Terrain: The map above shows the interesting and varied terrain in the area. In less than 50 miles the topography begins with a coral reef just northeast of the DMZ, includes a white sandy beach running to rice fields and the Ben Hai River (border between North and South Vietnam). Next there is a wet tropical forest and then a rising mountain forest running up a mountain 5705 feet above sea level.
Situation: The North Vietnam Army (NVA) crossed the border under fire support of superior Russian made artillery deployed along the north bank of Ben Hai River which flows east and along the river flowing west into Laos. The NVA 324C Division also uses the Ho Chi Minh Trail from various points to cross the boarder and attack Khe Sanh. Route 9 and Quang Tri River were important economic asset to both North and South Vietnam for they are Laos age old link to the Sea.
Unless swept twice daily by minesweepers with chains to cut wires from command detonated mines and patrolled (randomly boarded and searched) by U.S. Navy gunboats, all the rivers in Vietnam were used by NVA or Viet Cong as logistic hiways. The mouths most of the rivers were generally controlled by communist forces and the peasants were heavily taxed
—robbed of their produce by communist thugs. The mouths of the rivers, with their adjacent rice fields, are heavily populated areas.
Hence, Operation Market Time was initiated to combat the rising prices of rice and other commodities in the market place. It had a dramatic effect and the operation expanded with the war effort.
Helicopters were also used for resupply of everything from ammunition to mail and for medivac. Helicopters, however, were not dependable for everyday logistics because of limited visibility during monsoon seasons.
U.S. Marine artillery bases (fire bases) were located at Khe Sanh, Camp Carol, Cam Lo, Con Thien, Gio Linh. Headquarters was at Dong Ha.
History's Lesson: If a defending country wishes to impose its will on an aggressor nation, it must maintain an occupational force until the aggressor nation looses its will to continue the aggression. The overwhelming defeat of communist forces from the combined efforts of U.S. Forces in Operation Neutralize was without victory. Allied forces, US Marines, and Army Special Forces were never ordered to cross the boarder and secure victory.
(Story by Dennis C. Miller)