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and the establishment of a third Marine enclave in Vietnam. Three days later, the Marine Corps reactivated General Carl's 3d MEB for the second time within three weeks, its headquarters having returned to Okinawa after completing the RLT 3 and BLTs 2/3 and 3/4 deployments. Colonel O'Connor, the 1st MAW chief of staff, recalled that General Carl at first wanted to employ the former 1st Brigade intact, including both the 4th Marines and MAG-13, for the Chu Lai landings. Carl and Colonel Ralph H. "Smoke" Spanjer, the MAG-13 commander, attempted to convince General Fontana, the wing commander, to include MAG-13 as part of the Chu Lai forces. According to O'Connor:

General Fontana listened patiently to the first presentation, but then informed them that, in view of the considerable planning that had taken place before their arrival, MAG-12 at Iwakuni was the group that would deploy. General Carl and Col Spanjer made at least two appeals of this decision . . . Col Spanjer brought in many visual aids explaining his concept of operation of a SATS field at Chu Lai. General Fontana finally tired of the pressure, and told Spanjer very firmly that MAG-12 was in and MAG-13 was out!39*

With this decision made, on 29 April General Carl and his staff flew from Okinawa to the Philippines to join Admiral Wulzen on board the amphibious flagship USS Estes (AGC 12). The 3d MEB landing forces for Chu Lai were to consist of Colonel Edward P. Dupras, Jr.'s RLT 4 headquarters, two BLTs, BLT 1/4 commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Harold D. Fredericks and BLT 2/4 commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph R. "Bull" Fisher, and Lieutenant Colonel Don H. Blanchard's 3d Reconnaissance Battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Wilson's MABS-12 and Commander John M. Bannister's Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 10 were attached to the MEB for the construction of the airfield. The rest of MAG-12 would arrive after the SATS field was completed.

When General Carl and his staff arrived on board the Estes, the MEB commander delegated planning for the landing to his chief of staff, Colonel Norman R. Nickerson. According to Nickerson, General Carl told him ' 'to run the show and to report to him daily the progress of planning for the Chu Lai operation.'' Colonel Nickerson stated that despite the fact that time was short and the staff was small, and composed of "officers that he had not previously known, the Chu Lai Operation Plan/Order was completed on schedule."40

The initial planning concept for the MEB was based on an opposed landing. According to the intelligence available to the planners, the VC operated in strength throughout the Chu Lai area, with approximately 500 Viet Cong living in the local villages and hamlets. The sector included a Communist resupply route from the sea to the VC Do Xa base area, 50 miles to the west. It was estimated that the enemy could mass 2,000 troops in 24 hours and could reinforce with another 2,000 men within 72 hours.

The plan called for RLT 4 to land BLTs 2/4 and 1/4, minus two companies, across the beach; two BLT l /4 companies would make a helicopter assault of an area inland from the beach. The 3d Reconnaissance Battalion was to follow the two assault battalions across the beach. The planners scheduled a traditional prelanding air and naval bombardment to isolate the beach area. They also planned that the 2d ARVN Division would secure the outer perimeter for an extended period of time.

General Westmoreland was dubious about the landing concept. He believed that two infantry battalions, even if reinforced by a reconnaissance battalion, were an inadequate force to guarantee the permanent defense of Chu Lai. The MACV commander was of the opinion that the 2d ARVN Division, because of its other responsibilities, could not provide adequate perimeter defense for more than a few days. He strongly urged that an additional Marine infantry battalion be added to the Marine brigade. On the other hand, Westmoreland considered the possibility of the enemy opposing the landing to be extremely remote and recommended that the naval and air bombardment be eliminated, although the ships and planes should remain on station. He declared that elements of the 2d ARVN Division would secure the landing site.

General Westmoreland radioed General Collins requesting a meeting in Saigon to iron out the differences. On 30 April, Generals Collins and Fontana departed for Saigon, stopping off at Subic Bay to

 

 

* A former member of MAG-13, Major Gary W. Parker, then a young lieutenant with HMM-161, recalled "Colonel Spanjer in his attempts to persuade the higher echelons of the merits of MAG-13 had a calling card made up which was distributed throughout the wing. In the upper left hand comer it read-'Have MAG-Will Travel.' at the bottom right hand corner it said-'Wire Smoke-Futema.'" Maj Gary W. Parker, Comments on draft MS, dtd 14Jan77 (Vietnam Comment File).

 

 

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