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Civic Action: The Marine Corps Experience in Vietnam,
According to a 1939 US Army Field Manual, the ultimate objective of all
military operations is the destruction of the enemy's armed forces in
battle. Decisive defeat in battle breaks the enemy's will to continue
fighting and forces him to sue for peace.
1 This early Clausewitzian doctrine served the US well in
World War II, but by the 1960's the teachings of Mao Tse-Tung, Lin Piao
and Che Guevara became relevant to an understanding of the nature of
"people's wars" or "wars of national liberation." The most effective
strategy for opposing communism in wars of this type was of a dual
nature. The destructive phase would address the conventional force
threat, while the constructive phase was concerned with the political,
economic, social, and ideological aspects of the struggle.
The Marines understood this duality best. According to British
counterinsurgency expert Sir Robert Thompson, "Of all the United States
forces [in Vietnam] the Marine Corps alone made a serious attempt to
achieve permanent and lasting results in their tactical area of
responsibility by seeking to protect the rural population."
2 This appreciation of the value of pacification was part
of the historical baggage that the Marines brought with them to Vietnam.
The Americans and South Vietnamese seemed to understand the importance
of the relationship between the government and the civilian population,
but were unsuccessful in translating this understanding into practice.
With the Communists, their self-interest demanded that they impose
severe controls on the use of violence toward the population. Sir Robert
Thompson wrote, "Normally communist behaviour towards the mass of the
population is irreproachable and the use of terror is highly selective."
3 To a much greater degree than the American and South
Vietnamese (GVN) troops, the Communists depended on the goodwill of the
Vietnamese rural population.
In February, 1965, the US began Operation Rolling Thunder, the
sustained bombing of North Vietnam. Many of the USAF and SVNAF
fighter-bombers making those attacks were based at Danang, whose
airfield was considered vulnerable to retaliatory attacks by the PLAF
(the military forces of the National Liberation Front). With an
insufficient logistical base in place to support the arrival of heavily
armed US Army units, it was decided to dispatch Marine Corps forces. The
Marines were able to go ashore where no port facilities or airfields
were available, and it was not necessary to stockpile supplies ahead of
landing. By mid-1965 there were 51,000 US servicemen in Vietnam, some
16,500 Marines and 3,500 Army troopers in defensive missions; the rest
functioned in an advisory capacity to the ARVN
4 and as airmen flying and supporting combat missions. The
Marines would be assigned responsibility for I Corps, the military
region of South Vietnam comprising the five northern-most provinces. The
remaining three military regions were the responsibility of the US Army.
By 1966 Westmoreland had completed the construction of the requisite
support infrastructure. The Army, denied the opportunity to invade North
Vietnam, applied the doctrine of conventional operations and force
structure that had worked against the Japanese and Germans in World War
II and against the Chinese in Korea: the efficient application of
massive firepower. The goal of this search and destroy strategy was the
attrition of insurgent forces and their support systems at a rate faster
than the enemy could replace them, either by infiltration from North
Vietnam or by recruitment internally. The strategy of attrition offered
the prospect of winning the war more quickly than with traditional
Westmoreland's strategy notwithstanding, the Communists were largely
successful in controlling the fighting during the war. General Lewis
Walt, commander of the Marines in Vietnam, noted, "The fact is that
every enlargement of U.S. military action has been a specific and
measured response to escalation by the enemy."
5 Whether one sees the US as leading this escalation or
merely responding to it, as with the strategic, so too was the tactical;
over 80 percent of the firefights were initiated by the Communists.
The US government seemed cognizant of the relative value of
pacification efforts--programs designed to bring security and government
control and services to the countryside. In 1966, Secretary of Defense
Robert McNamara offered the following evaluation of the situation in
The large-unit operations war, which we know best how to fight and
where we have had our successes, is largely irrelevant to pacification
as long as we do not have it.
Success in pacification depends on the interrelated functions of
providing physical security, destroying the VC apparatus, motivating the
people to cooperate and establishing responsive local government.
Both the US Army and Marine Corps understood that the war in Vietnam
could not be won solely by defeating the large units of the enemy.
