Marines Pillar – Marines in Vietnam

Marines Pillar - Marines in VietnamThe United States Marine Corps provided ground, air, supply, and logistics support during the Vietnam War.  The Marines were Initially sent to the region as advisors, but by 1966 there were nearly 70,000 Marines in Vietnam involved in ground combat, air support from helicopters, and aerial assault teams.

U.S. Marines were involved in heavy fighting against the North Vietnamese along the demilitarized zone (DMZ).  They were responsible for creating the McNamara Line, a series of strong points, sensors and obstacles designed to detect and prevent communists from crossing the DMZ.  Although the focal point of much of the North Vietnamese’s firepower, the Marines at the DMZ were able to limit the number of communists that crossed the DMZ. In the South, the Marines were fighting the Viet Cong.  Their first offensive operation, Operation Starlite, was a combined helicopter and amphibious assault that protected the Marine base at Chu Lai.  The Operation lasted six days and destroyed one Viet Cong battalion and badly wounded a second. The victory renewed the Marines’ faith and proved the value of combined amphibious and air combats. US Marines were also involved in large unit search and destroy operations.  During the Tet Offensive, launched by the North Vietnamese on 31 January 1968, the Marines and the South Vietnamese were able to hold back the North relatively easily.  In the city of Hue’ fewer than 2,500 U.S. Marines fought more than 10,000 Viet Cong entrenched troops in one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War.  The Battle of Hue’ lasted four weeks, with the U.S. Marine Corps reclaiming the city one block at a time.  Defeating the Viet Cong at the citadel on 26 February, the city was declared secure; U.S. forces remained in Hue’ for another week to ensure the safety of the city and its citizens.

By 1971 US Marines were being sent home or to other bases around the globe, primarily those in Japan and the Pacific region.  Although a peace treaty was signed in January 1973, it wasn’t until 1975 that U.S. Marines led Operations Eagle Pull and Frequent Wind to evacuate the US embassies in Phnom Penh and Saigon.

The Vietnam War was costly to the US Marines, of the 500,000 Marines who served in Vietnam, more than 13,000 were killed and 88,000 were wounded.  Marines make up nearly one third of all of the American causalities of the Vietnam War.