[Image 1: Marine
of the newly
Brigade undergo training at Song Than base camp. Originally
a three-brigade division, at the
the Joint General
Staff, the VNMC added a fourth brigade in December 1974, meant
to be fully
operational by April 1975.]
Page 20(The Bitter End)
ing South Vietnam's Armed Forces Day parade caused quite a stir* Several of the attaches of the foreign embassies in Saigon wanted to know what new weapon the VNMC had acquired for its arsenal. They might not have been as impressed had they known the rest of the story. The LVTP-5 was an outdated piece of equipment. The USMC advisor's turnover file in 1972 stated: "The LVTP-5 is a 20 year old vehicle designed for a maximum 10 year usage. It has a gasoline engine, is a fire hazard and gets 2-4 miles to a gallon. Spare parts are almost non-existent. Many parts arc no longer manufactured." 61 The spare pans shortage was so severe that the amphibian tractors were literally towed to the parade starting point. Apparently, the Joint General Staff was as impressed by the event as the spectators. Shortly after the parade, they ordered the transfer of four LVTP-5s from the VNMC's Amphibian Tractor Company at Song Than to Military Region l. In addition to this deployment, the Vietnamese Marines kept a small detachment ofLVTPs at the training base at Vung Tau.
Operational use of the LVT brought about a closer association between the Taiwanese and South Vietnamese Marine Corps. The Chinese not only operated the LVTP-5, but maintained it as well. More importantly, the Taiwanese Logistic Command designed and tooled a supply system to manufacture spare parts unique to the LVTs. Lieutenant Colonel Strickland, through the U.S. Marine advisors on Taiwan, gained approval from the Commandant of the Chinese Marine Corps to supply spare pans for amphibian tractors to the VNMC on a contract basis. Furthermore, Lieutenant Colonel Strickland csconcd the commanding officer of the VNMC Amphibian Tractor Company to Taiwan, where he learned shoncuts in LVT maintenance. The net result of these initiatives, despite supply shonagcs, was a significant increase in 1974 in the number of amtracs operationally ready for combat.62
The defensive mission and posture of the division did. not prevent General Lan from conducting a very aggressive program of reconnaissance of NVA-occupied territory. Long-range reconnaissance companies regu-
*The procurement of 31 LVTP-5s had been arranged under a project known as Enhance Plus, a program established to strengthen the VNAF and make Vietnamization a success. The delivery of these vehicles to the VNMC on 8 November 1972 resulted in the formation of an amphibian tractor company at Song Than Base Camp. Their arrival predated the Peace Accords and therefore did not violate the prohibition on the introduction of new weapons. VNMC/MAU HistSum.
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