Con Thien

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Battle of Con Thien
Part of the Vietnam War
Date March 19, 1967 - February 28, 1968
Location Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone
Result U.S. victory
Belligerents
Flag of the United States.svg United States Flag of Vietnam.svg North Vietnam
Commanders and leaders
Lew Walt
Robert E. Cushman, Jr.
General Vo Nguyen Giap
Strength
Flag of the United States.svg 3rd Marine Division 9,000 Marines Flag of Vietnam.svg North Vietnam 8,000 to 12,000 NVA Soldiers
Casualties and losses
Flag of the United States.svg 1,419 killed, 9,265 wounded 7,563 killed, 168 captured

Con Thien (Vietnamese: căn cứ Cồn Tiên, meaning the "Hill of Angels"), was a United States Marine Corps combat base located near the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone about 3 km from North Vietnam in Gio Linh District, Quảng Trị Province. It was the site of fierce fighting from February 1967 through February 1968.

Location[edit]

Con Thien is located at 16°54′35″N 106°58′48″E / 16.90972°N 106.98000°E / 16.90972; 106.98000 (MGRS 48QYD113703) and was originally established as a Special Forces/CIDG camp before being taken over by the Marines in December 1966. Together with Marine bases at Gio Linh, Đông Hà and Cam Lộ, Con Thien enclosed the area known to the Marines as Leatherneck Square.[1] Con Thien was intended to be used as a base for the McNamara Line to prevent NVA infiltration across the DMZ. The firebase was strategically important because it offered unfettered views for 15 km east to the coast and north into North Vietnam. It was also very vulnerable because it was within range of NVA artillery north of the DMZ which was largely immune to counter-battery fire.[2]

Border battles[edit]

On 27 February 1967, in response to Marine artillery fire into and the area north of the DMZ (Operation Highrise) NVA mortar, rocket and artillery fire hit Con Thien and Gio Linh.[3] On 20 March, NVA began shelling Con Thien and Gio Linh which continued sporadically for the next two weeks.[4]

On 24 March 1st Battalion, 9th Marines began Operation Prairie III where they encountered an NVA battalion in a bunker complex southeast of Con Thien. After a two-hour fight the NVA withdrew leaving 33 killed in action. Sergeant Walter K. Singleton was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the attack. 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines (3/3) operating beside 1/9 encountered an entrenched NVA Company, killing 28 NVA including two women.[5] On 30 March, Company I 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines was establishing a night ambush position when it was attacked by an NVA force, 2LT John P. Bobo was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the attack.

In mid-April Charlie Company, 11th Engineer Battalion was tasked with clearing a 200m wide strip from Con Thien to Gio Linh, a distance of 10.6 km. The engineers were protected by a task force consisting of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, an AMTRAC (LVT-5) platoon, a platoon of M42 Dusters from the 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery and some ARVN units. By 19 April, despite harassment from NVA mines, small arms, recoilless rifle, mortar and artillery fire the strip was half-completed.[5]

In order to protect Route 561, the supply line to Con Thien from Route 9, the Marines had established two outposts, C-2 Base was located 3 km southeast of Con Thien and contained artillery and infantry positions, while C-2A nicknamed the Washout was on low-lying ground overlooking a bridge.[6]

Attack on Con Thien[edit]

8 May, at 0300 some 300 rounds of mortar and artillery fire hit the base, while NVA sappers with Bangalore torpedoes breached the perimeter wire. At 0400 two battalions of the 812th North Vietnamese Regiment armed with flamethrowers overran the Marine stronghold. At the time of the attack the base was defended by the command element and Company 'D' of the 1st Bn. 4th Marines. The well organized attack fell primarily on Company D's northern perimeter. Fierce hand-to-hand combat along the perimeter by the outnumbered Marines eventually led to repelling the initial attacking forces. A relief column from Company 'A' was sent with an M42 Duster, 2 LVT-5s and 2 quarter ton trucks. The M42 was hit by an RPG-7 and an LVT-5 and one truck were destroyed by flamethrowers and satchel charges. A large number of casualties were sustained by Marines of 'A' company. By 0900 some six hours later the enemy had withdrawn leaving 197 killed and 8 prisoners. The Marines had suffered 44 KIA and 110 wounded.[7]

