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From there, the Marines were to sweep to the sea through the Van Tuong village complex and over the Phuoc Thuan Peninsula. Artillery batteries at Chu Lai were to provide artillery support while two U.S. destroyers, the Orleck (DD 886) and the Prichett (DD 561), and the cruiser Galveston (CLG 3) were available for naval gunfire. Aircraft from MAGs-11 and -12 were to fly close support for the operation. The planning phase was short; Colonel Peatross later remarked, "there just wasn't enough time for anyone to bring up any problems.'' 7

The Battle

With the completion of planning, the Marines began preparations for the operation. Lieutenant Colonel James P. Kelly's 1st Battalion, 7th Marines took over the defensive positions of Muir's 3d Battalion in the Chu Lai TAOR, while two companies, one each from the Da Nang and Phu Bai enclaves, were flown in to man the perimeter held by Fisher's 2d Battalion. At 1000 on the 17th, Company M, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines boarded LVTs at Chu Lai and moved along the coast to the Trung Phan Peninsula; then the company marched four miles south where it established its blocking position. The Marines of Company M met only minor resistance, an occasional sniper and booby traps. One man tripped a mine and suffered superficial wounds; no one else was injured. Before dawn on the 18th, the company reached its objective and dug in. Marine patrols had been active in this area for some time and to the casual observer the company's activity was just another small unit movement.

At 1700 on 17 August, the rest of Lieutenant Colonel-Muir's 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, with Colonel Peatross and his staff, embarked on the three ships of the amphibious task group, Bayfield (APA 33), Cabildo (LSD 16), and Vernon County (LST 1161). Three M-67 flame tanks attached to the 7th Marines and a platoon of five M-48 tanks assigned to Fisher's battalion boarded two LCUs, which then sailed independently towards the amphibious objective area, timing their arrival to coincide with that of the troop transports. That night at 2200, the larger ships were under way. The task force first sailed east to deceive any VC in sampans in the coastal waters. Once over the horizon, the ships changed course to the southwest, arriving in the amphibious objective area shortly after 0500. There they were joined by the Galveston and the Orleck, which were to cover the landing.*

At 0615, 15 minutes before H-Hour, Battery K, 4th Battalion, 12th Marines, which had displaced to firing positions on the northern bank of the Tra Bong River in the Chu Lai TAOR the night before, began 155mm preparation fires of the helicopter landing zones. The artillery was soon reinforced by 20 Marine A-4s and F-4s which dropped 18 tons of bombs and napalm on the LZs. The Marines limited their preparation of GREEN Beach to 20mm cannon strafing runs by MAG-12 A-4 Skyhawks, because of the proximity of An Cuong (l) to the landing site.

As the air and artillery fires lifted, the ground forces arrived. Lieutenant Colonel Muir's Companies I and K, in LVTs, landed across GREEN Beach at 0630 and pushed inland according to plan. A charge exploded to the front of Company I, but caused no casualties. The troops quickly spread out and moved into An Cuong (l). After a futile search for VC, the company continued advancing to the west. Company K received sniper fire from its right as it crossed the northern portion of GREEN Beach. Two platoons quickly moved northward and the enemy fire ceased. The third platoon secured the northern half of An Cuong (l). Fifteen minutes after H-Hour, Company G landed at LZ RED. Company E and Fisher's command group landed at LZ WHITE and Company H arrived at LZ BLUE 45 minutes later. On the beach, Lieutenant Colonel Muir, who had moved his CP ashore, was joined at 0730 by Colonel Peatross and his staff. Tanks and Ontos rolled off the LCUs and LCMs and made their way forward to support the assault companies. Company L came ashore and established perimeter security for the supply area at the beach.

Most of the Marine companies met only light resistance as they moved into the attack. Company G searched two hamlets in the vicinity of LZ RED and then advanced to the northeast and linked up with Company M without incident. At LZ WHITE south

 


 

* The Prichett did not arrive to support the operation until D plus l. Colonel Floyd J. Johnson, Jr., the 7th Marines S-4 for STARLITE, believes the Marines were able to achieve the element of surprise because the ships used in the operation were the same ones that brought RLT-7 to Vietnam and ''When we backloaded and sailed so soon after arrival, it's very possible the VC paid little attention, since the ships were due to leave anyway." Col Floyd J. Johnson, Jr., Comments on draft MS, dtd 29Nov76 (Vietnam Comment File).

 

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