Page 138

 
Page 138(The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)  


namese Marines into small groups some of which managed to slip past the Viet Cong and find their way back to Binh Gia.

The Vietnamese Marines had suffered their most decisive defeat of the war. Their losses were extremely high: 112 killed, 71 wounded, and 13 missing out of a 326-man battalion. Equipment losses included 142 weapons and over a dozen radios. Additionally, all four of the U.S. Marines who had participated in the disastrous action had been wounded. Both Captain Eller and Lieutenant Brady were later awarded the Silver Star Medal for their roles in the battle.* Captain Donald G. Cook, one of the OJT observers from the 3d Marine Division, was missing in action at the close of the battle.**

Marine Captain Donald E. Koelper, advisor to the 4th Vietnamese Marine Battalion, was posthumously awarded the first Navy Cross for action in Vietnam. (USMC Photo A411741').

The ranger battalion operating nearby suffered a similar fate, incurring nearly 400 casualties in another violent ambush. Thus, within a 24-hour period two elite government battalions had been shattered. Only later was it learned that the Marines and rangers had clashed with two main force regiments of the 9th Viet Cong Division-the first Communist division to become operational in South Vietnam.

As a result of the disastrous engagement at Binh Gia, the 4th Vietnamese Marine Battalion was rendered ineffective as a fighting force for a period of three months. This loss created two immediate problems for General Khang and his American advisors. It reduced the brigade's available infantry strength by approximately 25 percent and placed an added burden on the recruit training center which was already laboring to provide enough new troops to fill the 5th Battalion. For the Vietnamese Marine Corps, 1964 ended on a discouraging note.

 

 

Additional Marine Activities

U.S. Marine participation in the Vietnam War during 1964 was not limited to the activities of the advisory division and the helicopter task element. Various other Marine units and detachments made significant, although less publicized, contributions to the war effort throughout the year. One of these was the Marine security detachment which continued to protect the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Twice during the year the growing political unrest and the increasing threat of Communist terrorist attacks prompted the expansion of the security detachment, first in April and again in October. By the end of the year the detachment's strength stood at 30 Marines-a figure which made it the second largest such unit in the world. Only the Marine detachment in Paris, with 37 officers and men, was larger. And nowhere was an embassy guard assignment more dangerous than in Vietnam where terrorist attacks were apt to occur at anytime.

*Personal decorations for heroism were awarded more frequently to Marine advisors through 1964. Earlier in the year (16 February), a Marine captain, Donald E. Koelper, an advisor to the 4th Vietnamese Marine Battalion earned a Navy Cross, the nation's second highest award for heroism. Koelper was decorated for warning the occupants of a crowded American theater in Saigon to take cover just prior to the detonation of a Viet Cong terrorist bomb. The Marine was killed by a Viet Cong satchel charge. But his sacrifice limited the number of casualties to three killed and 51 wounded.

**It was later learned that Captain Cook had been wounded and captured by the Viet Cong. Cook reportedly died in captivity in 1967.

 

 

 



Page 138(The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)