USMC 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Vietnam

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USMC in Vietnam Order of Battle: 1st Marine Aircraft Wing
Submitted by Richard A. Rinaldi 1999


Air Units

1st Marine Aircraft Wing established a headquarters at Da Nang May 1965, providing air support to Marine and associated other units in the I CTZ. At its peak it had six Marine Aircraft Groups: three with fighters and attack aircraft and three with helicopters (250 fixed-wing and 225 helicopters). The wing also controlled the two Marine light AA missile battalions (the 1st LAAM Bn landed Feb 1965 at Da Nang and the 2nd LAAM Bn Sep 1965 at Chu Lai.) The 1st MAW left Vietnam 14 Apr 1971.

Throughout the war, the Marines rotated squadrons in and out of Vietnam. This can become quite confusing, especially as the official histories do not list every replacement. However, the overall structure and number of squadrons was fairly stable from 1966 to 1969, so each group will be examined in turn. Note that it is almost impossible to follow some of this by squadron, as not all changes are known, but it should be possible to determine changes in numbers of squadron in each group.

Marine Aircraft Group 16 [helicopters]

Established at Da Nang 9 Mar 1965, taking over HMM-163 and the newly-arrived HMM-162, both with UH-34D. VMFA-531 (F-4B) arrived Apr 1965, as did VMCJ-1 (mixed reconnaissance aircraft)1. After Jun 1965, when MAG-11 was established, MAG-16 became an all-helicopter group. It relocated to the new field at Marble Mountain (near Da Nang) Aug 1965, by which time it had HMM-261 and 361 there and HMM-161 at Phu Bai, along with VMO-2. It received 6 heavy CH-37C from HMH-462 in Sep 1965. On 31 Dec 1965 the group had HMM-161 at Phu Bai and HMM-263 and 361 at Da Nang, with VMO-22 also at Da Nang. This gave it three helicopter and one observation squadrons.

In Dec 1966, the group had HMM-164 and 265 (20 and 22 CH-46A), HMM-263 (22 UH-34D) and VMO-2 (27 UH-1E) all at Da Nang and HMM-163 (24 UH-34D) at Phu Bai.

The unit at Phu Bai went to MAG-36 in Oct 1967 when that group was established there. In Dec 1967, MAG-16 had HMM-265 (6 CH-46A and 15 in rehabilitation in Japan), HMM-363 (29 UH-34D), HMH-463 (36 CH-53A), and VMO-2 (29 UH-1E).

HMM-262 joined ca Jan 1968; it and 265 now had 49 CH-46A between them. In Mar 1968 VMO-2 began conversion to the new structure of 18 OV-10A Bronco and 12 UH-1E. Remaining UH-1E (13) were used to activated HML-167 on 15 Mar 1968.

Structure in Jan 1969 was HML-167, HMM-164, 165 and 314, HMH-463 and VMO-2. This gave it five helicopter and one observation squadrons, compared to the three-four helicopter squadrons of earlier years. The first Marine AH-1G attack helicopters (4) went to VMO-2 in Apr 1969. HMM-165 left Vietnam ca Jul 1969. In Dec 1969, the 24 AH-1Gs were in HML-367, part of MAG-16 since ca Nov 1969.

The shutdown of MAG-36 in Nov 1969 left MAG-16 the only helicopter group in Vietnam. In Jan 1970 it had HML-167 (UH-1E) and HML-367 (AH-1G), HMM-263 and 364 (CH-46D), HMH-361 and 463 (CH-53D) and VMO-2 (now all OV-10A). These were all at Marble Mountain, Da Nang. The group also had control over HMM-161 and 262 art Phu Bai, but they moved to Marble Mountain as well.

HMH-361 went to the US ca Feb 1970 and VMO-2 shifted to MAG-11. HMM-161 left ca Sep 1970. HMH-364 left ca Apr 1971. By Apr 1971, MAG-16 was down to HML-167 and 367, HMM-262 and 263 and HMH 463. Combat operations ceased 7 May 1971 and all units were gone by 22 Jun 1971.

Marine Aircraft Group 12 [fixed-wing]

This group was established at Chu Lai at the end of Jun 1965. It had VMA-225, 311 and 214 (all with A-4) in Jul 1965, joined 11 Oct 1965 by VMA-211. VMA-224 replaced 225 and VMA-223 replaced 311. On 31 Dec 1965 MAG-12 had VMA-211, 214, 223 and 224, or four squadrons of A-4 attack aircraft.

In Dec 1966 the assigned squadrons were VMA-121, 211, 214 and 311 (17-22 A-4 each). Thus the group retained the structure of four A-4 attack squadrons.

The group kept at four squadrons during 1967, but one changed to the newer A-6A. Assigned units Dec 1967 were VMA-121, 211 and 311 (15-21 A-4E each) and VMA(AW)-533 (12 A-6A).

This structure survived 1968, and in Jan 1969 the assigned squadrons were VMA-221, 223, and 311 along with VMA(AW)-533. As part of the drawdown beginning that year, VMA(AW)-533 left 5 Oct 1969.

Thus, in Jan 1970 the group had three A-4 squadrons, now VMA-211, 223 and 311. The group headquarters left Vietnam ca Feb 1970; VMA-311 was shifted to Da Nang and MAG-11, and the other two squadrons left with the group.

Marine Aircraft Group 11 [fixed-wing]

This group was established 14 Jul 1965 at Da Nang, taking over the fixed-wing squadrons there (VMFA-513 and 542 (both F-4B), which had arrived 11 Jul 1965. Rotations swapped VMFA-115 for 513 and VMFA-323 for 542. On 31 Dec 1965 MAG-11 had VMFA-115 and 323 (F-4B) and VMF (AW)-312 with F-8; the latter arrived 19 Dec 1965. This gave it two F-4 and one F-8 fighter squadrons.