Remilitarizing the DMZ[edit]

After the 8 May attack, recognizing that the NVA were using the DMZ as a sanctuary for attacks into I Corps, Washington lifted the prohibition on US forces entering the DMZ and MACV authorized the III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) to conduct combat operations into the southern half of the DMZ.[8]

From 13–16 May, 1/9 Marines cleared Route 561 from Cam Lo to Con Thien fought a well-entrenched NVA force south of the base. The NVA subsequently withdrew into the DMZ.[8]

Operations Hickory/Lam Son 54/Beau Charger[edit]

III MAF proceeded to plan a series of combined operations with ARVN forces that occurred from 18 to 26 May. Under Operation Hickory 3rd Marines' advanced to the Ben Hai River. Under Operation Lam Son 54 the 1st ARVN Division advanced parallel to 3rd Marines while the amphibious Special Landing Force Alpha secured the coastline south of the Ben Hai River under Operation Beau Charger and Special Landing Force Bravo linked up with 3rd Marines under Operation Belt Tight. Once at the Ben Hai River, the forces swept south on a broad front to Route 9.[8]

From 19 to 27 May when Lam Son 54 ended the ARVN were in constant contact with the NVA. The ARVN suffered 22 KIA and 122 wounded, while the NVA suffered 342 KIA and 30 captured.[9]

The amphibious element of Operation Beau Charger met no opposition while the heliborne assault dropped into a hot LZ. Only one platoon was landed and it remained isolated until rescued several hours later. Beau Charger continued until 26 May with minimal contact. 85 NVA were killed.[10]

In Operation Hickory the 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines and 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines advanced north from Con Thien on the morning of 18 May to press any NVA against a blocking force from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines on the Ben Hai River. At 10:00 2/26 Marines made contact with 2 NVA Battalions in bunkers and trenches. The 2/9 Marines joined 2/26 and fought a running battle until nightfall. 5 Marines were KIA and 142 were wounded, while 31 NVA were killed. That night 75 radar-controlled airstrikes were called in on the bunker complex. At 07:00 on 19 May after 2 hours of artillery preparation (in which short rounds killed 3 Marines), the 2/26 proceeded to attack the bunker complex, overrunning it by 10:30 killing 34 NVA.[11] At 13:30 2/9 Marines met heavy automatic weapons and mortar fire and an M-48 moved up to silence the NVA positions with canister fire. 2 M-48s were later knocked out by RPG-7 fire and 2/9 Marines suffered 7 KIA and 12 wounded.[12] On 20 May, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines covering the left flank of the operation encountered an NVA bunker complex and in fighting lasting into 21 May suffered 26 KIA and 59 wounded for 36 NVA dead.[13] On 25 May Companies H and K from the 26th Marines engaged an NVA Company in a bunker complex near Hill 117 5 km west of Con Thien, fighting lasted throughout the day and cost 14 Marine KIA and 92 wounded for 41 NVA killed. Marine air and artillery pounded the complex throughout the night and a new assault was planned for the morning of 26 May, but NVA fire brought down a UH-1E injuring the command element and the assault was postponed until 27 May when Companies E and F 2/26 Marines and 3/4 Marines took the hill with no resistance.[14] For the remainder of Operation Hickory the Marines encountered only scattered resistance but discovered and destroyed numerous bunkers, ordnance and rice. Operation Hickory concluded on 28 May, the Marines had suffered 142 KIA and 896 wounded for 362 NVA killed.[15] Lam Son 54, Hickory, Belt Tight and Beau Charger also resulted in the removal of the entire civilian population from the area with the result that it was all now a free fire zone.[15]

Map of Operations Hickory, Belt Tight, Beau Charger and Lam Son 54.

