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Finally, shortly after dawn about 0530, following closely its artillery
final preparation fires, the battalion attacked with three companies
abreast and the command group and one company in reserve close behind.
Surging forward through an eerie and barren landscape of charred limbless
trees and huge bomb craters, the Marine battalion rolled up the enemy's
defenses on the southern slope of the hill. Colonel Meyers, who watched
the attack with Captain Dabney from 881 South, remarked on the effective
use of the supporting 106mm recoilless rifle fire. As the Marine lead
elements approached a tree line in their "uphill assault . . . the 106's
[on Hill 881 South] literally blew the tree line away."136
Finally, with the crest of Hill 881 North before it, the battalion called
for a massive artillery firing mission. When over 2,000 rounds of artillery
fire had fallen on the objective, Company K attacked along the right
flank. Captain Paul L. Snead's men rushed through the smoking debris
of the NVA defenses, rooting out the defenders from the ruins of bunkers
and trenches. At 1428, Company K marked Hill 881 North as friendly territory
by raising a U.S. flag which a squad leader had brought along. The 3d
Battalion lost 6 dead and 21 wounded. The Marines took two prisoners
from the 8th Battalion, 29th Regiment, 325th NVA Division and
killed over 100 of the North Vietnamese troops. With the enemy driven
from the hill, at least for the time being, the Marines began withdrawing
to Hill 881 South, their mission accomplished. According to Colonel
Meyers, the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico, Virginia, later used the
assault on Hill 881 North "as a classic example of a Marine battalion
in the attack."137

The attack on Hill 881 North was the last battle of Operation Pegasus.
At 0800, 15 April, the 3d Marine Division once again assumed responsibility
for the Khe Sanh Combat Base and Operation Pegasus gave way to Operation
Scotland II. The 1st Air Cavalry Division transferred its command post
to Camp Evans, but left its 2d Brigade under the control of the 3d Marine
Division. The 1st Marines, to this point still operating along Route
9 just west of Ca Lu, moved to Khe Sanh to assume responsibility for
defense of the combat base from the 26th Marines. Lieutenant Colonel
Studt recalled that his 3d Battalion, on 15 April, "was shuttled out
of the 881 area by choppers... first to Khe Sanh than to Quang Tri [Airfield]."
Even as the Marines boarded their helicopters out of the Khe Sanh sector.
Company K came under enemy mortar fire. As the helicopters landed at
the Quang Tri Airstrip, the 3d Marine Division band, playing the Marine
Corps Hymn, was there to greet the troops. According to the band master,

... it
was the most inspiring performance of his career: chopper after chopper
disgorging filth covered Marines in tattered and torn utilities, some
with bandages, many carrying NVA souvenirs, but the expressions on their
faces as soon as they perceived the strains of the Hymn was what moved

With a sense of irony. Captain Dabney many years later observed that
the attacks on Hill 881 North marked the beginning and the end to the

In Operation Pegasus, allied forces accomplished their mission of
reopening Route 9 between Ca Lu and Khe Sanh at a cost of 92 Americans
dead and 667 wounded, and 51 ARVN killed. The North Vietnamese lost
over 1,100 killed and 13 captured. III MAF units found supply caches
estimated as "exceeding the basic load for an NVA division," including
3,000 tons of rice, over 200 crew-served weapons, 12,000 rounds of large
caliber ammunition, 5 wheeled vehicles, and a tank.

A cloud of controversy has surrounded the story of Khe Sanh in the
years since the battle. Some of the unsettled issues remain: 1. the
reasons for defending the base in the first place; 2. the importance
of the roles played by the various supporting arms (particularly B-52s,
as opposed to tactical aircraft and artillery); 3. the failure of the
26th Marines to reinforce Lang Vei; 4. speculation why the North Vietnamese
made no attempt to cut the source of the water supply for the base,
pumped from a stream north of the Khe Sanh perimeter and in the area
controlled by NVA troops; 5. and finally whether Khe Sanh was an attempted
replay of Dien Bien Phu or a diversion for Tet.*

*Both Lieutenant General Krulak, the former CGFMFPac, and Colonel Frederic
S. Knight, the 3d Marine Division G-2 or staff intelligence officer,
remarked on the failure of the North Vietnamese to cut the water supply.
In his book. General Krulak argued that the fact that the North Vietnamese
did not do so is an indication that the enemy may have "had no intention
of undertaking an all-out assault on the base." LtGen Victor H. Krulak,
First to Fight, An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps (Naval
Institute Press: Annapolis, Md., 1984), p. 218. Colonel Knight called
this failure the most "puzzling aspect of the siege. . . . They literally
could have cut off our water," He observed that the airlifting of the
water would have "added an enormous logistical burden." Col Frederic
S. Knight, Comments on draft, dtd 10Feb95 (Vietnam Comment File). In
his comments, Colonel Steen observed that "when the hose was cut by
artillery fragments or the pump was down, we were out of water and on
our knees." He observed that as it was the Marines rationed their water
until they left in April and "personal sanitation was at a minimum."
Steen Comments. Navy Captain Bernard D. Cole also commented on the failure
of the NVA to interrupt the water and as well remarked that they made
no attempt to cut the land line telephone connection from Khe Sanh to
MACV. Cole Comments.

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