Page 025

Page 25 (1965: The Landing and the Buildup)    

Nang River from Da Nang.* Two companies of BLT 2/3 were to be lifted to Phu Bai and await BLT 3/4. Upon the arrival of Jones' battalion, two of his companies were to land across RED Beach 2 and were then to relieve Cement's force at Phu Bai. The rest of BLT 3/4 would remain on board the transports and the task group would move north to the mouth of the Hue River where the Marines and their equipment would unload into landing craft for the trip to Hue City. Lieutenant Colonel Denny, then the 3d MEB G-3, later recalled:

. . . coordination for this landing plan had to be worked closely with the 9th MEB, requiring several trips from the Mount McKinley to Da Nang. In fact, command relations were not clear to all at this point. The 9th MEB wanted control and those of us on the 3d MEB staff wanted control until the troops were ashore . . . .22

It was finally resolved that the 9th MEB would assume control of each unit as it landed.

On the morning of 10 April, Navy Task Group 76.6, joined by the flagship Mount McKinley, entered Da Nang harbor. In contrast to the landing of 8 March, the sea was calm with only a light wind blowing from the south. Visibility was unrestricted with a slightly overcast sky.

At 0823, the first of five waves touched down on RED Beach 2. By 1310, the landing was completed. The ships then moved to positions off Tiensha Peninsula and general unloading continued. A provisional task force under Lieutenant Colonel Clement, consisting of Companies F and G of the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines and support elements was helilifted to Phu Bai. At Da Nang, Company H took up positions on Hills 278 and 312 north of the high ground held by the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines while Company E remained on board the ships to assist with the unloading. The next day, Company E joined Company H. General Westmoreland complimented General Karch:

MACV staff officers who observed the amphibious landing at Da Nang and air movement to Phu Bai of elements of your command on 10 April report the movement was accomplished smoothly and professionally, reflecting high standards of training, discipline, and esprit. Congratulations to you and others responsible."23
On the same day that BLT 2/3 landed, VMFA-531 arrived at Da Nang from Atsugi, Japan. Lieutenant Colonel McGraw's squadron was an all-weather jet fighter/interceptor unit equipped with the Navy/Marine Corps version of the McDonnell Phantom II, the F-4B.** General Westmoreland had requested a Phantom squadron because it was capable of performing both tactical missions within South Vietnam and strike missions against North Vietnam. McGraw had received his deployment orders at 0930 from General Fontana's headquarters and the first flight of four Phantoms was airborne within five hours.*** Refueling in flight from two Marine KC-130s southwest of Okinawa, the planes arrived at Da Nang five and one-half hours after takeoff. Later that afternoon the remaining 11 F-4Bs took off. These aircraft stopped for refueling at the Naval Air Station, Cubi Point, Philippines and arrived in Vietnam the next morning. Most of the squadron personnel and light support equipment arrived the same day in Marine KC-130s of Marine Transport Refueler Squadron (VMGR) 152. The heavy equipment closed on Da Nang 11 days later on board the tank landing ship Snohomish County (LST 1126). The entire squadron movement had gone so smoothly that the wing commander, General Fontana, remarked: "it was a splendid demonstration of operation and coordination of all concerned ... a fine professional performance."24

On 12 April, RLT 3 headquarters, which had embarked on amphibious shipping at Okinawa, arrived at Da Nang. Colonel Wheeler, a former Marine raider, had arrived in Vietnam by aircraft a week earlier than his command. This was not his first

 

 

* According to Major Marc A. Moore, the S-3 of the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, "The original plan called for unloading BLT 2/3 at the mouth of the Hue River and moving to Hue via the river with flank security on each bank. A specific plan was drawn up to carry out this operation, but was canceled in favor of the plan described in the text. "BGen Marc A. Moore, Comments on draft MS, n.d. [Nov76] (Vietnam Comment File).

** Lieutenant Colonel William C. McGraw, Jr. was a veteran of World War II and Korea; in the latter war he had flown 82 combat missions and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1962 while serving as a test pilot, he set two world class records in aerial flight in a F-4H Phantom II.

***Colonel Thomas J. O'Connor wrote in November 1976: "The movement of VMFA 531 was impeded somewhat by a last minute question among the major commands involved, as to whether it was appropriate for a combat air unit to deploy directly from a base in Japan to South Vietnam. The delay involved questions of Japan's neutrality in the South Vietnam situation. For this reason, later flights of combat aircraft flew via the Philippines." Col Thomas J. O'Connor, Comments on draft MS, dtd 27Nov76 (Vietnam Comment File).

Page 25 (1965: The Landing and the Buildup)