Attention to counterinsurgency operations
8 would be necessary to remove the political influence of
the NLF, particularly in the rural areas of South Vietnam. The Army
remained convinced throughout that the emphasis should properly remain
focused on conventional warfare and the interdiction of the enemy's
external support mechanisms. For the Army, large unit operations were
felt to be the key to victory, and small unit operations were largely
The US Marine Corps had adopted a strategic approach that emphasized
pacification over large-unit battles almost from the outset of their
arrival in Vietnam. Previous Marine deployment as colonial infantry in
Haiti, the Dominican Republic and especially Nicaragua had elements of
civil development and an emphasis upon the training of local militia.
Marine General Walt, himself trained by Marines active in these
Caribbean campaigns, held that many of the lessons learned in the
"Banana Wars" were applicable to Vietnam.
9 These lessons were spelled out in the U.S. Marine Corps
Small Wars Manual (1940):
In regular warfare, the responsible officers simply strive to attain
a method of producing the maximum physical effect with the force at
their disposal. In small wars, the goal is to gain decisive results with
the least application of force and the consequent minimum loss of life.
The end aim is the social, economic, and political development of the
people subsequent to the military defeat of the enemy insurgent forces.
In small wars, tolerance, sympathy, and kindness should be the keynote
of our relationship with the mass of the population.
This was not merely a policy of altruism; one Marine general noted that
there were 100,000 Vietnamese within 81mm mortar range of the Da Nang
airfield. Anything that would instill a friendly attitude toward Marines
among the civilian population would clearly help carry out the more
conventional mission of the Marines.
Shortly after the arrival in force of the Marines in 1965, a program
called Combined Action Platoon was initiated. Each CAP unit consisted of
a fifteen-man rifle squad assigned to a particular hamlet in the Marine
tactical area of responsibility. CAP units worked with platoons of local
Vietnamese militia (Popular Forces, or PFs). CAP Marines were volunteers
with combat experience who were given basic instruction on Vietnamese
culture and customs. These combined units conducted night patrols and
ambushes, gradually making the local Vietnamese forces assume a greater
share of responsibility for village security. Their mission was the
destruction of the NLF infrastructure, organization of local
intelligence networks, and the military training of the PFs. CAPs were
immediately successful. General Walt described the results as being "far
beyond our most optimistic hopes."
12 Two years after the initiation of CAP a US Department of
Defense report noted that the Hamlet Evaluation System security score
gave CAP-protected villages a score of 2.95 out of a possible 5.0
maximum, compared with an average of 1.6 for all I Corps villages. There
was a direct correlation between the time a CAP stayed in a village and
the degree of security achieved, with CAP-protected villages progressing
twice as fast as those occupied by the Popular Forces militia alone.
The casualty rate for CAP units was lower than that of units conducting
search-and-destroy missions. British counterinsurgency expert Gen.
Richard Clutterbuck noted that although Marine casualties were high,
they were only fifty percent of the casualties of the normal infantry
battalions being maneuvered by helicopters on large scale operations.
14 The extension rate of Marine participants in CAP
exceeded sixty percent, and there were no recorded desertions of Popular
Force soldiers from CAP units.
15 The NLF never regained control of a hamlet which was
protected by a CAP unit.16
By the end of 1968 there were 114 CAP units in I Corps, providing security
for 400,000 Vietnamese people, or fifteen percent of the population of I
One of the superior combat narratives of the Vietnam War, The
Village, by F. J. West, Jr., describes the history of one CAP unit
in a typical Vietnamese village.
General Lewis Walt, commander of the III Marine Amphibious Force, was
in the habit of asking his district advisors to comment on the
effectiveness of Marine battalions in I Corps. In June, 1966, Walt
visited Major Richard Braun, advisor to the Binh Son district chief in
Quang Ngai Province. Braun told Walt that the Marines would be more
effective if they worked with the Vietnamese rather than searching for
Viet Cong on their own. When Walt asked for specific recommendations,
Braun suggested sending a platoon of Marines to the village of Binh
The ARVN had been chased out of Binh Nghia two years previously. A
platoon of the Viet Cong lived there regularly, and often a company or
more would come in to resupply or rest. Binh Nghia belonged to the NLF,
and was the full-time government of five of the seven hamlets in the
region and controlled the boat traffic moving on the Tra Bong River.
