Lack Of Copters Slow Marines In Vietnam War DA NANG, South Vietnam (UP!)--In Vietnam, Marines are not Marines in I h e j traditional sense. They fight i n j the mountains, not on t h e j beach. They travel to the front in helicopters, not on ships. This has altered the concept cf typical Marine warfare. The 85,000 Leathernecks in Vietnam operate more like Air Cavalrymen than Marines, and this has raised a problem. To fight effectively as a mobile, flexible force, a unit in Vietnam.must be equipped with enough helicopters so that its freedom of movement is not restricted. The Marines don't have this luxury. Lt. Gen. Robert Cushman Jr., termer Marine commander in Vietnam, echoed the sentiments of most ccmmanders when he said recently he regretted not being able to get more helicopters for the Marines. SUPPORT The two Marine divisions in ' Vietnam draw their air support from the 1st Marine Wing in Da Nang. The wing also supports the Korean Marine brigade and elements of the 1st South Vietnamese Division. At least 100,000 troops are choppers, about CO of which are grounded for repairs and maintenance on any given day. By comparison, the Army's 1st Air Cavalry Division operates 449 helicopters for its 17,000 troops. "We couldn't survive without the magnificent job the wing does," said Brig. Gen. Frank Garretson, deputy commander of the 3rd Marine Division. "But it's no secret we need more helicopters to support our method of operation in the mountains." DIVISION The division has moved in and out of 50 fire support bases and utilized at least 120 landing zones in the past six months. The commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond Davis, says he wants a base on each hilltop in Quang Tri Province. At last count, had carved 700. | Less than two dozen usually are in use at any one time. :heir mere presence combined with Davis' penchant for rapid deployment dictates a depen- j dence on helicopter movement.' Often it is a sensitive requirement. One day recently, the air supported by 10 Army choppers carried 2,000 Marines from the mountains to end one operation and placed 1,500 Marines into another region to launch a one. Tons of artillery, communications equipment and supplies also had to be transported. COMPANIES The last two Marine companies were lifted out of Operation Dewey Canyon in the A Shav Valley minutes before darkness would have made the mission all but impossible. To have left them in the area overnight without their artillery would j have invited attack. The operation itself would have been considered too risky to try just a tew years ago, commanders said. It was conducted in an area so isolated that not a vehicle was used within 25 miles of the Marines' positions. Ail troops-16,000 ol them during six weeks--and 2,700 of cargo were moved by helicopter. Pilots logged 3,690 flight hours while flying seven days a week, often 10 to 12 hours a day. INCREASE With the talk now centered trocp withdrawals, commanders doubt that any substantial increase in Marine helicopters will be forthcoming. Twenty- powerful CH53DSea Stallions are scheduled for delivery toj the Marines this year, but will replace older model's. Ironically, the Marine command in Vietnam is known the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force. With lew exceptions, however, the word amphibious has become an anachronism this war.