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U.S. MARINES IN VIETNAM

 

VIETNAMIZATION AND REDEPLOYMENT

1970-1971

by

Graham A. Cosmas and Lieutenant Colonel Terrence R Murray, USMC

 

Edited by

Major William R. Melton, USMC and Jack Shulimson

HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION HEADQUARTERS, U.S. MARINE CORPS WASHINGTON, D.C.

1986

U.S. Marines In Vietnam Vietnamization and Redeployment 1970-1971

 

 

Volumes in the Marine Corps Vietnam Series

U. S. Marines in Vietnam, 1954-1964, The Advisory and Combat Assistance Era, 1977

U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1965, The Landing and the Buildup, 1978

U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1966, An Expanding War, 1982

U. S. Marines in Vietnam, 1967, Fighting the North Vietnamese, 1984

In Preparation

U.S. Marines in Vietnam, January-May 1968 U.S. Marines in Vietnam, June-December 1968 U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1969 U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1971-1973 U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1973-1975

Functional Histories Series Chaplains with Marines in Vietnam, 1962-1971, 1985

Anthology and Bibliography

The Marines in Vietnam, 1954-1973, An Anthology and Annotated Bibliography, 1974; revised second edition, 1985

Library of Congress Card No. 77-604776 USMC PCN 190 003095 00

 

Foreword

This is the eighth volume in a planned 10-volume operational and chronological series covering the Marine Corps' participation in the Vietnam War. A separate topical series will complement the operational histories. This particular volume details the gradual withdrawal in 1970-1971 of Marine combat forces from South Vietnam's northernmost corps area, I Corps, as part of an overall American strategy of turning the ground war against the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong over to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam.

Marines in this period accomplished a number of difficult tasks. The III Marine Amphibious Force transferred most of its responsibilities in I Corps to the Army XXIV Corps, which became the senior U.S. command in that military region. Ill MAF continued a full range of military and pacification activities within Quang Nam Province, its remaining area of responsibility. Developing its combat and counterinsurgency techniques to their fullest extent, the force continued to protect the city of Da Nang, root out the enemy guerrillas and infrastructure from the country, and prevent enemy main forces from disrupting pacification. At the same time, its strength steadily diminished as Marines redeployed in a series of increments until, in April 1971, the III Marine Amphibious Force Headquarters itself departed and was replaced for the last month of Marine ground combat by the 3d Marine Amphibious Brigade. During the redeployments, Marine logisticians successfully withdrew huge quantities of equipment and dismantled installations or turned them over to the South Vietnamese. Yet this was also a time of troubles for Marines. The strains on the Armed Services of a lengthy, inconclusive war and the social and racial conflicts tormenting American society adversely affected Marine discipline and cohesion, posing complex, intractable problems of leadership and command. Marines departed Vietnam with a sense that they had done their duty, but also that they were leaving behind many problems unsolved and tasks not completed.

Although written from the perspective of III MAF and the ground war in I Corps, the volume treats the activities of Marine advisors to the South Vietnamese Armed Forces, the Seventh Fleet Special Landing Force, and Marines on the staff of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, in Saigon. There are separate chapters on Marine air, artillery, and logistics. An attempt has been made to place the Marine role in relation to the overall effort.

Dr. Graham A. Cosmas was with the History and Museums Division from December 1973 through April 1979 and is now on the staff of the U.S. Army's Center of Military History. Previously, he had taught at the University of Texas and the University of Guam. He is a graduate ofOberiin College, Oberlin, Ohio, and received his doctorate in history from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1969. Dr. Cosmas has published several articles on military history and An Army for Empire: The United States Army in the Spanish-American ^/-(Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1971) and is co-author ot Marines w the Dominican Republic, 1916-1924 (Washington: Hist&MusDiv, HQMC, 1975).

The co-author, Lieutenant Colonel Terrence P. Murray, served with the History and Museums Division from August 19S3 until July 1984. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval

Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, and of the Armed Forces Staff College. Lieutenant Colonel Murray served a combat tour in Vietnam as an infantry officer during 1969 and 1970. He is now assigned to the Navy-Marine Corps Senate Liaison Office in Washington, D.C.

