U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era, 1954-1964

     

Captain Robert H. Whitlow, USMCR

 

Preface and Introduction (See below)

Chapter 1--Background to Military Assistance

Chapter 2--The Formative Years

Chapter 3--Vietnamese Marines and the Communist Insurgency

Chapter 4--An Expanding War

Chapter 5--SHUFLY at Soc Trang

Chapter 6--SHUFLY Moves North

Chapter 7--The Laotian Crisis, 1962

Chapter 8--The Marine Advisory Effort

Chapter 9--SHUFLY Operations

Chapter 10--Marines Meet the Challenge

Chapter 11--Spring and Summer Fighting

Chapter 12--Fall and Winter Operations

Chapter 13--Prelude to Escalation

NOTES

Appendix A: USMC and VNMC Senior Officers, 1954-1964

Appendix B: Awards and Decorations, RVN, Through 1964

Appendix C: Glossary of Acronyms

Appendix D: Chronology

Appendix E:  List of Reviewers

 

 

 

 

 

      Page 0 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964) U.S. MARINES IN VIETNAM

THE ADVISORY & COMBAT ASSISTANCE ERA

1954-1964

Captain Robert H. Whitlow, USMCR

 

HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION HEADQUARTERS, U.S. MARINE CORPS WASHINGTON, D.C.

1977

Library of Congress Card No. 76-600051

PCN 190 003064 00

For Sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, D.C. 20402 (Buckram)

Stock Number 008-055-00094-7

 

 

Foreword

This is the first of a series of nine chronological histories being prepared by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division to cover the entire span of Marine Corps involvement in the Vietnam conflict. This particular volume covers a relatively obscure chapter in U.S. Marine Corps history-the activities of Marines in Vietnam between 1954 and 1964. The narrative traces the evolution of those activities from a one-man advisory operation at the conclusion of the French-Indochina War in 1954 to the advisory and combat support activities of some 700 Marines at the end of 1964. As the introductory volume for the series this account has an important secondary objective: to establish a geographical, political, and military foundation upon which the subsequent histories can be developed.

The author is a Marine Reservist who was a member of the History and Museums Division from September 1972 until August 1974. Promoted to major soon after his return to inactive duty, he is now working for the Kentucky State Government. A native of Kentucky, he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehead State College (1965) and a Master of Arts degree in American History from the University of Kentucky (1972). Commissioned in 1965, Major Whitlow served as an infantry platoon commander with the 6th Marines, an aerial observer with the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam, and later as a platoon commander at Officer Candidate School, Quantico. For services in the Republic of Vietnam during 1967 and 1968 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and 26 awards of the Air Medal.

E. H. SIMMONS

Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

 Director of Marine Corps History and Museums

Reviewed and Approved:

15 September 1976

 

 

Preface

U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1954-1964 is a narrative account of the initial decade of Marine Corps operations in South Vietnam. The monograph had two immediate forerunners, both classified studies prepared in the middle 1960s by the former Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters Marine Corps. Authored by Major James M. Tingling, Captain Harvey D. Bradshaw, and Mr. Benis M. Frank, the first of these was entitled 'United States Marine Corps Activities in Vietnam, 1954-1963.' The second, entitled 'United States Marine Corps Operations in the Republic of Vietnam, 1964,' was authored by Major Harvey D. Bradshaw. Although unpublished, these studies served as important sources for the material contained in this text. Otherwise, this history has been derived from official Marine Corps records, the Oral History Collection of the History and Museums Division, the comment files of the division, and appropriate historical works. Of particular value in its compilation have been the command diaries of the various Marine organizations involved.

Unfortunately, few official documents relative to either the early Marine advisory program or to the early operations of the Vietnamese Marine Corps still exist. Therefore, that portion of the text which deals with those areas has been reconstructed from interviews with various former Marine advisors. Even their generous assistance, however, has not completely overcome the dearth of documentary sources. Any reader possessing a knowledge of this period and subject is invited to submit pertinent comments to the History and Museums Division.

