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USMC Photo A185740

Marines and PF troops of the Combined Action Company patrol the Nong River near Phu Bai in Vietnamese boats. The two Marine swimmers are apparently searching for any VC who may be hiding under the water.

on 29 November during a successful ambush near Phu Bai. As a VC platoon started to cross a bridge into the hamlet, a combined action squad opened fire on the VC, killing four and capturing one of the enemy troops. The enemy platoon fled to the south where it was engaged by another combined action squad and then forced to turn west through blocking artillery fires. There were no Marine or PF casualties. One of the dead VC was later identified as the enemy unit commander, Phan Van Thuong.7*

The combined action platoons did not kill many VC during this early period, but by protecting their assigned hamlets they accomplished the primary mission for which they had been formed. In addition, the platoons furnished the Marine battalion with defense-in-depth protection of the base at Phu Bai. The enemy was duly impressed by this factor. According to Lieutenant Colonel Vale, who had relieved Lieutenant Colonel Taylor, a report found on a VC body read 'There were at least 4,000 Marines in the area. You could not move anywhere because Marines were always in the way.'8

The platoons also became an important source of information. The combined action troops soon learned about the VC organization in the area. They knew that it was led by a man named Vo Dai, who, although born in the Phu Bai area, had lived in North Vietnam for several years. The Marines and PF troops discovered where Vo Dai's mother and wife lived and paid frequent visits to the two women. The combined action units never captured Vo Dai, but they managed to keep him on the run.

Indicative of combined action effectiveness was the close bond forged between the Marines and the local villagers. When Vale's battalion was replaced at Phu Bai by Lieutenant Colonel Hanifin's 2d Battalion, 1st

 


 

* Thuong, a member of the Communist party,was born only a few miles from where he died and was a veteran of the Viet Minh War against the French.

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