Page 159

Page 159 (1968: The Defining Year)

about 500 meters north of Dien Ban town, remained as the division mobile
reserve mounted in LVTs and supported by tanks. It also served to block
"one of the principal avenues of approach to Da Nang from the south."
The only other Marine reserves available to the division were the provisional
companies of the Northern and Southern Defense Commands.

For the next few days, there was a relative lull in the Da Nang sector, at least as compared to the last two days of January. There were still ominous signs and actions that the enemy push on Da Nang was not over. Although most of the enemy activity was restricted to small-unit contacts, on the night of 2-3 February, enemy gunners again rocketed the Da Nang base. From firing positions southwest of the base, 28 122mm missiles fell on the airfield, destroying one aircraft and damaging six others. Marine counter-rocket fire from the 11th Marines and 1st Tank Battalion resulted in five secondary explosions.68

While from 1-5 February, the enemy ground assaults on Marine positions
appeared to diminish, Marine spotters in the tower on Hill 55 reported
the constant movement of small groups of enemy troops in the western
portion of the Korean Marine area of operations. Marine commanders and
staff officers could only speculate that the enemy was probably infiltrating
north in small groups to "predetermined rallying points" for a further
assault either on the city or on the base. Other disturbing intelligence
tended to confirm this analysis. On 2 February, the Marines received
a report that the 2d NVA Division had moved its headquarters
four miles north, to a position above Route 4, from its previous location
on Go Noi Island. Two days later, Marine intelligence officers learned
that the 21st NVA Regiment was in the Go Noi area. Finally
there were rumors that the other two regiments of the 2d Division,
the 1st VC and the 3d NVA, had infiltrated even further
north. In fact, elements of both regiments had reached jump-off points
just south of the Cau Do River. As Lieutenant Colonel John F. J. Kelly,
an intelligence officer on the III MAF staff, remembered, III MAF had
expected the 2d NVA Division to have participated in the attack
on the 30th and 31st, "and it was waited on with bated breath, we knew
that it was coming."69

The Marines did not have a long wait. On the night of 5-6 February, the Communist forces began the second phase of its Da Nang offensive. At 2000 on the night of the 5th, a Marine platoon ambush from Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines intercepted about 60 North Vietnamese troops about 4,000 meters south of the Tuy Loan River in the western sector of the area of operations moving northeast toward the river and the base with mortars and automatic weapons. Calling artillery upon the enemy troops, the Marines then swept through the area and recovered about 17 60mm mortar rounds. They later found four enemy dead. While the Marines successfully thwarted this attempt, between 0100 and 0500 on the morning of the 6th, enemy gunners mortared or rocketed all of the command posts, fire bases, and company combat bases in the 7th Marines sector. In the attack, the enemy gunners fired 122mm rockets at Marine artillery positions at An Hoa, Hill 55, and Hill 10. Twenty rockets fell on Hill 10, manned by Battery G, 3d Battalion, 11th Marines which resulted in 23 casualties, including two dead. The remaining rocket attacks were ineffective. Two of the mortar attacks hit the 1st Air Cavalry Division helipad near the Force Logistic Command area in the Red Beach sector. These destroyed two of the Army helicopters and damaged eight others. The mortar rounds killed one U.S. soldier and wounded two.70

On the ground in the 7th Marines sector, North Vietnamese units hit
several of the Combined Action platoons, especially in the 3d and 1st
Battalion areas. One of the major attacks was against CAP B-3 in the
hamlet of Duong Lam (l) just below the Tuy Loan River. Shortly after
0100 on the 6th, enemy gunners opened up on the hamlet with intermittent
mortar rounds and small-arms fire. About an hour later, North Vietnamese
troops who had infiltrated Duong Lam rushed the CAP compound. While
successfully beating back the enemy onslaught, the Combined Action leader
called for help. At 0240, a squad from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines,
supported by two tanks from the 1st Tank Battalion, moved to assist
the embattled CAP unit. The reaction force itself came under automatic
weapons fire and enemy rocket- propelled grenades disabled the two tanks.
About 0330, two more Marine tanks from the district town of Hieu Duc
arrived at the northern fringes of the hamlet. The armored force pushed
through the hamlet and encountered only occasional small-arms fire.
Joining up with the squad from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and some
newly arrived ARVN troops, the tanks then relieved the Combined Action
garrison. The combined force then swept the general area where they
found two enemy bodies and took three prisoners. According to the prisoner
accounts, they were from the 3d Battalion, 31st NVA Regiment
and confirmed that ". . . Da Nang itself was the ultimate objective."71

Page 159 (1968: The Defining Year)