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Department of Defense (USMC) Photo A194604

Marines
of BLT 2/4 ride amphibian tractors (LVTs) in the Cua Viet during Operation
Napoleon/Saline. Note the sandbars on the tractors to
protect the Marines from explosive rounds. The BLT redeployed from the
Lancaster area to the coastal Napoleon sector in early March.


Even with the enemy reinforcement in his sector, the addition of another battalion to his forces permitted Colonel Hull to undertake expanded operations on both sides of the Cua Viet. While at the beginning of the month, the North Vietnamese continued their attempts to interdict the river, they eventually limited these efforts to attacks by fire. On 8 March, the Navy announced that the Cua Viet was open and that allied shipping no longer required convoys.52


Still the enemy was far from quiescent. On 10 March, enemy artillery hit the Cua Viet base, igniting 150 short tons of ammunition. The resulting explosion and fire caused the death of one American serviceman and injuries to several others. It also destroyed a mess hall, a communications van, and 47 out of the 64 sites holding 10,000-gallon POL bladders. By the end of the month, the base had only repaired or replenished 60 percent of the sites, equipment, and supplies destroyed in the attack.53


In several sharp encounters north of the Cua Viet during the month. Marine infantry sweeps also met with stiff resistance. Lieutenant Colonel Weise's BLT 2/4, just arrived in the sector, bore the brunt of this fighting. On 18 March, one of the bloodiest actions occurred in an abandoned hamlet about 1,000 meters southwest of Mai Xa Thi (West). Supported by artillery north of the DMZ and with well-designed fields of fire for their small arms and machine guns, the entrenched enemy held off three companies of BLT 2/4 throughout the day. With the assistance of their own artillery and close air strikes, the Marines finally forced the enemy to withdraw. After entering the hamlet the next day, the Marines found 72 bodies and captured 4 prisoners. Other sources estimated that the enemy death toll may have been as high as 130 as a result of the airstrikes on the retreating forces. The cost had been high to the Marines as well. BLT 2/4 suffered casualties of 13 dead and 110 wounded. For the entire month in Operation Napoleon/Saline, the 3d Marine Division reported to have killed more than 440 of the enemy while sustaining in turn 65 fatalities and over 450 wounded. According to Lieutenant Colonel Weise, the Marines were doing the best they could in a "very active area." Weise praised Colonel Hull, the 3d





Page 243 (1968: The Defining Year)