In the summer of 1968, the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 9th Marine Regiments were in the northernmost I Corps in a zone between North and South Vietnam. They opened new bases to the south of Khe Sanh by the Laotian border, including Torch, Robin, and Loon.
However, the Marines’ reception into the area looked a lot different in August than it did on June 1. At the beginning of the summer, the North Vietnamese Army was working on a road through the jungle just south of Khe Sanh, where Marines were being inserted.
According to Ron Winter, the initial assault was done by the 4th Marine Regiment. But the assault Winter remembers most happened in August. Winter was a part of the helicopter crew that assisted with dropping the Marines into the area.
Winter said the NVA would often change how they interacted with the Marines. Sometimes they would fire at the main aircraft, while other times, the NVA would lay in wait to see who they could catch off guard.
One day, Winter was flying as the starboard gunner in the fourth aircraft. The NVA decided they would not wait and opened fire on the aircraft.
Earlier flights pegged a gully with ridges on either side as the probable location for the enemy fighters. Winter used his Browning M-2 .50 caliber machine gun to fire on the section as they approached.
The machine gun fired 500 rounds per minute, and he emptied the first box of 100 in about 12 seconds. Once he was out, he loaded a 500 round ammo belt instead of using another box.
Winter said they did not know much about the grunts they were carrying, but as he was firing, the grunt to his right picked up the ammo belt and fed the gun with experienced smoothness.
Then, the grunts went out to their positions on the ground. Winter wrote for Task & Purpose that the grunt turned around, gave him a thumbs-up, and a grin, then took off. Winter said it was the first time he felt like he was a member of the air-ground team.