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.
March 7, 1965 was a Sunday. On Okinawa, most people in our battalion were on liberty around the island, visiting the adjacent town of Henoko or travelling farther south to Kin Village or Gate 2 Street near the U.S. Air Force Base in Naha. When the order came to land the Marines, the Shore Patrol (Navy Military Police) started rounding up the Marines of 1/3. By dusk, the majority of our battalion were back at Camp Schwab in full battle gear. We had been through this drill many times before and assumed the order would soon come to stand down. But unlike the earlier drills, this time the trucks arrived. The trucks took us to the Air Force Base at the southern end of the island where we sat all night in light rain, sleeping as best we could.
At dawn, we ate C rations and were then trucked to C-130 cargo planes. After a long wait, we loaded onto the cargo planes and took off. Oddly, no one had told us where we were going, but I assumed it would be Vietnam. We had no ammunition. Were we flying into an area under attack?
When we eventually descended out of the overcast, I recognized the Danang Air Force Base and could see no signs of combat. When our C-130 came to a stop and the ramp dropped, we were greeted by a mob of war photographers.
This photograph by Larry Burrows was published in "Larry Burrows Vietnam", Alfred A. Knopf (2002) at pages 94-95.
This is a photograph of my platoon arriving at the Danang airfield. Leading the platoon, left to right were Dennis Czech, my radioman, Staff Sergeant Carl Loker, my platoon sergeant, an unidentified Marine, and Gunnery Sergeant Cliff Colby, the Weapons Platoon Sergeant. I was in a meeting with the Company Commander.
As 1/3 flew in on C-130 aircraft, 3/9 landed over the beach in John Wayne fashion. This video does not contain sound.
After we landed, 1/3 took up positions around the airstrip while 3/9 occupied the hills overlooking the airstrip. The individual platoons of 1/3 were assigned a sector and established individual platoon command posts. Pictured is my CP with Platoon Sergeant Loker on the right and Right Guide Sergeant Taylor on the left. In the background are watch towers which had been constructed by the Vietnamese.
Pictured at my CP left to right are Platoon Right Guide Sgt. Taylor, Platoon Sergeant Carl Loker and me.
Sergeant Loker thought it would be humorous to pose in front of our ammo bunker with a no smoking sign while holding a cigarette.
I have never smoked, but I couldn't let him one-up me.
We were the Third Platoon of Charlie Company, known simply as "Charlie 3", or "Charlie III".
Gunnery Sergeant Cliff Colby, our Weapons Platoon Sergeant, good natured and devilish, showed up one day with a bottle of whiskey. Left to right: Gunny Colby, me, Sgt. Loker and Sgt. Taylor.
Eventually, all Charlie Company platoons were gathered to a location at the southwest corner of the airstrip. In the foreground is the mess tent. Various defensive positions were manned out of our central location. The high peak on the left is Hill 327. Hill 268 is to the immediate right.
Our location was sandy, windy and noisy, with jets regularly taking off and landing.
Afternoon thunderstorms were routine.
Our company had assigned to it one motor vehicle, a helicopter transportable Mighty Mite.
Dug in tanks helped us defend the south end of the airstrip.
Five tanks near the airstrip.
A Marine helicopter squadron was located next to us. Right center are a group of Air Force F-102 Delta Daggers.
Not every takeoff was successful. A South Vietnamese aircraft crashed on takeoff. I believe this crash involved a T-28 Trojan.
I examine a shot up Huey that would never fly again.
We put together a small group to recon Hill 368. We didn't know at the time that the Fourth Marine Regiment would land and defend that area. We carried "grease guns" provided by the tanker lieutenant between Murph McCloy and me.
We passed an old French fort which years earlier had controlled the northerly approach to Danang on Highway 1.
We stopped at a beach and examined a unique round boat widely used in Vietnam.
Because they operated out of large fixed bases, the Air Force had much better facilities than the highly mobile Marines. This was the Danang Officers Open Mess, or DOOM Club. During the early days we were welcome there, but eventually the Air Force kicked us out.
This out of focus shot is the only photo I have of the inside of the DOOM Club.