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CHAPTER 3

The War in the

Eastern DMZ in Early and Mid-January

The NVA in the DMZ Sector-Operation

Napoleon-Kentucky Operations and the Barrier Operation Lancaster and Heavy

fighting in Mid-January

The NVA in the DMZ Sector

As 1968 began, III MAF looked for the enemy to renew
his initiative in the north. According to Marine intelligence, elements
of nine North Vietnamese regiments belonging to three different divisions
were in or below the Demilitarized Zone. These regiments operated either
under their parent divisions or directly under the DMZ Front Headquarters.
In 1967, the North Vietnamese had created this relatively new command,
separate from the Tri Thien Hue Military Region, to coordinate
NVA operations in and just south of the DMZ. All told, the Front
controlled some 21,000 troops including divisions, regiments, and separate
battalions and companies. In its annual report, MACV observed that the
establishment of the North Vietnamese DMZ Front Headquarters
"was a significant strategic move by the enemy." The North
Vietnamese had succeeded in tying down a large allied force in the border
area and were in position to mount a major offensive in northern Quang
Tri Province.1

In its December 1967 enemy order of battle, III MAF
identified elements of three regiments of the 324B NVA Division-the
812th, the 803d, and 90th-and two of the
regiments of the 325C NVA Division-the 29th and 95th-operating
south of the Demilitarized Zone. The Marines believed the headquarters
of the 325C Division and the 95th Regiment to be five
to ten miles northwest of Khe Sanh. The 29th NVA regimental
headquarters and two battalions remained in the southern sector of the
DMZ about 20 miles north of Khe Sanh, but with one battalion, the 8th,
located only five miles north of the Marine base.2

In the eastern DMZ, FMFPac intelligence officers placed
the 324B Division Headquarters five miles north of the Ben
Hai River. The 812th NVA Regiment, with all three of its battalions,
was in the southern DMZ below the river, about five miles north of Camp
Carroll. Both the 803d and 90th regimental headquarters
were supposed to be collocated just above the Ben Hai. According to
the FMFPac order of battle, which differed in some details from the
III MAF, the 803d had only one battalion with the regimental
headquarters. Contrary to being above the DMZ as III MAF showed in its
monthly report, FMFPac indicated the other two battalions, the 1st
and the 3d, operated inside South Vietnam-the 1st,
north of Con Thien, and the 3d, near the flat, coastal area
east of Gio Linh despite its lack of cover and concealment.3

The 90th NVA Regiment also posed problems
for the Marine intelligence community. FMFPac in its December summary
displayed all three battalions, the 7th, the 8th,
and the 9th, together with the regimental headquarters above
the Ben Hai in the DMZ north of Con Thien. III MAF, however, had evidence
that two battalions of the 90th had departed the regimental
area, using elephants as pack animals, and moved west into Laos. The
enemy units then entered South Vietnam south of Khe Sanh and traveled
northeast. Following the Mientay, "The Road to the West,"
in this case actually the road to the east, one 600-man battalion ended
up about five miles southwest of Quang Tri City. According to agent
reports, the other battalion, about 400 men, infiltrated south into
Thua Thien Province. To confuse matters even more, this intelligence
indicated that the 90th was now under the operational control
of the 312th NVA Division rather than the 324B Division.
This appeared to be unlikely, however, since the 312th had
not been in the DMZ region since 1966 and no other reports made reference
to this division.4*

In addition to the 324B and the 325C
Divisions, FMFPac intelligence officers reported another division, the
341st NVA, located in the Vinh Linh District of southern North
Vietnam and obviously prepared to reinforce the enemy forces in the
DMZ and in Quang


* Major Gary E. Todd, who served as an intelligence officer
on the 3d Marine Division staff, commented that the North Vietnamese changed
their unir designations "to frustrate our intelligence collection
efforts against them, much like a criminal uses aliases to elude police."
Maj Gary E. Todd, Comments on draft chapter, dtd 28Oct94 (Vietnam Comment
File), hereafter Todd Comments.




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