than 150 enemy soldiers, and large stores of arms, ammunition, and
The 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, which was operating in an area generally
east of Sparks' battalion and south of Galbraith's battalion, was placed
under the control of Colonel Barrow's regiment on 19 September. For
the next several days, the 9th Marines controlled six battalions, two
thirds of the division's infantry battalions. These six battalions were
attacking in all directions and Colonel Barrow noted:
2d Battalion, 9th Marines . . . [was) still attacking generally to the
west with part of... [its] forces and generally to the east with another;
the 3d Battalion, 9th was attacking to the west; the 1st Battalion,
9th and 1st Battalion, 4th were attacking to the south; the 2d Battalion,
26th was attacking to the north; and the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines was
generally conducting heavy patrol activities in all directions. So the
pattern of activity was one that would frustrate the Marine Corps School's
problem directors I am sure, but the tactical situation dictated this
type of maneuver.
According to Barrow, "this was all done from a very austere regimental
command post in the field." He continued: "It is a great credit to my
staff that they performed all of the fire control effort and the rest
of the activities related to fire and maneuver in the most exemplary
There were indications by 23 September that the north-south push was
having an effect on the scattered elements of the three enemy regiments.
Instead of moving north and being trapped, the enemy forces began to
reorient their attempts at escape to the east and west. Responding to
this apparent shift, Colleton's battalion was directed to drive west
while Galbraith's Marines pushed east.
Lieutenant Colonel Twohey's 1st Battalion, 3d Marines would continue
its attack east along Mutter Ridge as Lieutenant Colonel Sparks' battalion
landing team and Lieutenant Colonel Bryon T. Chen's 2d Battalion, 3d
Marines attacked north.* This maneuver, coupled with an attack on 26
September by three companies of the Army's 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry
and two battalions of the 2d ARVN Regiment west from C-2, was designed
to cut the enemy's escape routes and destroy what remained of the three
While Colleton's Marines continued to search the 400-meter high ridgeline
generally paralleling the southern boundary of the DMZ, sweep operations
west of the Rockpile came to an end. On 29 September, the 2d Battalion,
9th Marines, now commanded by Major Frederick E. Sisley, was helilifted
to Vandegrift Combat Base, followed on 1 October, by the regimental
command group and Lieutenant Colonel LaMontagne's 3d Battalion, 9th
Marines. With the departure of the 9th Marines from Winchester, operational
control of Sparks' BLT 2/26 was passed to the 3d Marines.
The division expanded its search operations within the DMZ as the
new month began. On 1 October, BLT 2/26 replaced the 1st Battalion,
4th Marines in the DMZ and was tasked with destroying a recently built
road, an extension of North Vietnam Route 1022 southward into the DMZ.
Discovered by Galbraith's Marines,** with the assistance of an aerial
observer, in late September, the road complex generally followed the
Ben Hai River before turning south, two kilometers west of Dong Ong
Cay, and ending 2,000 meters north of the DMZ southern boundary. North
of the river, the road was well-developed, open and easily located from
the air as well as from prominent terrain features in the southern DMZ.
Once it crossed the river, it was well-camouflaged and difficult to
spot because of overhead cover. Built entirely by hand labor, the road
was hacked out of the jungle, lined with timber, and ringed with base
camps and fighting positions.
Sparks' battalion, with two companies in the attack and one in reserve,
moved slowly north along the road, destroying all enemy structures as
they searched for elements of the 52d Regiment and its suspected
command and control complex. Continually bombarded by artillery and
mortars, the battalion's Marines fought small groups of determined and
well-trained enemy soldiers in well-concealed and heavily bunkered reverse-slope
defensive positions. Once friendly supporting arms were brought to bear,
the enemy would withdraw, only to take up a defensive posture in yet
another prepared position.
* Lieutenant Colonel Chen replaced Lieutenant Colonel Jack W. Davis
on 20 September as Commanding Officer, 2d Battalion, 3d Marines.
** Colonel Thomas H. Galbraith, then the commander of the 1st Battalion,
4th Marines, later remembered that his battalion discovered the road
on about the third or fourth night after they had entered the DMZ and
started to move south: "I heard motors off in the distance. Seems that
I heard them for two or three nights and couldn't figure out who had
trucks operating in these hills." His recollection was that he "reported
hearing them to Colonel Barrow . . . and in the next day or so a helicopter
came to pick me up to see if I could point out where the sounds had
come from." Galbraith wrote: "I recall having been very disappointed
in nor being able to see anything at all-I felt like the boy who had
cried 'wolf-but as it turned out, the road was indeed there, superbly
hidden by canopy and camouflage, and what I had heard was the motors
of the trucks and/or heavy equipment that were being used to build it."
Page 404 (1968: The Defining Year)