On 10 June, 1966, Corporal William Beebe led a group of Marine
volunteers from their base camp to the Vietnamese village of Binh Nghia.
All the Marines were seasoned combat veterans who had been chosen on
their ability to get along with the villagers. With the arrival of the
Marines, the village police chief felt strong enough to move his
security forces into the village proper from a nearby outpost. Chief Ap
Thanh Lam called a meeting of the villagers, explained that the
Americans and his men had to come to stay, and asked for volunteers to
construct a new fortified headquarters. Forty civilians joined the
Marines, policemen, and Popular Forces in constructing a fort. Work
progressed on the fort by day, and by night combined Marine-PF patrols
went hunting for the enemy. Beebe later commented on his early
experiences in Binh Nghia: "I still get shaky thinking of those first
few nights.... It was nothing [previous experiences in combat] compared
to that ville. That was the most scared I've ever been in my life."
The activities of the combined unit settled into a regular pattern. The
police left combat to the Marines and PFs. Chief Lam considered his
police to be highly trained specialists and concentrated on intelligence
matters, leaving night patrols and ambushes to the others. Initially,
the Marines and PFs were distrustful of each other, but over time came
to respect each others' particular strengths. The Marines used the PFs
as "eyes and ears" because they could not always depend on them to
advance with the Marines. But the PFs were valuable at point due to "the
belief that a Vietnamese soldier could spot a Viet Cong at night before
an American could." From the beginning the Marines could shoot better
than the Viet Cong; "Long hours on the ranges of boot camp.... had seen
to that. And after hundreds of patrols in the village the Marines were
learning to move as well as the Viet Cong."
The Marines liked duty in the village. They enjoyed the admiration of
the PFs who were unwilling to challenge the Viet Cong alone. They were
pleased that the villagers were impressed because the Marines hunted the
Viet Cong as the Viet Cong for years had hunted the PFs and village
officials. The Marines were aware that the village children did not
avoid them, and that the children's parents were more than polite. The
Marines "had accepted too many invitations to too many meals in too many
homes to believe they were not liked by many and tolerated by most."
20 Their conduct had won them admiration and status within
the Vietnamese village society in which they were working. This combined
action platoon would pay a high price for their success, for most of
them would die at Binh Nghia.
In September, 1966, the NLF attempted to force the Marines out of the
village. Eighty local-force Viet Cong joined with sixty soldiers from
the 5th Company of the 409th NVA Battalion in an attack on the fort,
which was defended by six Marines (the others were away from the fort on
patrol) and twelve PFs.
21 Five Americans and six PFs were killed,
22 but the position held. The day after the fight the
commander of the 1st Marine Division entered the smoldering fort to
speak to the Marines. General Lowell English remarked that perhaps the
combined platoon was too light for the job, too exposed, and overmatched
from the start. He was considering pulling them out; they could stay at
the fort, or go.
One Marine stated the position of the group:
The general was a nice guy. He was trying to give us an out. But we
couldn't leave. What would we have said to the PFs after the way we
pushed them to fight the Cong? We had to stay, There wasn't one of us
who wanted to leave.
Once during a fight the Marines called in an artillery strike on thirty
Viet Cong. The single round fell three hundred yards short, destroying a
thatched hut and killing two civilians.
24 Even though the combined unit Marines were not
responsible for the error, they saw too much of the villagers and lived
too closely with them not to be affected by personal grief. Rifles and
grenades were to be the weapons of the Americans at Binh Nghia. The
village stayed intact throughout some of the heaviest fighting in
Vietnam--there was never an airstrike called for Binh Nghia during the
25 Although the region was marked as "VC" on military
operational maps, they were also marked in red as "out of bounds" for
harassment and interdiction artillery fire because American ground
forces patrolled the area.
By March, 1967, it appeared that the enemy had modified their strategy
toward Binh Son district in general and toward Binh Nghia in particular.
