the chain of command . . . from the very top to the very bottom, and back up again."122
Efforts to reopen communication took many forms. Force Logistic Command set up a special information telephone, manned 24 hours a day by members of the G-l staff, to answer Marines' questions about adminisï¿½trative and personnel matters. Individual officers had their own approaches to communicating with troops. Lieutenant General Robertson, when visiting a unit, preferred to talk with enlisted Marines:
. . . individually or in twos or threesï¿½needle them a litï¿½tle and get a feel for them. I learned long ago if you've got your own antennas up and you're really listening, a young Marine doesn't have to complain in a loud, direct manner for you to realize there may be a problem he's trying to tell you about.123
Whatever their personal approaches, Marine comï¿½manders had had the realization forced upon them that, as Major General Armstrong put it, "We've got a ... lot of people in this younger generation it's goï¿½ing to take a little extra to get through to."124 As with so many other problems of the war, this one had to be placed in the category of "Unfinished Business" as the last Marines left Da Nang.
Cohesion or Disintegration?
It is impossible to measure with any precision how severely the deterioration of morale and discipline afï¿½fected III MAF's military performance. Commanders almost unanimously denied that trouble in the ranks had any adverse influence on operations. Typically, Lieutenant General McCutcheon declared that, in his estimation, III MAF never approached a critical loss of cohesion and that Marine disciplinary problems were "nowhere near the extent that the Army ... exï¿½perienced"125 Colonel Stien, who had faced signifiï¿½cant racial disorder in MAG-13, cautiously echoed McCutcheon's assessment. "I felt," Stien said, "as though I was capable of taking care of the problem but I didn't like what I might have to do."128 In spite of racial tension, drug abuse, occasional fraggings, and general dissension, III MAF until the final redeployï¿½ments continued to carry out daily operations requirï¿½ing a high degree of skill and coordination, while at the same time managing a series of complicated redeployments. Nevertheless, the fact that the quesï¿½tion of troop reliability even arose demonstrated the severity of the internal problem, as did the amount of command attention devoted to race relations, drug education, and other personnel matters unrelated to the combat mission.
A glass is either half-full or half-empty depending on the viewpoint of the observer. Against the statisï¿½tics on racial incidents, drug use, fraggings, accidents, and atrocities must be set the fact that thousands of Marines continued to do their duty to the end. Many daily risked death and mutilation for a cause that perhaps a majority of their civilian contemporaries, as well as substantial numbers of their country's most eminent leaders, denounced as immoral or dismissed as no longer important to national security. Sergeant Major Huff later observed that despite all of the unï¿½rest in III MAF during the latter stages of the war "the majority of the Marines I met in Vietnam met the challenge presented to them in stride; no one knows this better than General Giap of the NVA."127 At the end of his tour in command of the 1st Marines, Colonel Wilcox paid tribute to this military "silent maï¿½jority:"
I saw daily . . . examples of raw courage, selflessness, and dedication that made me both proud and humble ... to have been serving with those men .... They really put it on the line, day in and day out .... I just really am tremendously proud to have been a part of them.128