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battalion landed in Da Nang, my feeling, a very strong one which I voiced to the Joint Chiefs, was that the real target in Vietnam were not the VC and the North Vietnamese, but the Vietnamese people . . .37

Other than the Le My experiment, in June 1965 Marine pacification consisted largely of an embryonic civic action program which had begun a few months earlier as an offshoot of the former Marine task element's "people to people" medical assistance program. In April, the civil affairs officer of the 3d Marines, 1st Lieutenant William F. B. Francis, in cooperation with local officials, established a dispensary in the village of Hoa Phat, known to the Marines as Dog Patch, on the western perimeter of the Da Nang Airbase. A Vietnamese nurse ran the facility, while a Navy hospital corpsman and a lab technician paid occasional visits. Lieutenant Francis begged and borrowed medicines from various U.S. agencies, both military and civilian.

Medical assistance programs of this type expanded throughout the Marine TAORs. Lieutenant Colonel Cement's battalion at Le My established another dispensary and opened sick call to the civilian population every other day, while the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines did the same in its area of operations. The artillery battalion at Chu Lai, the 3d Battalion, 12th Marines, in conjunction with Company B, 3d Medical Battalion, provided daily dispensary service for the local populace. The 3d Battalion, 4th Marines at Phu Bai established a weekly medical service in three small hamlets nearby. In all three Marine enclaves, hospital corpsmen accompanied Marine patrols into the local villages where they dispensed soap and treated minor illnesses.

Civic action, even at this very early stage in its development, encompassed more than merely dispensing medicine. At Chu Lai, the 400 people who were displaced by the airfield were resettled in a new area with the assistance of the 4th Marines and the local district government. The need of much of the rural population for food, clothing, and shelter was apparent to all. The Marines could not hope to eliminate all of the suffering, but they could furnish some assistance. They made contact with private charitable organizations, such as CARE and the Catholic Relief Society, and were able to obtain over 10,000 pounds of miscellaneous supplies to be distributed within their TAORs. The Marines discovered other means besides charity for making life more pleasant for the villagers. In one instance the 3d Marine Division band, marching through Hoa Phat, suddenly struck up a gay tune, and then, to the delight of hundreds of Vietnamese who had gathered, the band played an impromptu concert for over an hour.

There was a need for overall guidance and direction since civic action was too important to leave to the good will and natural enthusiasm of individual Marines. On 7 June, III MAF published an order which established civic action policy. Major Charles J. Keever, the III MAF Civil Affairs Officer who prepared the directive, had visited hamlets around both Da Nang and Chu Lai to obtain the details of the home life of the Vietnamese villagers, as well as the dvic action programs conducted by the Marines. In the order he defined civic action as the ' 'term applied to the employment of the military forces of a nation in economic and social activities which are beneficial to the population as a whole."38 On 14 June, General Walt held a meeting with 25 of his senior officers and reiterated III MAF civic action policies. The goal was to stabilize the political situation and to build up the government by providing it with the respect and loyalty of its citizens.

The Marines attained their first measurable success in the struggle for the people when villagers in two hamlets, five and a half miles northwest of Le My, elected to move into an area under Marine protection. Lieutenant Colonel Clement's battalion had conducted several sweeps along both banks of the Song Cu De, up river from Le My. According to Clement:

The movement of the people from these two hamlets, of Pho Nam Thuong and Nam Yen, was very important to me because I did not want to extend my defensive posture to include Pho Nam, yet I did not want the VC to have those people. The people were hesitant to move-reluctant to give up their homes; apprehensive about the rice harvest to come; and fearful that association with government forces would mark them for retaliation by the VC.39

Clement then decided to convince the villagers that their hamlets were in a combat zone and that "they would be safer to accept refugee status and relocate near Le My . . . ." The battalion commander, several years later, recalled:

I directed that H&I [harrassing and interdiction] fires be brought close in to the hamlet, night after night. The attitude of the people about relocation "improved" in time and the relocation operation was scheduled . . . not only did I have to "convince" the people of Pho Nam and [Nam Yen] to relocate, but I had to convince the Vietnamese authorities of the necessity of this move since the official policy was to discourage refugees.

 

 

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