Vietnam Personal Accounts


Turkey Shoot at the DMZ

Jim Coan - Alpha Co., 3rd Tanks, ‘67/’68

Lt. Jim Coan Jim Coa

One of the most devastating defeats ever inflicted upon the NVA by U. S. Marine tankers occurred on August 15, 1968, in the coastal sand dunes northeast of Gio Linh and just south of the Ben Hai River. According to the USMC publication, U. S. Marines in Vietnam: The Defining Year, 1968, by Shulimson, et. al., ten tanks from Companies A and B, 3d Tank Battalion, surprised an enemy battalion at dawn while they were still eating breakfast among the dunes. In conjunction with elements of the 2d ARVN Regiment, the Marine tankers opened fire and attacked, overrunning an enemy command post. Shulimson goes on to state: "The Marine tankers, who described the day’s action as a ‘turkey shoot,’ were credited with 198 killed and 70 probable out of a total of 421 reported enemy dead." The paragraph further indicates there were no Marine casualties, but mines had damaged two tanks and a retriever.

I was the XO of Alpha Company at the time, but was only a few days from rotating home when this action occurred. My going home memories seem to have overridden the details of that amazing battle. However, contrary to what the official record states, I clearly remember hearing over the radio net that an RPG had wounded a tank commander. To this day, I can recall the tremendous elation those of us back in Dong Ha felt when we learned of that "hairy" operation’s unbelievable success. Unfortunately, the operation called Lam Son 250 by the South Vietnamese received zero recognition in the stateside press.

If anyone in our membership was a participant in that little known battle and would be interested in sharing his experiences on Operation Lam Son 250, please contact me. I would like to write an article for possible publication. E-mail Jim at