WELCOME HOME / HISTORY OF THE 9TH ENGINEERS
When invited to give the history of the 9th Engineer Battalion I thought: “Sure, I can do that. It won’t take but a few minutes.” That’s true when you look at the basic dates and statistics. I can probably give you a simple history in about a minute and a half. But experience has very often taught me that in life there is more to history than statistics. There are more than likely many histories rolled into one.
So let’s get into the basic background of the 9th Engineers and their responsibilities and think for a few short minutes about the histories and the costs of conflict.
The 9th Engineer Battalion was activated on Nov. 1st, 1965 at Camp Pendleton, Cal. The nucleus was formed using experienced and trained engineers, mechanics, heavy equipment operators and other skills from within the Marine Corps. The first units formed and put together were the Headquarters and Service companies beginning with approximately 30 officers and 93 enlisted. About the middle of December of that same year the four letter companies of the battalion were formed as companies A-D and at that time had approximately 43 officers and close to 800 enlisted men.
While awaiting equipment assigned to the battalion, the men reviewed and trained in military subjects including some specialized subject material containing language and orientation for the country of Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
Further training for the operators and the mechanics was achieved with the reception of the equipment. This enabled the battalion to commence with the training of the integral parts of the unit training together for a better cohesive unit.
In April 1966 the battalion was designated as the 9th Engineer Battalion, Fleet Marine Force, and the training intensified until the lead group of one officer and a number of enlisted men departed for the Republic of Vietnam aboard the USS Mathews at the beginning of May 1966 with the rest of the battalion shortly to follow.
Two weeks after the lead element left for RVN, the remaining elements of 9th Engineers were loaded aboard the USS Ogden and little later the USS Summit County for service in Vietnam.
The battalion set up camp at a flat sandy area which was located along the Route 1 highway about a quarter of a mile southeast of Chu-Lai, a place and name not on the map of Vietnam, but was the Chinese language title given by Marine General Krulak as center for the Marine Corps base of operations for the area. Setting up the camp was begun with the development of the infrastructure: roads, shelter, machine, carpenter, welding, and maintenance shops, and other things critical to operations.
Much of the work and duties of the battalion were in direct support of the 1st Marine Division. This included the repair, maintenance and rebuilding of Highway 1 of Vietnam, along with construction of bridges, demolition, mine and booby-trap work (known as IED’s in today‘s terms), building and operating the cable linked ferries, as well as general construction work. While many engineer units are under the umbrella of infantry security, 9th Engineers most often provided their own security for the perimeter, as well as providing security for convoys and conducted our own combat operations such as combat patrols for our area of responsibility. We even had our own 81 mm mortar crews.
We also supported U.S. Army units such as the 1st