Development of the Compound Continues-Combat Support Operations-The Situation in Vietnam
SHUFLY, the only U.S. Marine tactical command assigned to South Vietnam, continued its combat support operations in the semi-isolated northern provinces throughout 1963. Although the size of I Corps had been reduced in late 1962 when the Vietnamese Joint General Staff shifted Quang Ngai Province to II CTZ, the mission of the Marine task element remained essentially unchanged. As the new year opened Lieutenant Colonel McCully's command was still responsible for providing direct helicopter support to the forces of the five northern provinces. Likewise, the government's order of battle in the northern provinces had not changed to any great degree. The 1st ARVN Division still occupied the coastal plains south of the DMZ in Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces. Headquartered at Da Nang, the 2d ARVN Division continued to carry the main burden of operations against the Viet Cong in Quang Nam and Quang Tin Provinces. Operating in Quang Ngai Province to the south of the new I Corps-11 Corps border were elements of the 25th ARVN Division. Interspersed along the coastal lowlands among the various regular battalions of these three divisions were small paramilitary garrisons. In the mountains to the west, the scattered Special Forces outposts with their Mon-tagnard defenders continued their struggle for survival while monitoring Communist infiltration.
Development of the Compound Continues
The first month of 1963 saw three important changes in the composition and leadership of Marine Task Element 126.96.36.199. On 11 January, HMM-162, a UH-34D squadron commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Reinhardt Leu, replaced Lieutenant Colonel Rathbun's HMM-163 as the task element's helicopter unit. Five days later, on the 16th, Lieutenant Colonel George H. Linnemeier, winner of four Distinguished Flying Crosses during World War II and Korea, relieved Lieutenant Colonel Davis as the MABS-16 sub unit commander. In the last week of January Lieutenant Colonel Harold F. Brown, a veteran aviator who had piloted scout-dive bombers during the Second World War, arrived at Da Nang and assumed command of the task element from Lieutenant Colonel McCully. During McCully's tour as the Commander, Marine Task Element 188.8.131.52, the Marine compound at Da Nang had begun to assume a quality of permanency which had never been evident at Soc Trang. The utilities section of the MABS-16 detachment was responsible for many of the more noticeable improvements. By the first of the new year they had constructed several shelters on the west side of the runway to cover the motor transport section's working area. They also had replaced the electrical system and repaired some of the damaged plumbing in the living areas. The task element's special services section had begun to provide the Da Nang Marines with entertainment by showing nightly movies, arranging fishing trips into Da Nang harbor, and issuing athletic equipment.
The monsoon season, which was characterized by cold rains, high winds, and deep mud, proved to be a source of much irritation to the Marines during the winter of 1962-1963. In addition to slowing flight operations and creating almost constant discomfort, the weather caused some unforeseen complications. In October 1962, heavy rainfall had combined with constant vehicle usage to turn the road between the living area and the
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