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in Qui Nhon in order to reinforce the RVNAF and to defend the airfield, port, logistic facilities, and U.S. supporting installations.''16

To fulfill the requirements of his mission, on 6 July Lieutenant Colonel Utter issued his three-phased concept of operations; the first phase was completed on the afternoon of the 7th with the relief of BLT 3/7, the second began on the 8th with the occupation of Hill 586, the dominant ridge line running north and south, while the third phase was to consist of aggressive patrolling of the TAOR. The defensive perimeter consisted of three concentric areas: close-in defensive positions around the airfield, a defensive zone out to mortar range, and an outer zone to the limit of organic artillery range.

The establishment of the Qui Nhon enclave made General Walt's mission in I Corps more difficult. Not only did he lose the services of one infantry battalion, which could have been used either at Phu Bai or Da Nang, but also he had to position a detachment of 10 UH-34s from HMM-161 at Qui Nhon to provide helicopter support for the Marines there. The need for still more Marines in I Corps became disturbingly evident in July.

The Attack on the Airfield

USMC Photo A194609 Marines from Company H, 2d Battalion, 9th

Marines stop a Vietnamese civilian bus on Route l, 12 miles south of Da Nang in a search for VC guerrillas. The troops are checking civilian ID cards and looking for unauthorized weapons and ammunition

On 1 July, a Viet Cong mortar and ground attack on the Da Nang airfield exposed the vulnerability of the base to enemy hit-and-run tactics. The Communists had carefully planned and rehearsed this operation for over a month, taking advantage of the fact that the entire area south of the perimeter fence was the responsibility of the South Vietnamese forces. On the night of 30 June, an 85-man enemy force, armed with automatic weapons, demolitions, grenades, one 57mm recoilless rifle, and four 81mm mortars, crossed the Cau Do River south of Da Nang. The attack force, a VC special operations company and a mortar company, reinforced by a 13-man North Vietnamese sapper team reached the southeastern perimeter of the base by midnight.

The enemy mortar company divided into two sections; the first section was to fire on the helicopter parking area, the other was to support the demolition team. Two rifle squads took up blocking positions to counter any reaction force, while the recoilless rifle team backed up the mortars. At approximately 0115, the 13 men of the demolition team tunneled under the outer defensive wire, crossed the open area, and cut a hole in the inner perimeter fence.17

Lieutenant Colonel Verle E. Ludwig's 1st Battalion, 9th Marines was responsible for airfield defense. All four companies and the battalion CP had been located on the airfield, but 'there were continuing talks and plans between and among myself [Ludwig], Colonel Wheeler, and General Walt to use 1/9 to increase the offensive capability in the Da Nang area.' As a result. Companies B and D, the CP, and most of Headquarters and Service Company had been moved to a more forward base area to begin a series of sweeps south of Da Nang. Two companies, A and C, augmented by MAF Logistic Support Group troops and Ontos [106mm recoilless rifles] strong points, provided the defense of the airfield proper. Ludwig later observed that these two companies were responsible for the same area that the entire battalion had previously covered and 'This meant, of course, that our positions were spread out, with the spaces between covered with roving sentries. This was the situation in the area penetrated by the sappers.'18

The night of 30 June had been quiet, with the exception of two minor probes on the extreme western portion of the Marine TAOR. About 0130 on l July, one of the Marine sentries near the fence heard a suspicious noise and threw an illumination grenade. At the moment the grenade burst, the enemy opened fire. Under the protection of concentrated covering fire and grenades, ten sappers ran

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