Hq Co 9th Marines
Semper Fi & Welcome Home
This website is dedicated to the
Marines and Corpsmen
that served in Vietnam with the
Headquarters Company 9th Marine Regiment 3rd Marine Division 
Republic of Vietnam 1964 ~ 1969, 1975
   Home      The Stage was Set

1 Dec 64    Presidential Decision

President Johnson approved the recommendation of Ambassador Taylor and NSC principals to implement the Working Group's  "Course of Action A"; after about a month and after GVN progress in certain areas, Course C--a program "principally of progressively more serious air strikes" against NVN would be initiated. Again, ground troop commitment was not discussed.

1 Jan 65    OPLAN  32-64

The "alert" or first phase of the plan in effect. (MACV Command History shows planning had begun for the dispatch of U.S. ground troops into South Vietnam in connection with this and other contingency plans.)

Jan and Feb 1965     MACV  Monthly Evaluation Reports; CIA Situation Reports

General Westmoreland said recently initiated "Flaming Dart" air campaign against the North was beneficial for morale in South Vietnam. He called GVN social and political institutions "remarkably intact" despite the "disintegrating blows" of political upheaval. (Huong's government fell in January; Premier Quat's regime was shaky.) But enemy gains continued.The Viet Cong struck Pleiku and other bases in early February; 12 battalions(6000 men) had reportedly moved into the I Corps.  Westmoreland hoped air attacks in North and South Vietnam would be enough to reverse the trend.

CIA assessments were more pessimistic. In February Binh Dinh Province was said to be just about lost to the enemy.  Intelligence indicated the Viet Cong might try to take Kontum Province and split the GVN through II Corps during the rainy season.

7 Feb 65    McGeorge Bundy Memorandum for the President

Bundy felt the GVN would collapse by 1966 without substantially more U.S. help and action. To avert collapse and to counter latent anti-Americanism and the growing feeling among Vietnamese that U.S. was going to quit, Bundy recommended a policy of graduated, continuing air strikes against North Vietnam. He did not mention a base security problem; he did not suggest deployment of U.S. ground troops--then or in the future.

(This document-and the absence of others-supports the interpretation that the forthcoming Marine deployment to Da Nang was intended as a one-shot response to a particularly serious security problem, not as the first in a planned series of U.S. troop commitments.)

7 Feb 65    McNamara News Conference

The Secretary announced elements of a USMC HAWK missile battalion would be deployed to Da Nang to improve security against air attack.

11 Feb 65    JCSM   100-65

A proposal for the first eight weeks of military action against North Vietnam. As expected, air strikes were paramount but the JCS recommended collateral deployment of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) to Da Nang and an Army brigade to Thailand-not for counterinsurgency duties but to deter overt DRV/CHICOM retaliation to the air strikes, to improve U.S. ability to respond if retaliatory attacks were launched.

18 Feb 65    SNIE

A new ingredient in the still critical situation in South Vietnam was to be the inauguration of the Rolling Thunder air campaign. This evaluation showed Viet Cong attacks against U.S. bases would probably continue at about their present level of intensity despite increased air action against North Vietnam.

22 Feb 65   MACV Msg to CINCPAC   220743Z

General Throckmorton, Deputy COMUSMACV, visited Da Nang, called the situation grave, and doubted ARVN's ability to provide adequate security. Throckmorton recommended that the entire 9th MEB be sent to Da Nang, but General Westmoreland cut this to two Battalion Landing Teams (BLTs) with a third to beheld off-shore in reserve. The troops were to assist GVN forces in guarding Da Nang against enemy ground attacks.

22 Feb 65   EMBTEL   2699

Ambassador Taylor voiced several strong reservations to the idea of sending Marines to Da Nang:

It reversed along-standing policy of avoiding commitment of ground combat forces in SVN.  Taylor was sure the GVN would "seek to unload other ground force tasks upon us"; he was sure this deployment would invite requests for more troops to meet additional and ultimately defensive offensive requirements.

Two BLTs would not release significant numbers of ARVN for mobile operations against the Viet Cong; the Marines would simply be performing static defense tasks inadequately done by ARVN in the past.

