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around small airstrips in the highlands. They were each served by
a single light-duty road which, in both cases, was cut by the enemy,
and were forced to rely upon air delivered supplies. In early 1954 the
crachin restricted flying at Dien Bien Phu as it did at Khe
Sanh in early 1968.

The Dien Bien Phu analogy mentioned in General Wheeler's message dated
back to at least January 1967, well before it was touted and dissected
in Washington's "very high non-military quarters." Even before
the First Battle of Khe Sanh, the 3d Marine Division staff prepared
an informal document entitled "Khe Sanh Area Report." The
report analyzed the terrain and situation which the French had encountered
at Dien Bien Phu, comparing them to the terrain and possible enemy action
at Khe Sanh.31

MACV also made its comparison between the two events, but after the
enemy buildup. General Westmoreland ordered his command historian. Colonel
Reamer W. Argo, Jr., USA, to prepare a study on the siege of Dien Bien
Phu and other "classic sieges" to determine how Khe Sanh fit
into the historical precedent. With his study not completed until early
February, Colonel Argo presented to the MACV staff the rather bleak
conclusion that Khe Sanh was following "the pattern of previous
sieges" in which the advantage lay with the besieging forces rather
than the defense. In his diary, Westmoreland characterized the entire
presentation "fraught with gloom.''32

Despite the chilling effect of Colonel Argo's study upon his staff,
General Westmoreland was determined that Khe Sanh could be held because
the Marines there had advantages which the French had lacked at Dien
Bien Phu. First, they controlled the hills which dominated Khe Sanh,
whereas the French had left the commanding heights around Dien Bien
Phu to the enemy in the mistaken belief that artillery could not possibly
be moved onto them through the rugged terrain. Further, the French were
strangled by lack of sufficient air transport and delivery capability
to meet resupply needs. At Khe Sanh, the airstrip could now handle the
large C-130 cargo aircraft and, even when weather or enemy fire precluded
landing, modern U.S. air delivery methods could ensure that the base
remained supplied. Probably most significant, though, was the advantage
in firepower which the Marines enjoyed. The French had supported Dien
Bien Phu with a few World War II-era aircraft flying from distant bases
to reach the battlefield at extreme range, thereby reducing their payload
and "loiter time" over the target area. The Marines at Khe
Sanh could expect massive and overwhelming fire support from modern,
high-performance jet attack aircraft and Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses
with their precision, high-altitude, heavy bombardment capability. Marine
artillery units at the combat base and on the hill positions, as well
as 175mm guns based at Camp Carroll, could provide continuous all weather
firepower.33

All of the American commanders on the scene had no doubt about their
ability to hold the base. Lieutenant General Cushman, the III MAF commander,
spoke for all of his Marine commanders when he later stated, "I
had complete confidence in my Marines. Of course they were outnumbered,
but we had beautiful



Department of Defense (USMC) Photo A801357

U.S. Army artillerymen from the Third Section. Battery
C, 2d Battalion, 94th Artillery Regiment at Camp Carroll are seen firing
a 175mm gun in support of the Marines at Khe Sanh, The M107 175mm gun
fired a 147-pound projectile and had a maximum range of nearly 20 miles.





Page 66 (1968: The Defining Year)