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unit. The people-to-people program which followed was, in all respects, a concerted and integrated effort. Officers taught conversational English classes to interested civilians both at Udorn and at Nong Ta Kai, while Leatherneck engineers and Navy Seabees (who arrived near the end of May) helped repair public buildings. Navy medical and dental personnel attached to Colonel Mickey's ProvMAG and Lieutenant Colonel Adams' BLT joined the effort by administering almost daily to the physical ailments of the local populace and occasionally visiting the more remote villages by helicopter. In an action intended to help prevent friction between Marines and Thai townspeople, General Simpson directed that MEB units disembark from trucks as they approached towns, march through the population centers at sling arms, and re-embark aboard their trucks at the opposite end of the town. Relying on this broad array of simple but effective programs, the 3d MEB was able to impress upon the civilian population that its mission was one of assistance and good will rather than occupation.

This crisis in Laos eased somewhat after the U.S. joint task force established its presence in northeastern Thailand, and Communist forces halted their advance short of the international border. With these two developments there was no requirement for additional Marine infantry battalions. Accordingly, General Simpson redesig-nated his force the 3d Marine Expeditionary Unit (3d MEU), even though other reinforcements continued to arrive at Udorn throughout May and most of June. Near the end of May, a 70-man Seabee detachment from Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 10 was airlifted to the position. This detachment, the initial increment of a larger Logistics Support Group (LSG), moved to Nong Ta Kai where it helped the BLT's pioneer platoon complete a. more permanent camp designed to withstand the approaching monsoon season. In mid-June, with no end to the MEU's assignment in sight, the remainder of the 500-man LSG deployed from Okinawa to Udorn. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert S. Hudson, this group included a motor transport detachment, a medical detachment, a supply unit, and an engineer detachment.* These reinforcements brought the number of Marines, Seabees, and Navy medical and dental personnel under General Simpson's command to its highest level-3,426 officers and men. A final change in the composition of the 3d MEU occurred in the final week of June when HMM-162, an HUS-1 squadron commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Reinhardt Leu, replaced HMM-261 as the helicopter element.

While General Simpson's MEU was strengthening its posture in northeastern Thailand, U.S. officials were reporting definite progress in the negotiations being held in Geneva and Vientiane. Encouraged by these signs and hoping to influence the Geneva talks even further. President Kennedy ordered major elements of the U.S. combat forces withdrawn from Thailand on 29 June, just four days after HMM-162's arrival at Udorn. In response General Richardson directed General Simpson to prepare for the immediate withdrawal of the ProvMAG and one infantry company. Two days later, on the morning of 1 July, VMA-332's Skyhawks launched for Cubi Point in the Philippines. Subsequently, HMM-162's helicopters departed for Bangkok where they re-embarked on board the USS Valley Forge. Okinawa-based GV-ls airlifted one of BLT 3/9's companies to the Philippines while elements of the Marine air control squadrons traveled by rail to Bangkok for embarkation on board ships of the Seventh Fleet. By 6 July General Simpson's 3d MEU had been reduced by just over 1,000 men.

At Geneva, the first weeks of July were marked by steady progress toward a diplomatic solution to the long-standing Laotian problem. By the 20th it was evident that a formal agreement would soon be forthcoming. With these encouraging developments, General Richardson was directed to prepare for the withdrawal of the remainder of his forces from Thailand. In Laos, the quarreling political factions had already agreed to participate in a coalition government headed by Prince Souvanna Phouma which would serve as the basis for a neutral state. At Geneva on the 23d, the United States, the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Burma, Great Britain, France, Canada, India, Communist China, Thailand, Poland, the Kingdom of Laos, and Cambodia finally signed the Declaration of Neutrality of Laos and an attached protocol. In so doing the 14 signatories agreed to recognize and respect the sovereignty, independ-

*Lieutcnant Colonel Hudson was relieved by Lieutenant Colonel Angus J. Cronin on 22 July.

 

 

Page 93 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)