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Page 324(1968: The Definitive Year)previous pagenext page


of predawn attacks on 18 June, when NVA sappers crawled to within 30 feet of Company K, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines near the jungle road. Preceding their assault with a mortar preparation, the enemy sprang from their nearby positions against Company K, quickly penetrating the lines. The Marines held their ground and fought back, using artillery and air support to help repulse the attacking North Vietnamese battalion. After four hours of fighting, the Marines drove back the Communist troops. Three Douglas A-4E Skyhawks of Marine Attack Squadron 311 pounded the retreating enemy, killing many. Sporadic fighting continued through the day; the Marines engaged enemy snipers and automatic weapons emplacements left behind to cover the withdrawal. When the last resistance ended, 131 North Vietnamese lay dead in and around Company K's position. Marine casualties numbered 11 killed and 30 wounded.70

On the day after Company K's battle along the jungle road, Operation Robin South ended and the 4th Marines returned to Khe Sanh having accomplished its mission. The Marines cratered the road in 28 places, destroyed 2 bridges and 4 culverts, and created a rock slide in one place. In addition, they reported killing 635 enemy and captured 48 NVA, an extraordinary prisoner count. Large quantities of enemy facilities were destroyed and supplies captured in the area of operations, dealing the North Vietnamese a hard blow.71

Operations Robin North and Robin South were the first multi-regiment Marine Corps operations "supported entirely by helicopter."72 Marine commanders were highly enthusiastic, touting the "mobile offensive concept."73 One unit's official account recorded that the operations:

. . . confirmed that fire base techniques are well within the operational scope of the Marine Corps, both conceptually and doctrinally .... Experience will improve our ability to manage the fire base concept. "Robin South" gave us a running start.74 Razing Khe Sanh: Operation Charlie

General Westmoreland departed Vietnam on 11 June, in the middle of Operation Robin South, and was relieved by General Creighton Abrams, his former deputy, as Commander USMACV. Just over a week later, on 19 June, TF Hotel began executing the 3d Marine Division plan for the evacuation and destruction of Khe Sanh Combat Base: Operation Charlie.75*

The units returning from Operation Robin South assumed new positions to screen and support the evacuation. Along Route 9, battalions of the 4th Marines occupied key terrain from which they could control the road and protect the many convoys between Khe Sanh and Ca Lu required to move the supplies and equipment out of the combat base. The 1st Marines defended Khe Sanh and the surrounding hill positions. The 3d Battalion, 9th Marines reported to the 1st Marines at the combat base to serve as a work force to assist Company A, 1st Engineer Battalion in the physical dismantling and destruction of the facilities at Khe Sanh.76

The plan for Operation Charlie called for the Marines to withdraw all salvageable supplies and equipment and to destroy all fortifications and anything of possible use which they could not move. They went about the task thoroughly. Convoys rolled from Khe Sanh to Ca Lu daily, heavily laden with stockpiled supplies, salvaged fortification materials, and previously stranded damaged equipment. Detachments from the 3d and 11th Engineer Battalions and the 3d Shore Party Battalion arrived with bulldozers and mechanics to help with the work. Even burned out vehicle hulks and damaged equipment were cut apart into smaller pieces, moved to secure areas, and buried to prevent their use in enemy propaganda. The same Navy Seabee unit which had toiled to repair and upgrade the airstrip months before now returned to

General Rosson observed that he was involved "directly and personally" with the decision to deactivate Khe Sanh." He remembered that after the "decision [to deactivate} had been made early in June. I discussed with General Davis the methodology and timing of the deactivation." Gen William B. Rosson, Comments on draft, dtd 27Feb95 (Vietnam Comment File). General Hoffman remarked that he received a decision from higher headquarters sometime in June "that we would abandon Khe Sanh combat base in favor of moving to a new combat base" initially called Stud. While Hoffman believed his units "were successfully conducting reconnaissance-in-force operations in any direction we wanted to," he recognized the desirability of consolidating mobile operations and shortening supply lines. MajGen Carl W. Hoffman, Comments on draft, dtd 15Dec94 and MajGen Carl W. Hoffman intvw, 14Nov68, pp. 151-53 (Oral HistColl, MCHC), hereafter Hoffman Comments and intvw. According to Army historian George L. Mac-Garrigle: "Westy never wanted to abandon Khe Sanh; Abrams certainly did. When Westy returned to Washington for his confirmation hearing [for his appointment as Army Chief of Staff), Abe was the "acting ComUSMACV." The agreement was, the base would not be abandoned on Westmoreland's 'watch' and I'm almost certain that MACV provided Westy with his 'cover' statement." George L. MacGarrigle, Comments on draft, dtd 5Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).



Page 324(1968: The Definitive Year)previous pagenext page



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THESE ARE ARCHIVED PAGES OF THE OLD EHISTORY SITE
These pages are not actively maintained and may have errors in content and functionality