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CHAPTER 9

Pacification

The Combined Action Program-Protection of the Harvest: GOLDEN FLEECE-Cordon and Search; The Seeds of COUNTY FAIR and Population Control-Civic Action-The Ngu Hanh Son Campaign and the Frustrations of Pacification

The Combined Action Program

Fighting guerrillas was not a new experience for the Marine Corps. General Walt recalled that as a young officer he learned the fundamentals of his profession 'from men who had fought Sandino in Nicaragua or Charlemagne in Haiti.''1 Based on earlier experiences in the Caribbean republics, in 1940 the Marine Corps published the Small Wars Manual, which contains the statement:

 

 

In small wars, tolerance, sympathy, and kindness should be the keynote of our relationship with the mass of the population .... The purpose should always be to restore normal government .... and to establish peace, order, and security. . . .2*

General Walt expressed much the same sentiment when he described pacification, The name doesn't matter, the idea does: sympathy, understanding, regard for the people.3

The Marines recognized the close interrelationship between defense of the base area and the extension of Marine influence into the countryside. This was clearly demonstrated at Phu Bai where the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines faced the situation of defending an expanding area of operations with a limited number of troops. They responded by developing the Combined Action Program. When Zone A,** the 10-square-mile built-up area directly north and east of the airfield, was incorporated in the Marine TAOR on 21 June, Lieutenant Colonel William 'Woody' Taylor expected reinforcements from the 3d Marine Division to control the added area, but the diversion of Utter's battalion to Qui Nhon forced Taylor to make do with the forces he had on hand.

At the suggestion of Captain John J. Mullen, Jr., the battalion adjutant and civil affairs officer, Taylor decided to tap a neglected resource, the South Vietnamese Popular Forces (PF). There were six PF platoons in the Phu Bai TAOR; one each in the villages of Thuy Luong, Thuy Tan, Phu Bai, and Loc Son, and two guarding the railroad and Highway 1 bridges. In July, Lieutenant Colonel Taylor was granted limited operational control of the PF units in Zone A by General Chuan, the 1st ARVN Division commander. Major Cullen C. Zimmerman, Taylor's executive officer, developed plans for the incorporation of Marines into the PF units. Lieutenant Colonel Taylor then discussed the concept with Colonel Wheeler, still commander of the 3d Marines, and General Walt. Colonel Wheeler assigned a young, Vietnamese-speaking officer from his staff at Da Nang, First Lieutenant Paul R. Ek, the responsibility for establishing the program at Phu Bai. Ek was to integrate a Marine squad into a PF

 

*A former III MAF staff officer in 1965 and, later, a battalion and combined action group commander, Colonel John E. Greenwood, cautioned that the relationship between Marine Corps counterinsurgency theory and the earlier Marine experience in the Caribbean can be overdrawn. Colonel Greenwood remarked that during the Kennedy era 'guerrilla warfare expertise' was one of the 'popular 'in' topics,' and the 'hundreds of Marine officers,' including himself, 'attended Army schools and studied the doctrine developed and articulated by the British and by the U.S. Army.' He made the point that for officers of his generation, as opposed to the senior commanders such as General Walt, 'our insights in war of this kind came from this nearly contemporary effort, not from Marine Corps experience 30 years previous.'' Col John E. Greenwood, Comments on draft MS, dtd Nov77 (Vietnam Comment File).

** Zone A consisted of the ARVN Dong Da training camp, a series of hamlets, and low, wet rice lands extending to the waterways which formed a semicircle around the Marine base. The rivers in the area roughly defined the boundaries for the entire Marine TAOR: the Ta Trach in the west, the Dai Giang to the north and east, and the Nong to the east and south. See Chapter 3 for the incorporation of Zone A in the TAOR.

 

 

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