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  Page 90 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)    

 

elements at Udorn. On the 18th, HMM-261's helicopters began arriving at the now busy airfield, having flown from the Amphibious Ready Group with a refueling stop at Korat. Lieutenant Colonel Steele reported to the newly activated ProvMAG.

On 19 May Brigadier General Ormand B. Simpson arrived at Udorn with the staff and ommunications personnel of the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3d MEB) headquarters. Simpson, a Texan who had been serving as Assistant Division Commander, 3d Marine Division, had assembled and activated this headquarters on Okinawa shortly after CinCPac's activation of JTF 116. As Commanding General, 3d MEB, Simpson was to assume command of all Marine elements, air and ground, deployed to Udorn. In addition to being the CG 3d MEB, General Simpson carried the designation, Naval Component Commander, a title which gave him responsibility for all Navy as well as Marine forces operating at Udorn under JTF 116.

Concurrent with General Simpson's arrival, U.S. Air Force C-130 and C-123 transports were ferrying Lieutenant Colonel Adams' Battalion Landing Team from Bangkok to Udorn. The BLT had placed its supplies and trucks, along with HMM-261's heavier equipment, on rail cars for transport to Udorn. Because the Thai flat cars were too small to accommodate such massive vehicles, Adams ordered his tank and amphibious tractor platoons to re-embark on board the USS Point Defiance (LSD-31). Once on the ground at Udorn the battalion and its remaining reinforcements assembled alongside the airstrip. From there the Leathernecks were transported by Thai Army trucks some eight miles south to Nong Ta Kai, a small town situated astride the main service road. Adams' battalion established a temporary camp on some high ground just beyond the town. With the BLT's arrival, the initial Marine combat forces assigned to JTF 116 were in position. The next day, 20 May, General Simpson assumed command of all U.S. Marine and Navy units at Udorn and the 3d MEB, a complete air-ground team, was in being.

Elsewhere in Thailand the U.S. military build-up was continuing apace. A squadron of 20 U.S. Air Force F-100 Super Sabre tactical fighter bombers and a detachment of three refueler aircraft had deployed to Takhli airfield from dark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Two USAF transport squadrons had also begun operations from this base. At Korat, the 1st Brigade, 27th Infantry was being reinforced with Army units from Hawaii. Another Army unit, a logistics support command, was being activated near Bangkok.

To command this growing assortment of military units, General Richardson established the JTF 116 headquarters at Korat. Major General Donald M. Weller, who had been serving as Deputy Commanding General, FMFPac, since leaving the 3d Marine Division in 1961, joined Richardson's headquarters as chief of staff. General Weller's offices were located at Korat initially. Later he relocated at Bangkok where he headed a rear echelon responsible for coordination with the JUSMAAG, ComUSMACThai, and the American representatives to SEATO. While in the capital Weller was also responsible for implementing a logistic plan, the objective of which was to upgrade lines of communication being used by JTF-116 elements.

It is of interest to note that Colonel Croizat, who had been the first U.S. Marine advisor to the Vietnamese Marine Corps, was serving at this time as the senior U.S. military representative on the SEATO planning staff in Bangkok. Both Weller, who had commanded JTF 116 for a period during early 1961, and Croizat who had served as its chief of staff during that interval, were intimately familar with the JTF's structure, capabilities, and functions. In fact, the operations plan being executed had been developed in large part under their guidance.2

Another facet of this particular situation was that portions of Operations Plan 32-59 Phase II, (Laos) were to exert a profound influence on later U.S. Marine operations in the Republic of Vietnam. A key provision of this particular document outlined the command relationships which would govern Marine and Air Force tactical air support in the event JTF 116 actually became involved in combat. This provision designated the Commander JTF 116 as the "coordinating authority" responsible for synchronizing all JTF tactical air support. But at the same time it assigned the CG, 3d MEB, operational control of all Marine tactical aircraft, thereby insuring that the Marine air-ground team would not be fractured. Later, in the mid-1960s when American tactical jet squadrons would be called upon to support U.S. and RVNAF ground forces in South Vietnam, the CinCPac staff would

 

[eHistory Editors Note: eHistory was contacted by Jim Strachan regarding content on pages 89 and 90. The following is from an email from Mr. Strachan.

I read with interest the account of JTF 116 which was largely focused on the US Marines in Thailand. There was a brief mention of the US Army 25th Infantry Division unit on Pages 89 and 90, as I recall, which was reported to be in Thailand on a SEATO exercise in May 1962. The unit is misidentified in your history in two places as the "1st Brigade, 27th Infantry". This unit was the 1st Battle Group, 27th Infantry, nicknamed the "Wolfhounds". The unit was one of the 25th Infantry Division's five battle groups stationed on Oahu. It was commanded by a Colonel and consisted of a Headquarters Company, five rifle companies designated A, B, C, D, and E, and a Combat Support Company with 4.2 in mortars. After the Marines left Thailand, the Wolfhounds remained and my unit, the 1st Battle Group, 35th Infantry, nicknamed "Cacti Green", replaced the Wolfhounds in August 1962, returning to Hawaii in December 1962. As a platoon leader in C Company, 1/35, my rifle platoon patrolled and conducted civic action activities from near Korat east to Ubon on the MeKong and up and around the northeast corner of Thailand to Sakorn Nakorn, Nakon Phanom, Udorn, Tha Bo, Kon Kaen and back to Korat over a several month period. So, the 1st Battle Group, 27th Infantry, and the 1st Battle Group, 35th Infantry, from the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, spent most of 1962 as a US Army "show of force" in northeast Thailand under JTF 116. You may want to research and clarify this aspect of JTF 116 history in your eHistory, as the Army had a significant combat presence in Thailand in 1962 which remained longer than the Marines.

Regards,
Jim Strachan,
Missouri City, Texas]

 

 

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