Operation Prairie IV[edit]

At the conclusion of Operation Hickory, all participating units joined Operation Prairie IV sweeping the area southwest of Con Thien. On 28 May 3/4 Marines ran into a bunker complex on Hill 174, 6 km southwest of Con Thien. Companies M and L attacked the complex but were forced back by small arms, machine guns, 57mm recoilless rifle and 82mm mortars for the loss of 2 Marines KIA and 21 wounded. Artillery hit the hill throughout the night and the next day Companies M and I attacked the hill, suffering 5 KIA and 33 wounded without driving the NVA from the crest of the hill. Companies M and I attacked unsuccessfully again on 30 May suffering 1 KIA and 45 wounded. The NVA abandoned the hill during the night of 30/31 May. Operation Prairie IV resulted in 505 NVA killed and 8 captured for 164 Marines KIA and 1240 wounded.[15]

Operation Cimarron[edit]

Operation Cimarron began on 1 June in the same area with the same units. There was limited contact with the NVA but many enemy bunkers and supply caches were found and destroyed and several NVA graves located. Cimarron ended on 2 July.[15] On 1 July the land-clearing project from Con Thien to Gio Linh was completed, with the clear strip widened to 600m.[15]

Operation Buffalo[edit]

On 2 July Companies A and B from 1/9 launched Operation Buffalo, a sweep of the area north of Con Thien. As the infantrymen moved along Route 561 in an area called the Marketplace, the NVA attacked inflicting severe casualties on Company B. This was the single worse day for Marines in Vietnam (86 killed). Operation Buffalo concludes on 14 July at a cost of 159 Marines KIA and 345 WIA. The NVA suffered 1290 KIA.

Operation Kingfisher[edit]

Following the conclusion of Operation Buffalo III MAF ordered a sweep of the southern half of the DMZ. Operation Hickory II last from 14-16 July and resulted in 39 NVA killed for the loss of 4 Marine dead and 90 wounded.

Operation Kingfisher took place from 16 July to 31 October 1967.

Operation Kentucky[edit]

Operation Kentucky took place from 1 November 1967 to 28 February 1968 and resulted in 520 Marines killed and 2698 wounded, while the NVA lost 3,839 killed, 117 captured and an unknown number wounded.

In support of Operation Kentucky, squadrons of the First Marine Air Wing provided air support from 4 January 1968 to 23 March 1968. Air support missions included resupply of ammunition, rations, and other supplies. Numerous medevac missions were flown to transport wounded Marines to medical facilities at Dong Ha and to the hospital ship Repose.[16]

Siege[edit]

In September 1967 the 3rd Battalion 9th Marines rotated into Con Thien. That same month the NVA started their major shelling. 152mm howitzers, 120mm and 82mm mortars and 122mm rockets hit the base daily.[17] During the climax of the attack (September 19–27, 1967) over three thousand rounds of artillery pounded the fire base. On September 25, a reported 1200 rounds pounded the hill sides of the 158m mound of red dirt.[17]

The Marine Corps rotated battalions in and out of Con Thien every thirty days.[17] The constant shelling and the threat of an NVA assault took a psychological toll on the Marines, the base was nicknamed "Our Turn in the Barrel" and "the Meat Grinder", while the DMZ was said to stand for "Dead Marine Zone."

More than 1400 Marines were killed and nearly 9300 wounded in the fighting in and around Con Thien. NVA losses were put at nearly 7600 killed in action and 168 prisoners of war.

