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Daniel L. Baldwin, III, the northern SOG commander. Ladd strongly
advocated that a relief force be sent immediately to relieve or evacuate
the survivors. Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin recommended that the Special
Forces troops at FOB-3 conduct a helicopter-supported evacuation of
the camp. After much discussion and some recrimination, General Westmoreland
ordered General Cushman to provide helicopter and fixed-wing support
to Baldwin.61*

By this time, however, the defenders were largely dependent upon their
own efforts. Individually and sometimes in groups, the Special Forces
and Bru CIDG troops broke out of the camp and most made their way to
Lang Vei Village where the Royal Laotian BV-33 Battalion still remained.
Special Forces personnel with the battalion in the old camp there attempted
to encourage and plead with the Laotians to assist their comrades in
the new camp, but the results were only a few feeble and begrudging
counterattacks. Shortly after 1700, under strong air cover from fixed-wing
aircraft and helicopter gunships, Marine CH-46s helilifted the relief
force from FOB-3 into old Lang Vei. Despite some mobbing by Laotian
and some of the Vietnamese troops, the helicopters brought out most
of the Americans and the most seriously wounded of the Laotians and
Vietnamese troops. The rest made their way to Khe Sanh on foot. The
loss of life was heavy for the Special Forces and CIDG troops at "new"
Lang Vei. Almost 300 of the camp's 487 defenders were killed, wounded,
or missing, including 10 Americans killed and missing, and another 13
wounded from a total of 24.62

Of the debacle and its aftermath, General Cushman later said:

The
base was overrun in the middle of the night, in a matter of a couple
of hours. . . . The garrison had already been defeated. There was nothing
one could do really, to salvage the situation. ... it would have been
a grave risk to send Marines from Khe Sanh to Lang Vei in the hours
of darkness.63**

The destruction of Lang Vei created a secondary problem for Colonel
Lownds. More than 6,000 refugees, many of them Laotians of the BV-33
Battalion and their families, as well as a number of Vietnamese Special
Forces and Bru CIDG personnel who had escaped Lang Vei alive, crowded
outside the gates of the combat base. Lownds refused to admit them


* Colonel Ladd, the 5th Special Forces Commander, in an oral history
several years later described his activities and participation in the
7 February meeting. He declared that he had been at Lang Vei up to the
night before the camp had been hit, and that the Special Forces there
"could hear the tanks moving around." Ladd departed by helicopter to
obtain anti-tank mines and assistance. According to Ladd, he talked
to General Cushman at Da Nang who wanted to help him, but the people
in Saigon did not believe that there were tanks there and that the Special
Forces "didn't need" the mines. He then flew back over Lang Vei the
following morning and saw tanks sitting on top of the base. According
to his account, he then went to Khe Sanh and asked Colonel Lownds to
mount a relief expedition which Lownds refused to do. Ladd then flew
back to Da Nang and found General Westmoreland there. According to the
Special Forces colonel, he then told Westmoreland there were three choices:
"Stay there and hold; abandon the place; or the Marines reinforce."
Frustrated at the meeting, Ladd declared he then called General Abrams,
stating: "I just can't get Westmoreland's attention long enough to do
anything. He is just putting it off." Ladd claimed that it was General
Abrams who called General Norman Anderson, the Marine 1st MAW commander
and ordered him to provide aircraft support for an evacuation. Col Jonathan
F. Ladd, USA (ret) intvw, n.d. [1977?] (U.S. Army, Military History
Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pa), pp. 22-30, attached to Clarke Comments,
hereafter Ladd Intvw. The discussions at the meeting of 7 February were
wide ranging and involved the situation at Da Nang as well as at Lang
Vei (See Chapter Eight). Many of the participants at the meeting had
very different perceptions of what occurred. General Westmoreland later
wrote that he was "shocked at things that virtually begged to be done
...." Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports, p. 342. On the other
hand, both General Cushman and General Earl E. Anderson, Cushman's chief
of staff, remembered no acrimony at the meeting. Cushman Inrvw, Nov82,
p. 29 and Gen Earl E. Anderson, Comments on draft, dtd 18Dec94 (Vietnam
Comment File). Marine Brigadier General John R. Chaisson, however, who
headed the MACV Combat Operations Center, in a letter soon after the
meeting, wrote about "recriminations between the Green Berets and the
Marines." BGen John R. Chaisson Itr to his wife, dtd 8Feb68 (Chaisson
Papers, Hoover Institute).

** Most Marines agreed with General Cushman and would accept the statement
of Navy Chaplain Ray W. Stubbe, who has written and researched extensively
on the subject of Khe Sanh, that an entire NVA regiment "waited to ambush
any rescue force." LCdr Ray W. Stubbe, USN, Comments on draft, dtd 23Oct94
(Vietnam Comment File). Major Gary E. Todd, who served as an intelligence
officer on the 3d Marine Division staff during this period, supported
this view in his comments that Bru refugees "had seen what amounted
to an NVA regiment lying in ambush between KSCB [Khe Sanh Combat Base}
and Lang Vei that night during the attack." Maj Gary E. Todd, Comments
on draft, dtd 28Oct94 (Vietnam Comment File). One Marine exception to
the contention that a relief expedition was infeasible that night was
Colonel John F. Mitchell, who commanded the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines,
at the time, the unit slated to carry out the Marine contingency plan
for the relief of Lang Vei. Colonel Mitchell commented that at the end
of January Colonel Lownds assigned him the Lang Vei relief mission.
According to Mitchell, the plan at that time called for the battalion
to make the relief overland. The battalion commander suggested to Colonel
Lownds that "the only successful way to accomplish this mission, would
be by Helo Assault." At that point, Lownds answered, "Hell you would
lose one-half your force and helicopters during the landing." While
not taking exception to Colonel Lownds projection, Mitchell replied,
"Yes, but I would be there." Colonel Mitchell still contends: "In my
opinion the Marines should have done the 'right thing' by sending a
relief unit." Mitchell Comments, dtd 9Feb96.







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