THE COMBINED ACTION PROGRAM:
An Alternative Not Taken
Robert A. Klyman
I am deeply indebted to BGen E.H. Simmons (USMC, Ret.) and his staff at the Marine Corps Historical Center in Washington, D.C. The historians there gave freely of their time and advice, and the reference librarians made written and oral histories easily accessible. My greatest debt at the Center goes to Mr. Jack Shulimson, Head of the Histories section, without whose help this thesis would not have been written. LtCol Wayne Babb (USMC) also lent important aid at the outset of my research. The Marine Corps Historical Foundation provided me with a research grant in exchange for a bibliography of sources. The opinions expressed in this thesis are not necessarily those of the Marine Corps Historical Center or Foundation.
Three retired Marine officers provided me with invaluable interviews: Col John Greenwood, LtCol William R. Corson, and LtCol J.R. Day. In addition, several retired Marines responded to a questionnaire: Col C.R. Burroughs, Col Don R. Christensen, Col D.J. Ford, Col Ted Metzger, Col George Robillard, Col J.J. Tolnay, Col David H. Wagner, LtCol I.L. Carver, and LtCol J.R. Day.
I would also like to thank the people who commented on a draft copy. The
following retired Marine Corps officers
provided me with insights based on their own experience: Col Don R. Christensen, Col Ted Metzger, Col George
Robillard, Col J.J. Tolnay, Col David H. Wagner, and LtCol I.L. Carver. Lam Ha, a Vietnamese interpreter, also
provided comments. Jack Shulimson and Dr. Keith Fleming of the Marine Corps Historical Center polished my introduction
and conclusion. At the University of Michigan, Professor John Shy and Tom Collier lent their experience to make this.
thesis a much better product. Professor Bradford Perkins advised this thesis and was, of course, instrumental in its origin and development.
The responsibility for any errors is my own.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Birth of the CAPS.............................................................................................................6
Quick Growth and Early Success.....................................................................................17
Development and Maturation of the CAP.........................................................................21
The Tet Offensive and the Shift to a Mobile Concept........................................................29
The Most Active Year and a Reassessment of Selection...................................................36
Peak and Decline: the Creation of the CAP.....................................................................42
Deactivation: the CAPs Come Home..............................................................................48
The View From the Ground: Major Problems and Difficulties..........................................51
Evaluation: A Success....................................................................................................59
Conclusion: Limitation of the CAP..................................................................................68
By late 1964, official attitudes in Washington were drifting towards increased American participation in and expansion of the Vietnam War. Something had to be done to shore up the unstable South Vietnamese regime and to counter the growing enemy strength. Along with air attacks on North Vietnam, this "something" was the introduction of American ground forces into Vietnam. General William C. Westmoreland, commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV),1 determined that, faced with deteriorating Vietnamese political and military situations, two Marine battalions were needed for security at Da Nang, one of South Vietnam's most important airbases. Consequently, in March, 1965, the Marines landed by sea and air. They were soon followed by 38,000 more Marines deployed to South Vietnam as the III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF),2 under the command of Major General Lewis W. Walt.3
MACV and the Marines had differing views of what it would take to win the war. Westmoreland's major goals included finding and destroying North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Viet Cong (VC) battalions, and denying them territory regardless of the density or sparseness of its population. Further, he emphasized the need for "spoiling attacks" to unsettle the enemy. The Marines, while admitting that Westmoreland's concerns had merit, felt that his priorities neglected the importance of pacifying the villages. In this vein, LtGen Victor H. Krulak, Commander of Fleet Marine Force Pacific (FMFPac), stated to Admiral U.S.G. Sharp, Commander in Chief Pacific (CINCPac), "It is our conviction that if we can destroy the guerrilla fabric among the people, we will automatically deny the larger units the food and the intelligence and the taxes and the other support they need. . . . [T]he real war is among the people and not among [the] mountains."4
It was within this context that the Marines instituted pacification tactics designed to win the support of the South Vietnamese rural population. Among the most successful of these efforts was the Combined Action Program (CAP), in which squads of Marines and a Navy corpsman moved into a village or hamlet and combined forces with a South Vietnamese Popular Force (PF) platoon of 20 to 35 men.5
The Combined Action Program has been neglected in the historiography of the Vietnam
War. The secondary literature
is scant. There are, however, two works, F.J. West's The Village and William R. Corson's The Betrayal6, that were
important points of departure for my research. Each is a first-hand account of experiences with CAP (although Corson also focuses on other problems of conducting the war). However, the authors did not examine the primary source material that forms the crux of this essay; nor did they sufficiently, if at all, address all of the questions this thesis seeks to answer.7
A special type of secondary literature is the official histories published by the Marine Corps Historical Center in Washington, D.C. Although using some of the primary sources I used, these histories only devote a few pages to CAP; this situation is understandable since the histories cover the entire spectrum of Marine Corps operations, while the CAP was only a small part of those operations. These publications provided me with a base upon which to construct my narrative and were essential in filling in the chronological gaps left by my primary sources.
I relied heavily on three collections of primary sources, each of which has its limitations. First, I used FMFPac Reports8 to construct a chronological narrative of the Combined Action Program's development. Originally classified as secret, each report covers one month's operations of all Marine Corps units in I Corps. I experienced three problems with them. Because these reports were designed in part to convince MACV and influential civilians and soldiers in Washington of the merit of the CAP, one cannot find criticism of the program within them. Furthermore, known then and now as "Krulak's Fables", the validity of the statistics provided is open to some question. Finally, the reporting on some years is sketchy; as a result, I had to rely on secondary sources to complete the narrative for those years, most notably 1970 and CAP's deactivation period.
My second primary source was oral histories, taped interviews of men who served in the
program. There are several limitations here. The interview program focused
mainly on 1966 to 1968; I found few interviews either before or after this period.
Thus, I have little such oral commentary regarding the "mature" years of the
program when it was most effective. Second, the interviewers are frequently of
higher rank than the interviewee. The potential exists that the interviewee was
intimidated by this situation and may have slanted his commentary. This
"self-censorship" may also have occurred if the interviewee were planning to
make a career in the Marine Corps and feared that sometime in the future a promotion board
would listen to the tape.9 And last, according to Colonel John Greenwood,
CO 1st CAG,10 sometimes a Marine may have
exaggerated the difficulty of his tour for one reason or another.11
The third primary source I used was reports and studies commissioned during the war by the Marines. These reports were both carried out by independent researchers and individual Marines. Their major limitations are that they usually only covered a specific year and one should be wary about the complete objectivity of reports by Marines (or any other soldier) on a Marine program.
Although my sources have built-in limitations, they are the only major primary sources available.12 I am therefore forced to examine the CAP chiefly through a Marine Corps perspective. I have used these sources to seek answers to the following questions about the Combined Action Program:
What exactly was the Combined Action Program, and how did it develop from 1965 to 1971? What did the commanders of the Marines and the CAP think of the program? Did they consider it a success? In contrast, what did the "man on the ground"13 think of the program? What did he think were the major problems and successes of the CAP? In addition, how did the Vietnamese and VC/NVA regard the program? And last, how did Army officers feel about this Marine effort?14
This thesis is not an attempt to compare the Combined Action Program to any other program; time constraints have forced me to consider the CAP in relative isolation. Nor is it a recreation of a typical day in the life of a platoon; F.J. West has already done that splendidly in The Village. Rather, I am looking at a broader picture, from different perspectives. I think that the CAP, because of its success, is worth writing about. This thesis tells its story.
Birth of the CAPs: History and Implementation of a Workable Idea
In 1965, Col William Taylor, commanding officer of the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines (3/4), stationed in Phu Bai, needed reinforcements to guard a 10 square mile area directly east and west of an airfield recently added to his tactical area of responsibility (TAOR}. The airstrip was extremely vulnerable to mortar attack from hamlets lying no more than several hundred meters away; these hamlets were known Viet Cong (VC) areas. The solution to this problem lay in the implementation of 24-hour security.1 When the reinforcements did not materialize, Taylor, at the suggestion of Maj. C.B. Zimmerman, Capt. John J. Mullen, and Lt. J.W. Davis, decided to integrate South Vietnamese Popular Force (PF) soldiers with Marines to defend the airstrip on round-the-clock basis.2
Uniting with indigenous forces was in the residual institutional memory of the Marines, (i.e. Haiti, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic), so this was by no means a revolutionary idea.
By agreement with the Army of the Republic of Vietnam3 (ARVN), operational control of six PE platoons within the 3d Battalion's TAOR4 was given to Taylor; the platoons were formally united with the appointment of an ARVN lieutenant as company commander. Under the command of a Marine lieutenant, Paul Ek, these Vietnamese platoons joined four Marine squads and became the first Joint Action Company (JAC).5 Ek was selected for this position by Gen Walt and Col. Wheeler, CO of the 3d Marines. Wheeler had operational control of 3/4. Ek was chosen in part "because he had attended counter-insurgency school and had some language capability in Vietnamese.6
Before the two forces were joined in this fashion, however, Ek spent a week training his handpicked Marines. A primary subject of the training was the Vietnamese political and military structure. According to Ek, it was important that these Marines understood "their position when they were in a village with a village chief and . . . a Vietnamese Captain . . . just where they stood in this little grouping and who they called 'sir' and who they called 'you'. This cross-cultural training was continued in subsequent weeks.8 The Marines were also thoroughly briefed on how they were to conduct intelligence and counterintelligence operations. Combined with patrols, the Marines hoped to utilize these operations "to deny the Vietcong access to the people."
After initial training, the PFs and Marines formed the first Joint Action Platoon on 1 August 1965. "Ek's concept of operations of the PF with Marines was patterned on the organization of the VC infrastructure, using 'assistance rather than terror to win the people's loyalties.' He believed that as the PFs and Marines built their 'infrastructure . . . they would be destroying that of the Viet Cong.' The combined force would have several basic assignments: 'security, counterintelligence, obtaining the good will of the people. . . . These formed the spokes of the wheel while training was the hub of the entire program.'" Training thereafter became a joint process. The Vietnamese instructed the Marines in local customs, peculiarities of the terrain, and language, and provided details on the whereabouts of the Viet Cong. The Marines, on the other hand, taught discipline, tactics, and civilian population control.10 "We conducted classes with the PFs on scouting and patrolling, hand and arm signals, ambush techniques, tactics, population control, intelligence needs and collection, marksmanship. . . Things that were necessary for both the Marines and the PFs to understand and to do together."11 Although Ek trained the initial PF platoon with great autonomy, III MAF, in December, signaled its belief in the importance of these local forces by assuming greater responsibility for the PF. Moreover, operational control of additional PF platoons was transferred to the 3d Marine Division.12
Initially, the JAC only entered a village during daylight; they ignored civic action and did not seek to get to know the people on a personal basis, preferring to concentrate on security measures. As newcomers to the villages, it was critical for the JAC Marines to learn the routines of the villagers. In this way, they could be on the lookout for any deviations in patterns, changes which might signal planned or ongoing Viet Cong activity. "Each man kept a small notebook and . . . diary each day which was compiled by the squad leader into a combat diary for the squad. . . . We were looking for daily routines, daily patterns: what time the buffalo boys took their water buffaloes out; what time the people moved out into rice paddies; what time they got up in the morning; why on one day no one went to the paddies in one area, but they did in another. Through this association and determining these patterns, then, we could note changes in these patterns and then try to find out the reasons why."13 The JAC also conducted daytime patrols.
Once the Marines felt somewhat acclimated and secure, the JAC made an effort to form a
relationship with the people and be accepted as members of the village community. In this
spirit, "the evolved command structure was unique. The District Chief regarded Lt Ek
as his equal; Lt Ek treated him as his superior. The four Village Chiefs regarded Lt
Ek as their superior; Lt Ek treated them as equal."14 Moreover, the
cultural training the Marines received at the outset proved to be invaluable, as this
knowledge facilitated their cultivation of a relationship with the Vietnamese. As a result, the Marines could live in and be treated by the village "not as an occupational force, but as members of that village, [while] at the same time carrying out their primary mission of military capability."15
The mission of these platoons was to eliminate VC control of the village. After
the first week, the joint patrols ran day and night operations, spending several nights a
week in the village.16 Along with the local Vietnamese National Police,
the PFs and Marines implemented population control measures. For instance, they
would enter a village in the pre dawn hours and assemble the people in the street.
The police would then check IDs after the JAC had explained that this was a protective
measure and apologized for the inconvenience.17 Those found to be without
ID cards were considered VC and taken in for
questioning.18 Eventually, the JAC became adept at spotting Viet Cong infiltrated areas. By being sensitive to the "attitudes" of a village, Ek's men learned to determine which areas were influenced by the VC. "We found . . . that through the attitudes of areas we could pinpoint Vietcong activity within that area. If you walk into an area and the people just go about their business and conduct normal daily routines with a fair amount of friendliness....things are pretty quiet. Many times an area will be overly friendly, too friendly. There's a reason for this . . . possibly Vietcong in the area at the time or [they] have just been there and
[told villages] to be friendly to Marines. It's an attitude you feel, more than anything else."19
They also conducted civic action; it was during this period that the Marines began to form friendships with the people.20 "We wanted to raise [their economy] by helping to repair their roads so that they could get more of their rice to market faster, increase fresh water capability...so that they could spend more time working in their rice fields and less time hauling fresh water. . . . We tried to look for projects that would benefit the area as a whole, rather than specific individuals."21
Ek thought the Viet Gong could react in one of three ways. First, they could have tried to overrun the platoon, given the small size of the unit and the PFs' reputation for cowardice (the VC knew "they could push the PFs over any time they wanted to"22), and thereby discredit the Marine effort. Second, the VG could have harrassed the JAG with weapons fire or probing attacks. But they chose a third alternative: they left the JAG alone. Ek guessed that the Viet Cong probably was hoping that "we would make the mistakes that can be made . . . and gain disfavor of the people. . . I guess they thought that with such a small unit we couldnst do much militarily or, actually, physically in combatting them...expecting that they would still be able to come in and work in the area at night."23
Two aspects of this program stand out. The first aspect was temporary but still merits comment: South Vietnamese forces were placed under American operational control, although administrative control was retained by the South Vietnamese. Usually, the ARVN retained command of South Vietnamese troops. Here, however, the 3/4's operational control of the PF platoons enabled it to provide tpe leadership that the PFs desperately needed. The commands of the Battalion were implemented through the Commander of the Joint Action Company via the Marine Squad leaders.24 Ek credited the success of this move to the individual squad leaders: 'The sergeants that we had were outstanding men and anything less than the caliber of people they were and I don't think this operation would have been successful.25
Second,, the Marines, unlike many other American troops, did not attempt to implement sudden radical changes in village life. As one PF put it, according to Ek, "when we [the Marines] came we didn't try to impose a new way of doing something on them; we took their old ways and tried to show them how they could do it better.26
Perhaps because Ek's accomplishment was so visible, the Marines expanded the aims and objectives of the CAP, recommending a new mission concept:
1) "Secure the populated areas and deny their use to the VC, thereby supporting the battalion's primary mission and also providing security for the civilian population.
2) Establish and maintain an effective civic action program, in conjunction with local officials, for the purpose of improving the welfare of the people, increasing good relationships between the people and friendly forces; and to establish an effective intelligence network.
3) Train the Popular Force Platoons, in order that in the future they may be capable of protecting their own villages, without U.S. troop assistance."27
After Ek rotated home in September 1965, his successor, Capt J.J. Mullen, intensified operations:
1) Movement to the villages of all units on a permanent basis
2) Saturation patrolling, especially at night, with emphasis on ambush patrols (or multi-ambush patrols). One-hundred percent alertness during the hours of darkess.
3) Intensified "combined" training, with emphasis on marksmanship and small unit tactic.
4) Additional emphasis on populace and resources control and intelligence gathering. ..28
While the platoons did not kill many VC in this early implementation period, they did accomplish their primary mission of protecting the airbase and villages, mainly through intense and frequent patrolling.29 According to the reports filed by the Battalion at Phu Bai, "the presence of Marines in the villages has denied the VC the use of areas" from which the Battalion had been susceptible to VC observation and attack.30 As a result, moreover, the Marines increased the experience and confidence of the PFs.31
Furthermore, the platoons became a tenable source of information for the Battalion. Prior to their implementation the Battalion never received "concrete or timely intelligence't from the surrounding villages. The Joint Action Company's permanent presence and its active patrolling, however, "relieved the people of fear of VC retaliation and intelligence information has been freely offered since that time."32 "People began to bring in information, first through the village chief, then direct.
