arrival of 13 planes at Da Nang, the airlift was halted with Companies C and B assembled in defensive positions on the western portion of the airfield. Company D, the security company already at Da Nang for protection of the SHUFLY helicopter unit, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163, reverted to parent control. Only Company A was left on Okinawa. Lieutenant Colonel Bain later recalled that the "'arbitrary' cutoff [of the airlift] separated the units which had landed from their backup rations."24
Although the arrival of the remainder of Bain's battalion was held up, a different airlift occurred on 9 March. The helicopter carrier USS Princeton (LPH 5) with HMM-365 (Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Koler, Jr.) on board, arrived off Da Nang shortly after sunrise that morning. Between 0700 and noon on the 9th, all 23 of the squadron's helicopters were transferred to HMM-162,* commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver W. Curtis, whose personnel arrived by Marine KC-130 aircraft at Da Nang from Okinawa the same day. The pilots of HMM-365 returned to the Princeton which then steamed for Okinawa to take on replacement aircraft.
That same afternoon, General Karch, who on the 8th had been given operational control of all Marine units at Da Nang, reporting directly to MACV, telephoned General Westmoreland and received permission to resume the airlift of BLT 1/3. The first planes took off from Okinawa shortly after midnight and arrived at Da Nang the morning of the 10th. By 12 March, the rest of the battalion landing team, with the exception of its attached tanks and low priority vehicles, was in Vietnam.
On that date, general unloading of the 9th MEB was completed. Because of a fire fight on the night of 8-9 March between VC elements and Vietnamese Army troops only two miles north of RED Beach, the ships of the amphibious task force had moved to anchorages near the mouth of the Song Han (Da Nang River). The next day unloading continued up the river over a ramp into the city. This too had its limitations as Admiral Wulzen brought out:
The complete lack of port facilities-cranes, heavy duty fork lifts, cargo nets, and lighterage-coupled with unmarked channels, single small off-loading point (which can only handle two LCMs simultaneously), distance from anchorage to pier (four miles average), lack of staging area at the pier are contributing to slow offloading.25
The administrative landing of the 9th MEB occurred in an uncertain atmosphere; the JCS order directing the landing, bore the laconic title "Improved Security Measures in the Republic of Vietnam.'' Adding a further surrealistic touch to the Marines' arrival, a few days after the landing General Thi invited the commanders and staff of the 9th MEB to a garden reception, replete with "several orchestras and accompanying nicities." Lieutenant Colonel Bain ironically recalled that the festivities were "followed by a return to my foxhole and C rations."26
Nevertheless, a new phase of the Vietnam war had begun. About one-third of the Marine ground forces and two-thirds of the Marine helicopter squadrons in the Western Pacific had been committed to South Vietnam.
* The squadron, HMM-162, was no stranger to operations in Vietnam. It had been in the Far East since 1 June 1964 and had been previously assigned to SHUFLY for four months. Much of the intervening time had been spent on board Navy LPHs in Vietnamese waters as pan of the Special Landing Force. It had just returned to Okinawa on 4 March from SLF duty. Now, only five days later, the squadron again was in Vietnam. LtCol Oliver W. Curtis had previously commanded this squadron in 1964 when it was assigned to SHUFLY. He was a veteran of both World War II and Korea and had been awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his actions at Okinawa and later three more DFCs for his aerial feats in Korea.Page 15 (1965: The Landing and the Buildup)