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commanded the 1st Landing Battalion at Nha Trang.*

Demobilization presented another potential difficulty for the Vietnamese Marine Corps in early 1955. Under the U.S.-Vietnamese force level agreements, the Vietnamese naval forces were limited to 3,000 men. The Marine Corps, which alone totalled a disproportionate 2,400 men, had been instructed to reduce its strength to 1,137 men and officers. With no effective centralized command structure and so many widely separated units, even the relatively simple task of mustering out troops assumed the dimensions of a complex administrative undertaking. In short, the very existence of the Vietnamese Marine Corps was threatened in a number of interrelated situations. The continuation of a separate and distinct Marine Corps hinged ultimately, of course, on the overall reorganization of the Vietnamese armed forces and their support structure. Essentially it would be necessary to establish a requirement for such an organization within South Vietnam's future military-naval structure. Croizat personally sensed that this would be the pivotal issue in determining the VNMC's future. 'There were numerous representatives of the three military services from each of the three countries concerned with the fate of the Vietnamese Army, Navy, and Air Force,' he pointed out. 'But, there was no champion from within the Vietnamese Marine Corps since no Corps existed except on paper.''3 Thus, it was left initially to a French captain, a Vietnamese major, and a U.S. Marine lieutenant colonel to keep alive the idea that South Vietnam's defense establishment needed a separate Marine Corps.

Political Stabilisation and Its Effects

During early 1955 the entire South Vietnamese government was engulfed by a crisis which threatened to disrupt the American plans to help build a viable anti-Communist country. The crisis occurred not in the form of an overt North Vietnamese attack but rather as a result of the South's political instability. In February the leaders of the Hoa Hao, the Cao Dai, and the Binh Xuyen, dissatisfied with Premier Diem's refusal to accede to their various demands, formed the United Front of National Forces.

By mid-March the disaffected leaders of these organizations felt strong enough to test the premier's strength. Trouble began late that month when the Hoa Hao began undertaking guerrilla-type activities against Diem's National Army units in the sect's stronghold southwest of Saigon. On 28 March Diem ordered a company of paratroops to seize the Saigon Central Police Headquarters which the French had allowed the Binh Xuyen to control. Fighting erupted throughout the capital the next day as Binh Xuyen units clashed with loyal government forces. A truce was arranged finally in the city on 31 March after three days of intermittent but fierce fighting. That same day the Cao Dai broke with the United Front and accepted a government offer to integrate some of its troops into the National Army.

An uneasy peace prevailed over South Vietnam until 28 April when new fighting broke out. By the middle of May, government forces had driven the Binh Xuyen forces from Saigon, fracturing their organization. Remnants of the bandit group, however, escaped into the extensive Rung Sat swamps south of the capital where they continued fighting individually and in small groups. In the countryside south of Saigon, 30 of Diem's battalions, including the 1st Landing Battalion, took the offensive against the Hoa Hao regular and guerrilla forces.

The national crisis, for all practical purposes, ended in the last week of June when a Hoa Hao leader surrendered 8,000 regulars and ordered his followers to cease all anti-government activities. Sporadic fighting continued, however, as Diem's forces sought to mop-up Hoa Hao splinter groups fighting in the western Mekong Delta and Binh Xuyen elements still resisting in the rugged mangrove swamps south of the capital. In August the Marine Landing Battalion fought a decisive action against the remaining Hoa Hao in Kien Giang Province about 120 miles southwest of Saigon, destroying the rebel headquarters. Later in the year the 1st Landing Battalion, joined by several river boat companies, reduced one of the last

*Delayen, described by Croizat as 'an exceptionally qualified French Commando officer,' later attended the U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School at Quantico. (Croizat, 'Notes on The Organization,' p. 3.)




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