The Siege in the media[edit]

Con Thien was in the news during the time it was under artillery attack. TIME featured the story on the cover of its 6 October 1967, issue which was instrumental in bringing the reality of Vietnam combat to American readers.[18]David Douglas Duncan's photos of the Marines at Con Thien were featured in the 27 October 1967 issue of Life Magazine and in his book War Without Heroes. CBS News broadcast a special report on October 1, 1967, The Ordeal of Con Thien, hosted by Mike Wallace, which featured footage and interviews from the field (a link is available at the bottom of this page to view this program at the Internet Archive).

Much has been written about the siege, gathered from people who were there, people who were not, and taken from historical Marine documents. Con Thien was the battle before Tet, a battle commanders at the time dismissed, and later forgotten maybe a little embarrassed because it showed how unprepared the US was for the 1968 Tet offensive.

1968[edit]

2nd Battalion, 1st Marines took over the defense of Con Thien in mid-December. During the Christmas truce period the Battalion added 11 bunkers and dug a new trench along the forward slope. The troops then sandbagged existing bunkers with a "burster layer" in the roofs, usually consisting of airfield matting to burst delayed fuse rounds, they then covered the positions with rubberized tarps to keep the water out. By the end of the year, all of the new bunkers had been sandbagged and wired in with the new razor wire.[19] During January the NVA kept up sporadic fire on the base firing for 22 of 31 days with each barrage averaging about 30 rounds.[20] The artillery fire gradually destroyed the minefield and bunkers protecting the northwest of the base causing regular casualties.[6]

The 803d NVA Regiment had relieved the 90th NVA Regiment in the positions facing Con Thien and began to launch regular small scale probes of the Marine defenses. On the night of 14 January, the NVA tripped a mine and one soldier was left in the minefield, the NVA made 2 attempts to rescue their wounded man, eventually succeeding under cover of small arms, recoilless rifles and mortars.[6] On 22 January, around midday the NVA bombarded Con Thien with 100 rounds of 82mm mortar, followed by 130 rounds of 152mm shells. 1/4 sustained 2 KIA and 16 wounded.[21] 30 minutes later, about 1 km north of the base, Companies F and G encountered an NVA Company which withdrew under cover of 60mm mortar fire, 2 Marines were KIA and 8 wounded for 3 NVA killed.[22]

In late January with increasing NVA pressure on Khe Sanh Combat Base and Route 9, 1st Battalion 9th Marines was transferred to Khe Sanh and 3rd Battalion 4th Marines was moved to the Lancaster area of operations. 2nd Battalion 4th Marines was assigned to take over the 3/4's area of operations northeast of Con Thien and on 27 January, HMM-361 landed the first units near C-2, by the end of the day the entire battalion was deployed.[22]

On 29 January a Marine observer at Con Thien using a Starlight Scope spotted an NVA convoy moving about 1 km north of the Ben Hai River and called in artillery air strikes. The NVA responded by launching five SAM-2 missiles on the attacking aircraft which proceeded to destroy both the convoy and the SAM site.[22]

By the end of January the defensive positions on the trace line, including C-2, C-2A and Con Thien (A-4) were largely complete, although there was abundant evidence of continued NVA infiltration across the DMZ.

The Tet Offensive was little noticed at Con Thien and elsewhere along the DMZ, rather it was just the same fighting that had been going on for the previous weeks and months. There was no Tet truce here, but nor was there a sudden NVA thrust through the DMZ or frontal assault on Khe Sanh that MACV had expected.[23]

The NVA continued to pressure the Marines particularly around the A-3 strongpoint between Con Thien and Gio Linh. On 3 March Lima Company, 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines, occupying an outpost on Hill 28 just north of the A-3, intercepted an NVA battalion attempting to infiltrate the Marine positions. The NVA encircled the Marines and were only driven back by airstrikes and Huey gunship runs. One Marine was killed and thirteen wounded while killing over 100 NVA.[24] On 16 March, Mike Company, 3/3 Marines and Charlie Company, 1/4 Marines clashed with another battalion-sized NVA force. The two Marine companies called in artillery and air upon the NVA, the bulk of which disengaged, leaving a company behind to fight a rearguard action. NVA artillery from north of the DMZ answered the American supporting arms with a 400-round barrage of its own on the Marines. Marine casualties were two KIA and nine wounded for 83 NVA killed. For the entire month in Operation Kentucky, 9th Marines reported over 400 enemy dead while Marine casualties were 37 KIA and more than 200 wounded.[24]

