to study the possibilities of implementing the Jason Report recommendations. The Starbird task force was to devise an anti-infiltration system based on air-dropped munitions and electronic sensors that would slow, if not stop, the flow of men and material from the north into the south. This entire planning effort was to have the code name "Practice Nine."
General Westmoreland had mixed feelings about the barrier proposal.
He was well aware of the disadvantages of any barrier. In a message
to General Starbird, he observed that the North Vietnamese, "will be
able to harass a fixed barrier at selected times and places both during
and after the construction phase . . . The enemy will make full use
of the 'bait and trap' technique in attempts to lure friendly elements
into prepared ambushes." Westmoreland concluded with an analysis of
the North Vietnamese: "Our enemy is self-confident, determined, ingenious
and uses terrain and weather to his advantage. His solutions to problems
are usually elemental, simple and practical from his view point." Despite
these doubts about a barrier, he himself, was thinking of building a
"strongpoint obstacle system" that would "channel the enemy into well-defined
corridors where we might bring air and artillery to bear and then hit
him with mobile ground reserves." He saw the Starbird project as an
opportunity to institute his own concept.20
On 3 October 1966, the MACV commander ordered his own staff to come
up with a study of the various defensive options in the DMZ sector and
report back to him in six days. In its preliminary findings, the MACV
planning group recommended a mobile defense behind a barrier system.
The MACV planners suggested a linear barrier extending from Dong Ha
Mountain to the sea. This linear barrier would consist of a 1,000-meter
wide "trace" with barbed wire, minefields, remote sensor devices, bunkers,
watch towers at periodic intervals, all tied together with an extensive
communications network. The original scheme called tor an ARVN armored
cavalry regiment to man, screen, and provide depth to the defense. III MAF would be prepared to provide reinforcements or blocking forces as
the situation might demand. West of the trace, the plan would have a
strongpoint defense centered around strategic defiles in the mountainous
terrain. The western strongpoint system would consist of 20 outposts
manned by a Republic of Korea division and reinforced by artillery and
air. This preliminary plan would go through several transitions, but
would be the basis of all subsequent discussion and planning efforts.