a flexibility ... It added that extra punch that we often needed." Cushman agreed, professing that "It was just like having another couple of battalions."11
In mid-December 1967, Cushman reemphasized to his division commanders that "first and foremost" he wanted the "ARG/SLF used in an amphibious role in accordance with current doctrine for amphibious operations." He reminded both commanders that the SLFs were available to III MAF "for employment against time sensitive targets." Not only did he want the SLF operations to be "in consonance with our amphibious doctrine," but that they "be based on best III MAF intelligence estimates."12
Concurrent with this Marine emphasis about the employment of the SLF, General Westmoreland's MACV staff was involved in contingency planning for a possible amphibious landing north of the DMZ. With a possible 30,000 enemy in the objective area, the planning for Operation Durango City, the codename for the proposed amphibious assault, by necessity involved both Army and Marine ground forces as well as support from the Seventh Air Force. In this planning effort, General William W. Momyer, the Seventh Air Force commander, raised the subject of air control in the objective area. While the chances of approval of the Operation Durango City plan or any amphibious operation in the north was dubious at best, any discussion over command relations was serious business, especially at a time when the whole question of single manager of air in South Vietnam was about to surface.13*
Thus, in this general context, General Westmoreland wanted another look at the entire subject of the SLF and the results of the Badger Tooth operation only added fuel to this desire. In mid-January, the MACV commander expressed his doubts to Admiral Sharp, CinCPac, and proposed that changes be made. The Pacific commander agreed with Westmoreland that there was justifiable concern over Badger Tooth and was willing to consider transfer of operational control of the ashore forces from the amphibious task force commander at an earlier time in an SLF amphibious operation. Sharp also mentioned that he was thinking about the possibility of basing one of the SLFs ashore as a permanent element of III MAF. While maintaining "that present command relations for the conduct of amphibious operations in South Vietnam are valid," he stated that he had asked Vice Admiral John J. Hyland, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, to conduct a broad-based study of SLF operations in Vietnam.14
While CinCPacFlt established a study group with representatives from both the Marine and Navy amphibious forces, the whole question about the SLF would be overtaken by events. While the study group reasserted the validity of the basic command and control system for the SLF then in effect, it would, essentially permit ComUSMACV "to prescribe virtually every important aspect of the employment of amphibious forces, from specifying the mission to delineating the characteristics of the amphibious objective area." By the time, the study came out both SLF BLTs were ashore.15
With the massing of enemy forces in the north followed by the Tet offensive, the SLF battalions, for all intents and purposes, became part of III MAF for the next few months. In mid-January, both SLFs were in an alert status off the coast of northern I Corps. On 22 January, SLF Alpha's BLT 2/4 initiated Operation Ballistic Armor in which the unit relieved the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines at Camp Evans which in turn deployed to Khe Sanh. Upon itself being relieved by elements of the 1st Air Cavalry Division four days later, the BLT reembarked upon its amphibious shipping. The following day in Operation Fortress Attack, the BLT went ashore near the C-2 combat base, coming under the operational control of the 9th Marines." In the meantime, the SLF Bravo battalion conducted
*General Cushman stated that the planning for an amphibious operation "never went anywhere .... it was just another plan sticking up. . . . They wanted to have one up to date, just in case, you know, got lucky or somebody else got to be President or some damn thing." (Cushman intvw, 1982, p. 46.) See Chapters 23 and 24 for discussion of the Single Manager controversy.
**Colonel Bruce F. Meyers, the commander of SLF Alpha, recalled his concerns about the irregularity and departure from normal amphibious doctrine during this period. He wrote that on 26 Jan "op con was passed back to me (CTG 79.4) at noon and we had all elements of BLT 2/4 back aboard our shipping in five hours and 15 minutes (261830)." He was then directed to land his tank and amtrac platoons at the mouth of the Cua Viet at the request of III MAF. On 27 January, BLT 2/4 began Operation Fortress Attack in the 9th Marines operational area and he passed operational control to the 9th Marines at 1500. Meyers declared that he "recognized the exigency of the threat in the Tet offensive, and our immediate response and accommodation to that threat. ..." As the SLF commander, he "was worried that Gen. Westmoreland would pick up on this usage out of our traditional 'amphibious' role ... It was obvious to both my [Navy] ARG [Amphibious Ready Group} counterpart . . . [and to Meyers} that both Adm. Sharp and Gen. Krulak were both worried about this same aspect of the use of the ARG/SLF ...." At his debriefing at FMFPac, Meyers referred to "grave reservations and possible implications for the future of the Marine Corps role as a result of what I believed at the time to be bordering on a misuse of the ARG/SLF. In the end, we accomplished what the ground commanders needed-an immediate 'fire brigade' response to a perceived serious threat. In retrospect, it was probably the wisest response to the situation that we could have achieved." Col Bruce F. Meyers, Comments on draft dtd 20Feb95 (Vietnam Comment File).