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169 CHAPTER SIX Slowdown As 1970 began, it was widely expected that the Yellow Star Division would launch a major offensive during the ill-omened Tet holiday season. I Field Force headquarters predicted: In Binh Dinh Province the buildup of enemy forces is similar to the one which took place prior to Tet 1968. Reports indicate that the enemy intends, by employing the 3d Division, to conduct major offensive activities in the province in an attempt to disrupt or destroy the GVN Pacification Program. This offensive will probably be most intensive in the northern four districts and may consist of relatively large scale ground attacks and attacks-by-fire against RF/PF units, district headquarters and Allied installations in conjunction with wide-spread LOC [line of communications] interdiction and terrorist activity directed against GVN officials.1 Enemy propaganda and actions strengthened this suspicion. After the 400th Sapper Battalion had been mauled at FSBs Stinger and Mahoney in early November, the VCI in Tam Quan had warned locals that the district was going to be “trashed” at Tet. Indeed, the enemy began attacking high-profile targets in Tam Quan several weeks before the holiday. The district headquarters compound and LZ English were both subjected to intense attacks-by-fire, the Tam Quan village office was blown up by sappers , and Truong Xuan hamlet was struck by a heavy ground assault. The 9 January attack on LZ English dropped twenty to thirty mortar shells on troops who were playing volleyball and assembling to watch a movie, killing four Americans and wounding eighty-six.2 If the 173rd Airborne’s main base camp could be mauled in this fashion, one could hardly blame the Territorial Forces for being intimidated. As January progressed, many of them went AWOL; in Tam Quan, checkpoints had to be set up on Highway 1 to intercept deserters. The entire 222nd PF Platoon simply disappeared on 19 January. Attempts to locate its commander by radio and visits in the field proved completely unavailing.3 Many GVN civil servants also joined the exodus. In Hoai Nhon, one hamlet’s chief and assistant chief and the com- 1 1 506 514 514 LZ ENGLISH FSB PONY LZ HAMMOND Lake Dam Tra O Dam Nuoc Ngot SOUTH CHINA SEA Lai Gi a n g Sie m G i a n g QUANG NGAI BINH DINH Sa Huynh T DAMS Hoai Tan Hoai An Phu My Phu Cat Bong Son LZ GRAHAM AN LAO VALLEY BONG SON PLAINS Hill 474 CA Y GIEP MOUNTAINS 'THE CRESCENT' NUI MIEU MOUNTAINS SUOI CA VALLEY KIM SON VALLEY January to June 1970 AREA OF OPERATIONS LEE ELEVATION IN METERS 0 200 400 600 800 and Above 5 0 Kilometers Miles 5 0 An Lao PHU CUU PASS ‘AO NORTH’ LZ UPLIFT Lake LZ CR AL YST LZ MOON ‘AO SOUTH’ VINH THANH VALLEY am Quan My Duc Hoai Huong Hoai My 3A ELEVATION UNDER 200 METERS Hill 262 Hoai Hao Hoai Thanh NUI KHO Dieu Quang NUI HO DA Area of Operations Lee (January–June 1970). Source: George L. MacGarrigle, Combat Operations: Taking the Offensive, October 1966 to October 1977 (The United States Army in Vietnam Series) (Washington, DC: US Army Center of Military History, 1998), CMH Pub 94-1, Map 32, 317. [Adapted and reprinted by permission of the US Army Center of Military History] Slowdown 171 mander and deputy commander of the local PF platoon all made themselves scarce on the eve of Tet.4 General Cunningham was so concerned by the looming menace that on 22 January he initiated phase IIA of Operation Washington Green, which was specifically intended to counter the anticipated Tet Offensive. The three battalions on pacification duty adjusted their deployments so reaction forces could be concentrated at central locations, and they prepared contingency plans to deal with assaults on the enemy’s most likely targets in their respective AOs.5 Meanwhile, the 3/503rd and 3/506th continued to hunt the US Troops Search Rock Formation in An Lao Valley. Source: “Operation Thayer II [Photograh],” Virtual Vietnam Archive, Item VA029867, accessed December 17, 2015, .starweb. [Reprinted by permission of the Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX] 172 Chapter Six 2nd VC Regiment in the mountains around the Crow’s Foot, but with little success, as the enemy was moving in small groups and avoiding contact. Nevertheless , there could be no doubt that large numbers of NVA...


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