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Page 373(The Third Offensive: Da Nang )previous pagenext page


The Third Offensive: Da Nang

Indicators-The Storm Breaks--Counterattack-Pursuit-Typhoon Bess


As the 1st Marine Division Operations Allen Brook and Mameluke Thrust entered their later stages in the summer of 1968, the Communists cautiously avoided decisive contact, giving rise to the theory that they were husbanding their resources for another offensive. Rumors of an impending major attack by the enemy began to take on lives their own. The expected Communist thrust was referred to variously as the 'third offensive' (the Tet and the May offensives being the first and second, respectively), the 'autumn offensive,' or the 'summer offensive.' South Vietnamese President Thieu had warned on 10 July that 'the expected Communist summer offensive against Saigon and other major cities might come in two weeks and could be the last battle, the last all-out effort by the Communists.'1 Ironically, 10 days later, North Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh seemed to have confirmed this statement when he exhorted his countrymen to 'a final victory during the third offensive.'2

Marine infantry units captured prisoners, who, and documents, which, further indicated Communist intentions. By late July, III MAF intelligence officers knew enough about the enemy's plan to be certain that Da Nang was the target of the threatened offensive. The Da Nang National Police service captured a North Vietnamese officer who revealed details of what he referred to as the 'X2 Offensive.' The objective of this attack, he claimed, was to create a 'favorable political situation for the North Vietnamese delegation at the Paris peace talks to commemorate the forthcoming VC holidays and to attempt to gain the support of the civilian populace.' According to his account, the Communist forces would conduct the campaign in several phases. First, Viet Cong sappers would infiltrate Da Nang disguised as ARVN troops and National Police. During a series of attacks on cities and military facilities throughout the country, these 'fifth columnists' would seize control of key facilities in the city. Group 44 Headquarters assigned two of these Viet Cong units, Reconnaissance Team X.2/89 and the C. 23 Reconnaissance Company, the tasks of assassinating South Vietnamese government officials, hanging propaganda flags, distributing propaganda leaflets, and harassing U.S. and ARVN units in Da Nang.?

While rocket and mortar batteries shelled the airbases and U.S. headquarters facilities within the city, ground units would attack from the west, south, and east (the latter across the Trinh Minh The Bridge north of Marble Mountain Air Facility). Finally, the Communists would 'call upon ARVN and U.S. forces to stage military revolts and desert to the VC forces.' The prisoner claimed that the VC had collected 30 U.S. servicemen (deserters) who would assist them in fomenting an uprising.* If the attack on Da Nang and the military revolt were successful, the Communists would gather South Vietnamese intellectuals to coordinate with the National Liberation Front for the formation of local coalition governments in Da Nang and other captured areas and eventually, a national-level coalition government.4

The enemy appeared to be throwing everything he had into the effort against Da Nang. Enemy units scheduled to participate in the attacks in the Da Nang TAOR included the 31st, 36th, and 38th North Vietnamese Army Regiments, the R-20, V-25, and T-89 Battalions, as well as the 368B Rocket Regiment.' A rallier later reported that the Communist plan even included a contingency for the use of North Vietnamese tanks and aircraft to turn the tide as a last resort.6 Indeed, in late July, Marine reconnaissance teams and air

* Indeed, Marine reconnaissance and infantry units operating in the Da Nang TAOR during this period reported numerous sightings of Caucasians moving with enemy units. One reconnaissance team shot and wounded one of the Caucasians in an ambush, then heard the man call for help in English.

��The }8th NVA Regiment represented no actual increase of enemy units in the Da Nang TAOR. It was basically a coordinating headquarters for several VC battalions that had operated there over the years. According to Marine intelligence sources, it was established in early May 1968 and collocated with Group 44 'to afford greater control' during the mini-Tet and Third offensives. It consisted of the V-25, R-20, and V-7 VC Infantry Battalions, and the U and T-87 Sapper Battalions. Ill MAF PerIntRep No. 35-68, dtd 3Sep68, p. A.-47, in III MAF PerIntReps, l4Jul-31Aug68.

Page 373(The Third Offensive: Da Nang )previous pagenext page

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