On 22 May a patrol from Company A 1/4 Marines ran into an NVA force east of Con Thien. 1/4 attacked east from Con Thien, while 3/3 Marines attacked west from Strongpoint A-3. 3/9 Marines were helicoptered into blocking positions in the south, while 1/9 Marines was helicoptered into blocking positions in the north. The NVA tried to escape across the trace line but were mowed down by artillery, tank, gunship and fixed-wing fire. The NVA suffered 225 killed, while the Marines had 23 KIA and 75 wounded.[25]

On 6 June, a reinforced platoon from Company E, 26th Marines observed and then engaged an NVA company while on patrol 1.8 km southeast of Con Thien. Reinforced by the command group and a rifle platoon from Company H, the patrol engaged the NVA with small arms and 81mm mortars. 14 NVA were killed and the Marines suffered 14 KIA and 11 wounded.[26]

On 7 July, to exploit the results of Operation Thor in the Cua Viet-Dong Ha sector, the 9th Marines began a sweep of the area between Con Thien and the DMZ. On 11 July, 4 km northeast of Con Thien, elements of 3/9 Marines discovered a reinforced NVA platoon in the open. Fixing the NVA in place with small arms fire, the Marines, with air, artillery, and tank support, launched a coordinated air-ground attack through the area killing more than 30 NVA. The 9th Marines uncovered and destroyed numerous NVA fortifications, a few of the positions were lightly defended, but the majority were abandoned. One bunker system discovered 4 km meters due north of Con Thien spanned more than 1 km and included 242 well-constructed bunkers. Supplies and equipment abandoned included weapons, 935 mortar rounds, 500 pounds of explosives, 55 antitank mines, and 500 pounds of rice. The Marines also found 29 NVA bodies, killed by artillery and airstrikes during the advance on the complex.[27]

On 21 July 2/9 Marines discovered a major NVA bunker complex 6 km southwest of Con Thien. Composed of 60 A-frame timbered bunkers built into the sides of bomb craters, each with an average overhead cover 10-feet-thick, the system was connected to a large command bunker by a network of interconnecting tunnels. The command bunker featured an aperture overlooking Con Thien and C-2 and documents found in the bunker indicated that the NVA had been observing and reporting the movement of helicopters, tanks, and trucks entering and leaving Con Thien and C-2.[28]

Early August saw little contact with the NVA other than an encounter by Company F, 9th Marines with 30 NVA, 3 km east of Con Thien. In the face of artillery and fixed-wing support, the NVA broke contact and the Marines began a sweep through the area during which they regained contact. The NVA again broke and ran, and Company F moved through the area, capturing a number of weapons and counting 11 NVA dead.[29]

On 15 August, an NVA company attacked a four-man Marine reconnaissance team southeast of Con Thien near the abandoned airstrip at Nam Dong. The patrol returned fire and requested reinforcement, while simultaneously calling in preplanned artillery fires. Within minutes a platoon from Company A, 1st Marines, accompanied by three tanks, moved out of positions 1 km away and headed south to assist. The coordinated attack, which included more than 150 rounds of 105mm artillery, 40 rounds of 4.2-inch mortar, 75 rounds from the 90mm guns of the tanks, and airstrikes by Marine UH-1E gunships accounted for several NVA dead.[30]

