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If possible, the mood in Washington was grimmer than that in Saigon.
While the President rejected proposals by the Joint Chiefs to intensify
the air war over Haiphong and Hanoi, he was willing to rush ground reinforcements,
if necessary, to prevent the fall of the Marine base at Khe Sanh. On
3 February, at the behest of the President, the Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs, General Earle G. Wheeler, asked Westmoreland, "if there is any
reinforcement or help that we can give you." In reply, Westmoreland
only requested another squadron of C-130 cargo aircraft and air-drop
equipment. At the same time, Westmoreland asked his staff to make a
study of the long-range requirements. At this point. Wheeler rather
tartly observed that the long-range could wait, "we can handle only
one major problem at a time." The Chairman emphasized that the Joint
Chiefs and the President were concerned about Westmoreland's "immediate
requirements stemming from the present situation in Vietnam." In another
cable, Wheeler warned the MACV commander: "The United States Government
is not prepared to accept a defeat in South Vietnam. In summary, if
you need more troops, ask for them."6

These exchange of messages between Westmoreland and Wheeler developed
into a strange colloquy in which the Chairman eventually maneuvered
Westmoreland into requesting significant additional forces which would
require a callup of the Reserves. On 12 February, at a meeting at the
White House, however, President Johnson delayed his final decision,
but approved the immediate deployment of a brigade of the U.S. Army
82d Airborne Division and the 27th Marines to Vietnam. Both the Army
Brigade and the Marine regiment were to reinforce General Cushman's
forces in I Corps.7*

Readjustment in l Corps

By the end of February, the reinforcements for I Corps were in place
or on their way. On 10 and 12 February, the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines,
commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John E. Greenwood, at Hawaii embarked
on board three Navy ships, the USS Vancouver (LPD 2), the USS
Bexar (APA 237), and the Washburn (AKA 108). Originally
scheduled to participate in two landing exercises on Okinawa, the newly
formed BLT received a change of orders while at sea on 13 February,
as a result of the President's decision, to proceed to Da Nang. Between
14 and 21 February, the rest of RLT (Regimental Landing Team) 27 deployed
by sea and air from Camp Pendleton, California to Da Nang. U.S. Air
Force Military Airlift Command planes flew more than 3,300 men of the
regiment together with 1,196 short tons of their equipment from California
to Vietnam. By 17 February, the 27th Marines headquarters, under Colonel
Adolph G. Schwenk, Jr., together with those of BLTs 2/27, commanded
by Lieutenant Colonel Louis J. Bacher, and 3/27, under Lieutenant Colonel
Tullis J. Woodham, Jr., opened their command posts at the Da Nang base.
The forces arriving as part of RLT 27 also included personnel from the
artillery battalion, 2d Battalion, 13th Marines, under the command of
Lieutenant Colonel Rhys J. Phillips Jr. On 21 February, the USS Thomaston
(LSD 28) departed San Diego with the surface elements of the RLT, some
200 personnel and over 5,000 tons of equipment for Vietnam. By the end
of the month, the 1st Battalion had joined the other two battalions
of the regiment at Da Nang. General Cushman later declared that he had
not known the 27th Marines was available and that he had not requested
them, but that they arrived in "response to overall requirements set
by Westmoreland." As the 1st Marine Division assistant division commander
and Task Force X-Ray commander, Brigadier General Foster C. LaHue, remembered,
however, III MAF was "happy to get them [RLT 27]."8

Throughout this period, General Westmoreland continued to deploy U.S. Army units north. From mid-January through the end of February, MACV reinforced III MAF with over 20,000 Army troops in I Corps, including support units. The combat forces included the 1st Air Cavalry Division headquarters and two brigades, two brigades of the 101st Airborne Division, and the 3d Brigade of the 82d Airborne Division, which, like the 27th Marines, had just arrived in Vietnam from the United States. First located at Chu Lai in Quang Tin Province under the Americal Division, elements of the 82d Airborne brigade then joined the 1st Marine Division Task Force X-Ray in the Phu Bai Vital Area in Thua Thien Province.9

By the end of February, III MAF numbered nearly 129,000 officers and men, an increase of nearly 12,000 over the previous month. These figures included over 82,000 Marines and nearly 45,000 U.S. Army personnel. In Quang Tri Province, encompassing U.S. units at Khe Sanh, the DMZ sector, and south of Quang Tri City, there were 16 maneuver battalions (infantry, amphibian tractor, and tank), 13 Marine and 3 Army.

* Chapter 27 will go into further detail on the manpower decisions
of February 1968 and the question about the activation of the Reserves.

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