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uation and to resolve the issues. At this meeting in which Giap apparently
played a large role, the party called for "a decisive blow" to "force
the U.S. to accept military defeat."33

Within a few months, the Communist forces launched the first phase
of their 1967-68 Winter-Spring Campaign. In a reverse of their usual
tactics, the North Vietnamese mounted mass assaults lasting over a period
of several days instead of attempting to disengage quickly. During September
and early October, the Marine outpost at Con Thien in the eastern DMZ
sector came under both infantry attack and artillery bombardment. Firing
from positions north of the 17th Parallel, enemy gunners employed artillery
pieces up to 152 millimeters. Repulsed at Con Thien, the North Vietnamese
then tried to overrun the district capital of Loc Ninh near the Cambodian
border in Binh Long Province north of Saigon along Route 13.

Again forced to pull back after several days of fighting and suffering
extensive losses, the enemy then struck in the Central Highlands at
Dak To near the junction of the Cambodian, Laotian, and South Vietnamese
borders. After 22 days of bloody combat in November, the North Vietnamese
forces withdrew after once more taking staggering casualties.34

By the end of December, 1967, the enemy appeared to be ready to make
a fresh assault in northwestern South Vietnam at Khe Sanh. Following
a period of relative calm since the battles earlier that spring near
this isolated Marine base, American intelligence picked up reports of
North Vietnamese troop movements in the sector. Although experiencing
only limited combat activity at Khe Sanh in December, one Marine company
commander declared that he could "smell" the enemy out there.35

To MACV, the North Vietnamese strategy appeared clear. It was an attempt
to draw the allied forces into remote areas where the enemy had the
advantage and then move to a "mobile War of Decision."36 To Lieutenant
General Krulak at FMFPac, the enemy's intent was also apparent. Quoting
General Giap, he later wrote: "The primary emphasis [is] to draw American
units into remote areas and thereby facilitate control of the population
of the lowlands." According to Krulak, the people were the final objective.37

Focus on the North

The increasing pressure by the North Vietnamese Army in late 1967
continued the pattern of large-unit operations in the border regions
of South Vietnam that had characterized the war, especially in the north,
since 1966. With the first incursion of enemy regulars in the summer
of that year, III MAF shifted forces north. Forced to fill the gap left
in southern I Corps, MACV in April 1967 reinforced the Marines in I
Corps with the Army's Task Force Oregon, which later, became the Americal
Division. After this-northward deployment, the DMZ sector and Khe Sanh
became the focus of allied concern.38

Given the emphasis on the northern battlefield, the Marines at the
direction of General Westmoreland in April 1967 began the erection of
the strong point obstacle system (SPOS) along the DMZ to prevent North
Vietnamese infiltration. Dubbed the "McNamara Line," after the U.S.
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, this so-called "barrier" was
to consist of three parts: (l) a linear-manned obstacle system in the
eastern DMZ sector extending some 34 kilometers to the sea and consisting
of barbed wire, a 600-meter-wide cleared trace, minefields, and electronic
and acoustic sensors; (2) a series of strong points to the Laotian border
built along obvious avenues of approach from the north with Khe Sanh
as the western anchor; and (3) in Laos, the seeding of suspected infiltration
routes with sensors monitored and supported by aircraft. Strong enemy
opposition and shortages of men and material slowed the progress of
the SPOS. By mid-September the 3d Marine Division had only completed
the clearing of the trace from Con Thien to Gio Linh, a distance of
13 kilometers. Faced with mounting casualties, General Westmoreland
approved a modification to his original plans. In essence, the division
was to halt all construction of the trace until "after the tactical
situation had stabilized," and continue only with the work on the strong
points and base areas. By the end of 1967, the Marines had completed
work on the four strong points and all but two of the base areas. In
the western sector of the barrier, only the base at Khe Sanh existed.39

With the 3d Marine Division tied down in fixed positions along the
eastern DMZ and at Khe Sanh, manpower considerations became an overriding
concern for both III MAF and MACV. Earlier in the year, during the spring,
General Westmoreland had requested an increase in his authorized strength.
Asking for a minimum of 80,000 more men (his optimum figure being nearly
200,000), he planned to reinforce the Marines in I Corps with at least

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