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"false peace" to come to an end. As the time for the truce
expired, the Con Thien guns opened up on the approaches to the defensive
perimeter. The defenders then plotted a fire mission to take out the
flag. Minutes before the artillerymen fired the first round the NVA
hauled down their colors. In a way, this incident mirrored many of the
frustrations of the Marines in the DMZ. The average 19-year-old manning
the defenses at Con Thien and his commanders had difficulty understanding
the validity of such artificialities as demilitarized zones that were
not demilitarized, and cease-fires that appeared only to benefit the
enemy.37

The war soon resumed for the 2d Battalion at Con Thien. Although the
intensity of combat never reached the level of September and October,
the North Vietnamese persisted in their probes and occasional bombardment
of the Marine outpost. The incoming mortar, artillery, and recoilless
rifle rounds soon reached the level experienced by the defenders' immediate
predecessors. As recorded in the battalion's monthly report, the "incoming
was more harassing than destructive in nature . . . ."38
On 5 January, the NVA gunners mortared Con Thien in groups of three
to five bursts between 0945 and 1015. A total of 37 rounds, including
five 120mm shells, fell on the Marine positions, with a direct hit on
the battalion command post. This resulted in one Marine killed, and
eight wounded, including Lieutenant Colonel Parker, the battalion commander.
Both Marine air and artillery attacked the suspected enemy firing positions,
but the Marine command had no way of knowing the effectiveness of these
efforts. After the medical evacuation of Lieutenant Colonel Parker,
Major James T. Harrell III, the executive officer, was named acting
commander of the battalion. On 9 January, Lieutenant Colonel Billy R.
Duncan officially relieved Lieutenant Colonel Parker as battalion commander
and Harrell resumed his duties as executive officer. The enemy shelling
of Con Thien remained sporadic, averaging about 30 rounds on those days
the NVA chose to fire.39*

On the ground, the North Vietnamese had taken advantage of the holiday
truce period to bring up fresh units and continued the pressure on the
Marine outpost. The 803d NVA Regiment relieved the 90th
NVA
in the positions facing Con Thien. Almost daily, small patrols
from the 803d tested the Marine defenses. For example, on 10
January, Company H reported in the early morning hours that "it
had spotted three men, by starlight scope, moving in a westerly direction."
The Marines


* During January, the enemy fired on Con Thien 22 of the 31 days in the month. 2/1 ComdC, Jan68, p. 11-4.




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