In 1968, U.S. Marines headed out from the Khe Sanh garrison. Unfortunately, the Marines were heavily outnumbered by the North Vietnamese.
The two separate squads were ambushed by the North Vietnamese and almost entirely taken out, with only a few Marines barely surviving. Thus, the patrol would come to be known as “The Ghost Patrol.”
One of the many Marines who died was Pfc. Ronald L. Ridgeway. His family thought he was killed in the ambush and even had a burial for him. However, he was not dead.
Khe Sanh Battle
The Khe Sanh garrison was along the border between Vietnam and Laos. Army General William Westmoreland fortified the garrison for an attack from the North Vietnamese.
He upgraded the airfield, and additional men and munitions were added. However, when the attack finally happened on Jan. 21, 1968, it proved not to be enough.
The base had over 6,000 troops. They faced about 20,000 – 40,000 enemy forces. To make matters worse, their munitions supply was decimated by an artillery attack.
Westmoreland believed the base should be defended at all costs and was able to get President Lyndon B. Johnson on board. The result was a 77-day battle that needed constant supply drops.
The fight was continuous, with the Marines trying to get an edge on the North Vietnamese. On February 25, a patrol went out to find and either capture or kill North Vietnamese troops.
An inexperienced lieutenant was the leader of the patrol. His men saw enemy fighters fleeing and decided to follow them, a move that turned out to be a very poor decision. The men were bait leading the Marines to a trap.
In their attempt to help a wounded soldier, Ridgeway and the other Marine were wounded by enemy fire. Ridgeway was the only survivor. He was captured when a Vietnamese soldier went to steal his watch and realized he was alive.
In September, his family was one of the nine Marine families participating in a burial of unidentified remains from the battle. But Ridgeway was not dead. Instead, he was brutally tortured at the Hanoi Hilton, making it home as a part of a prisoner transfer five years later.
After coming home, he visited the site where his fellow Marines were buried. Eventually, his name was removed from the list, and a new memorial was put in its place.