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Navy Photo l 111761

 

Marine amphibian tractors move across Route l after landing at Chu Lai.

 

cording to the significance of their information. Their veracity was highly doubtful at best.

Even with the expansion of the Marine mission, contact with enemy forces remained slight. General Karch noted:

. . . when we had reached the limit of our Phase II TAOR we still had encountered no VC in strength other than undersized platoons .... After a few sniper shots were fired at the patrol and [the Marines] moved out to attack, the VC disappeared. Also the only attack ... at Phu Bai could well have been a mistake ... or a chance encounter ... it was broken off immediately after the first exchange of fire.32

The Marines had accomplished their basic mission, the defense of the Da Nang and Phu Bai bases, but as General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., the Commandant of the Marine Corps, observed during a visit to the MEB: ''You don't defend a place by sitting on your ditty box.''33

Chu Lai

By the end of April, the days of the 9th MEB in Vietnam were numbered. Throughout the month, the question of American participation in the war preoccupied those in authority. On 20 April, a high-level conference convened at CinCPac headquarters in Honolulu attended by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, his Assistant Secretary of International Security Affairs, John McNaughton, Ambassador Taylor, Generals Wheeler and Westmoreland, and Admiral Sharp. The conferees reached a consensus that the relatively light Viet Cong activity was the lull before the storm and recommended the additional deployment of 42,000 U.S. servicemen to Vietnam, including 5,000 more Marines. These Marine forces, organized into three reinforced battalions and three jet aircraft squadrons, were to establish another enclave at Chu Lai, 57 miles southeast of Da Nang.34

The Chu Lai coastal plain lies astride the boundary dividing the two southern provinces of I CTZ, Quang Ngai and Quang Tin. A few miles inland and west of the plain are the heavily jungled and extremely rugged Annamite Mountains. Route l, an all-weather, macadam road, parallels the sea, bisecting the plain. This national highway, stretching from Saigon to the DMZ, connects the area with Da Nang to the northwest and Quang Ngai City, 20 miles to the south.

The selection of Chu Lai as the base for the next increment of Marine forces resulted from an ex-

 

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