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Page 32(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)  


USMC Photo A 184206


South Vietnamese troops secure the Chu Lai area. Their U.S. Army advisors have made a sign to greet the Marines.

confer with General Carl and Admiral Wulzen, the task force commander. General Throckmorton, Deputy ComUSMACV, chaired the conference held in Saigon on l and 2 May. He declared that there were three assumptions that everyone present had to accept: the landing would be unopposed; the area at Chu Lai would have been cleared; and that there would be some civilians in the general area of the landing. An agreement among all the participants was finally reached. A third battalion, BLT 3/3, was added to the 3d MEB to be brought ashore after the initial landing was completed. The prelanding air strikes and naval shore bombardment were changed to planned on-call missions to be used only if the enemy opposed the landing. Marine Aircraft Group 16 would provide limited fixed-wing and helicopter support; Navy Task Force 77 aircraft would fly cover for the Marines; and the U.S. 2d Air Division would be available for additional support. The conferrees agreed to postpone the landing until 7 May to allow for further coordination with the Vietnamese authorities.41

After the Saigon meeting was over, Generals Collins and Fontana departed for Da Nang. Colonel Hardy Hay, the 3d Marine Division operations officer, recalled:

The coverage given the Saigon meeting for the Chu Lai landings was really the major springboard for General Collins and I to remain in Da Nang ... Up to this point we had, since leaving Okinawa, sort of ignored sending movement reports.42

From another vantage point, Colonel O'Connor, the 1st MAW chief of staff, remembered:

I was aware of the very poor high level command communications. Reports of enemy activity in the Chu Lai area had generated a strong inclination on the part of the sea-based forces to make a conventional preparation of the objective area, in anticipation of an opposed landing.

O'Connor remarked further:

The air was full of messages about enemy capabilities, friendly plans, and schedules of coordinating meetings at, Saigon, Okinawa, Subic Bay and Da Nang. Finally, it was apparent that message traffic was completely out of phase with reality, and the two-day postponement of the landing was invoked to prevent the disaster of an amphibious task force firing on friendly forces in the objective area.43

On 3 May, the Estes rendezvoused with the rest of the amphibious task force off the coast of South Vietnam and then proceeded to the vicinity of Da Nang where Admiral Wulzen and General Carl met with General Collins to discuss the landing. At the


Page 32(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)