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Washington.* Since Major General Tompkins was the next senior Marine
ranking officer in country, Lieutenant General Cushman, the III MAF
commander, selected Tompkins to become his new deputy. With the concurrence
of the Commandant, General Chapman, Cushman appointed Marine Major General
Raymond G. Davis, the deputy commander of Prov Corps, to take Tompkins
place as commander of the 3d Marine Division.

On 21 May, in a brief change of command ceremony at Dong Ha, Major
General Davis, a native of Georgia and holder of the Medal of Honor
from the Korean War, assumed command of the 3d Marine Division. From
his former vantage point at Prov Corps, Davis had become impressed with
the airmobile tactics of the 1st Air Cavalry Division during Operation
Pegasus. As one Army officer remembered, the senior members of Rosson's
Prov Corps staff would "take turns having dinner with him every night
in the headquarters mess, giving him our ideas on mobile warfare, and
during the day we flew around with him." Davis was well aware of the
purposes of the attentions of the Prov Corps staff. As he declared later,
he had known the Prov Corps commander for some time and when Davis arrived
at Prov Corps headquarters, Rosson began "orienting me towards . . .
the effectiveness offerees [an euphemism for the airmobile tactics]."
Davis believed that the 3d Marine Division had become tied down to its
fixed positions and too defense-minded. As he confided to Marine Brigadier
General John R. Chaisson on Westmoreland's staff, it was his opinion
that the 3d Division earlier in May at Dai Do and afterwards had "missed
a great opportunity" and allowed the North Vietnamese to "get away."67**

General Davis was to have his "opportunity" almost as soon as he took
over the 3d Marine Division. The 320th NVA had once more left
the sanctuary of the DMZ and entered Quang Tri Province. As Davis later
stated, "It was gone just nine days and came back to welcome me the
night I took command . . . ." Although not expecting the enemy division
to make another foray so soon after the first, this time the Marines
were ready for the 320th.68

In what the 3d Marine Division listed as the first phase of the new
offensive, the North Vietnamese division moved into the Operation Kentucky
Leatherneck Square sector northwest of Dong Ha halfway between Con Thien
and Gio Linh. This sector had been somewhat quiet since 8 May when the
3d Battalion, 3d Marines had overrun an NVA regimental headquarters,
but had sustained heavy casualties during an enemy artillery bombardment.69
During this lull, Captain Matthew G. McTiernan assumed command of Company
I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines. He recalled that the Marine battalions
during this period would shift boundaries between A-3 and Con Thien
to confuse the North Vietnamese who had the tendency of working the
unit boundary lines. On the morning of 22 May, his company had the mission
of establishing "a series of ambushes along the old AO [area of operations]
line." The company left the perimeter about 0400 that morning with his
3d Platoon in the lead. Just southwest of the A-3 Strong Point, the
company encountered what it first thought was a small enemy patrol.
The Marines soon realized that the enemy was in at least company strength
and called for reinforcements. McTiernan then asked for air support
and received helicopter gunship support "which proved too much for the
NVA." According to the Marine captain, the enemy had been on the move,
had no prepared positions, and were easy targets for air: "We had caught
the NVA unit cold."70


In the meantime, a Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines patrol ran into another enemy force just east of Con Thien. Given the intensity of the enemy resistance supported by artillery, Colonel Richard B. Smith, the 9th Marines commander, assumed that the North Vietnamese had infiltrated possibly a battalion if not a larger force into his sector. While the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines reinforced from A-3 and the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines attacked east from Con Thien, Smith attempted to exploit the contact. He asked General Davis for and received operational control from the 4th Marines of the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines. Marine helicopters landed the battalion into blocking positions to



* General Van Ryzin later recalled that he received a telephone call from General Chapman, the Commandant, who had already spoken to General Cushman. The Commandant told Van Ryzin that "I'm going to ask you to come back as my Chief of Staff. I'm going to give you exactly two hours to say yes or no." General Van Ryzin talked the matter over with General Cushman who told him that, "I was stupid if I didn't take it." Van Ryzin accepted the position. LtGen William J. Van Ryzin intvw, 2Apr75, p. 218 (Oral HistColl, MCHC). In his comments, General Van Ryzin observed that he "was still becoming acquainted with the situation [in Vietnam] when I returned to the U.S." LtGen William J. Van Ryzin, Comments on draft, n.d. [Oct94] (Vietnam Comment File).

** General Rosson years later observed: "Unhappily, a substantial
portion of the 320th was able to elude us, reorganize and return in
a matter of days. General Davis, who had followed the action as my Deputy,
harbored the view that the 320th should have been destroyed
south of the DMZ." Gen William B. Rosson, Comments on draft, dtd 27Feb95
(Vietnam Comment File).







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