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Rivers and on either side of Route 1, the two battalions provided
the last line of defense before the so-called "Vital Area." The most
eastern of the battalions, the 2d, shared its area with the 3d Amphibian
Tractor Battalion, which was responsible for the coastal sand flats
south of Marble Mountain. Below the Marine battalions, the Korean Marine
Brigade secured the Hoi An sector and the southeastern approaches above
the Ky Lam River to the Da Nang base. Behind the Marine and Korean lines,
the 51st ARVN Regiment deployed in support of the South Vietnamese Revolutionary
Development program. With both fixed-wing and helicopter gunships and
more than 120 artillery pieces ranging from 4.2-inch mortars to 175mm
guns, General Robertson was confident that he could counter any threat
that the enemy posed to Da Nang despite the thinness of his manned defenses.2


In the Da Nang sector, the tempo of operations had picked up during the last weeks of January. The Korean Marines, while not finding any sizeable forces, continued to encounter small enemy units and boobytraps which took their toll. In the 7th Marines sector, the Marines described the same type of activity as well as increased enemy infiltration. The 3d Battalion, 5th Marines reported "a definite increase of enemy harassment" and the movement of sizeable enemy units into the Go Noi Island area. Lieutenant Colonel William K. Rockey, the 3d Battalion commander, commented on the "increasing frequency and ferocity" of enemy contacts. He remembered that because of the number of casualties his battalion sustained, "it was necessary to employ administrative personnel on patrols" with "clerks, cooks, and drivers" on line. In one operation near Dien Ban, the 51st ARVN Regiment sustained losses of 40 men killed, 6 missing, and 140 wounded while accounting for about 80 enemy dead and 13 prisoners. As Igor Bobrowsky, a former Combined Action member of Delta 2 near the village of Thanh Quit, recalled this period: "It wasn't that something happened ... It was just that the intensity of what was going on kept on increasing, increasing, increasing."3


While activity in the Army's Americal Division areas of operations in Quang Ngai and Quang Tin was somewhat diminished, there was enough enemy in northern and central I Corps to cause concern for both the American and South Vietnamese commands. On 27 January, General Westmoreland announced a ceasefire to be observed by allied forces for 36 hours beginning at 1800 on 29 January in honor of the Tet holidays. Although authorizing the cease-fire, he warned all American commanders to be unusually alert because of "enemy increased capabilities." At 1700 on 29 January, Westmoreland canceled the truce in the DMZ and the entire I Corps sector.4*

Major General Robertson remembered that "the Cease-fire was to be
in effect . . . and the regimental commanders reported intense fire
from the enemy and requested authority to continue artillery fire, if
necessary . . . ." Robertson granted the request and then "about 1840
we got the word from III MAF that the cease-fire had been called off."5

The Enemy Plans His Offensive


For some time, the American forces had been aware that the enemy was about to launch some type of major offensive. General Westmoreland was convinced that this big push would come either just before or right after Tet-but not during the holidays and probably at Khe Sanh and in the DMZ sector. At Da Nang, III MAF knew that the Communists were on the move. Marine and Army reconnaissance flights using infrared technology and XM-3 "People Snifter" airborne personnel detectors (APD) mounted on Huey helicopters indicated strong enemy concentrations in the hills near Hieu Duc west of the 7th Marines. Lieutenant Colonel William J. Davis, the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, recalled that his unit began to take fewer casualties from surprise firing devices or boobytraps and began to suspect that enemy troops unfamiliar with the terrain might be attempting to move into his sector. Davis notified the division headquarters of his findings. According to Davis, a few hours later. General Robertson called a division briefing for all battalion commanders. At the briefing, the division G-2 or intelligence officer, told the assembled officers that "they are finally going to come out and fight. We don't know why, but we know they are!" He later confided to Davis, "Bill, your phone call was right on the money! I called all the regiments and battalions and the same was happening to them."6


On the evening of 28 January, just west of Hieu Duc, a Marine squad from Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines ambushed a three-man Viet Cong reconnaissance patrol. The Marines killed two of the enemy and wounded the third. The Marines evacuated the


* Lieutenant Colonel John F. J. Kelly, who was an intelligence officer on the
III MAF staff, commented that General Westmoreland canceled the truce
at "the request of LtGen Cushman, who also requested that the announcement
be held until six hours before the scheduled beginning of the truce so
as not to tip III MAF's hand." LtCol John F. J. Kelly, Comments on draft,
dtd 13Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).




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