[Image 1: Marine Corps Historical
vehicles on Highway l attest to the quickness with which the defense of Da
Nang collapsed. President
Thieu's decision to withdraw the airborne division from MR l precipitated
panic among inhabitants and Ie d to loss of this region in less than 12 days.]
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and decided to accelerate that timetable by one year to take advantage of their unexpectedly swift successes, and the half-dozen weeks before the onset of the next monsoon season: "From this moment the final decisive battle of our army and people has begun; its aim is to complete the people's national democratic revolution in the South . . . ."22
Reaching this point of success so far ahead of schedule astounded even General Dung, whose troops had been preparing almost continuously for three months to ensure that they would begin the first phase of the campaign with the element of surprise and overwhelming odds on their side. The results were incredible. The South Vietnamese Armed Forces (RVNAF) had suffered a catastrophic defeat in MR l. In the debacle, the 1st, 2d, and 3d Divisions were lost as identifiable military units, along with the territorial and Ranger forces. The RVNAF managed to extract some 16,000 troops, including 4,000 Marines from Military Region l, but nearly all of the heavy equipment was left behind. Thus an unbroken series of defeats closed the final chapter on the region which once served as home to the U.S. Marines stationed in South Vietnam: 19 March-Quang Tri City and Province abandoned as the general retreat from Military Region l begins.
24 March-Quang Nai and lam Ky fall.
25 March-Hue and Hoi An fall.
26 March-Chu Lai falls.
30 March-Da Nang falls.23
A Wasted Division
Since 1973, the Vietnamese Marine Corps Division had remained in a relatively unchanged defensive posture. In early 1975, the division was in defensive positions along the northernmost line in Military Region l: VNMC Brigade 258 was on the south bank of the Thach Han River just south and west of Quang Tri City; Brigade 369 was defending a line running east from Quang Tri City to the coast; and Brigade 147 was in the southernmost pan of Quang Tri Province defending the western approach to Highway l and the coast (It was located south of the My Chanh River and west of My Chanh). Additionally, during January 1975, the Marine Corps began outfitting a new brigade, the 468th.
As of 12 February, the division's mission was to defend Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces, to delay any enemy advances, and if forced to withdraw, then to defend Hue. On 12 March, when the Airborne Division was unexpectedly ordered to deploy from Da Nang to Saigon, the Corps Commander, General
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