In 1954, the French signed a peace treaty with the Viet Minh and withdrew from Vietnam. The United States determined to aid the South Vietnamese with aid and advisors. That all changed on March 8, 1965, when U.S. Marines landed at Danang.
Although the battles occurred near Binh Gia, the Military Assistance Command initially referred to the engagement as the "Battle of Phuoc Tuy".
I came across this famous Horst Faas photo on the AP Images website. My Vietnamese Marine Battalion was operating very close to this area. The AP Images website states as follows: "The sun breaks through the dense jungle foliage around the embattled town of Binh Gia, 40 miles east of Saigon, in early January 1965, as South Vietnamese troops, apparently joined by U.S. advisers, rest after a cold, damp and tense night of waiting in an ambush position for a Viet Cong attack that didn't come. One hour later, as the possibility of an overnight attack by the Viet Cong disappeared, the troops moved out for another long, hot day hunting the elusive communist guerrillas in the jungles." (AP Photo/Horst Faas)
A pensive child sits on the porch of his home with a bored Vietnamese Marine in the background.
A little girl near the central market.
A mother on her way to the central market place with her baby in one of the baskets.
Young girls often cared for their baby siblings in Vietnam.
This little girl was camera shy and headed for the nearest group of Vietnamese Marines.
A baby in a cart with a local bus and the central market in the background. Also visible in the background is a motor scooter type of local taxi.
We posed this boy with a rifle, my pistol, a hat and sunglasses. To my knowledge, there were no child combatants in Vietnam on either side of the war.
I was always accompanied by a herd of kids, my "groupies". This photograph is actually a color transparency of such low quality that I converted it to black and white.
I had wanted to take photographs of the central market, but a crowd of children appeared no matter where I pointed the camera.
There are the kids again, but how could I get mad at these beautiful children?
This young woman was the local tailor. I needed a repair to a pair of trousers, so my entourage of kids and I went to see the tailor.
As I recall, she was having trouble understanding my Vietnamese.
The tailor's assistant.
Posing with my herd of children while the tailor works in the background.
Radiating out from the central market building were dozens of other shops and stalls. This was very much like a street fair that happened every day.
This overloaded and ancient bus travelled to the towns and villages of the area.
I pose with an important leader from the town.
Oxcarts were the heavy haulers around Dat Do.
Herding cattle on a bike is an energy saver.
Carrying water home from the local well.
A small parade on Tet day 1965. Tet is the Vietnamese New Year
On Tet evening, the Vietnamese Marines indiscriminately fired their weapons. This farmer's cow was killed, so he travelled through the town selling cuts of beef.
My Company Commander and a U.S. Marine advisor buy the first steak any of us had enjoyed for a long time.
OK. It wasn't as sanitary as a United States supermarket, but it all worked out.
My Company Commander, a Marine Advisor and I enjoy a beer while waiting for our steaks to cook.
A Marine Lieutenant (middle in back) with the senior noncommissioned officers of the Company.
A Marine Lieutenant with a grizzly old Gunnery Sergeant.
I pose with the Lieutenant, a platoon leader. I am 5'9" tall,illustrating how small the Vietnamese were by comparison.
The Lieutenant had a valet, who took good care of both of us. He was a very wonderful young man.
When in Dat Do, and not out on an operation, I slept on the wooden bed in the background. A mosquito net was a necessity.
The wives of the Vietnamese Marines often followed them from camp to camp. This Marine and his barely visible wife are gathering brush for a cooking fire.
The Vietnamese Marines did not eat C Rations. They bought food locally and cooked it themselves. Before going on operations they would prepare cooked balls of sticky rice to carry.
The Marines established an artillery base in Dat Do to support operations. Zoom in to see the 105 mm howitzer tubes and the ammunition. The 105's had a range of 7 miles.
Outside of Dat Do, the Marines disperse into a tactical formation.
In this area the Marines walked on rice paddy dikes to avoid damage to the farmers' rice paddies. When the rice paddies died out, the Marines stopped proceeding in column and moved into an approach formation.
For some reason, this flock of geese decided to march parallel to the Marines. I recall thinking to myself that the geese needed a better tactical formation.
This Regional Forces post guarded the main road into Dat Do.
The main road was also patrolled by this old armored vehicle.
Well out of Dat Do and the agricultural areas, we came across this "hootch", which the Marines suspected was used by the Viet Cong. A decision was made to burn it.
The Marines halted when a number of fresh Viet Cong graves were discovered. It was suspected that the Viet Cong had died at the Battle of Binh Gia in early January. It was also possible that these VC had been wounded at Binh Gia and had subsequently died while being treated in this area.
The following photos were taken on a different operation. On this operation, the Marines discovered a large supply of rice which had been pre-positioned to support a Viet Cong operation.
The various Marines were permitted to take what they could carry.
Two Company Commanders in front of the rice cache. The Captain on the left was my Company Commander, an exceptionally able leader.
We could not carry the rice and had no motor transport. We either had to leave the rice for the Viet Cong or burn it.
On yet another operation, we had to move through mangrove swamps to set up a blocking position. At times we were in mud up to our armpits. We ran out of food and water (this was salt water).
When we came out of the swamps and established our blocking position, a helicopter flew in some water.
We found this hidden boat in an area which was essentially unoccupied. Clearly, the Viet Cong used it for transport.
So we burned it.
Shortly after burning the boat, we intercepted these two little girls who were carrying food to their Viet Cong uncle. They were treated very gently and returned with us to Dat Do.