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CHAPTER 21

Counteroffensive Operations in Southern ICTZ

The Situation in September-Operation
Maui Peak-The End of Mameluke Thrust and Renewed Attacks on Da Nang-Operation
Meade River-Operation Taylor Common

The Situation in September

Following the failure of the Communist 'Third Offensive'
in late August, III MAF forces in southern ICTZ pursued enemy forces,
attempting to defeat them in detail, until Typhoon Bess brought most
offensive operations to a halt. During the first week in September,
60-knot winds and 20 inches of rain battered the Da Nang area. Rivers
swelled, flooding low-lying areas and carrying away bridges. Trenches
and bunkers collapsed, mud slides closed Route 1 over Hai Van Pass,
and aircraft remained grounded. In consolation, III MAF Marines had
the satisfaction of knowing that the typhoon brought misery to the enemy,
as well, flooding their many underground caches of food and arms.1*

In the wake of the typhoon, III MAF forces underwent
major organizational changes. On 10 September, the 27th Marines redeployed
to the United States following seven months of combat in Vietnam, reducing
by three the number of infantry battalions available to General Cushman.
Colonel Robert G. Lauffer's 1st Marines, under the operational control
of the 3d Marine Division since late March returned at the end of August
and early September to the 1st Marine Division and relieved the 27th
Marines. The 2d Light Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion, based near Chu
Lai, which had stood ready to engage enemy aircraft since September
1965, but had never fired one of its HAWK missiles in anger, prepared
for redeployment to the U.S. Operation Houston ended on 12 September,
after more than six months during which the 5th Marines, and then the
26th Marines, kept Route 1 open between Phu Bai and Da Nang, killing
a reported 702 enemy in the process. As Houston ended, XXIV Corps units
assumed control of the area around Phu Bai, allowing General Youngdale
to dissolve Task Force X-Ray and move the 26th Marines south to the
Da Nang TAOR.2**

While III MAF realigned forces, the enemy began recovering
from the effects of the typhoon and the defeat of the Third Offensive,
albeit the recovery was somewhat slow. At the same time, the Communists
maintained pressure through small-scale terrorist and sapper attacks.
In one small, but spectacular incident, an enemy sapper, using a bamboo
reed as a snorkel, swam through heavy debris clogging the Vinh Dien
River to place an explosive charge under the Tu Cau Bridge. The Marines
guarding the bridge saw the sapper and took him under fire, but could
not stop the attack. The charge exploded, damaging a 28-meter section
of the bridge and closing it to vehicles.3

Southwest of Da Nang, Operation Mameluke Thrust continued,
with the 5th Marines conducting offensive operations in the Arizona
Territory and the An Hoa area, and the 7th Marines resumed offensive
operations north of Go Noi Island immediately following the typhoon.
On 14 September, Lieutenant Colonel Francis X. Quinn, the 3d Battalion,
7th Marines commander, sent two of his companies, L and M, to establish
blocking positions in support of an ARVN operation in the 'Dodge City'
sector outlined by the Thu Bon, Ai Nghia, and La Tho Rivers. As Company
L started to move into its blocking position about 4,000 meters south
of Hill 55, it came under automatic weapons and small arms fire as well
as a mortar barrage from a Communist force of unknown-size, well-entrenched
in concealed bunkers. In the ambush, the Marine company suffered heavy
casualties, reporting 1 known dead, 21 wounded, and 4 Marines missing
in action (MIA). Reinforced by Company M, Company L 'returned fire and
tried to retrieve the MIAs, but [were} unable to do so.' Pulling back
to more defensive positions, the two Marine companies called upon supporting
artillery and airstrikes as the fighting continued into the night. The
Marines did capture one North Vietnamese prisoner who identified his
unit as the D-3 Sapper Battalion.4

During the early morning hours of the 15th and under
the cover of darkness. Lieutenant Colonel Quinn brought up his command
group and newly attached

* See Chapters 19 and 20 for accounts of the havoc
that Typhoon Bess caused at Da Nang and in the DMZ respectively.

** See Chapters 19 and 20 as well about the departure
of the 27th Marines and the arrival of the 1st Marines at Da Nang.









Page 414 (Counteroffensive Operations in Southern ICTZ )