The PLAF previously had sought out contact with the combined unit, but
now avoided the patrols. Vietnamese military intelligence reported that
the NLF political cadres had attended a conference in January, where it
had been decided to no longer fight the spreading pacification efforts
with local troops. Rather, the guerrillas were to gather intelligence
and act as guides and reinforcements for the main forces. At the January
conference the Binh Nghia combined unit had been denounced more bitterly
than any other US or GVN program. The unit was hurting the NLF
militarily; its patrols and ambushes prevented NLF use of the Tra Bong
River and blocked one route to the air base at Chu Lai. Its presence
impeded rice collection, taxation, proselytizing, and recruitment. NLF
attempts to reestablish control over the area after the attack on the
fort in September were a failure.
By October, 1967, it was felt by District and Marine Headquarters that
the job of the combined unit at Binh Nghia was finished. The village was
pacified and the Marines were needed elsewhere. By December, 1967, the
US Army and ROK (Republic of Korea) Marines moved into the area while
the Marines moved further north, toward the DMZ. A captain from District
Headquarters felt that security in the area had not improved, as the
Army troops were too far in the hills and the Koreans were behind a
massive defensive barrier.
By 1971 the war had passed by Binh Nghia. The Americans were gone. The
Viet Cong guerrillas and local force soldiers were gone. The fort
constructed by the combined unit and the Vietnamese was gone, the wind
and rain having caused the sand bags and punji stakes to cave in and
wash away. But the village was intact, and survived the fighting.
The Marines knew they held no inherent right to institutional
perpetuity within the US armed forces. The Corps had remained a separate
service because of its performance in previous conflicts. For the
Marines, a reading of the primers for Marxist guerrilla warfare and
revolution provided evidence that wars of national liberation would be
the principle means of exerting Communist political and military
influence. As a consequence, a comprehensive counterinsurgency program
must include a serious commitment to civic action-style pacification.
CAP units were felt to be an efficient allocation of Marine assets:
When the guns are quiet, destructive combat power is dormant; the
commander limited to only this dimension of warfare is hobbled. Here
civic action, the constructive aspect of combat power, gains increased
Marine civic action was not limited to the utilization of military
assets in Vietnam. Organized Marine Corps Reserve units in the United
States also made significant contributions. Marine reserves spent
$80,000 on elementary school "kits" containing pencils, notebooks,
erasers, scissors, and other essential school items. $33,800 was spent
on brick-making machines, $7,200 on rice threshers, $3,100 toward the
construction of dams to increase agricultural production through
irrigation, $32,095 for civilian hospital construction, and over $3,000
for the purchase of water pumps to provide drinking water. Money from
the Marine Corps Reserve Civic Action Fund also bought emergency food,
toys for children, and supported the Vietnamese 4-T Program, an
organization similar to the 4-H Program in the United States.
Marine civic action included the provision of medical care for
Vietnamese civilians. US Navy doctors and corpsmen working with the
Marines provided over four million medical treatments and trained about
9,000 Vietnamese nationals in nursing-type skills. Marine helicopters
and land vehicles evacuated 19,000 sick or injured civilians to civilian
and US military treatment facilities. Marines assisted the Vietnamese in
the construction of schools and additional classrooms. Thirteen million
meals were provided to refugees, and over 400,000 pounds of clothing
were distributed by Marines. Other aspects of civic action in the Marine
area of responsibility included the construction of wells, bridge
building, repair of irrigation facilities, animal husbandry projects and
agricultural seed purchases, and the distribution of carpentry and
blacksmith tools to the civilian population.28
Marine civic action necessitated a partial resource allocation away
from more conventional modern fighting techniques, and this could
provide a benefit to the Marines as well as to their Vietnamese allies.
In warfare soldiers are obligated to find justifications for their
actions on personal levels. The standard rhetoric of "fighting
communism" and "making the world safe for democracy" often prove
inadequate, and the constructive aspects of civic action can assist in
solving the social problems that soldiers will face in the future. All
wars end and all soldiers who survive must return to more peaceful
pursuits. Their personal conduct at home will reflect their wartime
For the Army, pacification remained an added duty, and not a primary
one. Resources committed to civic action were resources not available
for the accomplishment of the military's major mission. The Army's
aggressive approach to pacification is reflected in the Strategic Hamlet
Program, the forcible relocation of Vietnamese peasants into armed
refugee camps around the district towns. Having drained Mao Tse-tung's
"sea of people" in which the guerrilla "fish" swam, massive firepower
would destroy the remaining enemy inhabitants in these free-fire zones.
