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With enemy activity in the eastern DMZ, particularly north of Con
Thien, on the rise, General Davis decided to act. In addition to sightings
of enemy tanks, Marine tactical fighter pilots and aerial observers
reported spotting trucks, truck parks, camouflaged revetments, storage
bunkers, and trenchlines. Of special interest were repeated sightings
of low, slow moving lights during hours of darkness which, it was assumed,
emanated from enemy helicopters or some other vertical take-off and
landing aircraft. The enemy, it was thought, "might well be using aircraft
to resupply forward positions with high priority cargo such as ammunition
and medical supplies or conducting medevacs after our techniques."14


Having strengthened his tactical position, but having committed all of his available forces, General Davis requested that Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/26 be made available to conduct a raid into the DMZ. In the event the landing team could not be committed to the incursion, Davis asked that the battalion relieve the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, so that it could initiate the raid. On 17 August, Lieutenant General Cushman approved Davis' request for BLT 2/26 to relieve the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, but stipulated that the battalion landing team would have to return to its amphibious shipping by 20 August.


Davis, however, was concerned. In a message to General Stilwell the following day, Davis noted that the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines had been alerted to deploy to the Da Nang area on 22 August. In addition, "there are other indications, that two battalions of the First Regiment will be moved prior to the first of September. These moves follow on the heels of the loss of the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines in May and the 2d Battalion, 26th Marines earlier this month." The Army's 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), over which the division had assumed operational control on l August, not only would not offset the loss, but also was not scheduled to be fully operational before September. "It is obvious," he concluded, "that a severe draw down on 3d Mar Div capability at this time will seriously limit my ability to maintain the present flexible, mobile posture which I feel is necessary if I am to continue the effective suppression of enemy activity in this area." He therefore recommended that the present 12 maneuver battalion strength of the division be maintained.15

In discussions with General Cushman, Stilwell reported Davis' concern.
General Cushman responded that only the two battalions of the 1st Marines
were to be reassigned to the 1st Marine Division. General Stilwell immediately
informed Davis of the decision: "You are advised to plan on moving the
two bns of the First Marines to First Mar Div in the latter part of
this month and to plan on retaining the Second Bn, Third Marines, as
an organic element of Third Mar Div."16 The maneuver strength of the
division would remain at 12 battalions, nine Marine and the equivalent
of three Army.*


In the event of a crisis in the northern sector, Stilwell notified the 101st Airborne Division to prepare to assume Task Force X-Ray's area of operations in Thua Thien Province, which was occupied by the 1st and 3d Battalions, 26th Marines. These two battalions then could be airlifted to Quang Tri Province to reinforce the 3d Marine Division.


On 18 August, Marine helicopters brought BLT 2/26 ashore into the Mai Xa Thi area on the Song Cua Viet, relieving the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines. Following two days of vigorous day and night patrols and ambushes, the battalion returned to its amphibious shipping off Cua Viet.17


Within a hour of the last of 60 B-52 Arclight strikes on 19 August, Lieutenant Colonel John E. Poindexter's 2d Battalion, 1st Marines assaulted three landing zones in the Trung Son region of the southern DMZ, five kilometers north of Con Thien. Covered by Companies A and B, 1st Marines and a platoon of tanks from Companies A and B, 3d Tank Battalion, deployed near Hill 56, 4,000 meters to the east, Poindexter's Marines swept east for approximately four kilometers,


* The 1st Marines was to replace the 27th Marines, which regiment would
return to the United States in September. In personal correspondence
in September 1968, Brigadier General E. E. Anderson, the III MAF Chief
of Staff, outlined the hard bargaining that occurred over the displacement
of the 1st Marines. He wrote: "We've had a considerable hassle over
the move of the 1st Marines . . . ." He declared that General Cushman
made the original decision because the 3d Division would have operational
control of the 1st Brigade, 5th Mechanized Division, but that "Davis
(the 3d Division commander} really complained that he just couldn't
get along with eight maneuver battalions plus an SLF, but had to have
a minimum of nine, plus a BLT." According to Anderson, "General Cushman
stood his ground for quite some time, but then Stilwell and Davis came
down and came forth with a counter-proposal . . . ." According to the
proposal, XXIV Corps would assume responsibility for the area between
Phu Bai and Phu Loc, then controlled by the 1st Marine Division Task
Force X-Ray. The III MAF commander then "reluctantly accepted the proposal.
. . ." III MAF and XXIV Corps, however, continued to discuss the specific
details about responsibilities and command structure in the former Task
Force X-Ray sector. BGen E. E. Anderson to LtGen W. J. Van Ryzin, dtd
HSep68, End, Gen Earl E. Anderson, Comments on draft, dtd 18Dec94 (Vietnam
Comment File), hereafter Anderson Itr to Van Ryzin, Sep68 and Anderson
Comments, Dec94.







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