At 1335 local time, 14 February, less than 48 hours after the initial verbal warning had been given, the first planeload of men from RLT 27 left Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. The last planeload left just before midnight on 22 February. A total of 3,349 Marines and sailors from RLT 27 and supporting units flew from El Toro in those eight days. Another 1,956 men from units needed to support RLT 27 arrived in Vietnam by sea, with the last ship arriving on 12 March.?6 Of the Marines deployed with the RLT, 973 were involuntarily ordered to their second tour in Vietnam after less than two years out of Southeast Asia.97 Most of the Marines went on their first orientation patrol the day after they arrived in Vietnam. By l March, every battalion of the 27th Marines had begun combat patrols around Da Nang.* Several years later then-Lieutenant General Schwenk remembered that the rapid deployment of the RLT "amazed General Westmoreland," who "just couldn't believe how we had gotten there."98**
The arrival of RLT 27 put 24 of the Marine Corps' 36 active infantry battalions in or off the shores of Vietnam. Before Tet, the Marine Corps had been barely able to sustain 21 battalions in country. The emergency deployment not only further strained the replacement system, but it also used up the next month's replacement pool to bring RLT 27 to a marginal strength level. On 3 May, as a result of Tet and the Pueblo incident, the Secretary of Defense authorized an increase in the Marine Corps' active strength of 9,700, bringing it to 311,600.-)c)"- While helpful, this increase was not nearly large enough to sustain the level of Marine forces then currently in Vietnam.
On 13 February, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that the President immediately activate selected Reserve units, including one Marine RLT. They also recommended that other Reserve units, including the rest of the IV Marine Expeditionary Force, be prepared to be called up on short notice.100 President Johnson rejected this proposal. On 27 February, General Wheeler relayed a request from General Westmoreland for an additional 206,000 troops.101 The magnitude of his request prompted the President and his closest advisors to reexamine their policies concerning the war. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that the President mobilize the Reserves to both meet General Westmoreland's request and reconstitute the strategic reserve. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Wheeler, eagerly sought to have the Reserves activated, while the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Chapman, reluctantly agreed with this recommendation.**** In retirement General Chapman recalled that no matter how short their period of service after call-up, by law demobilized Reservists had fulfilled their obligated service. This made the Reserve "like a huge [piece] of artillery that has only one round," which "you can fire once, and then it will be 20 years, probably, before you can fire it again."102
The Marine Corps Reserve had been reorganized recently from a collection of independent companies and batteries into the 4th Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), "a 'mirror like' image of the regular establishment MEF."103 Largely due to the influence of the draft, in January 1968, the personnel readiness of the Marine Corps Reserve had never been better. The quality of Reservists was outstanding. Between 1 July 1967 and 30 June 1969, 80 percent of enlisted Reserve recruits scored in Mental Groups I or II, compared to only 32 percent of active-duty recruits. Only one percent of new Reservists scored in Mental Group IV. Fewer than 8 percent of the new Reservists did not have high school diplomas, while 10 percent were college graduates and many of the rest had some college. Still, only 48,000 Reservists received drill pay, not enough Marines to fill IV MEF. The Marine Corps planned to
*For a discussion of operations by RLT 27 and subordinate units upon arrival in Vietnam, see Chapter 13.
"""Lieutenant Colonel Louis J. Bacher related that his battalion the month before had conducted a mount-out exercise involving the USAF 63d Military Airlift Wing stationed at Norton Air Force Base, California. At that time, the Marine battalion staged at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, where the troops boarded C-141 aircraft of the Air Force Wing which flew them to Naval Air Station (NAS), Fal-lon, Nevada. After a seven-day counterinsurgency exercise, the Air Force aircraft returned the Marine battalion to El Toro where it then motored back to its base at Camp Pendleton, California. According to Bacher, on 14 February, "the same C-14ls and crews that had lifted us to NAS Fallen a short time ago were going to lift us to Da Nang. Fortunately we had loading plans and manifests which, with some minor and some major changes served us well." Bacher Comments.
***0n 23 January 1968, the North Koreans seized the USS Pueblo (AGER 2).
****There are a number of excellent works on the impact of Tet and the debate it sparked within the Johnson Administration. The Pentagon Papers, IV. C. 6. c. is perhaps the most important source; perhaps the best treatment of the subject is Herbert Y. Schandler, The Unmaking of a President: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam (Princeton, N.J.: Prince-ton University Press, 1977).