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only a few days, BLT 3/1 would remain in the Cua Viet sector with
the same mission for over a month. For Lieutenant Colonel McQuown and
his battalion it was a time to vindicate themselves after their somewhat
uneven performance in their first SLF operation, Badger Tooth, at the
end of December.12*

Adjustment of Forces in Southern Quang Tri Province

Changes were occurring elsewhere in the 3d Marine Division area of
operations as well during this period. As part of the Checkers plan
to concentrate the 3d Marine Division in Quang Tri Province, Colonel
Joseph E. Lo Prete's 3d Marines took over the Operation Osceola sector
centered around the relatively new Quang Tri complex from the 1st Marines.
The 1st Marines moved to Camp Evans and the 4th Marines assumed responsibility
for the Lancaster area at Camp Carroll. At 0930 on the morning of 20
January, Colonel Lo Prete moved into his new command post at La Vang,
about 4,000 meters below Quang Tri City and south of the Thach Han River,
and immediately began Operation Osceola II with the same forces that
were in Osceola I.13

For all practical purposes, the mission and concept of operations
for Osceola II were the same as those for Osceola I. The 3d Marines
was to protect the Quang Tri base from enemy attack and to prevent NVA
units from Base Area 101 in the far reaches of the Hai Lang
Forest Preserve from reaching the coast. Lieutenant Colonel Richard
W. Goodale's 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, located at Ai Tu, above the
Thach Han and about 3,000 meters northwest of Quang Tri City, was responsible
for the defense of the northern sector which included the airfield and
the approaches to the base from the west. Collocated at La Vang with
the 3d Marines was Lieutenant Colonel Marcus J. Gravel's 1st Battalion,
1st Marines. Gravel's battalion covered the southern and southwestern
approaches into the Quang Tri coastal region. The 3d Battalion, 12th
Marines, with two 105mm batteries, one at Ai Tu and the other at La
Vang, and one provisional 155mm howitzer battery, also at La Vang, provided
the artillery support. Company C, 3d Tank Battalion, and an Army "Duster"
battery, Battery A, 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery, equipped with M42s
armed with twin 40mm antiaircraft guns were also at La Vang under the
operational control of the 3d Marines and ready to assist the infantry.
Elements of the 3d Reconnaissance Battalion screened the approaches
to the west.14

With only two battalions available to him, Lo Prete barely had sufficient
forces to protect the immediate Quang Tri base area let alone carry
out mobile operations in the extensive southwestern area of operations
toward Base Area 101. Although the 1st ARVN Regiment maintained
forces to the east and north of the Marine regiment, the North Vietnamese
had already infiltrated at least two battalions of the 812th NVA
Regiment
into the coastal region east of Route 1 and Quang Tri
City. The NVA Quyet Thaig Artillery Regiment equipped with
82mm mortars and rockets was deployed to the southwest and west of the
Marines. To the west. Marine reconnaissance "Stingray" patrols made
continual sightings of small groups of enemy soldiers moving eastward
towards the coast.15


For the most part, the enemy largely bypassed the Marine positions and confined his attacks on the Marine base areas and the Quang Tri airfield to harassing sniper fire, occasional mortar shelling, and rocket bombardment. On two occasions, 24 and 31 January, enemy 122mm rockets and 60mm and 82mm mortar rounds hit the Quang Tri airfield but caused relatively little damage. Through January, the Marines sustained casualties of 2 dead and 32 wounded and killed 8 of the enemy and took l prisoner. They also recovered six weapons.16

With the North Vietnamese attacks on Khe Sanh and the Cua Viet, both
Generals Westmoreland and Cushman recognized the need for additional
forces in Quang Tri Province. Westmoreland's decision to reinforce Marine
forces in the north with the 1st Air Cavalry Division provided General
Cushman, the III MAF commander, with additional options.** On 22 January,
after a conference with both General Westmoreland, and the MACV deputy
commander, General Creighton W. Abrams, Cushman outlined his plans for
the Army division. He planned to assign Major General John J. Tolson,
the 1st Cavalry Commander, an extensive area of operations that would



* Colonel Max McQuown wrote that in contrast to Operation Badger Tooth, Operation Badger Catch was the "proper, profitable use of a potent fighting force. Inirially, BLT 3/1 operated within an Amphibious Objective Area with all elements of the BLT ashore or on-call." Most importantly, he had "firm inrelligence about the enemy in the area." Col Max McQuown, Comments on draft, dtd 22Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File).


** See Chapter 6 for further discussion about the deployment of the
1st Air Cavalry Division to I Corps.





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