. Special Forces Staff Sergeant Patrick N. Watkins, Distinguished Service Cross recipient of the combat at FOB-4, said of SSG Trimble’s actions, “Larry was an outstanding Special Forces Soldier and Recon Warrior. The catastrophic loss of Special Forces personnel that night would have been far worse if not for Staff Sergeant Trimble eliminating the enemy mortar on Marble Mountain.” Special Forces Staff Sergeant Joe Conlon, Silver Star recipient of that night’s actions at the FOB-4 Compound stated, “Larry kept those mortars from putting effective fire on our camps position. Knocking out those mortars impeded the enemy’s intent of destroying our camp and the neighboring US Marine positions.”

ST Rattler continued to engage the enemy from inside their own staging area of Marble Mountain. Descending from their post, SSG Trimble and several of the Nung spotted an enemy patrol and gave chase. SSG Trimble led an aggressive assault to take out a second enemy 82mm mortar and capture enemy equipment and documents, as his fellow American "one-zero" gave cover fire from the observation post above.

Ascending back to the post and immediately notifying FOB-4 of their actions and captures, a helicopter was sent to retrieve the enemy equipment and documents. The American "one-zero" team leader boarded the chopper with the enemy property as it hovered and took heavy fire. This left SSG Trimble the only American on the ground and now the acting team leader of ST Rattler in the field. It was determined at FOB-4 that the documents SSG Trimble had captured contained detailed plans of a second attack on the Marine Amphibious Unit, which were thereby thwarted.

Still surrounded on the mountain, the Nung mercenaries decided to leave. Their interpreter informed SSG Trimble of their intent to sneak through the enemy and back to the compound. SSG Trimble refused to abandon his post and the Nung left him alone on the mountain. Soon after the Nung descent, a firefight erupted and they came running back, SSG Trimble gladly accepted their return and new-found agreement to defend the observation post.

ST Rattler was surrounded with no hope of ground escape and the enemy fire was too intense for helicopter extraction. SSG Trimble led the successful repulse of two more NVA attempts to overrun ST Rattler's position that night. One of the Nungs was severely wounded in the enemy assaults and SSG Trimble saved his life by stopping his severe bleeding. Gunships were called to assist in the enemy repulse and fire was brought down danger-close to ST Rattler's position. So close was the fire, the team was peppered by shrapnel, flying rocks, and debris.

By the morning of 24 August, as the team was reorganizing, a relief helicopter was sent to drop supplies to the small beleaguered force. A fellow American Special Forces warrior accompanied the helicopter and attempting to leap onto the ground to assist, was injured beyond ability to walk by the rocky terrain. A Special Forces Hatchet Platoon was dispatched to attempt a breakout of the surrounded ST Rattler but had to retreat after taking casualties from the determined enemy force still holding the mountain. That night a quiet returned.

The next morning, a helicopter was sent for the wounded American and Nungs, it received no fire, and no enemy were spotted. The NVA and Vietcong had dissipated back into the mountains and vegetation as fast as they had come. SSG Trimble and the remnants of RT Rattler held on for another day to ensure the enemy force was gone. On 26 August 1968 SSG Trimble and ST Rattler were uneventfully extracted by helicopter, leaving as quietly as they had arrived.

For six days SSG Trimble and ST Rattler held in the repulse of a vastly superior and completely surrounding enemy force. He was personally responsible for silencing deadly enemy mortars, thereby saving countless lives in the battle below his observation post. When all gave up, SSG Trimble continued to hold his post and engage the enemy. SSG Trimble in his expert medical training, saved the life of one of his severely wounded men. He expertly guided close air support onto the surrounding foe, further leading to the enemy defeat. SSG Trimble's aggressive and fearless assault of the enemy was responsible for the capture of documents that saved lives by preventing the overrun of the US Marine Amphibious Unit stationed by the South China Sea. For these actions Army SSG Trimble would be awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor and treated to a celebration for him and ST Rattler by the United States Marine Corp, an uncommon cross-branch honor. SSG Trimble in his courage, actions, and dedication to duty is a true credit to his nation, the United States Army, and Special Forces. SSG Trimble would continue to serve his Nation and Military , retiring after 21 years of service.


DAGO 1689-68

USAF MAJ(r) Conlon, Joseph. Phone interview. 8 Jan. 2015

USASF MSG(r) Watkins, Patrick. Phone interview. 30 Dec. 2014

USASF SFC(r) Trimble, Larry. Phone Interview 12 Dec. 2014

USASF SFC(r) Meyer, John. Phone interview. 12 Dec. 2014

John Meyers and John Peters. On the Ground. Oceanside: Levin, 2007. Print.

"1968", Special Forces Casualties & Tributes, http://www.macvsog.cc/1968.htm . USASF CPT(r) Robert Noe, n.d. Web., 12 Dec. 2014.