E. H. SIMMONS

Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret) Director of Marine Corps History and Museums

Preface

U.S. Marines m Vietnam: Vietnamization and Redeployment, 1970-1971, is largely based on ihe holdings of the Marine Corps Historical Center. These include the official unit monthly command chronologies, Marine Corps messages and journal files, the Oral History and Personal Papers Collections of the History and Museums Division, and the reference files of the division.

The authors have supplemented the above sources with research in the records of the other Services and pertinent published primary and secondary sources. Although none of the information in this history is classified, some of the documentation on which it is based still has a classified designation. More than 250 reviewers, most of whom participated in the events depicted in the history, read a comment edition of the manuscript. Their comments, where applicable, have been incorporated into the text. A list of those who commented is included in the appendices. All ranks used in the body of the text are those held by the individual in 1970-1971.

The producrion of this volume, like its predecessors, has been a cooperative effort. Dr. Graham A. Cosmas researched and wrote the first draft of the history with the exception of the last chapter. Lieutenant Colonel Terrence P. Murray completed the revision of the manuscripr and incorporated the comments, assisted by Major William R. Melton. Mr. Jack Shulimson, Head, Histories Section and Senior Vietnam Historian, edited the final version and prepared the volume for publication. All of the Vietnam historians, past and present, in the Histories Secrion, History and Museums Division, especially Mr. Shulimson and Mr. Charles R. Smith, and former members Lieutenam Colonel Lane Rogers, Lieutenant Colonel Gary Parker, and Lieutenant Colonel David Bucknec, reviewed rhe draft manuscript and provided invaluable comments and criticism.

Access to Marine Corps documents was facilitated by Mrs. Joyce Bennett of the division's Archives Section. Miss Evelyn Englander, head librarian, and her assistant, Mrs. Pat Morgan, were most helpfu! in obtaining needed references. The Reference Secrion, headed by DannyJ, Crawford, made its tiles available and answered numerous queries cheerfully and professionally. Mrs. Regina Strorher of the Reference Section assisted in photographic research. The Head, Oral Hisrories Secrion, Mr. Benis M. Frank, was equally supportive in making his collection available.

Mr. Frank prepared the index with the assistance of Mr. Smith and Major Arthur F-Elzy, both of the Histories Secrion.

Mr. Robert E. Sunder, head of Publications Production Secrion, adeptly guided the manuscript through the various producrion phases. Maps were produced by Mr. W Stephen Hill, who also contributed the design and makeup of the book. The manuscript was typeset first for the comment edition by Corporals Paul W. Gibson, Joseph J. Hynes. and Mark J. Zigame, Corporals Sranley W. Crowl and James W. Rodriguez II, with the guidance and substantial additional contribution of Mrs. Catherine A. Kerns, accomplished the final typesetting.

Special thanks are due Brigadier General Edwin H, Simmons, Director of Marine Corps History and Museums, who established the guidelines for the Vietnam series and made available to the author his personal notebooks for 1970-1971. when he was assistant division commander of the 1st Marine Division and assistant brigade commander of the 3d Marine Amphibious Brigade; Colonels John E. Greenwood. Jr-, Oliver M. Whipple.Jr.,

and John G. Miller, successively the History and Museum Division's Deputy Directors for History, who provided continuing support; and Mr. Henry I. Shaw, Jr., Chief Historian, who provided the benefit of long experience in writing Marine Corps history, as well as encouragement, wise counsel, and general editorial direction.

The authors also are indebted to their colleagues in the historical offices of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, who freely exchanged information and made documents available for their examination.

They must express their gratitude also to all those who reviewed the comment edition and provided corrections, personal photographs, and insight available only to those who took part in the events. In the end, however, the authors alone are responsible for the contents of the text, including opinions expressed and any errors in fact.

