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tying them together to form a living archway of vegetation beneath
which troops and vehicles could pass unseen from the air. Along the
road, the Marines found fighting holes, living bunkers, hospitals, kitchens,
and a wealth of equipment, especially tools. There were picks, shovels,
wrecking bars, axes, and explosives. Captain Gary E. Todd, who commanded
Company I, 3d Battalion, 9th Marines and a former division intelligence
officer, observed that the road "was a virtual clone of the Ho Chi Minh
Trail." According to Todd, it was "more than a road, it qualified as
a type of logistics infrastructure."63 Prisoners and
captured documents showed that the construction of the road was the
mission of the NVA 83d Engineer Battalion. One prisoner said
that the construction schedule called for the road to reach Hue by 30
July, a formidable task which would have required pushing the road through
the steep jungle terrain at a rate of over one mile-as the crow flies-per
day.64


For several days, the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines advanced along the road to the west, blasting apart bridges and culverts (sometimes with captured North Vietnamese explosives), cratering the road surface, and destroying the enemy facilities found along the way. Company A, 3d Engineer Battalion provided much of the technical expertise for the demolition project. The North Vietnamese avoided contact.65


As battalions returned to Khe Sanh from participating in Operation Robin North, they freed other units to join the 4th Marines in Operation Robin South. On 11 June, helicopters landed the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines near Lang Hole, a Montagnard village south of LZ Loon said by prisoners to be the site of 'a major enemy supply cache. The battalion searched the area for almost a week with only light contact.66


The 2d Battalion, 4th Marines joined its parent regiment in Operation Robin South on the morning of 14 June by conducting a helicopterborne assault onto the NVA road near the border with Laos. They advanced east along the road, toward the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, which was still moving down the road from the other end. The 2d Battalion found the western portion of the road as well developed as the rest. In one area they found a complex of over 500 bunkers and storage areas containing 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate (a crude explosive), hand tools, a welding machine, a one-and-one-half-ton truck and a complete machine shop mounted on a Russian three-ton truck. Unwilling to leave the latter prize behind, ingenious young Marine tinkerers dismantled the entire truck and machine shop, then transferred the pieces to Khe Sanh by helicopter where they reassembled it for the drive along Route 9 to the 3d Marine Division headquarters at Dong Ha.67

One hour before dawn on 15 June, a battalion or more of the North
Vietnamese 88th Regiment struck the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines
south of Lang Hole. Pressing their attack behind heavy RPG fire, the
enemy infantry penetrated Company M's lines and occupied several fighting
holes, setting up a machine gun in what had been the company command
post. As the battle entered its third hour, the Marines counterattacked,
ejecting the North Vietnamese from the perimeter. Helicopter gunships
harried the enemy attack formations, helping to reduce their enthusiasm
to continue the assault. Just before 0900, the North Vietnamese fired
a "green star cluster"* and the attack ended. The Marines swept the
area, occasionally engaging North Vietnamese troops who feigned death,
then "popped up" to fire their weapons. The final tally was 219 enemy
killed along with 11 prisoners, 82 weapons, and 20 radios captured.
The Marines lost 16 killed and 58 wounded.68


Despite the seemingly staggering casualties the North Vietnamese suffered on 15 June, the battle near Lang Hole appeared only to whet their appetites for fighting. The very next morning at 0215, they struck LZ Torch, a new fire support base near the jungle road which was defended by the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines since its withdrawal from LZ Loon. An enemy company fell upon the perimeter from the south and west, using mortar fire, RPGs, machine guns, and satchel charges to pave the way. Concentrating their assault on a small part of the perimeter, the enemy penetrated Company I's lines and advanced on the guns of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines. Under the light of flares, the Marine gunners leveled the tubes of their howitzers and slammed round after round of "Beehive" ammunition** into the attacking North Vietnamese. Although the enemy reached one of Battery C's gun emplacements, the "Beehive" proved too much for them. Leaving 28 dead, they fell back at 0400. Fourteen Marines died in the assault.69


The North Vietnamese continued their program


* A pyrotechnic signaling device.

** An artillery antipersonnel round which explodes sending thousands
of tiny darts, called flechettes, toward the enemy.







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