Page 033

Page 33(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)  

end of these talks, the commander set H-Hour for the amphibious portion of the operation at 0800, 7 May.

Units from the ARVN 2d Division which had secured the Chu Lai area were joined on 6 May by Company K, 3d Battalion, 9th Marines from Da Nang to provide additional beach security. All was ready and the U.S. Army advisors with the ARVN had even prepared their own sign to greet the landing force, 'Ahoy Marines: Welcome Aboard, Area Secured.' Colonel Edward Cook, who at the time was General Collins' G-2, in 1976 wrote:

Prior to the landing, I was at General Lam's [Brigadier General Hoang Xuan Lam] headquarters for his briefing on the coordination required between units from his ARVN 2d Division and the Landing Force. I asked him to show me specifically where his units would be and how they would phase their withdrawal as our landing force advanced. He called for a piece of overlay paper, put it over a map and drew a series of phase lines. When he was completed with the clear, concise, and explicit overlay, he gave it to me and said, 'Just like they do it at Quantico.'44

Navy Photo 1111513

Troops from the 4th Marines move inland across the soft Chu Lai sand under a welcoming Vietnamese banner. Marine helicopters are seen/lying overhead.

Early on the morning of the 7th, the ships of the task force arrived at the transport area off Chu Lai. As planned, at 0800, BLT 1/4 Companies C and D and BLT 2/4 began landing over RED Beach. After crossing the beach, the two companies of the 1st Battalion moved to Landing Zone ROBIN, approximately three miles from the waterline and overlooking Route l. They quickly secured the LZ and then the helicopters of HMM-161, Lieutenant Colonel Gene W. Morrison commanding, flew in the battalion's remaining two companies from the USS Princeton.* The troops met no resistance and occupied their planned objectives. The only casualties were four Marines suffering from the heat and humidity. The scene on the beach was reminiscent of the previous landings the Marines had made in Vietnam. In addition to the usual number of Vietnamese flower maidens and members of the press corps, Generals Thi, Throckmorton, and Collins were on hand to greet the first waves of troops. The Marines were too busy to pay much attention to the festivities.

By the end of the first day, Colonel Dupras had established his headquarters ashore; his infantry battalions and supporting arms were all in place. The 4th Marines' defensive perimeter extended in an irregular arc from the Ky Ha Peninsula in the north, to the high ground in the west, and from there seaward to a point three miles south of RED Beach. The southern flank was screened by the 3d Reconnaissance Battalion.

The landing of troops and establishment of the defensive lines proved to be the easiest part of the entire operation. The movement of supplies across the beach was a frustrating experience. General Krulak described the Chu Lai Beach area 'as great a challenge as any foreshore that I have ever seen. The sand is of powdered sugar consistency and no wheeled vehicle can negotiate it with success.'4' Although reducing tire pressure provided some traction, a shortage of beach matting and the fine sand forced the Marines to use tracked vehicles to move material inland. Colonel William M. Graham, Jr., at the time the 3d Marine Division engineering officer, related that a:

. .. civilian soil consultant was hired to sample the sand

 


 

* HMM-161 supported the RLT-4 landing from the Princeton until 7 May. On that day, the Navy changed amphibious assault ships (LPHs), substituting the Iwo Jima (LPH-2) for the Princeton. Morrison's squadron moved to the Iwo Jima which remained positioned off the Chu Lai coast until 12 June. During that period, the squadron provided helicopter support for Colonel Dupras' Marines. On 13 June, the ship moved to a position off the coast from Phu Bai where the squadron unloaded, moved to the Phu Bai airstrip, was placed under the operational control of MAG-16, and began to fly in support of the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines.

 

 

 

Page 33(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)