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Abel Collection Photo

South Vietnamese LtGen Hoang Xuan Lam, Commanding General of I Corps, center, is shown in conversation with U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen Leonard F. Chapman, left, and the III MAF commander, LtGen Robert E. Cushman, outside of the l Corps Headquarters located in Da Nang.

 

 

Laos to the west, I Corps, by January 1968, resembled an armed camp with a quarter of a million U.S., South Vietnamese, and allied troops deployed within its borders. The 3d Marine Division and 1st ARVN Division were responsible for the northern two provinces of Quang Tri and Thua Thien. Similarly, the U.S. Army's Americal Division and the ARVN 2d Division operated in the two southern provinces of Quang Tin and Quang Ngai. The 1st Marine Division and the 51st ARVN Regiment provided the protection tor the central province of Quang Nam which contained I Corps headquarters at Da Nang, the Da Nang Airbase, the Quang Da Special Sector, and more than 35 percent of the I Corps population.22

The relationship between the American and South Vietnamese commands in I Corps paralleled the arrangement at the national level. As Senior Advisor, General Cushman had a direct channel to General Lam. The Marine general later related that he had a rapport with General Lam, whom he considered an excellent administrative and political leader and "a good general considering his resources. . ." but no "Julius Caesar or ... Napoleon."23 As with General Westmoreland and General Vien, the emphasis was on advice and close coordination. To facilitate this coordination, each of the American and South Vietnamese units had its specific tactical area of responsibility, where its commander had a relatively free rein. Moreover, in accordance with the combined 1967 plan worked out by the MACV and Republic of Vietnam Joint General Staff, the Vietnamese units were taking an increased proportion of the pacification and revolutionary development mission. Still the ARVN and American units had to operate together. The following excerpt from a 3d Marine Division report exemplifies the working relations between the American and South Vietnamese units in general, and the 3d Marine Division and 1st ARVN Division in particular:

The basic concept underlying command relations between the division and RVNAF has been one of cooperation and coordination in the conduct of operations. ... As a matter of practice, decisions regarding multi-battalion combined Marine/ARVN operations are made by personal liaison between CG 3d Marine Division and CG 1st ARVN Division.

After the two commanders approved a basic concept of operation:

the required staff liaison is accomplished and plans are finalized. When practicable, co-located command posts are established to facilitate coordination, cooperation, mutual assistance, and decision making.

The report concluded:

The 1st ARVN Division is an aggressive, well-led fighting force. Its commander is responsive to the desirability of combined/coordinated operations and invariably produces required forces. Numerous operations have instilled a sense of mutual respect and confidence between 1st ARVN Division and Marine personnel.24


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