passed responsibility for the area of operations to the 1st Marines.
The following day, the 3d Marines assumed responsibility for the Lancaster
II area of operations and the regimental headquarters was deployed to
Throughout the Napoleon-Saline area of operations during the remainder
of the month, Colonel Dwyer's 1st Marines continued search and sweep
operations on both the northern and southern banks of the Song Cua Viet
to insure the uninterrupted passage of allied shipping and to deny the
enemy access to rocket positions oriented towards Dong Ha, Quang Tri,
and Cua Viet. In addition, Dwyer's Marines coordinated the defense of
outposts at C-4 and Oceanview, both within a kilometer of the southern
boundary of the DMZ.
While contact with elements of the 138th NVA Regiment, known
to be operating in the area, was negligible, contact with the V-51
and C-59 Local Force Viet Cong units was light and widespread.
One of the heaviest engagements took place on the 22d when Company H,
1st Marines, while occupying a patrol base south of the Cua Viet, 10
kilometers east of Dong Ha, spotted an armed enemy platoon dressed in
black pajamas, moving along the coastal sand dune east of the village
of Thon My Loc. The Viet Cong platoon was taken under fire with small
arms, artillery, and 81mm mortars. A sweep of the area by the Marine
company revealed numerous spider holes, punji traps, a bamboo house
with hot food for approximately 30 people, and 10 Viet Cong bodies.23
The second of the two ground operations to exploit the results of Operation Thor began on 7 July when the 9th Marines began a west to east sweep of the area between Con Thien and the DMZ in the Kentucky area of operations. Unlike the violent action experienced by the 3d Marines in the Napoleon-Saline area, the 9th Marines attack met little enemy resistance. If enemy forces had been driven south of the Song Ben Hai into the Kentucky area by the massive artillery and air attack, they quickly had returned to their sanctuaries in the north. High temperatures and equally high humidity, however, posed a major hazard, and everything possible was done to ensure an adequate water supply. Heavy U.S. Army ammunition trailers hooked up to ARVN armored personnel carriers were filled with water cans, greatly reducing the need for continual helicopter water resupply.24 Despite the precautions. Smith's regiment suffered numerous heat casualties.
The most significant contact during the regiment's drive northward occurred on 11 July, four kilometers northeast of Con Thien, when elements of Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. LaMontagne's 3d Battalion discovered a reinforced NVA platoon in the open. Fixing the enemy platoon in place with small arms fire, LaMontagne's Marines, with air, artillery, and tank support, launched a coordinated air-ground attack through the area killing more than 30 enemy troops and seizing 26 weapons.
Elsewhere in the area, attacking units of the 9th Marines uncovered and destroyed numerous enemy fortifications, many of which contained ammunition and equipment. A few of the positions were lightly defended, but the majority were abandoned. One bunker system discovered by LaMontagne's Marines, 4,000 meters due north of Con Thien, spanned more than one kilometer. In addition to 242 well-constructed bunkers, the complex contained a large mess hall with hot food still on the tables. Supplies and equipment abandoned by the enemy in his flight included weapons, 935 mortar rounds, 500 pounds of explosives, 55 antitank mines, and 500 pounds of rice. LaMontagne's Marines also found 29 NVA bodies, killed by artillery and airstrikes during the advance on the complex.
After 10 months as commanding officer of the 9th Marines, Colonel Richard B. Smith was relieved on 13 July by Colonel Robert H. Barrow. A veteran of China service during World War II and the Chosin Reservoir campaign in Korea, Colonel Barrow was assigned to the division at the request of General Davis. Three days later, the regiment displaced to Landing Zone Stud in preparation for future operations under Task Force Hotel in the Lancaster II area of operations. With the move to Stud, the regiment's battalions were brought together for the first time since May 1967, "to the enthusiasm and jubilance of all hands."25
As the 9th Marines departed, Colonel Dwyer's 1st Marines assumed tactical responsibility for the Kentucky area. The regiment also had operational control of newly created Task Force Mike, consisting of a command group from the 3d Tank Battalion and a company of 3d Reconnaissance Battalion Marines, and Lieutenant Colonel Francis J. Heath's 2d Battalion, 26th Marines. During the remaining days of July, Dwyer's Marines concentrated on aggressive day and night ambushes, patrols, searches, and minesweeping operations, while concurrently securing fixed installations throughout the area of operations. Although enemy contact was very light, the 1st Marines did take a number of casualties from mines and surprise firing devices.