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Page 112 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)




THE ADVISORY AND COMBAT ASSISTANCE ERA, I954-I964


flight line into a quagmire that was virtually impassable. At the time. Colonel Ireland, then the task unit commander, had responded by requesting equipment from Okinawa to improve the Marines' only road link with their aircraft. Wing authorities promptly complied and a road grader was flown in by KC-130 (the new designation for the GV-1 Hercules). Within days a 700-foot section of the road was opened and a drainage ditch dug along its entire length. This measure proved to be only temporary, however, for in January the mud again threatened to cut the Marine vehicles off from the east side of the airfield. Lieutenant Colonel McCully obtained a bulldozer from Okinawa to make more permanent repairs. With the help of this piece of equipment, the Marines constructed a new 400-foot section of road on an eight-inch rock base. These repairs proved to be satisfactory and the road caused no further problem during the remainder of the monsoon season.


Improvements in the compound continued to be made under the task element's new commander, Lieutenant Colonel Brown. In April action was taken on an earlier request for the assignment of a security detachment to guard the Marine area. A reconnaissance platoon of 47 Marines from the 3d Marine Division joined the task element, thus freeing the men of the helicopter squadron and the MABS-16 sub unit of the important secondary responsibility they had held since the task unit's deployment to Soc Trang. The assignment of the ground Marines was timely in that it corresponded with a reduction by the ARVN of its forces guarding the perimeter of the Da Nang airbase. One Marine general later observed that with the arrival of the infantry unit, "the air-ground team was in being in Vietnam." '


Other less obvious changes that contributed to the overall efficiency of the Marine task element also occurred during the early spring. In April, the task element commander was able to assign a better facility to medical and dental services. They had been crowded into one of the small structures along with other offices since the displacement from Soc Trang, but now were moved into a separate building in the living compound.


Another problem that plagued the Marines during their entire first year at Da Nang-inadequate water supply-was finally solved in late 1963. Originally the task. unit had depended on a shallow well from which water was pumped and purified. The Marines nearly exhausted this source shortly after their arrival at Da Nang late in the dry season and their commanders were forced to impose strict water discipline. The monsoon rains eased the water crisis but by January production again dropped, this time as a result of the accumulation of heavy silt in the pumps. A Vietnamese contractor was engaged to clean and repair the pumping system but the problem soon recurred. In the early spring two new shallow wells were dug, one in the motor transport working area and the other in the living compound. With the onset of the dry season, however, the Marines again were forced to conserve water. This time the shortage became so acute that tank trucks were required to haul some 16,000 gallons of water a day from a nearby Air Force installation. Finally, in November, a detachment from a Navy construction battalion completed a well 450 feet deep and capped it with a high pressure pump. This proved to be the permanent solution to the long-standing water shortage.


Over the course of the year the Marines received several new vehicles which helped relieve the burden on the rebuilt buses which were beginning to falter under heavy use. Four 10-passengcr, four-wheel-drive trucks and two M-442 "Mighty Mite" jeeps were flown in by KC-130s from Okinawa and assigned to the task element's motor transport section. By summer, two of the old buses were replaced with tactical passenger vehicles which were better suited for transporting personnel between the barracks and work areas. The addition of the new vehicles also allowed the mess hall to begin transporting hot noon meals to the men working on the east side of the airstrip. A mess line set up in the hangar area fed those Marines who previously had lost time by travelling to the living compound for noon meals.


Two changes were made in the task element's command structure in midyear. On 5 July Lieutenant Colonel Earl W. Cassidy, a veteran aviator with 20 years service, relieved Lieutenant Colonel Linnemeier as commanding officer of the MABS-16 sub unit. Two weeks later, on the 18th, Colonel Andre D. Gomez, a Marine who had distinguished himself as an artillery officer during World War II





Page 112 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)