tently struck Company K trying to clear the northern bank in Operation
Since coming ashore on the evening of 23 January, Lieutenant Colonel McQuown's BLT 3/1 began its mission of attempting to clear the hamlets north of the river. The terrain in the Badger Catch area of operations consisted largely of sand dunes and sandy barren soil extending some 5,000 meters inland to a tributary of the Ben Hai River. This stream, unnamed on the maps but called Jones Creek by the Marines, ran south from the DMZ into the Cua Viet. Bordering both Jones Creek and especially the Cua Viet were extensive paddy areas that supported rice farming. The rice growers lived in hamlets on the banks of the Cua Viet or the adjacent area just above it. Because of the war, many of these hamlets were now abandoned and others were used as refugee centers.
According to agent reports, the enemy force in the Cua Viet sector
numbered about 1,200 men, consisting of three North Vietnamese companies
and three Viet Cong companies, two main force and one local force. On
the 24th, the BLT had secured its first objective, a refugee resettlement
village on the river about a 1,000 meters east of My Loc without incident.
It also had searched two hamlets to the north, Ha Loc and Ha Loi, again
without meeting any resistance. In a separate operation on an island
in the river, Company L had little success in locating any of the enemy
forces that might have been responsible for the sinking of the LCM that
On the 25th, the battalion encountered much stiffer resistance. Even the previous day, it had come under small arms and mortar fire from My Loc, one of the battalion's prime objectives. At dawn, and without preparatory fires, Captain John E. Regal, the Company K commander, ordered his company into an attack on the hamlet along a narrow front. He deployed one platoon to the right to form blocking positions north of the city. While attempting to maneuver around the hamlet, the blocking platoon came under heavy machine gun and small arms fire. With this platoon caught in a deadly cross fire from the hamlet, Regal sent in reinforcements including tanks attached to him for the operation. Even with the tanks in support, Company K had difficulty in pulling out its casualties from the initial action. The tanks exchanged fire with enemy antitank gunners armed with RPGs. Although the tanks sustained five hits, all escaped relatively unscathed. It was about this time, the enemy gunners in My Loc opened up on the Navy convoy. About 1000, the company had succeeded in bringing out its dead and wounded, six killed and nine wounded.52
By this time, Lieutenant Colonel McQuown and Captain Regal had learned from nearby ARVN units that a NVA battalion was in My Loc. They decided to pull Company K back and bring in air strikes and supporting arms. From 1030 to 1430, Marine, Air Force, and Navy jets flew four close air support missions against My Loc. Then under covering artillery fire, about 1500, Company K once more moved upon the hamlet, this time meeting almost no resistance except a few occasional sniper rounds. In My Loc, the company recovered an RPG-7 rocket launcher and the bodies of 20 North Vietnamese soldiers. The Marines also captured one prisoner. Later that evening, the company came under artillery fire from firing positions north of the DMZ, but sustained no casualties. Lieutenant Colonel McQuown selected My Loc for his command post and also for the battalion's main combat base because of the hamlet's "strategic location relative to river traffic."53
For the time being, the Marine occupation of My Loc appeared to confound the enemy gunners. For the next few days, the enemy was unable to interfere with the American shipping on the Cua Viet. General Tompkins and the commander of the Cua Viet Naval Support Activity also implemented increased security arrangements that may also have contributed to the safe passage of the Navy craft. The Naval Support Activity provided Navy crews with PRC-25 radios that permitted them to communicate with Marine air observers flying overhead and with helicopter gunships. Moreover, the two commanders agreed upon check points along the river where boats could "report their location in relation to any enemy activity." This permitted the 3d Marine Division "to react to any contact with artillery, naval gunfire, air, when available, and ground forces in the form of USMC and/or ARVN Sparrow Hawk reaction forces." Finally, the two commanders concurred upon the assignment of two Navy patrol boats on the river carrying armed Marines, two National policemen, and an interpreter to stop and search "indigenous water craft."54
Despite the limited reprieve for the Cua Viet shipping, the enemy
still posed a real threat to the 3d Marine Division river lifeline.
The fighting for My Loc revealed that the NVA 803d Regiment,
part of the 324B Division, had shifted from positions in the
Kentucky and Lancaster operational areas to the northern coastal plain
east of Route 1. Skirting the 2d ARVN Regiment's positions at the A-1
Strongpoint and the C-1