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landed across RED Beach 2 and were flown to Phu Bai, where they relieved the task force from the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines that had been positioned there four days earlier. The last elements of the latter battalion departed for Da Nang on the 15th. Colonel King, in the meantime, stationed 10UH-34Ds at the Phu Bai airstrip to support the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines.

The remainder of the Navy Task Group 76.7 had sailed up the coast to the mouth of the Hue River where the ships anchored late on the evening of the 14th. Before dawn on the 15th, the ships lowered their LCMs and LCVPs; the boats were divided into small groups of four to six craft and the first of these groups departed for Hue, 11 miles inland, at 0640. As the craft approached the landing site in the city, they turned, beached, and lowered their front ramps together. The Marines in full combat gear stepped ashore to be met by an ARVN band and 500 cheering Vietnamese holding aloft a large banner reading "Welcome, U. S. Marines." Dressed in summer white uniforms, the sailors of the Navy beach group supporting the operation also were on hand to greet the Marines. The troops piled into trucks and proceeded south through the city to the base at Phu Bai. The river operation was completed on 19 April. The Navy landing craft made 263 trips, carried 1,371 tons of cargo, and traveled 6,000 miles.

Two other Marine units arrived at Da Nang during April. Lieutenant Colonel Paul L. Hitchcock's MASS-2 debarked during the morning of 16 April. The squadron proceeded to the airfield, where it was assigned to a living area with the LAAM battalion elements west of the runway. The MASS-2 troops immediately began erecting facilities for a direct air support center (DASC) and an air support radar team (ASRT) site.*

The last Marine unit to arrive in Vietnam during the month was Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron (VMCJ) 1, less detachments, with six Douglas EF-10B (F3D-2Q) Skynight jets. Lieutenant Colonel Otis W. Corman, commander of the unit, led the squadron onto the Da Nang Airfield on 17 April. This squadron, previously based in Japan, was not new to air operations in Southeast Asia. Since 1964, it had provided the Navy and Air Force with electronic countermeasure support. Although administratively assigned to MAG-16 upon arrival, the unit's activities were directed by the U.S.Air Force 2d Air Division. According to Lieutenant Colonel Corman, the directive which placed VMCJ-1 under the operational control of MACV authorized U.S. Navy Forces to use:

. . . Marine air in accordance with their normal and established practices. ... It directed MACV to coordinate U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force requirements for Marine air EW [electronic warfare] support. This coordination was accomplished by designating 2d Air Div as his coordinating authority.26

With the arrival of two fixed-wing squadrons, two infantry battalions, and support elements, the MEB reached a strength of 8,878 by the end of April. The brigade now consisted of a four-battalion regiment and a four-squadron Marine aircraft group, as well as artillery and engineer groups and a logistic support group. General Karch was satisfied that he could handle anything that the enemy could throw at him.27

An Expanded Mission

As significant as the arrival of reinforcements was the Presidential decision to lift the restrictions on the Marine infantry battalions and permit them to engage in counterinsurgency operations. On 14 April, General Westmoreland provided the MEB with a concept of operations which he divided into four phases: establishment of defensive bases; deep reconnaissance patrols of the enemy's avenues of approach; offensive action as a reaction force in coordination with the Vietnamese; and finally, "undertake in coordination with RVN I Corps, an intensifying program of offensive operations to fix and destroy the VC in the general Da Nang area.''28

General Karch immediately attempted to implement his new orders. He met with General Thi the same day to negotiate for the realignment of the Marine TAOR in the Da Nang area. After two days of talks, they agreed to a four square mile increase in the Marine area of responsibility, but this still did not include the terrain just south of the airbase. The number of villages in the Da Nang sector under

 

 

*DASC provides the tactical air control system required for control and direction of close air support and other tactical air support operations; it is normally collocated with fire support coordination elements. An ASRT is a subordinate operational component of the DASC. These teams vector aircraft to targets and provide ground-controlled precision flight path guidance and weapons release at night and during periods of low ceiling and reduced visibility.

 

 

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