1st PLT, A CO, 3rd RECON BN, 3rd MAR DIV, III MAF
Alpha Company 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion has a very long and honored legacy. Its roots lie with the formation of Company E Scouts, 3rd Tank Battalion, on 16 September1942 as part of the newly created 3rd Marine Division. During W.W.II early 3rd Reconnaissance Marines distinguished themselves at Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Guam, and Iwo Jima. This gallery will honor those Recon Marines from Alpha Company that carried on the traditions of our Founding Fathers during the Vietnam War.
The entire company was deployed in Vietnam from 7 May 1965 until 7 October 1969 however many smaller deployments from the company were in country and offshore as early as 1961. During 1964 Alpha Company was assigned airstrip perimeter duty at Da Nang during a time of the rapid buildup of U.S. Military Forces in Southeast Asia. Alpha Company was deployed in the areas of Chu Lai, Da Nang, Phu Bai, Dong Ha, Khe Sanh, and Quang Tri.
During the Vietnam War Alpha Company Marines were awarded one Medal of Honor, five Navy Cross's, nineteen Silver Stars, scores of Bronze Stars, and a unknown number of Purple Hearts that surely total several hundred. Approximately 650 Marines served in Alpha between 1965 and 1969 with 55 Gallant Marines Killed In Action.
Over time this gallery will record our legacy with documents, photographs, personal memories of patrols and operations by those who served, and remembrances in an effort to preserve our history.
3rd Recon Battalion
The first U.S. military force that landed during the Vietnam War were two Marine units. On 10–14 April 1965, two battalion landing teams (BLT) of 3rd Marine Regiment landed on the beaches of Da Nang in Vietnam unopposed. They were the 2nd and3rd Battalion from the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Their objectives were to secure an airfield at Phu Bai and establish an effective beachhead.
The Marines made their first firefight encounter on 22 April 1965, against a small company of Viet Cong. A patrol of men from Company D of 3rd Recon was scouting 13 kilometers southwest of Da Nang. The Marine patrol was accompanied by a few platoons from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). After a brief intense exchange of small-arms fire, the outnumbered recon Marines radioed in for support. An infantry company from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines (BLT 1/3) reinforced the small group of Company D and the ARVN. The combined force was able to push the hostile force back several kilometers before losing them in the heavily foliaged terrain. Two days later on 24 April, a recon squad positioned two kilometers south of Phu Bai fell under a surprise attack by VC as the Marines were setting up defensive positions for the night. Although the firefight lasted for only a few minutes, each side lost two men.
The beachhead was secured a couple of weeks later. In the later afternoon of 7 May 1965, elements of 3rd Recon Battalion arrived at Chu Lai from Da Nang and secured the beachhead's southern flank as BLT 1/4 was setting up several kilometers inland. A few days later, BLT 3/3 arrived from Okinawa, and 3rd Recon Battalion returned to Da Nang.
Actions that summer led to a Marine, 1stLt Frank S. Reasoner, becoming the first Marine in South Vietnam to earn the Medal of Honor. On 12 July 1965, an 18-man patrol from Company A was under fire about 20 kilometers southwest of the Da Nang Air Base. Reasoner, the patrol leader, and his patrol were under a barrage of heavy fire. His radio operator was hit by enemy fire. Reasoner came to the operator's aid as he provided cover, killing two VC and interrupting hostile automatic weapons fire. As Reasoner was about to render hasty first aid to his radioman, he was mortally wounded.
The 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion lost its last full team, call sign "Flight Time," on 4 June 1969. No other full team was lost during the remaining six years of the Vietnam War. The team's "Last Known Activity" report reads:
2 June 1969 Recon Team "Flight Time" from D Company, 3rd Recon Battalion, was inserted on Hill 471 about a kilometer south of Khe Sanh in the Quảng Trị Province, Vietnam. On the night of 03/04 June 1969 the team was attacked by an enemy force and requested both emergency extraction and immediate reinforcement. Communications with the team were lost at 0320. When the reactionary force arrived a little after 0400 they were too late ... the six members of '"Flight Time" were killed in action. Five members of the team were in a small trench; the sixth, was approximately 10 meters further down the hillside. It was apparent from the state of the battle area that "Flight Time" had been overwhelmed in fierce hand-to-hand combat.
Declassified document: 3/JEK/wjc 5750.6 003A1911969 of 10 July 1969
3rd Marine Division
On 6 May 1965, the 3rd Marine Division opened the Marine Compound at the Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam. They were the first American combat troops to be sent to Vietnam to protect the Da Nang airport. By the end of 1965 the Division had all its regiments ( 3rd Marines, 4th Marines and 9th Marines ) on the ground. In October 1966, then commanding general Lew Walt was ordered to establish strong points just south of the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The division moved its headquarters from Da Nang to Phu Bai in late 1966. At the same time the division was also building outposts along the southern half of the DMZ at Con Thien, Gio Linh, Cam Lo and Dong Ha. The first major multi-regiment operations against the North Vietnamse Army was Operation Hastings in July 1966. Operation Prairie followed in October. This area would come to be known as Leatherneck Square. In late 1967 the headquarters moved again from Phu Bai to Dong Ha in the Quang Tri Province and more outpost were opened.
Camp Carroll, Rockpile, Ca Lu and Khe Sanh. The two main enemy divisions the Marines fought were the 324B NVA Division and the 320th NVA Division. On November 14, 1967 the 3rd Marine Division commander was killed northwest of Hue City in a helicoper crash. Some of the major operations in 1967 and early 1968 in this area were Operation Prairie III, Operation Prairie IV, Operation Hickory,Operation Cimarron, Operation Buffalo, Operation Kingfisher and Operation Kentucky. Nearly 8,000 NVA were killed during this time period. The Marines suffered over 1400 killed and over 9,000 wounded. There were five Medal of Honors awarded and nearly 40 Navy Crosses given during this period of time. For Meritorious Service in the Republic of Vietnam the division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation in 1967.
The 3rd Marine Division departed South Vietnam in November 1969 with more than 20 Marines receiving the Medal of Honor. They moved to Camp Courtney, Okinawa, where it is presently located.
III Marine Amphibious Force
The force was reactivated to serve in the Vietnam War in 1965. From 1966 to 1970, III AC was renamed III Marine Amphibious Corps (III MAF) and consisted of the 1st Marine Division, 3rd Marine Division and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. The III MAF's area of operations was in the northern I Corps Tactical Zone. Redeployed to a permanent forward base on Okinawa in 1988, the III MEF helps to fulfill the 1952 United States treaty obligation to defend Japan.