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502d Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 327th Regiment reverted to Army
control.66


While trying to build up the defenses of Phu Bai and protect Route 1 and the vital water routes, General LaHue also wanted to expand operations into the approaches towards both the base and the city of Hue. On 3 March, giving the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, two battalions-the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and the 2d Battalion, 327th Airborne Regiment-LaHue ordered the Army brigade, still under his operational control, to conduct an operation in the old Cumberland area, along Route 547, the gateway to the A Shau Valley. Lasting only four days, from 3 March until 7 March, the two-battalion operation, code-named Mingo, had little to show for the effort except for five dead VC and two captured rifles. Faced with the changing command relations with the establishment of Provisional Corps, General LaHue cut short the operation.67


On 8 March, two days before the activation of Prov Corps, III MAF implemented the agreed-upon change of boundaries between Task Force X-Ray and the new command. Task Force X-Ray retained responsibility for the Phu Bai vital area and Phu Loc District with the 1st Marines in the former and the 5th Marines in the latter. General LaHue returned the two U.S. Army brigades under his operational control, the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division and the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, to Army Major General Olinto M. Barsanti, the commander of the 101st, who had just established his command post to the west of Phu Bai. The 101st was to take over the expanse between the 1st Air Cavalry at Camp Evans and Task Force X-Ray at Phu Bai. This included the area around Hue, Route 1 north of Phu Bai, the Col Co/Tan My area, and Route 547 towards the A Shau Valley.68

With a smaller area of operations and with five infantry battalions
under his operational control, General LaHue decided upon a three-phased
operation to the east of Phu Bai. The first phase, Operation Ford, was
to be a two-battalion sweep of the Phu Thu Peninsula which had long
been a staging area for the 804th Main Force Battalion. He
gave the mission to Colonel Stanley S. Hughes, the 1st Marines commander,
and coordinated the operation with the 1st ARVN Division Lam Son 194
to the north of the Marines. On 14 March, Marine helicopters deposited
in landing zones, the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines on the northern, and
the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines on the southern part of the peninsula.
The two battalions than began to advance towards one another. In several
sharp clashes, the two Marine battalions killed 145 of the enemy and
captured 5 prisoners. The Marines lost 14 men dead, including a Navy
corpsman, and sustained 113 wounded. On 20 March, Task Force X-Ray closed
out the operation. General LaHue canceled the planned second and third
phases of Operation Ford.69


By this time, the planning for Pegasus, the relief operation for Khe Sanh, was in full swing. The 1st Air Cavalry Division prepared to close out its Operation Jeb Stuart and move to its new staging area at Ca Lu. With the westward deployment of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 101st Airborne Division was to move to a new operating area some 18 miles northwest of Hue. At the same time, the 1st Marines with its 1st and 2d Battalions, reinforced by the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, was to join the 1st Air Cavalry in Operation Pegasus. Task Force X-Ray was to take over then the area vacated by the 101st Airborne Division.70


Brigadier General LaHue, thus once more, was to expand his area of operations, while at the same time having fewer troops to do so. At the end of the month. Major General Donn J. Robertson, the 1st Marine Division commander, provided some relief by transferring one of the 27th Marines' battalions, the 1st Battalion, from Da Nang to assume the security of Route 1 between Hue and Phu Bai and the protection of the ColCo/Tan My base. The battalion relieved the remaining Army units still there and operated almost to the suburbs of Hue. At the same time. General LaHue expanded the 5th Marines' Houston area to include the remaining portion of the X-Ray TAOR, excluding the area occupied by the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines and the Phu Bai Vital Area. At the same time, the task force commander ordered the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines with two companies to take over from the 1st Marines the protection of key outposts and bridges, especially the Truoi River Bridge on Route 1 southeast of Phu Bai.71


While Task Force X-Ray made these various adjustments, the Communists were not slow to take advantage of what they perceived as possible chinks in the American defenses. On 21 March, in a relatively minor attack, enemy gunners fired some 20 mortar and rocket rounds on the Phu Bai Base, which resulted in two Marines wounded and some structural damage to a building. Five days later, between 0300 and 0330 on the morning of the 26th, however, 108 122mm rockets and nearly 80 82mm mortar rounds fell upon both the airfield and the






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