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With the securing of Hue in late February, Task Force X-Ray at Phu
Bai prepared to take the offensive to open Route 1 between Da Nang and
Phu Bai, which had been closed since Tet. On 26 February, Colonel Robert
D. Bonn's 5th Marines began Operation Houston in the Phu Loc and Hai
Van Pass sectors. To carry out the operation, Bohn received the two
battalions from Da Nang relieved by the 27th Marines, his 3d Battalion
and the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines.* In addition, Brigadier General LaHue,
the Task Force X-Ray commander, provided the 5th Marines with operational
control over three U.S. Army battalions, the 1st and 3d Battalions,
327th Infantry and the 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry.17


While the infantry provided security in Operation Houston, Seabees, Marine engineers, and the U.S. Army 35th Engineer Battalion worked on the repairs of Route 1 and its bridges and culverts. According to Marine reports, the VC and NVA during the Tet offensive had damaged or destroyed 20 bridges and 26 culverts along Route 1, largely between Hai Van Pass and Phu Bai. Oddly enough, the enemy pioneers and demolition teams caused relatively little damage in the Hai Van Pass itself, where Route 1 was most vulnerable. On 29 February, the engineers completed the repair work on the final section of Route 1 between Hai Van Pass and Phu Loc. Technically Route 1 was now open throughout the entire length of I Corps. III MAF, nevertheless, postponed the first road convoy from Da Nang to Phu Bai until March.18


With the end of Operation Hue City in sight, General LaHue planned to use the 1st Marines to operate along the area northeast of Phu Bai in order to secure the water route of communication from the mouth of the Perfume River to Hue City. Although the NVA and Viet Cong during the battle for the city, occasionally harassed river traffic along the Perfume River, they never succeeded in cutting this vital logistic lifeline for the allied forces in the city and at Phu Bai. On 12 February, Task Force X-Ray had taken over from the 3d Marine Division the responsibility for the protection of the Naval Support Activity at the Col Co/Tan My LST ramp at the mouth of the Perfume River. From the LST ramp, supplies were either transhipped by truck ro Phu Bai or loaded on board LCUs and smaller river craft for delivery at the LCU Ramp in Hue City. During the month of February, enemy gunners struck 44 of the smaller naval craft and destroyed two LCUs.19


With the closing of Route 1 during much of February and the continuing arrival of Army units in Thua Thien and Quang Tri Provinces, resupply by sea became even more critical. One Marine staff officer later remembered that when the 1st Air Cavalry and the 101st Airborne units first deployed north, "it was touch and go." Fortunately, the Army's 1st Logistical Command together with III MAF and a Navy pontoon causeway unit had already made preparations for the development of a logistic over-the-shore facility along the coast running parallel to Hai Lang in southern Quang Tri Province. Army logistic planners estimated that the Army forces would require, "3,600 tons of supplies daily in an area where existing supply lines were just barely able to keep up with requirements." While work began in February, the new logistical facility, called Wunder Beach, did not become fully operational until mid-March.20

During February, the 1st Air Cavalry Division continued Operation
Jeb Stuart in northern Thua Thien and southern Quang Tri Provinces.
While operating to some extent in enemy Base Areas 114 and
101, the division confined most of its activity to the battle
for Hue City, the establishment of Camp Evans, and the buildup of its
forces near Quang Tri City at Hai Lang." Indicative of the growing influence
of the Army in this sector, the 1st Air Cavalry took over more of the
3d Marine Division area of operations. On 16 February, the Cavalry's
1st Brigade assumed operational control of the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines
and responsibility for the 3d Marines' former Osceola II tactical area
near Quang Tri. While the 3d Marines, with only rear echelon troops
attached to it, still remained accountable for the interior defense
of the new Quang Tri base and airfield, the Army's 1st Brigade now provided
the protection to the approaches for both the Marine base and the new
Army bases at Hai Lang and Wunder Beach.21

* The other two battalions of the 5th Marines, the 1st and 2d Battalions,
were attached to the 1st Marines in Operation Hue City. See Chapter
12.

** During the month, the 1st Air Cavalry consisted of its 1st Brigade
at Hai Lang; the 2d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division at Camp Evans;
and its 3d Brigade taking part in the battle for Hue, although still
nominally part of Operation Jeb Stuart. The division's participation
in the battle for Hue, which was included in its overall statistics
for Jeb Stuart, accounted for nearly half of the 1st Cavalry's 1,167
casualties for the month as well the reportedly 2,000 losses it inflicted
on the enemy for the month. The 1st Air Cavalry's 2d Brigade was slated
to relieve the 101st Airborne's 2d Brigade at Camp Evans in March. III
MAF ComdC, Feb68; Waldron and Beavers, "The Critical Year, 1968," pp.
19-20. See also Chapter 12.





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