east of Quang Tri City.* Three companies of the 1st Battalion, 8th
Cavalry and two troops of the 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry air assaulted
into the area and eventually placed a cordon around the suspected villages,
trapping the 808th VC Battalion. Fighting over the next three
days resulted in the capture of 14 prisoners, 58 weapons, and the reported
deaths of 144 enemy soldiers.
During late August a gradual concentration of Communist forces was
noted in the eastern portion of Base Area 101, a region known to be
heavily fortified and believed to contain several battalion base areas
and storage facilities. The area also lay across a major rice route
and was an important link in the transportation of rice from Hai Lang
District to the western mountains. On 11 September, Operation Comanche
Falls-Lam Son 261 began in the base area in an effort to destroy enemy
forces, caches and bunker complexes prior to the arrival of the northeast
monsoon. Two battalions of the 5th and 8rh Cavalry and two battalions
from the 1st and 3d ARVN Regiments assaulted into landing zones along
the southern boundary of the base area. One battalion of the 7th Cavalry
seized landing zones in the southeast portion and a Regional Force battalion
from Quang Tri secured landing zones in the northeast portion. As the
latter two battalions established blocking positions and interdicted
enemy trails in the piedmont, the four maneuvering battalions attacked
through jungle canopy to the northeast. After 21 days of sustained combat,
the combined cavalry and ARVN force had succeeded in denying the enemy
his forward support base area and disrupting his lines of communication.
In addition to destroying several large base camps, allied forces reported
killing more than 270 NVA soldiers.
With the destruction of enemy installations in Base Area 101, the
division began operations to interdict enemy movement toward the A Shau
Valley and to destroy reported large supply installations west of the
base area. On 2 October, the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry, followed by
two battalions of the 1st ARVN Regiment, assaulted into landing zones
southwest of the base area and began a sweep to the western limits of
the division's area of operations. Although contact was light and sporadic
during the remainder of the month, the combined allied force destroyed
several large enemy supply installations and captured tons of ammunition.
As elements of the 1st Cavalry Division continued their search for
enemy forces in the mountains and throughout the coastal plains, General
Stilwell, on 26 October, alerted the division's commanding general,
U.S. Army Major General George Forsythe, that his forces would be deployed
to III Corps Tactical Zone. Once in place, II Field Force, Vietnam would
assume operational control of the division. In a message to General
Cushman, General Abrams outlined the threat in III Corps which necessitated
the move. He noted:
directed the move on the basis of the tactical situation in South Vietnam
and my continuing assessment of the enemy's capabilities throughout
the country to include his capability to reinforce from out of country.
I believe that a part of his problem in northern I Corps is inadequate
logistic support. This may be temporary. The absence of some enemy units
from northern I Corps may also be temporary. In the meantime he has
steadily built his capability in III Corps and the sanctuaries in Cambodia.
As Abrams viewed the situation, the mounting enemy threat to III Corps
had to be blunted and therefore he was forced to make the decision to
move the 1st Cavalry Division sooner instead of later. Should a change
in situation warrant it, he concluded, the division could be moved quickly
back to I Corps. Although it had no bearing on his decision, Abrams
saw the move as a opportunity for the 1st ARVN Division to "shoulder
a bigger part of the load."66**
The advance party of the Army's cavalry division departed I Corps
on 27 October. The following day the 3d Brigade was airlifted to Quan
Loi and put under the operational control of the 1st Infantry Division.
Combat elements of the 1st Brigade simultaneously deployed to Tay Ninh
and came under the control of the 25th Infantry Division.
* "Snatch" operations were conducted in restricted areas, along waterways
or roads and in populated areas. Using a UH-1H "Huey" helicopter with
an infantry fire team, interpreter, and a national policeman on board
and an armed OH-6A "Loach," the snatch team patrolled restricted areas
looking for targets. If individuals were discovered, the team would
swoop out of the sky and round them up. After interrogation by the policeman,
Viet Cong suspects would be transported to detainee collection points
and innocent civilians transferred to the district headquarters.
** General Earl E. Anderson, in 1968 the III MAF Chief of Staff, observed
that the Marine command lost the 1st Air Cavalry Division, "just on
the basis of a phone call." As early as 11 September 1968, III MAF had
received a message from General Abrams, "asking us to comment on the
effect upon III MAF of our furnishing an AirCav troop and an air-mobile
brigade for use in III Corps, commencing 1 Dec." BGen E. E. Anderson
Itr to MajGen F. E. Leek, dtd 4Nov68, end, Anderson Comments, Dec94;
Anderson Irr to Van Ryzin, Sep68; Anderson Comments, Dec94.
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