Week of March 12
As the United States commenced a bombing campaign against North Vietnam, American leaders grew concerned about the possibility of Communist retaliation against U.S. installations, especially the vital air base at Đà Nẵng. To secure the base, General William C. Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, ordered two battalions of U.S. Marines-comprising the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) - to deploy and establish a defensive enclave around Đà Nẵng.
On March 8, 1965, the men of the 9th MEB arrived ashore at Đà Nẵng, a northern South Vietnamese port city. One battalion made an amphibious landing, while the other arrived by air. Led by Brigadier General Frederick J. Karch, the 9th MEB also took command of the Marine Corps helicopter units already based at Đà Nẵng, which became Marine Aircraft Group 16.
The 9th MEB was the first major U.S. ground combat unit to set foot in Vietnam. At first, the brigade's mission was simply to defend the air base, but within weeks Marines began conducting counterinsurgency operations against local Việt Cộng units. Their arrival signaled the beginning of a rapid and dramatic expansion of U.S. combat forces in Southeast Asia.1
1George C. Herring, America's Longest War, The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975 (4th edition; New York: McGraw Hill),155-56; Jack Shulimson and Charles M. Johnson, U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Landing and the Buildup, 1965 (Wash DC: U.S. Marine Corps History and Museums Division, 1978), xiii, 10-16; Graham A. Cosmas, U.S. Army in Vietnam: MACV: The Joint Command in the Years of Escalation, 1962-1968 (Wash DC: Center of Military History, 2006), 177, 179-80; Spencer C. Tucker, ed., Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History, (2nd edition; Santa Barbara, Ca.: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 257-58.