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limiting it to that which was "necessary to insure the security of
... defensive obstacles and local security elements."83

Apparently buoyed by their success against the ill-fated Marine patrol,
the North Vietnamese once more tried their hands at penetrating the
combat base perimeter. During the night of 28-29 February, sappers prepared
the ground to the front of the ARVN 37th Ranger Battalion, cutting holes
in the wire, and removing mines and trip flares. Their activity went
undetected until the next morning.84

The following night at 2130, in heavy fog, a battalion of the North
Vietnamese 66th Regiment, 304th Division struck the ARVN positions.
Unknown to the enemy, electronic sensors had silently heralded their
impending attack and by the time the first waves of assault troops rushed
the wire, two B-52 strikes, diverted from other targets, were on the
way. The 1st Battalion, 13th Marines, accompanied by the Army's 175mm
guns and radar-directed attack aircraft, pounded the North Vietnamese
infantry with telling effect. The B-52s saturated the area to the rear
of the assault waves with tons of high explosive bombs, devastating
what the sensors indicated was a second enemy battalion moving forward
to attack.85

Once again, the weight of U.S. fire support wrecked the enemy's efforts.
The Rangers reported that the North Vietnamese left 7 dead in the perimeter
wire, but a search the following morning revealed 71 more with many
bangalore torpedoes and satchel charges. Of the carnage, one account
read,

...
the dead were still huddled in trenches, many in the kneeling position,
in three successive platoon lines, as if they had been caught in the
assault position. The devastating effect of the firecracker round was
apparent.86

The only friendly casualty was a single wounded Ranger.

For the remainder of the Khe Sanh battle, the enemy concentrated most
of his efforts against the ARVN 37th Ranger Battalion, attacking its
position seven times during March, including another battalion-sized
assault on the 18th. Although North Vietnamese sappers breached the
wire during one of these attacks, the Rangers repulsed every attempt,
with the assistance of supporting fires from the 1st Battalion, 13th
Marines and attack aircraft.87 In addition to these assaults, the North
Vietnamese employed psychological warfare against the ARVN, using loudspeaker
broadcasts enticing them to defect.88*

At the beginning of March, III MAF began planning Operation Pegasus,
a major effort to reopen Route 9 from Dong Ha to Khe Sanh. In the meantime,
air delivered supplies remained the order of the day.** The monsoon
ended in March, greatly easing the weather problems which had earlier
plagued air operations in the area.89 Antiaircraft fire and incoming
rounds on the airstrip, however, remained a problem. The first day of
the month, mortar fire struck a C-123 as it landed, destroying the aircraft.90
On 6 March, enemy gunners downed another C-123 about five miles east
of Khe Sanh, killing 43 Marines, a sailor, and the crew of 4.*** Only
one and a half hours later, incoming fire damaged and grounded another
C-123 attempting to take off. This aircraft remained at Khe Sanh awaiting
repairs, where it was hit once more on the 17th and destroyed.91 Helicopters
suffered as well, with two Boeing CH-46 Sea Knights and a Bell UH-1
Iroquois falling to enemy gunners during the month.92

In early March, North Vietnamese propaganda teams entered Montagnard
villages, announcing that the final, major attack on Khe Sanh Combat
Base would soon begin. But, by the middle of the month, the theme had
changed to "Ho Chi Minh would be unhappy if they [the NVA] wasted their
time on only 6,000 Marines at Khe Sanh!"93 At the same time,
U.S. intelligence sources reported that the North Vietnamese 325C
Division
was relocating to Laos and the 304th Division
was withdrawing to the southwest.94


* Former Marine Bert Mullins, who served with the 1st Battalion, 9th
Marines at Khe Sanh, observed that the NVA also employed psychological
war techniques against the Americans as well. He recalled leaflets fired
by North Vietnamese artillery that urged American troops to surrender.
Mullins Comments.

** While supplies were adequate for very basic needs and no one starved.
Navy Captain Bernard D. Cole recalled that food was in "relatively short
supply during the 'siege.'" He remembered that he received just "two
C-ration meals per day . . . ." Cole stated that this was an "observation,
not a complaint: obviously, the troops in the trenches had higher priority
than those of us sitting on our butts in the relative safety of the
FSCC!" Cole Comments. Colonel Kent O. W. Steen, a former artillery officer
at Khe Sanh, wrote that the priority for resupply was upon ammunition
and "at times, we were down to one C-Ration per day . . . ." He observed
that the "uncomfortable-tired-dirty-stressed souls at Khe Sanh were
quite hungry for the most part." Steen comments.

*** This aircraft is variously reported as either a C-123 or a C-130.
Air Force records indicate the former. Nalty, Air Power, p.
46; 3d MarDiv COC msg to III MAF COC, dtd 7Mar68, in III MAF Khe Sanh
Ops File.







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