Page 298

Page 298 (1968: The Defining Year)

An Loc after Company H had captured Dong Huan. Moreover, he had requested
additional airstrikes* and 8-inch artillery missions which were not
forthcoming. He was especially disappointed that he "did not get a radar
controlled 2,000 pound bomb strike by Marine A-6 Intruder aircraft."
He asserted that the heavy air and artillery ordnance with delayed fuses
would have "cracked some of the enemy's . . . fortifications" and "followed
by napalm" would possibly have destroyed the enemy's defenses. It was
obvious to Weise that his unit did not have priority for either air
or artillery support. He did not blame Colonel Hull who had given him
all the reserve force he had available-Company B, 1st Battalion, 3d
Marines. With the piecemealing of his forces into the battle, Weise
declared later "I felt 'an hour late and a dime short' throughout the

From the perspective of General Tompkins at the 3d Marine Division
command post, he could not be sure that the main thrust of the enemy
was in the Dai Do sector. At the same time that BLT 2/4 fought in Dai
Do, the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines at Cam Phu, about three miles to the
west, had engaged other elements of the 320th NVA Division,
the same place where Task Force Robbie had run into trouble the day
before." Along Route 1, the 2d ARVN Regiment also reported continuing
contact with enemy forces. Together with the attacks on the Navy river
boats, Tompkins believed the North Vietnamese poised a real threat to
the entire coastal plain from Cam Phu south to Quang Tri. Still, according
to Major William H. Dabney, recently promoted and a former company commander
at Khe Sanh reassigned to the 3d Marine Division G-3 staff at this time,
General Tompkins entered the division FSIC (Fire Support Information
Center) on the evening of the 30th and ordered the artillery commander,
"to take every tube that is in range of Dai Do ... to shift its trail
so that it is pointing at the Dai Do area and ... fire max sustained
rate with every tube all night."26

In an interview a few days after the initial action, a reporter quoted General Tompkins as stating, "Yes, I can tell you the exact moment when I made up my mind it was going to be a real battle-it was at 9:15 Tuesday morning (April 30)." According to the Tompkins interview, when the general looked at the map, the "situation was pretty obvious." He believed, "the whole picture adds up to one of two things-the enemy was either driving through to Dong Ha itself, or he was planning to ... slip by one or both sides of Dong Ha, and go for the provincial capital of Quang Tri, just eight miles due south." According to Tompkins such a threat was more than the 2d ARVN Regiment could handle, "it was time to call in the Marines."27

The 3d Marine Division commander only had a limited number of reserves that he could throw into the battle.*" Tompkins believed that the insertion of the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines at Cam Phu contained the enemy forces to the west. He still remained concerned, however, about the capability of the ARVN to hold the center and also about the uncovering of the northern approaches to Dong Ha with the withdrawal of Company G from Nhi Ha and Lam Xuan. As Lieutenant Colonel Weise later observed, "Nhi Ha had always been a key staging area for NVA infiltrating south along 'Jones Creek'." With BLT 2/4 committed to Dai Do, only the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines remained in the Napoleon/Saline sector, safeguarding the southern banks of the Cua Viet. General Tompkins request-

* Up to this point, possibly because of the new single manager system that
had just been established "fixed-wing air support required a 36-hour
notice before it could be planned on. This caused problems when situations
would change between the planning stage and actual execution of an operation
order." According to the BLT 2/4 after action report, "as the battle
of Dai Do proceeded it became less difficult to get the close air support
that the BLT requested." BLT 2/4 CAAR, Operation Napoleon, pp. 3^4.
Colonel Max McQuown, who at the time commanded BLT 3/1, observed, however,
that in the 3d Marine Division, "close air support was always a crap
shoot. Requesting units just never knew if the requested strike would
occur." He claimed that these air support problems existed even before
the advent of "Single Manager." McQuown stated that the "glaring problem
was that all air support requests had to be forwarded to the 3d Division
air officer instead of going directly to the DASC, . . . the agency
that was supposed to coordinate and control all air." McQuown Comments.

** In fact a contemporary Army historical account of the battle gives
much more emphasis on the ARVN and Cam Phu action and does not even
mention the fighting in Dai Do on 30 April, but begins its description
with events there on 1 May. Waldron and Beavers, "The Critical Year,"
pp. 57-59.

*** While the 26th Marines had deployed to the Quang Tri base after
Khe Sanh on 18 April, the regiment was basically recuperating from its
ordeal at Khe Sanh. Colonel Bruce P. Meyers, who had just assumed command
of the 26th Marines in April, recalled that the regiment was "being
reequipped and obtaining replacements (the bulk of the regiment's artillery,
motor transport, generators, mess equipment, virtually all of the 'heavy'
TO/E gear had been shot up and/or left at Khe Sanh when we pulled out."
Temporarily the regiment conducted a rice protection operation appropriately
named "Operation Rice" in the area south of the Quang Tri base. Col
Bruce F. Meyers, Comments on draft, dtd 20Feb95 (Vietnam Comment File).
On the other hand, Colonel Max McQuown, who commanded BLT 3/1 at the
time, asserted that either his battalion or the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines
were both at Ca Lu, and therefore, "there was a 'swing' battalion available
to go anywhere in the division TAOR. It could have been 2/9 or BLT 3/1-
it turned out to be neither." McQuown Comments.

Page 298 (1968: The Defining Year)