With the enemy threat in the area relieved for the rime being, Lieutenant General Walt began reducing forces at Khe Sanh. From 11-13 May, the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines replaced the two battalions from the 3d Marines and, at 1500 on the 13th, Colonel John J. Padley, commanding officer of the 26th Marines, assumed responsibility for Khe Sanh from Colonel Lanigan.
The mission assigned to Colonel Padley's Marines was to occupy key terrain, deny enemy access into the vital areas, conduct aggressive patrolling in order to detect and destroy enemy elements within the TAOR, and provide security for the base and adjacent outposts. Colonel Padley was to support the Special Forces Camp at Lang Vei with his organic artillery, as well as to coordinate all activities of allied units operating in the area. The code name for Marine operations in the Khe Sanh TAOR was Operation Crockett.
To accomplish the mission, the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Donald E. Newton, stationed one company each on Hill 8815 and 861; a security detachment on Hill 950 at a radio relay site; and the remainder of the battalion at the base, acting both as base security and battalion reserve. The units at the company outposts patrolled continuously within a 4,000-meter radius of their positions. Company A, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, operating from Khe Sanh, inserted recon naissance teams at greater ranges to provide long- range surveillance. Although numerous sightings and reports indicated that all three regiments of the 325C NVA Division were still in the tni-border region, there was only occasional contact during May.
As June began, there was a sharp increase in the number of sightings throughout the Crockett TAOR. At 0101 6 June, twenty-five 120mm mortar rounds and 102mm rockets hit the base. One hour later the radio relay site on Hill 950 came under at tack from the west and northeast by an unknown number of enemy soldiers. The enemy penetrated the position, but the defending Marines quickly forced them to withdraw, leaving 10 dead, one wounded, and seven weapons. Marine losses in the action were six killed and two wounded. The next afternoon, mortar and small-arms fire hit a patrol from Company B, approximately 2,000 meters west of Hill 8815. The mortar attack immediately preceded an assault by about 40 NVA troops. The Marines repulsed the enemy charge and called artillery in on the attackers. A platoon from Company A arrived by helicopter to help. By 1630, when the enemy withdrew, the two Marine units had killed 66 North Vietnamese and lost 18 of their own men. Twenty-; eight Marines suffered wounds.
Two days later the enemy shot down an armed UH- lE in the same area, killing the pilot and wounding the copilot. Friendly forces rescued the copilot and two crew members, but the aircraft had to be destroyed. Due to the increasing number of enemy contacts, Lieutenant Colonel Kurt L. Hoch's 3d Battalion, 26th Marines returned to the operational control of the 26th Marines (Forward) at Khe Sanh; the battalion arrived at Khe Sanh on the 13th.
During the two weeks after the 3d Battalion's arrival, both Marine battalions had many contacts with isolated enemy forces throughout the TAOR. In the early morning of the 27th, 50 82mm mortar rounds hit the Khe Sanh bale. The attack was extremely costly to the Marines; it killed nine and wounded 125. Another attack occurred at 0525 by 50 102mm rockets. Casualties resulting from the second attack totaled one killed and 14 wounded. The Marines' artillery answered both attacks with unknown results.
At 1230 on 27 June, Company I, 26th Marines, while searching for a suspected mortar position to the west of the base, ran into two NVA companies. Company L landed by helicopter to reinforce the engaged Marines. By 1900 the NVA broke contact and withdrew to the northwest leaving 35 bodies on the battlefield. This was the last significant action during June.
Operation Crockett continued as a two-battalion effort until it ended the 16th of July. During the July period of the operation there was a gradual in crease in the number of sightings, but only occasional contact. Nevertheless, the Marines knew the NVA was not ready to abandon the Khe Sanh area.