In Dec 1966 the assigned units were VMFA-115 (11 F-4B), VMF(AW)-232 (15 F-8E) and VMA(AW)-242 (12 A-6A). The latter unit arrive during 1966, the first Marine A-6 unit. The group was now mixed fighter (two squadrons) and attack (one).

In Dec 1967 the assigned units were VMFA-122 (14 F-4B), VMF(AW)-235 (16 F-8E) and VMA(AW)-242 (11 A-6A); different units but the same mix of types. In Jan 1968 VCMJ-1 was assigned (RF-4 and EA-6).

By Jan 1969, the F-8 squadron was gone. The group now had VMA(AW)-242 with A-6A and VMFA-334 and 542 (F-4) along with VCMJ-1. VMFA-334 left ca Jul 1969.

The beginning of 1970 was similar, although the group now had two squadrons of A-6: VMA(AW)-225 and 242 and one of fighters, VMFA-542, along with VCMJ-1. VMO-2 shifted from MAG-16 ca Feb 1970. VMFA-542 left around Feb 1970; in the Aug-Sep 1970 period VMA(AW)-242 left. However, VMF-115 and VMFA-311 shifted from Chu Lai to Da Nang and came under the group. Reductions continued, and in Apr 1971 MAG-11 was down to VMFA-311 and VMA(AW)-225. Combat operations ceased 7 May 1971 and all units were gone by 22 Jun 1971.

Marine Aircraft Group 36 [helicopters]

Established from 31 Aug 1965 (HQ operational 2 Sep 1965) at Chu Lai. By the end of Sep 1965 it had HMM-362 and 364 at Ky Ha, along with VMO-6, plus HMM-161 then at Qui Nhon. On 31 Dec 1965 MAG-36 had VMO-6, HMM-362 and 364 at Chu Lai and HMM-363 at Qui Nhon. This gave it three helicopter and one observation squadrons.

In Dec 1966 the group had HMM-164 (20 CH-46A, which arrived in Vietnam 8 Mar 1966), HMM-265 (22 CH-46A, which had arrived in Vietnam 22 May 19663, HMM-363 (23 UH-34D), and VMO-6 (21 UH-1E). VMO-3 was added 29 Dec 1966.

In Oct 1967 the group relocated from Chu Lai to Phu Bai. In Dec 1967 it had HMM-362 (25 UH-34D), HMM-364 (only 6 UH-34D) and VMO-3 and 6 (20 and 21 UH-1E, respectively). HMM-164 and 165 were also present, with only 3 CH-46A each in Vietnam and 12-16 back in Japan being repaired. By Jan 1968 it had VMO-6 (23 UH-1E) and HMM-163 and 362 at Quang Tri (49 UH-34 combined). The remaining units were at Phu Bai, and by that date, HMM-164 was up to 19 CH-46A and 364 at 32 CH-46D.

On 15 Mar 1968 the three squadrons at Quang Tri went to the new provisional MAG-39. That same month, VMO-3 at Phu Bai was redesignated HML-3674.

In Jan 1969, the group had HMH-452, HML-367, and HMM-265 and 363. The group left Vietnam ca Nov 1969, although some of its squadrons were shifted elsewhere.

Marine Aircraft Group 13 [fixed-wing]

Established Sep 1966 at Chu Lai. It had three fighter-attack squadrons with F-4B; Dec 1966 assignments were VMFA-314, 323, and 542 (13-15 aircraft each).

The structure was unchanged in Dec 1967, although the squadrons were now VMFA-115, 323 and 314 (10-14 F-4B each).

Both the structure and the specific squadrons survived 1968, since VMFA-115, 314 and 323 were still assigned in Jan 1969.

In Jan 1970, the assigned squadrons were VMFA-112, 115, and 314 (all still with F-4B).

MAG-13 headquarters left Vietnam ca Sep 1970; VMFA-115 went to MAG-11 and the other two squadrons departed Vietnam.

Provisional Marine Aircraft Group 39 [helicopter]

Activated 15 Mar 1968 at Quang Tri, taking over control of VMO-6 and HMM-163 and 362 from MAG-36. About that time VMOs were slated to change to a mix of OV-10A Bronco (18) and UH-1E (12). In May 1968 HMM-161 (CH-46D) came from the US to Quang Tri to join the group, replacing HMM-163.

In Jan 1969, the group had HMM-161 and 262, along with VMO-6. VMO-6 left Vietnam in Oct 1969, and the group and other squadrons by the end of Dec 1969.

Wing Control

VCMJ-1, from sometime in 1965. In 1966 it was re-equipped with RF-4B and EA-6A. In Jan 1968 it went to MAG-11.


Notes:

  1. Marine squadron designations use letters, tracking the Navy system but adding M for Marines.  VMF is a fighter squadron, VMFA a fighter-attack squadron, VMA an attack squadron, VMCJ composite reconnaissance squadron, and VMO an observation squadron.  Adding (AW) indicates all weather.  V generally indicates a fixed-wing squadron, but the VMOs began with helicopters.  For helicopters, the designations are HMM (medium) and HMH (heavy), later supplemented with HML (light).  Fighter and attack squadrons tended to be 11-15 aircraft, usually towards the lower end.  Helicopter squadrons were usually around 22 aircraft but could vary.
  2. At this time, VMOs had UH-1H helicopters, squadron strength of 23; some were armed and some not, by 1966 it would be about half and half.
  3. The two units with the new CH-46A Sea Knight went first to Da Nang (MAG-16) and later shifted to Chu Lai and MAG-36.
  4. VMOs were to convert to a mix of OV-10 Broncos and UH-1Es, eventually becoming all OV-10; the new HMLs were to be all-helicopter.

 

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