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Operation Checkers

By this time, Operation Checkers in the 3d Marine Division was in full swing. On 15 January, Major General Tompkins turned over the responsibility of the Phu Bai TAOR to the 1st Marine Division Task Force X-Ray and moved his command post to Dong Ha. He left behind at Phu Bai newly arrived Brigadier General Jacob E. Glick, the former commander of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade (MAB) on Okinawa, who had just replaced Brigadier General Lewis Metzger as the assistant division commander. At Phu Bai, Glick had command of the 3d Division rear headquarters and support units, which he was to move to the Quang Tri base at the beginning of February.

With the implementation of Operation Checkers, the Marine regiments in the division began playing a version of musical chairs. The 4th Marines in Operation Neosho in Thua Thien Province was to take over Operation Lancaster in the central DMZ sector from the 3d Marines. In turn, the 3d Marines was to accept responsibility for the Osceola area. The 1st Marines was then to move its command post to Camp Evans and undertake operations in the Neosho sector.41

Since the beginning of the month, the three regiments had made preparations for the forthcoming move. For example, on 6 January, the 1st Marines commander, Colonel Ing, issued his order relative to the transplacement of tactical areas. From 6-20 January, armed "rough rider" truck convoys ferried his headquarters staff sections and attached detachments from the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Engineer Battalion, the 1st Shore Party Battalion, 1st Medical Battalion, the 1st Motor Transport Battalion, and the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines the approximate 20 miles to Camp Evans. Battery A and the Mortar Battery from the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines also made the move. At 0940 on 20 January, the 1st Marines opened its new command post and assumed operational control of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines at Evans. At the same time, Colonel Ing turned over to Colonel Joseph E. Lo Prete of the 3d Marines the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, which both remained in the Osceola area of operations. At Camp Carroll, Colonel Dick, the 4th Marines commander, took control of the 2d and 3d Battalions, 9th Marines and began Operation Lancaster II.42*

Events once more altered plans as MACV and III MAF shifted units and rushed reinforcements to meet the perceived threat to Marine positions along the DMZ and to Khe Sanh. The resulting reshuffling of units would make the original Checkers plan almost unrecognizable. In northern Thua Thien Province and southern Quang Tri Provinces, the Army's 1st Air Cavalry Division would establish a new area of operations and in effect provide the filler between the 1st and 3d Marine Divisions. In central and southern I Corps, both the 1st Marine Division and the U.S. Army Americal Division attempted to fill the gaps with diminishing manpower resources.

* While the command chronologies of the 1st and 4th Marines denote that the 1st Marines assumed command of the Neosho sector on 20 January, both Colonels Dick and Mitchell remembered that Colonel Dick was still at Camp Evans on 22 January when the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines deployed to Khe Sanh. 1st Mar ComdC, Jan68; 4th Mar ComdC, Jan68; Dick Comments; Mitchell Comments. See Chapters 6 and 14 relative to the deployment of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines to Khe Sanh.

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