By November 1965, seventy-five percent of all operations were based on intelligence "33
The village officials also began living in their own homes during the hours of darkness, and VC tax collection and propaganda ceased.34 According to 3/4, propaganda leaflets were rarely found and VC lectures stopped completely. Thus, the advent of the CAC35 put an end to what had been common enemy practice.36 Instead, the CAC initiated psychological operations of its own. Although the Marines distributed some propaganda materials, the most effective method was, as Ek put it, to toot "our own horn, letting the people know we were around and that it wasn't the Marines alone who were doing this but the CAC. Instead of actual paper material . . most of it was by word of mouth "37
This program was considered so worthwhile by the CAC Marines that forty of the sixty-six Marines assigned at Phu Bai extended their tours to remain in the program.38 But they were hardly the only Marines to consider it a meritorious progam. As a result of the success of the CAC in the Phu Bai tactical area, MajGen Lewis Walt, CC III MAF, decided to expand the program. He conducted a study in November 1965 that determined that various American commanders favored a step-up in combined operations with the PF. This information prompted an agreement between him and CC I Corps (ARVN), MajGen Nguyen Chanh Thi, to combine Marine and PF units throughout the Danang area, using the CAC at Phu Bai as a model. According to FMFPac, the purpose of this action was to strengthen PF platoons in their security role around the air base, improve their communications, and provide the PF with "supplementary combat experience by actual practice on the battlefield.39
After several months' experimentation, General Thi expanded the concept to all Marine
tactical zones in I Corps during January 1966.40 He published a
memorandum detailing the value of the CAC system and Marine leadership in individual units
in terms of improving PF morale and "fighting spirit", mobility, and increased
understanding between the Marines and PFs. In addition, due to PF influence, Thi
believed that "the mistakes made by Allied troops which have proved to be harmful to
the people have
been decreased."41 From this point onward, the number of Combined Action units increased steadily.
Quick Growth and Early Success
By 1966, the combined action program had "developed into an integral component of the Marine pacification strategy." Generals Krulak, FMFPac, and Walt, CG III MAW, both of whom believed in the value and appropriateness of this concept, tried to persuade MACV to replicate CAPS throughout Vietnam.1
To add weight to their arguments, FMFPac assembled some impressive statistics. According to this official view, the PF performance in CACs was far more satisfactory than that of PFs operating outside the program.2 For example, in the five month period, 1 August to 31 December 1966, nearly 40,000 PF soldiers deserted from regular PF units throughout Vietnam; this represents a loss of more than 25 percent. In the CAC units, however, there were not any PF desertions during that same period. According to FMFPac, this signaled the improved military ability and dedication of PFs who, up until this point, had been poorly led and trained. Under Marine leadership, the PFs are "finding leaders who are qualified and who take a personal interest in them."3 Furthermore, some PFs had even begun to conduct patrols without Marines.4 Moreover, the PF ffectiveness in killing the enemy was substantially greater in the CAC units than in regular PF platoons. For example, the kill ratio of CACs in 1966 was 14 to 1, while the regular PF forces' kill ratio was merely three to one.5
The villages as a whole obviously benefitted from this kind of increased performance; FMFPac sought to demonstrate these advantages by using a quantitative scale created by III MAF (known eventually as the Hamlet valuation System (HES). These statistics are dubious, but they are the only ones available. For example, "24 of the 39 villages with CACS in place, including 9 which had been initiated within 3 months of the study, reached 80 percent on the III MAF scale or else have improved at least 10 percent since the CAC's implementation."6
The impact of the expanding CAC program could, FMFPac believed, be seen throughout the
area where CACs were operating. For instance, 2,800 Vietnamese refugees moved into
Phuoc Trach, a hamlet near Danang, when a CAC was established there. Due to the Marine
presence, the refugees considered it the safest location in the area. In addition,
the CACs prevented sabotage of Route 1, the main line of communication between Chu Lai and
Tam Ky. There were no incidents in a six month period after the establishment of the
CACs in these two villages in December 1966. Often, villagers became dependent on
the security provided by the CACs. For example, in Ky Bich village, near Chu Lai,
villagers had been moving 3 miles each night to a safer location to avoid VC
harrassment. After the implementation of the CAC, however, the villagers began
sleeping in their own homes.7 Throughout I CTZ the impact of the CAC also
extended beyond military action. The CAC corpsmen played an important role in civic
action. In Danang area, for example, they treated 15,000 villagers monthly. As
a result of the effort of the CAC Marines, according to FMFPac, "the Viet Cong have
never been able to reestablish control over an area once security has been established by
a Combined Action Platoon. Based on experience to date in this
endeavor, the presence of a CAP in a village complex has removed that village from further use as a Viet Cong sanctuary.8
The quick growth of the Combined Action Program (from 1 to 57 platoons, consisting of
729 Marines and 1,482 Vietnamese
PFs, by the end of 1966) resulted in several problems, relating primarily to personnel shortages. No official slots had been created to fill the CAC billets; as a result, the Marines were forced to take men out of their battalion manning levels. Not surprisingly, battalion commanders were often reluctant to transfer their best men into the program "while receiving no direct recompense in return."9 This was unfortunate, as the Battalions did receive important, albeit indirect, benefits from the CAP (i.e. increased intelligence information, rear area protection) Often, men were "volunteered" into the program by their ommanders. According to Colonel G.E. Jerue, former CO, 9th Marines, "Although the requirement states that they should be
volunteers, it doesn't demand volunteers. We more or less had to go to the rule of thumb that if the man doesn't object he is a volunteer for it."10 (see also below) Nonetheless, the success of the CACs continued into 1967.
Development and Maturation of the CAP
The Combined Action Program continued to progress in 1967 as it had in the first two years of its existence. The major developments were related to its rapid expansion of 1966-67. During 1967, the CAP expanded from 57 platoons and 8 companies in the beginning of the year to 79 platoons, 14 companies, and 3 groups by 31 December 1967.1 Although this
represents a substantial growth, it did fall below the goal; of 114 platoons set in 1966.2
As a result of this growth, several command and procedural changes were implemented. In June 1967, for example, CG III MAF implemented a Combined Action Group (CAG) Headquarters at Danang to supervise the training and support of Combined Action units. The second command and procedural change occurred in July, when III MAF activated two more Combined Action Groups to improve control of and coordination of support for the platoons in the Phu Bai and Chu Lai areas.3 Operational control of the individual platoons still rested with the nearest Marine battalion, with the division commander continuing to have command authority of any units in his TAOR.4
Third, recognizing the potential of the CAP concept, Gen Robert Cushman, then CC III MAF, took command of the program in October, 1967. Supervisory authority was to be assumed by the Deputy CG III MAF, then MajGen Herman Nickerson, and implemented through the newly created position of Director, Combined Action Program. The first Director, CAP, was LtCol William R. Corson.
Also in October, the command of combined action units in a given TAOR was transferred
from the divisions to the Combined Action Groups. The Commanding Generals of the
First and Third Marine Divisions and the Americal (U.S. Army) Division, which had recently
been deployed to I Corps, opposed this move. They argued that since "the
division still retained responsibility for limited logistical support and reaction forces
for all Combined Action Platoons [it] should also retain operational control."
To CC III MAF, however, the need for centralized control and administration of a
burgeoning number of CAPs overrode this consideration.5 Furthermore,
according to LtCol Corson, the typical battalion commander did not understand what was
necessary to succeed in pacification: "He was there to kill enemy. .
. His mission was two up, one back, hot chow. Battalion commanders were not in
Vietnam to win the hearts and minds of the people. . . . They were playing the game
of . . search and destroy. They didn't understand the nature of the war they
were involved in."6 Operational control of
the CAPs by the battalion commander, therefore, would have been detrimental to the pacification effort of the program.
To train Marine CAP replacements, III MAF created a school.7 Initially, under the supervision of LtCol William R. Corson, the school's sessions lasted two weeks; besides basic weapons training, Corson was dedicated to keeping Marines alive by teaching them how not to culturally offend the Vietnamese. According to Corson, "we gave [the CAP Marines] skills that didn't belong in any military manual," such as teaching them how to eat in a Vietnamese household or how to sit properly. For example, if one sat with his legs crossed, showing the sole of his shoe to his Vietnamese host, he would be giving a terrible insult to his host. Corson was committed to "cultural education."
"What I was telling them was that what your life really depends on is knowing not to put your foot over your leg. Doesn't that sound strange, that your life depends on not doing that? Why? Because [the Vietnamese] say, "he doesn't think much of me." And when the VC come around and say, "what do you hear, what do you say?"--"Well, the Americans are going to go out on patrol, they're going to be down here at the corner Saturday night at ten o'clock." And then at ten o'clock on Saturday we had . . . an ambush because you put your foot over your leg.
The CAP school was not a "cure-all." Unfortunately, when the Program had the time to train Marines adequately, for example, by sending them to language school so that they could fit better into Vietnamese society, it did not have the assets to do so. When it finally received sufficient assets, according to Corson, it no longer had enough time to take men out of the field.9
The length and content of the CAP school varied over time. Some Marines said that they attended a two-week school that concentrated primarily on military procedures;10 others spent as little as a week to nine days, learning about Vietnamese religion and beliefs as well as weapons operation. The greatest transformation, and the most unfortunate since the biggest problem experienced by the CAP Marine was in the area of culture [see below] , was the reduction in the number of hours devoted to instruction on South Vietnam itself. By 1969, the school only was devoting six hours (and in some cases less) to cultural instruction.
The general consensus was that the CAP school was a worthwhile, successful program
("It kept me alive," said one Marine11) Several Marines,
however, questioned what they considered misplaced priorities. According to one, the
CAP school spent six hours teaching the Marines a Vietnamese game, similar to chess.
"They said it's a traditional game and everybody plays it . . . and we learned
it. I've been here a little over 3 months now and I have not yet sat down and played
a game. . . . In fact, I'd venture to say I haven't even seen a game . . . since
Itve been here." Corson, on the other hand, considered the elephant chess
game and other Vietnamese cultural aspects an essential part of the training.12 Another complaint was that not enough time was spent on training in everyday language. "They spent two hours . . . teaching the Marines a song. You don't learn how to say 'the first PF is on watch from 8 to 12' . . . And this is the type of language we have to get across. "13
Problems continued to result from the rapid expansion of the previous year.
First, the necessary growth in the organizational structure (see above) resulted in
"less personal leadership on the lowest level."14 This was a
problem because many basic decisions still had to be made by the NCO in the platoon.
The villages of Vietnam were not homogeneous; the weather, terrain, economy, and intensity
of enemy operations differed from village to village. The difficulty occurred when
"blanket" orders were issued without considering the differences between areas.15
In one instance, a platoon was intructed to organize material for "agricultural
farming and raising pigs. This didn't go too good . . . because ours was a fishing
village. They didn't
want anything to do with pigs. They have them now, but they don't want pig farms."16
Second, because of the relatively large influx of new Marines and their need for equipment, the overall level of training and requirements for recruitment into CAP declined.17 A few CAPS failed to accomplish their mission during this period of expansion. For example, LtCol Max McQuown, Co 3/1, had nothing but disdain for the two platoons in his TAOR. Few of the Marines assigned to these two CAP units had prior ground combat experience. . . . The leaders, and the marines under them in these CAP units, lacked skills in scouting and patrolling, mines and booby traps, map reading, observed fire procedure, basic infantry tactics and VC tactics and techniques. Further, they had scant knowledge of the Vietnamese language and were unfamiliar with the social and religious customs of the people they were living with.18
(This feeling, however, seems to have been more the exception than the rule.) Furthermore, it was not even until late in 1967 that the program received its own Table of Organization and Equipment, necessary to get supplies such as guns and radios through official channels.
The progress of CAP continued throughout 1967, despite the problems it encountered. By the end of 1967, the Combined Action platoons were providing security to nearly 10 percent of the population in I CTZ.19 28 villages experienced an increase in security on the III MAF evaluation scale. Several experienced radical improvement, including Lac Dien, southwest of Phu Bai, which gained 56 points in 12 months and Son Ninh, southwest of Danang, which increased from a zero to a 62 percent rating in less than six months after the deployment of a CAP there.20 FMFPac summed up its evaluation of progress made by the program in 1967:
Combined Action Platoons, fighting an unspectacular yet important segment of the war in I CTZ, continued to influence 25 percent of the villages within III MAF's tactical areas. These units, operating in the heart of the civilian population, conducted 3,090 night ambushes and patrols and 1,854 daylight patrols in December. The results of these actions, 58 guerrillas killed and 14 guerrillas and 24 weapons captured, although undramatic, gave proof to the Vietnamese people of these units' determination and abilities.21
By late in 1967 the criteria for selection to the Combined Action Program had crystallized. fly most accounts, the rigor of the criteria was nearly unparalleled in other programs:
(1) Have been in country for at least two months if on first tour or have served a
(2) Have a minimum of six months remaining on current tour or agree to extend to meet this requirement.
(3) Be a volunteer and motivated to live and work with the Vietnamese people.
(4) Be a mature, motivated Marine and recommended by his commanding officer.
(5) Had no non-judicial punishment within past three months, not more than one non-judicial punishment and no courts-martial within the past year.
(6) Have an average 4.0 mark in conduct and proficiency with last marks at least 4.0.
(7) Have not received more than one Purple Heart award on current tour.
(8) Preferably be a high school graduate.
Unit commanders were instructed to "establish and maintain current rosters of
personnel who meet the above criteria" and use these personnel to fill necessary
quotas.22 As we have seen above and will see below in more detail,
however, some commanders ignored these criteria and instead "volunteered" men
into the program.
The Tet Offensive and the shift to a Mobile Concept
1968 was probably the roughest year for the CAPS. After having been battered by the Tet Offensive, the program integrated a physically exhausting mobile concept. III MAF also instituted Mobile Training Teams, designed to provide "two weeks of basic combat instruction to more than 70 I Corps Popular Force platoons." Throughout the year, moreover, twenty-three new CAPs were activated, bringing the total to 102. Also activated in 1968 were the 4th Combined Action Group (CAG) headquarters in the Quang Tri-Dong Ha-Cam Lo area, and five company headquarters. At the end of the year, 1,763 USMC and 3,036 PF personnel were assigned to the CAP.1
Tet constituted one of the finest hours of the Combined Action Program. According to FMFPac, "Combined Action units made a vital contribution to the ultimate friendly success, as these small Marine/Popular Force units, remaining in place to protect the villages . . . often made the initial enemy contacts, thereby providing larger units the opportunity for exploitation."2
There are many examples of the heroism of individual CAP units. For example, two
CAP units stopped an enemy contingent from attacking Danang. According to General
Krulak, Danang was the only city out of thirty-eight primary VC/NVA targets during Tet
"at which the enemy's effort turned out to be a total failure." He
credited the success to the CAPs.3 LtCol Corson corroborated this:
the Marines of these two units held long enough for American reinforcements to arrive and
destroy two NVA regiments. These Marines fought to the last man; only one from the
platoons survived the attack.4 Many more instances of CAP determination
are cited by FMFPac. These reports summarize the impressive enemy casualty rates
suffered when the VC/NVA forces engaged a CAP.5 After the initial enemy
attacks, moreover, CAPs often provided continued protection and
order. In Binh Son District, for example, eight CAPs were credited with maintaining the safety of the districtes 73,100 inhabitants.6
One must recognize, however, that although most CAPS were attacked, not every CAP
[was]. According to one platoon leader, the VC/NVA bypassed his CAP to hit a city
nearby instead.7 On the opposite side of the spectrum, some CAPs
were hit, and hit hard, by the NVA. The CAP was a unit designed to combat small guerrilla forces, not enemy regiments. When a CAP was overrun, a further danger existed: would the villagers respect a rebuilt CAP that had been slaughtered by the enemy? The results were mixed.8
After Tet came the introduction of a mobile concept. Previously, CAPs had patrolled
from a fixed compound; now the compound was abandoned and the platoons moved constantly
throughout their TAOR. Within a year, over eighty-nine
percent of the CAPs had been switched to mobility.
The mobile CAP did have some disadvantages as compared with the compound concept.
