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towns. According to U.S. measurements, GVN control in the countryside
reached its lowest point in March.61


In much of southern I Corps, however, the American and South Vietnamese forces in March began to reenter the hamlets abandoned to the Viet Cong. Lost in the reporting of these numerous engagements was a 16 March 1968 United Press dispatch describing an operation by Task Force Barker of the Americal Division's 11th Light Infantry Brigade in the hamlet of My Lai, called "Pink Village" by the American troops. According to the news report, '"Pink Village' had become 'Red, White, and Blue' Village." A U.S. spokesman reported that the American troops had killed "128 Communists." The 128 "Communists," however, turned out to be all villagers, mostly women, children, and old men. It would be nearly a year later when the details about the My Lai massacre surfaced.62*


In the large Da Nang area of operations, the 1st Marine Division faced many of the same circumstances that the Americal Division did-a low-level war fought in the surrounding hamlets and villages. In regimental reserve, the newly arrived 1st Battalion, 27th Marines spent much of March getting acclimated and adjusted to its new mission. Second Lieutenant William R. Black, Jr., a platoon commander with Company A, remembered that his company conducted a lot of patrols to keep "on our toes tactically while getting our act together." Lieutenant Black admitted that the battalion was still not too effective as the troops were still unfamiliar with their sector and not yet battle-hardened. While the other two battalions of the 27th Marines were more active, their great concern remained surprise firing devices. Overall, the regiment undertook over 2,900 small unit patrols throughout its TAOR resulting in about 310 contacts, 182 initiated by the Marines and the remainder by the VC.63

The Communist forces made only one serious attack on the Da Nang base
in March and that was limited to a series of rocket bombardments. On
4 March, beginning at 0100 and lasting until 0255, enemy gunners fired
some 50 122mm missiles onto the base. Nine landed near the 7th Communication
Battalion, six on the FLC compound near Red Beach, and the remainder
at the Marble Mountain Facility. The rocket attacks resulted in 6 deaths
and nearly 30 wounded. They also destroyed 1 CH-53 and damaged 37 other
helicopters and observation aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel William S.
Pagan, commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines at the time, remembered
"our primary and overriding mission . . .was to prevent the enemy from
firing his 122mm rockets toward the Da Nang vital area." His battalion
sent out squad-sized patrols and ambushes "every day and night with
emphasis on night." He estimated that "virtually half of our infantry
squads, with normal attachments, were on ambush every night." According
to Fagan, the enemy was able to fire only a few rockets successfully
from his sector, but there "was fairly continuous enemy contact with
casualties on both sides.'64

Based on intelligence that the Communist forces continued to work
on upgrading their road network from Base Area 607 northwest
of Da Nang and possibly infiltrating units south into "Happy Valley"
and the "Arizona Territory" (named after the U.S. western badlands),
the usual approaches to the base from the mountains to the west, the
7th Marines launched two spoiling attacks. In the first, Operation Rock,
the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines conducted a one-battalion sweep on the
peninsula formed by the Vu Gia and Thu Bon Rivers, the so-called "Arizona
Territory," about 6,000 meters northwest of the battalion's base area
at An Hoa. During the four days of the operation, from 6-10 March, the
Marines encountered only small units, sustaining casualties of 3 dead
and 24 wounded while killing about 35 of the enemy. On 13 March, in
the second operation. Operation Worth, the 1st and 2d Battalions, 7th
Marines supported by tanks of the U.S. Army's 3d Squadron, 5th Armored
Cavalry, entered into the anything but "Happy Valley." In the nearly
two-week operation, which ended on 26 March, the Marines and Army tankers
only met scattered resistance. Still the Marines took casualties of
27 dead and 89 wounded and killed an estimated 160 of the enemy.65


In March, while the Marine units at Da Nang continued to hold their own, to the north, Task Force X-Ray consolidated its area of operations and made the necessary adjustments with the Provisional Corps. With the formal end of Operation Hue City on 2 March, General LaHue, the Task Force X-Ray commander, started to bring the respective battalions under the 1st Marines back to their own sectors. The two 5th Marines battalions that participated in Hue City, the 1st and 2d Battalions, rejoined their parent regiment in the 5th Marines' Operation Houston in the Phu Loc District. LaHue assigned the 1st Marines the defense of the Phu Bai vital area and Col Co/Tan My naval support activity with two battalions, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines which moved up from Operation Houston. At the same time, the two Army battalions in Operation Houston, the 2d Battalion,

*See Chapter 29 for further discussion of My Lai.





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