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withdraw immediately after having ordered the same units to "Defend at all costs" positions north of Hue. Both of these political decisions had an adverse effect on morale and fighting spirit. Further, the clogging of the avenues of retreat by fleeing refugees hampered Marine tactical maneuverability. "Tactical movement during the withdrawal was impossible," related General Lan. The dissolution of other fighting units within the area also influenced the attempt to defend Da Nang. It caused considerable degradation of righting strength and military discipline and adversely affected the confidence of the fighting defenders: "When troops from those units (those located near their home and family) were ordered to withdraw, their homes were forfeited and their families became refugees. They deserted their military units and joined their families as refugees." (Lieutenant Colonel Lukeman noted that the Marines did not have the same problem as most had been recruited from another part of South Vietnam, primarily Military Region 3). Another significant aspect was the absence of coordination and control of the military arms, as evidenced by the Vietnamese Navy's attempt to rescue the Marines defending Hue. The last items of importance and the overall determining factors in the enemy's success were tactics and timing. The North Vietnamese demonstrated opportunism and efficacy: "[The enemy] attacked with rockets and artillery against populated areas and then at Da Nang, employed tanks on three axis lightly supported by infantry. Civilian panic, additional military desertions, and increased difficulty of movement in the rear followed."29 The resulting chaos and absence of military control during the evacuation of Da Nang underlined the accuracy and the gravity of General Lan's observations*
During the two-week period that Military Region l came apart at the scams, the United Stares took notice and decided to take action. At first the U.S. moved slowly, but in a matter of days it was expending maximum effort to address this sudden and unexpected calamity. The Marines of the III Marine Amphibious Force were the first to experience the effects of this reaction. Located in the region and having prepared contingency plans for the evacuation of Americans from Southeast Asia, III MAF had anticipated a call, but not quite this soon nor from this country. The command had been concentrating its efforts on Eagle Pull with its sights set on the almost inevitable evacuation of Cambodia. The events in South Vietnam quickly rewrote the script and seemed to indicate that the III Marine Amphibious Force might have to double load its gun and do so without delay!
*Rccently, Lieutenant Colonel Toan offered his opinion of the cause of some of the undisciplined behavior in Da Nang at the end of March 1975. He attributed a large part of it to the confusion surrounding when and how the forces defending Da Nang would be evacuated. He said that late in the day on 28 March, General Lan phoned I Corps headquarters at Da Nang and when he got no answer, he knew that everyone had left and the Marines were on their own. At this point, (he Navy offered the only means of retreat and at 0600 the next day, they conducted an evacuation at the beach near Marble Mountain. At this time, word was passed to the remaining South Vietnamese Marine units to make their way to Marble Mountain for another pickup scheduled for later that day at 1500. Information about the planned evacuation spread to other military units in Da Nang, and those soldiers who learned of it realized thai if (hey had any hope of escaping capture, they too needed to move to the beach. As a consequence, chaos and disorder erupted, and the Navy was forced to cancel the second evacuation. Shooting and violence ensued as all those uncvacuaicd Marines and soldiers desperately sought a way out of the surrounded city. Tom Comments.
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