For instance, although FMFPac
claimed that by relocating once every 24 hours and running patrols at night the mobile CA? "avoids routines and defensive pitfalls which may provide a lucrative target for the enemy....Colonel John Greenwood, Director of the 4th CAG in 1968 and an avid supporter of the mobile CAP concept, admitted that this was not so easily accomplished. According to him, he had a terrible time getting Marines to break habits and routines. For example, running nightly patrols conflicted with the normal dinner hour. By the time the Marines finished eating, it was dark; often the VC established an ambush before the Marines arrived at their own positions.10
Greenwood also could appreciate the material benefits of a compound CAP. The Marines could construct a sturdy living area, a place to store equipment, and a shelter to protect them from the elements. The lifestyle in a Mobile CAP, although safer, was much more rigorous, as the men could only use what they could carry on their backs.11
Although the compound CAP had advantages in regards to comfort, most Marines were enthusiatic about the change, primarily because greater mobility led to increased safety and effectiveness. According to one CO, "With its mobility the CAP can keep the VC guessing . . . they [VC] don't like to come after you unless they've had a chance to get set and do some planning. The mobility throws this off. It also means that the CAP can be found anywhere outside a village or hamlet and they don't like this."12 The change to mobility was in part motivated by the fact that so many CAP Marines were killed during the Tet Offensive; with mobility, the CAP no longer lost entire platoons in a single action.13
This feeling was shared by the men who served. According to one such Marine, since the CAP compound was easily identifiable by its sandbags, bunkers, and wire, and since the VC could study the CAP and probe it for weaknesses, "it only takes about 3 seconds to overrun... a small perimeter."9 Mobility eliminated the enemy's ability to fix the position of the CAP for mortar or rocket attacks. As he summed it up, "if the enemy can't fix you, they cannot hit you."14 Furthermore, the ompound CAPs represented "an overhead to the Marines who occupy them." Since fifty percent of the Marines were required to defend them at all times, fewer were available to patrol the areas under their protection.15
The switch to a mobile concept also led in most instances to greater contact with the villagers, as the CAP Marine was on the move through the village at night, but rested in a different villager's house each day. Furthermore, the shift improved relations between the PF and the Marine elements of the CAP. As Colonel E.F. Danowitz, Director of CAP in 1969 described it,
"The Marine now lives as closely to the PF as he possibly
could. There is no distinction, for example,
between the Marine, with what he wears, with what he bears, and with what he eats to what the PF is
accustomed to in his own area. . . . The food is very often shared, by that I mean that a Marine will bring
his Charlie rations in . . and they can be provided to the PF and his wife will add rice to them and add
some "nouc mam and assist in the preparation of a meal which will then jointly be shared. There is no
longer the situation of the Marine sitting in a bunker with his tape recorder or his hi-fi or even his
television set and on the other end of the bunker, under a tent . . . sits the PF, with none of these luxuries. Therefore, the commonality of standard has been achieved as closely as possible. The resentment is being certainly discontinued as much as possible and you have an increased cooperation through a mutual
association in the same environment. I think this is vital . . . to the conduct of the program."16
Only a few Marines seemed to oppose the transformation of the CAP to a mobile
program. One, Colonel David Wagner,
Deputy Director, CAP, 1967-68, argued that "the CAP presence in the villages was to show U.S. involvement at the village
level. Many civic programs . . . relied upon the entree the CAP units provided."17
Another notable opponent was the first Director, CAP, LtCol William R. Corson. According to him, if the CAPs were doing their job correctly, working with the villagers, gaining their trust, the CAPs would receive good intelligence information. The threat to the compound would be minimized, rendering the shift to mobility superfluous. It was important to have a compound to provide tangible evidence of the Marines' commitment to the village.18
While Corson's and Wagner's arguments have merit, an overriding factor must be considered. According to MajGen E. E. Anderson, LtGen Robert Cushman implemented this mobility to preserve the Combined Action Platoons from falling to bureaucratic infighting. As Anderson analyzed it at the time,
The CAP program is not very popular with the people in MACV, the DepCORDS people or the MACV people. When Ambassador Komer was there, he tried his darndest to get the CAP program absorbed into the RF/PF program. Now, the Army has gone to MATS (Mobile Advisory Teams) and MALTS (Mobile Advisory Logistic Teams) and they've got a considerable number now in I Corps and throughout Vietnam. So what Komer's latest ploy was, to absorb the CAPs into the RF/PF structure and that would be controlled by DepCORDS. . . . General Cushman resisted this, and he felt that by coming up with some new idea, like the mobile CAP, he would get more mileage out of the CAP program and forestall any attempt on the part of Komer and other people at MACV to destroy the CAP program.19
At this time, General Abrams, the U.S. Deputy Commander in Saigon, wanted to improve the training and capabilities of the PF; he felt the best way to accomplish this was by utilizing the Combined Action Program. When the number of CAPs expanded to 114, 11 of these were redesignated as Mobile Training Teams (MTTs). They conducted a "12 day course (which) stressed aggressive patolling and ambushing and additional leadership training to PF platoon leaders to make them more effective and even more confident in their own ability."20
The results of this training program were mixed, rising or falling with the discipline and ability of the various PF units. Although the benefits to be reaped by the PFs were obvious, sometimes they "refuse[d] to participate in our practical applications of the classes [or] don't [even) want to listen in the classes we give."21 This situation did not hold true for all PFs, however, and some improved dramatically as a result of Marine training.22
The language barrier also limited the effectiveness of some of the training. As one Corporal put it, "any training [the PFs] can get is good. They need the basics. The Marines know it, but due to a lack of language they have trouble communicating it."23 (For further discussion, see "Problems," below.)
The MTTs were designed to train PF units in I CTZ until the Army had outfitted and
organized Mobile Advisory Teams. (MATs) to undertake such training. By August 1969,
45 MATs had been established; the CAPS returned to limiting their
training of PFs to ordinary CAP activities.24
The Most Active Year and a Reassessment of Selection
In 1969, the Combined Action Program expanded to its authorized strength of 4 groups, 20 company headquarters, and 114 platoons, adding one company headquarters and 13 platoons in the process. Manpower levels now stood at 1,710 USMC, 119 USN, and 2,991 PF personnel. Coupled with the mobile concept, which now had been implemented in virtually every platoon, this increase in size resulted in 1969 being the most active operational year ever for the CAPS. Although the platoons conducted over 145,000 patrols and ambushes (double the number for 1968), the "attrition of enemy strength--1,938 NVA/VC killed, 425 taken prisoner, and 932 weapons captured--was lower."1 According to FMFPac, these statistics showed that the enemy was finding it more difficult to "penetrate the pacification areas."2 It remains an open question, however, whether these statistics reflect that the war had changed from a guerrilla to a main force unit war--Tet had substantially reduced the power of the VC. If we were fighting the NVA, the CAPs, located in outlaying areas and presenting relatively insignificant targets, would receive less action. One CAG commander sugqested that the number of contacts made was a measure of success.3 Based on this criteria the CAPs were less successful in 1969. According to Col Ted Metzger, on the other hand, CAPs were more successful. "CAP mobility increased CAP security and resulted in fewer contacts than that experienced during the year of Tet."4
By 1969, the existing selection system, with its rigorous criteria, had been in place
for several years. The inadequacies of this system had become evident (but were not
serious enough to impair the program's success). The first problem had to do with
"the frequency with which these elaborate guidelines were ignored by commanding
officers in filling their quotas."5 Although dismaying, one can
understand that a commander would be hesitant to recommend his most capable men for
transfer to other duty. Many of the CAP Marines had been "volunteered" for
duty by their COs. Unfortunately, many battalion commanders regarded CAP quotas as a
depository for his misfits. Some CAG commanders disputed the harm in this
"allocation of misfits." For example, Col J. R. Day, CO 2d CAG, 1968,
considered that the misfits were so labelled because they were independant
thinkers and tried to seek creative solutions to problems.6 Although Day appreciated individual initiative in the platoons, one disruptive Marine could instantly destroy the goodwill established by a CAP with its village. Furthermore, while the screening process was designed to filter out "undesirables," men could slip through by saying that they "want[ed] to help the people."7 Many attempted to do this because they had heard CAP duty was easier than life in a line unit.
A second, more subtle problem was that to the typical "grunt", a Vietnamese
face was considered a source of danger, an enemy. CAP duty, on the other hand,
required a desire to help and protect these Vietnamese "faces." This
shift, according to one commentator, "required a fundamental shift of conditioned
attitudes too profound for many to manage." The men would confess this problem
freely--"We've been up in the mountains for months where it's been kill, kill, kill;
now we come down here and are told we're supposed to love them all. It's too much to
ask."8 Interestingly, according to Colonel Jerue, CO 9th Mar, the reason
that the CAP Marines were taken from Division billets in the first place was that the CAG
commanders wanted to
give them a chance to become acclimated to Vietnam and the Vietnamese people. As he points out, however, it was rare that an infantry Marine (outside of those placed in CAP units) ever got to know a single Vietnamese.9 According to LtCol Corson, however, it was important for a Marine to become acclimated to the environment (weather, terrain, enemy) through service in a line unit before joining a combined action platoon. In addition, this exposure to the population gave a Marine a first-hand view of the general antipathy that the people felt towards the Americans. This exposure to the people was designed to prevent the development of the ethnocentric view that the Vietnamese "should be grateful;" such a view might alienate the villagers in a CAP's TAOR.10
A third problem was that the necessity to have served in combat significantly reduced a
Marine's length of service in a CAP. Frequently, the Marine's rotation date arrived
just as he was beginning to know, understand, and become friends with the villages (as
compared with a typical grunt" who rarely got to know a single Vietnamese).
Extensions of CAP service did not always solve this problem, "since some
Marines . . extended for inappropriate reasons (e.g., to ensure that they
don't get a second tour), and in fact problems with extenders have become so common in
some areas that commanders have been known to (informally) discourage extension."11
According to Colonel E.F. Danowitz, then Director of the Combined Action Program,
nearly one-third of those Marines seeking extensions were rejected.12
In an effort to alleviate these problems, in May 1969 the selection process became a
random one of choosing CAP Marines from the Staging Battalion in the United States.
According to Col Metzger, the pool from which CAP Marines were chosen represented
the top ten percent of replacement Marines" taken from the draft.13 To
ensure the selection of the highest-quality Marines, "All selectees have their
records screened by the CAP Director's staff (grounds for rejection include . . .
disciplinary problems, incidence of venereal disease, etc.) and all selectees with the
rank of Corporal or above are interviewed personally,
--frequently by the CAP Director h imself.."14 Selectees initially sent to CAP training school and then directly to a CAP without serving in an infantry unit first. About twenty percent of those chosen were rejected during CAP school.15
Two problems, however, must be considered. The first issue was whether a new
recruit without prior combat experience would panic in a firefight. According to a
study commissioned by the Marines, the seriousness of this question was discounted by
experienced Marines, who pointed out that "each battle is a new and unique experience
for everyone."16 According to one of the first leaders of a platoon,
Capt J.J. Mullen, however, to "assign untrained, inexperienced C C C personnel to
combined action units would be highly detrimental to the program."17
LtCol Corson argued against this type of selection for a different reason, contending that
it was important that CAP Marines had been involved in combat, or
"blooded." According to him, "before you can go about the infinitely
more complicated task of saving lives [which was a goal of the
CAP], you have to know what it means to take a life."18
The second potential problem was that behavioral and disciplinary problems seemed to
increase as a Marine's rotation date grew near. It has not been determined, however,
whether this had to do with his "thinking about home" or, instead, whether a
limit exists to the period of a CAP Marinets effectiveness. If the latter reason is
valid, then sending a Marine to a CAP for his full Vietnam tour might have been
self-defeating. No material has been produced to adequately meet this question.19
Peak and Decline: the Creation of the CAF
During 1970, the Combined Action Program reached its peak in size and strength (of
2,050 enlisted USMC and 3,000 PF
personnel) before cutting back to match III MAF personnel reductions. The most notable administrative change occurred on 11 January, when III MAF created the Combined Action Force (CAF) as a headquarters for the four Combined Action Groups. The CAF was placed under the operational control of XXIV Corps.1 Since the Marine strength in Vietnam was
declining, this change, according to FMFPac, "was necessary to assure effective support of the CAPs by the U.S. Navy and
ARVN."2 According to one CO, "designation of a Combined Action Force Command strengthened the program since it took
it out of the realm of a staff function and gave it the status of a command. [As a result,] I think that the change improved personnel and logistics support and increased the support available from the various staff sections of III MAF."3 The Director of the Combined Action Program, then Col Theodore E. Metzger, became Commanding Officer of the Force and ran the CAF schools for Vietnamese language and new CAP training.4
Although under operational control of III MAF at the outset, CAF eventually became subordinate to XXIV Corps (U.S. Army) in March when that organization assumed operational control of all U.S military personnel and operations in I CTZ.5 This change in command, however, did not alter the everyday operations ofthe individual platoons. LtGen Melvin Zais, Commanding Officer of XXIV Corps, ensured operational continuity by instructing that the CAP was to "continue as previously ordered by CG III MAF..."7
As III MAF cutbacks increased, parallel reductions were implemented in the CAP.
As the program's strength and influence shrank, in September control reverted back to III
MAF. Deactivation of individual CAP units began in June 1970; in July, the 4th CAG
in Quang Tri was disestablished. By late August, only Quang Nam had functional CAPs.
Finally, CAP Headquarters rotated out of Vietnam in September. The remaining effort
was concentrated exclusively in the 2d CAG in Quang Nam with 34 CAPs. The number of
Marines and Navy corpsmen reached a temporary equilibrium of 633 personnel; coupled with
only 806 PF and RF troops, this represented a major drop from the peak totals of only six
months previous--approximately 2,000
Marines and 3,000 PFs and RFs.8
In preparation for their imminent departure, the Marines placed heavy emphasis on training the PFs and RFs. Thus, for the first time, PF soldiers began to consistently conduct patrols without Marine participation. According to official statistics, this method of operation seemed to work: "[d]uring the first quarter of 1970, for example, the CAP PF platoons, representing about 12 percent of the total number of PFs in I Corps, accounted for about 29 percent of the enemy killed by PFs and about 40 percent of the weapons captured."9
During March, a study group in CORDS, the pacification branch of MACV, recommended that
the ~CAP chain of command be integrated into CORDS."10 Although
praising the program's success in providing security and increasing the
performance of PFs, the study criticized the CAP chain of command as inconsistent with "that required by GVN and US national directives."11 According to the CORDS report, the CAP PFs bypassed the village chief to rely on direction from
the district. Further, it claimed that by operating outside the CORDS structure the CAP Commanders were duplicating efforts of CORDS District and Province Senior Advisors, thereby weakening the "single management concept" advocated by the CORDS people.12
Colonel Metzger replied to this critique, disputing the notion that "CORDS has a monopoly interest in pacification and . . . should control the CAF in the interest of single manager effectiveness." Furthermore, he argued that the "CAF is a tactical military unit assigned a security mission [and] CORDS possesses no capability to direct or support military Operations."1 His recommendation, that CAF remain a separate entity from CORDS, prevailed with CG XXIV Corps.13
As had been done in 1969, the CAF continued to get personnel straight from the staging battalion in the United States. Most had not volunteered, although clean disciplinary records and high scores on intelligence tests were prerequisites to CAP duty. Colonel Metzger, as CO CAF, exercised his right to reject replacements he considered unfit. This amounted to approximately twenty-five percent of incoming Marines. As one commentator put it, Metzger "gave particular care to the selection of NCOs for the critical position of CAP squad leader."14 The rationale behind this scrutiny, according to Metzger, was that:
If you have a good, strong CAP leader--strong in all respects, you
have a good, strong trung si [Vietnamese
PF leader], because they learn by sort of a process of osmosis, and observation, and emulation, and I saw
this happen time after time. We all commented on this. This isn't to say that a weak CAP leader couldn't start with a strong trung si, but it wasn't long before he was down to . . . the Marine's level.15
As III MAF reduced its in-country levels, the CAF suffered from shortages of personnel. Fourteen men per CAP, the desired troop level, was seldom realized in 1970. Furthermore, due to a shortage of qualified sergeants, one-third of the CAPS were commanded by corporals or lance-corporals, many still in their teens and "few with previous Vietnam combat experience." In addition, because of low troop levels, few men could afford to take leave to attend language school; the CAF, therefore, was dreadfully short on Marines fluent in Vietnamese.16 Reduced personnel levels afflicted the headquarters staff as well, as "we very seldom were able to achieve [officer] overlap, which in the CAF is a critical requirement."17
Although relatively successful in implementing its mission of enhancing village security, the program suffered two major problems beyond those created by manpower shortages. First, the CAF requirement that line units seek approval to enter a CAP TAOR from both the Combined Action Company and district chief was inefficient; time taken to acquire such approval often hampered battalion operations based on CAP intelligence.18
Another difficulty arose when the Vietnamese began using Regional Forces (RF) as
replacements in some units. The RFs, unlike their PF counterparts who "had no higher
military organization and were answerable directly to the village chief, . . . had their
own companies, group, and battalions, the commanders of which were not controlled by the
district chiefs but [by] the province chief."19 This organizational
structure, according to LtCol J.J. Tolnay, made personnel problems with the RFS, "and
there were many," difficult to resolve. According to him, relations
"deteriorated to the point where my only recourse was to
pull a CAP when the RFs refused to operate in a sound tactical manner or refused to provide us with the number of personnel necessary to conduct operations."20
In the years since the program's inception, 93 CAPs had relocated to new villages and hamlets from those considered able to defend themselves. According to FMFPac and Colonel Metzger, no such village ever reverted to VC domination.21 While this was true, according to Francis McNamara, American Consul in Vietnam and political advisor to XXIV Corps, the quality of PF performance slipped dramatically once the Marines pulled out.22 This did sometimes occur for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that American Marines were reluctant to provide firepower to a Vietnamese calling on a radio. The danger that the VC was calling in mortars on a Marine position was too great. In addition, as noted above, the village officials were unenthusiastic about having PFs be mobile. Without Marines present, the PFs tended to remain within the village, thereby curtailing their effectiveness. FMFPac, on the other hand, believed in the residual efficacy of the Combined Action Program, 23 as did the Directors of the CAP, one of whom called the continuity of village security the "proof of the program."24
Deactivation: the CAPs Come Home
In late 1969, the Marines devised a deactivation plan for the Combined Action Force. The CAPs, they decided, would be deactivated and redeployed in proportion to cutbacks in other Marine units. Several factors informed this decision. First, III MAF's authorized manpower ceiling included CAF Marines. Thus, if the number of platoons were not reduced, the imminent reduction in the ceiling would cause too great a decrease in conventional units' personnel and strength. The CAPs relied on these units for support, logistic supply, and reinforcement against attack; recognizing the limited importance given this program by MACV (see below), the Marines preferred not to have to rely entirely on the U.S. Army and the ARVN for such assistance. As a result, a balance between CAPs and other Marine units had to be struck.1
Furthermore, LtGen Herman Nickerson, CO III MAF, was reluctant to withdraw too many conventional forces because he regarded their higher headquarters as providing necessary be supervision" to the CAF units. Without this close and constant watch, Nickerson believed that discipline, and with it effectiveness, would erode in these isolated, relatively independant platoons: ". . . those damn Marines go bamboo on you . . unless you can get out there and kick ass, take names, and be sure that they're up to snuff. One Marine batting a gal on the ass is going to do more to discredit the Marine Corps and the Combined Action Program....so I had to come to the hard conclusion that we had to take them out as the Marine Poppa units left."2
The Marines began reducing their CAF contingents despite the fact that the U.S. Army "had no comparable organization with which to replace the CAPs and in spite of great ARVN reluctance to lose these particular Marines."3 As aGen Leo J. Dulacki, Nickerson's Chief of Staff, put it, "one of the things that (the Vietnamese generals) are worried about. . . are the CAPs. This is going to be a trauma to them. . . . One of the final words General Troung gave to me was, I don't care what else you do but please don't take the CAPs. . . . [if (they) have their way, the CAPs would probably stay there indefinitely."4
A major problem in the deactivation process was the fear and insecurity created in the villages when a CAP left. The Marines utilized psychological warfare teams, posters, leaflets, and loudspeaker trucks to inform and reassure the villagers. Two themes pervaded these efforts: "that the Marines were leaving because they were needed more elsewhere and that the local RF and PF could beat the Communists without American help."5 In addition, each CAP deactivation was preceded by a formal ceremony; the presence of distinguished guests (e.g., a CAG commander or district chief) was designed to convince the villagers they were not being abandoned. All parties involved, however, recognized that continued confidence could result only through PF and RF performance and success.6 Although the PF's and RF's had some notable successes working without the Marines to support them,7 the amount of reassurance felt by the villagers is difficult to ascertain. Army Province Reports give no indication of PF's success or failure when the Marines pulled out, although the quality of PF performance sometimes dropped without Marines present. (see above).
