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infantry battalions, the 1st and 2d. While the 1st Battalion was to
remain in the Phu Loc area, the 2d Battalion was to relieve the 2d Battalion,
26th Marines at Phu Bai, which would then revert to the operational
control of the 3d Division. The Huong or Perfume River was to be the
demarcation line between the 3d and 1st Marine Divisions.69


Beginning on the 11th, helicopters, fixed-wing transports, and Navy LCUs transported the Task Force headquarters and the 5th Marines headquarters elements from Da Nang to Phu Bai. Two days earlier, the advance echelon of the 5th Marines had arrived at the new base. From 13-15 January, Air Force transports flew the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines directly from the small airfield at An Hoa south of Da Nang to the Phu Bai airfield. At noon on 13 January, Brigadier General LaHue announced from his new command post at Phu Bai the activation of Task Force X-Ray for operations.70


For the most part the shift of forces north had gone without incident. Colonel Robert D. Bohn, the 5th Marines commander, several years later recalled that he had known about the proposed redeployment for over a month and had made preparations. Even before the transfer of his 1st Battalion to Phu Loc, he had visited the sector and talked to friends of his serving on the 3d Marine Division staff at Phu Bai. Colonel Bohn mentioned that perhaps it may not have been proper for a regimental commander to do this on his own, but on the other hand, claimed "it was good . . . informal staff coordination." He recalled very few problems with the actual move.71


Still any such large transplacement of forces results in some inconveniences and difficulties for the troops involved. This was to prove no exception. One Marine staff sergeant assigned to the Task Force X-Ray photo imagery section remembered that after his arrival at Phu Bai there were "empty hootches" but no supplies and material. The members of the section had "to scrounge" plywood just to make frames to hold their maps and photographs. On a more personal note, he observed that he had not been paid since December and the headquarters had lost his pay and health records. Although the 5th Marines had a mess hall, Colonel Bohn recollected that the troops had no fresh food and were eating C-Rations. He protested once he learned that helicopters were being used to bring in china for the general's mess and the situation was soon rectified: "It was an inevitable consequence of displacing a hell of a lot more troops up north than they had before."72*


Staff problems were almost inherent in the situation. As one staff officer later admitted that when the Task Force X-Ray staff arrived at Phu Bai they "didn't know the magnitude" of the situation that they faced. Although the staff was supposed to be a tactical rather than an administrative headquarters, Colonel Bohn observed that its officers were "so preoccupied with just getting the logistics of being a headquarters that they had no time to really refine their combat operations capability." The fact that the staff was temporary and task organized presented difficulties. As Lieutenant Colonel James C. Hecker, the G-1 officer responsible for personnel affairs, noted, it "introduces into the system austerity . . . austerity in staffing of the unit; the management of the unit; and the economic employment of the material resources of the unit." Colonel Bohn remarked that the fact that the staff was temporary and thrown together was hardly conducive to smooth operations.73


Still Task Force X-Ray was operational. On 12 January it issued its first operational order and laid out its concept of operations. The order itself differed little from the original order published by the 1st Marine Division in December. It detailed, however, the task organization and units assigned. The 1st Marines was slated to be attached with its 1st and 2d Battalions "on or about 24 January 1968." At the end of the month, the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines was to join its parent regiment at Phu Bai. In essence, Task Force X-Ray was to be responsible eventually for all of Thua Thien Province and General LaHue was to coordinate with Brigadier General Ngo Quang Truong of the 1st ARVN Division.74


In Thua Thien Province, Marine commanders shared responsibility for operations with the 1st ARVN Division. U.S. advisors rated General Truong, the division commander and former commander of the Vietnamese Airborne, as "top notch" and General Cushman described Truong as the one Vietnamese commander who "stood out" above the rest. Truong maintained his division headquarters in Hue but kept only one of his infantry regiments, the 3d, in Thua Thien Province. Lieutenant Colonel Phan Ba Hoa, the regimental commander, was also held in high esteem


* Brigadier General Paul G. Graham, who was 1st Marine Division G-3 or operations officer at the time, doubted the story about helicopters bringing in the china for the general's mess: "I am certain I would have heard about such an aberration." Graham Comments.




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