Maj. Cullen C. Zimmerman

Maj. Cullen C. Zimmerman
CAP Origins

Submitted by: Tim "CAPVet" Duffie

The story Combined Action Platoons as reproduced on this Web Site, makes the following reference:

The most ambitious Marine pacification program took root in the summer of 1965. Captain John T. Mullin, Jr., the civil affairs officer for the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, based at Phu Bai, saw an under-used resource in the marines' own backyard. Mullin thought that the Vietnamese Popular Forces soldiers, a poorly trained, ill-equipped local militia charged with defending villages, might be upgraded into an aggressive, effective fighting force if U.S. Marines took them under their wings. Mullin's idea impressed his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel William "Woody" Taylor. In July Col. Taylor ordered his executive officer, Major Cullen C. Zimmerman, to draw up a plan for incorporating marines into PF units.

In a phone conversation recently, LtCol. Zimmerman (retired) made the following observations:

LtCol. Zimmerman commented that he "requested" 13 men from each rifle company. His request specifically stated....not their best....and not their worst. He indicated his concern, at the time, that he not "...strip a rifle company of their best NCOs." However, he also didn't want their "....shit birds". He did state that he requested one full squad per company.....(I think).

Each individual was then interviewed by, first, Lt. Paul Ek, then Maj. Zimmerman himself. One entire "Squad" was returned to their rifle company. (Apparently somebody didn't get the word!)

He was curious about the "14 Marines and 1 Navy Corpsman" mentioned in the Combined Action Platoon story I sent with the letter. Originally, I believe, he commented that the first unit was a full Marine platoon. (I could be wrong about that, but he definitely did not understand the 14 Marines concept.)

During the conversation, LtCol. Zimmerman expressed surprise when I mentioned the lack of supplies, etc, endured by later CAP Units on into early to mid-1967. He stated that the first CAC Unit went into the 'ville with everything they needed for their defense. I suspect that was the result of this being their "brainchild". There is more than sufficient evidence that subsequent CAC Units went into their hamlets with little more than M-14s.

As to why the discrepancies, I would suspect that it was contingent on the respective battalions who "sponsored" each subsequent unit, and the degree to which they "bought into" the program. As we learned from David Sherman's Day One story, Lt. Gen. Krulak was actively involved in setting up some of the earlier CAC Units. Perhaps the lack of his "physical" presence diluted some of the enthusiasm from subsequent battalion COs.

There was not much else of substance in our phone conversation. LtCol. Zimmerman retired in 1968. He heard nothing more about the CAP program until he received my letter recently.

However, he was interviewed by USMC Maj. M.D. Weltsch for a Master Thesis, and he has suggested that the thesis may be available from the Command & General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, KS.

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