Page 028

Page 28 (1968: The Defining Year)



General Cushman, in turn, was to relay this new emphasis on the barrier
to his subordinate commanders. In transmitting the MACV message to Major
General Hochmuth, then the Commanding General, 3d Marine Division, Cushman
remarked the "screws are being tightened." He then told Hochmuth: "This
was not unpredictable and I am well aware of the factors involved ...
Nevertheless we must give this our closest personal attention and insure
that we are taking all possible action within our capabilities and resources."39

The III MAF commander's first action was to appoint a completely separate
staff under his deputy commander, Major General Raymond L. Murray, to
oversee the entire barrier effort. General Murray's Dyemarker staff
reevaluated the efforts relative to the barrier and came up with yet
another plan. In this new version of Dyemarker, the drafters reinstated
Strongpoint A-5 and eliminated any hedging about the installation of
the obstacle system along the trace. This latter feature was to be an
integral component of the eastern sector of the barrier. Except for
Strongpoint A-5, emphasis remained on completion of all of the eastern
strongpoints by the end of the year. According to the new schedule of
completion, the 2d ARVN Regiment would take over four of the strongpoints
in 1968. The Marines would remain responsible for manning Strongpoint
A-5 and the combat operating bases, except for C-1. In the western defile
system, the plan called for construction to begin only at the Ca Lu
combat operating base during the monsoon season.40

Despite the elaborations of his staff on the barrier concept, General
Murray had serious reservations about the entire project. He later revealed
that he never really obtained a handle on the situation. Much of the
Dyemarker material had been siphoned off by various commands for their
own purposes. Many of the original timbers for the bunkers were green
and untreated and began to rot under the pervasive dampness of the monsoon
period. The Marines had much the same problem relative to the enormous
number of sandbags required for the bunkers, and their rotting caused
a "constant replacement problem." General Murray was able to obtain
promises from General Starbird's group in Washington of new timbers
and of replacement items, but his troubles continued. The III MAF deputy
commander partially blamed some of his problems on his own lack of authority.
He believed that the Dyemarker staff should not have been separate from
the III MAF staff. Murray stated he was not in a position "to directly
order anybody to do anything with relation to Dyemarker." As one of
the most decorated Marine commanders during World War II and Korea,
Murray instinctively "sympathized with the division commander whose
primary mission was the tactical handling of his troops . . . rather
than build the damn line that nobody believed in, in the first place."
The seizure of the site for Strongpoint A-3 in early December confirmed
Murray's doubts about Dyemarker: "How in the hell were you going to
build this thing when you had to fight people off, while you were building
it."41

Notwithstanding the handicaps under which they worked, the Marines
had made significant progress by the end of the year. The 11th Engineer
Battalion, under wretched weather and physical conditions, resurfaced
Route 561 with rock and partially sealed it with asphalt. The battalion
also worked on the laying of the subbase for Route 566. Route 561 connected
Route 9 with Con Thien while 566 was to run parallel to the trace and
link the strongpoints. Assisted by the engineers and Navy Seabees, the
Marine infantry had built 167 bunkers with another 234 ready, except
for overhead cover.* More than 67,000 meters of tactical wire had been
laid and 120,000 meters of minefields emplaced. Strongpoint A-1 in the
ARVN sector was finished as was the combat operating base C-2, south
of Con Thien. The remaining positions in the eastern strongpoint area
were about 80 percent completed. In the western defile system, the work
at the Ca Lu strongpoint had proceeded with little difficulty with nearly
70 percent of the bunkers and material in place. With the expected arrival
of additional supplies in the near future, the Marines expected to finish
in February the installation of the obstacle system along the trace.
The cost of these gains was dear. Not including the lives lost and the
men wounded in trying to build Dye-marker, Marines spent 757,520 man-days
and 114,519 equipment-hours. More than $1,622,348 worth of equipment
had been lost to enemy action in establishing the barrier up to this
point in time.42


The bickering, nevertheless, over the strongpoint system continued. Engineer inspectors from the MACV Dyemarker staff made several visits while the


*One Marine battalion commander, Colonel John F. Mitchell, who commanded
the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, which occupied Con Thien in the fall of
1967, remembered that he had a detachment of engineers "under my protection
and operational control" for the building of Dyemarker. According to Mitchell,
the engineer detachment worked "during daylight hours, mostly, in the
open with heavy equipment . . . and showed enormous courage setting an
example for all of us." Mitchell stated that the detachment suffered a
higher percentage of casualties than his infantry Marines. Col John F.
Mitchell, Comments on draft chapter, dtd 5Jan95 (Vietnam Comment File).





Page 28 (1968: The Defining Year)