As NVA activity continued to increase in the eastern DMZ, particularly north of Con Thien, the Marines decided to act. In addition to sightings of enemy tanks, Marine fighter pilots and aerial observers reported spotting trucks, truck parks, camouflaged revetments, storage bunkers, and trenchlines. Of special interest were repeated sightings of low, slow moving lights during hours of darkness which, it was assumed, came from enemy helicopters thought to be resupplying forward positions with high priority cargo such as ammunition and medical supplies or conducting medevacs. On 19 August, after 60 Arclight strikes 2nd Battalion 1st Marines (2/1) assaulted into three LZs in the Trung Son region of the southern DMZ, 5 km north of Con Thien. Supported by a platoon of tanks from 3rd Tank Battalion, 2/1 swept the area but found no evidence of use by VPAF helicopters. During the extraction one CH-46 Sea Knight was destroyed by a command detonated mine, killing 4 Marines.

While the assault claimed no NVA casualties, it did scatter NVA forces in the area. On the morning of the 19th, Bravo Company, 2/1 and the Army's Company A, 77th Armored Regiment engaged an enemy platoon while supported by M-48s from 3rd Tank Battalion, killing 26 NVA. 6 km southwest of Con Thien Mike Company, 3/9 Marines intercepted a reinforced NVA platoon, under the cover of airstrikes and artillery they kill 30 NVA and captured 2. On 20 August, 2 NVA squads attacked Companies G and H, 2/9 Marines with small arms, RPGs, mortars, and artillery. The Marines, supported by 5 M-48s from 3rd Tank Battalion forced the NVA to withdraw northward, leaving their dead. On 21 July, Company I, 9th Marines began receiving sniper fire and within an hour, the company had engaged an NVA unit of undetermined size, firing small arms and grenades, responding with accurate rocket, mortar, and artillery fire, the Marines forced the NVA to break contact and withdraw to the north. A search of the area found 14 NVA dead and 12 weapons.[30]

On 24 August at 17:00, Marine reconnaissance team Tender Rancho was moving 7 km southeast of Con Thien near Dao Xuyen, when it surprised a group of 15 bivouacked NVA troops killing 6. Within minutes the team received a barrage of 82mm mortars and immediately formed a 360-degree security. 90 minutes later gunships arrived on station and informed the team that the NVA surrounded them. At 19:30 despite receiving 0.50 caliber and 82mm mortar fire helicopters inserted a reinforced platoon from Company D 1st Marines to assist. Meanwhile additional platoons from Company D, along with Company C, moving overland from the east took up blocking positions north of the encircled reconnaissance team before dark. At daylight on 25 August, Marine helicopters inserted the remainder of Company D. During the insertion a CH-34, while dodging enemy fire, struck a tree breaking off the tail section, killing 3 and wounding 14. With the arrival of elements of 1/3 Marines and Company M, 3/9 Marines later in the day, the Marines effectively cordoned the area, preventing an NVA withdrawal. During the remainder of the 25th and into the 26th, as Companies C and D, 1st Marines pushed southward toward the other blocking forces, the NVA made several unsuccessful attempts to break the cordon. By the end of 26 August, after three days of fighting, the NVA had suffered 78 killed while the Marines suffered 11 KIA and 58 wounded.[31]

On 31 August 1st Marines was relieved of responsibility for the Kentucky area of operations and the Army's 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) took over.[32]

On 4 September, a platoon from Company A, 61st Infantry was sent to the relief of Company M 3/9 Marines which was engaged in battle with a reinforced NVA company in bunkers west of Con Thien. Joined by a reaction force from Company C, 61st Infantry, and supported by artillery and airstrikes, the American units killed more than 20 NVA for 6 US KIA and 55 wounded in the two-and-one-half hour battle that followed.[33]

On 11 September, Company D, 11th Infantry engaged an NVA force of unknown strength from the 27th Independent NVA Regiment occupying bunkers near the "Market Place," 4 km northeast of Con Thien. The Company called for air and artillery strikes while a platoon of tanks from the 1st Battalion, 77th Armored moved up reinforce. At 18:30 the NVA attempted to break contact, but the artillery prevented their withdrawal. One group of NVA raised a white flag, so the American gunners ceased fire momentarily to allow the group to surrender, instead the NVA broke and ran and the artillery barrage resumed. A later sweep of the area found 40 dead NVA, 7 were captured.[34]

