Ladies and gentlemen:
We are here today for a "first" activity--on the part of the administration and as far as I am concerned. That is the presentation of a Presidential Unit Citation.
The citation is for one of the most distinguished units in the whole history of the American Armed Forces, the First Marine Regiment of the First Marine Division.
The Secretary of the Navy will read the citation.
[Secretary of the Navy John H. Chafee read the citation, the text of which follows.]
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the
PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION
FIRST MARINES (--) (REINFORCED)
FIRST MARINE DIVISION (REINFORCED)
for service as set forth in the following
For extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action against enemy forces during Operation HUE CITY, conducted in Thua Thien Province, Republic of Vietnam, from 31 January to 2 March 1968. On 31 January 1968, Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines responded as a reaction force to relieve pressure on beleaguered free world forces in Hue City. As the reaction force moved by vehicle convoy toward the city, it was attacked by two battalions of the North Vietnamese Army and temporarily halted. Receiving reinforcements from Company G, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines and a provisional command group from 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, the reaction force fought its way into the city. Once within the city, it secured various objectives in order to rescue U.S. National and Republic of Vietnam government officials from the north side of the Perfume River. Engaging a numerically superior enemy force, the Marines performed superbly. The attack was a classical example of combat in a built-up area as the majority of the fierce fighting was performed at distances under 35 meters, on streets, in yards, from house to house, room to room, and in hand-to-hand combat. As time passed and the intensity of the fighting increased, the decision was made to declare the action a full-scale operation, and on 2 February control was passed to the 1st Marines. Reacting swiftly to reinforce the units in Hue, the I st Marines (--) (Reinforced) proceeded from Phu Bai by vehicle convoy to exploit the contact already made. Engaging enemy troops as they drew near, the 1st Marines fought their way into and through the city to the MACV compound to find it under intense attack by a numerically superior force. Immediately deploying, they countered the attack and within 30 minutes placed the enemy on the defensive. The fighting continued and the Marines recaptured the provincial headquarters and hospital while driving the enemy from other critical areas. On 26 February, a portion of the Marines were withdrawn from the Citadel and, upon combining forces with Marines in another portion of the zone of responsibility, began conducting final clearing operations south of the Phu Cam River. Through the remaining four days, the Marines encountered stubborn resistance, but secured the city by 2 March with 1,889 enemy killed. By their effective teamwork, aggressive fighting spirit, and individual acts of heroism and daring, the men of the 1st Marines (--) (Reinforced) soundly defeated a numerically superior enemy force and achieved an illustrious record of courage and skill which was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
[At this point the President resumed speaking.]
We will present the citation to Colonel Hughes who will receive it for the regiment.
Colonel, in presenting it to you, I want to point out your very distinguished record. You joined the Marine Corps in 1940, served in World War II, served also in Korea, and now in Vietnam. These decorations indicate the distinction of that record, including the Navy Cross.
In congratulating the unit, we also congratulate you and thank you. We also thank Sergeant Manion and all of your colleagues for their splendid, superb service to the country.
If I could be permitted a personal word, when we speak of the Marine Corps it is very difficult to add to the words of that citation, but the Marine Corps has had somewhat of an effect on my own life.
During World War II, I happen to have been in the Navy, Mr. Secretary. In the Navy as an air operations officer, I was assigned to the First Marine Air Wing, a group called MAG-25, or better known as SCAT [South Pacific, Combat Air Transport Command]. SCAT flew up through the Solomons to Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Green Island, Vella Lavella, and all areas that are well known to Marines and perhaps to some who are here in this audience today.
I learned then to respect the Marines as individuals but particularly as a unit. That is why a unit citation to the Marine Corps is particularly appropriate.
Any Marine, whenever you speak to him, will say that it is the team that counts, the unit that counts, and the esprit de corps that Marines, some way, from the time of their foundation, have been able to maintain. This esprit de corps has certainly been exemplified by the record of this group.
Also, I am glad to see in this audience today General [Robert E.] Cushman, once the Commander of the Marines in Vietnam, and also my executive assistant when I was Vice President of the United States, and now the Deputy Director of the CIA.
Finally, this word: The record of this unit, I think, also speaks of the fighting men generally in Vietnam, the difficult task that they have. We know the problems that this war has caused in this country. We know some of the division in this country. We know also that day after day a half a million Americans in Vietnam are doing their job--doing their job because that is their duty.
Until the war is brought to a conclusion that will some way contribute to the cause of a lasting peace in that area and in the Pacific, these men will continue to do their duty.
It is very difficult to fight any kind of a war, difficult even when a nation is united as it was in World War II. It is much more difficult for men to fight day after day when the Nation appears to be divided.
I can only say that in hearing this citation read, I think of not only the officers, Colonel Hughes, Sergeant Manion, General Chapman, but I think of those men in Vietnam. I have seen them in the DMZ. I have seen them all over that country--the Marines, the Army, Navy, Air Corps--and they are splendid men doing their job day after day.
I trust that the political leadership that we have in this country will be able to match the sacrifice that they have made.
We think we can bring peace. We will bring peace. The peace that we will be able to achieve will be due to the fact that Americans, when it really counted, did not buckle, did not run away, but stood fast so that the enemy knew that it had no choice except to negotiate--negotiate a fair peace, a peace which did not require from them anything more than anyone should ask for, and that is: the right of an equal chance to present their case to the people of South Vietnam and let the people decide.
We thank the Marines for what they have done and we are very proud to be here in your company again.