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toon of Ontos, and a platoon of engineers. For the most part, even
this modest force was committed elsewhere.2

Furthermore, Dong Ha lay just below where three ongoing operations
converged. To the west of Route 1, the 9th Marines conducted Operation
Kentucky with three battalions, the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines; 1st Battalion,
4th Marines; and the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. The 3d Marines, to
the east of Route 1, was responsible for the Napoleon/Saline sector,
also with three battalions under its operational control, the 1st Battalion,
3d Marines; the 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion; and BLT 2/4. Between
the two Marine regiments, the 2d ARVN Regiment with four battalions*
held the area of operations along both sides of Route 1, north of the
Bo Dieu River" and Dong Ha, to the Demilitarized Zone. This sector included
both the A-1 and A-2 (Gio Linh) and the C-1 and C-2 Dyemarker positions,
and much of the Leatherneck Square sector east of Route 1 to Jones Creek,
the tributary of the Ben Hai that ran north and south, and emptied into
the Cua Viet. The North Vietnamese were well aware of the unit boundaries,
which only changed occasionally after some negotiations, and were not
slow to make use of the allied dispositions for their own advantage.


During most of April, in both the Kentucky and Napoleon/Saline areas, the tempo of operations had slowed from the previous month. This was especially true of the Napoleon/Saline coastal sector after the Task Force Kilo offensive at the beginning of April. With only scattered actions during the rest of the month, the 3d Marines had turned much of its attention to civic action and refugee resettlement. After the initial clearing offensive north of the Cua Viet, many of the South Vietnamese farmers and fishermen attempted to return to their abandoned villages north of the waterway. As Lieutenant Colonel William Weise, the BLT 2/4 commander, remembered, "things had calmed down" but he suspected "that the enemy had shifted his major efforts westward into the ARVN area."3

For some time, through prisoner interrogations and captured enemy
documents, the 3d Marine Division staff knew that elements of the 320th
NVA Division
had infiltrated into the eastern DMZ sector. During
the last week of April, Navy Task Force Clearwater, which was responsible
for convoying and protecting the shipping on the Cua Viet, received
reports of enemy intentions to interdict the waterway. Also during this
period, the North Vietnamese guns north of the Demilitarized Zone increased
their bombardment of allied positions and especially of the port facilities
both at Dong Ha and at the mouth of the Cua Viet.4

On the afternoon of the 29th, the 320th initiated attacks
against the ARVN 2d Regiment and against the Marines in the Kentucky
area of operations. On 29 April, enemy sappers blew a culvert on Route
1 near the hamlet of An Binh, about four miles north of Dong Ha. Acting
upon intelligence that North Vietnamese regulars had entered An Binh,
the ARVN 2d Regiment sent in its 1st and 4th Battalions north from Dong
Ha and south from C-1 to investigate the incident and trap any enemy
forces between them. The ARVN units themselves, however, encountered
heavy resistance "which they could not handle" and called for assistance.
According to a newspaper account. Lieutenant Colonel Vu Van Giai, the
2d ARVN commander, told Major General Tompkins that "he was holding
on the road but that he was worried about some new pressure that was
starting to build up on his left flank." At that point, about 1415,
Major General Tompkins ordered Task Force Robbie to move from C-3 with
Company D, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, reinforced by Company A, 1st
Tank Battalion, to assist the ARVN.5


At Cam Vu on Route 88, a secondary route running parallel and 3,000 meters north of Route 9, about 5,000 meters west of An Binh, the Marine task force ran into a North Vietnamese blocking force waiting for them. In a seven-hour "sharp engagement," lasting from 1600 rill nearly midnight. Task Force Robbie suffered casualties of 11 dead and 22 wounded and reported killing 26 of the enemy. Four of the tanks with the task force also sustained damage. Task Force Robbie returned to its original positions at C-3. In the meantime, the two South Vietnamese battalions had disengaged and retreated to C-1. The ARVN reported killing 130 of the enemy while taking casualties of 17 dead and 47 wounded.


On the evening of 29 April, concerned about the obvious presence of North Vietnamese units on Route 1. General Tompkins alerted additional forces. He directed Colonel Milton A. Hull, the 3d Marines commander, to be prepared to send a company from the

* An ARVN battalion numbered between 200 and 400 men, less than half of the
900-man Marine battalion.

** The Cua Viet just above Dong Ha becomes the Bo Dieu. On some maps
it is also shown as the Mieu Giang. Brigadier General William Weise
observed that the "Bo Dieu River (a continuation of the Cam Lo and .
.. Mieu Gang) flows east from Dong Ha and empties into the Cua Viet
. . . (about 3 km northeast of Dong Ha) which in turn flows into the
. . . Gulf of Tonkin . . . ." BGen William Weise, Comments on draft,
dtd 29Oct92 (Vietnam Comment File).





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