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America's First Combat Unit to Enter Vietnam was Air Defense!

Updated: Mar 7

After the Viet Cong attacked our military compound at Pleiku, President Johnson ordered the deployment of the Marines' 1st LAAM (Light Anti-Aircraft Missile) Battalion to Vietnam. This act gave an Air Defense Unit the distinction of being America’s first military combat unit to enter Vietnam and upheld the Marines’ long-enduring mantra of being the “First To Fight!”

The 1st LAAM firing batteries arrived in November of 1964 and were based on the Danang Airbase and on Hill 327, a few miles west of the airfield. No enemy air attacks were ever attempted against the airbase, but the battalion did participate in numerous civic action programs and conducted numerous practice HAWK Missile engagements while in-country.

The first combat ground troops were not deployed to Vietnam until March 8, 1965, when the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade arrived with 3,500 Marines.

After four and a half years in-country, 1st LAAM ceased all air defense activities and began to prepare for embarkation in July of 1969.

Authors Footnote: The United States had inserted military personnel from multiple military branches prior to the LAAM unit arriving. However, they served as observers, advisors, and gathered intelligence information but did not serve in a direct combat capacity.

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