[Image 1: Marine Corps Historical
Collection The VNMC memorial in Saigon was dedicated to the thousands of
died fighting to defend the Republic of South Vietnam. VNMC Brigade s 147,
268, and'369, deployed far from their Saigon headquarters to Quang Tri and
Thua Thien provinces, would never be allowed to stand and fight the invading
NVA units which captured MR l.]
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By 27 March, the estimate of refugees in the Da Nang area exceeded one million. Locally raised units of the ARVN disintegrated when the soldiers gave first priority to the welfare of their families. Social order completely disappeared, broken down by fear and chaos. It soon became quite obvious to everyone that a coordinated defense of Da Nang was impossible. The only major units maintaining tactical integrity were the 258th and 369th Brigades. On 28 March these Marines were ordered to fall back to the city. All heavy equipment had to be abandoned and approximately 5,500 Marines reached their objective. The surviving Marines futilely attempted to defend Da Nang, but that short-lived effort ended two days later when approximately 4,000 of them boarded evacuation ships.*28
As an eyewitness to the loss of South Vietnam's second largest city. General Lan represented an excellent source of information on what had happened in MR l.** In the days following Lan's evacuation from Marble Moutain, he met with Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Lukeman (Chief, VNMC Logistics Support Branch, DAO) at his headquarters at Vung Tau to discuss the re-equipping of his remaining Marines. During this conversation, General Lan shared with Lukeman his experiences in I Corps and his assessment of what went wrong.
Lan stressed six military aspects of the withdrawal which, though intrinsically linked to politics, were, in his mind, the overriding factors in determining the outcome of the strategic retreat. First and foremost was the decision to withdraw from prepared positions in Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces without contact with the enemy. The second factor was the impact of the sudden reversal of a critical strategy: deciding to
*There were conflicting reports as to the conduct and behavior
of the heavily armed Marines during Da Nang's final hours. The Marines were no longer a cohesive fighting unit, but had disintegrated into small armed groups. Sec for example Alan Dawson, 35 Days. The fall of South Vietnam (Englcwood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1977). pp. 186-87.
**General Lan was rescued from a beach near Monkey Mountain early on the morning of 29 March by a South Vietnamese Navy boat. Fall of the South, pp. 80-81.
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