This monograph has not been the product of a single individual's labor. A comment draft of the manuscript was reviewed by over 40 persons, most of whom were directly associated with the described events. (A list of these contributors appears as Appendix E.) Their remarks have been of immense value in reconstructing with accuracy the origin, nature, and scope of the various Marine operations. The manuscript was prepared under the editorial direction of Mr. Henry I. Shaw, Jr., Chief Historian of the History and Museums Division. Final editing and the preparation of the index was done by Mr. Charles R. Smith of the Historical Branch. Miss Kay P. Sue, editorial clerk and manuscript typist for the division, performed valuable services in typing and proof reading both the comment and final drafts. Staff Sergeant Paul A. Lloyd and Sergeant Eric A. dark, also members of the History and Museums Division, were responsible for preparing all maps and charts. Unless otherwise credited, photographs are from official Marine Corps files.

ROBERT H. WHITLOW Captain,

U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents Page

 

Foreword.............................................................. iii

Preface................................................................ v

Table of Contents...................................................... vii

PART I THE WATERSHED. ......................................... 1

Chapter 1 Background to Military Assistance............................ 3

The Geographic Setting............................................. 3

The People........................................................ 6

Vietnam's Recent History........................................... 9

Post-Geneva South Vietnam......................................... 12

The American Response............................................. 14

Chapter 2 The Formative Years......................................... 15

Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam. ....................... 15

Origins of U.S. Marine Assistance.................................... 16

Political Stabilization and Its Effects. ................................ 18

Reorganization and Progress......................................... 20

Summing Up Developments......................................... 25

Chapter 3 Vietnamese Marines and the Communist Insurgency............. 26

Origins and Early Stages of Insurgency............................... 26

Insurgency and the Vietnamese Marine Corps......................... 31

Ancillary Effects on Marine Pacific Commands........................ 39

American Decisions at the Close of 1961.............................. 42

Chapter 4 An Expanding War, 1962..................................... 44

The War's New Context............................................ 44

Creation of MACV and Marine Advisory Division..................... 46

The Vietnamese Marine Corps, 1962.................................. 49

Some Conclusions.................................................. 53

PART II MARINE HELICOPTERS GO TO WAR...................... 55

Chapter 5 SHUFLY at Soc Trang....................................... 57

The Decision....................................................... 57

Deployment to Soc Trang........................................... 59

Mekong Delta Combat Support Operations............................ 65

Preparations and Redeployment...................................... 73

Accomplishments.................................................. 74

Chapter 6 SHUFLY Moves North. ..................................... 75

Arrival at Da Nang................................................. 75

I Corps Tactical Zone............................................... 76

Military Situation, September 1962................................... 79

Initial Helicopter Operations........................................ 80

Marine People-to-People Program.................................... 85

SHUFLY Operations in I Corps...................................... 85

vii

Vlll CONTE!

 Page

Chapter 7 The Laotian Crisis, 1962..................................... 86

Genesis of the Problem. . .......................................... 86

The American Response............................................. 88

The Marine Corps Role............................................. 88

Marine Participation: A Summary..... .............................. 94

PART III THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES, 1963........................ 97

Chapter 8 The Marine Advisory Effort.................................. 99

The Political Climate............................................... 99

The Advisory Division and VNMC Operations........................ 100

Accomplishments................................................... 110

Chapter 9 SHUFLY Operations......................................... Ill

Development of the Compound Continues............................ Ill

Combat Support Operations......................................... 113

The Situation in Vietnam........................................... 121

PART IV AN EXPANDING GROUND WAR. 1964...................... 125

Chapter 10 Marines Meet the Challenge................................. 127

New American Decisions............................................ 127

A Restructured Military Assistance Command......................... 130

Changes in Marine Leadership....................................... 130

Redesignation and Reorganization................................... 131

The Vietnamese Marine Brigade..................................... 132

Additional Marine Activities........................................ 138

Chapter 11 Spring and Summer Fighting................................ 144

The Monsoons..................................................... 144

The Weather Breaks................................................ 148

Sure Wind 202..................................................... 152

Operations Elsewhere in I Corps..................................... 154

Changing the Watch............................................... 156

Chapter 12 Fall and Winter Operations.................................. 157

Dry Weather Fighting.............................................. 157

Monsoon and Flood Relief Operations................................ 159

Changes and Improvements.......................................... 162

Action as the Year Ends............................................ 164

Chapter 13 Prelude to Escalation....................................... 166

NOTES. .............................................................. 169

APPENDICES......................................................... 175

A. USMC and VNMC Senior Officers, 1954-1964...................... 175

B. Awards and Decorations, RVN, Through 1964. .................... 176

C. Glossary of Acronyms........................................... 178

D. Chronology..................................................... 179

E. List of Reviewers............................................... 182

INDEX. .............................................................. 184

 

 

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