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CHAPTER 11

Fire Support and Reconnaissance

Artillery Support-Naval Gunfire-Other Ground Combat Support-Marine Reconnaissance- 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, The Early Days- 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, Opening Moves-Force and Division Reconnaissance Merged

Artillery Support

Marine artillery units arrived in Vietnam piecemeal. By mid-July, Colonel William P. Pala had established the 12th Marines headquarters, the artillery regiment of the 3d Marine Division, at Da Nang.* His 1st and 2d Battalions were at Da Nang, but under the operational control of the infantry regiments they supported, the 3d and 9th Marines, respectively. The 2d Battalion, 12th Marines had two 105mm batteries at Da Nang, D and E, while its third battery, F, remained on Okinawa. Two of the 1st Battalion's 105mm batteries, A and B, were at Da Nang and its Battery C was attached to the 3d Battalion, 12th Marines at Chu Lai.

At Phu Bai, the headquarters of the 4th Battalion, 12th Marines, which also arrived in July, took control of the artillery units there. These were one of its 155mm howitzer batteries. Battery M; a 105mm battery, Battery I, 3d Battalion, 12th Marines; and the mortar battery from the 2d Battalion, 12th Marines. On 16 September, Battery M received six of the newer M-109 155mm self-propelled howitzers and its older M-114A towed pieces were then distributed throughout the artillery battalion. Headquarters Battery and Batteries I and M each manned two of the towed 155s. Lieutenant Colonel Sumner A. Vale later remarked:

. . . seldom if ever has an infantry battalion commander had so much artillery support under his control as did Taylor, I, and then Hanifin .... We had the 105 battery within the BLT organization, [the equivalent of] two batteries of 155 howitzers, one towed and one self-propelled, and a battery of howtars .... These 24 artillery pieces compensated, in part, that 3/4 had only 3 rifle companies, one being stationed in the Da Nang area.1

The reinforced 3d Battalion, 12th Marines, under the operational control of the 4th Marines, provided the artillery support for the Chu Lai TAOR. It included three 105mm batteries, C, G, and H, its 107mm mortar battery, the 1st Platoon, 1st 8-inch Howitzer Battery (SP), and Battery K from the 4th Battalion, 12th Marines equipped with 155mm howitzers.

The 12th Marines headquarters assumed direct control of the two general support batteries at Da Nang. These units were Battery L of 155mm howitzers from the 4th Battalion, 12th Marines and two platoons of the Force Troops 1st 8-inch Howitzer Battery (SP).

As the buildup continued. General Walt made further changes in his artillery dispositions. Battery F, 2d Battalion, 12th Marines, arriving from Okinawa, joined its parent battalion at Da Nang. In August, the 3d Battalion, llth Marines and the Force Troops 3d 155mm Gun Battery (SP) arrived, reinforcing the artillery at Chu Lai. General Karch, the assistant division commander and Chu Lai coordinator, placed all of the Chu Lai artillery in a battalion group commanded by Lieutenant Colonel


*A Marine division had a variety of available artillery support. Its artillery regiment consisted of three direct support and one general support battalions. The three direct support battalions, the 1st, 2d, and 3d, contained three batteries, each with six M101A1 105mm towed howitzers (range 11,300 meters), and one battery of six 107mm howtars (range 5,600 meters), a 4.2-inch mortar tube mounted on the frame of the old 75mm pack howitzer. The 4th Battalion, the general support battalion, had three batteries, each equipped with six 155mm howitzers (range 14,600 meters). In 1965, M-109 self-propelled 155mm howitzers were being phased in to replace the older M114A towed howitzers. The 4th Battalion, 12th Marines deployed to Vietnam with two batteries equipped with self-propelled howitzers and one towed battery. In Vietnam, the Marines found they had a use for both weapons. The heavy, tracked M109SP was largely road bound, while the lighter towed howitzer could be moved either by truck or by helicopter.

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