History of the "Long Shooters"
3rd 155mm Self Propelled Gun Battery was home-based at Marine Corps Base 29 Palms, California; in March of 1965 it was alerted for a pending deployment to the Western Pacific theater of operations or West Pac.
At the time 3rd Guns was below strength, a common peacetime problem. The battery rolls listed only four officers, 90 enlisted Marines and one Corpsman. There was an immediate move to bring the battery up to it's authorized strength of seven officers, 150 enlisted Marines, and two Navy Corpsmen. The battery's six 155mm Self Propelled Guns with a maximum range of approximately fifteen miles were combat ready including most of the major supply and ordinance assets. The battery had been busy conducting firing exercises, maneuvers, and was "good to go" once up to designated troop manpower levels.
3rd Guns was a separate, independent battery, commanded by a Major and fully capable of performing it's own administration, organizational maintenance, and organic supply functions similar to that of a battalion. This type of unit even rated it's own supply officer.
The battery departed Twentynine Palms in mid-May 1965 via commercial buses, military convoy, and railroad. Four days later, the unit was loaded aboard five of seven cramped amphibious ships allocated to the Seventh Marine Regimental Landing Team (RLT-7). The flotilla set sail for the Orient on day five. During a brief stop at Pearl Harbor, RLT-7 received a new sailing orders; Okinawa...
Upon arrival, most of the "amphibs" disembarked their cargo at White Beach, Okinawa. One group of ships transported a Marine infantry battalion to Qui Nhon, there providing security for an established Army unit. 3rd Guns off-loaded all of it's personnel, equipment, supplies, and remained ashore for one month. This brief interlude provided the battery with valuable time for training more than 60 new troops. Final maintenance tune-up of equipment and assorted administrative details were also completed.
In late July of 1965 3rd Guns loaded aboard a LST and sailed for Chu Lai, South Vietnam, which is located on the South China Sea coast about one hundred miles south of Da Nang. The battery was placed under operational command (OPCON) of the Chu Lai Artillery Group, 3rd Battalion 12th Marines and assigned a general support/reinforcing role. 3rd Guns came ashore administratively on 6 August 1965 and went immediately into action the same day after conducting its battery registration. The battery received a request from an Army FAC to shoot at a target of opportunity. It was a group of Viet Cong guerrilla fighters who apparently were unaware that "long shooters" had arrived on the scene; in a short time they became keenly aware of our presence. That evening the battery began it's nightly harassment and interdiction (H&I's) fires that would continue throughout its tenure in Vietnam.
3rd Guns had been in country for two weeks when "Operation Starlite" was launched against the First Viet Cong Regiment, located ten miles south of the threatened Chu Lai Combat Base. The battery was tasked to provide general support for RLT-7 and in particular, reinforcing fires for the Chu Lai Artillery Group. The Guns conducted reinforcing fires in support of Mike Battery, 4th Battalion 11th Marines; the extended range (15 miles) of the M53 Gun allowed the battery to conduct all of it's missions during Starlite from it's permanent firing position near the Southwest corner of the Chu Lai airfield. 3rd Guns expended over 1000 rounds during a three day period. Pre assault (prep fires) target to target of opportunity fire, barrier fire, and H&I fire were all conducted without flaw.
After Starlite, 3rd Guns was ordered by the commanding officer of the 12th Marines to send a two-gun platoon to Da Nang, reinforcing the regiment by providing extended range fire to help drive Viet Cong further away from Da Nang's defensive perimeter. The platoon returned to its parent unit about the same time the battery went OPCON to the 11th Marines in early March 1966. The transportation mode of the detached platoon was by a Navy Landing Craft Utility (LCU).
Meanwhile, the main body of 3rd Guns kept busy shooting long-range fire support missions for the US Army Special Forces Teams at An Hoa and Tra Bong. This effective fire at extreme range assisted in keeping the attacking North Vietnamese at bay. They never did overrun the outposts as long as artillery was made available by the long shooters of the 3rd Guns. General Westmoreland, COMUSMACV, recognized the battery's accomplishments by passing a "well done" through the chain of command to the battery at Chu Lai. The guns had one two-gun platoon fire in support of An Hoa and one for Tra Bong while the third platoon was working at Da Nang.
The battery continued attacking multiple targets simultaneously during Operations Harvest Moon, Double Eagle, Utah, Texas, Indiana, Hot Springs, Wyoming, and Montgomery in addition to lesser engagements. 3rd Guns continued to conduct general support/reinforcing operations under OPCON of the 11th Marines. By June 1966, the tube's of each M53 had been replaced three times. A great deal of the battery's fire missions were at extreme ranges requiring the use of "Super Charge " propellant, which wore tubes out at a faster rate than normal powder charges.
"By April 1967, all of 3rd Gun troops who had landed at Chu Lai in August with the exception of those who volunteered to extend their tour of duty had rotated back to CONUS. The "new" battery was ordered to relocate from Chu Lai to An Hoa and Hoi Anh in Quang Nam Province west and south of Danang, respectively. The battery was loaded on two LSTs, one a Japanese craft from the Chu Lai LST ramp. The LSTs steamed some 100 miles up the South China Coast and off loaded 3rd Guns. Reportedly, the battery was split in half with 3 guns each going to An Hoa and Hoi Anh. The US Amry's Americal Division had relieved the Marine ground forces from Chu Lai while the lst Marine Division took over the TAOR of the 3rd Division who had displaced to the northern province in South Vietnam, to establish a military presence near and at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ, 17th Parallel) separating North and South Vietnam." There they would remain throughout the remainder of the war fighting intense tactical ground and artillery battles with North Vietnamese forces over control of the Demilitarized Zone and the northern regions of South Vietnam.
In 1969, the M107 175mm Gun replaced the venerable, combat tested M53mm Gun; the battery became the 3rd 175mm Gun SP and most all former 3rd Guns personnel remained on board. The old but faithful M53's either hobbled on their own or were towed back to Da Nang for disposal.
The now "3rd 175mm Gun Battery" rotated home to Twentynine Palms, California between the 1969-1970 time period. It was the same departure period for the 12th Marines, who left I Corps and their defense of the DMZ.
In 1978, the 3rd 175mm Gun Battery was phased out of service ending the saga of the "Long Shooters."
Lieutenant Colonel Dick Moore - Retired (Colonel Moore was the founding Marine of your 3rd 155SP Guns web page