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a new officer to head his Marine Corps. This time Bui Pho Chi, the captain who had commanded the 1st Landing Battalion during the sect uprising, was selected for the assignment. Chi's appointment was only temporary, however, for in October Diem ordered Major Le Nhu Hung to assume command of the Marine Corps. Major Hung, who became the VNMC's fourth Senior Officer, was to hold the position for four years.

An attempt to abolish the Vietnamese Marine Corps coincided with the series of changes in its leadership and the departure of Lieutenant Colonel Croizat. During the summer months, the Vietnamese Minister of Defense proposed that the VNMC be made a branch of South Vietnam's Army. Fortunately, the recent combat record of the 1st Landing Battalion outweighed the minister's influence and the effort to disestablish the Vietnamese Marine Corps was thwarted. Another noteworthy incident in the record of the early relations between the U.S. and Vietnamese Marines occurred when the Marine noncommissioned officer billet within the MAAG was upgraded to an officer position. This adjustment, which anticipated the creation of the 2d Landing Battalion, had the effect of making a U.S. Marine officer available to advise individual VNMC battalions on a permanent basis. Thus originated a plan whereby a U.S. Marine officer would advise each Vietnamese Marine battalion- a concept abandoned only temporarily between 1959 and 1962.

The Vietnamese Marine Corps continued as a two-battalion regiment under the command of Major Le Nhu Hung from mid-1956 through 1959. During this period Lieutenant Colonel Wilkes and his successor. Lieutenant Colonel Frank R. Wilkinson, Jr., a Marine who had served as an aide to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, instituted a variety of programs intended to provide the Vietnamese Marines with a common base of experience and training.* Perhaps the most important of these was one implemented in 1958 whereby Vietnamese Marine officers began attending basic and intermediate level schools at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. Other formal schools for noncommissioned officers were established by the Vietnamese Marine Corps in South Vietnam. In an effort to build esprit de corps among the lower ranking Vietnamese Marines, the U.S. advisors encouraged voluntary enlistments. They also persuaded their Vietnamsee counterparts to adopt a corps-wide marksmanship training program similar to the one then in use by the U.S. Marine Corps.

In conjunction with the reorganization of the VNMC and the stress being placed upon small unit and individual training, much of the U.S. advisory effort during this period was devoted to logistics. The Marine advisors soon discovered that the Vietnamese officers, who had not been directly concerned with supply matters under the French, tended to ignore this important area. "The real problem," explained Captain Breckin-ridge, "was the newness of it all. The Vietnamese officers simply possessed no base of experience or training in logistic matters."6 This shortcoming dictated that the American advisors not only design a workable logistics system but closely supervise its operation as well. Wilkes and Wilkinson instituted intensive schooling of supply and maintenance personnel and emphasized the value of command supervision to the Vietnamese leaders. The Marine advisors, for example, taught their counterparts that equipment shortages could often be prevented if command attention were given to requisitions. Still, even with constant supervision and formal schooling, the Vietnamese Marine Corps continued to experience problems in this area throughout the 1950s and well into the next decade. Breckinridge, who returned to serve with the Vietnamese Marines again as a lieutenant colonel in the late 1960s, recalled shortages of such vital and common items as small arms ammunition even then.

The years between 1955 and 1959 also saw the Marine advisors working to overcome a potentially more serious problem, one that also dated from the French-Indochina War. From the outset of their experience with the Vietnamese Marine Corps, the Marine advisors perceived that a strong defensive orientation seemed to pervade every echelon of the small service. Most Americans, including U.S. Army advisors who were encountering similar difficulties with the Vietnamese Army, agreed that this "defensive psychology" was a by-product of the long subordination of the

*See Appendix A for complete listings of VNMC Commandants and Senior Marine Advisors to the VNMC during the 1954-1964 period.

 

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