with the 1st Squadron, 7th ARVN Armored Cavalry, supported by two
platoons from Company A, 3d Tank Battalion, simultaneously attacked
to the north and northeast of A-2 and Gio Linh.
South Vietnamese infantry troops on the right flank achieved almost immediate contact. Providing a base of fire for the advancing ARVN infantry, Marine tanks, firing 90mm canister and high-explosive rounds, led the assault, killing a reported 73 North Vietnamese troops. Contact was so close at times that Marine tankers were forced to use machine gun, as well as main gun fire, to break through the enemy's defenses and reach their objective.27 Following in the wake of the tanks, and supported by helicopter gunships, the ARVN infantry claimed to have killed an additional 68 enemy and captured one NVA soldier. On the left flank, after encountering mines and antitank fire, the three Army task forces soon joined the action, accounting for another reported 35 dead enemy soldiers and seizing a large cache of mortar rounds.28 The allied forces reached their northernmost objectives, turned south, and returned to their bases by late afternoon.
Demoralized and unable to defend against yet another combined ground
and massive supporting arms attack, the enemy withdrew northward. The
captured North Vietnamese soldier identified his unit as an element
of the 138th NVA Regiment. He further indicated that the 138th
Regiment had assumed control of the 27th Independent Regiment's
area of operations, due to the heavy casualties suffered by the regiment
in recent months.29
On 20 September, continuing the mission of denying the enemy freedom of action and movement throughout the Kentucky area of operations, Colonel dikes' brigade began a series of search and clear operations in the Khe Chua Valley, eight kilometers north of Cam Lo. While elements of the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry occupied blocking positions stretching for 2,000 meters at the head of the valley, Companies B and C, 77th Armor moved from positions at C-2 Bridge and C-4, along Route 561, and swept up the valley toward the 6lst's blocking positions.30 During the next three days, the units cleared the valley of small enemy units that could threaten not only nearby brigade outposts, but also Cam Lo. At the same time, the Army troops discovered and destroyed several large enemy tunnel complexes.
Heavy monsoon rains during the later part of September had swollen
the Ben Bai, forcing remnants of the 320th NVA Division and
independent regiments northward across the river. Intelligence, however,
indicated that some groups had been trapped in the south by the rising
water. Despite the weather, Companies B, C, and D, 11th Infantry moved
out from C-2 and C-2 Bridge at 0400 on the morning of 26 September.
In coordination with the 2d and 3d Battalions, 2d ARVN Regiment, and
the 3d Marines, the companies moved to a position west of Con Thien
and then attacked north across the southern boundary of the DMZ, toward
the Dong Be Lao mountain complex.
During an eight-day foray into the DMZ, the attacking elements of the 11th Infantry encountered no opposition. What few engagements took place were with the enemy's rear guard, which attempted to slow the advance. Searches of numerous bunkers and other complexes indicated that the enemy had abandoned the positions only recently. In his hasty retreat the enemy left behind numerous poorly concealed boobytraps and mines, and several large caches of ammunition and equipment which were destroyed by advancing forces. From all indications what enemy troops had been in the area had withdrawn north across the Ben Hai to the relative safety of North Vietnam.31
The battleship New Jersey (BB 62), arrived on station, off
the DMZ, on 29 September, and fired her first mission in support of
division and ARVN troops the following day. The arrival of the New
Jersey considerably enhanced the range and destructive power of
fire support available to the division. Her nine 16-inch guns could
each hurl a 2,760-pound shell to a maximum range of more than 38,000
meters, exceeding the range of a cruiser's 8-inch gun by 9,000 meters.
By the end of September enemy forces normally positioned along the eastern DMZ had withdrawn north of the Ben Hai, possibly into North Vietnam. The enemy had not been able, because of continued Army, Marine, and ARVN pressure, to initiate any portion of his planned Autumn Offensive. His attacks by fire and attempts at interdicting friendly lines of communication continued. Allied installations and tactical units in the northern portion of the province received periodic mortar, artillery, and rocket attacks. The heaviest attack occurred on 3 October when elements of the 2d ARVN Regiment received 170 rounds of 105mm artillery fire while engaged in a search and clear operation northeast of Gio Linh.
In addition, enemy sappers continued in their attempts to deny friendly forces the use of the Cua Viet. There were several instances when Navy patrol craft were hit by rocket propelled grenades, small arms, and automatic weapons fire from the banks of the river. Although the Navy continually swept the river for