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village complex, 40 miles north of Qui Nhon. This time the battalion was moderately successful, surprising a small VC force. During the two-day operation, the Marines killed 26 enemy and detained 38 suspects. The Marine battalion sustained casualties of three dead and 10 wounded. In retrospect, the DAGGER THRUST raids failed to achieve their overall objective, the quick exploitation of intelligence and resulting contact with large enemy formations. Admiral Johnson, several years later, observed:

The excessive time involved in planning and coordinating with the MACV levels resulted in completely stale intelligence. Furthermore, by the time MACV had completed his all important coordination and alerting of ARVN forces and Province Chiefs, we had also completely spooked the VC and they had flown the coop.32

The SLF at the End of the Year

Following the completion of DAGGER THRUST V, Colonel Burnett attended the final III MAF planning briefing for Operation HARVEST MOON on 8 December. General Walt had requested that the SLF be assigned as the reserve force for the multi-battalion U:S. Marine-ARVN operation in the Que Son Valley. The enemy was the old STARLITE foe, the 1st VC Regiment. Both MACV and CinCPacFlt approved the request, and the SLF helicopter squadron was committed to the operation on 9 December. The infantry battalion landed the next day. When the operation ended on 19 December, the SLF reembarked in its shipping. Hanifin's battalion suffered 12 dead and 52 wounded during the extended operation.

After HARVEST MOON, the SLF underwent further changes in unit composition and designation. On 21 December, Hanifin's battalion was unloaded at the mouth of the Hue River and replaced Lieutenant Colonel Sumner A. Vale's 3d Battalion, 4th Marines at Phu Bai. The latter battalion embarked on the SLF ships for a return voyage to Okinawa as a unit of the FMFPac intratheater transplacement program. At the same time, Vice Admiral John J. Hyland, who had relieved Admiral Blackburn earlier in the month as Seventh Fleet commander, officially dissolved the RAMAB/TF 78 headquarters. The SLF assumed the fleet designation TG 79.5 and reported administratively to General Fields in his capacity as CG TF 79. On 29 December, BLT 3/4 landed at Okinawa and on New Year's Eve, BLT 2/3, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William K. Horn, became the new SLF battalion.33

During the year, the SLF proved its value as a mobile floating reserve. Although the results of the DAGGER THRUST raids were less than expected, the SLF air and ground units played important roles in both STARLITE and HARVEST MOON. The SLF served as a successful contingency force for the Qui Nhon landing in July, and, later in the year, during the Indonesian crisis. By the end of 1965, the organizational problems with the Navy had been resolved and some of the doctrinal debates with MACV had been temporarily put aside. Nevertheless the questions about the extent of the amphibious objective area and command and control of forces in the AOA would continue to arise periodically for the rest of the war.*


*The former Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral Roy L. Johnson, remarked: "Command relationships and who exercised operational control over what, where, and when were controversial in varying degrees from the very beginning of active involvement of U. S. forces in N. and S. Vietnam." In reference to the Seventh Fleet amphibious forces, the former CinCPacFlt stated that the "ARG/SLF was kicked around and whipsawed more than any other operational unit that I can think of." Admiral Johnson declared that much of this "had its genesis in the CTF 79/78 arguments." He did not believe that the establishment of TF 78 (RAMAB) was a good solution, but stated that Admiral Blackburn did not have "very many options open to him." Admiral Johnson faulted the Marines for not being willing to appoint a full time CTF 79 (Commanding General, FMF Seventh Fleet), and this failure, the former Pacific Fleet commander claimed, seriously diluted "the command prerogative of Com7thFlt . . . ."He also observed that "There were others who had designs on control of the SLF, notably MACV, who did not want to be bothered with going through any [other] command if he wanted to use them in some emergency of his determination." Adm Roy L. Johnson, Comments on draft MS, dtd 12Aug77 (Vietnam Comment File). Admiral John J. Hyland, who relieved Admiral Blackburn as Commander Seventh Fleet in November 1965, commented in the same vein as Admiral Johnson: ' 'The potential problem with the SLF had nothing to do with its performance or its excellence or its utilization. The difficulty was principally a political one between Navy and Army doctrine. . . . Specifically with regard to the SLF the Army wanted operational control. I always felt that once they had been given it they never would have released it, and the SLF would simply become another Army unit ashore. We would never be able to get it back aboard ship for use in some other area which might be more important." Adm John J. Hyland, Comments on draft MS, dtd 3Aug77 (Vietnam Comment File).

 

 

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