Anticipating that using U.S. troops for active operations would grow more attractive, Taylor warned against it. The "white-faced" soldier cannot be assimilated by the population, he cannot distinguish between friendly and unfriendly Vietnamese; the Marines are not armed, trained or equipped for jungle guerrilla warfare. Taylor prophesied that the U.S.--like France--would fail to adapt to such condition.

Two BLTs could help but could not make Da Nang secure. The entire MEB might significantly improve things, but no force could prevent surprise mortar attacks, a favorite VC tactic.

However,because Westmoreland was so concerned about Da Nang's safety and because Taylor felt security was a legitimate mission for U.S. troops although he objected to it, the Ambassador would support MACV's recommendation for one BLT. He suggested GVN approval be sought prior to the Marine deployment.

22 Feb 65   MACV  Message to  JCS

Claimed the Marine deployment to Da Nang would free four Regional Force companies, one tank platoon and another RF battalion then being formed for active anti-VC operations. (The March MACV Evaluation Report showed only two RF companies had been released.)

24 Feb 65   CINCPAC  Message to  JCS

Recommended immediate deployment of two BLTs; recommended one squadron of F-4s be sent to Da Nang for close air support of the troops and "for other missions along with the primary mission. " The tone was urgent: deploy now "before the tragedy" of a Viet Cong attack.

CINCPAC disagreed with Taylor; called attention to the Marine Corps' distinguished record in counterinsurgency operations; claimed U.S. presence would free ARVN for mobile patrol operations and make Da Nang a tougher target for enemy forces.

24 Feb 65    JCSM   130-65

Forwarded and supported CINCPAC's recommendations.

26 Feb 65   DEPTEL   1840

Approved the deployment; said the Marines were on their way and instructed Taylor to secure GVN approval.

28 Feb 65   EMBTEL   2789

Taylor agreed to seek GVN concurrence to the deployment--and planned an approach designed to stress U.S. reluctance to deploy any men even temporarily, emphasize the limited mission of the Marines and discourage GVN hopes for further commitments. Taylor would open by discussing the severe security problem at Da Nang and USG concern about it.  Although he wished more GVN battalions could be sent there, Taylor would say he knew ARVN troops were chronically short in I Corps and he knew any redeployment would impose prohibitive costs to security in other areas. Thus, he would say "the USG has been driven to consider a solution which we have always rejected in the past: the introduction of U.S. ground combat forces to reinforce the defense of Da Nang until GVN forces become available for the purpose."

1 Mar 65   CJCS Letter to Sec Def  (forwarding JSOP-70)

General Wheeler said the JCS were addressing Southeast Asia force levels separately because that was a "specific problem area" requiring a "near term and long term solution." This suggests the JCS probably had been considering deployment of U.S. troops to Vietnam-perhaps for active operations-before the Marine deployment to Da Nang.

2 Mar 65  DOD Tel   6166

ASD (ISA)McNaughton cabled Taylor that the 173d Airborne Brigade (then on Okinawa) would be deployed to Da Nang instead of the Marines. (This last minute change may have been Mr. McNaughton's attempt to emphasize the limited, temporary nature of the U.S. troop deployment and to reduce the conspicuousness of the U.S.presence.  Airborne troops carry less equipment and look less formidable than the Marines plus they have no history of peace-keeping intervention in foreign wars.)

2 Mar 65   EMBTEL   1954

Taylor and Westmoreland-who argued that the Marines were more self-sustaining than the airborne-objected to the proposed substitution of Army airborne for Marine troops.

3 Mar 65   CINCPAC  Message to  JCS   030230Z

CINCPAC strongly objected to Mr. McNaughton's proposal. It denied him the only airborne assault force in the theater and, more importantly, completely upset his contingency plans for combat operations in Southeast Asia. CINCPAC said that since 1959 when OPLAN-32 was approved, the Marines had been scheduled for deployment to Da Nang; seven CINCPAC and SEATO contingency plans plus many supporting plans rested on this. All the preparations had been made for the landing of the BLTs-and some forces were already embarked. CINCPAC concluded: "The situation in Southeast Asia has now reached a point where the soundness of our contingency planning may be about to be tested. " Some1300 Marines were then in Da Nang; tasking of new forces had been completed; logistics, communications, command arrangements had been set. It would be "imprudent to shift forces in a major sector and to force changes in U.S.contingency posture for other parts of Southeast Asia." (The McNaughton proposal was killed.)

