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Extended Patrolling

Throughout the latter half of 1965, Marine units concentrated on small unit operations. General Walt referred to such actions as the ' 'bread and butter of my command."42 A month-by-month comparison of the number of patrols, ambushes, listening posts, and other activities of Marine platoons and squads shows a steady increase in the tempo of operations. In October 3d Marine Division units at all three enclaves conducted 2,877 patrols and 1,061 ambushes which resulted in 70 contacts with the enemy. In December, the division reported a total of 9,698 offensive operations which resulted in 510 contacts.43* One battalion commander observed that each of his platoons conducted two night patrols and one daylight patrol during an average 24-hour period.44

III MAF developed and modified techniques and tactics for the employment of small Marine units. The Marines experimented with specially trained and equipped sniper teams. Fifty of the best marksmen were selected from each of the regiments. These troops were divided into four-man teams and equipped with Winchester Model 70 rifles and telescopic sights. After training, the teams rejoined their regiments. During November and December, 20-30 teams operated in the Marine TAORs daily. On 23 November, a sniper team at Phu Bai killed two VC and wounded another at a distance of more than 1,000 meters.

Aggressive small unit patrolling continued to pay dividends. On 5 December, a platoon from Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines surprised 70 VC on the Trung Phan Peninsula, six miles southeast of the Chu Lai airfield. The platoon, operating from its company's combat base, had been assigned the mission of searching the Tuyet Diem (l) hamlet on the banks of the Moi River. The platoon had established an ambush site 2,000 meters south of the hamlet. At 0300, four VC walked into the trap and were killed by a burst of Marine fire. First Lieutenant Charles D. Jones, the platoon commander, fearing that the noise had compromised his position, ordered two of his squads to deploy to the left and right of the village while he led the third squad into the hamlet. At 0600 the 3d squad entered Tuyet Diem (l) and caught the VC completely unaware. According to one report: "At that time it [the hamlet] became alive with VC. They ran into the streets, some of them naked; all of them carrying weapons, and of course the squads on the right and left took them under fire."45

At the same time, the 3d Squad pushed the enemy toward the river where the platoon killed 30 VC and captured seven more. A search of the area turned up a squad leader's diary, three weapons, and a medical kit.46

Several hours later there was a sequel to this action. Lieutenant Colonel James P. Kelly, the battalion commander, ordered Company A to move into the same area. Kelly believed that there was a good chance that VC might still be there.47 He was correct. The Marines of Company A killed eight VC and captured three more weapons.

Another significant engagement occurred in the Da Nang TAOR on 27 December when a 17-man patrol from Company B, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines engaged a large enemy force near the small hamlet of Quang Ha, 11 miles south of the base. As the Marines approached the hamlet they were fired on from a tree line to their front and from their right flank. The first burst killed the patrol's radioman, destroyed his radio, and damaged one of the two M-60 machine guns. The heavy fire lasted about 15 minutes, seven members of the patrol were hit, and one Marine died of wounds.

Earlier the patrol leader, First Lieutenant James P. Weller, had sent a fire team to a sandy ridge on his right flank to cover the patrol's approach. The main body of the patrol and the flanking fire team immediately returned fire. The enemy launched a frontal attack. The VC were caught in a crossfire between the main body and the fire team on the right

 

 

* These statistics must be used with care. They are reliable for showing general trends, but are not absolutely accurate. As an example, CG FMFPac's staff stated that in October the Marines conducted 3,900 patrols of squad and platoon-size, in addition to 1,361 ambushes which resulted in 323 contacts. III MAF, on the other hand, reported 3,520 small unit actions resulting in 287 VC contacts tor the same period. III MAF ComdC, Oct65 and FMFPac, III MAF, Ops, Oct 65. In the text, the figures provided by the division are used in that it furnished both III MAF and FMFPac with the figures they used. On the general subject of reporting, Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons observed that as III MAF G-3 he "spent 60 percent of my time reporting or generating reports (in two directions: Hawaii and Saigon) . . . . " BGen Edwin H. Simmons, Itr to Col George W. Carrington, dtd 2Dec76 (Vietnam Comment File).

 

 

Page 131 (1965: The Landing and the Buildup)