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Page 105(The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)  


 

>camps and some cultivated crops. ARVN units operating around the Marines reported scattered action as they engaged small groups of Viet Cong attempting to escape from the center of the Do Xa. BACH PHOUNG XI concluded in mid-May when U.S. Marine UH-34Ds lifted the VNMC battalions back to Tra My. From there the Marines returned by convoy to Quang Ngai where they staged for the airlift back to Saigon. The statistics for the Marine portion of the operation revealed that only two Viet Cong soldiers had been killed. Khang's force suffered 36 wounded, most as a result of encounters with booby traps constructed from sharpened bamboo spikes. ARVN forces fared only slightly better, having killed barely a score of Communists. Except for the fact that they had demonstrated their ability to penetrate the most difficult Viet Cong sanctuary, the two week offensive into the Do Xa base area had little impact on the war effort. From the standpoint of training and experience, however, the operation was beneficial. The Vietnamese Marines and their advisors learned a great deal about construction of landing zones and about directing helicopters, fields in which they had received little previous training.*

In early September Lieutenant Colonel Wesley C. Noren, recently transferred from the 2d Marine Division where he had served as Assistant G-3, arrived in Saigon to replace Lieutenant Colonel Moody as the Senior Marine Advisor to the Vietnamese Marine Corps. Already selected for promotion to colonel, Noren would become the seventh Senior Marine Advisor when Moody left Vietnam in October.

General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Wesley G. Noren, Senior Marine Advisor to the Vietnamese Marine Corps, confer with Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Ba Lien, Commandant of the Vietnamese Marine Corps. (USMC Photo A420917').

In mid-October the Vietnamese Marine commanders formed a provisional regiment for Operation PHI-HOA 5, which was to be conducted in III Corps Tactical Zone.** The 1st, 3d, and 4th Battalions, supported by a composite artillery battery and the reconnaissance company, joined ARVN, VNAF, and Vietnamese Navy units in a major search and clear campaign in the northwest corner of Gia Dinh Province, only about 20 miles southeast of Saigon. Like many other large government military operations undertaken in 1963, this one failed to uncover any major enemy forces. The Communist soldiers again managed to elude government forces. An extensive tunnel and cave network, which the Marines systematically destroyed with demolitions, was discovered under the entire area. Still, the Marines managed to kill only six Viet Cong and capture 10. Two Vietnamese Marines were killed and 36 others wounded before the operation terminated on 1 November.

The coup d'etat which toppled President Diem from power began the same day that Operation PHI-HOA 5 concluded. Instead of returning to their base camps, the 1st and 4th Vietnamese Marine Battalions, accompanied by the composite battery, moved into the capital to participate in the power struggle. These units actually launched the coup by seizing key installations in the heart of the city while the 2d VNMC Battalion blocked the highway to Bien Hoa, thus preventing loyalist intervention. Sporadic fighting against troops loyal to Diem continued until the early morning of 2 November when the 4th Battalion finally stormed

*An interesting sidelight to this operation was that it stimulated somewhat of a fad in the offices at MACV and the JGS. Military officials from Saigon who visited the brigade command post, including General Weede, took back large water-smoothed rocks as souvenirs of their trip to the infamous Viet Cong stronghold. Printed on the side of these ornate stones were the words 'Do Xa, May 1963.' (fAoody Comments.')

**After the realignment of the CTZs the previous December, III Corps included a 200-mile-long section of Vietnam which encompassed the southern one third of the Central Highlands and the area south to the boundary of the Capital Military District near Saigon.

 

 



Page 105(The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)