3 Mar 65   DEPTEL   1876

State requested Taylor's views on the possible use of an international force in Vietnam.

3 Mar 65   EMBTELs   2014 and 3112

Taylor first reported the views of the Australian envoy to the GVN on a multilateral force-views which Taylor supported. It would heighten Vietnamese xenophobia; it might cause the GVN to "shuck off greater responsibility onto the USG." In his second message Taylor said he had no idea what the GVN attitude toward a MLF might be, said many problems were involved which had yet to be faced. (The MLF was just a concept at the time-but Taylor readily looked beyond immediate tactical needs to the long-term ramifications of such a move just as he had in evaluating the proposal to deploy Marines to Da Nang.)

Mar 65   JCSM    100-65

The proposal for an eight-week air strike program (and possible deployment of some ground troops) was resubmitted to the Secretary. Again, the use of U.S. troops for active anti-insurgent operations was not mentioned.

5 Mar 65   CINCPAC  Eyes Only Message to Wheeler

This said the 9th MEB was needed as soon as possible for base security, to boost the GVN war against the Viet Cong, to provide insurance in case the GVN was unable to resist collapse in the critical Da Nang area where so much was already committed. CINCPAC said the  "single most important thing we can do quickly to improve the security situation in South Vietnam is to make full use of our air power."

6 Mar 65    OSD(PA)  News Release

Announced two USMC Battalion Landing Teams--3500 men--were being deployed to Vietnam on a limited mission: to provide base security and relieve GVN forces for pacification and offensive operations against the Viet Cong.

6 Mar 65  JCS  Message to CINCPAC

Ordered the BLTs to commence landing.

7 Mar 65    Statement by Secretary of State to National TV Audience

Secretary Rusk said the Marines would shoot back if shot at, but their mission was to put a tight security ring around Da Nang--not to kill Viet Cong.

11 Mar 65   "Estimate of the Situation in SVN"  Saigon  Air-gram to State

The Mission Council reported insurgency would grow unless " . . . NVN support is checked, GVN military and paramilitary resources increased, pacification goals and concepts refined, administrative efficiency improved and an adequate political-psychological base created. . . . Only U.S. resources can provide the pressures on NVN necessary to check Hanoi's support although some measure of GVN armed forces participation will be required for psychological reasons; the other measures and programs required to stem the tide . . . are largely internal to SVN but even here success will require a marked increase in U.S.support and participation."

14 Mar 65  General Harold Johnson's "Report on Trip to South Vietnam"

General Johnson, in SVN from 5-12 March, was as impressed by the gravity of the situation--particularly in I Corps--as were Saigon officials. He submitted several proposals-including deployment of additional U.S. ground troops-for attaining U.S. objectives (persuade NVN to abandon support and direction of the insurgency, defeat the insurgents, create a stable GVN). He said more U.S.action was necessary because "what the situation requires may exceed whatthe Vietnamese can be expected to do." To release ARVN for offensive action, General Johnson proposed sending a U.S. division either to the Bien Hoa/Tan Son Nhut area plus some coastal enclaves or to Kontum,  Pleiku and Darlac Provinces in the highlands. Both General Johnson and Mr. McNamara preferred the second alternative--but McNamara found neither efficient in terms of ARVN released per U.S. input and he also favored a ROK division rather than U.S. troops.

General Johnson recommended the SEATO Treaty be invoked and a four-division MLF be deployed across the DMZ  "from the South China Sea to the Mekong River" to counter infiltration.

Finally he said to evaluate MACV's requests properly a policy decision "must be made now to determine what the Vietnamese should be expected to do for themselves and how much more the U.S. must contribute directly to the security of South Vietnam." Mr. McNamara noted in the margin: "Policy is: anything that will strengthen the position of the GVN will be sent. . ."

20 Mar 65   JCSM   204-65

The JCS proposed that U.S. troops be deployed to South Vietnam for active operations against the Viet Cong.

