participate in the 1st Marine Division's operation Mameluke Thrust.*
Headquartered at Camp Carroll in the Lancaster II area of operations
were Colonel Edward J. Miller's 4th Marines and a battalion of the 9th
Marines. The 1st and 2d Battalions, 4th Marines, the latter organized
as a battalion landing team (BLT), and the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines
secured combat bases at Camp Carroll, Thon Son Lam, and Ca Lu, all centered
on Route 9. At Ca Lu, under the operational control of the 2d Battalion,
9th Marines was Lieutenant Colonel Daniel J. Quick's 3d Battalion, 1st
Marines, which like the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, was organized as
a battalion landing team.**
The largest of the division's four operational areas was Scotland II, which encompassed the western third of Quang Tri Province. Primary responsibility for operations within this area lay with the 3d Marine Division's Task Force Hotel, a multi-battalion task force commanded by Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Carl W. Hoffman. Hoffman's task force consisted of two battalions of Colonel Stanley S. Hughes' 1st Marines, and the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, under Lieutenant Colonel Jack W. Davis.
The three battalions under Brigadier General Hoffman's command were assigned the task of maintaining the defense of Khe Sanh Combat Base and the surrounding outposts on Hills 881, 861, 950, and other prominent terrain features. In addition, troops of the task force secured Route 9, the vital overland resupply route for the division's western-most fortified positions, from Landing Zone Stud and Ca Lu to Khe Sanh.
Providing artillery support for the division's ground elements were the four organic battalions of the 12th Marines under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Wilson A. Kluckman. A battery from the regiment, or another allied artillery unit under its operational control, was in position at every combat base and strongpoint, ready to support the maneuver battalions and to respond to enemy attacks by fire on allied installations or populated areas.
With the ground elements of the division generally tied to fixed positions, the tactical effectiveness of such a disposition offerees was limited. A considerable number of troops were needed to defend these installations strung out along the Demilitarized Zone. In turn, these fixed installations presented lucrative targets for both North Vietnamese ground forces and artillery gunners. Beyond immediate allied patrol zones, large areas of Quang Tri Province virtually belonged to the enemy.
The overall tactical situation in late May, therefore, might be viewed as one of balance. On the one hand the North Vietnamese had been soundly defeated in their attempts against major Marine bases at Khe Sanh and Dong Ha. On the other, allied forces had not attempted to penetrate the enemy's large base areas nor attempted to disrupt his supply and infiltration routes deep in the mountainous jungles of western Quang Tri.
This tactical disposition of the division's forces would be turned around with General Davis' assumption of command. Buttressed by the presence of two U.S. Army divisions, which greatly strengthened troop density in northern I Corps, Davis prepared to take the war to the enemy. After reducing the number of troops at fixed positions, he placed the 3d Marine Division in a more mobile posture, characteristic of ongoing Army air cavalry and airborne operations. "The way to get it done," Davis later recalled, "was to get out of those fixed positions and get mobility, to go and destroy the enemy on our terms-not sit there and absorb the shot and shell and frequent penetrations that he was able to mount."2
As Lieutenant General Rosson's deputy at Provisional Corps, Vietnam, Davis had observed first-hand the mobile operations of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. With extensive helicopter support, air cavalry troops "forgot about real estate" and applied the necessary forces directly against enemy troop dispositions.3 Drawing not only on these experiences, but also on classical amphibious concepts, and deep vertical envelopment techniques developed during the late 1950s, he devised a synthesis that combined elements of all three.4
Davis' concept of mobile operations was dependent upon adequate and
timely helicopter support. "I was very fortunate in this," he was later
to state, "that the later [and more powerful] model of the CH-46 was
arriving in-country in large numbers." In addition,
* See Chapter 17 for Mameluke Thrust, Colonel John C. Studt, who commanded
the 3d Battalion, 26th Marines, observed that his battalion's stay at
Quang Tri "was like R&R (rest and recreation) for the troops after Khe
Sanh." Much of the mission around Quang Tri for the battalion involved
rice protection and night security. He recalled that they had some success
with "the idea of building small ambush killer teams around experienced
deer hunters, i.e. if you can ambush a deer, you should be able to ambush
a VC." Col John C. Studt, Comments on draft, dtd 22Nov94 (Vietnam Comment
** BLT 2/4 and BLT 3/1 were the landing forces of SLFs Alpha and Bravo, respectively. Both battalions had been ashore and attached to the 3d Marine Division since late January. On 3 June, BLT 3/1 returned to the operational control of SLF Bravo. See Chapter 30.