Page 130

  Page 130 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)    

the government's concentrated pacification campaign.

Eroded by the political side-effects of the battlefield developments. South Vietnam's fragile power structure became increasingly unstable. The last five months of 1964 brought frequent changes in the Saigon government although General Khanh was able to maintain a semblance of control until December. The turmoil then climaxed when Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, the commander of the Vietnamese Air Force, engineered a bloodless coup that forced Khanh from the Saigon political scene.

The frequent changes of government coupled with the stepped-up Viet Cong military pressure throughout Vietnam produced a downward spiral in the effectiveness of the republic's armed forces. By the end of the year it was becoming increasingly doubtful that the government could stave off total collapse even with the increased volume of military assistance it was already receiving from the United States. Against this backdrop of Communist military activities, unprecedented political instability on the part of the South Vietnamese, and mounting combat losses, American military involvement in Vietnam deepened.

A Structured Military Assistance Command

In many respects 1964 was a year of transition for the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Not only did the command experience a change in leadership when General Westmoreland replaced General Harkins as ComUSMACV, but it was thoroughly reorganized in preparation for the more vigorous U.S. advisory program which was expected to begin about midyear.

The major organizational change within MACV took place on 15 May when the MAAG was abolished and its staff integrated into that of the senior command. In June MACV itself was restructured under a new table of distribution. These changes reflected the anticipated influx of advisors and support personnel, and therefore concerned the Army more than the other U.S. armed services.

Initially, the number of Marine billets on the restructured Military Assistance Command staff did not change substantially. Twenty-four Marines (15 officers and nine enlisted) were included in the new table of distribution. This represented a net increase of only one over the number previously assigned to the MAAG and MACV staffs. By the end of September, however. Marines temporarily assigned to the MACV staff from FMFPac commands brought the on-board strength to 37. Another increase occurred in the early fall when eight more permanent Marine billets (three officers and five enlisted) were approved.

Changes in Marine Leadership

Two key links in the Marine command chain that joined government policy decisions in Washington to Marine Corps operations in Vietnam changed hands during the first 60 days of 1964. On 1 January, General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., replaced General Shoup as Commandant of the Marine Corps. Greene, known in American military circles as a brilliant staff officer, had been serving since 1960 as Chief of Staff of the Marine Corps. By 1964 he had become an outspoken supporter of South Vietnam's struggle for independence. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as a Chief of Service, his presence in administration policies would be felt until his tour as commandant ended on 31 January 1967.

An equally important change occurred in early March when General Greene named Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak to replace General Roberts as Commanding General, FMFPac. A 1934 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Krulak had won the Navy Cross during ground action in World War II. He arrived in the Pacific from Washington where he had served both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson as special assistant for counterinsurgency matters. Having made numerous fact-finding trips to Vietnam in this capacity, he was intimately familiar with the unique political-military struggle being waged there. He also had a reputation of being one of Washington's most vocal advocates of resisting Communist aggression in Southeast Asia. A dynamic leader and a man of strong convictions, Krulak was to exert a pervasive influence over all Marine operations in the Pacific for nearly half a decade.

Less obvious but of immense importance to both the Marine Corps and to the future of U.S. military

 

 

 

Page 130 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)