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ion commander, replaced Company M with another unit in the blocking
position and then with a skeleton command group accompanied Company
M to relieve Company L. After the linkup, the two companies overran
at least three enemy mortar positions and several machine guns and individual
fighting holes. With continuing helicopter gunship support and covering
artillery, Marine helicopters evacuated the most seriously wounded.
The two companies then "crossed the trace in good order," late that
afternoon carrying their remaining casualties. In the action, the two
companies sustained casualties of 9 dead and 22 wounded including Captain
Carr who was evacuated by helicopter. According to the 9th Marines,
the enemy sustained over 100 casualties.90*


By 20 January, a new phase of the war was about to begin. Colonel Lo Prete and his 3d Marines staff were about to close out the Lancaster operation and take over the Osceola area in the Quang Tri sector from the 1st Marines. The 1st Marines in turn was to relieve the 4th Marines in the Camp Evans sector. Colonel William Dick, the 4th Marines commander, was then to assume control of the units in Lancaster. For the most part, this phase of Operation Checkers was a case of regimental musical chairs and had little effect on the battalions in the various sectors. Both the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines and the two companies of the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines were to remain in Lancaster, now called Operation Lancaster II.


According to the usual body-count measurements of the war, the 3d Marines in Operation Lancaster I accounted for 46 enemy dead at a cost of 22 Marines killed and 140 wounded. In comparison, during the same period, the 9th Marines in Operation Kentucky sustained 90 dead and over 800 wounded while killing nearly 700 of the enemy. Still the indications were that the North Vietnamese were raising the ante throughout the DMZ sector including Khe Sanh. Near the coast, on 20 January, enemy gunners fired at two Navy craft on the Cua Viet River forcing the Naval Support Activity, Cua Viet temporarily to close that important waterway, the main supply channel to the Marine base at Dong Ha. At the same time, the 3d Marines observed that a large enemy force, probably the 29th NVA Regiment had moved into the area north of the Quang Tri River and west of Ca Lu. Just as significant, another regiment had replaced the 90th NVA Regiment in the Lancaster northern area of operations. The 90th NVA had then shifted to the southwest and had possibly entered the "Scotland" or Khe Sanh area of operations. Perhaps the big enemy offensive in the north was about to begin.91



*For this action on the 18th, Captain John Carr, the Company L Commander, was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart; Captain Raymond W. Kalm, Jr., the Company M commander, received the Bronze Star with V; Sergeant Michael J. Madden also received the Bronze Star with V; and one of the helicopter pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross. On 25 March 1994 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Colonel Kenneth L. Christy, Jr., was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism on 18 January 1968, more than 26 years after the event. Sergeant Madden, who credited Christy for saving his life and the others with him, had submitted an award recommendation. Somehow the paperwork got lost and Madden in 1988 was surprised to learn that Christy had not received any medal for his actions that day. Madden then launched a one-man successful campaign to rectify the situation. The Navy Cross is second only to the Medal of Honor in awards for heroism in the Marine Corps. Bendell Comments; Col Kenneth L. Christy, Comments on draft chapter, dtd 8Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File); Colonel Kenneth L. Christy, Jr., Biographical File, Reference Sec, MCHC.




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