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against activating his own command, arguing that "The overall effect of the creation of the Provisional Base Battalion is uneconomical from personnel, equipment, and airfield security viewpoints."30 Although this recommendation was rejected, it soon became apparent that he was right. Clark later recalled that during General Walt's 7 August morning briefing, Colonel Edward Cook, the commanding officer of the 3d Motor Transport Battalion:

Reported a significant number of vehicles deadlined for lack of drivers or for required maintenance. Seems the drivers and mechanics were TAD [temporary additional duty] for their 60 days with the ADB [airfield defense battalion]. General Walt said deactivate.31

Although the order to deactivate came on 7 August, the provisional battalion remained in existence for two more weeks, sharing the airfield defense mission with the two companies of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines and later with the newly arrived 3d Battalion, 9th Marines. The 3d Battalion assumed the entire mission of base defense on the formal deactivation of the provisional battalion on 22 August.

The provisional battalion had served its purpose, in that the 9th Marines was able to begin the occupation of its new TAOR. Of particular concern was the area to the south of the Cau Do. The 9th Marines area of responsibility now extended to the South China Sea on the east, the Yen River on the west, and approximately three and a half miles to the south of the Song Cau Do, about 30 square miles in all. This entire region was densely populated with innumerable clusters of villages and hamlets. The term "village" in Vietnam denoted an administrative unit, while the true local community was the hamlet, several hamlet clusters making up a village. An example of the confusion this caused for III MAF staffs was the fact that in the 9th Marines TAOR there were six hamlets with the name of Cam Ne and three Duong Sons, identified only by a parenthetical number after the hamlet name. Often the hamlets had different names from that of their administrative village, while clusters had no names at all, or none that the Americans could determine.

Prior to the extension of their TAOR, the Marines had only limited contact with the Vietnamese civilian population and then only in areas such as Le My where the people had shown basic loyalty to the government cause. This was not the case in the region south of the Cau Do. It was difficult to build loyalty to the Government of South Vietnam where fathers, brothers, and relatives were part of the VC structure and had been for a generation. A Buddhist priest who lived in one of the Duong Son hamlets furnished the Marines with some basic intelligence of the VC strength and organization, typical of the area. He revealed that the Viet Cong maintained a roadblock near the railroad tracks between Duong Son (2) and (3) manned by a four-man squad. A 40-man VC force which lived in his village was constructing bunkers, foxholes, punji traps, and setting in booby traps. Enemy political cadres were also active and VC tax agents collected 270 piastres annually from each family living in the area. The priest laconically summed up: "The attitude of the people is generally friendly to the VC and unfriendly to the government forces."32

With General Thi's concurrence, the Marines entered the new TAOR on 12 July; Lieutenant Colonel Scharnberg's 2d Battalion moved into the vicinity of Duong Son (l), a mile south of the Phong Le Bridge. While two companies formed a perimeter defense around the hamlet, Company B, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, moved through the hamlet. The Marines from Company B met strong resistance; three men were killed and four wounded. Further south, Company D, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, attached to the 2d Battalion for the operation, came under sniper fire; eight were wounded. Most of the enemy fire appeared to be coming from the direction of Cam Ne (l), approximately 1,800 to 2,000 yards northwest of the jumping-off point. The Marines pulled back and called for close air support. F-4Bs from MAG-11 answered the request and blasted the enemy positions. An aerial observer in an O-1B confirmed six VC dead and secondary explosions in a minefield.

With Duong Son (l) secured, Lieutenant Colonel Schamberg established a forward command post under his executive officer, Major John A. Buck, in "the old French reinforced concrete bunker at the northwest end of the Phong Le Bridge," to control the two companies remaining in the hamlet. Buck recalled that he maintained "almost daily contact with . . . [the] village chief of Duong Son,'' believing this "liaison was essential in order to obtain raw information . . . and in general to develop a rapport without which the Marines could not achieve their full potential."33 Nevertheless, the two Marine

 

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