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Their main objectives were to kill American troops and to isolate
them in the remote mountain border region of western Quang Tri Province.43

The Stage is Set

On 10 January, Colonel Lownds closed a regimental staff meeting
with the warning that lie expected an enemy attack within 10 days.44
The Marines continued the unending process of "digging in"
with the objective of providing every fighting position and important
facility with overhead protection. Over the next few days, patrols continued
to engage the enemy. Units reported that enemy sappers had cut the perimeter
wire in some places, bur had carefully replaced it to hide the cuts.

Lieutenant General Cushman wired Major General Tompkins on 13 January
to expect an attack on Khe Sanh to begin on the 18th. To meet the threat,
III MAF, he said, would give Khe Sanh priority on B-52 sorties, effective
16 January. Further, General Cushman requested that two U.S. Army brigades
be placed on 24-hour alert for redeployment to ICTZ.45 The
same day Colonel Lownds ordered that all personnel within the Khe Sanh
Combat Base, starring on 15 January, would wear helmets and flak jackets
and carry weapons at all times.46

On the afternoon of 14 January, Second Lieutenant Randall D. Yeary
led a reconnaissance patrol back towards friendly lines on Hill 881
South after four days in the jungle. As the patrol moved down the south
slope of Hill 881 North, one kilometer from their destination, the North
Vietnamese caught them in an ambush. In the opening shots of the fight,
an RPG round killed Lieutenant Yeary and Corporal Richard J. Healy.
The six remaining men in the patrol, heavily outgunned and all but two
wounded, withdrew, leaving the bodies behind. Nearby, under heavy fire,
helicopters extracted the survivors. A platoon from Company I, 3d Battalion,
26th Marines searched the area later and recovered the bodies.47

Far to the south, as part of Operation Checkers, the 2d Battalion,
5th Marines occupied new positions at

Photo from 3d MarDiv ComdC, Feb68

Marines at Khe Sanh, wearing their flak jackets, fill
sandbags to reinforce bunkers from incoming artillery rounds. The Marines
later came under criticism that they left too many positions vulnerable
to the enemy bombardment.

Page 68 (1968: The Defining Year)