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Page 136 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)




Aside from the addition of the new infantry battalion, the mid-1964 reorganization produced other noteworthy changes in the structure of the Vietnamese Marine Corps. In the artillery battalion, the two 75mm pack howitzer batteries were combined into one battery of eight weapons, while the one 105mm howitzer battery was divided to form two new batteries of six howitzers each. The tables of equipment were revised to reflect these adjustments. Another significant change occurred in the area of training. The Training Company was deleted from the Amphibious Support Battalion and a separate recruit training center was created at Thu Due near Saigon. Tactical planning and control was also improved when the Brigade Headquarters was reduced in size and two smaller Task Force Headquarters (Task Force A and Task Force B) were formed.


Following the mid-1964 reorganization, the Vietnamese Marines performed combat missions not unlike those they had been assigned prior to July. One exception was that the brigade no longer found itself tasked with actual pacification phases of operations. Instead, the Marine battalions concentrated on clearing operations around Saigon in conjunction with the Hop Tac campaign. Additionally, the various battalions were called upon occasionally during this period to provide security for key government installations located in Saigon and Vung Tau-assignments which gave the infantry units much needed respites from field duty.


By the end of the year the Vietnamese Marine Corps had been improved in several areas. In the motor transport field two new pieces of equipment were put into full-time operation-a high pressure steam cleaner and an M-108 wrecker. Progress also was made in upgrading the entire communications capability of the brigade when the table of equipment was revised in accordance with the modified table of organization. The new tables provided for modern test and repair equipment and eliminated obsolete and impractical items. Other unrealized improvements were still in their formative stages as the year closed. In the field of supply, for example, the brigade supply officer, with assistance from his American advisor, was drawing up plans which would give the Vietnamese Marines a more responsive and more manageable system.


While the technically oriented programs were being developed and implemented, intensified training programs were preparing more and better trained Vietnamese Marines for their responsibilities. Established in July, the Marine Training Center at Thu Due had graduated 1,464 recruits before the end of the year. These recruits, moreover, were trained by Vietnamese noncommissioned officers who had recently completed the drill instructor course at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. For the first time since its inception, the VNMC was benefiting from a flow of recruits trained by Vietnamese Marines at a separate Marine training facility. Other programs likewise were helping prepare Vietnamese officers and noncommissioned officers to command and manage their growing service. A total of 718 officers and noncommissioned officers attended various training courses in South Vietnam during the year while 42 more officers attended formal schools in the United States during the same period. Another 52 small unit leaders participated in on-the-job training programs with U.S. Marine units on Okinawa between January and December.8


Unfortunately, these developments were overshadowed by a military disaster which befell the 4th VNMC Battalion on the last day of the year. The Marine unit had been serving since early December as the reserve force for III Corps Tactical Zone. On the 27th an estimated Viet Cong battalion overran the small pro-government town of Binh Gia located in Phuoc Thy Province roughly 35 miles east of Saigon. Ill Corps officials reacted by dispatching the 4th Battalion and an ARVN Ranger battalion to the area. The 4th Battalion, accompanied by two U.S. Marine advisors and three OJT observers from the 3d Marine Division, was ordered to recapture the town. It proceeded to do so on the 30th, encountering no enemy opposition. Later in the day, while the Marines were developing defensive positions around the town, a spotter aircraft sighted a large Viet Cong force approximately two miles to the west and called for air strikes. A U.S. Army helicopter gunship was shot down and its crew killed while attacking the target.




Page 136 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)