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Admiral Blackburn did not concur with the proposed alterations and stated that he would ' 'make all decisions concerning the organization of the Seventh Fleet."15 According to General Krulak, the Seventh Fleet Commander misunderstood General Fields' intentions and believed that the latter had overreached himself. Krulak explained:
While not Blackburn's idea, the TF 78 and TG 78.5 organization made its advent under his regime, and I'm sure he views its existence with a certain amount of personal pride. Furthermore it has been my experience that whereas the Navy has sometimes abused the SLF they, at the same time, have been sensitive and jealous of the slightest interference with it.16
General Krulak advised General Fields ''to pick up the pieces and try to make something of it." The FMFPac commander observed that he was not interested in ' 'either challenging or assuaging Black-bun, but rather in making things better for our forces afloat." Krulak stated that the SLF had been maltreated and that this concerned him. In his view, the problem stemmed, in part, from the disparity in rank between the Navy and Marine commanders of the amphibious forces ''and lack of an appropriate air/ground (SLF) headquarters." Krulak recommended that Fields remind the Seventh Fleet commander that the latter's responsibility did not include the internal organization of the Marine Corps forces, "specifically the assignment of a Marine colonel as SLF commander is outside the authority of the operational commander. "17
General Fields, in his reply to Admiral Blackburn, remarked that he had no intention of usurping any of the prerogatives of the Seventh Fleet commander, but stood his ground on the reorganization of the SLF command. He insisted that as the officer responsible for organizing, equipping, training, and providing forces for the SLF, he was in the best position "to determine who should be placed in direct command of these forces."18
At this point, the entire question of the organization and control of the SLF was held in abeyance. General Fields stated that for the time being he would hold off the transfer of the commander of the RAMAB to the SLF. On the other hand, Admiral Blackburn, who wanted two SLFs in the Seventh Fleet, which would justify an amphibious brigade headquarters, was denied this request by CinCPacFlt. Admiral Johnson informed Blackburn that with the continuing commitment to Vietnam there were neither enough Marine troops or helicopters in the Western Pacific to form a second SLF.19
In the meantime, some changes had occurred in the unit composition of the SLF. After STARLITE and a short refurbishing visit to Subic Bay, BLT 3/7 was unloaded at Chu Lai and was attached to III MAF in early September. The ARG sailed for Okinawa where it embarked Lieutenant Colonel Robert T. Hanifin's BLT 211, the new SLF battalion. HMM-163 was retained as the SLF helicopter squadron and Lieutenant Colonel Ewers still kept his "two hats" as commander of the SLF and the squadron. The ARG/SLF returned to Vietnamese waters on 10 September as the covering force for the landing of the U. S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) at Qui Nhon.
The First DAGGER THRUST Raids
While off Qui Nhon, the SLF prepared to carry out the first of the long delayed series of amphibious raids in support of the MARKET TIME anti-infiltration operations. Since June, CinCPac, CinCPacFlt, Seventh Fleet Amphibious Forces, and MACV had worked out the details of the raids, to be known as DAGGER THRUST. In late July, Admiral Sharp approved the outline plans for three DAGGER THRUST raids, as well as the implementation of the 14 March MACV-CinCPacFIt anti-infiltration agreement. In accordance with this agreement, the raids were to be quick thrusts by the SLF into suspected enemy concentration points followed by immediate retraction of the landing force. Established amphibious doctrine dictated that the Navy amphibious commander would retain control of the Marine forces ashore since no permanent beachhead was to be established. Admiral Blackburn designated Rear Admiral Don W. Wulzen, CTF 76, as the amphibious task force commander for the DAGGER THRUST mission. By mid-September, Wulzen had completed his detailed landing plans and, on 21 September, General Westmoreland obtained South Vietnamese clearance for the first raids.
This series of DAGGER THRUST operations was to consist of three raids in rapid succession on widely dispersed coastal objective areas. After carrying out the first raid on the Vung Mu Peninsula, 20 miles south of Qui Nhon, the SLF was to strike a second target 50 miles to the south in the Ben Goi area, 27
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