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[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of LtCol
George E. Strickland,
USMC (Ret) Than
base camp on
the outskirts
of Saigon. Entrance
to VNMC Training
Center and Song ]

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ber of 1974 when the newly formed 468th Brigade* was added, the division consisted
of three Marine Brigades- the l47th, the 258th, and 369th and supporting units.
It was reinforced by the 1st ARVN Armored Brigade, the 15th Ranger Group,
and eight Regional Force battalions. Brigadier General Bui The Lan, Commandant
of the Vietnamese Marine Corps** and a graduate of both the U.S. Marine Corps
Amphibious Warfare School and Command and Staff College, personally commanded
the Marine Division. Lan also had operational control of the 2d Airborne Brigade.
Additionally, the Marines maintained 12 joint Marine and Popular Force platoons
living in assigned villages and hamlets within the AO, a variation of the
earlier U.S. Marine Corps Combined Action Program in MR l. Concentrated in
the hamlets surrounding Huong Dien, these platoons provided additional security
for the division command post.56

While deployed in MR l, the Marine Division remained part of the RVNAF General
Purpose Strategic Force. Controlled and directed by the Joint General Staff,
rather than by Lieutenant General Ngo Quang Troung, the MR l commander, the
Marine Division received its orders from Saigon. The JGS believed that when
the NVA began their general offensive, the major thrust would come from the
north. Apparently, this military assumption was sufficient reason for Saigon
to maintain direct control of the strategically placed Marine Division. Despite
this awkward command arrangement, General Lan and General Troung established
and maintained an amicable working relationship.57

To prepare for the expected offensive. General Lan personally directed the construction of a formidable, in-depth defense throughout the division's AO. For each crew-served weapon there were three alternate fall-back positions. All were bunkercd, stockpiled with 14 days of ammunition, and well-camouflaged. These were the best protected, best concealed positions that Lieutenant Colonel Strickland had seen in his four tours in Vietnam.68

The construction of the observation post and forward command post bunkers was unique. General Lan insisted that these critical command and control facilities be able to withstand a direct hit by a 130mm artillery shell. Several candidate structures were tested by command-detonated, captured 130mm shells placed directly on top of the bunkers. Through this process of trial and error, the VNMC built a bunker

*0riginally, before the shifting of units began, the brigade designation corresponded to the battalions in that organization, e.g. battalions l. 4, and 7 constituted the l47th Brigade. Strickland Comments.

�*0n 4 May 1972, President Thieu appointed the commandant of the VNMC, Lieutenant General Le Nguyen Khang to the Joint General Staff as assistant for operations. The next day, Colonel Lan, the division commander, became acting Commandant (CMC) of the Vietnamese Marine Corps. On l June 1972, exactly eighteen years after receiving his commission as a second lieutenant, Bui The Lan pinned on his stars. At that moment, Brigadier General Lan officially became CMC. but he began his new role while maintaining tactical command of the division. LtCol G. H. Turlcy and Capt M. R. Wells, "Easter Invasion," reprinted in The Marines in Vietnam, 1954-1973, An Anthology and Annotated Bibliography (Washington: MCHC, 1985), p. 190; "VNMC/MAU HistSum."

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