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infantry company composed of rear elements of the 3d Marine Division
headquarters and support troops.* Of these forces, Lo Prete kept two
companies of his infantry battalion deployed to the west, out to mortar
and sniper range, to screen the vital area. Two companies remained in
reserve and the 500-man ad hoc company guarded the perimeter. Lo Prete
had no men to spare for the defense of Quang Tri City which was an ARVN
responsibility.72**

Rattan also could only send a limited force to relieve the ARVN in
Quang Tri City. Like the 3d Marines, Colonel Rattan had no responsibility
for the defense of the city. Looking to the eventual relief of Khe Sanh
and to cleaning out the enemy Base Area 101, three of the four
battalions attached to the 1st Brigade were oriented to the west and
southwest of LZ Betty. With the 1st Battalion of the 8th Cavalry providing
the only security for the Cavalry fire bases in the northern reaches
of Base Area 101 and the 1st Battalion, 502d Airborne Infantry
committed to base security at LZ Betty, Rattan had only two battalions,
the 1st of the 12th and 1st of the 5th, "free to maneuver against the
attacking enemy" in Quang Tri City.73


After consulting with Brewer and his Army advisor colleague and determining the most likely enemy infiltration and support positions. Colonel Rattan selected his landing assault areas. He wanted to destroy the enemy supporting mortar and rocket positions and then block the North Vietnamese from either reinforcing or withdrawing their infantry units in the city. At 1345, the brigade commander ordered the air assaults "as soon as possible with priority on lift assigned" to the 1st of the 12th. The 1st of the 5th would follow. At the same time, he alerted the 1st Squadron of the 9th Cavalry to fly "armed reconnaissance missions at tree top level" using both gunships and H-13 Aerial Rocket Artillery helicopters.74

Within two hours, by 1555, the 1st Cavalry helicopters had landed
five companies, three from the 1st of the 5th and two from the 1st of
the 12th, into landing zones east of Quang Tri. In the two central landing
zones, straddling the rear support positions of the enemy K-4 Battalion,
812th Regiment
, Companies B and C of the 1st of the 12th encountered
resistance from the very beginning. In fighting that lasted until 2000
that night, the "surprised and confused enemy" employed machine guns,
mortars, and recoilless rifles against the American soldiers. Between
them, the two Air Cavalry companies accounted for over 60 of the enemy
left on the battlefield. Already heavily engaged inside the city with
the ARVN troops and now in its rear by the two companies of the 1st
of the 12th, the K-4 Battalion for all practical purposes was
"rendered ineffective."75

To the north, Company B, 1st of the 5th, attached to the 1st of the
12th for this operation, arrived in a relatively calm landing zone northeast
of Tri Buu. Army Captain Michael Nawrosky, the Company B commander,
remembered that the "little people [the ARVN] were in pretty good contact
that night." Although the Company B position remained quiet for the
most part, on two occasions enemy soldiers retreating from Quang Tri
and Tri Buu skirted the company's perimeter. In both cases, according
to Nawrosky, "we engaged with mortar, 79s, and machine guns, but had
negative assessment that night." When the company searched the area
the following morning, Nawrosky related, "there were no dead; this is
VC and NVA tactics in moving them out." Later that day, Company B joined
the other two companies of the 1st of the 5th Cavalry in their landing
zones southeast of Quang Tri City between the railroad and Route 1.76

Like the two companies of the 1st of the 12th, Companies A and C of
the 1st of the 5th on the afternoon of the 31st met relatively large
enemy forces near the village of Thong Thuong Xa just south of Route
1. They established blocking positions behind the K-6 Battalion,
812th Regiment
which had attacked Quang Tri from the southeast.
Similar to their sister battalion, the K-^-, the K-6 found itself "wedged
between the ARVN forces and the cavalrymen." The 1st Brigade's scout
gunships and aerial rocket artillery (ARA) helicopters "created pandemonium
in the K-6 Battalion rear." According to the brigade's account,
the NVA soldiers "were obviously completely unfamiliar with Air Cavalry
techniques of warfare." The ARA helicopters and gunships "experienced
unusual success against the enemy troops." Rather than firing at the
approaching helicopters, the NVA



* Lieutenant Colonel Karl J. Fontenot, the commanding officer of the 3d Tank Battalion, remembered that "we organized a provisional rifle company from the tank battalion, H&S Company, supplemented by about 70 men by other division elements and this went to Quang Tri." LtCol Karl J. Fontenot, Comments on draft, n.d. [Dec 94} (Vietnam Comment File).

** Colonel Vaughn R. Stuart, who was executive officer of the 3d Marines
in 1968, recalled that the Marine battalion at the Quang Tri Air Field
"functioned closely with the First Brigade of the 1st Air Cav after
it displaced to the outskirts of Quang Tri City." As he remembered,
the Marine battalion was under rhe "op con" of the 1st Brigade for the
short period the Brigade was there. Col Vaughn R. Stuart, Comments on
draft, dtd 20Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).




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