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[Image 1: Department
ot Defense Photo
(USMC) AU0931.
U. S. Seventh
Fleet ships steam
in formation
in the South
China Sea. These
ships would support
Task Force 76
and its embarked
9th MAB Marines
during most of
April 1975.]

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On 9 April, the 34lst NVA Division attacked the forces defending Xuan Loc (the 18th ARVN Division). The Communists wanted to gain control of Highway l, the main access route into the Bien Hoa/Saigon area. The South Vietnamese quickly moved to reinforce Xuan Loc and thwart the latest and most crucial Communist offensive. The ARVN soldiers, commanded by Brigadier General Le Minh Dao, counterattacked on 10 April and retook a considerable amount of the city they had lost the day before. The next day, they repulsed an attack by the 165th Regiment of the 7th NVA Division and regiments from the 34lst Division and the 6th NVA Division. This victory by the 18th ARVN renewed hopes that possibly the NVA'S spring offensive could be halted and Saigon saved. If the Communist onslaught could be stopped then the 9th MAB and its units would be able to concentrate on other contingencies and maybe even undertake the cancelled MAF exercise.36 9th MAB and Task Force 76

During South Vietnam's series of defeats in late March and early April and before the ARVN's successful counterattack at Xuan Loc, the U.S. Marine Corps assembled a fighting force capable of aiding that republic once again. The centerpiece of that organization was the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade (9th MAB). Eventually, it would comprise over 6,000 Marines and Navy corpsmen, 80-plus helicopters of various types, and vehicles, supplies, and other equipment normally associated with amphibious operations. Together with the Navy's amphibious ready group, the 9th MAB Marines would be capable of supporting airlift, sealift, or helicopter evacuation operations, cither afloat or ashore.

On 26 March 1975, the Commanding General of III MAF, Major General Carl W. Hoffman, reactivated the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, to participate in a landing exercise in the Philippines, MABLEx 2-75. It had been in the planning stage for 18 months. I he order to activate 9th MAB addressed the exercise at hand, but it also referenced recent events on the Indochina peninsula. Not intentionally designed as such, the MABLEx served as an excellent explanation for the movement of units to the South China Sea.

The Navy supported this exercise by providing the amphibious ships to move these units. Except tor exercises or actual operations, amphibious squadrons in the Pacific performed a onc-for-one replacement with one squadron of ships leaving station as soon as the relieving squadron arrived trom San Diego, homepon for these ships.

The relief of a squadron normally took a day, maybe two, long enough to transfer the landing forces trom the outbound to the inbound ships. Built into this long-term schedule was an extended overlap, usually occurring every two years. In those years, the exchange

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