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Page 463 (1968: The Defining Year)





Photo from the Abel Collection

A Marine McDonnell Douglas F4B Phantom II from VMFA-323
lands at Chu Lai. The tail parachute slowed the speed of the aircraft
and the arresting cable brought the Phantom to a complete stop.

Until October of 1967, Chu Lai had also been the home of the second
Marine helicopter group, MAG-36. While supersonic Marine jets could
cover the distance from Da Nang and Chu Lai to the DMZ in 18 and 27
minutes, respectively, it was quire another matter for the relatively
plodding rotary aircraft. With the Americal Division having ample organic
helicopter support. III MAF decided to upgrade and expand the small
airfield at Phu Bai, build a new one near Quang Tri City out of range
of the North Vietnamese artillery positions north of the Ben Hai, and
move MAG-36 closer to the northern battlefront.6

By January 1968, with the focus of the war on the north. Colonel Frank
E. Wilson, the MAG-36 commander, in addition to his H&S squadron,
had six helicopter squadrons attached to his command. Four of them,
HMMs-164, -362, and -364 and VMO-3, were with the group headquarters
at Phu Bai. The remaining two squadrons, VMO-6 and HMM-163, were with
the forward headquarters at the newly constructed Quang Tri Airfield,
and joined on 10 January by HMM-262. Equipped with 23 UH-1Es each, both
armed and 'slick,' VMOs-3 and -6 performed similar missions in their
sectors as their sister squadron, VMO-2, at Marble Mountain. HMMs-163
and -362 were both UH-34 squadrons with 49 aircraft between them while
the remaining squadrons flew the Boeing CH-46. HMM-164 had 19 of the
older CH-46As while -364 had acquired 32 of the newer and improved D
Models, which had fewer problems than the older craft. Finally, one
C-117D and 18 UH-34s belonged to H&MS-36 for various logistic runs
and other miscellaneous missions. While mainly supporting the 3d Marine
Division along the DMZ and in Thua Thien Province and eventually the
1st Marine Division's Task Force X-Ray, MAG-36, like MAG-16, had a variety
of missions to accomplish and several masters to service.7

Besides the main airbases, the wing maintained forward airfields at Dong Ha, An Hoa, Tarn Ky, and Khe Sanh, large enough to land Marine Lockheed Hercules KC-130 transports which required about 3,000 feet of runway. While Marine Refueller Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152 remained based at Okinawa, it always kept a small detachment or detachments of approximately four aircraft in Vietnam at all times. With a 15-17 ton capacity, the KC-130s flew resupply and reinforcements throughout the Western Pacific from bases in Vietnam, Japan, Okinawa, and the Philippines. They played a large role in the resupply of Dong Ha in the eastern DMZ and especially of the 26th Marines at Khe Sanh with the land lines of communication closed to that isolated base. Configured for in-flight refueling missions, the KC-130s were an important ingredient in the air war as they serviced attack and fighter aircraft in the skies over both North and South Vietnam.8*

January 1968 proved to be an extremely busy month for the aviators of the 1st Wing. During the month. Marine attack and fighter aircraft flew 4,891


* Prior to the Vietnam War there had been some question whether the
Marine Corps would be permitted to have the KC-130, the tanker configuration
version ot the C-110 Lockheed transport. Air Force officials claimed
that the Hercules KC-130 was primarily a transport and should remain
only in the Air Force. The Marines successfully aryued that it was both
and used it as such. Sec Jack Shulimson, U.S. Marines in Vietnam,
An Expanding War, 1966
(Washington: Hist&MusDiv, 1982), p.
268.




Page 463 (1968: The Defining Year)