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USMC Photo A184117

Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., inspects an honor guard at Da Nang during a visit to Vietnam in April 1965. The Commandant later told the press that the Marines would be conducting more aggressive operations.

 

insurgency. General Westmoreland also rejected this alternative; he did not think that in 1965 the lines of communication or the port facilities in the country could supply and support five divisions strung along the parallel. He feared that by the time this could be done, the war would be lost.

According to the general, this left only one feasible solution. This was to continue the buildup of the ARVN, intensify the air war against North Vietnam. and land the equivalent of two U.S. divisions with their necessary combat and service support in South Vietnam. The American forces would have a three-fold mission: protection of vital U.S. installations; defeat of the Communist efforts to control Kontum and Pleiku Provinces; and the establishment of enclaves in the coastal region. General Westmoreland visualized that the total U.S. reinforcement would consist of approximately 33,000 troops deployed by June. He believed that the insertion of American strength would blunt the Communist offensive in the two northern corps areas and stiffen the backbone of the South Vietnamese forces throughout the country.

Most important for the Marine Corps was the recommendation to reinforce the 4,685 personnel of the 9th MEB. In addition to rounding out the force at Da Nang with a third battalion, Westmoreland suggested that a fourth be stationed at the Hue/Phu Bai airstrip approximately eight miles south of Hue. The MACV commander later wrote:

l remained disturbed about possible enemy action against other bases, notably a U.S. Army communications facility [manned by the U.S. Army 8th Radio Research Unit] and a small airfield at Phu Bai, near Hue. not a good field but at the time the best we had north of the Hai Van Pass.16

Although Admiral Sharp and the Joint Chiefs had already recommended approval of the Marine deployment to Phu Bai, one influential Marine general opposed this suggestion at the time. Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak,* then Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific (FMFPac) and perhaps the Marine Corps' leading theoretician on counterinsurgency, later commented:

Here is an example of where dollar economics wagged the tail of the military deployment. Phu Bai is as tactically indefensible as anyone could imagine. General Westmoreland was determined, however, that we should go there because of the existence of the 8th RRU. There was an investment of probably 5million dollars in the unit. It was firmly locked to the Phu Bai plain and he was determined not to see it move. He was reinforced by the testimony of experts who said its location was particularly good from a 'technical' point of view. Whether or not this is true and our own . . . people strongly questioned it, he insisted that we go there despite the tremendous land barrier between Da Nang and Phu Bai, difficulty of providing logistical support, and the many better uses to which a Marine BLT could have been put. I believe we would have been better off by far to have moved the 8th RRU to another place and to have kept our forces more concentrated. General Westmoreland felt differently and Admiral Sharp was not prepared to override him.17**

In any event. General Westmoreland's J-3,

 


*General Krulak had served as the Special Assistant for Counter-Insurgency and Special Activities for the Joint Chiefs of Staff just prior to his assumption of command of FMFPac. Although as CGFMFPac. General Krulak did not have operational control of any of the Marine units committed to Vietnam, he was responsible for the combat readiness and logistic support of all Marines in the Pacific. A 1934 Naval Academy graduate, the general earned the Navy Cross during World War II. He was affectionately known throughout the Corps as 'Brute,' a nickname gained by the fact that he is five feet, five inches tall.

**The Center of Military History. Department of the Army. made the following observation in its comments on the draft manuscript, 'General Westmoreland also desired the BLT for the defense of the air strip in that he intended to eventually move the helicopters from Da Nang to Phu Bai to reduce airfield congestion at Da Nang.' CMH Comments on draft MS, dtd 15Nov76 (Vietnam Comment File).

 

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