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Marine control increased from one to three, and hamlets from three to 15, with a total population of 11,441.

General Krulak was present at the discussion. He recalled that:

Thi was opposed to any patrol or offensive action on our part outside the airfield perimeter. With respect to the area south of the field and on the bank of the Da Nang River, he said, 'This is enemy country. You are not ready to operate there.'29

USMC Photo A184031

Lieutenant Colonel Herbert J. Bain, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 3d Marines (center left), confers with his operations officer, Captain Gaetano F, Squillace {right), and his forward air controller Captain John W. Garriott, in a VC-dominated hamlet south of Da Nang. The arch under which they are standing was built by the Viet Cong

Marine operations in the Phu Bai area were also the subject of discussion with Vietnamese authorities. Colonel Wheeler and Lieutenant Colonel Jones held several informal conferences at Hue and Phu Bai with Brigadier General Chuan, the commanding general of the 1st ARVN Division and the Phu Bai Special Sector, concerning the assignment of the Marines and their mission. It was decided that the Vietnamese would be responsible for the defense of the villages bordering the base on the north and east. Within the Marine sector, the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines would conduct defensive operations ' 'with emphasis on quick reaction offensive moves' within the TAOR.30 The Marines and South Vietnamese troops of the Phu Bai (Dong Da) Special Sector would establish a combined operations center for the coordination of efforts. Check points along Route l in the Marine TAOR were to be manned by ARVN personnel and supported by the Marine battalion.

On 20 April, the Marines began patrol activities beyond their TAORs at Da Nang and Phu Bai, as far as six miles in front of their former positions. These patrols included ARVN troops and Vietnamese civil affairs officers to avoid incidents with Vietnamese villagers. The extended patrolling resulted in the Marines' first fire fights with the VC. On the 22d, a patrol from Company D, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion accompanied by 38 South Vietnamese troops, encountered a Viet Cong force of approximately 105 men near the village of Binh Thai, nine miles southwest of Da Nang. A company from Lieutenant Colonel Bain's battalion was helilifted into the area to reinforce the reconnaissance unit. They pursued the enemy to the south and west, but lost contact and returned to the battalion area. The results of this first engagement were one Viet Cong killed and one Marine slightly wounded. A second engagement occurred two days later when a Marine reconnaissance platoon was attacked on a hilltop 2,000 meters south of Phu Bai by an undetermined number of enemy. Two Viet Cong and two Marines were killed.

Very little was known about the enemy. A Marine staff officer commented, 'intelligence of what the situation was, was non-existent.'31 This of course was an exaggeration; the MEB and MACV staffs had some idea of enemy forces in the area. They credited the VC with seven combat units totaling 5 60 troops within 25 miles of Da Nang; within 50 miles, 14 enemy combat units, ranging from company to regimental size, with a total of 1,480 personnel. What was lacking was knowledge of the day-to-day movements of the Communist forces, their disposition, and their influence upon the people.

General Karch remarked that, from the day of the landing, reports indicated a continuing enemy buildup in the area. Most of this intelligence had been attained from hired agents who were paid ac-

 

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