On 21 September 1970, CAF was formally disestablished and operational control of the remaining platoons was passed from XXIV Corps to III MA?. In Quang Nam province, the 2d CAG coordinated the surviving units.8 This group maintained operations until 17 May 1971; its deactivation brought to a close one of the most successful programs implemented during the Vietnam War.
The View From the Ground: Major Problems and Difficulties
From beginning to end, the Combined Action Program faced problems, problems often more apparent to Marines directly involved in the daily operations of a CAP than to generals and commanding officers.1 The major area of concern to CAP Marines revolved around their general relations with the Vietnamese and the PFs, including difficulties resulting from a language barriers and cultural misunderstandings. This area was the major problem of the program, since the CAP's success or failure rested on cooperation and trust between the American and indigenous elements. Although not discussed by FMFPac, the Marines on the ground had plenty to say on this topic. One must remember, however, that generalizations did not hold true in
Vietnam, as the ability of PFs, intra-platoon relations, and the attitude of villagers towards the CAPs varied from village to village. This chapter will only present the problems; the success of the program, alluded to above in the narrative, will be discussed in the next section.
A continuous problem was the fact that a language barrier existed between American Marines and Vietnamese PFs. A language school was established and language training provided, but often classes were not long or intense enough to be sufficient. CAPs with one Marine who could communicate in Vietnamese were considered fortunate; some had to rely on children as interpreters;2 and in others, the Marines and PFs developed hand and arm signals to communicate. While this latter practice proved relatively effective during the daytime, for obvious reasons it was inefficient during nighttime patrolling.
As serious, and sometimes a direct outgrowth of the difficulties in communication, were
cultural misunderstandings that led to tension and hostility between Marines and Pr's and
villagers. The greatest source of this hostility was the different perspective of
the Americans and Vietnamese with regard to theft. Whereas the former believed in
the sanctity of personal property, the
Vietnamese did not consider borrowing an "unused" object to be a wrongdoing. According to one CAP Marine, for example,
during monsoon season,
We have rain gear hanging up in different places and if the PF sees that you're
not using it and it's
raining out, there's a possibility that he'll come over and he'll take it and. . . use it until it stops
raining. And for right now, it's about three months to go. Then at the end of the three months, if itts.
still serviceable, well, then he'll bring it back and you'll probably find it in the same spot you left it.3
While such an occurrence may seem humorous to the outside observer, constant theft by
the PFs was a serious problem in
nearly every platoon.4 Furthermore, if a Marine accused a PF of stealing, the PF often would get insulted, sulk, and neglect his responsiblity to the platoon. Although most Marines entered the program with a sincere desire to help the Vietnamese, the stealing created such tension that "it just . . . wears them (the Marines) down and they get to have a hate for these people."5 In addition, the resultant hard feelings led some Marines to lessen their commitment to the program in general. According to one private, in his platoon the PFs' stealing resulted in "real bad hard feelings, which only last a couple of days because then you
say, 'So what? They can't stop the clock on me. I'll be leaving pretty soon.' And that's how come a lot of Marines start to slack off on their seriousness about this CAP program.".6
Hostility also occasionally flared when modern methods used by the Marines to help the villagers clashed with ancient religious practices. For example,
One time a boy was drowning and (the family) didn't want our corpsman to even touch him because [of] their religion. They feared us. . . . This boy was drowning and they were trying to cure him in real medieval ways like, he was full of water and he couldn't breathe and they were trying to blow in his ear. This was to make him well! We had to force them off the boy and we had to get him artificial respiration. And he lived; but the people, it took a long time for us to gain their confidence again because of this.7
Unintentional cultural insults were commonplace as well, not surprising based on the lack of cultural preparation given the CAP Marines. The Marines, upon arrival, had a tendency to offend PFs without realizing it. According to one Marine, the PFs were
very easily disturbed and sometimes you don't really know why until
a couple of days later when you find
out that . . . a PF . . . was talking to Marine Smith and . . . grabbed ahold of Smith's hand and Smith
automatically smacked [him] on the wrist to just let go of his hand . . . not thinking that [holding hands]
was [the PF's] gesture of friendship.. . [H]olding hands between two men has rather derogatory overtones
back in the States, and the first impulse is to slap the guy's hand away, and now you've got feelings
The main problem, however, occurred when Marines felt that the PFS were not
contributing a reasonable amount of effort. Voicing a commonly held complaint, one
captain said that the PFs "tend to be lazy and. . . . I'd say the Marines do
the lion's share, about 75 percent, of the working that goes on in the area. . . .
The Marines work around the clock . . . and the PF always takes his three-hour siesta at
noontime..."9 Understandably, since the Marines saw the Combined Action
Platoons as a
50-50 proposition, the PFs' "laziness" raised tremendous tension.
In addition, many Marines questioned the PFs' motivation in combat. Although one of the missions of the CAP was to train PFs, the PFs often would skip classes held by Marines. According to one sergeant, training was difficult to accomplish "when you have to find where they are and . . . they have no ambition to learn [because] they're fairly well scared of the V[iet] C[ong]."10 Once trained, however, no guarantee existed for PF cooperation. "When he doesn't want to go out, he'll fake a . . . cough and if he's made to go out . . . when he gets out into an ambush site . . he will bring up this cough. [Then] there's no sense in even being out there because [he is] giving your position away and you can be ambushed yourself."11 Another Marine felt that "we have 30 PFs with us, and approximately three or four of these PFs are fighting men. The rest of them are just toy soldiers in green uniforms with rifles."12 This feeling was understandable, for in several platoons, the PFs never became "combat ready." For example, one PFC complained that whenever his platoon was attacked by the enemy, the PFs won't fire at the VC, they'll fire straight up in the air.... They say it scares the VC away. . . . They take it as a big joke.13
A constant threat to the CAP Marines was the possibility that the PFs were either Va themselves or had reached an accomodation with the VC. This was more common than one might imagine. One CAP squad leader estimated that of the PFs,
...you have approximately ten percent infiltrators that are using
the uniform to gain information, routines
you throw yourself in, what kind of weapons you've got in the compound . . . how long you can stay alive
under an attack without running out of ammo, how many radios you've got. It's very easy for them to come
into your C[ommand] P[ost] which you . . . share with their so-called honcho. And they can just look at the
dial [on your radio] an. .d get your frequency and then they can either jam you out that night or listen to a full conversation and know exactly . . what you're going to do.14
Danger also presented itself when the PFs had made a deal with the Viet Cong. One vital Pr contribution was that they knew the local terrain to such an extent that they could point out booby-traps or trip wires planted by the VC. As a result, the Marines always took PFs on patrol with them. When a PF-VC arrangement had been concluded, the PFs would not patrol past a certain point, leaving the Marines to proceed unaided.15
Although in some villages intelligence information and gestures of friendship towards Marines were commonplace, not all CAP units experienced such a friendly atmosphere. Four reasons were the root causes of this latter situation. First, many villagers' sons and daughters had joined the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese army. As a result, they would endanger the lives of their offspring if they gave information on the whereabouts of the NVA to the Marines. Furthermore, the villagers' sons and daughters served as hostages that precluded cooperation with the Marines. As one corporal described it, "A lot of [villagers] have got sons in the VC or NVA. They just don't want to have anything to do with us. A lot of them won't even look at you when you try to talk to them . . . they just won't cooperate.16
Second, some CAPS had difficulty establishing credible security.17 It took time for the CAPs to learn the local terrain, become effective, and start killing Viet Cong. When they became effective, intelligence information and village friendship usually developed. But the danger always existed that the Viet Cong would try to reestablish its position in the village. Although never permanently successful, VC efforts sometimes weakened the bond of trust and security between the villager and the Marine.
At one time the people were real helpful towards us. They gave us
information about vC movement. But now there's been a lot of VC
sympathizers [who have] moved into this ville and the VC have come in and
assassinated approximately four people and they've left notes saying that if any more information is given to us by the people that the same thing will happen to them. So as far as information from the people goes, it has slacked off and we don't . . get any from them any more.18
A third cause of village non-cooperation, and one that every CAP had to fight against, was pure apathy. Sgt Theodore C. Zoutis, a platoon leader, put this problem into perspective: "... the villagers have been over here a lot longer than we have. We've only been here... maybe two years for a tour of duty; these villagers have been here for 20, 30, 40, or 50 years, and they're getting tired of the war. . .19 Nonetheless, the Marines perservered with the attitude that, despite this situation, "it's our job to show these people how they can help themselves when this war ends" through civic action projects such as building wells, schools, and improving sanitation.20
Lastly, one could not expect all Vietnamese villages, some hundreds of years old, to quickly open their arms and welcome foreigners. Even though the Marines sought to help the villagers, it was no surprise that in some areas, "the understanding out here...is that the Vietnamese do not identify with us, do not like us to the point where they will never tell on another Vietnamese."21
Evaluation: A Success
It is difficult to measure with precision the success of the Combined Action Platoons since the validity of statistics is open to question and, in a general sense, every U.S. program in Vietnam was a failure: Saigon is now Ho Chi Minh City. Further, CAPs were generally implemented in villages that were either pro-U.S or at least neutral. By using four perspectives, however, CAP's success can be assessed, albeit from a Marine Corps viewpoint.1 The first is what the man on the ground throught about the program and his participation in it, and evaluate its success from his viewpoint. Second is the South Vietnamese villagers' point of view. Third is an analysis of Viet Cong and NVA reaction to the platoons as a measure of success. The next chapter will present the feeling of U.S. Army officers about the program and speculate as to why MACV limited the number of
manpower slots available to the CAPs.
Nearly every CAP Marine interviewed believed the program to be a huge success. Those who felt otherwise in part contended that while the CAP theory was fine, in practice the individual units were too small to handle VC attacks and too scattered to provide an interlocking network of support.2 These are valid complaints but not sufficient to justify low marks for the program as a whole.
Why? The prevalent feeling of the men who served in a platoon was that "[i]f we could get a CAP unit in every ville in Vietnam . . . we could eliminate the problem of the VC. We could also eliminate the supplies which the [VC and) NVA rely on most;"3 or, "I feel that this type of program is going to win this conflict in Vietnam. Maybe not now or in the next five years or even in the next ten years. But the children that we're helping now are going to remember who helped them..."4 and finally, "I know this program works. I see it work every day and I see improvement every day. I feel . . . that this is one of the answers to solving the problems we have here in the Republic of Vietnam."5
This feeling of success was justified. For example, under the protective umbrella
of the CAPs, villagers could live their lives without harrassment from the VC/NVA..
In one platoon, the Marines built a large concrete warehouse with tin roofing and
the people brought in their harvested rice and stored it there. When this platoon came into the area, this was the first time in . . . almost a decade that these people had been able to keep all of their rice and not have to give any sort of a tax levy to the Viet Cong. Of course, this meant a great deal to the people because the price of rice was rising in Danang and they were able to send their children to school, buy their transistor radios and bicycles. And this was something they hadn't done in a long time.
(The villagers were very appreciative of Marine efforts [see below]. In the
situation described above, "at Tet, the
Marines of this village were receiving 15 to 20 invitations a day to eat with the Vietnamese in the village. Now this
is the way the Combined Action Platoon Program is supposed to work!")7
A fundamental ingredient in the maintenance of this security was active patrolling by the small platoons. According to one captain, a single platoon often recorded as many enemy "kills" as an entire U.S. Army battalion:
You'd be amazed what these [patrols] can do, the destruction they can cause, and the good job that they [do]. I've seen the Army pull into an area with two battalions, 20 or 30 gunships . . the whole bit and get on line and sweep though an area and not come up with a single thing. Well, that's not the way you're going to win a war over there, as far as I'm concerned. You've got to play Charlie's game, which is small groups going in, hitting where they want, catching him in his own habitat. . . . But you're not going to come in there with . . 800 people without him seeing you. . . You ve got to sneak in, sneak around like he does. . . To get the . . . hardcore VC you've got to go after them in small groups and play their game of hiding, moving around at night, and so forth.
Such success that resulted from the CAP strategy raises questions as to why the Army did not adopt such a program itself or at least expand the Marine Corps' effort. I will address this issue below.
Despite hazardous odds and the probability of suffering causualties,9 it is a tribute to the program and demonstrative of the importance attached to it that (at least through mid-1968) "approximately three out of four CAP Marines extended their Vietnam tours one or more times.10 One private summed up the feeling of others: "I volunteered to come back. I didn't have to come back but I wanted to...just to . . . see if I can't help to end this war. Problems with some extenders aside (see above), such motivation reflects the hope and confidence felt by the man on the ground..
Vietnamese villagers also regarded the CAPs as successful. This was demonstrated in three notable ways. (As noted above, the problems the Marines encountered with the villagers occurred in only a minority of instances.) First, the villagers welcomed the Marines into their homes. This suggests that they apparently considered the CAPs as protectors, not occupiers. For example, one sergeant commented that "when walking through the village we have a hard time going on day patrols because everybody wants you to stop and lunch with them or have something to eat or at least have a glass of tea. . .12 Another CAP Marine reinforced the idea that the Vietnamese welcomed the Marines by pointing out that
About five times a week . . any of the squad leaders have to go out to weddings, funerals. . . . [A]lmost every day of the week we have to go out and eat with the people at some sort of celebration. . .They have celebrations . . . for everything, and they always want Marines there to show that they are welcome whatever is going on. Myself, I've been to inaugurations of the village chiefs, weddings, wakes, when a boy became a priest. . . . They really want you to take part.13
The second way the Vietnamese revealed their gratitude to the platoons was through the flow of intelligence information on Viet Cong activity in the village. Two actors, one essentially negative and the other positive, ncouraged the provision of this information to the Marines. Obviously, the CAPS had to provide credible permanent security; once safety was established, the villagers could provide information without fear of VC retribution. The importance of permanent security in stimulating a flow of intelligence is summed up by a captain who served both in a regular line outfit and a CAP:
What it takes to have those people trust you is having them know
you're going to stay there and fight for
them and, if need be, die for them. When I was with a line company we used to move into a ville, search and
destroy, and then move out again. We'd get people and ask them, "Have you seen Charlie? Where are they
hiding? Where is their ammo? Where is their gear? Where are their guns?" And they wouldn't tell you. They were scared because they knew you were there for a minute and you were going to protect them but the
next day you'd be moving out. [They undoubtedly thought] "Well, I won't tell you anything because Charlie will be back there the next night and cut my throat.14
The civic action program, which also drew the Vietnamese closer to the Americans, was the second factor encouraging the flow of intelligence.15 Ranging from English classes to sanitation classes, digging wells to building schools, civic action represented to the Vietnamese the American commitment to improving the way of life in the village. According to one sergeant, civic action was just as important as military protection: "Patrolling will stop the Victor Charlie, but my civic action . . . turns the program on," drawing the villagers to the Allied side.16 It was important, however, for the Marines to have the Vietnamese build schools and dig wells themselves: this reduced the likelihood that the VC would destroy them. The VC recognized that if they demolished something that the villagers had built they could only earn village hostility. If the Americans had built it alone, its destruction would have been met with indifference.17 Most notable among civic action efforts was the Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAPS). Through this program, whereby a Navy corpsman established a medical aid station, the villagers came to trust the corpsman and, by extension, the CAP Marines.18 This trust often resulted in villagers providing useful intelligence information.
This information usually took one of two main forms. One was active participation by the villagers in the capture of VC/NVA. In one village, for example, "the village chief turned out the entire village with their torches" to search for VC infiltrators.19 In another, the villagers set up a home guard which guarded the village entrance gate. They used Buddha drums as a warning alarm to the Marines. "[E]very hour on the hour they'd give us a check: they'd start real slow tapping . . . and then . . . work it up to a fast tap and then quit. That's their signal of all clear...that everything's still secure. But if anyone did try to get in there the drum would be beat at a fast rate."20
And, to give a final example, "the village chief personally led a Marine patrol to get an NVA soldier that was hidden and walked up within five feet of him and fingered him, showing the Marines exactly where he was."21 More often than not, however, the flow of information was done in a second, more subtle fashion, using the PFs or village children as conduits of intelligence.
