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rip up the steel matting runway. Working parties destroyed over 800
bunkers and 3 miles of concertina wire, throwing the wire into the trenches
and filling them with soil. They slit open the countless sandbags and
emptied them, wrecked standing structures, and burned what remained
to the ground. As a final step to discourage the North Vietnamese from
attempting to dig through the ruins for useful material, the Marines
sprinkled the area with CS powder, an irritant chemical agent.77*

The enemy could not, and did not, misinterpret the activity at the
combat base. Communist political officers proclaimed the U.S. withdrawal
from Khe Sanh as a victory for the North Vietnamese Army. III MAF warned
units at Khe Sanh that, as the withdrawal proceeded, the enemy might
conduct limited offensive operations to lend credibility to their claims.78**

The prophecy came true on 1 July. Three kilometers southeast of the
combat base near the old French fort, the NVA began a series of light
probes against Company I, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines at 0325. The probes,
accompanied by mortar fire, continued for four hours. At 0725, a NVA
unit of at least company-size launched a full-scale assault on the Marine
perimeter to the accompaniment of mortar fire and 130mm guns. Alerted
by the probes, Company I quickly blunted the enemy attack and the North
Vietnamese broke contact. Later that morning, the Marines sighted the
enemy unit nearby and engaged it once more, calling in helicopter gunships
and attack aircraft. The fighting continued until late afternoon, with
the Marines reporting over 200 dead North Vietnamese, half of them within
100 meters of Company Is lines. Two Marines died in the engagement.79

For the next several days, the enemy continued to step up the pressure.
Occasional heavy incoming artillery and mortar fire fell on the hill
positions, and small groups of North Vietnamese probed Marine perimeters
attempting to cut through barbed wire barriers. There were no further
attacks, however, on the scale of that of 1 July.80

At 2000 on 5 July, the Khe Sanh Combat Base, now just a smoldering
scar on the land, officially closed.81 On the following day,
the 1st Marines sent their remaining rolling stock to Ca Lu by convoy.
As the last trucks passed over Route 9, engineers removed and recovered
the tactical bridging equipment which they had installed during Operation
Pegasus. Just before midnight on 6 July, Operation Charlie ended.82

The 1st Marines remained near Khe Sanh for another week, attempting
to recover the remains of the Marines who died in the fighting near
Hill 689. After days of seesaw battles which left 11 Marines and 89
North Vietnamese dead, the 1st Battalion finally recovered 7 bodies
under cover of darkness on 11 July using small teams operating by stealth.
With this accomplished, the 1st Marines boarded helicopters and flew
east to Quang Tri City.83

Twenty years after the battle, when asked to name the decision of
which he was the most proud, General Westmoreland replied, "The decision
to hold Khe Sanh."84 It had been a controversial move in
1968, but after the commitment in men and materiel to hold it, the decision
to evacuate the place was even more difficult for many to understand.
In fact, there were more American casualties at Khe Sanh and its immediate
vicinity after the breakout until the final evacuation of the base than
during the siege.*** As a battle which

* Colonel Billy R. Duncan, the commander of the 2d Battalion, 1st
Marines, wrote that at the time his unit departed Khe Sanh, "much of
the steel matting was still in place. Too difficult to remove . . ."
and the enemy guns were "still a daily threat." Col Billy R. Duncan,
Comments on draft, dtd 15Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File). Major Gary E.
Todd, the commander of Company I, 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, observed
that the dismantling required "working parties to move around exposed
and 'non-tactical' in what was still very much a tactical situation.
The more bunkers we destroyed and trenches we filled, the less protection
we had against incoming artillery, a fact not wasted on an ever-watchful
enemy." Maj Gary E. Todd, Comments on draft, dtd 28Oct94 (Vietnam Comment
File).

** General Hoffman stated he had instituted an orderly program of
withdrawing his units so as not to reveal his intentions to the North
Vietnamese. He blamed Correspondent John S. Carroll from the Baltimore
Sun for breaking news confidentiality and printing a story that the
Marines were abandoning Khe Sanh. According to Hoffman, the North Vietnamese
increased their bombardment after the publication of. the story. MACV
suspended Carroll's press credentials for six months. Hoffman intvw
and Comments. For the suspension of Carroll's accreditation, see also
John Prados and Ray W. Stubbe, Valley of Decision, The Siege of
Khe Sanh
(Boston and New York: Houghton Mif-flin Company, 1991),
p. 448.

*** The confusion about the number of Marine casualties in the Khe
Sanh battle is one aspect of the controversy over the defense of the
base. According to general Marine Corps records, the Marines sustained
casualties of 205 dead from November 1967 through the end of March,
the period of Operation Scotland. The casualty reporting system was
based on named operations rather than on actual locale. Another 92 Marines
were killed in Operation Pegasus during April, and another 308 during
Operation Scotland II through 30 June. Scotland II continued through
the end of the year with another 72 Marines added to the KIA list. Obviously
all of the operations included a broader area than the perimeter of
the Khe Sanh base itself, thus compounding the difficulty in determining
an exact number of casualties. To do so, the researcher must "clarify
the time span and geographical area of the so-called 'Battle of Khe
Sanh.'" Jack Shulimson, Sr, Vietnam Historian, Itr to Bert Mullins,
dtd 2Sep1983 (Vietnam War, Khe Sanh File, RefSec, MCHC). Former Navy
Chaplain Lieutenanr Commander Ray W. Stubbe, who has done extensive
research in this area, has provided the following figures based on his
findings: He found the number of Marines killed for Operation Scotland
to be 274 as opposed to 205. He cautions, however, that there are differences
between the figures given in the command chronologies and those in the
after-action reports and that none of the totals really jibe. Lieutenant
Commander Stubbe gives as the best total for Operation Scotland and
Pegasus, not including Lang Vei, as 560, including specialized Marine,
Army, and Air Force units. He gives a total of 219 KIA (Army and South
Vietnamese) for Lang Vei. Chaplain Stubbe explained that there were
many reasons for the discrepancies including staff officers frequently
engaged with an on-going operation, "while still attempting to write
reports on a previous operation." He also observed that for most troops,
"the entire period from the beginning of the siege until their departure
is, for them, their 'Khe Sanh battle.' Dates of the beginnings and endings
of the various operations are as artificial and abstract as the border
of Laos and Vietnam! It is the difference between 'lived' battles and
'officially recorded' battles." LCdr Ray W. Stubbe, USN, Comments on
draft, dtd 23Oct and 25Oct94 (Vietnam Comment File).







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