27 Mar 65    MACV  Message to CINCPAC

Westmoreland submitted his estimate of the situation and his request for U.S. troops for offensive action against the Viet Cong.  Preparation of both estimate and troop input recommendation had began on 13 March (five days after the Marines arrived; one day after General Johnson completed his trip).

6 Apr 65   NSAM   328

President Johnson approved General Johnson's specific proposals for more U.S. action. This meant more U.S. involvement in terms of money, ships, aircraft, materiel and advisors, but deployment of ground combat units of division size was not approved at this time (2 additional Marine BLTs were approved).


11 Feb 65    JCSM   100-65

JCS recommended in conjunction with program for the 1st eight weeks of air activity against NVN the collateral action of landing one MEB at Da Nang for security of the air base.

20 Feb 65    JCSM   121-65

JCS reiterated CINCPAC recommendation to land MEB at Da Nang. Presence of the Marines would serve to deter VC/DRV action against the base and would enhance readiness posture for other contingencies.

22 Feb 65    MACV   220743Z

Westrnoreland  recommended landing of 2/3 of MEB to secure base and installations at Da Nang.

22 Feb 65    Embtel   2699

Taylor concurred in MACV's request to the extent of ½  MEB for security but warned against further foreign troop deployments.

23 Feb 65    MACV   231230Z

Westmoreland  backed down to 1/3 MEB with provision that more could follow after 1st battalion was in place.

24 Feb 65    CINCPAC   24O315Z

Sharp recommended 2/3  MEB for security at Da Nang.

24 Feb 65    JCSM   130-65

JCS recommended2/3 MEB for security. Approved 25 Feb.

26 Feb 65    Deptel   1840

State told Ambassador2/3 MEB approved for landing contingent on GVN approval. [Dep Sec Def approval on 25 Feb.] Remaining elements of MEB deferred.

28 Feb 65    Embtel   2789

Taylor told State he'd get GVN approval for 2 BLTs to land at Da Nang.  He said that should be all we send and that they would eventually be relieved by Viet forces.

2 Mar 65    Deptel   6166

McNaughton told Taylor that it would be desirable to substitute 173d Airborne for the Marines at Da Nang.

2 Mar 65    Embtel   1954

Taylor supported Westmoreland in opposing substitution of 173d.

3 Mar 65    CINCPAC    030230Z

CINCPAC opposed attempted substitution citing seven OPLANS calling for Marines into Da Nang.

4 Mar 65    JCSM   121-65

JCS recommended deployment of entire MEB to Da Nang, one Army Bde to Thailand, reconstitution of MEB in WestPac, and alert of III MEF (-) and 25 Inf Div as insurance in support of deterrence deployments.

4 Mar 65    JCSM   144-65

JCS urged Sec Def to reconsider deferred funds for Chu Lai airstrip. Facility was needed to "prepare for a wide variety of courses of action." Approved by Sec Def 18 Mar 65.

6 Mar 65    Press Release

DOD said U.S.at request of GVN will put 2 BLTs at Da Nang for security.

7 Mar 65    JCS   070001Z

JCS ordered CJNCPAC to commence landing Marines and build up to two battalions ashore.

8 Mar 65 ~ 3500 Marines landed at Da Nang
Extracted from The Pentagon Papers

9th Marines
RVN Operations
Apache Snow
Big Horn
Big Lodge
Cameron Falls   
Chinook II   
Con Thien
County Fair
Dawson River
Dawson River
Deckhouse V
Dewey Canyon I
Double Eagle   
Double Eagle II
Eagle Pull
Frequent Wind
Georgia Tar
Harvest Moon   
   Deckhouse II
   Beau Charger
Hickory II  
Khe Sanh
Lancaster I
Lancaster II
Montana Mauler
   Saline II
Neosho II
Prairie II
Prairie III
Prairie IV
Prairie V
Scotland II
Utah Mesa
Virginia Ridge
War Bonnet 

TAOR-Tactical Area of Responsibility

I Corps, Da Nang, Red Beach, China Beach, Hill 55, Hill 327, Hill 282, An Hoa, Leatherneck Square, Dong Ha, Camp Carroll, Con Thien, Gio Linh, Cua Viet River, Quang Tri, Khe Sanh, Rockpile, Vandergrift, Ashau Valley, Dai Loc