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Page 51(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)  

USMC Photo A 194964

Major General Walt provides Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, with an m/light briefing on III MAF operations in Vietnam. The trace of the Marine area of operations can be seen on the briefing map.

governments in Saigon to deal with anything but the most urgent military threats.'3

The VC spring-summer offensive, which opened on 30 May, caught ARVN units widely dispersed in support of the Chien Thang campaign. As a result, the enemy was able to chew up the ARVN battalions piecemeal. In I Corps, the 1st VC Regiment ambushed the 1st Battalion, 51st ARVN Regiment outside of the small hamlet of Ba Gia, 20 miles south of Chu Lai. Of the 500 men in the battalion, only 65 soldiers and 3 U.S. advisors were able to break through the Communist lines. General Thi threw in his last reserves, the 39th Vietnamese Ranger Battalion and the 3d Vietnamese Marine Battalion. Marine F4Bs from VMFA-531 flew close support for the South Vietnamese units. When the battle ended on the 31st, the South Vietnamese had lost 392 men killed and missing, as well as 446 rifles and carbines, and 90 crew-served weapons. They claimed to have killed 556 Viet Cong and captured 20 weapons. Two battalions of U.S. Marines had been alerted, but were not committed.

The question arose concerning the circumstances under which U.S. combat troops would go to the aid of the South Vietnamese. It was answered on 8 June when the White House issued the following statement:

If help is requested by the appropriate Vietnamese commander, General Westmoreland also has authority within the assigned mission to employ these troops in support of Vietnamese forces faced with aggressive attack when other effective reserves are not available and when in his judgment, the general military situation urgently requires it.4

Despite his new authorization, there was little General Westmoreland could do to alleviate the situation. Other than IIl MAF in I Corps, he could only call on one other U.S. infantry formation, the U.S. Army 173d Airborne Brigade, which had arrived at Bien Hoa near Saigon in May. During June, the South Vietnamese Army was losing the equivalent of one infantry battalion a week to enemy action.

General Westmoreland had come to the conclusion that the South Vietnamese, by themselves, were incapable of holding back the Viet Cong, who were being reinforced by North Vietnamese regulars. In a message to the Joint Chiefs on 7 June, the MACV commander painted a stark picture depicting enemy strength and corresponding ARVN weakness. Westmoreland told the JCS, 'I believe that the DRV [Democratic Republic of Vietnam] will commit whatever forces it deems necessary to tip the balance and the GVN cannot stand up successfully to this kind of pressure without reinforcement.' Specifically, General Westmoreland asked for the immediate approval for the deployment to Vietnam of those forces already being considered in various plans. These forces included the remaining two battalions of the 3d Marine Division, as well as two Army brigades and an airmobile division. In addition, Westmoreland requested the deployment, already under consideration, of a Republic of Korea division to South Vietnam, as well as the possible deployment of more American forces at a later date.5

In an exchange of messages between MACV, CinCPac, and JCS, units were added and deleted to the ''shopping list'' that MACV had proposed in the 7 June request. By 22 June, the Joint Chiefs, in a message to Admiral Sharp and General Westmoreland, cited an eventual 44 battalion-size force in South Vietnam exclusive of the South Vietnamese Armed Forces. These 44 battalions were to be largely U.S. Army and Marine Corps, although supplemented by units from South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. In this same message, the Joint Chiefs

Page 51(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)