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CHAPTER 12

Logistics and Construction

The Logistic Situation-III MAF Naval Responsibilities-RED BALL and CRITIPAC-The Force Logistic Support Group-Engineering and Construction

The Logistic Situation

When the decision was made in early 1965 to commit major U.S. combat forces in South Vietnam, MACV was prepared to support only the 20,000 U.S. troops already there. General Westmoreland, therefore, requested the commitment of Marines to the I Corps area since the Marine units were the only readily available forces prepared to support themselves over the beaches in an area of few ports and airfields.1 According to one source:

The Marine Corps equipment posture was at its highest peacetime level of readiness since the Korean War. Modern equipment and ammunition with adequate backup stocks were available to equip and support units required for mobilization, and to improve the combat capability of the Fleet Marine Forces.2

This report overstated the case of Marine logistic preparedness. Logistics for the Marines in Vietnam soon became a major problem, despite the fact that for the first time a combat force had been deployed with a computerized supply system. The computerization broke down 'right off the bat... when the stock cards began swelling due to the high humidity and the cards wouldn't fit in the machine.' Record keeping had to be accomplished manually for an extended period, slowing down the entire operation.3

A malfunctioning requisition system compounded supply difficulties. In contrast to the practice in World War II and Korea, the Marine Corps in Vietnam used a 'pull' system of resupply rather than forced feeding. Units made requisitions based on predicted usage, but the predictions, even with the incorporation of a 'Combat Active Factor,' underestimated the unique demands of the Vietnam situation. Colonel Mauro J. Padalino, the III MAF Force Logistic Support Group (FLSG) commander, later explained:

Those calculations never envisioned either the harsh environment (degraded roads, Chu Lai, etc.) nor the garrison, war-time 24-hour around-the-clock type operations the Corps experienced. In a free-type battlefield situation where there is constant forward movement with minimal pauses for consolidation, there is less wear and tear on equipment and supplies by comparison, to the in-place situation.4

Padalino pointed out that the dirt roads were initially trafficable, but in time 'they were reduced to deep powder or mud' resulting in an 'astronomical rise in demand for repair parts.' The FLSG commander concluded 'the garrison environment imposed a much broader base of demand on the supply system-requisitions for salt and pepper shakers competed with requisitions for combat essentials.'5

Many commodities such as fork lifts, barbed wire, and field fortifications were in short supply. One of the most acute shortages was radio batteries, which, since there was no refrigeration, 'instead of lasting 25 hours . . . pooped out in four hours.'6 For a short period in May, III MAF found it necessary to limit patrol activity because of the lack of batteries for PRC-10 radios. The logistic situation saw some improvement on 5 June, when the Defense Department finally permitted General Greene to release emergency FMFPac mount-out supplies for shipment to Vietnam.

The impact of the release of the mount-out supplies was still modest. One Marine commander later remarked that this action 'was akin [to applying].. . a bandaid to a massive wound.'7 By the end of June, the Marine Corps pipeline, designed to support a peacetime consumption rate, was beginning to show the strain. Colonel Nickerson, the III MAF G-4 at the time, commented: '... there was no magic solution for the deluge of problems except hard, intelligent work-the use of imagination, ingenuity, and common sense was ever important. '8 Nickerson would assign a particular problem to a member of his

Page 181 (Logistics and Construction )