(1968: The Defining Year)
Photo is from the Abel Collection
Marines frmn Company M, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines
move through tall grass in a hamlet on their way to relieve an embattled
ARVN base camp near the Thanh Quit River.
sure how much longer they could. The fighting during the preceding week had drawn down the strength of the ARVN and the two Marine battalions and the enemy division still had uncommitted units that it could throw into the tray. General Robertson shared these concerns with General Cushman, the III MAF commander.75
On 7 February, this request led to a strange confrontation, it there
was a confrontation, between General Westmoreland and General Cushman.
On the previous night as well as attacking at Da Nang, North Vietnamese
troops overran the Special Forces Camp at Lang Vei, south ot Khe Sanh.'
Believing that III MAF should have relieved the camp and fearing that
the enemy was about to launch the much-heralded attack on Khe Sanh itself,
the MACV commander called for a special meeting on the morning of 7
February of the senior U.S. commanders in I Corps. At the meeting itself,
he became even more upset as he learned about the situation at Da Nang.
As he later confided, 'the VC were getting closer and closer to Da Nang
Airbase. There was an absence of initiative by the CG III MAF, in dealing
forcefully with the situation.'76
According to General Westmoreland's account, he acted rather abruptly
and made his displeasure known. Shocked at what he considered things
left undone, he ordered 'in exasperation' Major General Robertson of
the 1st Marine Division and Major General Samuel Koster ot the Americal
Division from the room. The MACV commander told the two generals 'to
return only when they had worked out a viable plan tor closely coordinated
offensive action against the enemy threatening the airfield.'77
Apparently, however, although conscious of Westmoreland's sense ot urgency about the tactical situation at Da Nang, the Marine commanders were unaware of Westmoreland's unhappiness about the arrangements. According co both Generals Cushman and Robertson the meeting was not acrimonious. General Robertson remembered that he briefed the MACV commander on the enemy and stated that he needed more troops. Westmoreland then turned to Major General Koster and merely said: ''Sam, you let Robby have two, three, or even tour battalions it he needs them.'' The MACV commander then dismissed Koster and Robertson from the meeting 'to go out and work out the details.' General Cushman later commented that he did not normally order the movement of Army units until he and General Westmoreland 'got together and agreed
* For the overrunning of Lang Vei see chapter 14.