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Camp Evans. Colonel Hughes was to close out Operation Neosho on the
24th, and begin redeployment to Phu Bai. He was to assume operational
control of his 1st and 2d Battalions and responsibility of the Phu Bai
Vital Area from the 5th Marines. BLT 2/4 would then reembark for another
operation with the 3d Marine Division.86*


On 25 January, the 1st Marines, which had remained attached to the 3d Marine Division, reverted to its parent division and came under the control of Task Force X-Ray. The first elements of the 1st Air Cavalry Division arrived at Camp Evans and formally took over the base two days later. From 25-28 January in a series of phased deployments, Colonel Hughes moved his headquarters and the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines rear elements from Camp Evans to Phu Bai, as well as the artillery battalion, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines. At 0850 on the 28th, Hughes opened his new command post at the latter base. On 30 January, the headquarters and Companies A and B of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines began arriving at Phu Bai from Quang Tri and returned to parent control. The 2d Battalion, 1st Marines infantry companies were still at Con Thien but preparing also to move. Colonel Bohn, the 5th Marines commander, recalled that at this time he visited Hughes and that the 1st Marines commander "was sitting in a hooch . . . [with] one bunk in there and one chair." Bohn asked '"Where the hell's your CP?'" and Hughes replied '"This is it." Colonel Hughes stated that he did not yet have a specific mission and he had under him only "one battalion with two companies."87

In contrast, however, after the 5th Marines had arrived at Phu Bai,
the regiment had more than enough to keep itself occupied. Since 15
January, Colonel Bohn had responsibility for securing Highway 1 from
the Hai Van Pass to Phu Bai. He was also to provide reaction forces
for all the Combined Action platoons and for any key populated areas
in the sector. For the most part, until the end of the month, the enemy
confined his activity to attacks and probes on Route 1 and Marine strongpoints
in the Phu Loc sector.88


Through 29 January, Colonel Bohn kept his 1st Battalion positioned at Phu Loc and made the 2d Batration responsible for the Phu Bai Vital Area. Originally, Bohn expected to use his 3d Battalion as his maneuver battalion, but this changed with the arrival of the 1st Cavalry Division in northern I Corps. With the Army taking over Camp Evans, however, and the 1st Marines moving from there to Phu Bai, the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines remained in the Da Nang TAOR. The regimental commander then decided to use the 2d Battalion as a maneuver battalion when it was relieved at Phu Bai by the companies of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. On 29 January, Lieutenant Colonel Ernest C. Cheatham, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines commander, began the displacement of his battalion and two of his companies into the Phu Loc sector.89


Thus, on the eve of Tet 1968, Task Force X-Ray consisted of two infantry regimental headquarters with a total of three infantry battalions between them. Also under Task Force X-Ray and providing artillery support was the 1st Field Artillery Group (1st FAG) consisting of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 11th Marines and several separate batteries. Brigadier General LaHue, the task force commander, also shared the Phu Bai base with rear echelons of the 1st Air Cavalry Division, Force Logistic Support Group Alpha, the rear headquarters and echelons of the 3d Marine Division, and the Seabees. As one ofLahue's staff officers, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur J. Poillon, observed, the arrival of the 1st Air Cavalry Division had made the original Checkers plan "unrecognizable" and the Marines "found themselves reacting to these Army movements . . . ."90


The establishment of the 1st Air Cavalry Division area of operations between the 1st and 3d Marine Divisions also concerned General Westmoreland. Already lacking confidence in Marine generalship, he decided to establish a new forward headquarters at Phu Bai to control the war in the northern two provinces of Quang Tri and Thua Thien. At first he considered placing an Army Corps headquarters at Phu Bai, but rejected this concept in the belief that it would cause too much inter-Service dissension. On 26 January, he met with General Vien and President Thieu about the establishment of both a Joint General Staff and MACV Forward headquarters at Phu Bai. Army General Creighton W. Abrams, as Deputy MACV, would represent Westmoreland while General Lam, the I Corps Commander, would be the personal representative of the Joint General Staff. At the same time, he notified Admiral Sharp about his intentions and sent General Abrams to Phu Bai to discuss the proposed new command arrangements with General Cushman, the III MAF commander.91


* Colonel Bruce F. Meyers, who in 1968 commanded SLF Alpha (TG 79.4), commented that operational control of BLT 2/4 was returned to him at noon on 26 January and that "we had all elements of BLT 2/4 back aboard our shipping in five hours and fifteen minutes." Col Bruce F. Meyers, Comments on draft, dtd 20Feb95 (Vietnam Comment File).





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