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center pointing northwest towards the battalion command post. Making
the obvious conclusion that this was a crude aiming stake for enemy
mortars, the Marines changed the direction of the arrow so that any
rounds fired from that site would fall into the sea. That same night,
about 1,000 meters to the southwest, a Marine squad ambush from Company
B, 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion, just outside the village of Tuong
Van Tuong, saw nearly 50 enemy troops moving on line towards them from
the southeast. The Marine squad leader immediately called for artillery
support. Within two minutes, the 105mms on the LVTH-6s dropped more
than 100 rounds upon the advancing enemy. The NVA soldiers regrouped
twice, but "broke each time under fire." A Marine looking through his
starlight scope observed a number of enemy troops fall, but when two
reinforced Marine platoons from Company B checked the area the following
morning there were no bodies. Throughout the DMZ sector, the enemy appeared
once more attempting to infiltrate into and behind the allied positions.29

Kentucky Operations and the Barrier

Aligned along both sides of Route 1, the 2d ARVN Regiment filled in
the gap between the Napoleon and Kentucky area of operations. Part of
the highly rated 1st ARVN Division, the regiment occupied in December
both the A-1 and A-2 Strong Points of the barrier and the C-1 base area.
Major Vu Van Giai, the regimental commander, whom the Marines described
as "an impressive officer with a good command of English," established
his command post at C-1, located just west of the railroad and Route 1, about 6,000 meters south of Gio Linh. Giai kept one battalion at
the C-1 base and deployed two battalions forward, one at A-1, near the
destroyed fishing village of An My, about 2,000 meters below the DMZ,
and the other at A-2, just above Gio Linh. On 3 January, Giai moved
his reserve battalion, the 2d Battalion, 2d ARVN, from below Gio Linh
to new positions north of the Cua Viet in the vicinity of Dong Ha. As
a result of this relocation, the regiment and the 9th Marines in Operation
Kentucky readjusted their boundaries. Nominally, the A-2 stronghold
at Gio Linh, although manned by the ARVN, remained in the 9th Marines
TAOR. According to the barrier plan, the ARVN eventually were to take
over also the A-3 Strong Point, located halfway between Gio Linh and
Con Thien, when it was finished.30

Until that time, however, the defense and building of the barrier
lay with the 9th Marines in Kentucky. Encompassing "Leatherneck Square,"
the approximately six-by-eight-mile area, outlined by Gio Linh and Dong
Ha on the east and Con Thien and Cam Lo on the west, the 9th Marines
area of operations included three of the five strong points of the "Trace"
and two of the combat operating bases of the barrier, C-2 and C-3. The
terrain in Kentucky varied from low-lying hills interspersed by woods
and rice paddies in the northern sector to the cultivated Cam Lo River
Valley in the south extending from Cam Lo to Dong Ha. Route 1 connected
Gio Linh to Dong Ha and Route 561 extended from Con Thien to Cam Lo.
Route 605 in the north linked the strong points along the trace to one
another while Route 9, south of the Cam Lo River, ran from Dong Ha into
Laos. All of these lines of communication, except for Route 1, required
extensive engineer roadwork, including paving, widening, and resurfacing,
to meet the logistical requirements of the barrier effort.

Although Operation Kentucky officially began on 1 November 1967, the
9th Marines was no stranger in its area of operations. The regiment
remained responsible for the same ground and positions that it held
during the previous operation, Kingfisher. For all practical purposes,
the change of designation only served to provide a convenient dividing
line to measure with the body-count yardstick the relative progress
of the DMZ campaign. The identical concept of operations continued in
effect: the 9th Marines was to hold on to Leatherneck Square, protect
Dong Ha, build the barrier, and throw back any North Vietnamese forces
attempting to infiltrate into the I Corps coastal plain.31

In January 1968, Colonel Richard B. Smith, who had assumed command
of the regiment the previous September, controlled from his command
post at Dong Ha four infantry battalions and part of another, the 2d
Battalion, 9th Marines. Except for the two companies of the 2d Battalion,
all of the other battalions belonged administratively to other regiments,
the 1st, 3d, and 4th Marines. The 2d Battalion, 1st Marines defended
the A-4 Strong Point at Con Thien; the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines worked
on the fortifications of the A-3 Strong Point with three companies;
the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines screened A-3 from positions on Hill 28,
north of the trace; and the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines occupied the
C-2 and C-2A combat operating bases on Route 561. Further south, the
two companies of the 9th Marines protected the Cam Lo Bridge where Route
561 crossed the Cam Lo River and the 2d Battalion, 12th Marines artillery
positions on Cam Lo Hill, the C-3

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