is going to take the amphibious shipping away, and either move it out of the theater or join forces with the Army .. . ." Krulak, nevertheless, recognized that there were circumstances where either one or both of the SLFs would have to be committed to an in-country operation for an extended period of time.7
In a sense, General Cushman, the III MAF commander, found himself betwixt and between. He answered to both Generals Krulak, the FMFPac commander, and to Westmoreland, the MACV commander. Both of these commanders had differing but equally valid concerns about the SLF. In answer to Krulak's message, Cushman attempted to explain his predicament. While agreeing in principle with the FMFPac commander's desire to retain the rotation between in-country forces and Okinawa via the SLF, Cushman declared that at that time the situation in Vietnam was so "fluid and dynamic that I cannot at present in good conscience recommend to Westy [Westmoreland] the resumption of intra-theater BLT rotation to and from Okinawa." He then suggested an alternative that Krulak had suggested in his message-namely that the SLFs refit out of the U.S. naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. According to the III MAF commander, he would hope that "the issue and turn-in at Subic could be so expedited as to permit a short but concentrated amphib[ious) training period . . . ." Both Westmoreland and Krulak eventually concurred in this policy.8*
The matter of amphibious command relations was not only a dispute between Marines and Navy on one side and MACV and the Army on the other, but also caused division within Marine Corps circles. Marine commanders in III MAF shared to a certain extent some of the same opinions as their Army counterparts and MACV about the SLF. They saw the Seventh Fleet forces largely as a reinforcement for their own forces in Vietnam. With control of the air and landing areas, in-country commanders believed there was little need for many of the amphibious doctrinal procedures relative to amphibious operational area and command.** The Navy and the Marine amphibious commanders, on the other hand, regarded the SLFs as the Seventh Fleet or Western Pacific reserve force. While ready to reinforce the forces in Vietnam when needed, they also looked to other possible crises areas in the Pacific. They feared any dilution of their authority might result in the loss of the amphibious forces to the Seventh Fleet for other Pacific contingencies.?
Major General Rathvon McC. Tompkins, the 3d Marine Division commander, later recalled when General Westmoreland, the MACV commander, "was screaming his head off for more troops, there were at least two battalions of well-trained Marines who were floating around on the ships." According to Tompkins "simply from an operational point of view.... Better to have two battalions ashore than two battalions floating around, looking at each other." One of Tompkin's staff officers, Colonel Alexander L. Michaux carped that the SLF landings were largely administrative and designating them as amphibious was "a joke." According to Michaux, its only purpose was to give the Navy amphibious commander control of the operation for a day.10***
Even while critical of the employment of the SLF, General Tompkins maintained that if one looked beyond Vietnam, the Navy was "well advised to have the two battalions not under the operational control [of MACV]." Both Generals Cushman, the III MAF commander, and Major General DonnJ. Robertson, the 1st Marine Division commander, viewed the SLF capability positively. Robertson declared that the "SLF gave us
*Colonel Warren A. Butcher, who relieved Col Schmidt in command of SLF Bravo, wrote that the Marines had anticipated the decision to make Subic Bay the main base for the refitting of the SLF. He noted that "sections of 9th MAB under G-^ cognizance were sent to Subic to contact opposite numbers early on. When the directive came out of FMFPac, we had a completed plan. I had never seen Service troops in operation before, at least to the extent they were used in the rehabs at Subic." He noted that the first group there did a "masterful job." According to Butcher, General Krulak complimented the group "for doing in 10 days at Subic, what it had taken 6 weeks to do on Okinawa." Butcher stated that the Service troops accomplished their technical inspections by first identifying units to be "retrograded. They started in country, continued aboard ship enroute to Subic, and finished at Subic Bay. Flood lights were set up for around the clock operations. Even though the first BLT was pulled out earlier than expected, the completion percentage was in the high nineties, and the BLT reembarked with all equipment in near new condition." Col Warren A. Butcher, Comments on draft, dtd 5Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).
**Colonel George F. Warren, who served in 1968 as the executive officer of BLT 2/4, wrote, "in-country commanders had a propensity for breaking up the SLF into its component parts (air/ground) and then further breaking up the BLT into its component parts (combat, combat support and combat service support units). Ultimately the SLF was reconstituted into a single entity and loaded back aboard . . . [Navy] shipping. One can imagine the movement of operational control between commanders in such a situation and the administrative time and effort that was consumed during SLF operations, to say nothing about the confusion such movement generated." Col George F. Warren, Comments on draft, dtd 28Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).
***Colonel Butcher, the former SLF Bravo commander, conceded the point that most SLF landings were administrative bur denies the assertion that the purpose of the landings was to give the Navy amphibious commander control of the operation for a day. Butcher Comments.