Page 234

Page 234 (1968: The Defining Year)

Photo is from the Abel Collection.

A Marine M48 tank from the 3d Tank Battalion rumbles past a battle-damaged church just east of Con Thien. Marines from Con Thien outpost had spotted three North Vietnamese tanks north of their position in North Vietnam.

in Operation Lancaster II, the Marines reported killing 85 of the enemy and sustained casualties of 58 dead and 321 wounded.27

In the 9th Marines sector in the Kentucky area of operations, the
Marines confirmed the presence of the 320th NVA Division which
had replaced the 324B Division in the DMZ war. The North Vietnamese
maintained a screening force south of the DMZ and the Marine outpost
at Con Thien, on 16 February, observed three North Vietnamese tanks
north of their position and called in air. According to Marine reports,
the North Vietnamese had two armored regiments, the 202d and
203d NVA, each with 80 tanks (40 T-34s and 40 PT76s). Although
not knowing the location of the two armored regiments, American intelligence
acknowledged the capability of the enemy to use tanks in areas where
he could secretly mass his forces "and overrun friendly outposts with
little opposition." The Marines prepared anti-mechanized plans.28

For the most pan, the ground action in Kentucky slackened after the
first two weeks of February. In one of the sharpest encounters, however,
on 16 February, a 3d Battalion, 3d Marines two-company sweep of the
southern DMZ encountered NVA infantrymen in bunkers, but no tanks. With
the assistance of air, the Marines killed approximately 20 of the enemy
at the cost of 4 Marine dead and 6 wounded.* While the enemy mounted
no major offensive against Marine positions in Kentucky during the latter
part of the month, the NVA continued to deploy forces in and through
the DMZ.29

As in the Lancaster area of operations, the enemy intensified his artillery, rocket, and mortar shelling of Marine positions and base areas in the Kentucky area. In one of the more spectacular instances, on 26 February, the North Vietnamese gunners fired some 400 artillery and mortar rounds and scored direct hits on the Dong Ha airfield and the Force Logistic Support Group Bravo complex located there. While casualties were relatively low, one dead and several wounded, material damage was heavy. The shelling destroyed two light Army observation aircraft, an

* Lieutenant Colonel Otto Lehrack observed that his Company I was the
only one of the two companies involved that had contact in this particular
action. He remembered that the contact took place in the northern sector
of a prime enemy infiltration route. Lehrack Comments.

Page 234 (1968: The Defining Year)