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In northern I Corps, the allies prepared to take the fight to the
enemy in some of his former sanctuaries with massive new concentrations
of supporting arms including both air and artillery. While American
artillery had employed counter-battery campaigns across the DMZ from
time to time, the NVA gun and rocket emplacements in Laos at Co Roc
and other positions west of the Khe Sanh base, had remained relatively
free from retaliation by the American guns.*


In mid-May, in support of Task Force Hotel's expanding operations in western Quang Tri, Provisional Corps Vietnam authorized the 12th Marines to conduct what amounted to an artillery raid, codenamed Drumfire II, against NVA logistic centers, gun emplacements, and suspected troop rendezvous sites. From 29 through 30 May, the 12th Marines moved a total of seven large artillery pieces, four 175mm guns and three 8-inch howitzers, from Thon Son Lam, C-2, and Ca Lu to new firing positions inside or just outside the Khe Sanh fire base. Arriving first, the 8-inch howitzers opened up shortly after midnight on 30 May at the enemy guns at Co Roc across the border in Laos.24

From 30 May through 1 June in Drumfire II, the American artillery
fired a total of 158 missions (59 8-inch and 99 175mm) amounting to
1,825 rounds (1002 8-inch and 823 175mm) at enemy targets in the Laotian-South
Vietnamese border region with mixed results. Bad weather during this
period hampered the aerial observation over the region. Of the number
of missions, only seven of the 175mm and five of the 8-inch missions
were observed. Of the 175mm missions, air observers reported a total
of three bunkers and two structures destroyed, one secondary fire, four
road craters, and "excellent target coverage" on an enemy storage area.
The results of the observed 8-inch fires were not spectacular either,
with the possible exception of the bombardment of a North Vietnamese
bunker complex west of Khe Sanh just inside the South Vietnam border
that destroyed two of the bunkers with "outstanding coverage."25**


Lieutenant Colonel Wilson A. Kluckman, who had just assumed command of the 12th Marines on 22 May and had moved a forward control headquarters to Khe Sanh for Drumfire II, recommended more such operations, but admitted to several shortcomings in the past instance. For one thing, he observed that proximity to nearby infantry security units determined the artillery firing locations rather than the best judgement of the artillery commander. Kluckman further suggested that weather forecasts "be a primary determining factor when selection of artillery raid time frames are established." He further complained that "observation potential was far from realized." Kluckman maintained that "despite detailed briefings and prior coordination, unfamiliarity with the terrain, poor weather, and lack of aggressiveness combined to significantly reduce the desired destruction." Other problems included a failure to pre-position all of the 8-inch ammunition prior to D-Day which resulted in traffic congestion and in a delay of the battery to occupy its position. Kluckman also wanted a simpler convoy system that would have permitted the guns to move from their former positions to Khe Sanh in "a single artillery convoy with its own security elements." He argued that the 3d Division system called for an exchange of infantry security at LZ Stud which resulted in a "five-hour delay for the transfer of responsibility." Moreover one of the 8-inch howitzers became stuck on a bridge and had to return to its former position at Ca Lu. Despite the difficulties, Lieutenant Colonel Kluckman praised the overall fire support coordination and observed that the enemy failed to bring any effective counter-fire on the Marine big guns. He concluded that Drumfire II "verified the


* Colonel Robert C. V. Hughes, whose 1st Battalion, 11th Marines had relieved
the 2d battalion, 13th Marines at Khe Sanh during Pegasus, recalled
that 105 and 155mm howitzers' range limitations "did not permit us to
effectively attack the NVA gun positions on Co Roc." Hughes stated,
however, that the Marines improvised a counter-battery technique by
employing the platoon of M-48 tanks at Khe Sanh. According to Hughes,
the tank's "90mm guns had a greater range than the howitzer [and] we
could compute firing data for them in an indirect fire, artillery role.
We pushed up inclined ramps with dozers to give the tank guns increased
elevation and thus range." According to Hughes, although this return
fire was "not particularly accurate, due in part to distance of observers
from the target, we were able to cause the enemy guns to discontinue
firing on several occasions." Hughes Comments.

** While Operation Drumfire II may have had only limited success,
it did provide a moral boost to the Marines at Khe Sanh. Colonel Hughes
observed that the 8-inch howitzers were placed inside the Khe Sanh base
"along the airstrip with the primary direction of fire directly across
the flight line. BGen Carl Hoffman [Commanding General, Task Force Hotel}
. . . had a lasting impression of the first 8-inch mission (midnight
30 May), as it was fired directly over his bunker." Hughes Comments.
General Hoffman, himself, remembered that he thought "Drumfire II was
terrific! After being blasted daily by NVA long-range artillery positioned
at Co Roc, we thoroughly enjoyed watching our own long-range artillery,
most of which had slipped up to Khe Sanh under cover of darkness, hitting
pre-selected targets on Co Roc. My own morale soared as did that of
the entire Task Force Hotel." MajGen Carl W. Hoffman, Comments on draft,
dtd 15Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Hoffman Comments. For
further discussion of Drumfire II see Chapter 16 and for discussion
of the enemy emplacements in Laos and the question of Co Roc, see Chapter
14.







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