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Karch returned to Vietnam as assistant division commander of the 3d Marine Division while Brigadier General Melvin D. Henderson assumed command of the 3d Marine Division (Rear) on Okinawa. These changes at the top were followed by rapid adjustments in staff assignments. The new layers of command contrasted sharply with the almost spartan simplicity of the old 9th MEB and could not help but cause some initial confusion. One former member of the 9th MEB staff, Major Ruel T. Scyphers, remembered:

Two full staffs arrived in Vietnam and superimposed authority over the brigade in a very short time. In this connection there wasn't a single moment of liaison or coordination between or among either staff. There was at one time 13 colonels roaming around headquarters without assignments or functions. With the limited space for billeting, messing, and working space-it was a nightmare.27*

Perhaps these growing pains were most dramatically reflected in the field of communications. During a visit to Vietnam in May, General Krulak remarked: ' 'I have never seen a worse situation than at Da Nang where a message which has immediate precedence has taken as long as 30 hours to get out of country, some incoming messages do not arrive at all."28 According to Colonel Hardy Hay, the IIIMAF G-3:

We were totally unprepared for the communication load that included an outrageous number of classified messages. Higher echelons simply did not have time to send letters by regular mail. Consequently, letters came by electronic means.29

Colonel Nickerson, who had become the III MAF G-4, later explained that much of the message backlog was due to periodic power shortages ' 'with the down-time of generators" exceeding "uptime.' ' He commented that the number of classified "dispatches that had not been encrypted or decrypted often exceeded 5,000'' and that ' 'manual processing was tedious." Nickerson also remarked on the fact that "higher, comfortable, well-staffed headquarters were firing questions or assigning responsibilities at a prolific rate . .. . "30 Colonel Nickerson praised the efforts and ingenuity of Colonel Frederick C. Dodson, the III MAF communications officer, and the communications section for reducing the backlog to manageable proportions. Finally Nickerson observed:

Reading, analyzing, answering, dodging, eliminating these dispatches was a tremendous load. Colonel Regan Fuller, MAF Chief of Staff, challenged, cajoled, and led the staff in his cantankerous manner on a crippling schedule in order to catch up. ... After many weeks he was successful and he accomplished all of this while ill with a bleeding ulcer.31

Communications was only one of the trouble areas caused by the transformation of the command. The troops sent into Vietnam had to be supplied and maintained, and MACV had planned to establish a Da Nang Support Command under the Army's 1st Logistic Command to provide common item supply for III MAF. At the Honolulu Conference in April, this plan was modified and Admiral Sharp directed that the Commanding General, III MAF, in his capacity as Naval Component Commander, would assume the responsibility for common item supply from Marine and Navy sources, as well as the operation of the ports in I Corps. Since the Navy had not yet established a support activity in Vietnam to run the ports, the job had to be done by Marine Corps personnel and equipment. This placed a heavy burden on III MAF.32

Following the Chu Lai landings, Colonel Nickerson, the III MAF G-4, held nightly meetings "as the hectic problems spanned the logistic spectrum." These meetings were "designed for liquidating problems, coordinating efforts and insuring that all had the necessary information to do their jobs."33 On 16 May, Nickerson presented a logistic support concept for the Marine command. While assuming that the Navy would eventually establish a support activity, the concept directed the III MAF to run the ports and at the same time make

 

*Colonel Rex C. Denny, from the III MAF G-3 Section, recalled that the fact that General Walt was both the 3d Marine Division and III MAF commander "caused some humorous and often confusing staff work. MAF staff and division staff working on same project or MAF staff doing work division staff rightly should." Col Rex C. Denny, Comments on draft MS, dtd 10Nov76 (Vietnam Comment File). Lieutenant General Leo J. Dulacki, who in 1965 was the III MAF G-2, remarked that "when III MAF was deployed to RVN, it was assumed that the Hqs would be a skeleton Hqs, dependent on the Wing and Division Hqs for substantial personnel support and, in/act, for many of the operational functions." Dulacki pointed out that this concept of organization, which had been accepted as standard for years, was for the first time "put to the test." He noted that the subsequent, "necessary, but agonizingly slow, growth of the III MAF headquarters in order to perform its tasks would indicate that this concept lacks vitality especially in a commitment of forces of long duration." LtGen Leo J. Dulacki, Comments on draft MS, dtd 240ct76 and [Jul] 77 (Vietnam Comment File).

 

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