Department ut Defense (USMC) Photo A601734
Marine SSgt Robert D. Iverson. a drill sergeant at the Marine Corps Parris Island Recruit Training Depot in South Carolina addresses his platoon in a driving rain stonn. Close order drill u'as not dependent it pun the weather and training schedules were to be met.
May 1966 the Marine Corps also accepted 19,573 draftees.' After this initial surge ended in October
1966. the Marine Corps returned to three- and four-year enlistments. This did not last long. Still faced with a manpower shortage, on 2 May 1967, Headquarters Marine Corps once again authorized two-year enlistments. To keep personnel turbulence to a minimum, the Commandant decreed that two-year contracts would constitute no more than 20 percent of all new enlistments. Between 1 July 1966 and 30 June
1967. only 16.9 percent of all enlistments were for two years; over half were for four years/'
Manpower planners quickly found this high percentage of four-year enlistments a mixed blessing. The Marine Coqis tried to ensure that no one would be involuntarily sent overseas for a second tour before spending at least 24 months in the United States. This meant that a Marine enlisted for four years would spend at least 4 months in initial training, normally followed by 13 months in Vietnam. After his required 24 months in the United States, he would have only 7 months left on his enlistment. Unless he reenlisced, this Marine would not have enough time left to serve a second Vietnam tour. This would nor have been a problem if the Marine Corps' authorized strength had included enough billets in the United States to provide a sufficient rotation base. It did not.
In December 1965, the Marine Corps requested a
strength increase of 85,169 Marines to support operations in Vietnam. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara approved this request in full. Between September 1966 and May 1968, the Marine Corps repeatedly requested further increases in its overall strength to provide a large enough rotation base for the rapidly growing forces in Vietnam (.w Table l). Under political pressure ro keep military spending as low as possible, Secretary McNamara denied or drastically reduced every one of these requests.
By September 1966, the Marine Corps began to have difficulty sustaining its force level in Vietnam, and requested a further increase of 21,569 Marines to support operations in Southeast Asia and 12,827 Marines to improve the training flow of new recruits, for a total of 34,396. Secretary McNamara approved a strength increase of 14,464. In September 1967, the Marine Coq->s once again requested an increase in its end strength to support operations in Vietnam and to improve the readiness of units in the United States, this time for 19,293 Marines. The Defense Department approved an increase of 7,000 Marines.'
In July 1967, General Platt described to his fellow general officers how the Marine Coq^s was caught between large commitments in Vietnam and an insufficient rotation base in the United States. As a solution, he proposed increasing the percentage of two-year enlistments. A typical two-year enlistee would spend five months in the United States before going overseas, serve a 13-month tour in Vietnam, and then spend "a largely useless 3 months in the rotation base." General Platt suggested that the Marine Corps should let these two-year men leave the Marine Corps before their enlistment expired, and then recruit new men on two-year contracts to replace them. Thus, in a four-year period the Marine Corps would realize two Vietnam tours, instead of one, for a single place in its overall end strength authorization. While not proposing a set percentage, General Platt observed that the Marine Corps needed two-year enlistees "in sizeable numbers to maintain the flow overseas.""
By late 1967 there were only a few first-term Marines left, aside from new recruits, who had not already served in Vietnam. In the combat arms and combat support fields, junior officers and staff" NCOs were barely getting their required 24 months in the United Stares before returning ro Vietnam. The only way to maintain the flow of replacements to Southeast Asia was to increase the number of new Marines. In