The third way that the Vietnamese demonstrated their appreciation and faith in the program was by moving into a CAP's TAOR. Although the movement of a few families at any given time was most common, several Marines related how entire villages and hamlets moved into their CAP's area of security.22
The Viet Cong and NVA, according to CAP Marines, also recognized the value of the CAPs and regarded them as a threat. One sergeant described a regular enemy document that "was uncovered that had a map and it had [our village] blocked off and said that the people there don't give the VC any more cooperation ... and that the Marines there have the area too well patrolled, to stay out of it."23
As a result, the VC/NVA often tried to break up or eliminate the platoons. One
way they attempted was to scare the Popular Forces into abandoning their commitment to the
CAPs. According to one sergeant, the VC "had a loudspeaker and they came around
the compound and warned the PFs not to have anything to do with us."24
A more common enemy reaction was full-scale attack.
[The VC/NVA forces] would hit us with battalions. We're talking
about 14 Marines and a corpsman, and
sometimes 25 to 35 PFs. We'd get hit with two or three battalions. They'd really want to knock us out
because they knew that the people were respecting us, respecting the idea that we were trying to help them and we were getting across to the people. They realized this and realized that we were a bigger threat than an Army battalion . . . because we were accomplishing more things, doing more good for the Vietnamese people. . . . So they tried . . . many times to hit us and overrun our compound. And the whole time I was there, they hit us ...approximately 20 times.25
The majority of CAPs, however, were able to hold off much larger attack forces than themselves until American reinforcements were able to arrive.26
Coupled with FMFPac data, the three perspectives provided in this chapter demonstrate the success of the Combined Action Program. From the perspective of FMFPac, it was an unqualified success, providing security to many villagers of South Vietnam and training the PFs to ensure continued protection. The man on the ground also regarded the CAP as a success espite some of the problems that troubled the program throughout its existence. The Vietnamese, from villagers to the VC/NVA, also regarded the CAP as a significant, important American effort. After all, no village that had had a platoon ever reverted to VC domination. It remains to be seen, however, why no more than 2000 Marines were allocated to CAP at any one time. The next chapter seeks to meet this issue.
Conclusion: The Limitation of the CAP
The Marines and Vietnamese were not alone in praising. the CAP; Army officers endorsed the CAP concept as well. According to several Marine Corps colonels, many Army officers believed that the CAPs were a viable method of winning the war.1 According to one, "the Army officers that I've encountered in many of the areas have told me that the only final way to win this thing is to use the Marine Corps methods. . . You just can't go bashing about the bush and take off. You've got to stay there and gain the confidence of the people if we're ever going to make this pacification thing work."2 Another was perplexed by the Army's reluctance to increase the program since "the Army officers in I Corps who come in contact with it are completely sold on it and . . . cannot understand why the Army in the other Corps areas will not adopt similar programs."3
MACV documents and studies also praised the Combined Action Program. Headquarters
USMACV wrote that "CAPs have
provided a type model for sustained integrated operations with territorial forces. This technique has proven to be effective and economical."4 Another MACV report commented that the Combined Action Program [offered] the prospect for a modest investment in US forces yielding a major improvement in local security. To the extent that this was the final goal of all military operations in SVN, and the task which was proving to be the most difficult, every opportunity for achieving that goal should be pursued."5 CORDS, the pacification arm of MACV, reported that "the tangible benefits of the CAP program have included better intelligence and increased security for the 88,000 people in the CAP hamlets. The CAP hamlets have an average security score of 2.95 on the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) scale of 5.0 . . ., the average security score for all I Corps
hamlets is 1.60. . ."6 A year later, after evaluations by its district advisors (HES), CORDS reported that "[hlamlets having US Marine Corps Combined Action Platoons . . . nearby . . outperformed other I CTZ hamlets in terms of the [HES] ratings. . . . [D]evelopment scores rose .16 in CAP hamlets, but fell .13 in non-CAP hamlets."7 Furthermore, this latter evaluation report demonstrated that "CAP hamlets outperformed non-CAP hamlets on every HES indicator but one."8 Another example of CORDS' (and by extension MACV's) recognition of the program's value can be found in its analysis of CAP performance during the Tet Offensive: "The HES ratings . . . also indicate that CAP hamlets survived the Tet offensive better than hamlets not protected by these units."9
It was not just a few district advisors who favored the CAPs, but also the top people
in the CORDS hierarchy. Robert Komer, who headed CORDS, reacted favorably to the Combined
Action Platoons.10 Two of Komer's top aides, Carl Fritz and Alex Firfer,
also felt stongly about the value of the program. Fritz even suggested that we would
have been more successful if we had done this kind of thing all over Vietnam."11
Even a 1970 joint CORDS - Consulate survey suggested that CAP was a viable means of
achieving victory, concluding that "it makes a significant contribution to
pacification and security and specifically to the improvement of the Popular forces. . . .
[The US Army [should] give serious consideration to developing a similar
General William C. Westmoreland, CG, MACV, also considered the Combined Action Program
a worthwhile program.
According to him, "the Marines who lived and fought with their PF counterparts . . . contributed greatly to the allied effort and deserve the greatest credit and admiration."13 The question remains, however, why, if officers of the Army, the institution in charge of the day-to-day operations of the war, and CORDS, its pacification branch, felt so favorably about the CAPs, the
program was not expanded beyond a mere 114 platoons or adopted by any Army units.
The explanation given by the Army, Westmoreland, and Komer was that it would have been too expensive to put a platoon in every village. According to CORDS, "countrywide expansion the CAP program to cover all of the 10,454 unsecured hamlets in SVN would require 22,712 PF and 167,264 U.S. at an annual cost of about $1.8 billion."14 This, however, is a simplistic way of examining the proposition, assuming as it does that every hamlet would receive a CAP. Why not expand the CAPs throughout I Corps, as LtCol Corson had suggested?15 Why not an additional one or two hundred platoons? No one argued that CAPS alone should completely saturate South Vietnam.16 One Marine Corps LtCol noted that one would always need a "conventional force to buck heads with the NVA and break them down into manageable size elements . . . that a CAP could handle."17
It may be that Westmoreland had his hands tied somewhat by Saigon, whose inefficiency
and corruption flourished at the village level, and he may even have been constrained by
troop shortages, but this does not explain why the CAP was limited. When
one examines Westmoreland's strategy, these explanations become superfluous. Even if
he had had access to more men, Westmoreland's philosophy of "search and destroy"
warfare ran counter to that of the CAP. He was nearly solely concerned with killing
enemy soldiers and deemphasized the importance of gaining village support. Although the
Combined Action Program had only proven itself in relatively friendly confines, its
success, as compared with the majority of the rest of the war effort, merited
expansion. Such expansion by itself probably would not have won the war, but, in
combination with other successful programs, might have helped to achieve such an
objective. The fact that CAP remained a small force testifies to
Douglas Blaufarb's claim that "the commanders were unable or unwilling to accept the conclusion implicit in the success of the CAPs, which was that their vast resources, equipment, and technology were essentially irrelevant to the kind of war they faced."19 CAP, an alternative not pursued, was a bright spot in the U.S. war effort. Its limitation leaves open important strategic quetions.
"MACV was a joint command with other services represented on its staff, although commanded by an Army general and an
Army-dominated staff." (Jack Shulimson comments on draft MS dtd 8 Jan 86 (hereafter Shulimson commentsj)
"Although solely a Marine command intially, by 1968 (III MAFJ included three Army divisions, two Marine divisions, and the Marine aircraft wing." This command was responsible for the five northern provinces which made up I Corps. (Ibid.) III MAF was under the command of MACV (commanded by General William C. Westmoreland). "General Westmoreland in turn was responsible to Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, Commander in Chief, Pacific (Cincpac) in Hawaii, and through Sharp to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in Washington." From Jack Shulimson and Charles Johnson, The Marines in Vietnam: The Landing and the Buildup, 1965, Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1978 (hereafter Shulimson, 1965), p.xi.
Edward Doyle, ed., America Takes Over, Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1982, pp.61-65.
The Popular Force soldiers are comparable to the Minute Men of the American Revolutionary War era. CAPs were generally
implemented in villages that were either pro-U.S. or at - least neutral.
F.J. West, Jr., The Village, New York: Harper and Row, 1972; William R. Corson, The Betrayal, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1968.
Corson's book, especially, prompted me to examine the U.S. Army's reaction to the Combined Action Program.
U.S. Marine Corps, Fleet Marine Force Pacific. Operations U.S. Marine Forces in Vietnam (hereafter FMFPac Reports).
Of the Marines with whom I discussed this issue of intimidation, only Col George Robillard, CO 1st CAG (1970), disputed me here. He argued that a promotion board only considered an individual's qualifications (Robillard comments on draft MS dtd 17 Jan 1986 [hereafter Robillard comments]). It remains open to question, however, whether it was so perceived by the individual Marine being interviewed.
For a discussion of what a CAG is, see second paragraph of chapter entitled "Development and Maturation of the CAP."
Interview with author, 23 July 1985.
I did use other primary and secondary sources, but relied on them to a lesser degree. See Bibliography for details.
I am considering Marines with Captain's rank and below as "men on the ground." Marines above this rank did not consistently close contact with village units, although "captains and lieutenants did not serve in the villages in CAP platoons." (Dr. Keith Fleming comments on draft MS dtd 8 Jan 86 [hereafter Fleming commentsj)
An interesting question, and one which I could not answer due to lack of source material and time, is what was the impact of the CAPs on the Vietnamese political system? How did province and district chiefs react to the loss of complete operational control over their PFs? Often a district chief would, to reassert his power, suddenly and without notice, withdraw the PFs from a CAP. Beyond this, my sources do not comment.
Birth of the CAPs: History and Implementation of a Workable Idea
Bruce C. Allnutt, Marine Combined Action Capabilities: The Vietnam Experience, McLean: Human Sciences Research, Inc., 1969, p.9; capt John J. Mullen (USMC), Student Staff Study, Amphibious Warfare School, "Modifications to the III MAF Combined Action Program in the Republic of Vietnam," 19 December, 1968, p.C-S (hereafter "Mullen Study").
Shulimson, 1965, pp.133-138.
According to Jack Shulimson, Head, Histories Section, Marine Corps Historical Center, Gen Chuan, CC 1st ARVN Division actually initiated the offer. (Shulimson comments)
"The Marine Combined Action Program, Vietnam,'t FMFPac Study, (hereafter "The Marine CAP"), p.29.
3/4 Command Chronology (ComdC) Sep-Oct 1965. The information presented in these chronologies should be taken with a bit of scepticism, because each commander who wrote one wanted to look good to his superiors.
Ek was selected for this position by Gen Walt and Col Wheeler, CO 3d Marines (Wheeler had operational control of 3/4). Ek was chosen in part "because he had attended counter-insurqency school and had some language capability in Vietnamese." (Shulimson comments)
Lt Paul Ek interview (No. 46, oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC), dtd 10 Fedb 66 (hereafter Ek interview)
"Mullen Study," p.C-?.
Shulimson 1965, pp.133-138.
FMFPac Reports 30 Dec 5 (read December 1965, p.30)
Ek interview. It is interesting that the PFs could not tell the Marines the reasons "why." On the other hand, perhaps the Marines initially did not trust PF information.
Ibid. This analogy might be overdrawn, although JAC Marines were invited to participate in many village activities.
"Mullen Study," p.c-S.
Shulimson 1965, p.136.
This questioning was conducted by the South Vietnamese police. With the corruption of these civil servants (see Corson: The Betrayal), it may have hurt the program that the JAC Marines did not control this critical aspect. This is speculation on my part.
"Mullen Study," p.C-8.
3/4 Comdc Sep-Oct 1965.
"Mullen Study," pp.C-9,10.
Shulimson 1965, pp.133-138; "Mullen Study," p.C-8.
3/4 Comdc Sep-Oct 1965.
"Mullen Study," p.C-8.
3/4 Comdc Sep-Oct 1965.
"Mullen Study," p.c-b.
The name of the program was changed in October 1965 to Combined Action Company (CAC), according to Mullen, "since
armed forces of two countries conducted 'combined' rather than 'joint' operations." "Mullen Study," p.C-li.
3/4 Comdc Sep-Oct 1965.
Shulimson 1965, pp.133-138.
"The Marine CAP," p.31.
Gen Thi Corps Order 1022/TM3/1 in "The Marine CAP," p.34.
Quick Growth and Early Success
Jack Shulimson, U.S. Marines in Vietnam: An Expanding War, 1966, Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division., Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1982, p.239 (hereafter Shulimson 1966). Note that Gen Walt departed Vietnam in 1967, Krulak retired in 1968 (Fleming comments).
"The Marine CAP," p.140.
For further examples, see "The Marine CAP," pp.8-9. A major problem to this type of measurement was that the system was "attemptinq to measure what to many was unmeasurable: how to quantify security or . . . a man's devotion to a cause. . . The reports were able to furnish general trends in a given area, but could not be an absolute replica of reality, and indeed in most cases were inflated." (Shulimson 1966, p.258) Further, according to one Marine colonel,
You've got some youngster down there who is going out to make an
evaluation because this is a requirement
and he doesn't even know the ville, let alone where it is, and he sits there, "What's the last report? well, okay, it was thirty percent . . . well lets make that 31 percent or twenty-five," and it's right off the top of his head. He doesn't even know where the hell it came from. And this stuff comes back and somebody starts sticking this into a computer and now you ve got a fact. And then somebody says, "Now that's 67 2/3 percent safe." Like hell it is.
Who knows? (Col R.R. Miner, No. 3068, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Ntis Div, HQMC, 1967-68)
Another reiterated this feeling:
[P]eople who come out to visit cannot understand how mortars, for
example, can be fired from a village
that's pacified. I think it is a mistake to give a numerical weight to anything as ephemeral as this. You can add up to eighty points [a score of sixty represents a "pacified" village] by adding up all the things together like communications, hamlet chiefs sleeping in their hamlets, markets, schools, all the rest of the goodies can be added up to eighty points...But there still (can be) twenty points which covers a rather interesting area called "Identification and Elimination of the VC Infrastructure." So to say that a village has eighty points infers that it is pacified but actually you [can) still have to eliminate the most important area in' the whole spectrum, that is, the VC infrastructure. If they're still in there, it isn't at all pacified. (Col E.R. McCarthy, No. 1507, Oral Hist Coll, Hist a Mus Div, HQMC, 1966-67)
"The Marine CA?," p.16.
Ibid., p.17. Although FMFPac studies are often filled with hyperbole, this claim was corroborated by others.
Shulimson 1966, p.240.
Col G.E. Jerue, No. 2862, Oral Hist Coll, Hist a Mus Div, HQMC, 1967.
Development and Maturation of the CAP
Unfortunately, end-year personnel figures were unavailable. By rnid-1967, however, with seventy-five platoons in place, there were 1247 Marines and 2129 P? personnel.. (FMFPac Reports, 63 Dec 67)
The name of the individual units was changed to the Combined Action Platoons (CAPs) because the acronym CAC denoted a vulgarity in Vietnamese.
FMFPaC Reports, 57 Jun 67.
Maj R.C. Raines, "An Analysis of the Command and Control Structure of the Combined Action Program (CAP)", Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Quantico, Virginia, 1968-1969, p.13-6 (hereafter Raines).
Interview with author, 5 August 1985.
FMFPac Reports, 45 Jun 67.
Corson interview with Jim Duouid, in my possession.
Interview with author, 5 August 1985.
For example, see Cpl David R. Vinyard, No. 3491, Oral Hist Coil, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
PFC Robert A. Reed, No. 2341, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967.
For a description, see The Betrayal.
Cpl William Corcoran, No. 2079, Oral Mist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967.
"Mullen Study", p.4.
Cpl M.M. Salis, No. 2599, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1966-67.
"Mullen Study," p.8-4.
LtCol Max McQuown, comments on draft MS of Maj Gary L. Telfer, LtCol Lane Rogers, and V. Keith Fleming, Jr., U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Fighting the North Vietnamese 1967, dtd 20 May 81 (Vietnam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.)
What was occurring in the other ninety percent is open to some question but beyond the scope of this paper.
As Dr. Keith Fleming, historian at the MCHC points out, "I am always skeptical about statistics showing improvements in pacification. They were too easily manipulated to present a rosy picture. Ideally there would be a source or sources that would substantiate FMFPac's claims, but I am willing to concede that none probably exists." (Fleming comments)
FMFPac Reports, 65 Dec 67.
SOP CAP, 22 Jun 68, p.12. These criteria applied as well to the CAP in 1967.
The Tet Offensive and the Shift to a Mobile Concept
FMFPac Reports, 66 Dec 68.
Ibid., 22 Jan 68.
Col Don H. Blanchard, "Pacification: Marine Corps Style," Thesis for the U.S. Naval War College, School of Naval
Warfare, 15 May 1968. Also see The New York Times, 13 May 68, p.1:8, Providence Journal-Bulletin, 5 March 68, p.3:2.
