a big logistic support area" in order not to lose mobility and to "reduce the need for security." Johnson stated that he kept in the logistic support area "one days rations and two days of ammunition.'' To insure ''continuous and responsive logistic support," the 7th Marines stockpiled supplies on the helicopter deck of the LSD Cabildo. Johnson explained, "A spedal communication link was created between the RLT CP and the ship and most of the resupply to the battalions was made by helo direct from what was really a large floating dump."19
One of the greatest demands was for water. Over 1,500 gallons of water per day were supplied to the troops ashore from the Cabildo, causing the ship to go on short water rations; even so, high temperatures and high humidity caused several cases of heat prostration. An effective means was devised for bringing the water from the ship to shore. LVTs loaded with empty cans were floated into the well deck of the Cabildo where a two-inch water hose was lowered into the tractors and the cans were filled in place without having to manhandle them. The heavy cans still presented a problem; they had to be carried from the regimental collection point to the operating units. As a result, Colonel Peatross recommended that plastic water containers replace the impractical bulky cans and that in the future, infantry battalions carry enough water to supply each man with four gallons per day.
Civilians in the combat zone presented complications. The first attempts to evacuate them were difficult; the people were frightened and did not trust the Marines. Eventually most of the local populace were placed in local collecting points where they were fed and provided with medical attention. Although attempts were made to avoid civilian casualties, some villages were completely destroyed by supporting arms when it became obvious that the enemy occupied fortified positions in them. Colonel Peatross commented:
No . . . [supporting fires] were utilized unless called for by one of the units and each had a forward air controller, naval gunfire teams and forward observer. All weapons were controlled and no fire ashore was conducted unless it could be observed; consequently, neither aircraft nor naval gunfire made any judgments on "military necessity." Only ground units being supported made such judgment.20
There could be no doubt, however, that the hamlets in the area were used by the Viet Cong as staging areas for their operations. Lieutenant Colonel Kelly provided the following description of Van Tuong (l):
The village was encircled with a trench line and double apron fence. The streets had punji traps for personnel and vehicles, as well as spider traps. There were numerous hand-painted anti-American signs. There were numerous caves throughout the village . . . .21
Accumulated evidence indicated that this hamlet had served as the CP of the 1st VC Regiment. The Marines found communication equipment, numerous documents, munitions, rice, and propaganda leaflets in Van Tuong (l).
During Operation STARLITE, III MAF severely punished the enemy regiment. According to prisoners, the Marines completely destroyed the 60th VC Battalion and badly mauled the 80th. General Krulak credited intelligence as the primary reason for the Marine success. He later wrote, "The Marines, ground and air, just behaved like they were supposed to behave.'' According to the FMFPac commander, it was ''the confluence of all of the many information sources in a credible picture of what was happening," that was the "decisive factor in STARLITE."22
The reaction to the Marine victory was not altogether what would be expected. General Westmoreland reported that several ARVN general officers on the Joint General Staff made some rather disparaging remarks about the Marine operation. The MACV commander attributed their attitude to the extensive press coverage that the Marines received and suggested that on future occasions that Vietnamese units be included on operations so they could receive their share of plaudits. Moreover, none of the Vietnamese General Staff, except for General Thi and Lam, had been informed about the operation until after it had started. Colonel Don P. Wyckoff, the 3d Marine Division G-3, recalled that none of the Vietnamese were told, at the insistence of General Thi. According to Wyckoff:
General Walt, concerned about the reaction of ARVN forces in the area when a large scale operation flared up unexpectedly, convinced Thi that General Lam had to know ahead of time to keep his own forces in rein. To my recollection, this was done on a person to person basis from Thi to Lam and Lam kept the information in strict confidence until the battle began.23
General Walt later stated that he received his "instructions from General Westmoreland. I had requested that the 'need to know' among the Vietnamese be limited to the very minimum," andPage 82 (1965: The Landing and the Buildup)