Page 162

Page 162 (1968: The Defining Year)



upon a plan." His view was that the purpose of the meeting was to
obtain Westmoreland's approval for the reinforcement of Da Nang by the
Americal Division.78*


Despite the mixed perceptions about the meeting, the various parties quickly worked out a plan of action. Colonel Smith of the III MAF staff, who sat in on the conference between Generals Koster and Robertson, remembered that after studying the situation map, the conferees "came to the conclusion that the best way of stopping this attack was to interpose an equally strong force between the 2d NVA Division and the Da Nang Vital Area." The idea was to stop the enemy division from entering the Vital Area rather "than pushing him from the south and in effect pushing him" into the sector. The planners decided to send a two-battalion Army task force from the Americal Division into the northern sector of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines near Route 1 south of the Cau Do.79


The afternoon of 7 February, General Cushman issued the orders for the movement of the Army units to Da Nang. Major General Koster was to deploy one battalion immediately and to send the task force command group and remaining battalion the following day. Upon arrival at Da Nang, the Army units were to be under the operational control of the 1st Marine Division. The mission of the Americal task force was to "block enemy movement to the north, deny enemy access to the Da Nang Vital Area, and destroy enemy forces."80


According to plan, late in the afternoon of 7 February, Marine helicopters brought the lead Army battalion, the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, commanded by Army Lieutenant Colonel William J. Baxley, into a landing zone near the hamlet of Duong Son (l) just off the old railroad tracks, about 2,000 meters south of the Cau Do. The Army troops quickly moved into night positions and encountered only harassing sniper fire or an occasional mortar round.81

The night of 7-8 was relatively uneventful throughout the Da Nang
TAOR until about 0345. At that time, enemy mortar rounds fell into the
CAP 'E-A compound in Lo Giang (1) hamlet, about 2,000 meters northeast
of Duong Son (l). While beginning with the mortar bombardment, the enemy
soon escalated the fighting. By daylight, enemy ground forces surrounded
the CAP hamlet.

At that point, to ease the pressure on the CAPs, General Robertson
about 0700 deployed the Army battalion to Lo Giang (5), about 1,000
meters north of Lo Giang (1), just below the Cau Do. The Army troops
soon found themselves engaged with another enemy battalion. The 1st
Marine Division commander then reinforced the Army unit with two Marine
companies, Company G, 2d Battalion, 3d Marines and Company I, 3d Battalion,
5th Marines. This fighting continued to rage until late afternoon.

In the meantime, CAP E-4 continued to hold out against overwhelming
odds. A small Combined Action headquarters detachment of 15 men from
Hoa Vang also attempted to reinforce the embattled CAP, but never reached
Lo Giang (l). Only l of the original 15 men survived. By mid-afternoon
CAP E-4 was nearly out of ammunition. At 1550, under cover of helicopter
gunships and fixed-wing aircraft, Marine helicopters successfully evacuated
the Combined Action platoon out ofLo Giang (1). In Lo Giang (5), the
action lasted for another hour and a half, when the NVA/VC forces tried
to break contact. In that fighting, the soldiers and Marines killed
over 150 of the enemy.

By that evening, Army Task Force Miracle, under Army Colonel Louis
Gelling, the commander of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, had been
established in the Da Nang area of operations. Gelling, the task force
headquarters, and the 2d Battalion, 1st Infantry, under the command
of U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Lyman H. Hammond,Jr., had arrived from
Chu Lai that afternoon. Establishing his command post near Duong Son,
Colonel Gelling assumed operational control of the 1st of the 6th near
Lo Giang (5) and placed the 2d of the 1st in blocking positions below
Lo Giang (1). During the following day, while the 1st of the 6th mopped
up in its area, the 2d Battalion, 1st Infantry attacked north. The latter
battalion ran into a North Vietnamese battalion and engaged it in a
nine-hour battle. Pulling back its assault elements, the Army unit saturated
the


*General Westmoreland commented that he was "critical of Cushman's lack of initiative in responding to an immediate tactical situation," not of the command arrangements. He assumed that Cushman "appreciated that the Americal Division was under his tactical command." Gen William C. Westmoreland, USA, Comments on draft, dtd 18Oct94 (Vietnam Comment File).

Marine Brigadier General John R. Chaisson, the head of the MACV Combat
Operations Center, who also attended the meeting, wrote to his wife
about "recriminations" at the meeting, but these related to the Lang
Vei situation. BGen John R. Chaisson, Itr to wife, dtd 8Feb68 (Chaisson
Papers, Hoover Institute). Cushman related that he was "criticized because
I didn't send the whole outfit from Khe Sanh down there [Lang Vei],
but I decided . . . that it wasn't the thing to do." Cushman Intvw,
Nov82, p. 31. General Earl E. Anderson, the III MAF Chief of Staff,
also attended the meeting and agreed "that it was not acrimonious."
Gen Earl E. Anderson, Comments on draft, dtd 18Dec94 (Vietnam Comment
File). See also Chapter 14.





Page 162 (1968: The Defining Year)