Page 443

Page 443 (The 3d Division's Labors Bear Fruit )



CHAPTER 22

The 3d Division's Labors Bear Fruit

Elimination of

the Infrastructure-Rough Soldiering-Thua Thien and the End of the Year

The 3d Marine Division's persistent

mobile offensive during the autumn forced the enemy back into his base areas in

the hinterlands and the sanctuaries of North Vietnam and Laos. The withdrawal,

motivated more by necessity than by choice, nevertheless, afforded the enemy an

opportunity to refurbish his consistently outmaneuvered and battle-depleted

combat units. Hampered both by heavier than normal monsoon rains during

September and October and the offensive mobility of the 3d Division, the enemy,

nonetheless, retained the capability for harassing attacks against allied

installations and population centers. He also could still initiate a major

offensive against the South by marshalling his forces positioned north of the

DMZ.

The Government of South Vietnam, with

United States assistance, instituted a country-wide accelerated pacification (Le

Loi) campaign, on 1 November, designed to drive the enemy from populated areas

and provide extra momentum to the 1968 Revolutionary Development Program. The

purpose of the campaign was to organize government functions, establish

self-help projects, bolster local security, and eliminate the Viet Cong

infrastructure in a number of selected hamlets.

The inauguration of the Government's wide-ranging
pacification campaign coupled with the withdrawal north in late October
of the three regiments of the 320th NVA Division, as well as
the 138th and 270th NVA Regiments, now allowed the
3d Marine Division to turn a large portion of its efforts toward implementing
and expanding the pacification initiative. In the province's populated
coastal lowlands and piedmont, the 3d Division, and forces under its
control, would seek out those elements actively attempting to disrupt
the campaign. At the same time, it continued the bold employment of
Marine infantry in the mountainous jungles to the west.

Elimination of the Infrastructure

The departure of the 1st Cavalry

Division from northern I Corps in early November forced a realignment of forces

in the division's eastern area and a reduction in the commitment to the

anti-infiltration system along the DMZ. On 1 November, the 1st Brigade, 5th

Infantry (Mechanized), under the command of U.S. Army Colonel James M. Gibson,

was directed to move from the Kentucky area of operations into an area near

Quang Tri City. The new area, labeled Napoleon-Saline II, incorporated all of

the former Napoleon-Saline area, centered on Cua Viet, and the northern, or

Quang Tri, portion of the cavalry division's area of operations. Lieutenant

Colonel George F. Meyers' 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion, as a result, was

placed under the operational control of the brigade and continued search

operations in the former Napoleon-Saline area, now designated Area of Operations

Green. Lieutenant Colonel George E.' Hayward's 3d Tank Battalion, which had been

operating in the Napoleon-Saline area, was put in direct support of the 3d

Marines, which assumed control of the Kentucky area.

With the evacuation of the 1st Brigade

from positions just south of the DMZ, General Cushman requested and received

authority from General Abrams to close the strongpoints at A-3 and C-3.1 The two

outposts, part of the Dyemarker strongpoint and trace system, initially were

scheduled to be manned by a Marine regiment and a reinforced ARVN regiment.

Although all the strongpoints, with the exception of A-5, had been, or were in

the process of being completed, by mid-June, the 2d ARVN Regiment had only

secured three. A-1, A-2, and C-1. Marine forces occupied the remaining

strongpoints and combat bases. A revised plan, codenamed Duel Blade, submitted

by III MAF on 15 June, called for the ARVN regiment to relieve Marine units at

A-3 and A-4 by December and the elimination of the two westernmost combat bases.

However, in follow-on discussions between Lieutenant General Cushman and

Lieutenant General Lam, the I Corps Tactical Zone commander, the Vietnamese

general balked at committing ARVN forces to the two positions until the sensors

and intermediate barriers had been installed. Lam instead suggested that two

battalions of the 2d Regiment continue to occupy A-1, A-2, and C-1, while the

regiment's remaining two battalions be employed in a mobile role




Page 443 (The 3d Division's Labors Bear Fruit )