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target. When the shots ended, one of the Vietnamese stood up with
his hands in the air. The other five were dead, killed "execution style
by a bullet to the back of the head, apparently while in a kneeling
position." The sole survivor refused to answer any questions, but, according
to Stemple, his "manner and dress indicated that this was not a run-of-the-mill
local VC." The battalion commander later learned that his prisoner turned
out to be die chief political officer of the North Vietnamese Command
Group 4
.91


Starting on 11 December, a major reshuffling of III MAF units occurred as a result of Operation Taylor Common. The requirement to penetrate and "neutralize" the vast reaches of Base Area 112, while simultaneously maintaining the security of the Da Nang TAOR, called for the employment of a large force. With the 27th Marines no longer in Vietnam, the 1st


Photo from the Abel Collection

In
a formal change of command ceremony, MajGen Ormond R. Simpson, left,
accepts the colors of the 1st Marine Division from his predecessor as
division commander, MajGen Carl A. Youngdale. Gen Youngdale became the
Deputy Commander. III MAF
.




Marine Division did not have enough units to accomplish both tasks. To assist in the effort, General Cushman ordered Colonel Michael M. Spark's 3d Marines to redeploy from Quang Tri Province to Quang Nam. General Raymond G. Davis' success in reducing the 3d Marine Division's requirement for fixed garrisons by employing his forces in mobile operations made this move possible.92


Colonel Sparks headquarters moved to An Hoa on 9 December, ahead of the regiment's subordinate battalions. The plan called for the 3d Marines to conduct the actual penetration of Base Area 112 while the 5th Marines secured An Hoa. As the enemy situation around An Hoa did not indicate the need for a full regiment to protect the base. General Dwyer ordered elements of the 5th Marines placed under Colonel Spark's control. Lieutenant Colonel Harry E. Atkinson's 3d Battalion reported on 11 December and became the first unit to penetrate Base Area 112 during Operation Taylor Common.93


On the morning of the 11th, artillery and aircraft blasted and bombed Hill 575, about eight kilometers southwest of An Hoa, in an attempt to create a suitable landing zone in the heavily forested terrain. When the fires lifted, some trees remained, so a platoon from Company B, 3d Engineer Battalion and a platoon from Company K, 5ch Marines rappelled from helicopters into the LZ to complete the job. At 0950, the rest of Company K landed and the Marines set to work developing the hilltop into what would be called FSB Lance, part of Dwyer's planned network of fire support bases from which TF Yankee units could range throughout Base Area 112.94


Two days later, on the 13th, Spark assumed control of Lieutenant Colonel Stemple's 2d Battalion, 5th Marines. Again a platoon of Company B, 1st Engineers Battalion accompanied this time by a platoon from Stemple's Company E rappelled onto a hilltop near the southwest corner of the Arizona Territory and blasted out an LZ. By evening, the rest of the 2d Battalion had landed and was busy establishing FSB Pike. Just as in the landings at FSB Lance, there was no enemy resistance.95

The organic units of the 3d Marines began arriving in Quang Nam on 13 December.
By the following day, both the 1st and 3d Battalions were at An Hoa,
preparing to enter Base Area 112.96


Meanwhile, TF Yankee was employing a new weapon to prepare LZs tor the introduction of the newly arrived battalions. The M-121 Combat Trap was a 10,000 pound bomb which parachuted to the




Page 439 (1968: The Defining Year)