According to Jack Shulimson, however, this is giving "too much credit to the CAPs. Individual CAP units may have played a valiant role, but I believe it is hyperbole to attribute to them the failure of the enemy offensive at Da Nang--At Da Nang the enemy troops jumped the gun and their efforts were poorly coordinated." (Shulimson comments)
Interview with the author, 5 August 85.
See FMFPac Reports, 22, 48 Jan 68.
1st CAG Comdc Jan 68, pp.6-7.
Cpl R.W. Hayes, No. 2693, Oral Hist Coil, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
According to LCpl Thomas Foler, "When this CAP unit got overrun [during Tet, they lost a lot of respect for us." On the other hand, Cpl Carl M. O'Dell's unit received a different reaction: "It seems like they respected us because they felt that we as a small force would run and we fought back. . . . They thought we were . . . pretty brave for what we did." (Foler, No. 2g26; O'Dell, No. 2724, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC.)
FMFPac Reports, 27 Apr 69.
Interview with the author, 23 July 85.
Col John Greenwood, No. 3480, Oral Hist Coil, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC (hereafter Greenwood interview).
Col T.E. Metzger, No. 4899, Oral Hist Coil, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC.
Col Metzger letter to author, dtd 26 Aug 1985.
Lt Avel, No. 3295, Oral Hist Coil, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC,
Col E.F. Danowitz, No. 4085, oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mug
Col David Wagner letter to author, dtd 25 Aug 1985.
Interview with author, 5 Aug 1985.
MajGen E.E. Anderson, No. 3578, Oral Hist 0011, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC. Interestingly, Robert Komer told me that he
really liked the program and thought the Marines were doing a great job: "I was a big fan of the CAPS." (Telephone conversation with Ambassador Robert Komer, 29 July 1985.) As Dr. Fleming of the DICHO adds, "There appears to have been a bureaucratic battle over turf." (Fleming comments)
LtCol Byron F. Brady, No. 3061, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
Cpls Steven Cooper and Francis M. Boyd, No. 3296, Oral Hist Coil, Hist & Mus Div, HQNC, 1968.
Sgt W.H. Oxley, Ibid. Herein is an example of the problerns in using oral history. Cpls Cooper and Boyd (see previous note) and Sgt oxley are from the same squad, yet they contradict each other. According to Col J.J. Tolnay, CO 2d CAG 1970-71, "The Sergeant] told the Col(onel] what the CO wanted to hear." (Tolnay comments 6 Jan 86)
Cpl. John T. Fenstermacher, No. 3679, Oral Hist Coil, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
FMFPac Reports, 31 Aug 69.
The Most Active Year and a Reassessment of Selection
FMFPaC Reports, 33 Dec 69.
Author's telephone conversation with Col J.R. Day, 23 Oct 1985.
Author~s telephone conversation with Col J.R. Day, 23 Oct
Allnutt, p.C-3; also Capt Edward F. Palm, interview with Mr. Jack Shuijinson and Robert A. Klyman, MCHC, 9 July 1985.
Allnutt, p. C-3.
Col G.E. Jerue, No. 2862, Oral Hist Coll, Mist a Mus Div, HQMC, 1967.
Interview with author, 5 August 1985.
Allnutt, p.C-3. Unfortunately, no details of these problems were provided in this study.
Col E.F. Danowitz, No. 4085, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1969.
"Mullen Study", p.B-3; SSgt J.C. Butler, No. 3679, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968. According to LtCol
I.R. Carver, CO 2d CAG, 1967-ES, "I definitely feel that the Marine coming into the CAP need[edj combat experience, especially in patrolling and ambush and good NCO leadership because . . . they were on their own most of the time." (Carver comments on draft MS, dtd 14 Jan 1986) Col Metzger, on the other hand, argued that the "apparent undesirability of receiving Marines without previous combat experience is not valid. Inexperienced Marines in the CAPs did exactly what their ounterparts in the infantry battalions did: they learned from their peers, NCOs and officers." (Metzger comments)
Interview with author, 5 August 1985.
Allnutt, p.C-4. According to Dr. Fleming, "III MAF instituted a survey in 1966 of Marines' attitudes toward Vietnamese. As I remember, after 10 months in Vietnam there was a declinee in the number of Marines who would say they "liked" the Vietnamese. CAP Marines were also interviewed." (Fleming comments) In this survey, only ten percent of all Marines were questioned; one can speculate that as a result, few CAP Marines were surveyed.
Peak and Decline: the Creation of the CAF
XXIV Corps was composed of two Army divisions "which had moved into I Corps early in 1968 to counter the enemy's Tet
offensive." (Shulimson comments)
FMFPac Reports, 30 Dec 70.
Col Don R. Christensen letter to author, dtd 4 Sept 1985; Col D.J. Ford, CO 4th CAG, 1969, letter to author, dtd 23 Aug 1985.
Graham A. Cosmas, U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Vietnamization and Redeployment, 1970-71, draft MS (hereaftere Cosmas 1970-71), Washington, D.C.: Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1983, p.173; also Metzger letter to author dtd 26 Aug 1985.
FMFPaC Reports, 30 Dec 70.
Zais's headquarters were under the operational control of III MAF (Shulimson comments)
Cosmas 1970-71, p.173.
FMFPac Reports, 32 Dec 70.
Cosmas 1970-71, p.178.
Consul F.T. McNamara, Political Advisor to CC XXIV Corps, letter to LtGen Melvin Zais, dtd 14 Mar 1970, in CAF History and SOP Fldr1 Box 2 Pacification Study Docs (hereafter McNamara letter).
Col T.H. Metzger, letter to CG XXIV Corps via C/S XXIV Corps, Subj: Consulate-CORDS survey of CAP Villages, comments concerning, dtd 24 Mar 1970, in CAF History and SOP Fldr, Box 2 Pacification Study Docs (hereafter Metzger
Cosmas 1970-71, p.175.
Col T.E. Metzger, No. 4899, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1970.
Cosmas 1970-71, p.179.
LtCol J.J. Tolnay, No. 5099, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1970. (hereafter Tolnay interview)
Metzger letter; Cosmas 1970-71.
FMFPac Reports, 6 May/June 71.
Deactivation: the CAPS Come Home
Cosmas 1970-71, p.183. See pp.183-84 for a detailed description of deactivation.
LtGen Herman Nickerson, No. 6000, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC. On the other hand, however, Cpl Don R.
Christense, CO 2d CAG, 1970, points out that "such supervision was not exercised in the 2nd CAG through September of 1970. Supervision of the CAPS was exercised by the CAF through the CAG commander. While conventional units did provide hot meals once a day if they were nearby, they had no other authority over the CAPs. In most cases commanders of these units did not want such authority and in all cases, as the CAG commander, I would not permit it." (Don R. Christensen comments on draft MS, dtd 29 Jan 1986)
Cosmas 1970-71, p. 183.
Gen Leo J. Dulacki, No. 4853, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1970. Some of the CAPS were withdrawn before
they had accomplished their mission.
Cosmas 1970-71, p.185; Tolnay interview.
Cosmas 1970-71, p.186.
FMFPac Reports; "Operations of U.S. Marine Forces, Vietnam: Overview and Index," p.3g.
Cosmas 1970-71, p.186.
The View From the Ground: Major Problems and Difficulties
Unfortunately, I am restricted by my sources to concentrating on the years before 1969.
LCpl Corey Lee Hester, No. 3679, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967-68.
SSgt David M. Thompson, No. 2341, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967. (hereafter Thompson interview)
For example, see LCpl. Gregory L. Crossland, No. 1995; PFC Arther J. Sackes, No. 2613; Sgt Manuel Fuentes, No. 2716;
LOpi Thomas Foler, No. 2926; PFC Lester F. Katz, No. 3125; Capt John L. Matthews, No. 3480; and 1st Lt William M.
Murphy, No. 3679, Oral Hist Coil, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC.
Sgt Gerald V. Young, No. 3125, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
PFC Anther J. Backes, No. 2613, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967-68. (hereafter Backes interview)
Cpl Robert Cummings, No. 3493, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mug Div, HQMC, 1968.
Capt P.E. Dawson, No. 753, Oral Hist Coil, Hist & Mug Div, HQMC, 1966.
Sgt Theodore C. Zoutis, No. 2613, oral Hist Col, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968. (hereafter Zoutis interview)
LCpi Mark A. Domnici, No. 2613, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967.
Sgt D.D. Stinnett, No. 2367, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967. (hereafter Stinnett interview)
Cpl Edward A. Zielonko, No. 2613, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
As Col George Robillard pointed out, however, this was only a problem when CAPs were first instituted. (Robillard comments)
LCpl Daniel L. Yates, No. 3221, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
1st Lt William M. Murphy, No. 3679, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
Evaluation: A Success
Again I am limited in time frame by my sources.
See, for example, Palm interview; Sgt D.D. Stinnett, No. 2367; Sgt Richard Yarbrough, No. 2388, Oral Hist Coll, Hist
& Mus Div, IIQMC.
LCpl Henry B. Berry, No. 1995, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967.
SSgt Gary L. Smith, No. 815, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1966-67.
Capt William D. Kent, Jr., No. 2304, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967. (hereafter Kent interview)
Capt Lewis I. Dale, No. 2251, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HOMC, 1967. (hereafter Dale interview)
Duty in a Combined Action Platoon was extremely hazardous. "The odds are against a CAP Marine since only 14 Marines and one Navy corpsman are against 100, maybe 200, or even 300 Victor Charlies . . . on a mission to overrun a CAP compound." (Syt Theodore C. Zoutis #2613 1967-68) A widely held belief was that "there's never been in any war a more demanding job." (Capt Lewis I. Dale #2251 1967) According to the first Director, Combined Action Program, "each CAP Marine knows there is an 80 percent probability that he will be wounded at least once and a 25 percent probability that he will be wounded twice. Finally, he knows that one out of eight CAP Marines will 'buy the farm' (be killed) before he completed his tour." (The Betrayal p163) These numbers seem to me to be high, but I have no data to support this assumption.
The Betrayal, p.183.
PFC Lester F. Katz, No. 3125, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1966.
Sgt Alexander W. Wirt, No. 2341, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967. As Jack Shulimson points out, however, "I would be suspicious of attempting to base the Vietnamese attitudes towards the CAPS based solely on the interview of Marines. . . .", (Shulimson comments) Unfortunately, I did not find any other sources and must use a Marine perspective.
Cpl Joseph A. Turner, No. 2341, Oral Mist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967.
"There was much less Civic Action when the CAPS became mobile." (Shulimson comments)
Sgt James C. Moore, No. 3679, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
PFC George H. Flournay, No. 3221, Oral Mist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, MQMC, 1968.
Kent interview; Cpl Michael A Giustina, No. 2079, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
Cpl William Corcoran, No. 2079, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, MQMC, 1967.
Sgt Gerald V. Youngblood, No. 2571, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967.
Capt Peter D. Haines, No. 2534, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1968.
Sgt Alexander W. Wirt and Cpl Joseph F. Schoenbeck, No. 2341; Cpl Roosevelt Johnson, No. 3679, Oral Hist Coil, Hist
& Mus Div, HOMC, 1966.
Sgt L.T. Ward, No. 2009, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1966.
Sgt Ronald E. Shepherd, No. 2341, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1967.
Kent interview. Kent claims that two or three battalions attacked the platoon. That is over 1000 men attacking 39
non-communist forces. The accuracy of such a claim seems to be open to question.
Although the Marines claimed that the VC/NVA regarded the CAPs as a threat, a claim which I believe, the information
presented above is the only support I could find. Unfortunately, the veracity of oral history is not always credible.
Conclusion: The Limitation of the CAP
Unfortunately, I am relegated by a lack of sources to examine this issue through a Marine Corps perspective.
Col J.C. Fegan, No. 1366, Oral Hist Coll, Hist a Mus Div, HQMC, 1967.
Col George C. Knapp, No. 4088, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1969.
Lessons Learned #80, p.6, found at the Center for Military History (CMH).
MACJO3, F.G. Miller, p.10 (at CMH)
Southeast Asia Analysis Report, July 67, p.33 (at CMH). (hereafter SEA Report) The reader is once again cautioned against placing too much faith in these statistics. Unfortunately, for the purpose of writing the history of CAP, I found no sources to cross-check these numerical scores.
SEA Report, June 68, p.52.
SEA Report, Nov 68, p.14.
Komer telephone conversation with author.
Carl Fritz, No. 6328, Oral Hist Coil, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC.
Adm U.S.G. Sharp, USN, and Gen W.C. Westmoreland, USA, Report on the War in Vietnam as of 30 June 1968, Washington, D.C.: Government Printi~ Office, 1968, p.1251
SEA Report, July 67, p.34.
Interview with author.
BGen E.H. Simmons, interview with author, 16 Aug 1985; Col J.R. Day, interview with author, 24 Oct 85.
LtCol J.J. Tolnay, No. 5099, Oral Hist Coll, Hist & Mus Div, HQMC, 1971.
These possible explanations were suggested to me by Mr. Jack Shulimson and Dr. Keith Fleming of the Marine Corps Historical Center.
Douglas S. Blaufarb, The Counterinsurgency Era: U.S. Doctrine and Performance, New York: The Free Press, 1977.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF SOURCES
With Selected Annotation
1) ARCHIVAL SOURCES
Unless otherwise noted, all material can be found at the Marine Corps Historical Center in Washington, D.C.
a) Combined Action Group Command Chronologies
Since May 1965, the basic source for operational histories of Marine Corps units has been the command chronologies, reports prepared and submitted periodically by all commands of battalion/squadron - size up through -regiments, brigades, divisions, and higher commands, as well as by all independent unjits. Marine Corps Order 5750.XE sets forth the requirements for command chronologies and explains their content.
The Combined Action Groups did not establish a formal reporting system until 1968. Before 1968, references can be found in other chronologies in a hit or miss fashion (i.e. 1st MarDiv ComdC July 1966; III MAF Comdc Jan 66, Enclosure 6)
1968: Jan-June; July-Oct; Nov; Dec
1969: Jan; Feb; Mar; Apr; May; June; July; Aug; Sep; Oct; Nov; Dec
1970: Jan; Feb; Mar; Apr; May; June; July; Aug; 1-13 Sep
Deactivated 13 September 1970
See SOP Tab 5, 18 October 1968
1968: Oct-Nov; Dec
1969: Jan; Feb; Mar; Apr; May; June; July; Aug; Sep; Oct; Nov; Dec
1971: Jan-Mar; 1-14 Apr; 14-30 Apr; 1-11 May
Deactivated 11 May 1971
1968: Oct; Nov; Dec
1969: Jan; Feb; Mar; Apr; May; June; July; Aug; Sep; Oct; Nov; Dec
1970: Jan-Aug; 1-7 Sep
Deactivated 7 September 1970
See SOP 10 June 1969
1968: Oct; Nov; Dec
1969: Jan; Feb; Mar; Apr; May; June; July; Aug; Sep; Oct; Nov; Dec
1970: Jan-June; 1-25 July
Deactivated 25 July 1970
b) Combined Action Force Command Chronologies
1970: 11 Jan.-21 Sep.
Deactivated 21 September 1970
c) Fleet Marine Force Pacific Monthly Reports
These are monthly reports of operations of USMC forces in Vietnam. (The first citation, for example, is read as "November 1965, page 2.")
2 Nov 65 - Brief description of a forerunner operation
30 Dec 65 - Training/initial concept
37 Feb 66 - Development of 2d CAP at Danang
29 Apr 66 - Description of expansion to 9 units
30 June 66 - CAP progress
25 Sep 66 - CAP progress
45 Oct 66 - CAP progress/regional maps
30 Nov 66 - Progress impeded by lack of PE's
36 Jan 67 - Background/organization/mission
41 Feb 67 - Organization charts/effectiveness
50 Mar 67 - Progress/ map of location
63 Apr 67 - Progress/map of location
32 May 67 - Progress/charts of activities
82 June 67 - Equipment
45 June 67 - Combined Action Group formed
63 June 67 - Combined Action Group formed
57 July 67 - Coordination/location
49 Aug 67 - Manpower shortage
48 Sep 67 - Manpower shortage
64 Dec 67 - Year-end summary
22 Jan 68 - CAP at Danang
47 Jan 68 - CAP at Danang
47 Feb 68 - Popular support/attacks
32 Mar 68 - Continued expansion
32 Apr 68 - Activities
37 May 68 - Improvement of PF/chart
33 June 68 - CAP effectiveness/PF
33 July 68 - Activation of 4th CAG/progress
26 Nov 68 - Activation of additional units
65 Dec 68 - Year-end review
32 Jan 69 - Expansion
36 Feb 69 - Expansion
27 Apr 69 - Mobile CAP concept/location/disposition
30 Aug 69 - Deactivation of training teams
32 Dec 69 - Year-end review
19 Jan 70 - CAP activity
13 Mar 70 - Change of command relationships
17 May 70 - Relocations and deactivations
20 June 70 - Relocations and deactivac ions
15 July 70 - Relocations and deactivations
21 Aug 70 - Relocations and deactivations
12 Sep 70 - Relocations and deactivations
30 Dec 70 - Year-end review
2 Jan/Feb 71 - Restriction of CAP activity
12 Mar/Apr 71 - Deactivation/history
4 May/June 71 - Total deactivation/history
d} FMFPAC Reports on CAP
1) Operations of U.S. Marine Forces, Vietnam, Overview and Index, 1965 - 1971, pp. 35 - 39.
