troller, an M60 machine gun team, grenadier, radioman, corpsman, team
leader, and a sufficient number of riflemen to accomplish the assigned
mission, the killer teams, which ranged in size from 14 to 22 men, operated
in remote areas for a three to five-day period. Unlike long-range reconnaissance
patrols, these teams were encouraged to engage enemy forces attempting
to move within striking distance of regimental fire support bases.
By 10 October, Lieutenant Colonel Bourne's Marines had taken their final objectives: Hills 689, 552, and 471; and the villages of Khe Sanh and Houng Hoa. The 3d Battalion and the two ARVN Battalions then shifted the emphasis of their attacks. The 3d and 4th Battalions, 2d ARVN Regiment swept north off Hill 881 toward Lang Suat until the 19th when they returned to Dong Ha. At the same time, Bourne's battalion conducted extensive reconnaissance and search operations in the Khe Xa Bai Valley where it was believed that the enemy had stored extensive caches of ammunition, food, and weapons. After establishing Fire Support Base Gurkha, atop Hill 632, on 12 October, 3d Battalion Marines moved off the hill and into the surrounding river valley. During the last days of October, they were in the process of slowly working their way toward the summit of Dong Pa Thien, one of the highest pieces of terrain in South Vietnam. Their search failed to uncover any evidence of recent enemy activity in the area. What they did find were three to four-month old grave sites, unserviceable bunkers, and four to six-month old enemy equipment and weapons. What enemy that the Marines sighted showed no inclination to contest the battalion's forward movement.
The 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, now under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James L. Fowler, was joined during the last week of October by Major Kent's 2d Battalion which was helilifted onto Hill 665 and established Fire Support Base Alpine before sweeping north in an effort to seize a regimental objective near Lang Ho. After Kent's Marines reached the objective, they conducted extensive patrols in the area, uncovering small caches of new and used medical equipment and supplies. On 30 October, Companies F and G assaulted into landing zones west of Alpine and began a sweep to the east, encountering no enemy resistance.
The 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Elliott R. Laine, Jr., who had replaced Lieutenant Colonel LaMontagne on the 24th, searched Dong Ca Lu and the hills west of Vandegrift without success. Meanwhile, Major Sisleys 2d Battalion moved into the northeast portion of the Vietnam Salient on 26 October. Like Kent's Marines to the north, Laine's battalion, operating 20 kilometers southwest of Vandegrift near the Laotian border, encountered only token resistance as it searched the 10-meter-wide road running from Laos into South Vietnam. As Colonel Barrow reported: "We searched out the road, interdicted it, destroyed it, conducted extensive patrol operations, killed a few, [and] picked up some gear."65
The 246th NVA Regiment had moved back into Laos to regroup
and refit. Combined with the defeat of the 48th and 52d
Regiments, 320th NVA Division, the northwestern region of I Corps
was now devoid of major enemy units. This lack of sizeable enemy forces
allowed the highly mobile attacking elements of the 4th and 9th Marines
to cover a wide expanse of terrain in the far reaches of western and
southern Quang Tri Province in a series of heliborne maneuvers. The
3d Marine Division would continue to refine these highly mobile tactics
during the last two months of 1968.
Coastal Quang Tri and Thua Thien: A Shift
The 1st Air Cavalry Division and the 3d ARVN Regiment, as August began, continued to conduct company and battalion-sized cordon and search and clear operations in the populated coastal plains of Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces. Their mission was to ferret out the Viet Cong infrastructure, destroy enemy main force units, and support the Revolutionary Development Program. Company and battalion reconnaissance-in-force operations were conducted simultaneously in enemy Base Areas 101 and 114 in the mountains, aimed at destroying the enemy's logistics and command and control facilities.
There was moderate contact as elements of the division's three brigades searched the coastal lowlands for the Viet Cong and his rice storage areas. Shortly after midnight, in the early morning hours of 16 August, enemy forces launched a mortar and ground attack against Landing Zone Nancy, nine kilometers northwest of Camp Evans. The positions of Companies D and E, 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry, at Nancy, took more than 150 rounds of 82mm mortar, followed by a ground attack by 20 enemy sappers who broke through the perimeter, killing 18 soldiers and wounding another 71. Four days later, a helicopter from A Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry came under heavy automatic weapons fire while conducting a "snatch" operation in an area seven kilometers north-