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Colonel Smith, the regimental commander, later explained some of the
handicaps that the Marine units worked under in getting the work on
the barrier completed. Few of the units had "backhoes" to assist in
digging foxholes or bunker foundations. He observed that the machines
could "do in two hours what it takes a whole battalion to do in two
days." Despite scarcity of equipment, Smith also partially blamed Marine
training for not teaching the troops "proper bunkering procedures-sandbagging."
He compared sandbagging technique to laying out bricks "with headers
and stretchers." The regimental commander remarked that he saw more
wasted effort with the sandbags "because the man doesn't know what he
is doing and the NCO supervising him doesn't know any more about it
than he does so the wall gets to be six-feet high and collapses . .
. and there goes three days' work gone to Hell." Overcoming the limitations
imposed by its own inexperience in constructing bunkers and the lack
of heavy earth-moving equipment, the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines would
complete 47 of the scheduled 81 bunkers in the C-2 base site by the
end of the month.47

South of Deptula's 1st Battalion in Kentucky were a small command
group and two companies of Lieutenant Colonel William M. Cryan's 2d
Battalion, 9th Marines. In December, just before Christmas, the 2d Battalion
had moved from positions north of A-3 in Operation Kentucky to Camp
Carroll in the 3d Marines' Lancaster area of operations. A few days
later, Lieutenant Colonel Cryan detached his Companies F and G and placed
them under his executive officer, Major Dennis J. Murphy. While Cryan
and the rest of the battalion remained at Camp Carroll, Murphy and his
command returned to the Kentucky area of operations and relieved the
3d Battalion, 3d Marines at Cam Lo. Company F occupied the C-3 Cam Lo
artillery position, 1,000 meters above the Cam Lo River on Route 561,
while Company G protected the Cam Le Bridge (C-3A) on Route 9 at the
river.48

In the Cam Lo sector, the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines patrolled Route
561 to keep the main supply route open to Con Thien and the farming
villages above the river. At the C-3 base. Company F, together with
supporting artillery and engineers, worked on the improvement of the
Dyemarker defenses. On 15 January, the Marines at C-3 completed the
bunker requirements on schedule. During this period, the Marine patrols
encountered few enemy troops. In fact, during the first two or three
weeks of the month, the enemy limited his activity to a mining incident
on Route 561 on 2 January and to infiltrating the hamlets above the
Cam Lo River at night. In these nocturnal visits, Viet Cong guerrillas
recruited or kidnapped villagers and demanded food and other supplies.
During the first two weeks of January, one Popular Force unit west of
the hamlet of An My on three separate occasions ambushed VC troops trying
to enter the village, killing at least three of the enemy. By the end
of the third week, the 2d Battalion reported, however, "it was clear
that there was a large amount of movement in and out of these villages,
particularly to the east." In their patrolling of the hilly brush terrain
in the Cam Lo northern area of operations, 2d Battalion Marines by mid-January
made contact with more and more North Vietnamese regulars coming down.49

To the northeast of the 2d Battalion at C-3 and C-3A, Lieutenant Colonel
Robert C. Needham's 3d Battalion, 3d Marines concentrated on finishing
the last of the strong points along the "Trace," A-3, in the 9th Marines
sector. In November, Marine engineers, later reinforced by a Seabee
battalion, had begun work on the strong point. Designed according to
ARVN specifications, A-3 was to consist of 30 18 x 32 feet bunkers,
heavily timbered and sandbagged and covered by dirt. These were to sleep
up to 18 ARVN troops on three-tiered wooden bunks. By Christmas, the
Seabees and engineers had completed the raising of the timbers of the
bunkers and departed, "leaving to the infantry the task of finishing
the sandbagging." Up to this point, the Special Landing Force (SLF)
Alpha battalion, BLT 1/3, had been attached to the 9th Marines and assigned
to the A-3 position. At the end of December, the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines
with three companies moved from the Cam Lo sector to the A-3 position
and relieved the SLF battalion, which was to join the 1st Marines at
Quang Tri.50*

* General Metzger commented that A-3 was a special situation: "first we
had to fight to clear the ground of the enemy. Then as Christmas approached
General Westmoreland suggested we withdraw until after Christmas and abandon
the positions 'so there would be no casualties during the holidays.' We
resisted to the maximum, pointing out that the enemy would occupy the
position in our absence . . . the casualties in retaking the position
would far exceed those which we might sustain in completing the position.
In order ro avoid abandoning the partially completed position we guaranteed
that it would be completed before Christmas. A-3 was given the highest
priority. Bunker material was flown in by helicopter and maximum effort
was expended which was completed well before Christmas." Metzger Comments-
Colonel Robert C. Needham, who commanded the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines
at the time, remembered "the stringing of defensive wire and emplacing
AP mines around the perimeter was, for all intents and purposes, completed
when 3/3 relieved SLF 'A' (1/3) at A-3." Needham Comments.




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