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force was to be prepared to assume responsibility for the Napoleon-Saline
area of operations on six-hours notice. General Cushman approved the
request and asked the task force commander to place a hold on the movement
of the amphibious ready group.

The shift of forces in Quang Tri Province was part of a general realignment
of units then taking place in Northern I Corps Tactical Zone. In early
June, MACV undertook a study to determine the feasibility and desirability
of reassigning tactical responsibilities within I Corps, a continuation
of the long-range force deployment planning study, "Military Posture,
Northern I Corps, 1 September 1968," submitted on 31 March 1968. The
March study expressed the desirability of having the two Marine divisions
operate in contiguous areas, areas which included deep-water port facilities
and existing Marine logistic installations. Over the next several months
the proposals contained in the March study were refined, and in June
the MACV study group suggested that the 1st and 3d Marine Divisions
be assigned the three southern provinces of I Corps under III MAF, while
the 23d Infantry (Americal) Division and 101st Airborne Division be
given the northern two provinces of the corps tactical zone.21*

While the proposal had a number of obvious tactical and logistical
advantages, there were a number of drawbacks. First, if such a readjustment
were to take place, the Army would, in all probability, create another
field force that would report directly to MACV. More importantly, Lieutenant
General Hoang Xuan Lam, as Commanding General, I Corps Tactical Zone,
would be placed in the position of having to deal with two separate
and competing commands within the zone, each of which reported directly
to MACV. The proposed transplacement of Army and Marine units within
I Corps, however, would be quashed for the moment by General Cushman
with the support of Lieutenant General Rosson, who at the time was still
Provisional Corps commander. In a message at the end of June, General
Cushman observed that "Gen Rosson continues to share my views [and]
. . . that current command relationships and projected troop dispositions
should not be disturbed at this crucial period of the conflict ....
However, if COMUSMACV decides to transplace . . . the earliest practical
time to consider changes of this nature is late spring 1969."22
General Chapman, the Marine Corps Commandant, noted that the Marines
would acquiesce to the plan only if "CG, III MAF retains overall command
of U.S. forces in ICTZ for the purpose of facilitating coordination
with ARVN, CORDS and the advisory effort, and for coordinating tactical
operations."23

As a collateral result of the proposed transplacement of Army and Marine
units within I Corps was the approval in early August of the exchange
of the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, under the operational control
of the 101st Airborne Division, with the 101st's own 3d Brigade, then
operating in III Corps. Conversion, involving the formation of two new
companies per battalion of the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne to a separate
light infantry brigade, was to be completed before the exchange, scheduled
to take place in September or October.24


While Lieutenant Colonel George F. Meyers' 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion, split between two positions on the Song Cua Viet and outposts at C-4 and Oceanview, continued a vigorous program of patrols and ambushes throughout the Napoleon-Saline area of operations, elements of Colonel Glikes' 1st Brigade concentrated on company and platoon patrols in Leatherneck Square, that area bounded by Con Thien, Gio Linh, Dong Ha, and Cam Lo.25 On 4 September, a platoon from Company A, 61st Mechanized Infantry was sent to the relief of Company M, 9th Marines, engaged in battle with a reinforced NVA company in bunkers west of Con Thien. Joined by a reaction force from Company C, 61st Infantry, and supported by artillery and airstrikes, the combined Marine and Army force fought back. In the two-and-one-half hour battle that followed, the American units reported killing more than 20 enemy soldiers. Friendly losses were placed at 6 killed and 55 wounded, the majority as a result of enemy rocket-propelled grenade hits on armored personnel carriers. Darkness and typhoon warnings prevented further exploitation of the battle area.26


Beginning late on 4 September, the rains came to Quang Tri Province and the Marine command took precautions to prepare for Typhoon Bess. First MAW units in Quang Tri either secured their helicopters or flew them to safe areas away from the storm. Other Marines sandbagged the collections of Southeast Asia huts with their tin roofs and other structures that characterized U.S. bases in the province. These preparations together with the expected heavy downpours and high winds greatly hampered military operations.


The typhoon struck the coast of northern I Corps between Da Nang and Phu Bai on the afternoon of the 5th. As the rains and wind began to subside, the

* See Chapter 13 for earlier discussion of the 31 March 1968 planning
effort.







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