For the Army, the strategic hamlet program "represented the last, best
hope for a... civic-action-oriented solution; if it failed, the decks
would have been cleared for the implementation of the military
Given that the Strategic Hamlet Program was a demonstrated failure even
before US Army ground units arrived in Vietnam, it is not surprising
that the Army put but minimal faith in the efficacy of civic action.
Army leadership was united in their disapproval of the Marine CAP
program. Westmoreland felt that pacification should be primarily a South
Vietnamese task.31 "I simply did
not have enough numbers to put a squad of Americans in every village and
hamlet; that would have been fragmenting resources and exposing them to
defeat in detail."32 Westmoreland
felt Marine tactics were insufficiently aggressive, that their practices
"left the enemy free to come and go as he pleased throughout the bulk of
the region and, when and where he chose, to attack the periphery of the
[Marine] beachheads."33 General
Harry Kinnard, Commander of the Army 1st Cavalry, was "absolutely
disgusted" with the Marines. "I did everything I could to drag them out
and get them to fight.... They just wouldn't play. They just would not
play. They don't know how to fight on land, particularly against
operations officer, General William Depuy, observed that "the Marines
came in and just sat down and didn't do anything. They were involved in
counterinsurgency of the deliberate, mild sort."35
Marine General Victor Krulak was the most articulate spokesman of
pacification. Krulak was a former special assistant for
counterinsurgency to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and, by 1965, the
Commanding General of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. He felt that
Westmoreland's strategy of attrition would fail because it was Hanoi's
game. The Communists' strategy in Krulak's view was to seek "to attrite
U.S. forces through the process of violent, close-quarters combat which
tends to diminish the effectiveness of our supporting arms." By killing
and wounding enough American soldiers over time they would "erode our
national will and cause us to cease our support of the GVN."36
For Krulak, a strategy of pacification was the only way to succeed. Krulak
went over Westmoreland's head and in 1966 presented his views to
Secretary of Defense McNamara in an attempt to force Westmoreland to
adopt a pacification strategy for the whole of South Vietnam. In the
summer of 1966 a meeting was arranged between Krulak and President
Johnson. After hearing Krulak describe his plan for winning the war in
Vietnam, Johnson "got to his feet, put his arm around my shoulder, and
propelled me firmly toward the door."37
In the test of wills between Westmoreland and Krulak, the Army general
possessed a formidable weapon--a general's fourth star. Westmoreland was
popular with the press, the public, and especially with President
Johnson. Eventually the Marines gave up their attempts to more widely
implement their pacification strategy and fell in line with the Army.
It is ironic that the Marines, who favored a long-term, small-unit
approach to combat in Vietnam were ordered by the Army to implement Dye
Marker. This plan called for the construction of a barrier along the DMZ
employing minefields, sensors, and barbed wire to reduce PAVN (Peoples
Army of Vietnam) infiltration from North Vietnam. Marines and Navy
Seabees provided the manpower to strip a 600-meter belt, or "trace," of
its vegetation, taking large numbers of casualties in the progress.38
Eventually the project would be abandoned after the investment of 757,520
man-days and 114,519 equipment-hours because Westmoreland felt that "To
have gone through with constructing the barrier, even in modified form
that I proposed, would have been to invite enormous casualties."39
Marine Corps strategy and tactics were more appropriate to the reality
of the Vietnam battlefield than those of the US Army. Civic action might
have made a difference had it been instituted on a wider scale. The CAPs
were not uniformly successful and were too scattered to have a maximum
impact. Several months after the CAP program was instituted the US noted
a large enemy buildup in the Demilitarized Zone. Westmoreland decided
this area should receive the focus of the US effort in I Corps, which
obligated the Marines to move northward. Civic action remained a
sideshow to US efforts to wage conventional war. To acknowledge the
efficacy of pacification would deny the appropriateness of US military
doctrine and ignore the historical successes of the US Army. Civic
action was a time-consuming process, and time was a precious commodity
in an industrial society.
