Page 144

Page 144 (1965: The Landing and the Buildup)    

and, on 6 September, the I Corps Joint Coordinating Council (JCC) came into being. Both Mr. Gordon and General Walt hoped to bring the South Vietnamese into the council, but only American representatives attended the first session: Mr. Gordon; Colonel St. Clair, the Deputy Senior Advisor to I Corps; and the III MAF Civil Affairs Officer, Major Charles J. Keever.25

Apparently, the Vietnamese authorities took a wait-and-see attitude before joining in the council's deliberations. On 28 September, General Walt visited General Thi and prevailed upon him to send a representative to the next council meeting. The I Corps commander appointed a representative from his staff to attend the October session, and he became a permanent member of the JCC.26*

The I Corps JCC soon became the coordinating hub for "the Vietnamese government's rural construction plan" in the northern five provinces. Most of the important work was done by committees; and by January 1966, six were functioning. These were: public health, education, roads, food distribution, psychological warfare, and the Port of Da Nang. In November, General Walt further underscored the importance of the progress of the council by appointing Brigadier General Keith B. McCutcheon, Deputy Commanding General, III MAF as his personal representative. He was subsequently elected chairman of the council. Mr. Gordon later declared:

The fact that senior officers from all military commands under General Walt ... sat together every Tuesday morning with the Regional Directors of Civilian Agencies contributed greatly to facilitating coordination. But to me the most important fact about the JCC was that "the word went out" through all command channels. All commands were working on a seven-day week basis around the clock. The desire to cooperate was there, but coordination required special effort. The existence of the JCC stimulated coordination at all levels.27

During this same period, General Walt also concentrated on internal coordination of the civic action program within III MAF. On 29 October, he changed the designation of his III MAF general staff G-5 Section from plans and programs to civic action. More significantly, the new organizational designation was reflected throughout III MAF with the creation of division and wing G-5 and regimental and battalion S-5 sections.

III MAF developed some tentative conclusions. In October, the Marine command noted that programs of commodity distribution to the people and medical and dental care were most successful in reaching hamlet inhabitants. The emphasis was on short-term, high-impact, low-cost projects. The Marines had perceived that long-term projects, which required continual supervision and large amounts of material, failed to have the desired effect; the people did not see any immediate results.28 One of the most important reasons why the Marines emphasized short-range activities was the fact that the battalions just did not have the time to attempt more ambitious programs.** The Marines primary tactical duties left very little time for action in direct support of the local government or rural construction.29

The Ngu Hanh Son Campaign and the Frustrations of Pacification

During the autumn of 1965, the South Vietnamese revamped their pacification program in I Corps. Earlier in the year, MACV had urged the South Vietnamese to prepare new pacification plans in each corps area based on the HOP TAC campaign in the Saigon region.*** The idea was for each corps commander to select a critical region and develop plans for coordinating and focusing both the military and civilian activities in an intensive pacification campaign in the selected area. At a meeting of South Vietnamese corps commanders in April, the Joint General Staff directed them to make such plans. The following month, at a follow-up meeting. General Thi, the I Corps commander, declared that his pacification efforts would be centered in the area south of Da Nang in Quang Nam Province.30



*Colonel Keever wrote in his comments: "The Vietnamese military leadership (and MACV for that matter) tended to overlook the vital importance of the civil side of pacification. The support of General Thi and GVN military leadership in I Corps for the so-called people-to-people program was the result of General Walt's leadership and persuasive powers." Col Charles J. Keever, Comments on draft MS, dtd 20Dec76 (Vietnam Comment File).

** There were some exceptions to the above: the 7th Marines and 4th Marines help in the construction of the "new life" village of Chu Lai; the 9th Marines reconstruction effort at Cam Ne; and the Le My effort in the 3d Marines TAOR. All of these met with varying degrees of success, depending on the degree of security the Marines and the local government could provide.

*** For a description of the HOP TAC program see Chapter 1.

Page 144 (1965: The Landing and the Buildup)