Page 455

Page 455 (1968: The Defining Year)

search produced large caches of rice and grain in addition to numerous
bunkers and fighting positions which were destroyed. Operating in small
groups, the enemy chose to avoid contact whenever possible, posing little
or no threat to the maneuvering companies.15

On 14 November, Company A, 9th Marines was lifted by helicopter into
Landing Zone Miami and assaulted, seized, and occupied Hill 618, beginning
the construction of Fire Support Base Dick. Three days later, Company
E took Hill 347, overlooking the horseshoe bend in the Da Krong and
began construction of Fire Support Base Shiloh. With the completion
of Shiloh, the remaining three companies of Major Sisley's battalion
shifted their patrol operations west and south to the Laotian border,
meeting little enemy resistance.

With a realignment of divisional boundaries between the 3d Marine and
101st Airborne Divisions in late October, the Marine division's area
of operations was expanded southward presenting it an opportunity to
conduct major offensive operations in and west of enemy Base Area
and the Ba Long Valley.16 The first of a series
of offensive operations, codenamed Dawson River, began on 28 November,
as Colonel Barrow's regiment moved deeper into the new area; an area,
he noted, "which had never been entered before by any forces, other
than enemy, of course."17 Lieutenant Colonel Smith's 1st
Battalion simultaneously relieved Major Sisley's 2d Battalion, which
assumed the security for major Marine installations throughout the division's
western area of operations.

Broken down into companies and platoons, Laine's and Smith's battalions
thoroughly covered their assigned areas, finding numerous small caches
of enemy equipment, supplies, and a large number of graves. Although
they anticipated encounters with major elements of the 7th Front,
the only groups met in large numbers were Bru and other Montagnard tribesmen
who voluntarily surrendered and subsequently were resettled to the east.
In his assessment of the operation, which ended on 25 December, Colonel
Barrow noted that while the number of enemy killed was low, the regiment
provided a measure of security for the entire province:

We have
kept him on the move, which combined with the activity that has taken
place in the piedmont area to the east and the lowlands still further
east, keeps him entirely on the move in this area so that he has no
place that he can withdraw to as a sanctuary when pressure becomes too
great in one, in say the piedmont or the lowlands. We have . . . given
a measure of reassurance to the people operating in the lowlands and
piedmont that there are no large-scale enemy forces marshalling in these
mountains, in these jungles, preparatory to coming down to harass or
interdict their operations being conducted in those areas.18

Following a short, two-day stay at the division's in-country rest
and recreation center at Cua Viet, Lieutenant Colonel Smith's 1st Battalion
and the 2d Battalion, now under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George
C. Fox, prepared to assault landing zones north of Route 9 and begin
search operations west of Khe Sanh to the Laotian border.19
Concerned about the possibility of a Tet offensive on the scale of 1968,
Task Force Hotel and division staffs, as the year ended, began planning
for a foray into the lower Da Krong Valley, north of the A Shau Valley,
an area of increasing enemy activity and an area that had not been searched
or explored since early April.

Thua Thien and the End of the Year

To the south of the 3d Marine Division, in Thua Thien Province, the
101st Airborne Division continued the division-level operation, Nevada
Eagle. Targeted against local force units and the Viet Cong infrastructure
in the lowlands, and main and North Vietnamese Army forces in the mountains,
the operation's central objective was to maintain a favorable environment
for the South Vietnamese Government's Accelerated Pacification Campaign
in the heavily populated lowlands around Hue.

Working closely with local and Regional Force companies and elements
of the 3d and 54th ARVN Regiments, the division again concentrated its
efforts of elimination of Viet Cong forces from the districts of Phu
Vang, Huong Thuy, and Phu Thu. Techniques such as cordons, intensive
searches, saturation patrols, night ambushes, and the rapid exploitation
of intelligence appeared to be successful in rooting out enemy forces
and dissolving the existing lines of continuity within the local Viet
Cong infrastructure.

In addition to uprooting the Viet Cong and his sympathizers in the
populated lowlands, Major General Melvin Zais' airborne troops launched
a series of mobile operations into the mountains southwest of Hue. Throughout
the first, Nam Hoa I, Zais used combat assaults, flanking maneuvers,
and massed firepower to trap and destroy elements of the 5th NVA
. During the second, Rawlins Valley, elements of the division
employed similar techniques against the 6th NVA Regiment with
minimal results. However, both operations forced the enemy to withdraw
deeper into the mountains thereby abandoning his forward

Page 455 (1968: The Defining Year)