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work progressed and made several criticisms ranging from the size
to the color of the bunkers. During two trips to the DMZ sector in December,
General Westmoreland expressed his dissatisfaction. He was particularly
unhappy about the fortifications at Con Thien. Westmoreland observed
that the bunkers there were built to house a 900-man Marine battalion
rather than the 400-man Vietnamese battalion which was scheduled to
take over the positions in the spring. Venting his frustrations in his
personal journal, he wrote:

I have
had no end of problems with the strongpoint obstacle system. The reason
seems to be that the Marines have had little experience in construction
of fortifications and therefore lack the know-how to establish them
in the way I had visualized. I thus have been remiss in taking for granted
that they had the background; hopefully it is not too late to get the
project on a solid track.43

In a formal message to General Cushman, the MACV commander laid out
in detail what he wanted relative to the barrier. He stated at the outset
that a strongpoint was "to be virtually an impregnable defensive position."
Westmoreland noted that it was to be emplaced so that an ARVN battalion
with supporting arms could withstand an attack by an enemy division.
He wanted the primary defense to be based on "two-man fighting bunkers,
that are hardened, mutually supporting, [and] protected by a dense field
of defensive wire and mines." Radars, sensors, night observation devices,
and searchlights would complement the defenses. General Westmoreland
finally reminded the III MAF commander that he could consult Army Field
Manuals 7-11 and 7-20 for further guidance on preparing defensive positions.44

The Marine command, on the other hand, viewed the MACV staff and General
Westmoreland's criticisms as unjustified. Marine generals saw the barrier
largely as an impediment to fighting the war. Building the fortifications
for the strongpoints was a case in point. The 3d Division looked at
the bunkers as living areas able to withstand "a certain amount of enemy
attention."45 The actual fighting positions were outside the bunkers
themselves. General Murray recalled that when General Westmoreland visited
the positions, he called them foxholes and directed the building of
covered emplacements for the fighting positions and bunkers with loopholes
for rifles and automatic weapons. The Seabees then built for the Marines
a half dozen of the new types of bunkers which the MACV commander personally
inspected. Murray remembered that Westmoreland spent most of the visit
discussing the comparative virtues of a sloping front as compared with
those of a solid front. According to Murray, he later often wondered
why a MACV commander was concerned with "such trifles."46

The 3d Division ADC, Brigadier General Metzger, laid much of the difficulties
with the barrier directly at the feet of MACV. He remarked on the changing
plans "verbally and informally, by General Westmoreland and seemingly
on the whim of various staff officers." Several years later, Metzger
remembered that the MACV commander constantly altered requirements.
At Con Thien, "the 'bursting layer' on top of the bunkers was originally
required to stop a mortar shell, that was soon increased to stop a 105mm
shell." The Marine general personally suspected that the "Army would
not be unhappy if the Marine Corps did not accomplish a first class
job on Dyemarker, and is 'nit-picking' with the hope of establishing
a background of 'Marine Corps incompetence.'" He believed that "at least
some of the problems with MACV Headquarters are motivated by such a
feeling."47

Thus as 1968 began, the 3d Marine Division, under heavy pressure from
higher headquarters, continued with its efforts to complete the strongpoint
system according to the new guidelines. The division, on 31 December
1967, issued a detailed operational order, complete with overlays, charts,
deadlines, and bunker designs. Based on the III MAF Dyemarker order
of November 1967, the 3d Division directive specified the missions for
each of the individual units. The 9th Marines had responsibility for
most of the eastern strongpoint system. Its tactical area included all
of the proposed strongpoints except for A-1 in the ARVN sector and A-5,
a site not yet selected. With support of the engineers, the regiment
was to complete construction of the strongpoint at Con Thien and the
three combat operating bases, C-2, C-3, and C-3A, strung along Route
566. To the west, the 3d Marines was to start on Strongpoint A-5 when
so instructed and to finish the strongpoint at Ca Lu in the western
defile system. The 2d ARVN Regiment sector contained the easternmost
strongpoint, A-1, and the C-1 Combat Operating Base. On the coast, the
1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion was responsible for the C-4 Combat Operating
Base.48 This emphasis from above had limited impact on the actual units,
except for the issuance of additional directives. On 22 January, the
9th Marines published its operational order on the barrier.49 At the
troop level, Dyemarker remained, nevertheless, only a vague concept
except for the building of the bunkers. The Marine infantrymen's concern
was the ability to defend themselves







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