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Despite certain "snafus" such as the unwanted cement, the American
command quickly took steps to ensure the logistic support to its forces
in the north. In the Cua Viet sector, on 24 February, the Navy established
Task Force Clearwater under III MAF to coordinate river traffic and
convoys of Navy craft from the Cua Viet facility to Dong Ha.* During
the month, enemy gunners killed 7 sailors, wounded 47 more, and damaged
27 Navy vessels. On 27 February, for example, an enemy B-40 rocket-propelled
grenade struck an LCU on the Cua Viet laden with explosives resulting
in the disabling of both the LCU and an escort patrol boat. Most of
the convoyed vessels, however, completed the trip without incident.23


The 3d Marine Division also took measures to safeguard the Cua Viet and attempt to keep North Vietnamese regulars and VC main force units out of the northeastern quadrant of Quang Tri Province above the Cua Viet. On 29 February, Major General Tompkins combined the two operations in the sector. Operation Napoleon and Operation Saline into one operation, Operation Napoleon/Saline under the control of the 3d Marines. Colonel Milton A. Hull, who had assumed command of the 3d Marines on 18 February from Colonel Joseph E. Lo Prete, moved his command post on the 29th, from the Quang Tri airfield to the Cua Viet facility and collocated it with the 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion.24


While Lieutenant Colonel Edward R. Toner, the commander of the 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion, during February nominally had operational control of both Operations Napoleon arid Saline, his concerns were mainly with the activities of his own battalion. In February, during Operation Napoleon, the amphibian tractor battalion, with one attached rifle company, limited itself to patrols generally around the Cua Viet Naval Facility at the mouth of the river. While ground contact remained light, the enemy subjected the base to heavy incoming rocket and artillery fire and continued efforts to interdict the river with uneven results. For the month in Operation Napoleon, the Marines sustained casualties of 4 dead and 30 wounded while accounting for 79 of the enemy.25

The SLF Bravo battalion, BLT 3/1, under Lieutenant Colonel Max McQuown,
in Operation Saline, operating for the most part above, but occasionally
below, the Cua Viet, on the other hand, continued to encounter elements
of the 803d NVA Regiment.** In February, the battalion killed
over 270 of the enemy, took 18 prisoners, and recovered 72 individual
and 35 crew-served enemy weapons. According to both Marine and ARVN
sources, since 29 January, the allies had killed 1,000 enemy troops
in the Cua Viet region and had prevented an attack on Dong Ha.26

While the watch on the Cua Viet remained somewhat tenuous, the enemy
forces continued to mount pressure on Khe Sanh and still posed a threat
to the Marine positions south of the DMZ in Operations Kentucky and
Lancaster II.*** As one 3d Marine Division staff officer remarked, the
NVA in the border region, "always had someone pressing us somewhere."
In the 4th Marines Operation Lancaster II, after an ambush of a convoy
near Camp Carroll on Route 9 in early February and a company engagement
near Ca Lu, the North Vietnamese forces largely limited themselves to
artillery and mortar bombardments of Marine positions. On 28 February,
a NVA antiaircraft gun shot down a Marine CH-46 not far from Ca Lu resulting
in the death of 22 Marines. For the month

* Task Force Clearwater consisted of 20 river patrol boats (PBRs),
reinforced with monitors, armored river craft, PACVs (Patrol Air Cushioned
Vehicles), landing craft, and minesweepers. The Task Force was responsible
not only for the Cua Viet, but also the Perfume River further south
which provided access to the sea for the city of Hue. It maintained
its headquarters at Mobile Base II, a floating barge complex, located
first at Tan My and then moved north to the Cua Viet. Edward J. Marolda,
By Sea, Air, and Land, An Illustrated History of the U.S. Navy and
the War in Southeast Asia
(Washington: Naval Historical Center,
1994), p. 188. See also Chapter 28.

** See Chapter 7 for description of the BLT's activities during late
January and early February in Operation Badger Catch/Saline. In the
final stages of the battle of Hue, the South Vietnamese Marines captured
North Vietnamese troops from the 80}d NVA Regiment. See Chapter 12.
Colonel Max McQuown, the then BLT commander, later recalled two significant
operations south of the Cua Viet. In the first case, the BLT attached
reconnaissance platoon, operating south of the river, sighted NVA formations.
Employing LVTs and LCUs to cross the river, the rest of the battalion
supported by tanks surrounded the NVA in a village. With the tanks lighting
up the area with their Xenon lights and after an artillery and mortar
bombardment, McQuown launched a night attack and secured the hamlet.
While the battalion remained south of the river, the reconnaissance
platoon spotted another group of NVA in a neighboring village and the
battalion secured this hamlet as well. Before the BLT returned to its
base area north of the river, the Marines searched another village and
collected a large number of young males in civilian clothes. Suspecting
they were North Vietnamese, the Marines turned them over to the South
Vietnamese. Col Max McQuown, Comments on draft, dtd 22Nov94 (Vietnam
Comment File), hereafter McQuown Comments.

*** See Chapter 14 for description of operations at Khe Sanh and Chapter
7 for Operations Kentucky and Lancaster II in early February.







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