Page 384

Page 384 (1968: The Defining Year)

the field, it was guarded until it could be repaired or recovered.
To abandon a vehicle was highly unusual, but in this instance necessary,
because of the flooding. When the Marines reached the vehicles on the
morning of 8 September, they found both destroyed by demolition and
fire, the result of enemy action.60*

The Communists, hardly heard from during the typhoon, also resumed operations. At 1800, 8 September, a Stingray patrol in the mountains west of the Arizona Territory sighted 146 enemy moving through a rice paddy at the base of Charlie Ridge. The reconnaissance team called for air and artillery support, killing 25 of the Viet Cong. The following morning, an enemy burial party appeared to recover the bodies. The Stingray patrol directed an airstrike against them, as well, accounting for another 20 Viet Cong.61

The 1st Marine Division ended Operation Sussex Bay on 9 September, citing as the reason the disruption caused by the "unfavorable weather conditions which prevailed during Typhoon 'Bess'."62 In fact, enemy activity in the Da Nang TAOR and the area to the immediate south was minimal, indicating that the combination of Operation Sussex Bay and Typhoon Bess had taken the fight out of the Communist units which had originally struck Da Nang on 23 August.

Group 44, the Communist unit which carried out the third offensive in the Da Nang TAOR, suffered heavily during the effort. According to Marine intelligence sources, Group 44 units lost 637 killed while staging for the offensive. In the attacks of 23 August, the main effort of the offensive. III MAF estimated over 230 enemy died. The heaviest Communist casualties, however, occurred during the next two weeks, when III MAF intelligence reports listed another 1,200 enemy killed, thus bringing the total estimated enemy losses during their offensive to more than 2,000 dead.63

Although not everyone in III MAF was certain at the time, the "third offensive" was over.64 Bold in concept but unspectacular in results, the offensive did not materially affect the progress of the negotiations in Paris, nor the balance of power in the Da Nang TAOR. In fact, it signalled the end of an enemy effort begun during Tet and continued in May, whose purpose was to inflict a decisive military defeat on Free World Forces in the Republic of Vietnam. Communist losses in these offensives were staggering, forcing them to change tactics. For now, their timetable would be delayed once more.

* Both the 2d and 3d Battalions, 5th Marines had to abandon tanks and LVTs
that had accompanied the battalions into the Go Noi. The VC or NVA burned
two LVTs that had been left by the 3d Battalion, but Colonel Stemple,
the 2d Battalion commander, recalled that the Navy several months later
provided a LCU (Landing Craft Utility) with a tank retriever and recovered
all of the tanks and the two remaining LVTs. According to Stemple, "miraculously,
the enemy had not discovered them and except for the water damage, they
were recovered intact." Col James W. Stemple, Comments on draft, n.d-
[1995] (Vietnam Comment File).

Page 384 (1968: The Defining Year)