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hand tools, cleared the site.* A bulldozer was then brought in to
build ammunition berms and gun pits, later to be occupied by Battery
F, 12th Marines and elements of the 1st Provisional 155mm Howitzer Battery.
Captain Todd remembered that as soon as the bulldozer arrived, "the
artillery position quickly began taking shape" after relatively slow
progress by hand until that time.43 The building of Holcomb was. Barrow
concluded, "rather amusing because we almost over-killed the effort
with detail planning. But it was an experience that led us into refining
our techniques."44

During the next 13 days, LaMontagne's Marines swept through the rice paddies and cornfields that dotted the valley floor and into the double-canopied jungle that covered the high ground to the north and south of the valley. LaMontagne temporarily closed Fire Support Base Holcomb as the battalion began construction of Fire Support Base Henderson, five kilometers to the southwest. The lack of contact and any evidence to indicate recent enemy activity brought the Ba Long Valley operation to a close on 16 August. The battalion then abandoned the two fire support bases and returned to Vandegrift Combat Base.

Reconnaissance patrols operating north of Route 9 in the Lancaster
and Scotland areas of operation reported a dramatic upsurge in enemy
activity during the first two weeks of August. In the region around
Helicopter Valley, south of the DMZ, patrols sighted numerous small
bands of enemy troops moving south, indicating that the area was either
a much-used infiltration route or the possible site of several enemy
base camps. The area further west, and north of the Rockpile, also witnessed
an increase in enemy activity. A document captured by one patrol in
the area indicated that elements of the 52d Regiment, 320th NVA
had moved into the region recently. The Khe Sanh plateau
and the mountains west ofThon Son Lam and Ca Lu likewise were sites
of increased enemy activity.45 Taken together, these indicators pointed
to the fact that following several abortive attempts in the coastal
flatlands during the first half of the year, the division's three infantry
regiments again were moving south through the DMZ and into the mountains
north and west of the Rockpile, toward prepositioned caches of equipment
and supplies.46

Colonel Michael's 3d Marines was the first to establish contact with the forward elements of the enemy division. On 4 August, while conducting a two-company sweep on the southern slope of Dong Ha Mountain, Lieutenant Colonel Davis' battalion uncovered a 20-bunker complex just north of the Cam Lo River. The following day, Davis' battalion was joined in the area by three companies of Lieutenant Colonel Bates' 3d Battalion which assaulted into landing zones near Cam Hung, five kilometers further north. During the next seven days, elements of both battalions discovered and destroyed more than 400 newly constructed bunkers and captured large quantities of enemy equipment and munitions.

On 12 August, a North Vietnamese sergeant belonging to the 7th
Battalion, 64th Regiment, 320th Division
rallied to the 1st Battalion,
1st Marines at Con Thien. He informed the Marines that his regiment
had crossed the DMZ in the vicinity of Bay Nha, seven kilometers west
of Con Thien, and would move south along Mutter Ridge to Co Dinh within
three days. From there, the enemy planned to move southeast toward Cam
Lo and Route 9.47 With the confirmation of the sergeant's information
by aerial and ground intelligence, elements of Colonel Michael's regiment
deployed rapidly to block the enemy.

On the 13th, Companies B, C, and D, 3d Marines assaulted into Landing Zones Amy and Mack at the western end of Mutter Ridge. Finding little activity in the area, the three companies, on the morning of the 15th, moved by helicopter to Landing Zone Dick, six kilometers further east. Lieutenant Colonel Davis' 2d Battalion simultaneously began deploying north, while Lieutenant Colonel Bates' 3d Battalion moved into blocking positions centered on the Dong Kio Mountain complex. As Davis' Marines moved north of the Cam Lo River, sporadic sniper and occasional automatic weapons fire soon turned into a full-scale engagement. The Marine companies had run headlong into two companies from the 64th's 8th Battalion entrenched on Kho Xa, one-half kilometer north of the river. The Marines reported 43 of the enemy killed during this initial engagement.

On 16 August, in a further effort to cordon elements of the enemy regiment, the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Richard B. Twohey, who had replaced Lieutenant

* The daisy cutter was a conventional bomb, in this case a 2,000-pound bomb,
with a pipe extension on its nose that caused it to detonate just above
the ground, thereby clearing a large area. Major Gary E. Todd, the Company
I commander, recalled that "while the experiment of using daisy cutters
to help with initial tree-clearing seemed like a good idea during the
planning stage, experience quickly showed otherwise." He declared that
"instead of usable clearings, the first troops in were faced with jumbles
of fallen and partially fallen tree trunks intertwined into veritable
logjams." Maj Gary E. Todd, Comments on draft, dtd 19Nov94 (Vietnam
Comment File).

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