Page 158

Page 158 (1968: The Defining Year)

same NVA regiment. The Marine squad was about to establish a night
ambush site when an enemy force of about 100 fired upon them. Two other
squad patrols from Company C in the vicinity quickly joined the first
squad. Another platoon from the Marine company also reinforced the engaged
troops about an hour later. Finally the enemy broke contact at 2000
and disappeared. The Marines took the worst in this uneven battle. Initially
surprised, the first squad sustained heavy casualties. All told, the
Marines lost 12 killed and 6 wounded. They later found three enemy bodies
at the site. The dead enemy troops were wearing black pajamas under
their green utilities. According to a Marine report, "it was evident
that the enemy was prepared to masquerade as Vietnamese civilians in
the process of infiltrating the TAOR and that he was attempting to infiltrate
his forces in small units."63

The greatest danger to the TAOR at this juncture, however, was from the south in that area defended by the Korean Marine Brigade and the 51st ARVN Regiment. Although the Koreans and ARVN in a combined operation finally cleared Hoi An, enemy units to the west, south, and north of that city continued to press the attack. At 0920, enemy forces attacked the district towns of Dien Ban, just above the Ky Lam River, and Duy Xuyen below the river. At Dien Bien, the 51st ARVN reinforced by Korean Marines contained the attack. At Duy Xuyen, however, the Communist troops overran the town, forcing the district chief to flee and take refuge with the Koreans. Americal Division artillery operating in the Que Son sector took the Communist forces under fire, but did not shell Duy Xuyen town because of the civilian population there. The III MAF Command Center later that evening radioed MACV in Saigon: "Although the enemy has suffered heavy losses within his local and main force VC units during the past two days, he still possesses a formidable threat utilizing NVA troops poised on the periphery of the Da Nang TAOR.'64

While the Communist forces continued to harass allied positions on the night of 31 January-1 February 1968, the intensity of combat did not match that of the previous two nights. Still enemy gunners just before 0100 launched 12 122mm rockets aimed at the Da Nang base and blew up two ammunition dumps, one for napalm and the other for flares. While making for a loud and colorful pyrotechnical display, the explosions caused no casualties and no damage to any of the aircraft. There were no other rocket attacks that night.65

Again during the day of 1 February, the number of incidents between
allied and Communist forces fell from those of the two previous days.
Enemy gunners, however, continued to be active and shot down a Marine
CH-^6 attempting to insert a reconnaissance team into a landing zone
in the hill mass in the western sector of Da Nang below the Tuy Loan
River. The helicopter burned upon crashing, but the crew and most of
the patrol were able to get out. While Marine fixed-wing aircraft flew
strike missions against the enemy gun emplacements, another helicopter
evacuated the survivors. Of the 13-man Recon team, dubbed "Dublin City,"
one was dead, nine were injured, and three escaped unscathed. According
to Marine pilot reports, the enemy had approximately 250 men in the
area equipped with automatic weapons, including at least one .50-caliber-type
machine gun. After the fixed-wing aircraft and evacuation helicopter
cleared the area, the 11th Marines saturated the area with artillery

A Brief Lull and Renewed Fighting

On 1 February, General Robertson began to refine his defensive dispositions at Da Nang so as to counter any further incursions on the part of the NVA regulars and the VC main force units pressing on the Marine TAOR. Robertson wanted to "canalize enemy movements in order to develop lucrative targets which could be exploited." Given also the enemy rocket threat, he still needed to maintain extensive patrols in the so-called Rocket Belt. The 1st Marine Division commander decided then to move Company M, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines from its fairly remote position on Hill 52 in the far western reaches of the Vu Gia River Valley above the An Hoa Basin to the more centrally located Hill 65. Because of the location of Hill 65, just above Route 4 about 4,000 meters west of the district town of Dai Loc, and below Charlie Ridge, where the VC had heavy machine gun emplacements which precluded any helicopter lift, the Marine company had to make the move on foot. The company arrived at its dispositions at 0100 the following morning. A contingent of South Vietnamese Nung mercenaries from the Special Forces CIDG Camp at Thuong Duc took over the defense of Hill 52 from Company M.67

Still the Marine command believed the new positions of Company M not only covered the approaches to Dai Loc, but provided the division with another reserve force. Further to the east Company G, 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, at the battalion's command post

Page 158 (1968: The Defining Year)