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USMCPhotoA184344

Marines from the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines have just debarked from helicopters at Phu Bai. The troops in the background, ready to embark in the same helicopter for the return trip to Da Nang, are from the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines.

 

 

longest in-flight refueling operation for the Marine Corps at this time, but dramatically illustrated the capability of the Marines to move their air resources rapidly to meet a possible combat situation.21

While the units of the 1st Brigade and the two squadrons from the United States arrived in the Western Pacific, plans for the deployment of the Marine reinforcements authorized by the President from Okinawa and Japan to Vietnam were completed. Colonel Edwin B. Wheeler's Regimental Landing Team (RLT) 3, composed of the RLT headquarters and two battalion landing teams, BLT 2/3 from his own regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel David A. Clement, and BLT 3/4 from the newly arrived 4th Marines, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Donald R. Jones, made up the ground component. Air elements of the reinforcements consisted of Lieutenant Colonels Paul L. Hitchcock's Marine Air Support Squadron (MASS) 2 and William C. McGraw, Jr.'s VMFA-531. The 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade headquarters, which General Collins had activated on 14 March under Lieutenant Colonel Edward Cook after the landing of the 9th MEB, was to control the movement. On 4 April, the 1st Brigade commander, Brigadier General Marion E. Carl, a World War II flying ace who had downed 18 Japanese aircraft, assumed command of the 3d MEB. He left Okinawa the following day to join Admiral Wulzen on board the Mount McKinley at Subic Bay.

As the Mount McKinley weighed anchor for the South China Sea, Task Force 76 and 3d MEB staffs completed embarkation and landing plans. RLT 3, BLT 3/4, and MASS-2 would sail from Okinawa on board five tank landing ships. VMFA-531 would fly its aircraft to Da Nang, while its heavy support equipment would follow in amphibious shipping. Lieutenant Colonel Clement's BLT 2/3 was already on board the ships of Navy Task Group 76.6, having completed the JUNGLE DRUM III exercise in Thailand. On 4 April, while underway for the Philippines, the task group received instructions to move to a position 50 miles off the coast of Da Nang. The amphibious squadron arrived there the next day and awaited further landing instructions.

Landing plans of the 3d MEB directed Lieutenant Colonel Clement, a holder of the Silver Star from the Korean War, to land his battalion over RED Beach 2 while the supplies and heavy equipment of the battalion landing team were unloaded at the LST landing on the Tiensha Peninsula, across the Da

Page 24(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)