(1968: The Defining Year)
Department of Defense (USMC) Photo A371163
A Korean Marine lies in position with his M16 with
fixed bayonet at the ready during a combined operation with U.S. forces.
III MAF exercised an unsure command relationship with the 2d Korean
Marine Brigade, which had moved up in January from the Chu Lai area
to Hoi An in the Da Nang sector.
der, than he had with the Koreans. Despite not having operational
control of South Vietnamese units, the Marines under the guise of coordination
and cooperation since 1965 had devised several informal working agreements
with local units. As Cushman later declared: "General Lam and I
got along well both personally and socially ... we went through some
battles together and that made for mutual respect."3
In the extensive and heavily populated Da Nang area of operations,
the III MAF elaborate civic action and pacification campaign made for
a very close relationship with the South Vietnamese units in the sector.
The South Vietnamese Quang Da Special Zone command shared the Da Nang
TAOR with the 1st Marine Division. Colonel Nguyen Duy Hinh, the Quang
Da Special Zone commander, controlled both the 51st ARVN Regiment and
the 59th Regional Force (RF) Battalion. While American advisors had
doubts about the commanding officer of the 59th RF Battalion, they rated
both Colonel Hinh and Colonel Truong Tan Thuc, the commanding officer
of the 51st, very highly. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel W. Ray Bradley,
the senior advisor to the 51st, considered "Thuc as the most effective
commander he had ever known." Bradley credited Thuc with "turning
around" the 51st and responsible tor much of the progress in the
South Vietnamese Revolutionary Development Program in the Da Nang area.
According to Marine pacification standards, government forces controlled
only 40 out of 112 villages in the TAOR but over 61 percent of the population.4
The Americal Division relations with the ARVN 2d Division in the southern
two provinces of I Corps, Quang Tin and Quang Ngai, were more distant.
As Major General Koster, the Americal Division commander, noted, the
2d ARVN Division "seldom worked with us-occasionally they would
be brought in as a blocking [force]." Although General Cushman
observed chat Colonel Nguyen Van Toan, the acting division commander,
was not as able a commander as General Truong of the 1st Division, Toan
"was adequate." The III MAF commander suggested that Toan's
talents were more political than military.5
Perhaps the most unique connection between III MAF and the South Vietnamese
authorities was the Combined Action Program (CAP). The program consisted
of the attachment of the equivalent of a Marine infantry squad and its
corpsman to a South Vietnamese Popular Forces platoon in a local hamlet
or village. At the end of 1967, III MAF had 27 officers, l,079 enlisted
Marines, and 94 Navy corpsmen assigned to these units. They were organized
into 3 Combined Action groups, 14 companies, and 79 platoons. Except
for six in northern Quang Tri Province, the remaining 73 Combined Action
platoons were located in the other four provinces of I Corps.*
Since the summer of 1967, the Combined Action Program came directly
under III MAF rather than the individual divisions. As Director of the
Combined Action Program, Lieutenant Colonel Byron F. Brady reported
directly to Major General Raymond L. Murray, the Deputy Commander, III
MAF. Brady coordinated and loosely controlled each of the three Combined
Action groups. He made liaison with the various Army, Korean, and Marine
commanders for "fire support, reaction forces, patrols, and ambushes."
At the group and company level, the Combined Action Program largely
consisted of administrative and logistic support. The heart of the program,
however, was the individual Combined Action platoon, usually headed
by a U.S. Marine sergeant and a Vietnamese Popular Forces platoon commander.
Nominally, the Marine sergeant was the advisor to the Vietnamese leader.
In actuality, they often shared command responsibility, depending upon
the personal relationship between the two. Operationally, the platoon
came under the South Vietnamese district chief, but relied heavily on
the U.S. or allied infantry battalion in its sector for fire support
*See Chapter 29 for a more detailed account of the Combined Action Program.