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MAG-36 Remembering Hue City

MAG-36 Remembering Hue City

Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, the first complete Marine air group to be transported by sea to a combat zone, launched from the USS Princeton to the shores of Vietnam, Sept. 1, 1965. Immediately, they began providing troop lifts, air strikes, medical evacuation, resupplies, and reconnaissance insertions and extractions in the southern area of operations.

“Gaining and maintaining air superiority in any theater is a priority,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley, commanding general, 1st MAW. “The ability to insert and extract Marines [in Vietnam] kept our ground forces in the fight while also providing injured Marines the help they needed.”

Armed with UH-1E Gunships, CH-46 Sea Knights, and UH-34 Sea Horses, MAG-36 flew daily in support of Marines on the ground.

Meanwhile, while many U.S. and South Vietnamese forces celebrated the Tet holiday, tens of thousands of North Vietnamese soldiers, Viet Cong guerrillas and local communist militants moved under the cover of night. Their objective was to simultaneously attack more than 100 U.S. and South Vietnamese occupied cities and bases. In the early hours of Jan. 31, 1968, the Communist-led Tet Offensive was in full force.

Most Tet Offensive attacks were defeated in hours or days. However, Hue City, considered the spiritual center of Vietnam and an essential strategic stronghold for American troops, was held tightly by North Vietnamese forces.

For 26 days, Marines and South Vietnamese soldiers fought house-to-house and street-to-street, emptying each individually. As fighting ensued, MAG-36 provided them with air support and inserted Marines into the fight. They also extracted the injured and fatally wounded in Hue despite the difficulty brought forth by monsoon season.

“Flying in inclement weather of any type can cause a lot of concern,” said Col. James F. Harp, commanding officer, MAG-36. “The adverse conditions could cause reduced visibility resulting in [crashes], especially because these pilots were flying in a new environment.”

In all, three Marine battalions and 11 South Vietnamese Army battalions were committed to retaking the city. After suffering nearly four thousand casualties between the American and South Vietnamese forces, the battle for Hue City came to an end at midnight on Feb. 27, 1968.

After the battle for Hue City, MAG-36 remained in Vietnam and provided support in their area of operations for nearly two years. Eventually, it was decided by Headquarters Marine Corps to move the group out of Vietnam. On Nov. 4, 1969, they moved to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

Once on Futenma, in 1970 MAG-36 began providing composite helicopter squadrons to the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit Afloat, later renamed the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. Presently, MAG-36 serves as the Okinawa-based aviation group within 1st MAW, the aviation combat element of III Marine Expeditionary Force, with detachments from its squadrons deploying every year alongside the 31st MEU to provide humanitarian assistance and train all over the Pacific region.

“Today our Marines are definitely prepared to go out anywhere in the Pacific and provide support,” said Harp. “We are constantly preparing and always ready to go out and do what Marines do, which is fighting our battles and winning.”


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Tom Shutt - May 11, 2020

Arrived in Da Nang March 1968 and was immediately assigned to MAG 36. Caught a lift to Phu Bai and checked-in only to be reassigned to Provincial MAG 39 in Quang Tri. Picked up all my earthly possessions (sea bag but no weapon, flak jacket, or helmet) and trekked back to catch a lift to Quang Tri. Happened to be on a 34 from my new squadron HMM-163, but I didn’t know it at the time. Jumped out on the tarmac in Quang Tri and heard repetitive explosions: BOOM – Shuuush. The chopper taxied off leaving me feeling very vulnerable. Didn’t have clue which way to run, but realized no one else paying any attention to the rounds. Realized it was outgoing artiliary fire, not the dreaded Shuuush – BOOM from incoming. My ‘welcome’ to Vietnam was completed that night with a mortar attack.

Milburn Dan Shoemaker - May 11, 2020

I to went into Ky Ha. Got there early Oct, via DaNang. Became NCOIC of garbage truck #2. Ha Ha Went North to Dong Ha aboutMay 66. If u guys remember getting hit at Ky Ha early 66, I was one of the two guys pinned down on the mat. Thanks for shooting at us. Had a little “thanks” from Col. Johnson the next morning! SEMPER FI-

Donald L Cook - May 11, 2020


Charles J Thomas Jr - May 11, 2020

Just want to say when you guys got in country, the situation was well in hand, great job MAG-36. I got in country August 68 MAG-11 DaNang.

Ralph Horton - May 11, 2020

Served with MAG-36 in Vietnam at KyHa and Phu Bai in 66,67,and 68 and again on Okinawa in 71 & 72. It was a great outfit and made a lot of good friends in this unit.

SgtMaj. Mike Zacker - May 11, 2020

I guess there aren’t many of us who went in with the Group from LTA aboard Princeton to Ky Ha on our first tour (1965-1966) and left to Fuentma on our second tour in 1868- 1969. I was an Ugly Angel with HMM-362 both tours but retrograded with H&MS-36 from the port of Hue to Da Nang to Okinawa after the Ugly’s had folded our colors In-Country. My third and fourth tours were with HMH-463 out of Hawaii’s 1st Marine Brigade. Semper Fidelis.

Steve Salisbury - May 11, 2020

I too was on the USS Princeton at that time in 1965. Formerly a Avionics Sgt with MAG 36, I was TAD to “Viet Nam” and rode over to teach helo pilots Vietnamese. Subsequently attached to one of the first CAC platoons as interpreter in the village of Loc Bon south of Phu Bai. In Jan ’67 I returned and was Industrial Affairs NCOIC/Interpreter/Interrogator for 3dMAF. Got the hell out of there in August 1968. However, did have an awesome pleasant visit to Hanoi for a week in 2013.

Philip Bennink - May 11, 2020

I was in MAG-36 on the Princeton. At the time I was attached to H&MS-36 as a Hydraulics Mechanic. Well we all know there isn’[t much in the way of hydraulics on the old UH-34Ds and I was assigned to be on the perimeter guard duty in a machine gun bunker when we finally were able to dig one. Had my birthday almost 3 months after we landed. Many memories, both good and bad, funny and serious, of those 13 plus months before I was able to rotate back to the land of the big PX. Phil

Harry - May 11, 2020

You brought back a memory of a time when I met a wana-be Viet-vet who claimed to be a Tet Survivor from the 2/5. claimed he never saw or heard of a 34 Sea Horse !! He tried to tell me that I was full of it.There was a guy in our company that was wounded by,what was thought to be a dud, M-79 round at Liberty Bridge.He and another Marine were medivaced on a 34 Thanx for the memory Harry RVN 4-Apr-68—22-Apr-69

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