2) The Marine Combined Action Program, Vietnam, August 1965- January 1967.
3) The Marine Combined Action Program, Vietnam, 1965 - 1968.
e) III MAF Daily Operations Summary
1969: Jan-Apr; May-June; July-Aug; Sept-Oct
f) III MAF Journal File 1966-71
Journal and message traffic files of the III MAF combat operations center
g) III MAF CAG Headquarters, "Organization, equipment, functions, and concept of operations", 20 June 1967.
Weller Pacification Documents, CAF History and SOP Folder, Box 2.
ArmyDocumentation at the Center of Military History
Southeast Asia Analysis Report, July 1967; Sept 1967; June 1968; Nov 1968.
h) HQMC Status of Forces
This is a listing of units commanders, operations, areas, and intelligence information,
reflecting changes on a daily basis. Volumes are indexed.
2) ORAL HISTORIES
These are taped interviews with marines who served with the Combined Action Program. The majority of them are housed at the Federal Records Center in Suitland, Maryland. All tapes are part of the Marine Historical Center's archival collections.
46 Lt Paul EK 1965
An interview with the first leader of a Joint Action Company. Ek details the origins and early development of the program. Critical for an understanding of the roots of the Combined Action Program.
486 Sgt A.L. CURRY Mission and functions of Combined -Action Company B-22.
An excellent description of the duties and responsibilities of Marines and a corpsman in a Combined Action Company unit. Of particular interest is the dedication toward the Vietnamese Popular forces and civilians by Marines of the CAC unit and the indication of increasing confidence of the civilians toward Marines.
550 Col R.L. DOMINICK Debrief, former Asst. G-3, 6 Mar 67 1st MarDiv.
573 Capt D.C. DEMPSEY Operations and functions of a CAC Platoon 20Jul66-18Jan67
Captain DEMPSEY relates information on the formation of a Combined Action Company platoon, and describes the mission of the unit and lists the prerequisites desirable in the platoon sergeant.
638 GSgt J.D. BROCKWAY Mission and functions of CAPs #1 and #2, H&SCO, lstBn, 26th
This interview describes the mission and functions of a CAP, covering in detail the responsibilities of working with and training the Vietnamese Popular Forces. Emphasized is the CAP1s capability of gathering intelligence information from the civilians of nearby villages.
650 HM3 G.N. MORSE Medical/Civic Action Program. N/A
661 Col W. MOORE Debrief, former 0-5, 1st MarDiv. Jan66-7Feb67
Col MOORE discusses, in part, problems that existed in the CAP resulting from battalion control of such units.
679 Col T.J. JOHNSTON Debrief, former CO of H&SBn, 3d MarDiv, and 1/12. Feb66- Mar67
707 lstLt T.H. EAGEN Combined Action Company D-1. Nov66-7Mar67
This interview describes in detail the mission and functions of the CACO located within the village of Nui-Kim-Son, approximately 7,000 meters southeast of Danang. Discussed is the importance of a good relationship between the villagers and Marines and the value of developing Vietnamese leadership for the village.
752 2dLt A.J. MEDNIS Camp Brooks security missions of CACs 2 and 3. 16Nov66-4Mar67
753 Capt P.S. DAWSON CAC units under the 1st HP Bn. Feb-Jun66
797 MajGen W.B. KYLE Debrief, former Commanding General, 3d MarDiv. N/A
814 LCpl D.C. FISHER Duties of a sentry dog handler. Sep66-Jun67
815 SSgt G.L. SMITH Mission of CAC #2. 1Aug66-6Mar67
837 Sgt B.O. BENTON Experiences of CAC AT-4. l4Jan-15Apr67
876 Cpl T.C. ZOUTIS Activities of a CAC platoon. Dec66-25Apr67
This interview contains descriptions of activities and duties of a CAP located near the village of Ngon Cow in the 3dBn, lstMar TAOR.
886 Cpl R.J. KEELING A Combined Action patrol. 23May67
915 PFC R.A. KNUTSON Enemy ambush of a CAP. 12Apr67
A rifleman on a Combined Action patrol describes how the patrol was ambushed when it left its own fruitless ambush to reconnoited another area. Included is a description of the enemy's ambush site and the types of weapons utilized. He tells how two patrol members treated their own wounds while the corpsman was busy treating other patrol casualties. Finally, he details the helicopter medical evacuation and eventual extraction.
916 Cpl R.F. RODNEY Enemy ambush of a CAP. 13Apr67
This is an account of a reaction force which was called to assist a Combined Action night patrol ambushed by the enemy. Friendly and enemy casualties are described as they occurred. The evacuation of wounded personnel by helicopter under heavy enemy fire is related.
917 Sgt C.D. BROWN A CAP ambush. 5Apr67
This is a detailed account of a Marine/Popular Force night ambush. The patrol discovered an enemy booby trap area and set up the ambush site there. When the VC approached the area the patrol initiated the ambush. The patrol discovered that one dead enemy was a Viet Cong female, and later intelligence reports revealed that this woman was a VC instructor in that area.
931 LtCol P.G. STAVRIDIS Mission, organization, and functions of 1st MPBn. 1Dec65-3May67
952 Cpl R.K. TYLER A combined unit patrol. 24Mar67
959 LCpl D.A. CLARK Removing casualties from Hill 861. 23-27Apr67
1003 Sgt D.H. UNDERWOOD A combined action patrol. 3Mar67
This is a detailed account of a Marine-Popular Force patrol through a Viet Cong dominated area. After several brief skirmishes, the patrol withdrew when warned by the Vietnamese of a larger enemy force moving into the area.
1004 PFC E.B. GRISSOM A combined action patrol. 23Apr67
Members of a combined action unit describe contact with a Viet Cong force. The enemy was engaged first as the patrol was en route to its ambush site and later, only a short distance from their command post. Chieu Hoi members of the patrol were instrumental in locating the enemy.
1005 PFC J.L. JONES Night ambush of enemy force. 21Apr67
This is an account of a combined action night patrol which ran into a large Viet Cong force. A reaction force, which was called as soon as contact was made, arrived in only ten minutes to help sweep the area for enemy soldiers. The interviewees comment on the good discipline and training evidenced by the Viet Cong force during the action.
1032 Cpl R.A. REDDEN The concept and organization of a Combined Action
A CAP is established in a hamlet and the members of the platoon begin the pacification program. Training of the Popular Forces and winning the villagers confidence is accomplished through mutual respect and understanding. A VC cell operating in a neighboring villaged is broken up through the combined action of the Marines and Popular Forces.
1033 Cpl R.A. REDDEN Civic action programs conducted by a Combined Action Platoon.
The interviewee describes how his platoon assists the villagers of Bach Thach. Re comments on the platoon assisting with such items as providing schooling in English and mathmatics, construction projects, and rice harvests.
1091 Cpl R.H. HORD VC attack on a CAC unit. 28May-17Jun67
1106 2dLt W.J. LYONS Experiences of three platoon 2-4Jun67
Commanders in Operation UNION II.
1118 Col S.J. ALTMAN Debrief, former C/S, 1st MarDiv. 5Jun67
1120 Cpl R.J. KEELING A combined action platoon makes enemy contact. 7Jun67
1123 PFC W.L. ROPER First VC contact by a CAP. 10May67
The first night patrol by a newly-established CAP results in contact with one Viet Cong killed. The dead man proved to be a local guerrilla who had been active as a Viet Cong for five years.
124 Sgt R.W. BOWE Establishment of a CAP. 8May-3Jul67
A CAP, in operation just over a month, begins to establish good relations with the local villagers. Fair and honest attitudes by the Marines have already resulted in valuable intelligence information freely offered by the Vietnamese.
1138 Cpl J.W. BARKER A CAP enemy contact. 5Jun67
1139 Cpl F. GARCIA A CAP enemy contact. 4Jun67
1140 Cpl W.E. MURRAY A CAP enemy contact. 10Jun67
1176 Cpl R.A. MILLER Activities of 1/3/7 in RVN. 19Dec66-27Jun67
1160 1stLt F.T. FREY Activities of K/3/7 Operations. 2Jan-28Jun67
1271 Cpl L. HADDEN Enemy ambush of CAC platoon. 25Jun67
1272 Sgt C.D. BROWN A combined action patrol. 5Jul67
1273 Cpl R.J. AIRWYKE A CAC patrol enemy contact. 4Jul67
1366 Col J.C. FEGAN Debrief, former Deputy Director, Combat Operations Center, MACV.
The interviewee mentions, in part, that the CAP is catching the eye of USA commanders and that some people in MACV would like to expand the program even to the battalion level.
1387 L.F. SNODDY Debrief, Col SNODDY, former CO F.C. LANG 7th Marines, and Opero III MAF; A.L. PHILLIPS Col LANG, former 1st MarDiv Air Officer; and Col PHILLIPS, former Executive Officer for MAG-16 and 36. 8Jul67
1452 Cpl R. FARIA Mission, organization, and HM3 T.P. MOORE functions of CAP T-7. 27Mar-15Aug67
1507 Col E.R. MCCARTHY Debrief, former AC/S, 0-5, 3d MarDiv. N/A
This officer makes interesting criticism of the Marines' Hamlet Evaluation System.
1544 Cpl A.R. SElLS The role of an interpreter. 1Nov66-Jul67
1545 Maj J.R. DAY Mission of the CAG - Chu Lai 10Aug67
1546 Sgt J.C. BUTLER Formation and mission of the Combat Youth Platoon. 1Jul67
1550 Cpl L.K. HILLIS Infantry Operations. 1Apr66-May67
1581 Cpl R.G. JOHNSON Operations of CAP Echo-3. HM3 G.N. MORSE N/A
1582 LCpl M. MATUSIAK History of CAP Echo-2 Nov66
1587 Sgt R.J. BELLAM Reaction Force assists a CAP. 13Sep67
1644 Cpl C.E. GOODBAR Description of a CAC compound. Mar66-Jul67
This is an interview with a machine gunner who extended his tour to be in a CAP.
1746 Col R.H. THOMPSON Debrief, former CO, 4th Mar and AC/S, G-3, 3dMarDiv.
Interviewee, in part, discussed favorably the CAP and was in favor of expanding the program. According to him, CAPs are effective, and cooperation between all CAP units and the 3dMarDiv was excellent. He recommended a return of operational control of the CAPs to the local tactical commander.
747 Sqt R. HENDRICKS Activities of a Combined Action Unit during Vietnamese national elections 3Sep67
1780 Cpl J.B. HAWKINS A CAP ambush. 14-l6Aug67
Upon receiving information on enemy activity from a rallier, a CAP establishes an ambush at the edge of a river. The ambush is sprung and kills two of the enemy.
1790 2dLt T. TERRELL Infantry intelligence operations. Jan66-Feb67.
1815 Sqt R. ROSSI / Sgt R.E. SHEPHERD Enemy attack on CAPs A-6 and A-9. 11Sep67.
1825 Col J.A. GALLO Debrief, former XO, Camp Butler; CO, SLF ALFA; and AC/S, G-5, 6Sep66-5Sep67
1966 Capt W.R. SWENSON Relocation of G/2/7. l4Sep-13Oct67
1995 Cpl O.B. JACKSON Operations of CAP Q-1, CA Co Q, 2d CAG, III MAF. 1Jul-30Nov67
1996 Sgt S.T. HARRIS Same as previous. lOAug-30Nov67
2009 Sgt L.T. WARD C/1/3 operations. Nov65-Sep66
2056 MSgt W.D. ABBOTT Operations of the 3d Marines Sniper Platoon. Jul-Oct67
2058 LtCol E.J.A. CASTAGNA Camp Carroll operations. 11Oct67
2079 Cpl M.A. GIUSTINA Mission, organization, and function of CAP Q6, 2nd CAG, III MAF. Jan-Dec67
2080 Cpl D.J. SCHULTZ/LCpl J.D. WEBSTER VC reaction force attack on a CAP (1/3/7). 8Nov67
2104 LCpl P.K. CHRISTENSEN Operations of CAP H-8, 3d MarDiv. 3lOct-2Dec67
Examples of Civic Action programs are cited as methods for gaining support from the villagers.
2141 Sgt R.A. CARBON/M3 J.B. CURRY Mission, function, and organization of CAP B-5, 2d CAG, III MAF. 1Jan66-2Jan67
2143 lstLt J. WILLIAMS Mission and organization of the Northern Sector Defense Command (11th Mar, 1st MarDiv) N/A
2181 Sgt J.L. BLICK Duties of a combat photographer. 30Dec66-24Nov67
2197 2dLt J.P. HECTUS Operations of HaSCO, 1st Amphibian Tractor Bn in the Cua Viet TAOR. l8Jul-16Nov67
2202 SSgt D. THOMPSON Operations of CAP-3, CAC-A, 3d CAG. 2-60ct67
2208 Maj J.A. SPARKS Battalion executive officer staff analysis of conflict in RVN. Aug66-Sep67
2215 Sgt B.J. BENNETT CACO 7 & 11 in Operations PRAIRIE I, DECKHOUSE VI, DESOTO,
and BEACON HILL. N/A
2218 Syt M.J. RICHTER Operations of E/3/9. N/A
2236 LCpl F. SMITH VC attack on CAP Q-2, and reaction force. 4Jan68
2237 Sgt R.A. CARBON Mission and function of CAP Program in 2d CAG. 6Dec67-4Jan68
These interviews cover a recent mortar attack on one of the CAP compounds. Also covered is the mission and some suggestions for the Combined Action Program.
2251 Capt L.I. DALE Combined Action Platoons Apr-Jun67
Interviewee discusses some problems in the CAP, including the difficulty in supporting
the platoons due to their scattered locations. He also mentions the poor constuction of
many compounds and believes that more senior leadership is needed at the platoon
level. He does describe one particular platoon that has fufilled its mission.
2276 Capt J.K. HALL Enemy attack on a CAC. 7-9Jan68
2304 Capt W. KENT, JR. Mission and organization of the 1st CAG. N/A
2341 Cpl J.A. TRAINER Operations of 3d CAG platoons. 1May-23Nov67
Platoon members describe their operations and provide information about working with the local villagers and winning their cooperation.
2367 Sgt D.D. STINNETT Experience as a CAP squad leader. 10May66-5Dec67
2388 PFC D.M. CONER Mission and activities of CAP C-3, CACO C, 2d CAG, III MAF. N/A
2462 Cpl K.C. WALKER Patrols and ambushes conducted by CAP-6, 3d CAG. 21-24Dec67
2466 Sqt T.E. DIDLO Activities of CAP Q-4 during Tet. 30Jan-4Feb68
Also covered are the activities of the Viet Cong in the village of Nam-O.
2472 PFC G.D. TRIMBLE/Sgt J.H. LOFLAND VC ambush of a CAP-5 patrol. 11Jan68
2478 LtCol A. VAN WINKLE Mission, function, and activities of Task Force x-Ray, 1st MarDiv. 3-26Jan68
2534 Capt P.D. HAINES Operations of a CAC. 2Feb-9Mar68
A Combined Action Company finds it must suspend civic action and pacification methods when their local enemy changes from a few Viet Cong to a large NVA force.
2571 Sgt G. YOUNGBLOOD Duties of an NCO in charge of a CAP unit. N/A
2599 Cpl M.M. SALIS Civil action and popular forces. Jun66-Dec67
Corporal Salis covers personnel, supply, and practical problems he encountered during his tour as a Compound Commander.
2609 Capt W. LOCHRIDCE Experiences as a tank pit leader. Mar66-Nov67
2613 Sgt T.C. ZOUTIS Mission and activities of CAP G7. 18Mar68
Also covered are the problems involved and lessons learned while working with the Popular Forces.
2614 Cpl J.E. SMITH Mission, function, and activities of CAP G-2. 1965-68
An interesting point is the killing by the Viet Cong of the CO and XO the CAG using a land mine.
2670 Cpl G.L. TROESCH Mission and activities of CAP 2-2-1. Apr67-Apr68
2693 Cpl R.W. HAYES 1968
2716 Sgt M. FUENTES Combined Action Program 1Aug67-18Feb68
2724 Cpl C.M. ODELL Duty with Combined Action Plt 2-1-2, CAC 2-1. 14Oct67-8Apr68
2725 Cpl N. STRANAHAN Experiences of a radio operator. 23Jan67-5Mar68
2729 Sgt M.E. MURPHY Experiences of an infantryman. 20Jan-31Aug66
2754 Col H.L. OPPENHEIMER Debrief, III MAF Deputy for Special Projects. 4Jan-19Apr68
2773 Cpl J.T. WORTHEN Mission and activities of CAP 2-8-3. 1966
An interesting point is the assassination of a PF PltSgt in a nearby village.
2809 LCpl L.M. POWERS Mission, function, and activities of CAP 2-7-5. N/A
Also covered is the daily Civic Action Programs headed by the members of the CAP.
