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talion commander complained about the strain on his men to build the
barrier at the same time they fought the war. Brigadier General Louis
Metzger, the 3d Marine Division Assistant Division Commander (ADC),
several years later wrote that the "Marines required to do the construction
work were exhausted from protracted combat and the so-called security
missions were in fact heavy combat."26

The Marine command began to view Dyemarker, the new codename for Practice Nine, as an albatross around its neck. Originally, although not happy with the barrier concept, General Krulak in June 1967 thought that it might be feasible to extend the trace from the sea some 25 kilometers inland and deny the enemy "a direct north-south route into the populous areas."27 General Cushman, who had assumed command of III MAF in June, also thought that the completion of the strongpoint obstacle system would free his forces along the DMZ for operations elsewhere.28 By the end of July, both men had second thoughts. In messages to the III MAF commander and to General Greene, the FMFPac commander voiced his concerns. Krulak radioed Cushman: "I am fearful, that, unless we call a halt, that MACV is going to nibble us to death in the Dyemarker project." He stated that he understood Cushman's problems: "You must get as much of the job done as possible in advance of the monsoon and you need help to do it."29 In his message to General Greene, General Krulak remarked on the slow progress and the high costs of the barrier program. He reminded both men that the original barrier concept called for specific forces to take over the barrier, and he now feared that MACV was hedging on this support.30

These considerations started to come to a head in August. III MAF
briefed General Greene on the Dyemarker situation during the Commandant's
visit to Vietnam in the early part of the month. The III MAF briefers
observed that the original MACV concept called for a minimum of 7,691
additional men including an infantry brigade, construction battalions,
truck companies, and other support units to reinforce the Marines in
Dyemarker. None of these units had yet been forthcoming. The III MAF
staff ended its presentation with the observation that the "Enemy activity
in northern Quang Tri... greatly exceeded that assumed . . .," yet the
Marines were under directives "to accomplish the tasks within available
force levels."31

On 16 August, General Cushman appealed directly to General Westmoreland. He made much the same argument that he had in the briefing for General Greene. The III MAF commander reiterated that he had not received any of the additional forces supposedly specified for the Dyemarker project. He emphasized that the buildup of enemy forces in the DMZ made the original estimate of minimum forces for the barrier now hopelessly out of date. Cushman then explained that the seven battalions that he had up in the north "cannot accomplish that task up forward and at the same time construct, man, and operate and defend the Strongpoint/Obstacle System ... to their rear." He remarked that the only way "to get on with the job," was to shift an Army brigade from Chu Lai to Da Nang, and then move a Marine regiment from the Da Nang TAOR to the DMZ sector. General Cushman then asked General Westmoreland to consider this latter alternative.32 Cushman received assurances that he could deploy his forces as he saw fit, and on 30 August directed his 1st Marine Division to prepare plans for the movement of two battalions north to the DMZ. He explained to the division commander, Major General Donn J. Robertson, "everyone has to strain during Dyemarker."33

At this point, the North Vietnamese took matters into their own hands. In early September, they began an artillery bombardment of Marine positions along the strongpoint system and Marine rear areas from positions above the DMZ. On 3 September, more than 40 rounds of mixed caliber shells struck the overcrowded Dong Ha base. An ammunition storage area and the bulk fuel farm went up in flames. The Marine helicopter squadron at the Dong Ha Airfield sustained damage to 17 of its aircraft, already in short supply. From as far away as 50 miles, Marine pilots aloft could see billowing smoke rising over Dong Ha. Considering the extent of the explosions and fires, Marine casualties were relatively light-no one killed and 77 wounded, and only one man seriously. The impact upon Marine logistics in the north and upon the III MAF capability to continue the Dyemarker project was another matter. In a message to General Westmoreland, General Cushman laid out the implications of the losses of material as a result of the attack on 3 September, and continuing with the barrier under the guns of the enemy. He observed that the destruction of the Dong Ha ammunition supply point "had a direct impact on my ability to proceed with Dyemarker." The III MAF commander then remarked that "We are rapidly approaching the time when a decision must be made as to ... installation of the Strongpoint Obstacle System." Cushman related again the effort that his forces had been making despite shortages in material for Dyemarker and without the promised troop reinforcements for the project.

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