Page 631

Page 631 (Outside of III MAF)



CHAPTER 30

Outside of III MAF: The Special Landing Forces, Marine Advisors,

and Others

The 9th MAB

and the SLFs-Sub-Unit l, 1st Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO)

Embassy Marines-Individual Marines in Saigon and Elsewhere in Vietnam-Advisors

to the Vietnamese Marine Corps

The 9th MAB and the SLFs

In January 1968, Brigadier General

Jacob E. Glick commanded the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, the Fleet Marine

Force component of the Seventh Fleet, with its headquarters on Okinawa which

controlled all Marine forces in the Western Pacific outside of Hawaii and

Vietnam. At this time, the MAB contained nearly 8,000 men with nearly half

assigned to the two Seventh Fleet Special Landing Forces (SLF) Alpha and Bravo.*

The two SLFS each consisted of a Marine infantry battalion, supported by a

helicopter squadron and reinforced by small detachments of artillery, tanks,

engineers, and other specialized units, totaling about 2,000 men embarked upon

the ships of a Navy amphibious ready group (ARG).1

At the beginning of the year, SLF

Alpha, commanded by Colonel John A. Conway, had just returned control of BLT

1/3, its infantry battalion, to III MAF. The former SLF battalion had come

ashore during November, operated with the 9th Marines in Operation Kentucky, and

was about to take over part of the Operation Osceola sector near Quang Tri from

the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines. On 4 January, the latter battalion, under the

command of Lieutenant Colonel William Weise, in turn, embarked in the ships of

the amphibious ready group, Seventh Fleet Task Group 76.4, which included the

USS Cleveland (LSD 7), USS Comstock (LSD 19), and USS Wexfwd County (LST 1168),

and the helicopter aircraft carrier the Iwo Jima (LPH 2) with HMM-361, under

Lieutenant Colonel Daniel M. Wilson, on board as the SLF aircraft contingent.

Two days later the entire SLF in its amphibious shipping set sail for the

Philippines. About a week later, 14 January, Colonel Bruce F. Meyers assumed

command of the reconstituted SLF Alpha.2

SLF Bravo, commanded by Colonel Maynard

W. Schmidt, in the meantime, consisting of BLT 3/1 (Lieutenant Colonel Max

McQuown) and HMM-262' (Lieutenant Colonel Melvin J. Stein-berg), had just

completed Operation Badger Tooth. Reembarking on board its amphibious shipping

of Navy Task Group 76.5 on 3 January, the SLF deployed to Da Nang where both the

battalion and squadron underwent a one week rehabilitation period. On 10

January, HMM-165, under Lieutenant Colonel Richard E. Romine, replaced HMM-262

on board the Valley Forge (LPH 8) and the ARG/SLF once more put to sea,

remaining off the coast of Quang Tri Province for possible insertion into the

Cua Viet sector.?***

Operation Badger Tooth had been a

bloody experience for BLT 3/1 and raised some questions about the effectiveness

of the SLF and the future employment of Seventh Fleet Marine amphibious forces.

In Badger Tooth, BLT 3/1 had operated in the 'Street Without Joy' coastal region

east of Route 1 in southern Quang Tri Province for about a week from 26 December

1967 until 2 January 1968. After moving through the hamlet of Thorn Tham Khe on

the 26th, the battalion made another sweep of the area the following day. This

time the Marines ran into a well-sprung ambush. Calling the coastal hamlet

'literally a defensive bastion,' Lieutenant Colonel McQuown in 24 hours

sustained 48 Marines killed and 86 wounded. According to their body count, the

Marines accounted for 31 enemy dead. By 28 December, the NVA had slipped away

and Marines of the SLF began to close out the operation.4****

*The other components of the 9th MAB

were the 26th Marines (Rear) headquarters, a communications support company, and

a provisional service battalion on Okinawa as well as MAG-15 with squadrons at

both Iwakuni, Japan and on Okinawa. Although the 26th Marines (Forward) and its

three infantry battalions together with its attached artillery, the 1st

Battalion, 13th Marines, were in Vietnam under the operational control of III

MAF, these units remained under the administrative control of the 9th MAB.

**Because of the shortage of CH^6

aircraft, a small detachment of HMM-262, HMM-262 Alpha, under Major David l.

Althoff, remained embarked on board the Valley Forge LPH 8, from 24 November

until 4 January, when the detachment was deactivated.

***The other ships of the amphibious

task group included the USS Navarro (APA 215), USS Alamo (LSD 33), USS Whetstone

(LSD 27), and Vernon Comity (LST 1161).

****In his comments, Colonel McQuown

wrote that ARVN forces later found in a draw north and west of Thorn Tham Ke the

bodies of over 100 North Vietnamese from the 166th NVA Battalion. This count was

not included in the report of the action nor in the investigation that followed.

Col Max McQuown, Comments on draft, dtd 22Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File),

hereafter McQuown Comments.




Page 631 (Outside of III MAF)