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numbered 155 killed and 425 wounded, while the North Vietnamese left
nearly 1,000 dead on the battlefield. When the battle ended, the Marines
held the hills which overlooked the combat base, thus hampering Communist
observation and fire on the vital airstrip through which supplies and
replacements flowed.11

Protecting the Investment


Immediately following the Hill Battles, III MAF reduced the force at Khe Sanh to a single battalion. The 3d Marines departed the area, giving way to Lieutenant Colonel Donald E. Newton's 1st Battalion, 26th Marines. Overall control of operations around Khe Sanh passed to Colonel John J. Padley, commanding officer of the 26th Marines.


Lieutenant Colonel Newton's Marines maintained company outposts on some of the commanding hills and conducted patrols in the surrounding jungle as part of Operation Crockett. As enemy contacts and sightings increased, the 3d Battalion, 26th Marines deployed to Khe Sanh, giving Colonel Padley the capability, if necessary, to meet another major North Vietnamese effort like that encountered during the Hill Battles.


Supplies reached the Marines at Khe Sanh either by air or by vehicle convoys from the 3d Marine Division base at Dong Ha. The trip along Route 9 took the convoys through territory which was far from secure, and they traveled well-armed and protected, usually accompanied by an infantry unit and often by armored vehicles.

On 21 July, an infantry unit sweeping ahead of an 85-vehicle convoy
trying to bring 175mm guns to reinforce the Marine base encountered
strong enemy forces along the highway. While the Marine infantry engaged
the North Vietnamese, the convoy, which included besides the 175s, "trucks
loaded with ammunition and C-4 explosives, claymores, mines, and other
ordnance," returned to Camp Carroll. The ambush threat was too great
to risk the guns.12*

While the Marines would continue some road convoys into Khe Sanh in
the fall, it soon became clear that for all practical purposes Route
9 was closed.** Since the runway was closed for repairs to damage caused
by the constant landing of heavily laden transport aircraft, the Marines
had to depend on helicopters and parachutes to maintain their logistic
lifeline.

The Isolation of Khe Sanh

With their successful interdiction of Route 9, the Communist forces
isolated Khe Sanh from the rest of the ICTZ. Fortunately for the Marines,
while the weather remained clear, air resupply could provide for the
needs of the combat base. With the onset of the monsoon and the crachin,
however, low cloud ceilings and limited visibility would severely limit
flights to Khe Sanh. III MAF was familiar with this problem. As early
as 1966, III MAF staff members conducted a wargame of the defense of
Quang Tri Province in which they failed to defend Khe Sanh. During the
exercise, when General Westmoreland expressed his dismay at this decision,***
III MAF planners had responded that they considered Khe Sanh too difficult
to support, citing the ease with which the enemy could cut Route 9 and
the problems with air resupply during the monsoon. Now the game had
become real. In July 1967, before the combination of enemy action and
monsoon rains ended the convoys, the logisticians of the 3d Marine Division
recommended planning for the air delivery of supplies to the combat
base whenever the weather permitted. The airstrip remained closed to
all but light aircraft and helicopters throughout September while the
Seabees peeled up the old steel matting, and laid a new sub-grade of
crushed rock.13****


* One authority on the battle for Khe Sanh, Chaplain Stubbe, commented
that he was not sure why the guns were sent in the first place. His
supposition was that they would be used to support FOB-3 operations
in Laos. He was certain, however, that the guns would have made excellent
targets for the North Vietnamese when they attacked the base. Stubbe
Comments.

** Lieutenant Colonel Frederick J. McEwan, who in 1967 was the S-4
or logistics officer for the 26th Marines, remembered an occasion when
the North Vietnamese blew a bridge over the Roa Quan River. He, with
the regimental commander and engineer together with a rifle company,
made a reconnaissance on the practicality of repairing the span: "A
search was made for alternate crossing points to no avail. Major damage
was done to the bridge. There were strong indications of the enemy's
presence. It was not the time to build a bridge over the Roa Quan River
on Route 9 leading to Khe Sanh." LtCol Frederick J. McEwan, Comments
on draft chapter, dtd 7Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter McEwan
Comments.

*** As former Washington Post reporter Peter Braestrup commented,
"Westmoreland always wanted to hold Khe Sanh as a base for U.S operations
against the Ho Chi Minh Trail." Peter Braestrup, Comments on draft chapter,
n.d. [Dec94-Jan95] (Vietnam Comment File).

**** Lieutenant Colonel McEwan remembered that obtaining the crushed
rock was not a simple matter. He recalled that it was not until "a sergeant
found a hill mass that had rock" which later naturally became known
as the "Rock Quarry." McEwan Comments.




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