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USMC Photo A 184049

Marines from the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines hurry to board a waiting helicopter. They will reinforce a reconnaissance patrol south of Da Nang.

visit to Vietnam; he had landed with airlifted Marine elements on 10 March and had remained in Vietnam for 10 days to discuss the possibility of the future deployment of the remainder of the 9th MEB. Now upon his return, Wheeler quickly completed a survey of the areas for which he would be responsible upon the arrival of RLT 3 and BLTs 2/3 and 3/4: the defense of Da Nang Airfield, and the 8th RRU area and airstrip at Phu Bai. He flew to Hue to meet with Brigadier General Nguyen Van Chuan, commanding general of the 1st ARVN Division, to discuss and coordinate Marine activities there. On the 18th, he reorganized his RLT under the 9th MEB structure as the 3d Marines, Reinforced.

While the Da Nang landings presented few problems to the Marines, Hue posed an entirely different situation. On 23 March, a detachment of the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, under the command of Captain David Whittingham, and a Navy underwater demolition team surveyed landing beaches and movement routes to the Phu Bai area. The intelligence collected indicated that unloading at sea off the coast and then boating up the Hue River (or Song Huong, better known to westerners as the Perfume River) to Hue by landing craft was the most feasible plan. Personnel and equipment could then move south by truck along Route 1 to Phu Bai.

Rear Admiral Wulzen and his staff were not convinced that the Hue River transit was desirable. They believed that there was a lack of detailed information on sandbars, water depth, and most important, VC strength in the area. To overcome the Navy's objection, the 3d MEB commander decided to take a look for himself. General Carl flew to Hue where Brigadier General Chuan provided him with four outboard motor boats. With four ARVN soldiers in both the lead and rear boats. General Carl and his G-3, Lieutenant Colonel Denny, in the second boat, and two American noncommissioned officers in the third, the 'armada' set out. They traveled the entire length of the river to the South China Sea and returned to Hue, the trip taking approximately five hours. Although uneventful, the trip provided the desired information. Denny later recalled:

. . . when the Navy at the next planning meeting brought up the hazards of the Hue River. General Carl said he had personally reconnoitered the river [and] this ended all discussion on the subject and the Navy put the stamp of approval on the landing plans.25

On 14 April, BLT 3/4 began landing. The amphibious ships had arrived from Okinawa and anchored in the Da Nang harbor at 0500 that day. Three and one-half hours later, two companies

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