US Marines in Vietnam: 1968 The Defining Year
A Marine M48 tank and two Marines, part of Task Force Robbie, engage an enemy force near Dong Ha. Task Force Robbie was the 3d Division's small armored reserve force, called after the nickname of its commander, Col Clifford J. Robichaud.
Napoleon/Saline sector to a new defensive position near Route 1. At 1715, Marine helicopters lifted Company E, BLT 2/4 from near the hamlet of Nhi Ha in the Napoleon northwestern sector to just north of the Dong Ha bridge.* Later that night, Tompkins ordered the helicopter lift of the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines from the 4th Marines Operation Lancaster II sector to C-3 to reinforce Task Force Robbie.6**
[eHistory Editor's Note: Please read this first person account of the battle here for an alternative view.]
On the afternoon of the 30th, the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines arrived at C-3. Reinforced by four tanks from Task Force Robbie, the battalion then pushed forward towards Cam Vu. Just north of Cam Vu, about 1610, Company I of the 3d Battalion, like Task Force Robbie the previous day, came up against North Vietnamese, probably in company strength, in an L-shaped ambush. As Company I attempted to establish a defensive perimeter, the other companies of the battalion and the tanks pushed forward to assist the exposed company. With the coming of the reinforcements, the Vietnamese disengaged under cover of artillery north of the DMZ and their own mortars.*** The Marine reports showed 41 enemy killed at a cost of 20 Marines dead and 72 wounded. Despite the severity of the clash at Cam Vu the fiercest fighting of the day occurred about 10,000 meters to the northeast, involving BLT 2/4 and units of the 320th NVA Division in the village of Dai Do, about 2,500 meters north of Dong Ha. The battle for Dong Ha had begun.7
The Fight for Dai Do, The First Day
Dai Do was actually a cluster of five hamlets, only one of which was actually named Dai Do, on a small peninsula carved out by the Cua Viet where it runs into the Bo Dieu. The Cua Viet rims the eastern edge while the Bo Dieu forms the southern boundary. Two unnamed small tributary streams of the larger rivers outline the northern and western reaches of the peninsula. The northernmost stream which flowed into the Cua Viet marked the boundary between the 2d ARVN Regiment and the 3d Marines. This stream separated the hamlet of Bac Vong in the Napoleon/Saline area of operations from the hamlet of Dong Huan on the northeastern lip of the peninsula. About 500 meters south of Dong Huan was the hamlet of An Loc which overlooked the Bo Dieu. Dai Do was another 500
* There is some question whether Company E actually deployed near the Dong Ha Bridge or to another smaller bridge spanning Route 1 another 5,000 meters north of the Deny Ha Bridge. Brigadier General William Weise insists that it is the latter bridge and the BLT 2/4 CAAR is in error on this matter. BGen William Weise intvw, 21Feb83 (Oral HisrColl, MCHC).
** Major Gary E. Todd, who at the time had just joined the battalion as the acting operations officer alpha, remembered that only three of the companies and the battalion command group were committed to the operation. The remaining company stayed at the Rockpile under the executive officer. Maj Gary E. Todd, Comments on draft, dtd 28Oct94 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Todd Comments.
*** Major Todd recalled that the interminglinp of forces limited the use of air support. He observed that the North Vietnamese professionally adjusted their artillery fire and that the Marines faced an "army that was as well equipped as their government and its supporters could afford." Todd Comments.