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Brigadier General William E. DePuy, accompanied Ambassador Taylor to hand carry the MACV 'Estimate of the Situation' to Washington for a special meeting of the National Security Council. At this 1 April meeting, President Johnson made several far-reaching decisions, two of which were of particular concern to the Marine Corps. He approved an 18,000- to 20,000-man increase in the U.S. forces in Vietnam to include the deployment of additional Marine forces. Furthermore, the President permitted a change of mission for the 9th MEB which would allow the use of Marines 'in active combat under conditions to be established and approved by the Secretary of Defense in consultation with the Secretary of State.'18

More Marines Arrive

Initial Marine reinforcements were to consist of both ground and air units. With growing tension in the Far East, General Krulak had made plans at the beginning of the year for the movement of Marine forces and large-scale preparatory maneuvers. In early February, he alerted two U.S. Marine fixed-wing squadrons in the United States for deployment to Japan in late March. Coincidentally, the FMFPac commander scheduled the largest landing exercise since World War II to take place on the west coast of the United States in early March. The scenario for the exercise, code named SILVER LANCE, reflected the situation in Vietnam, featuring guerrillas, hard-core aggressor forces, and political-military problems.

USMC Photo A185086

Brigadier General Karch greets Lieutenant Colonel William C. McGraw, Jr., Commanding Officer, VMFA-531, upon arrival of the squadron at Da Nang. VMFA -531, flying F-4B Phantom II aircraft, was the first Marine fixed-wing tactical squadron to deploy to Vietnam in 1965.

In Hawaii, the 1st Marine Brigade, consisting of the 4th Marines and MAG-13, made preparations to reinforce the 1st Marine Division and the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing in SILVER LANCE. With the imminent landing of the 9th MEB in Vietnam, the Pacific Command ordered the curtailment of forces for the exercise at the last minute. At this time, 7 March, the Marines of the 1st Brigade were already embarked in amphibious shipping. Crediting General Krulak for ' 'the amazing coincidence of the readiness of the Brigade'' for movement, Lieutenant Colonel Rex C. Denny, Jr., then the Brigade G-3, 11 years later recalled:

We were on again/off again for Okinawa. Then on precisely the planned sailing date for SILVER LANCE . . . the shipping sailed from Pearl Harbor and turned right instead of left. Perfect timing for the movement to the Far East to be in position for the April troop deployment to Vietnam.19

The hastily planned deployments of Marine units from Hawaii and the west coast to Okinawa and Japan went smoothly. The 4th Marines, reinforced by a reconnaissance company, antitank company, and by an artillery battalion, the 3d Battalion, 12th Marines, arrived and reported to the 3d Marine Division on Okinawa by the end of March. At the same time, MAG-13 became part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Japan.20

On 25 March, Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311, one of the two squadrons alerted in February, began its air transit from California to Japan, followed two days later by the second air unit, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 542. According to Lieutenant Colonel Richard A. ' 'Doc' Savage, squadron commander of VMFA-542, the two squadrons refueled in flight from Marine KC-130 tankers, and 'in leap frog fashion flew the Pacific in some seven days time.' The last elements of VMFA-542 landed in Japan on 2 April, thus ending Operation HAMMERHEAD, the code name for the trans-Pacific flight. Savage wrote in 1976:

This movement not only marked the largest and

 

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