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CHAPTER 5

The 3d Division War in Southern Quang Tri and Northern Thua

Thien, Operations Osceola and Neosho

Protecting the Quang Tri
Base, Operation Osceola, l-20 January 1968-Operation Neosho and Operations
in the CoBi-Thanh Tan, l-20 January 1968-Operation Checkers

Protecting The Quang Tri Base,
Operation Osceola, 1-20 January 1968

Faced with the buildup of the North

Vietnamese forces opposing them at the end of 1967, General Tompkins and the 3d

Marine Division staff prepared for the forward deployment of the remaining

division units in Operation Checkers from Thua Thien Province to Quang Tri,

including the movement of the division command post from Phu Bai to Dong Ha. In

turn, the 1st Marines in southern Quang Tri was to take over the 4th Marines

TAOR in Thua Thien and then eventually revert to the control of the 1st Marine

Division.

The 1st Marines had moved north from Da Nang in early
October 1967 to reinforce the 3d Marine Division and conduct Operation
Medina. Medina was a multi-battalion operation designed to clear the
Hai Lang National Forest, located south and west of Quang Tri City and
containing the enemy Base Area 101. Base Area 101,
in the far southwestern reaches of the forest, extended down to and
beyond the Quang Tri and Thua Thien provincial border, and was home
to the 5th and 9th NVA Regiments. After offering resistance
in a few heavy skirmishes during the first phase of the operation, enemy
forces eluded the Marines for the rest of the operation.* In the nearly
impenetrable jungle terrain, the 1st Marines uncovered some enemy base
camps and storage areas but no sign of NVA or VC troops. After confiscating
more than four tons of enemy rice and miscellaneous weapons and ammunition,
the Marines ended Operation Medina on 20 October and immediately began
Osceola.1

In Osceola, the 1st Marines with two

battalions, the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines and 2d Battalion, 1st Marines,

remained in the same objective area, but also became responsible for the newly

established Quang Tri base, near the city of Quang Tri. Out of North Vietnamese

heavy artillery range, the Quang Tri base served as a backup to the main

logistic base at Dong Ha and provided a new air facility for the Marine forces

in the north. On 25 October, the first KC-130 transport aircraft landed at the

Quang Tri Airfield.2

In command of the 1st Marines since

July 1967, Colonel Herbert E. Ing, Jr., an experienced and decorated combat

officer, viewed his Osceola mission differently than that of Medina. At the

beginning of Osceola, American intelligence warned that the North Vietnamese

were reorganizing for an offensive against Quang Tri City. Colonel Ing believed,

however, that Operation Medina and ARVN supporting operations had thwarted any

such plan. As a native Long Islander and former enlisted Marine who shrewdly

selected his options, he took practical steps to safeguard the Quang Tri base

and to cut down on his own casualties. Concentrating on defending the airbase

rather than fruitless searches for enemy units in the jungle, Ing initiated a

pacification campaign and organized an innovative anti-mine program.3

During Osceola, the 1st Marines only once engaged
an enemy main force unit, the VC 808th Battalion, at the edge
of the Hai Lang National Forest near the Giang River, about four to
five miles south of the Quang Tri base. The 808th and the 416th
VC Battalions
apparently alternated moving into the Quang Tri coastal
region to disrupt the South Vietnamese government apparatus there. The
VC employed at least three hamlets in the central portion of the Osceola
operating area, Nhu Le, Nhan Bieu, and Thuong Phuoc, all on or near
the Thach Han River, as way stations for their units travelling to and
from the base areas into the populated coastal plain. Colonel Ing considered
that securing or at least neutralizing these hamlets was absolutely
vital to the success of his mission.4

Sustaining most of his casualties from

mines and occasional sniper rounds. Colonel Ing, on 27 November 1967,

established an infantry cordon around Nhu

* Colonel Gordon D. Batcheller, who as a captain commanded
Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, observed that in the initial
contact in Medina, the enemy more than held its own: "They were
fast and agile and we were slow and clumsy. Terrain, vegetation, insufficient
helo support had something to do with it." Col Gordon D. Batcheller,
Comments on draft chapter, dtd 10Dec1994 (Vietnam Comment File).





Page 73 (3d Division War in Southern Quang Tri and Northern)