 

GRAHAM A. COSMAS TERRENCE P. MURRAY

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Foreword .............................................................. iii

Preface................................................................. v

'Bible of Content5.......................................................vii

Maps..................................................................xi

PART I A CONTRACTING WAR....................................... l

Chapter l The War m I Corps, Early 1970............................... 2

III MAF in January 1970.............................................. 2

Allied and Enemy Strategy, 1969-1970. ................................. 6

The III MAF/ICTZ Combined Plan for 1970. ............................ 8

Troop Redeployment: Keystone Bluejay- ................................. 11

The Change of Command in I Corps................................... 15

Chapter 2 The War Continues.......................................... 22

Overview and the Defense of Da Nang.................................. 22

The Inner Defenses: Northern Sector Defense Command

and Southern Sector Defense Command............................... 29

The 1st and 26th Marines: The Rocket Belt. ............................. 31

The 5th Marines: Thuong Due, An Hoa, and Arizona Territory. ............ 41

The 7th Marines: The Que Son Mountains.............................. 45

Results............................................................. 55

Chapter 5 The Cambodia Invasion and Continued

Redeployment Planning, April-July 1970. ............................. 56

The War Spreads Into Cambodia-...................................... 56

Redeployment Planning Accelerates: Keystone Robin Alpha. ............... 58

Plans for the 3d MAB................................................ 61

PART II SUMMER AND FALL-WINTER CAMPAIGNS, 1970................ 67

Chapter 4 The Summer Campaign in Quang Nam, July-September 1970. .... 68

New Campaign Plans................................................ 68

Summer Offensive: The 7th Marines in Pickens Forest. .................... 69

The 1st and 5th Marines Continue the Small-Unit War. ................... 77

Combat Declines, But the Threat Continues. ............................ 83

Deployment Plans Change: More Marines Stay Longer. .................... 86

Chapter 5 Offensives and Redeployments: Imperial Lake, Catawba Falls,

and Keystone Robin Alpha, July-October 1970. ........................ 89

Preliminaries to Imperial Lake......................................... 89

Operation Imperial Lake.............................................. 91

Keystone Robin Alpha Redeployments Begin. ............................ 95

Operation Catawba Falls.............................................. 97

The Regiments Realign............................................... 100

Chapter 6 The Fall-Winter Campaign in Quang Nam,

October-December 1970............................................ 103

New Campaign Plans and Changes in Tactics............................. 103

The Course of the Fail-Winter Campaign................................ 108

Operation Imperial Lake Continues..................................... Ill

5th Marines in the Lowlands: Noble Canyon and Tulare Falls I and II. ....... 116

1st Marines Operations, October-December 1970. ......................... 119

The War in Quang Nam at the End of the Year. ......................... 124

PART III PACIFICATION.............................................. 127

Chapter 7 Pacification 1970: Plans, Organization, and Problems. ............ 128

Pacification: The Nationwide Perspective. ................................ 128

The 1970 GVN Pacification and Development Plan....................... 129

Pacification Plans and Organization in Military Region l................... 132

Pacification Situation in Quang Nam, Early 1970. ........................ 134

Chapter 8 The Struggle for Security: Combined Action..................... 139

Combined Action Platoons............................................ 139

Reducing the Combined Action Force................................... 149

Building on Success: The Combined Unit Pacification Program. ............ 153

Chapter 9 The Spectrum of Pacification and Vietnamization, 1970. .......... 162

Line Units in Pacification............................................. 162

Kit Carson Scouts in 1970............................................. 165

Targeting the VCI.................................................... 165

Civic Action, 1970................................................... 170

Communist Counter-Pacification Efforts................................. 175

Vietnamization...................................................... 179

Results, 1970........................................................ 182

PART IV WINDING UP AND WINDING DOWN....................... 185

Chapter 10 Allied Strategic and Redeployment Plans for 1971............... 186

Military and Pacification Plans for 1971................................. 186

Final Plans for Redeployment and the MAB............................. 187

A New Commander for III MAF....................................... 191

Military Situation in Quang Nam and Military Region l, Early 1971......... 192

Chapter 11 Marines in Operation Lam Son 719............................ 195

The Preemptive Strike: Lam Son 719.................................... 195

Marine Fixed Wing Air Support and the ASRT. .......................... 199

Marine Helicopters Over Laos.......................................... 202

Marine Trucks on Route 9............................................. 205

Diversion Off Vinh.................................................. 207

Results of Lam Son 719. ..............................................209

Chapter 12 Last Operations of III MAF, January-March 1971................. 211

Plans for the Army Takeover of Quang Nam............................. 211

Operations in Quang Nam, January-February 1971........................ 213

Keystone Robin Charlie Begins........................................ 220

