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USMC Photo A422610

Marine helicopters carry diverse cargoes while resupplying ARVN outposts. Livestock such as geese, ducks, and chickens were often 'passengers.'

Navy ship fired star shells. Escorted by four UH-1E gunships from VMO-2, Lieutenant Colonel Childers led his flight of 20 UH-34Ds, 14 from his squadron and 6 from HMM-261, to the objective area. As the helicopters flew through a pass in a ridgeline west of the landing zone, the artillery shifted its fires to the north and east and flare planes began dropping their loads. The UH-34s landed safely and disembarked Company H and a platoon from Company F without incident. Four waves of helicopters landed within 28 minutes and the Marine infantry moved to encircle the Viet Cong. Most of the enemy managed to elude the Marines; Cement's troops killed two VC and detained 30 suspects. Despite the small returns in terms of enemy casualties, the Marines did prove the practicality of night helicopter assaults. Colonel Leslie E. Brown, the operations officer of the wing, concluded: 'We've still got to study night lifts, but now we have a springboard to concentrate on the full potential of night assaults.'21*

In October, helicopters from Colonel Johnson's MAG-36 and ground troops from Lieutenant Colonel Bodley's 3d Battalion, 7th Marines furnished another example of tactical experimentation during Operation HERCULES. Twenty-six UH-34Ds carried 697 troops of the battalion into the action after Marine fixed-wing aircraft had prepared the landing zones. Four of the troop-laden helicopters did not land, they orbited the objective for two hours, providing a mobile ready reserve force for instant support, if and when necessary.22**

During the same period, on 24 October, Lieutenant Colonel Lloyd J. Childers' HMM-361 brought out two Marine reconnaissance companies from the rugged country west of Da Nang, known as


* Major Marc A. Moore, the operations officer of the 2d Battalion, remarked that, 'The VC were surprised, but many had time to go underground before a detailed search could be made at daylight. Results would have been more complete if the assault units had been permitted to maintain their cordon and conduct a detailed 48-hour search; the only method to obtain extensive results in a VC controlled village. Instead the assault force was ordered to sweep the valley to the west soon after daylight, enabling those VC driven underground to slip into the mountains to the north and south.' According to Moore, the detainees reported that 'villagers and VC alike were not aware of the landing' until after the helicopters began lifting off after the troops had disembarked. BGen Marc A. Moore, Comments on draft MS, n.d. [Nov] 76 (Vietnam Comment File).

** This is the first time these tactics had been employed by the Marine air-ground team, but Marine helicopters carried ARVN EAGLE and TIGER FLIGHTS as early as 1962. EAGLE FLIGHTS of Marine UH-34Ds loaded with ARVN soldiers orbited the ground operational area as a ready reaction force, should contact be made with the enemy. TIGER FLIGHTS differed in that the ARVN reaction force was not airborne, but was positioned at a designated pickup zone, ready for immediate airlift, should the tactical situations so dictate. At Da Nang in January 1966, the 9th Marines and MAG-16 devised a tactical arrangement termed SPARROW HAWK for which each battalion of the regiment maintained a squad-sized force at a special landing zone as a reaction force. When the decision to commit this force was made, UH-34Ds and UH-1E gunships on strip alert at Marble Mountain Air Facility flew to the LZ, picked up the squad, and transported it to the area of contact. Employment of SPARROW HAWK differed from the TIGER FLIGHTS as the Marines used the squads as separate maneuver elements and not as reinforcements. Whitlow, U.S. Marines in Vietnam, Chapter 5, and CO, 9th Marines Itr to CMC, dtd 4Jul66, Subj: Updating of 'A Brief History of the 9th Marines.'

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