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Page 48 (1965: The Landing and the Buildup)    


On 15 June, Lieutenant Colonel Clement drew up plans for a three-company action in conjunction with the ARVN and Popular Forces. Three days later, the Marine battalion and Vietnamese forces moved through the hamlets and brought out more than 350 villagers, who then moved into the Le My complex. Clement later admitted, "I suppose given a free choice, the people would not have left their hamlet. I influenced their decision by honesty, sincerity, and a hell of a lot of H&I fires."40

By this time, Le My had become a show case for pacification. Lieutenant Colonel Clement explained:

... by virture of their success and notoriety, the Marines at Le My . . . were not maneuvered around. . . . This permitted the battalion to conduct a coun-terinsurgency campaign based upon the situation as it appeared to the people on the ground. This privileged position permitted a great deal of person-to-person confidence to develop, and, along with it, a personal commitment to the government cause.41

June Operations in the Three Enclaves

With the enlarged TAORs and broader mission in June, General Walt based his concept of operations on the establishment of an elaborate defensive network for the base areas together with forward outposts and extended patrolling in the outlying areas. He envisioned ' 'the creation of a series of dug-in timbered mutually-supporting defensive positions into which infantry units may withdraw in the event of heavy enemy attack" as the main defensive line for each enclave. Some 3,000 to 5,000 meters forward of this line, Walt wanted the establishment of a ' 'lightly fortified combat outpost line" for a more mobile defense. Concurrently, the III MAF commander ordered all units to continue ' 'aggressive patrolling" in all TAORS "as a means of keeping the enemy off balance, forcing him to deploy, and giving early warning of any attempts to concentrate along TAOR boundaries."42

At Da Nang, the resulting expanded operations resulted in increasing contacts with enemy small units. The 3d Marine Division for the month reported:

10 June. In the western sector of the Da Nang TAOR, a company patrol uncovered a VC base camp capable of supporting 150 people. The camp was destroyed .... 21 June. During the morning, 2 reinforced squads from 2/3 were attacked while on patrol in the Da Nang TAOR by an estimated 8 VC, using small arms and grenades. One Marine was KIA and 3 WIA, while the VC lost 4 KIA and 2 women captured .... 22 June. In a brief fire fight at an outpost manned by Company C, 1/3, in the southern portion of the Da Nang enclave, two VC were killed with no Marine casualties. 24 June. Elements of 1/9, under operational control of 3d Marines, and the 1st Bn, 4th ARVN Regiment conducted a combined sweep and clear operation south of Da Nang Air Base along the Song Cau Do ... 1/9 apprehended 19 suspected VC and the ARVN 1/4 had killed 2 VC. There were no Marine casualties.43

The 4th Marines at Chu Lai was equally busy. Lieutenant Colonel Fisher's 2d Battalion, 4th Marines provided security for the Seabees while they constructed the airfield. Shotgun riders from one rifle company were assigned to every vehicle day and night. Two of Fisher's other rifle companies and his headquarters and service company manned the main defensive line, while his fourth rifle company manned forward outposts and conducted patrols.44 The other infantry battalions at Chu Lai, the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines and the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, made similar dispositions.

With the consolidation of the Chu Lai base area, Colonel Dupras gradually extended the 4th Marines TAOR so that the air facility was out of range of enemy mortars and light artillery. Lieutenant Colonel Fredericks, the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, recalled that initially the Marines had to operate in a very restricted zone and that the enemy was aware of this restriction.45 With a combination of extended patrolling and civic action within the villages in the TAOR, by the end of June Colonel Dupras was confident that his troops had eliminated the ability of the Viet Cong to mass and attack the airfield. Enemy action was limited to small probes against outposts, sniping, and occasional hand grenade incidents. At the end of the month, the 4th Marines and its supporting units had killed 147 VC while suffering four dead and 23 wounded.

In the Marines' northernmost enclave at Phu Bai, the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines faced a large challenge. General Krulak commented that although the unit was operating aggressively throughout its TAOR, it was too much to expect the base to be safe from enemy mortar attack. He believed that the Marines would require two more battalions and probably a regiment to defend the base properly.46 The low rolling hills and swampy gullies in the area were divided just to the right of center of the TAOR by a prominent north-south ridgeline dominated at the north end by Hill 180. More disturbing was the fact




Page 48 (1965: The Landing and the Buildup)