incidents that occurred in the 3d Division during January 1968,* he
related "a lot of Marines either weren't getting educated or had completely
forgotten how . . . to set up a fire support coordination center and
get it operating properly." He stated he "particularly noticed this
up at Dong Ha. I noticed it, Westmoreland noticed it, gave me hell about
Marines not knowing their business."11**
General Cushman was not alone in his criticism. Brigadier General Louis Metzger, the 3d Marine Division assistant division commander in January 1968, later faulted U.S. artillery doctrine which called for firing artillery "at selected unobserved targets at certain intervals with the hope of catching the enemy at the point of impact or denying him movement." According to Metzger, this "was not very effective ..." and resulted only in the "expenditure of large amounts of ammunition." While admitting that "massive fires may be useful in certain combat situations," they were "of uncertain value in many others."12***
Still.by the end of March, the 12th Marines and the 3d Marine Division had taken several steps to improve artillery support. While acknowledging less enemy activity during the month, the author of the division's command chronology attributed a decrease of artillery ammunition expenditure more to "selective targeting and increased command emphasis on the judicious use of ammunition." In April, the division reported that it continued to place emphasis upon "the selection of the number of rounds and type fuze appropriate to the target under attack." Moreover, it claimed that the FSIC continued to "improve the accuracy and timeliness in reporting fire support information." During May, the 12th Marines drafted a new SOP (Standing Operational Procedure) for the 3d Division Fire Support Coordination Center that incorporated the changes in the combat situation and the establishment of the FSIC. By this time, the FSIC had largely expanded both the size and reliability of its data base.13
The month of May was a critical one for the 3d Division and its artillery.
It marked the beginning of mobile operations in both western and eastern
Quang Tri Province. In Operation Scotland II, the 3d Division Task Force
Hotel would be moving into operational areas beyond the range of the
guns at Khe Sanh and Ca Lu. The only solution was to build fire support
bases for the artillery. In eastern Quang Tri, the month witnessed the
successful repulse of a multi-battalion North Vietnamese force in the
vicinity of Dong Ha, the main Marine base in the north. While the initial
attack and fighting ended on 2 May in the Dai Do village sector, the
North Vietnamese attempted a new offensive later in the month. Employing
helicopterborne cordon tactics, supplemented by artillery as well as
close air support, Marine and attached Army infantry units drove the
North Vietnamese troops back into the DMZ with heavy losses. In support
of the May operations, the 12th Marines fired 330,000 rounds of mixed
caliber, more than any previous month including the two months of Tet,
January and February. In fact, the May total was only about 80,000 rounds
short of the total of those two months.14****
Mini-Tet and the Fall of Ngog Tavak and Kham Duc
The enemy thrust in the north in May was part of a second phase "Tet" offensive, labeled as "Mini-Tet" by the American command. For the most part, this second offensive was hardly a replica of the first as far as the extent and breath of the enemy actions. Except for the fighting in the north, a new assault on Saigon, and renewed pressure in the Central Highlands and along the Laotian border in southwestern I Corps, the enemy limited itself to attacks by fire and minor ground assaults. In the large Da Nang TAOR, the 1st Marine Division launched Allen Brook***** as a spoiling operation to prevent any consolidation of enemy forces in that sector. Still May was the bloodiest month of 1968 and for those Marine units involved in the heavier May engagements, they equalled any of the fighting up to that date. In the one major reversal for the allied forces during the enemy onslaught, the fall of the U.S. Special Forces camps at Ngog Tavak and Kham Duc, an artillery detachment from the 11th Marines, Battery D, 2d Battalion, 13th Marines, played a heroic role.
* See Chapter 3.
** Colonel Schick, the 12th Marines commander, observed that while
there were occasional problems with the artillery, General Cushman never
indicated to him that the job was not being done and that he remained
in his command slot for a full tour. Schick Comments.
*** Colonel Peter J. Mulroney, who assumed command of the 12th Marines
in July 1968, observed there are times when it is necessary to employ
unobserved fires: "Harassing and Interdiction fires are an essential
ingredient of a coordinated fire plan. While they don't have to be massive
they [need to] be thorough." Col Peter J. Mulroney, Comments on draft,
dtd 10Nov94 (Vietnam Comment Files).
**** See Chapters 15 and 16 for the battle for Dong Ha and operations
in Operation Scotland II.
***** See Chapter 17 for Operation Allen Brook.