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US Marines in Vietnam: 1968 The Defining Year

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Page 639(1968: The Defining Year)


enemy and captured 30 POWs, at a cost of l Marine dead and 36 wounded. The BLT conducted no civic action because the population in the area was "considered to be hostile and hard line psy ops [psychological operations] was used." According to the amphibious task group commander, the operation demonstrated the SLF ability "to temporarily deny enemy forces the use of their territory, while destroying their fortification and supplies, was fully realized." On 20 November, BLT 2/7 returned to the operational control of the 1st Marines and prepared to relieve the SLF Bravo battalion, BLT 2/26, in Operation Meade River.22

On 8 December, BLT 2/26 reembarked upon ARG/SLF Alpha shipping "conducting rehabilitation and training for future operations."* One week later, on 15 December, the BLT initiated SLF Alpha Operation Valiant Hunt. Remaining under the operational control of the SLF Alpha commander, now Colonel John F. McMahon, the BLT conducted a cordon and search in the southern Barrier Island sector just south of the earlier Daring Endeavor area of operations. Operation Valiant Hunt lasted until 5 January 1969. Lieutenant Colonel William F. Sparks, the battalion commander, observed that "Operation Valiant Hunt was the first time the BLT was responsible for conducting a total cordon operation. In this respect, the operation was a good 'training exercise'... However, there were no significant problems or enemy techniques encountered."23

As the year ended, the SLF battalions were in much the same situation as the year had begun. One battalion was bringing a separate operation to a close while the other was ashore attached to a Marine division. In fact the 3d Battalion, 26th Marines was about to relieve BLT 2/7 as the infantry component of SLF Bravo. Even more important, many of the issues over the use of the SLF had not fully been settled. Even as late as July 1969, the 9th MAB operations officer, Colonel Clyde W. Hunter, would remark that the MAB staff believed that the "divisions were using the SLFs improperly, actually ginning up operations just to get them ashore and tie them down to a TAOR, or into some kind of operation, that had no connection to their mission as an SLF."24

Still, as 1969 was about to begin, Brigadier General Williams, the 9th MAB commander, was about to embark on board amphibious shipping as Commanding General, Task Force 79, to help oversee one of the largest amphibious operations of the Vietnam War. In Operation Bold Mariner, both SLFs of the 9th MAB would land on the Batangan Peninsula under the command of Brigadier General Wilson. While beginning in this spectacular fashion, the SLFs for the remainder of 1969 would follow much the same pattern as that of 1968. For 1969, there would be 14 SLF operations as compared to 13 in 1968, and 25 in 1967. By the end of 1969, the SLFs had become a moot question for operations in South Vietnam. With the reduction of forces in Vietnam, the SLF could only be committed with the specific permission of the JCS.25 Sub-Unit l, 1st Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO)

In Vietnam, there was another Marine-Navy connection with both the Seventh Fleet and the in-country forces. Sub-Unit l, 1st ANGLICO was a Fleet Marine Force, Pacific separate organization whose primary mission was to call in U.S. naval gunfire from ships offshore or Marine and Navy air in support of allied or other U.S. Service forces. In Vietnam, Sub-Unit l remained outside of the regular Marine chain of command and under the direct operational control of MACV in Saigon. At the beginning of 1968, Lieutenant Colonel Carlton D. Goodiel, Jr., the unit commander, maintained his headquarters in Saigon, but kept detachments in each of the Corps areas with the largest in I Corps.

In January 1968, the I Corps Liaison Naval Gunfire Team, headed by Navy Lieutenant Commander Philip B. Hatch, Jr., was at Da Nang and provided direct liaison with the South Vietnamese I Corps military establishment.** Under his control were two shore fire parties, one at Hue with the 1st ARVN Division and a smaller one at Quang Ngai with the 2d ARVN Division. Navy Lieutenant Robert A. Keeling headed the naval gunfire liaison team with the U.S. Army Americal Division with four shore fire parties attached to Army units at both Chu Lai and Due Pho. At this time, the largest ANGLICO detachment in I Corps, and for that fact in the country, commanded by Marine Major Enos S. Olin, was

*0n 7 December, HMM-362, now under Lieutenanr Colonel Jack E. Schlarp, embarked upon the USS Okinawa (LPH 3) relieved HMM-363, as the SLF Alpha helicopter squadron. Lieutenant Colonel Schlarp recalled that while embarked "we conducted assault landings, put our BLT ashore, supported them completely, evacuated the wounded and extracted them at the completion of the operation." LtCol Jack E. Schlarp, Comments on draft, dtd 21Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File). The other ships of ARG Alpha (TG 76.4) were the USS Duluth (LPD 6), USS Fort Marion (LSD 22), USS Winslow (AKA 94).

**No ANGLICO detachments or teams were assigned to Marine units of III MAF since Marine units maintained in their FSCC and DASC organizations the ability to call in their own naval gunfire and air support.



Page 639(1968: The Defining Year)
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