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[Image 1: Photo courtesy of Capt Edwin W. Bcsch, USMC (Ret)
A-4 belonging to
VMA-211 of MAG-12
sits in revetment at
Bien Hoa, awaiting
maintenance. MAG-12
departed Bien Hoa
at the end o f January 1973 in
con-formance with
the recently signed
Paris Accords.]

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The problem of space was somewhat relieved when in May 1972 some wing units deployed to Vietnam to meet the threat of invading North Vietnamese troops. Marine Aircraft Group 12, whose attack squadrons flew the A-4E Skyhawk, was sent to Bien Hoa Air Base, 16 miles northeast of Saigon, where it remained for almost a year, while Marine Aircraft Group 15 deployed to Da Nang.21 On 29 January 1973, the "Tomcats" of Marine Attack Squadron 311 (VMA-311) and the "Wake Island Avengers" of VMA-211 began leaving Bien Hoa. Piloting KC-130Fs based on Okinawa, the air crews of VMGR-152 assisted MAG-12 in transporting its gear back to Iwakuni. By day's end on 30 January, all of VMA-211's aircraft had landed at the joint-use airfield on the southern end of Honshu island. VMA-311's retrograde progressed almost as fast and on 31 January its last aircraft returned to Iwakuni. When that A-4E touched down on runway 01, it marked the conclusion of a tour of duty in South Vietnam for "311" which spanned eight years and included 54,625 combat sorties.*22 Seven months earlier, MAG-15 had departed South Vietnam, but instead of returning to Japan, it redeployed to Nam Phong, Thailand, to continue the air war. After 16 months of combat operations in Southeast Asia, the 1st MAW commander, Major General Frank C. Lang, directed MAG-15 to cease all activities and depart Thailand. Upon receiving the order, the three squadrons at the Rose Garden redeployed. On 31 August VMFA-115 went to Naha and the following day VMFA-232 departed for Cubi Point. While those two units mapped out a training schedule. Major Ronald E. Mcrrihcw and his squadron, VMA (AW)-533, flew back to Iwakuni. Shortly after his flight of eight A-6s touched down on the Iwakuni runway on the last day of August 1973, the MAG-15 commander. Colonel Darrel E. Bjork-lund, administratively and operationally returned control of the "Hawks" to MAG-12. Three weeks later, on 21 September, Marine Air Base Squadron 15 (MABS-15) officially returned control of the Royal Thai Air Force Base, Nam Phong, to the Royal Thai Government and departed, ending another chapter in a long history of advanced base operations.23

Between Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) General Robert E. Cushman's visit to Iwakuni on 29 and 30 September 1973 and the end of September 1974, the wing underwent several more organizational changes. On 14 October 1973, MAG-12 transferred control of VMCJ-1 back to MAG-15, and in August 1974, CMC administratively transferred VMA-311 to MAG-32. On 29 August in a ceremony at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, VMA-324, an A-4M squadron, was officially redesignated VMA-311. The Marine Corps balanced MAG-12's loss by replacing the "Tomcats" with VMA-513, the first AV-8A Harrier squadron to deploy overseas. The "Nightmares" joined MAG-12 on l September 1974.24

Based at Futema, approximately 500 miles south of Iwakuni, MAG-36 was one of the largest aircraft groups in the Marine Corps. It consisted of five helicopter squadrons and an OV-10 Bronco-equipped observation squadron. In addition to these units, MAG-36 administratively controlled VMGR-152, which received its operational orders directly from the wing commander via his G-3 and the Air Transportation Control Officer (ATCO). One of the group's transport helicopter squadrons was always assigned as a component of the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) on board Amphibious Ready Group Alpha ships. The assigned unit actually was a composite squadron, usually either Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 164 (HMM-164) or the "White Knights" of HMM-165, both flying CH-46Ds augmented by detachments of CH-53Ds from the "Heavy Haulers" of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 (HMH-462); UH-1E Hueys of Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 367 (HML-367), call sign "Scarfacc"; and AH-lJ Cobras of the "Gunfighters" of Marine Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 (HMA-369).25

The combat service support element of III MAF, the 3d Force Service Regiment (FSR) was based at Camp Foster, Okinawa. The regiment was at reduced strength, reflecting the cutback in personnel immedi-

*First Lieutenant Charles G. Reed flew the squadron's 50,000th combat sortie on 29 August 1972. VMA-311 ComdC, lJul-31Dcc72.

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