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CHAPTER 6

Heavy Fighting and Redeployment: The War in Central and Southern
I Corps, January 1968

A Time of Transition-The
Da Nang TAOR-Operation Auburn: Searching the Go Noi-A Busy Night at
Da Nang-Continuing Heavy Fighting and Increasing Uncertainty-Phu Loc
Operations The Formation and Deployment of Task Force X-Ray-The Cavalry
Arrives The Changed Situation in the North

A Time of Transition

In January 1968, Army and Marine units in central
and southern I Corps under III MAF attempted to continue operations
as best they could in their old sectors while at the same time moving
into new tactical areas to counter enemy buildups. As the 3d Marine
Division planned to displace from Phu Bai to Dong Ha, the 1st Marine
Division began to implement its segment of Operation Checkers. One battalion
of the 5th Marines at Da Nang, the 1st Battalion, in December had moved
north from positions in the Dai Loc Corridor south of Da Nang in Quang
Nam Province to Phu Loc in Thua Thien Province. In the meantime, the
2d Korean Marine Brigade had started its displacement from Cap Batangan
in northern Quang Ngai Province, 17 miles south of Chu Lai, to positions
north of Hoi An in the Da Nang area of operations.

The U.S. Army's 23d Division, also known as the Americal
Division, had the responsibility for the 100-mile expanse of southern
I Corps extending from the Hoi An River in Quang Nam Province to the
border with II Corps at Sa Huyen in Quang Ngai Province. Formed in Vietnam
at Chu Lai from the U.S. Army's Task Force Oregon in September 1967,
the division held three primary operating areas: Due Pho in the south,
Chu Lai in the center, and the Que Son Valley in the north. Assuming
the command of the division in September, Major General Samuel B. Koster,
USA, maintained a rather informal command relationship with General
Cushman. Several years later, Koster remembered that he would visit
the III MAF commander at Da Nang once a week "to tell him what
we were doing." Although nominally under the operational control
of the Marine command, the Army division commander stated, "I got
the distinct feeling that [I was] to work my TAOR as I saw fit."
General Cushman later asserted that he treated the Army division the
same as he did Marine units, but admitted that General Westmoreland
would not "let me move his Army divisions without there being a
plan that he'd okayed."1*

Command relations between the Korean Marine Brigade
and the U.S. forces under General Cushman in I Corps were more complicated
yet. Neither the III MAF commander nor his division commanders had operational
control of the Koreans. The phrase "operational guidance"
supposedly defined the relationship between the Korean brigade and III
MAF, but, according to Cushman, the term "meant absolutely nothing
. . . They [the Koreans] didn't do a thing unless they felt like it."
Major General Koster recalled that the Korean Brigade, while assigned
to the Batangan Peninsula in the Americal Division area of operations,
built large "solid compounds," but "seldom launched 'big
operations.'" When the Korean Marines began their deployment to
Da Nang, Brigadier General Kim Yun Sang, the Korean commander, agreed
that the first battalion to arrive would receive "operational direction"
from the U.S. 5th Marines until the rest of the brigade completed the
move. Yet, Major General Donn J. Robertson, the 1st Marine Division
commander, later observed that he "had no command control"
over the Koreans and was "not sure how much the MAF commander had."
According to Robertson, the Koreans operated very cautiously and he
suspected that they were under orders through their own chain of command
"to keep casualties down."2

Although III MAF command arrangements with the South
Vietnamese in I Corps were also complex, they were less awkward. As
senior U.S. advisor in I Corps, General Cushman had more influence with
General Lam, the South Vietnamese I Corps comman-


* General Earl E. Anderson, who was rhe III MAF Chief
of Staff at this time, emphasized that General Westmoreland, for example,
"directed Cushman not to move the 3d Brigade, 1st Air Cavalry Division
without his support." Gen Earl E. Anderson, Comments on draft, dtd
18Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).






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