2819 MajGen W.J. VAN RYZIN Debrief, former Dep Cdr, IIIMAF. N/A
2862 Col G.E. JERUE Debrief, former CO, 9th Mar; and AC/S, G-1, 3d MarDiv. Jun67-Jul67
2896 LtCol S.A. BRUNNENMEYER Debrief, former Director, CAP, 3d MarDiv. Aug-Dec67
2912 R.D. BOHN/ R.L. SHUFORD Debrief of Col BOHN, former AC/S, G-3, and Col
SHUFORD, former Dep
AC/S, G-3, 1st MarDiv. Jul67-Jul68
2926 Sgt J.T. RIVOSA Mission and functions of CAP 2-1-1, CACO 2-1, 2d CAG, III MAF. N/A
2963 Cpl R.W. HAYES Duty with India 4 CAP. Nov67-Mar68
3028 Cpl G.D. BARNES Duty with 3d CAG. Nov67-Aug68
3042 SSgt W.H. CARDEN Problems of leadership and training in the CAP. N/A
A discussion by two experienced CAP Commanders, a CAP Medical Officer, and Chief Instructor at the Combined Action School, of techniques and problems in managing the program at the platoon and company level. Topics discussed include: selection of men for the program, problems of coordination between CAPs and other military units, relations with Vietnamese officials and possible improvements in the training program.
3061 LtCol B.F. BRADY Formation of CAG-4 and the III MAF CAP. Sep67- Jul68
LtCol Brady discusses the operation and objectives of the CAP and outlines the steps in the establishment of the new 4th CAG. Topics examined include: selection of personnel, administration and logistics and logistics and the Mobile Training Teams.
3068 Col R.R. MINER Debrief, former CO, 7th Mar, and AC/S, 0-5 1st MarDiv.
Discusses, in part, the continuing efficacy of the CAP units after the Tet Offensive and the unreliability of the FMFPaC Village Evaluation System.
3087 Sgt I.H. MONTEZ Cam Lo CAG daily operations. 1May-22Jun68
3117 Sgt W. WILLINSHAM Mission, function, and activities of CAP 2-8-2. N/A
3125 Sgt G.V. YOUNG Mission and functions of CAP 2-8-3, CACO 2-8, 2d CAG, III MAF. N/A
3137 Col H. PRESTON Debrief, former 0-3 Plans Officer, 1st MarDiv.
According to Col Preston, experience with fire requests from CACs show that requests based on local intelligence must be screened carefully When they relate to targets in or near villages. Target information is frequently unreliable.
3217 Capt R.B. BROWN Experiences of a platoon leader with B/1/4 in RVN. May65-Apr66
3221 Cpl H.W. DOVEL Mission and activities of "H CAP-7'1, 3d CAG. N/A
3222 LCpl R.D. PAYNE Mission and activities of "H CAP-6", 3d CAG.
This unit has been receiving continuous attacks from the enemy. An interesting point is the description of when the compound was overrun on 7 Jan 1968.
3228 PFC O. STAULECKER Mission and activities of CAP 2-7-5 in 2d CAG. N/A
3232 Sgt B. DENSON Mission and activities of CAP 2-1-5, 3d CAG. N/A
3295 LCpl S. ORNDORFF Activities of CAC 3-4 in Huong Tra. Jan68-Sep68
3296 Sgt W.H. OXSLEY Operations of a Mobile Training Team. May-Oct68
Three experienced CAP NCOs discuss the techniques and problems involved in the operations of one of the new Mobile Training Teams. Problems encountered include the language barrier and lack of motivation on the part of some of the PF cadres under instruction.
3480 LtCol J.E. GREENWOOD 4th CAG activities. 20Jul68-25Sep68
3486 Cpl G.W. SMITH Operations of CAP 4-2-2 (3d MarDiv). 1Sep68-10Oct68
In addition to other 4th CAG operations, these CAP Marines are supporting a Vietnamese children's hospital and a village school.
3491 Cpl D.R. VINYARD 2d CAG operating procedures. Sep68
3493 Cpl R. CUMMINGS 3d CAG operations. Feb-Aug68
3578 MajGen E.E. ANDERSON N/A
Discusses, in part, the reasons for the shift to mobility.
3667 Cpl R. FURLONG Mission and activities of CAP 2-7-5. N/A
3673 Cpl R.A. SANDNESS Mission and activities of CACO 2-1. N/A
Included is the meaning and objective of the Civic Action Program, how it operates, and why it operates. Mentioned are the results of a recent flood in which a number of the CAPs were washed out of their areas and local villagers washed out of then homes. Also covered is an account of enemy action when the CACO was overrun during TET of 1968.
3679 lstLt T.B. RAINEY Operations of 1st CAG. Feb-Nov68
This series of interviews attempts to present a balanced picture of 1st CAG activities in Quang Ngai and Quang Tin Provinces. The interviewees include the CAG Commander, two Company Commanders, and a number of platoon Commanders and civic action NCOs. Of particular interest is the descriptions of the methods utilized by the CAPs to gain the support of the people in rooting ou the VC infrastructure.
3736 Capt W. KENT, JR. Debrief, former CO, Co I, 1st CAG. 17Jul67-7Aug68
3750 Cpl E.W. KINNELL Activities of CAG 1-3. Jan69
3751 LtGen R.E. CUSHMAN III MAF Monthly Commanders Conf. Jan69
3758 MajGen E.E. ANDERSON Debrief, former C/S, III MAP. Dec67-Dec68
3985 Cpl C.R. BUONANNO The Combined Action Program. May68-Oct68
4085 Col E.F. DANOWITZ The Combined Action Program. 1965-28Apr69
Col DANOWITZ describes the mission, unit disposition, size of units, and training of personnel within the CAP. He also discusses the differences between CAP personnel and infantry units and the support received from various units.
4088 Col G.C. KNAPP Debrief, former Chief, Plans and Programs Branch, CORDS Joint
Staff, I Corps. Mar68-Apr69
Col KNAPP, in part, states that the CAP is the greatest contributor in I Corps and that this is recognized by civilians and all Army personnel who come in contact with it. He cannot understand why the Army has not adopted the program in the other Corps areas.
4099 lstLt S.E. SHORE Small unit action. 18Feb68-14Mar69
4123 BGen w. WEINSTEIN Debrief. 5Mar-2May69
4260 Col P.D. LAFOND Debrief, former AC/S, 0-3, 3d MarDiv, and CO,
3d Mar. Jul68-Jun69
Argues that one significant weakness is that the platoons are so fragmented that they do not receive much leadership from the CAG. Additionally, he contends that the officer leadership exercised by the PF is very poor.
4315 SSgt R.P. FITZPATRICK The role of 1st Pit, F/2/26 as a reaction force in support of a CAP unit. 1Jun69
4406 Dr. E. BAIRDAIN The Combined Action Program in I Corps (HSR study) .
Unfortunately, both the tape and the study were missing.
4418 W.M. WENTWORTH Combined Action operations, lstLt 0/2/26; 4th CAG. 7Dec67-18Oct68
4485 Col C.R. BURROUGHS Debrief, former Director, Combined Action Program. Apr-Oct69
4732 Col R.A. HEYWOOD Debrief, former Co, 26th Mar; C/S, FMFPac. Jan-Dec69
4735 Capt D. ROBINSON M/3/1 in the CUPP. 19Nov69-18Jan70
4848 lstLt T. CALVERT Activities of the CUPP. 1Mar-27May70
4853 BGen L.J. Dulacki 1970
Discusses, in part, the Vietnamese reaction to the withdrawal of the CAP units.
4868 lstLt T. MILLER 1st Plt, "A" CUPP. 11Jun70
4892 Col N. HEFFERNAN Debrief, former CO, lstMar; Dep AC/S, G-3, III MAF; AC/S O-3, III MAF. Jul69- Jun70
4899 Col T.E. METZGER Debrief, former CO, CAF. Aug69-Jul70
4956 Col C.J. PEABODY Debrief, former AC/S, 0-5, III MAF. Sep69-Sep70
4958 Col E.G. DURNING, JR. Debrief, former DepAds, 0-4, III MAF and Co, 7th Mar. Aug69-Aug70
4979 Col R.F. ESTEY Debrief, former Commander CAF and AC/S, 0-3, 1st MarDiv. Nov69-Dec70
5009 LtCol J.J. TOLNAY Debrief, former Co, 2d CAG. Sep70-May71
6000 LtGen H. Nickerson N/A
Discusses, in part, the reasons for withdrawing the CAP units. He cites lack of Marine discipline as one such reason.
6177 Maj A.F. LUCAS The Combined Action program. 1966-Sep67
The next list of interviews was conducted by Martin Russ, under a grant from the Marine Corps Historical Foundation. They can be found at the Marine Corps Historical Center in Washington, D.C. These are essential for an understanding of the CAP, as many of the "original actors" are herein interviewed.
6308. Lane ROGERS, LtCol , USMC: Some observations on the war in Vietnam
6309. James BROWN, LtCol, USMC: The Combined Action Program in RVN
6310. William R. CORSON, LtCol, USMC (Ret): Observations on the war in Vietnam and the Combined Action Program
6311. Albert LUCAS, Maj, USMC: Observations on the Marine Corps Combined Action Program
6312. Herman NICKERSON, JR., LtGen, USPIC (Ret): Comments on the war in Vietnam, the Combined Action Program
6314. Mr. Edward T. LONG: A former CORDS official's comments on the pacification effort in II Corps, RVN
6315. David WAGNER, Col, USMC: Comments on the Combined Action Program
6316. William a. CORSON, LtCol, USMC (Ret): Additional comments on the war in Vietnam and the Combined Action Program
6317. Ralph F. LEVEL, MSgt, USMC (Ret) : Comments on the Combined Action Program in RVN
6318. Mr. Henry KOREN: Comments on the pacification effort in I Corps, RVN
6319. Fred HAYNES, MajGen, USMC: Comments on the war in Vietnam, the Combined Action Program
6320. Mr. Willard LOCKRIDGE: Comments on the Combined Action Program in RVN
6321. John CAMPANELLI, Maj, USMC: Comments on the Combined Action Program
6322. Robert NEVILLE, Col, USMC (Ret): Comments on the war in Vietnam, the Combined Action Program
6323. Alex FIRFER, Mr./ Carl FRITZ, Mr.: Comments on the pacification effort in I Corps, RVN
6324.Edwin H. SIMMONS, BGen, USMC (Ret): Comments on the war in Vienarn and the
6325. Edwin H. SIMMONS, BGen, USMC (Ret): Additional comments on the Vietnam War and the pacification effort
6326. John MULLIN, JR, Maj, USMC: Comments an the inception of the joint/combined action units in the Hue-Phu Bai TAOR (3/4)
6327. Edward LANSOALE, MajGen. USAF (Ret): Comments on the pacification effort in RVN
6328. Mr. Robert W. KOMER: Comments of a former CORDS chief on the pacification effort in RVN
6329. L. F. CHAPMAN, JR, Gen, USMC:. Comments on the war in Vietnam
6330. Lewis W. WALT, Gen, USMC: Comments on the war in Vietnam and the pacification effort
6331. Mr. William E. COLBY: Comments of the former CORDS chief on the pacification effort in RVN
6332. Don WYCOFF, Col, USMC (Ret): Comments on the war in Vietnam and the pacification effort
6333. Thomas FIELDS, Col, USMC: Comments on press relations in I Corps, RVN
6334. Jonas M. PLATT, MajGen, USMC: Comments on the war in Vietnam
6335. Edwin H. SIMMONS, BGen, USMC (Ret): Further comments on the Vietnam War
6336. John CAMPANELLI, Maj, USMC: Additional comments on the Combined Action Program
6337. Henry STACXPOLE, LtCol, USMC: Debrief of former I Corps Information Officer re/I Corps Relations with the Press
6338. William ft. CORSON, LtCol, USMC: Further comments on the Vietnam War and the Combined Action Program
6339. Edwin LANSDALE, MajGen, USMC: Additional comments on the Vietnam War and the Pacification Effort in RVN
6340. Jean SAUVAGEOT, LtCol. USMC: Comments on the Revolutionary Development Cadre Prograrn in RVN
Alnutt, Bruce C., Marine Combined Action Capabilities: The Vietnam Experience,
McLean: Human Sciences
Research, Inc., 1969.
Blanchard, Colonel Don H., Pacification: Marine Corps Style, Newport: Naval War College, 1968.
Corson, LtCol William R., "Marine Combined Action Program In Vietnam", III MAF Civic Action articles, 1969-70.
Hunter, LtCol. Earl R., The Combined Unit Program, Quantico: Marine Corps
Command and Staff College,
Johnson, Major Robert E., Retention of the Combined Action Program,
Quantico: Marine Corps Command and Staff
Mullen, Capt. John J., Jr., Modifications to the III MAF Combined Action Program in the Republic of Vietnam, Quantico: Marine Corps Development and Education Command, 1968.
Personal Response Project, FMFPAC (FWD), Sept., 1966 and Feb., 1967.
Raines, Major R.C., An Analysis of the Command and Control Structure of the Combined
Action Program, Quantico:
Marine Corps Command and Staff College, 1969.
Scarr, Harry A. et. al., Marine Combined Action Capabilities: Training for Future Contingencies, McLean: Human Sciences Reseach, Inc., 1971.
West, Capt F.J., Jr., "Something of Significance", 1st MarDiv CommC, Jan
1967, tab F.
Blaufarb, Douglas S., The Counterinsurgency Era: U.S. Doctrine and Performance,
New York: The Free Press,
Corson, William R., The Betrayal, New York: W.W Norton & Co., 1968.
Doyle, Edward, ed., America Takes Over, Boston: Boston Publishing Co., 1982.
Gallucci, Robert L., Neither Peace Nor Honor, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975.
Krulak, Victor H., First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps,
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press,
Lederer, William J., Our Own Worst Enemy, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1966.
Shulimson, Jack, and Johnson, Charles, The Marines in Vietnam: The Landing and the Buildup, 1965, Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1978.
-Shulimson, Jack, U.S. Marines in Vietnam: An Expanding War, 1966, Washington,
D.C.: History and Museums
Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1982.
Stolfi, Russel H., United States Marine Corps Civic Action Efforts in Vietnam, March
1965 - March 1966,
Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1966.
Telfer, Gary L.; Rogers, Lane; and Fleming, V. Keith, Jr., U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Fighting the North Vietnamese, 1967, Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1984.
Walt, Lewis W., Strange War, Strange Strategy, New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1970.
West, F.J., Jr., The Village, New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
Marine Corps Gazette
Admire, LtCol John H., "Understanding Limited WarTM, Jan., 1983, p.50.
Clement, LtCol David A., "Le My: Study in Counterinsurgency" July, 1967, p.18.
Davis, MajGen R.G., "Combined Operations with ARVN", Oct., 1969, p.18.
Evans, LtCol D.L., Jr., "USMC Civil Affairs in Vietnam", Mar., 1968, p.20.
Holmberg, Maj William C., "Civic Action", Oct., 1969, p.20.
Platt, MajGen J.M., "Military Civic Action", Sept., 1970, p.20.
Wagner, LtCol David H., "A Handful of Marines", Mar., 1968, p.44.
West, Capt F.J., Jr., "Fast Rifles", Oct., 1967, p.38.
Williamson, Capt R.E., "A Briefing for Combined Action", Mar., 1968, p.41.
Wilson, MSgt George, "Combined Action", Oct., 1966, p.28.
"Combined Action Company: great melting pot in miniature", 24 May, p.7.
"CAC squad repels night attack by VC", 7 June, p.4.
"Battle of the empty soda cans", 28 June, p.4.
"CAC patrol repels daytime vo attack", 28 June, p.6.
"Marines feed Ho Chi Minh", 28 June, p.7.
"Comradeship cooperation key to success for CAC", 26 July, p.7.
"A winning combination", 16 Nov., p.4.
"CAC-8 prtects Loc Son village", 14 Dec., p.7.
"Combined Action Companies ending Viet Cong terrorism", 28 Dec., p.9.
"CAC unit likes work", 18 Jan., p.3.
"Combined action companies", 18 Jan., p.11.
"Camp Dedicated to Young CAP Marines", 20 Oct., p.9.
"Expansion Underway of Area CAP Units", 20 Oct., p.12.
"CAP Marine Saves Buddy From Death", 3 Nov., p.1.
"No meal Please! says CAP outfit", 1 Dec., p.11.
"CAC News": A Monthly Supplement", 1 Feb.; 1 Mar.; 5 Apr.; 5 May; 2 June; 7July.
"CAP News": A Monthly Supplement", 4 Aug.; 1 Sep.; 6 Oct.; 3Nov.; 1 Dec.
"CAP Units Withstand Massive NVA Assault", 26 Jan., p.5.
"CAP School Prepares Students for Important Job Ahead", 26 Jan., p.2.
"CAP Leathernecks Escape from NVA Imprisonment", 9 Feb., p.1.
"Marine Mobile Training Teams", 27 Sept., p.6.
I was unable to review these two years.
"Former CAG Marine Finds Home in Vietnam", 29 Jan., p.3.
"CAP Corpsman Spends Time Of f Directing Medevac of Viet Girl", 19 Feb., p.6.
Beardsley, Sgt Frank, "Combined Action", Apr., 1968, p.20.
Freeman, MSgt Herb, "CAC", Apr., 1967, p.6.
General Victor H. Krulak
"A Strategic Concept for the Republic of Vietnam", June, 1965.
"A Strategic Appraisal", Dec., 1965.
General Lewis W. Walt
"13th Annual Reunion Third Marine Division Assoc., Cherry Hill, New Jersey",
22 July 1967.
"First Marine Division Assosication Reunion, Miami, Florida", 29 July 1967.
"Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island", 2 Nov. 1967.