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The Third Offensive: Da Nang

Indicators-The Storm Breaks--Counterattack-Pursuit-Typhoon


As the 1st Marine Division Operations Allen Brook
and Mameluke Thrust entered their later stages in the summer of 1968,
the Communists cautiously avoided decisive contact, giving rise to the
theory that they were husbanding their resources for another offensive.
Rumors of an impending major attack by the enemy began to take on lives
their own. The expected Communist thrust was referred to variously as
the 'third offensive' (the Tet and the May offensives being the first
and second, respectively), the 'autumn offensive,' or the 'summer offensive.'
South Vietnamese President Thieu had warned on 10 July that 'the expected
Communist summer offensive against Saigon and other major cities might
come in two weeks and could be the last battle, the last all-out effort
by the Communists.'1 Ironically, 10 days later, North Vietnamese President
Ho Chi Minh seemed to have confirmed this statement when he exhorted
his countrymen to 'a final victory during the third offensive.'2

Marine infantry units captured prisoners, who, and
documents, which, further indicated Communist intentions. By late July,
III MAF intelligence officers knew enough about the enemy's plan to
be certain that Da Nang was the target of the threatened offensive.
The Da Nang National Police service captured a North Vietnamese officer
who revealed details of what he referred to as the 'X2 Offensive.' The
objective of this attack, he claimed, was to create a 'favorable political
situation for the North Vietnamese delegation at the Paris peace talks
to commemorate the forthcoming VC holidays and to attempt to gain the
support of the civilian populace.' According to his account, the Communist
forces would conduct the campaign in several phases. First, Viet Cong
sappers would infiltrate Da Nang disguised as ARVN troops and National
Police. During a series of attacks on cities and military facilities
throughout the country, these 'fifth columnists' would seize control
of key facilities in the city. Group 44 Headquarters assigned
two of these Viet Cong units, Reconnaissance Team X.2/89 and
the C.23 Reconnaissance Company, the tasks of assassinating
South Vietnamese government officials, hanging propaganda flags, distributing
propaganda leaflets, and harassing U.S. and ARVN units in Da Nang.3

While rocket and mortar batteries shelled the airbases
and U.S. headquarters facilities within the city, ground units would
attack from the west, south, and east (the latter across the Trinh Minh
The Bridge north of Marble Mountain Air Facility). Finally, the Communists
would 'call upon ARVN and U.S. forces to stage military revolts and
desert to the VC forces.' The prisoner claimed that the VC had collected
30 U.S. servicemen (deserters) who would assist them in fomenting an
uprising.* If the attack on Da Nang and the military revolt were successful,
the Communists would gather South Vietnamese intellectuals to coordinate
with the National Liberation Front for the formation of local coalition
governments in Da Nang and other captured areas and eventually, a national-level
coalition government.4

The enemy appeared to be throwing everything he had
into the effort against Da Nang. Enemy units scheduled to participate
in the attacks in the Da Nang TAOR included the 31st, 36th,
and 38th North Vietnamese Army Regiments, the R-20, V-25,
and T-89 Battalions, as well as the 368B Rocket Regiment.**
A rallier later reported that the Communist plan even included a contingency
for the use of North Vietnamese tanks and aircraft to turn the tide
as a last resort.6 Indeed, in late July, Marine reconnaissance teams
and air

* Indeed, Marine reconnaissance and infantry units
operating in the Da Nang TAOR during this period reported numerous sightings
of Caucasians moving with enemy units. One reconnaissance team shot
and wounded one of the Caucasians in an ambush, then heard the man call
for help in English.

** The 38th NVA Regiment represented no actual
increase of enemy units in the Da Nang TAOR. It was basically a coordinating
headquarters for several VC battalions that had operated there over
the years. According to Marine intelligence sources, it was established
in early May 1968 and collocated with Group 44 'to afford greater
control' during the mini-Tet and Third offensives. It consisted of the
V-25, R-20, and V-7 VC Infantry Battalions, and the
3d and T-87 Sapper Battalions. III MAF PerIntRep No.
35-68, dtd 3Sep68, p. A.-47, in III MAF PerIntReps, l4Jul-31Aug68.

Page 373 (The Third Offensive: Da Nang )