Civic action had promise. Had it been adopted on a wide scale the war
would have been different, but it is a matter of speculation as to
whether it would have ultimately affected the outcome. Less speculative
is the applicability of the strategy and tactics that prevailed:
It was never clearly understood by the American administration, and
certainly not by the Army, that the whole American effort, civilian and
military, had to be directed towards the establishment of a viable and
stable South Vietnamese government and state, i.e., the creation of an
acceptable alternative political solution the reunification with North
Vietnam under a communist government.
Instead, through the bombing of the North and a war of attrition
within the South, the whole effort was directed to the military defeat
of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese divisions infiltrated into South
Viet Nam. Even if such a military defeat had been possible, it would not
have achieved victory without a political solution.40
The U.S. Army in Vietnam was a force configured to wage conventional
and nuclear warfare in Europe. Its insistence on waging large-unit
battles ensured that the enemy would avoid the deployment of its forces
in large units when it was to its advantage to do so. The utilization of
massive firepower to inflict large numbers of casualties on the enemy
resulted in civilian casualties and social disruption. The U.S. was
perceived as the ally of the GVN; neither government was seen as an ally
by the civilian population. The more the U.S. took control of the war to
avoid the defeat of the ARVN by the Communists, the greater the ability
of Hanoi to portray the U.S. as neo-colonialists and the GVN as a puppet
The Vietnam War is not merely history. It is history that must be
understood. Its lessons must be applied to the present. With the end of
the Cold War the humanitarian functions of the US military will assume
increased importance in low-intensity conflicts. Recent troop
deployments to Iraqi Kurdistan, Bangladesh, and Somalia are testimony to
the utility of civic action. The nontraditional use of military force
represents a fusion of political and military assets that can further
the foreign policy goals of the United States.
1 Department of the Army FM 100-5, Field Service
Regulations: Operations, (Washington, DC: DA, 1939): 27, quoted in
Larry Cable, Conflict of Myths: The Development of American
Counterinsurgency Doctrine in the Vietnam War, (NY, NY: New York
University Press, 1986): 114.
2 Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., The Army and Vietnam,
(Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 1986): 172.
3 Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese
and the Americans in Vietnam, (Boston, MA: Little, Brown): 232. As
Mao Tse-tung adapted the strategic and tactical concepts of Lenin to fit
the Chinese situation (p. 51), so too was the basic strategy of the NLF
and DRV derived from Mao's notions of "People's War" (Douglas Kinnard,
The War Managers, (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England,
1977): 64. But given the similarity of strategy and tactics between the
Soviets in Afghanistan and the Americans in Vietnam, perhaps the most
effective way to resist reliance on the use of heavy weapons against the
civilian population is to not have them available.
4 BrigGen Edward H. Simmons, "Marine Corps Operations in
Vietnam, 1965-1966," in The Marines in Vietnam 1954-1973
(Washington, DC, 1974): 38.
5 Lewis W. Walt, Strange War, Strange Strategy, (NY,
NY: Funk, 1970): 187.
6 James Gibson, The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam,
(Boston, MA: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986): 11.
7 "Actions Recommended for Vietnam," Draft memorandum for
President Lyndon B. Johnson from Secretary of Defense Robert S.
McNamara, October 14, 1966, The Pentagon Papers, (Boston, MA:
Bantam Books, 1971), vol 4: 348-353, quoted in Steven Cohen, Vietnam,
(NY, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1983): 140.
8 Counterinsurgency operations refers to such US programs as
Revolutionary Development, civic action, and pacification and may be
loosely defined as the employment of military resources for purposes
other than conventional warfare.
9 Walt, Strange War: 29. Cable, Conflict: 96,
posits that the lessons from these earlier pacification interventions
were not effectively institutionalized by the Marine Corps. According to
Cable, the transmittal of these experiences to Vietnam was effected by
the tribal character of the Marine Corps.
