One Good Deal After Another (continued)
Our First Operation: A Good Training Exercise
The Battalion Landing Team, supporting Helicopter Squadron and the Navy’s amphibious ship squadron had little time to train or for that matter, get to know each other.
Before we boarded the ships there was talk of our boarding ship and steaming to Okinawa for a short training session. That talk became more than rumor when planners from the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade located on Okinawa arrived
in Vietnam to discuss our training needs and schedule. It was a nice idea but it did not last long … a few days after the planners returned to Okinawa, we were told to forget about leaving Vietnam.
The next possibility came from the 3d Marine Division. We were told that consideration was being given to having us conduct an amphibious raid into the DMZ where the North Vietnamese had established artillery and other positions on the coast near the Ben Hai River.
Raids are tricky business. They require serious amounts of intelligence information on the enemy and an equally serious amount of training on the part of the landing force. Apparently it was decided that neither the enemy intelligence information nor the training time required were, or would be, available. The idea died.
I have forgotten the date but sometime around 1 September, we conducted our first operation, a landing well inland on the coastal plain southeast of Camp Carroll. There was no written operations order because one was not needed. We were there to learn just what, if any, enemy activity could be found and destroyed in this large area of responsibility.
The rifle companies, engineer platoon, reconnaissance platoon, 81 mm mortar platoon and BLT command post landed by helicopter and immediately came under the operational control of the 3d Marine Regiment headquarters located at Camp Carroll. The heavier units … tanks, artillery, motor transport came ashore in landing craft or our amphibious tractor platoon. All immediately came under the operational control of other 3d Marine Division combat or combat service support regiments or battalions.
As expected, both the surface and helicopter assault landings were unopposed. In short, it was a good training exercise.
It was also a good reminder regarding helicopters. Our supporting squadron was equipped with HUS helo’s, an aircraft that had come into service during the late 1950’s. The modern CH-46 helicopters that were rapidly replacing the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing’s HUS aircraft had not yet reached our supporting squadron.
A Marine UH-34D helicopter lifts off the flight deck carrying BLT 2/26 Marines. Designated HUS-1 by the Navy, the aircraft was often called simply a "HUS". Although small and slow compared to newer helicopters, its reliability led the Marines to ask for it by name. The phrases "give me a HUS", "get me a HUS" and "HUS me out" entered the U.S. Marine Corps vernacular, being used even after the type was no longer in use to mean "help me out". Photo by Alan Green.
The flight from the ships to the Landing Zone had been long … 15 to 20 miles or so. The HUS carried about half the load of the CH-46 and flew at a slower speed. The result was that the assault was taking forever. We had to take time and distance into greater account when using the aging HUS. Fortunately, in future assaults we were always supported by CH-46 squadrons.