Major General John P. Condon, USMC, Commanding General, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. (USMC Photo A42079T).
TULUNGAN. This task unit, code named SHU-FLY, was to occupy an old Japanese-built landing strip near Soc Trang, a small town located about 85 miles southwest of Saigon in Ba Xuyen Province. Situated only 20 miles from the coast, Soc Trang possessed one of the few hard surfaced runways in the area. Condon informed the Seventh Fleet commander of the arrangements which his liaison officers had made during their trip to Saigon. An ARVN infantry battalion and two 4.2-inch mortar companies were to assume the defense of the air strip at Soc Trang the same day that the Marines began landing.
The Marine general then proceeded to outline the chain of command and method of support which he considered best for the Marine task unit. SHUFLY, he suggested, should be under the operational control of ComUSMACV but should remain under the administrative control of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Most of its logistic support, the wing commander thought, could come through normal Marine and Navy channels with fuels, lubricant oils, rations, and ammunition, being the exceptions. Rations and ammunition were to be provided by MACV, while fuels would be supplied by private Vietnamese distributers operating under contracts with the U.S. government. Next, General Condon explained to Admiral Schoech his desires for the organization of the task unit. He felt that SHUFLY would function best if organized into three distinct task elements. First, he proposed that a headquarters be formed under the command of Colonel John F. Carey, a veteran Marine aviator who had been awarded the Navy Cross for heroism during the battle for Midway. Carey was currently serving as Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. This headquarters, General Condon advised, should consist of eight officers and six enlisted men. The second element of the task unit, the wing commander continued, would be Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMM-362), reinforced, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Archie J. Clapp. The squadron, whose normal complement was 63 officers and 196 enlisted Marines, was to be augmented by 50 additional maintenance personnel. Its equipment would include 24 HUS helicopters (which under normal operating conditions could lift eight to 12 combat-loaded Vietnamese troops), three Cessna single-engine OE-1 observation aircraft, one R4D transport aircraft, and supplemental maintenance equipment. Prior to its deployment, HMM-362 would exchange its helicopters for recently overhauled aircraft in order to reduce maintenance problems once operations in Vietnam began. SHUFLY's third element would be a sub unit of Marine Air Base Squadron 16 (MABS-16). Designated Task Element 22.214.171.124, it would be commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William W. Eld-ridge. Navy medical, dental, and chaplain personnel would be included in the sub unit's 193 enlisted men and 18 officers.
The wing commander intended to provide the MABS-16 sub unit with a Tactical Airfield Fuel Dispensing System (TAFDS) and a Marine Airfield Traffic Control Unit (MATCU). The traffic control unit would be equipped with Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) and Ground Control Approach (GCA) systems which would enable the helicopter squadron to conduct landings during periods of reduced visibility.15
Colonel Carey, the task unit commander, was to be assigned responsibility for liaison with