On 13 September following Arclight and naval and land artillery strikes 3 Brigade task forces from the 5th Infantry Division attacked into the DMZ northeast of Con Thien. To the east the 1st Squadron, 7th ARVN Armored Cavalry, supported by two platoons from Company A, 3rd Tank Battalion, simultaneously attacked to the north and northeast of A-2 and Gio Linh. The ARVN achieved almost immediate contact. The Marine tanks providing a base of fire for the advancing ARVN infantry fired 90mm canister and high-explosive rounds and their machine guns to break through the NVA defenses killing 73 NVA. Following in the wake of the tanks, and supported by helicopter gunships, the ARVN infantry killed an additional 68 NVA and captured one. On the left flank, after encountering mines and antitank fire, the three Army task forces joined the action, accounting for another 35 NVA and seizing a large cache of mortar rounds. The allied forces reached their northernmost objectives, turned south, and returned to their bases by late afternoon. The captured NVA soldier identified his unit as an element of the 138th NVA Regiment which had assumed control of the 27th Independent Regiment's area of operations, due to the heavy casualties suffered by the regiment in recent months.[35]

In late September heavy monsoon rains had swollen the Ben Hai River, forcing remnants of the 320th NVA Division and independent regiments north across the river, but military intelligence indicated that some groups had been trapped in the south by the rising water. On 26 September Companies B, C, and D, 11th Infantry moved out from positions at C-2 and C-2 Bridge. In coordination with the 2d and 3d Battalions, 2nd ARVN Regiment, and the 3d Marines, the companies moved to a position west of Con Thien and then attacked north across the southern boundary of the DMZ, toward the Dong Be Lao mountain complex. During an 8 day patrol into the DMZ, they encountered minimal opposition from the NVA rearguard. Searches of numerous bunkers and other complexes indicated that the NVA had only recently abandoned the positions.[35]

On 11 October a brigade mechanized infantry and tank force, composed of Companies B and C, 61st Infantry and Company B, 77th Armored, engaged a platoon of NVA in heavily fortified bunkers, 2.5 km northeast of Con Thien. The NVA used RPGs and 60mm mortars to knock out 3 M-48s and one M-113. Mines disabled another two M-48s and one M-113, killing 3 and wounding 20. After five hours of battle 26 NVA were killed.[36]

Despite heavy rain during October, ground and aerial reconnaissance missions indicated the presence of a sizable NVA force south of the Ben Hai River between Gio Linh and Con Thien. On 23 October the brigade task force, composed of three companies of the dismounted 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry attacked north from A-3 and Con Thien into the DMZ and then eastward along the Ben Hai River toward the 2d ARVN Regiment and Company H, 9th Marines which had earlier trapped an NVA force killing 112. As the task force continued eastward during the 24th, through Kinh Mon, Tan Mon, and An Xa along an abandoned railroad, Company A engaged an NVA platoon, killing seven. At 08:30 on 25 October, Company A encountered an NVA battalion in well-fortified bunkers, while Company B came under heavy small arms and mortar fire. By 10:30 the engaged companies had linked up, and while Company A attacked to the northeast against the enemy's flank, Company B assaulted and overran the enemy position, capturing one 82mm mortar, two 60mm mortars, and two 0.50-caliber machine guns. Both companies, later reinforced by Company B, 77th Armor, remained in contact until 18:00 killing 231 NVA for the loss of 4 KIA and 24 wounded.[37]

