Page 054

Page 54(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)  

Admiral Sharp on 21 June. In his message, he stated that he could not divert units from III MAF, or from the 173d Airborne Brigade at Bien Hoa, for base defense in II Corps. Although a brigade from the Army's 1st Infantry Division was to arrive at Qui Nhon in mid-July, Westmoreland feared that the existing U.S. Army logistic buildup there offered too lucrative a target for the VC. Consequently, he requested that a Marine battalion be flown to Qui Nhon from Okinawa as soon as possible.

Admiral Sharp agreed to the request for reinforcement, but suggested a modification to the deployment of the Marine battalion. During June, the 7th Marines, a 1st Marine Division regiment, had arrived at Okinawa from Camp Pendleton with all three of its battalions. The regiment's arrival permitted the Navy and Marine Corps to embark one battalion on amphibious shipping and reconstitute the special landing force (SLF) of the Seventh Fleet. Sharp proposed that the SLF land at Qui Nhon, rather than redeploy another battalion by air. This alternative would allow the Marines to reembark in their own shipping when they were relieved by the Army's 1st Division brigade. The Joint Chiefs agreed with Sharp and ordered him to land the SLF at Qui Nhon on l July.

During the period 24-26 June, Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Bodley's BLT 3/7 and Lieutenant Colonel Norman G. Ewer's HMM-163 embarked on board the amphibious ships Iwo Jima (LPH 2), Talladega (APA 208), and Point Defiance (LSD 31).* The ships sailed for Vietnam on the 26th. Lieutenant Colonel Bodley, who had been on a staff visit to the

USMC Photo A184870

Captain Michael F. Welty, Commanding Officer, Company F, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, (kneeling) discusses the tactical situation with his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Leon N. Utter, (seated) at Qui Nhon. Master Sergeant E. J. McCarthy, the Company F First Sergeant, is seated in the middle.
Philippines and to Vietnam, recalled, ''our return flight to Okinawa arrived just in time to permit us to wave down a local helicopter and still be able to catch the departing SLF at sea.'13

On 30 June, the amphibious task group arrived off Qui Nhon; ashore General Westmoreland was on hand to greet the Marines. Lieutenant Colonel Bodley flew ashore by helicopter to meet Westmoreland, who, according to Bodley, 'wanted to personally brief me and resolve on the spot any landing/operating problems existing or anticipated.' The MACV commander offered to support the SLF battalion with rations, ammunition, and other common items of supply. Bodley recalled that when General Krulak was notified of this offer, he 'disapproved declaring that Marines would be self-sufficient.'14

According to plan, on 1 July, Lieutenant Colonel Bodley landed three of his infantry companies and the attached 107mm Mortar Battery from the 3d Battalion, llth Marines. The fourth infantry company, Company L, and other attachments remained on board ship as the BLT reserve. By 1700 the amphibious phase of the operation was over and the battalion had established positions on the high ground south of the city.

The SLF battalion's stay at Qui Nhon was shorter than anticipated. On 2 July, General Westmoreland advised Admiral Sharp that, with the mounting enemy offensive in II Corps and northern III Corps, he believed it was necessary to release the 173d Airborne Brigade from its static mission of protecting the Bien Hoa airfield and use it as a mobile reserve. He recommended that the 1st Infantry Division brigade scheduled for Qui Nhon be diverted

 


 

* There had been no Seventh Fleet SLF since mid-May. The helicopter squadron, HMM-163, had just returned from Vietnam on 21 June where it had been replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Mervin B. Porter's HMM-261. See Chapter 13 for a further discussion of the SLF.

Page 54(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)