USMC Taped Historical Interview
Interviewee: Col. D.E. Lownds, USMC
Interviewer: Col. R.H. Mample, USMC
Subject: Khe Sanh
Date 29 July 1968
Location: headquarters FMF FAC 29
This is a discussion of the defense of Khe Sanh where Colonel Lownds was stationed during this time period. He first addresses several criticisms that have been made about the defenses, primarily citing the fact that when he began he was prepared for one battalion and several more were sent to him in a very short period of time and so adjustments were made as quickly as possible, and this was reflected in the style of the defense. He also discusses the size and building of his bunkers, justifying why he had them built as they were. He also corrects the common press misconception that the Marines were completely hemmed in at Khe Sanh by the enemy units. He discusses certain situations where they were able to get out, including to their water supply which was outside the perimeter and carefully protected. Louwnds also discusses the air support and says he believes initially Khe Sanh was the highest priority and he could get anything he wanted, but that changed when Operation Pegasus began. He also discussed a change in pre-planned air strike request system that occurred in later March of 1968. He was very critical of aspects of this system, especially the twenty-four hour request time for tactical missions, this can result in injuries to friendly troops. Col. Lownds speaks very highly of the actual bombing and artillery support.
Col. Lownds also discusses logistical support, beginning with the resurfacing of the runway for landing and then the move to airdrops and some of the difficulties posed by that method. He comments on how difficult the weather was in Khe Sanh and the complications that it caused, but says on base they were never short of food or ammunition. He discussed the intelligence methods used, specifically the sensors, which were very valuable to him. He said they provided validation for his thoughts as to enemy positions, and in many ways were better than reconnaissance teams. He mentions enemy tactics and techniques and ways the Marines devised to keep enemy people away from their fences at night. He says morale in his unit was high and that casualties were normal. Colonel Lownds does discusses the press, he feels that the press cannot portray the actual events properly, he only gave the press minimal amount of his time. Col. Lownds discusses the importance of the ISO, claiming a good one may keep his commander out of jail. This concludes the formal portion of the program. Colonel Lownds is then questioned about nuclear preparations at Khe Sanh, which they had none.
This interview begins on 992au0696 (1 of 2).
USMC Debrief of Colonel D.E. Lownds by Colonel R.H. Mample (1 of 2), 29 July 1968, Douglas Pike Collection: Audio / Moving Images, The Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University. Accessed 19 May. 2013. <http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?item=992AU0696>.