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Photo is courtesy of Col John F. Barr, USMC (Ret)

MajGen Donn J. Robertson. CG. Ist MarDiv. is escorted
by LtCol John F. Barr, the operations officer of the 11th Marines, the
artillery regiment at Da Nang as they visit one of the firing sites
uncovered by Marines the morning after the rocket bombardment of the
base. LtCol Barr is holding a M1 Carbine, 'a non-T/O weapon,' ' that
he took as' 'an added precaution . . . for a dawn landing at the site.'

was launching rockets.' Marine 81mm mortars reinforced the M48's 90mm gun and 105mm howitzers from the 11th Marines delivered 620 rounds within two minutes on the enemy firing positions. Still the enemy rockets destroyed three American aircraft, one Marine F-4B and two Air Force prop-driven planes, and damaged 17 other aircraft. Due to cratering, the airbase had to close 3,000 feet of its east runway and 1,000 feet of the west runway until repairs could be made. Despite the barrage, casualties were low, only four Air Force personnel sustained minor wounds.42

The next morning, a reaction force from Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines uncovered about three large firing sites and found a total of 21 unfired 122mm rockets and l 140mm rocket. Near the western bank of the Yen, the Marines came across 'four enemy bodies clad in khaki and black uniforms.' Marine intelligence officers later determined that the enemy rocketeers fired their missiles from three distinct battery positions 'and a total of 18 individual rocket sites.' It was obvious that the attack on the airbase was a major coordinated effort, probably carried out by elements of the NVA 3(i8R Artillery Regimvnt, possibly reinforced by a new enemy unit in the sector, the 1st Battalion. 68th Artillery Regiment. During the night, in addition to the rocket attack, Group 44 units had initiated some 25 actions by fire often followed by an infantry ground assault in seven of the nine districts of Quang Nam Province.43

Continuing Heavy Fighting and Increasing Uncertainty

Despite all of the ado in the Da Nang sector including the rocker
arrack on the airbase, the main enemy thrust on the night of 2-3 January
was further south in the Que Son Valley. Even with the compromise of
his plans in December, North Vietnamese Army Major General Chu Huy Man,
the commander of the enemy Military Region 5 or B-1 Front,
decided to proceed with the offensive against the 1st Air Cavalry 3d
Brigade fire bases in the Wheeler/Wallowa operating area.' Man apparently
received 'explicit instructions from Hanoi' to send the entire 2d
NVA Division
against the U.S. brigade's defenses in the Que Son
sector. Having deferred the onset of the campaign, the enemy apparently
hoped that they had lulled the Americans into a false sense of complacency.
Furthermore, they obviously thought the Group 44 activity at
Da Nang on the night of 2-3 January would draw the American command's
attention away from the Que Son Valley into the mistaken belief that
the 2d NVA Division had moved north and was about to attack
the Marine base at Da Nang. The North Vietnamese commanders might have
had another motivation, as well: 'the helicopter killing zone in the
valley's upper reaches was too tempting to abandon.'44

Despite release to the news media by MACV about the capture of the North Vietnamese document, General Koster, the Americal Division commander, was not all that sure that the North Vietnamese had abandoned their original plan. With the NVA 2d Division maintaining radio silence with the beginning of the new year, Koster became even more suspicious about the enemy's intentions. On 2 January, he ordered Colonel Hubert S. Campbell, the commanding officer of the 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, who maintained his command post at Fire Base Ross near the town of Que Son, to search a few of the enemy attack assembly areas depicted on the NVA map.45

That afternoon, Company C, 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry encountered
a large enemy force in a rice paddy about 5,000 meters southwest of
Fire Base Ross. Company A, 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry reinforced Company
C and 3d Brigade helicopter gunships provided air support for both companies.
In the ensuing four and a half-hour fire fight that lasted


* Army historian George L. MacGarrigle believed that by Tet 1968, Man
most likely was a lieutenant general, but observed that 'it's difficult
to determine what rank senior enemy generals held at any given time.'
MacGarrigle Comments.




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