On March 8, 1965, US Marines landed at Red Beach, Da Nang, Vietnam
What began as a nationalist/Communist revolutionary struggle between the French colonialist and the Viet Minh, headed by Ho Chi Minh, soon escalated into a full blown civil war. Vietnam gained world attention in March of 1954 when communist forces under the leadership of General Giap over ran the French base at Dien Bien Phu. Fearing the spread of Communism throughout the Pacific rim, the Geneva Accords reached an uneasy peace agreement by splitting Vietnam along the 17th parallel, more commonly known as the DMZ. The Communists would gain control of the North, whereas the South would be governed by a democratic system. It was agreed that with in two years elections would be held nation wide to determine the fate of Vietnam. Subjected to constant postponements, these elections never came to pass.
When the Marines first arrived in Vietnam in 1965, their sole purpose was to provide protection to the American air base at Danang. The official directive was: "The U.S. Marine force will not, repeat will not, engage in day to day actions against the Viet Cong". However, as the U. S. expanded its build-up with additional bases south at Chu Lai and north at Phu Bai, these rules of limited engagement became increasingly difficult to maintain. The Viet Cong set up strongholds in neighboring villages from where they would launch attacks against the Americans.. Is was soon recognized that in order to protect the American bases, these pockets of resistance needed to be flushed out.
On August 19, Starlite's second day, sporadic and isolated fire came from enemy soldiers covering their main force's retreat, but organized resistance had ended. The operation extended for five more days with the Marines, now joined by ARVN troops, conducting village-by-village searches. At its conclusion the Marines could claim 573 confirmed enemy dead and 115 estimated, while suffering 46 deaths themselves and 204 wounded. The battle had been won by overwhelming American firepower. Artillery support from Chu L,ai had fired over three thousand rounds while the navy ships had supported the infantry with 1,562 rounds, sunk seven sampans apparently carrying fleeing VC, and pinned down one hundred enemy soldiers attempting to escape from the beach. Moreover, the Marines had benefited from the close coordination of tactical air power, a coordination that ARVN never seemed to achieve. General Walt later commented that air support was used "within 200 feet of our pinned down troops and was a very important factor in our winning the battle. I have never seen a finer example of close air support." The Marines had won by doing what American troops do best coordinating their firepower on land, sea, and air. But most important, the Marines had learned at least one valuable lesson from Starlite.