Monday, July 16, 2007

South Vietnam, The American Waterloo: 'Attack Is Sure To Come'-Marines Await Monsoon Push

October 27, 1966

Dong Ha, South Viet Nam—The crack Third Marine Division is dug in and waiting for an attack by the North Vietnamese across the Demilitarized Zone, which the Marines have said is sure to come when the monsoon season begins.

Dong Ha is 10 miles from the supposedly Demilitarized Zone and, judging from the intense fortifications surrounding this camp, the Marines definitely intend to stay here.

An entire battalion of Marines is defending the camp perimeter, and they are armed with every conceivable weapon, including tanks and recoilless rifles. Other units of the Third Marines are deployed strategically throughout Quang Tri Province at each of the known infiltration routes used by the North Vietnamese.

Six months ago, a major American buildup began at Dong Ha. The buildup is just shifting into high gear and in a few more weeks, it is predicted, this entire region will soon be unfit for either Viet Cong or North Vietnamese habitation.

Since Aug. 3, in Conducting Operation Prairie, the Third Marines have accounted for 1,125 North Vietnamese killed and another 1,507 probable kills, along with the capture of large amounts of arms and supplies.

Fighting in this area is tough. The jungles are so dense that it is hard to see more than a few feet ahead and progress is gained a foot at a time by hacking out a trail with machetes.

If our units run into an ambush or other difficulty, smoke grenades are of no use to mark positions for air strikes. The troops in trouble must fire smoke rockets through the trees to get them high enough for the spotter planes to see.

Intelligence reports show that the North Vietnamese occupy heavily fortified trenches north of the 17th parallel. The entrenched enemy is taking a terrific pounding from Naval gunfire and air strikes in these positions. If ever a "No Man's Land" existed, it is that patch of earth called the Demilitarized Zone.

A helicopter flight over the DMZ makes it hard to imagine that any human being would attempt to go through that area, let alone try to survive there. There are stretches, which extend for two miles in all directions, where not a tree or a blade of grass is left standing.

The uncountable bomb craters and shell holes nearly overlap through all of the lowlands. All of the hillsides are scarred by artillery fire and scorched with napalm.

But the enemy is persistent. They keep infiltrating into South Viet Nam and their presence across the DMZ prevents the Marines from occupying and restoring order in the small villages on the South Viet Nam side of the border.

Early last week, it was learned that the Second Battalion of the Fifth Corps swept through the Village of Huong Than, seeking the enemy. The area is so insecure that the sweep had to be conducted in daylight. The Marines had to fall back at nightfall to get out of range of the nightly North Vietnamese mortar attacks on the village.

The Marines and United States Special Forces troops have stationed long range reconnaissance patrols all through the edges of the DMZ and along the Laotian border, in an effort to instantly spot enemy troop movements.

Lt. Paul Berger, who briefed members of the press on the recent fighting near the DMZ said, "We believe they are waiting for the rains to start to begin their movement south."

"It's going to be tough on us to move troops to stop them, due to the weather. But, it isn't going to be easy on them either."

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