The Pacification Effort Diminishes...................................... 225

The Enemy Grows Bolder............................................. 230

Chapter 13 The Marines Leave Da Nang................................. 234

Operations in Southern Quang Nam, 1-13 April 1971..................... 234

Activation and Operations of the 3d Marine Amphibious Brigade. ......... .236

The End of Keystone Robin Charlie.................................... 241

Keystone Oriole Alpha: The Final Stand-Down........................... 242

Quang Nam after the Marines Left..................................... 247

Chapter 14 Continuing Operational Problems, 1970-1971................... 249

Protecting the Da Nang Vital Area..................................... 249

Base Defense........................................................ 252

Intelligence: Collection and Use........................................ 254

The Boobytrap War.................................................. 262

PART V SUPPORTING THE TROOPS................................. .269

Chapter 15 Fixed-Wing Air Operations, 1970-1971......................... 270

1st MAW Organization, Strength, and Deployment.......................270

Coming to Terms with Single Management. ............................. 273

Attacking the Ho Chi Minh Trail...................................... 279

Air Support Trends in Military Region l................................ 284

Controlling Air Support ..............................................285

Chapter 16 Helicopter Operations and New Technology, 1970-1971........... 288

Improving Helicopter Support of the 1st Marine Division. ................. 288

Helicopter Operations................................................ 291

New Ordnance and Aircraft........................................... 297

Aviation Achievements and Costs....................................... 298

Chapter 17 Artillery and Reconnaissance................................. 299

Artillery Operations, 1970-1971........................................ 299

Reconnaissance Operations, 1970-1971................................... 307

Chapter 18 Logistics, 1970-1971......................................... 315

Supplying III MAF................................................... 315

FLC Phases Down.................................................... 317

The End of Naval Support Activity Da Nang. ............................ 319

Engineer Support.................................................... 324

Motor Transport .....................................................327

Medical Services..................................................... 328

Chapter 19 The Logistics of Redeployment................................ 331

The 'Mixmaster' of Personnel.......................................... 331

'Mixmastering' of Equipment and Real Estate............................ 335

PART VI THE CLOSE OF AN ERA..................................... 343

Chapter 20 Morale and Discipline...................................... 344

A Time of Troubles.................................................. 344

Atrocities, Rules of Engagement, and Personal Response................... 344

'Friendly on Friendly'................................................. 350

The Challenge to Authority: Race, Drugs, Indiscipline. .................... 352

'Fragging' and Operation Freeze....................................... 364

Training and Morale-Building. ........................................ 365

Cohesion or Disintegration?........................................... 369

Chapter 21 U.S. Marine Advisors and Other Activities. ..................... 370

U.S. Marine Advisors and the Vietnamese Marine Corps. .................. 370

The Vietnamese Marine Corps in Lam Son 719........................... 375

The Marine Advisory Unit and Solid Anchor. ............................ 380

Sub-Unit l, 1st Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.................. 384

The Special Landing Force............................................ 386

Marines on the MACV Staff. .......................................... 388

Embassy Marines.................................................... 390

Conclusion ......................................................... 391

NOTES .............................................................. 393

APPENDICES

A. Marine Command and Staff List, January 1970-June 1971. ............. .428

B. Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations................................. 436

C. Chronology of Significant Events, January 1970-June 1971. ............. .442

D. Medal of Honor Citations, January 1970-June 1971.................... .450

E. List of Reviewers.................................................. 45 5

F. Distribution of Personnel, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific (30 January 1970). . .457 G. Distribution of Personnel, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific (21 April 1971). - - - - .462

INDEX .............................................................. 471

Maps

I Corps Tactical Zone.................................................... xii

Allied Commands in I Corps, January 1970................................ 3

1st Marine Division TAOR, March 1970................................... 25

Marine Operations, July-October 1970.................................... 90

Realignment of Regiments, September-October 1970........................ 98

Marine Operations, October-December 1970............................... 104

Combined Action Force Locations, January 1970............................ l40

Combined Unit Pacification Program Locations, January 1970................. 154

Combined Unit Pacification Program Locations, March 1970. ................. 156

Operation Lam Son 719, 8 February 1971.................................. 197

1st Marine Aircraft Wing Locations, 1970-1971.............................. 272

Naval Support Activity Locations, 1970-1971................................ 318



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