On 22 October General Abrams, COMUSMACV ordered all construction and planning efforts associated with the anti-infiltration effort halted. Under the new plan, referred to as Duel Blade, allied forces, supported by air, artillery, and naval gunfire, would maintain a mobile posture and actively resist infiltration from the North by maintaining a comprehensive surveillance effort. While ground reconnaissance would be a part of the effort, attended and unattended detection devices or sensors would provide a majority of the surveillance capability. As part of the implementation of Duel Blade the "A" and "C" strongpoint sites considered essential would be used as fire support bases, while those of no value, such as A-3 and C-3, would be closed.[38]

With effect from 21:00 on 1 November the US ceased all offensive operations against the territory of North Vietnam. This prohibition also applied to offensive operations north of the DMZ's southern boundary. General Abrams later sought and obtained authority to send squad-size patrols into the southern DMZ to capture prisoners and obtain intelligence on the NVA military buildup in the DMZ.[39]

On 1 November the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division, was directed to move from the Kentucky area of operations into an area near Quang Tri City. The 3d Marines supported by the 3rd Tank Battalion assumed control of the Kentucky area.[40] As a sign of the reduced NVA activity in the Kentucky area, by December only Company E, 2/3 Marines was responsible for the security for Con Thien and C-2 Bridge, as well as patrolling and ambushing throughout its assigned 54-square kilometer area.[41]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Shulimson, Jack (1997). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: 1968 The Defining Year (Marine Corps Vietnam Operational Historical Series). Marine Corps Association. p. 18. ISBN 0-16-049125-8. 
  2. ^ Kelley (2002), p.5-116.
  3. ^ Telfer, Gary (1984). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Fighting the North Vietnamese 1967 (Marine Corps Vietnam Operational Historical Series). Marine Corps Association. p. 10. 
  4. ^ Telfer, p. 17
  5. ^ a b Telfer, p. 18
  6. ^ a b c Shulimson, p. 44
  7. ^ Telfer, p. 21
  8. ^ a b c Telfer, p. 23
  9. ^ Telfer, p. 25
  10. ^ Telfer, p. 25-26
  11. ^ Telfer, p. 26
  12. ^ Telfer, p. 27
  13. ^ Telfer, p. 28
  14. ^ Telfer, p. 29
  15. ^ a b c d e Telfer, p. 30
  16. ^ Personal combat history of expeditions and awards records per (NAVMC 116(8) -PD (Rev. 11-55) National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO.
  17. ^ a b c Jack T. Hartzel, Con Thien http://www.vietvet.org/jhconthn.htm
  18. ^ Time Magazine, 06/10/67
  19. ^ Shulimson, p. 41
  20. ^ Shulimson, p. 43
  21. ^ Shulimson, p. 126
  22. ^ a b c Shulimson, p. 127
  23. ^ Shulimson, p. 133
  24. ^ a b Shulimson, p. 244
  25. ^ Shulimson, p. 308-309
  26. ^ Shulimson, p. 357
  27. ^ Shulimson, p. 363
  28. ^ Shulimson, p. 365
  29. ^ Shulimson, p. 387
  30. ^ a b Shulimson, p. 389
  31. ^ Shulimson, p. 389-390
  32. ^ Shulimson, p. 390
  33. ^ Shulimson, p. 391
  34. ^ Shulimson, p. 392
  35. ^ a b Shulimson, p. 393
  36. ^ Shulimson, p. 394
  37. ^ Shulimson, p. 395
  38. ^ Shulimson, p. 444
  39. ^ Shulimson, p. 396
  40. ^ Shulimson, p. 443
  41. ^ Shulimson, p. 449

References[edit]

Bibliography
  • Coan, James P. (2004). Con Thien - Hill of Angels. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-1414-8. 
  • Kelley, Michael (2002). Where We Were in Vietnam - A Comprehensive Guide to the Firebases, Military Installations and Naval Vessels of the Vietnam War, 1945-1975. Central Point, Oregon: Hellgate Press. ISBN 1-55571-625-3. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 16°54′35″N 106°58′48″E / 16.90972°N 106.98000°E / 16.90972; 106.98000