10 USMC, Small Wars Manual, (Washington, D.C.: HQMC,
1940): I-9-15, quoted in Krepinevich, The Army: 172. Marine Corps
experience in stabilizing governments and fighting guerrillas was
formalized in lecture form at the Marine Corps Schools in Quantico,
Virginia, in 1920. These lectures evolved into Small Wars Manual, 1930,
which was revised and adopted as an official publication in 1940, "a
fifteen-chapter compendium of everything the Corps had learned in its
Caribbean experience." Victor Krulak, First to Fight: An Inside View
of the U.S. Marine Corps, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press,
11 MajGen J. M. Platt, "Military Civic Action," in Marine
Corps Gazette 54, 9 (September, 1970): 24.
12 Walt, Strange War: 105.
13 Krepinevich, The Army: 174.
14 Krepinevich, The Army: 174.
15 LtCol David H. Wagner, "A Handful of Marines," in
Marine Corps Gazette 52, 3 (March, 1968): 45.
16 LtCol D. L. Evans, Jr., "USMC Civil Affairs in Vietnam: A
Philosophical History," in Marine Corps Gazette 52, 3 (March,
1968): 24. The PAVN did overrun the Marine CAP unit at Khe Sanh village
during Tet in 1969. See John Prados and Ray Stubbe, Valley of
Decision: The Siege of Khe Sanh, (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin,
17 LtCol David H. Wagner, "A Handful of Marines," in
Marine Corps Gazette 52, 3 (March, 1968) 46.
18 F. J. West, Jr., The Village, (NY: Harper and Row,
19 West, The Village: 10.
20 West, The Village: 19, 52, 72, 102.
21 West, The Village: 112.
22 West, The Village: 131.
23 Interview with PFC Sidney Fleming who subsequently died
fighting with the combined unit. West, The Village: 131. Later,
when the combined unit was ordered to leave by higher headquarters on
the eve of another enemy attack, they again refused. West, The
24 West, The Village: 36.
25 West, The Village: 187.
26 Maj William Holmberg, "Civic Action," in Marine Corps
Gazette 50, 6 (June, 1966): 28.
27 Capt H. G. Lyles, "Civic Action Progress Report," in
Marine Corps Gazette 53,9 (September, 1969): 52.
28 MajGen J. M. Platt, "Military Civic Action," in Marine
Corps Gazette 54, 9 (September, 1970): 24-25.
29 There are no studies that compare PTSD rates between
Marines involved in civic action with those involved in more traditional
infantry roles of which I am aware. However, it seems obvious to me that
CAP Marines speak more positively of their wartime experiences in their
narratives than do their conventional infantry brothers.
30 Cable, Conflict: 198. And fail it did: Stanley
Karnow, Vietnam: A History (NY, NY: Penguin Books, 1991): 340,
notes that in early December, 1963, in Long An province, "three-quarters
of the two hundred strategic hamlets had been destroyed since the
summer, either by the Vietcong or by their own occupants, or by a
combination of both." Vietcong attacks in the province declined
primarily because there were no longer any strategic hamlets worth
31 Westmoreland's first combat experience with the infantry
was in Korea. Gen William C. Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports
(Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976): 26. In Korea the US view was that
internal security was the role of the Republic of Korea; the role of US
forces in Korea was the protection of that country from external attack.
Summers, On Strategy, 112.
32 Westmoreland, A Soldier: 166. In truth,
Westmoreland did have the numbers. There were 11,000 hamlets (Simmons,
"Marine Corps Operations": 34) in South Vietnam and a 15-man platoon of
US soldiers in each would have required 165,000 men.
33 Westmoreland, A Soldier: 165.
34 Krepinevich interview with Kinnard, June 21, 1982.
Krepinevich, The Army: 175.
35 Krepinevich interview with Depuy, March 26, 1979.
Krepinevich, The Army: 175.
36 Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie, ( NY: Random
House, 1988): 630.
37 Krulak: 202.
38 Otto Lehrack, No Shining Armor, (Lawrence, KS:
University Press of Kansas, 1992): 181.
39 See Prados, Valley: 146, for both statistics on
Dye Marker resource utilization and quotation on Westmoreland's rational
for its discontinuance.
40 Robert Thompson, Revolutionary War in World Strategy,
1945- 1969, (N.Y., N.Y.: Taplinger Publishing Co., 1970): 130.