(1968: The Defining Year)
DMZ using forces borh in eastern Quang Tri and near Khe Sanh. Might
attempt "to hold Khe Sanh at least temporarily . . . because of
its remoteness . . . .; 3. continue
the present "pattern of harassing friendly forces with hit and
run attacks, interdiction of lines of communication with battalion-size
forces . . . .; 4. continue
the present pattern and also fortify areas and ambush sites in Quang
Tri to trap friendly forces and "dissipate our efforts and to inflict
heavy personnel casualties and equipment losses on friendly forces .
. . .; 5. withdraw
all forces north of the Ben Hai and strengthen defenses.19
Given these choices, the FMFPac report concluded that the North Vietnamese
would probably elect a combination of options 1 and 2, while at "the
same time harass friendly forces with hit and run attacks, mining, and
interdiction ot lines of communications." Despite the NVA's recent
reverses in the DMZ, the FMFPac staff members believed that the North
Vietnamese leadership, "imbued with a Dien Bien Phu mentality,"
wanted to inflict a series of tactical defeats and heavy casualties
among U.S. forces that would demoralize the American "home front"
and make continued U.S. participation in the war politically untenable.
On 13 January, General Cushman, the III MAF commander, radioed General
Westmoreland, "An immediate enemy threat to III MAF forces is poised
west of Khe Sanh. Additional heavy enemy concentrations are indicated
in the A Shau Valley as well as in and north of the DMZ." At this
point, both MACV and the Marine command perceived northern I Corps as
the most likely setting for any major enemy push.20
Along the DMZ, much of the war was indistinguishable from the preceding
year. Work on the barrier continued and the same politically based rules
of engagement applied to the DMZ. U.S. ground forces could not cross
the Ben Hai River, but were allowed to conduct operations in the Demilitarized
Zone south of the demarcation line and return fire across the line.
Artillery, naval gunfire, and air missions were permitted against valid
targets in the north. MACV insisted, however, that the Marine command
notify it of every action against the North Vietnamese under these ground
rules. Marine units remained in the identical sectors, each with its
designated operational name, that they had manned in December.21
In the DMZ, the 3d Marine Division maintained three distinct tactical
areas designated by operational codenames, Napoleon, Kentucky, and Lancaster.
Lieutenant Colonel Edward R. Toner's 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion
was responsible for the Napoleon Area of Operations, extending some
three miles above and two miles below the Cua Viet waterway and two
miles inland from the coast. The battalion's mission was to safeguard
the vital Cua Viet Port Facility and
of Defense (USMC) Photo A801124
Navy LSTs (landing ship, tank) and smaller seagoing
vessels could be unloaded at the Cua Viet Port Facility in the DMZ Sector,
and transhipped to the main Marine base Hpriver at Dong Ha.
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