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Table 2

Male Enlisted Non-Prior Service Accessions

as Percentage of Male Enlisted Strength



Year

USMC

Army

Navy

USAF

1961-64

18

25

15

13

1965

30

40

20

16

1966

42

53

16

21

1967

28

31

15

12

1968

35

35

19

14

1969

33

33

18

12

1970

26

26

14

11

1971

27

26

15

16

1972

31

34

20

12


*Percentages derived by dividing male enlisted end strength as of 30 June (calculated from Selected Manpower Statistics) by total male non-prior service accessions for that calendar year (from Bernard D. Karpinos, Male Chargeable Accessions: Evaluation by Mental Categories {1953-1973} [SR-ED-75-18], [Alexandria, Virginia: Human Resources Research Organization, 1977]).

order to remain within the Marine Corps' authorized strength, for every extra man arriving at a recruit depot, someone else had to be discharged early. To accomplish this, the Marine Corps reluctantly allowed Vietnam returnees to leave the Corps up to six months before the end of their enlistments.9* On 1 October 1967, the Marine Corps increased the acceptable quota of 2-year enlistments to 35 percent.10 In January 1968, the Marine Corps requested a strength increase of 10,300 to allow it to end the early release program. The Defense Department denied this request.'

Faced with Secretary McNamara's refusal to increase end strength, the Marine Corps turned to the alternative proposed by General Platt in July 1967. In January 1968, the Assistant Chief of Staff (G-l), Major General Raymond G. Davis, determined that 'sizeable numbers' of two-year enlistments meant half of all enlistments. Through this and other measures, General Davis and his staff hoped to 'increase personnel turnover in lower grades.'12 Between January 1968 and June 1969 just over half of all enlistments were for two years, excluding nearly 16,400 draftees who also served for two years.13

The increased use of two-year enlistments did indeed serve to 'increase personnel turnover.' In 1968, a third of enlisted Marines had less than one year service, as compared to less than a fifth for the period 1961-1964 (see Table 2). To compound the problem, in fiscal year 1968 over 280,000 Marines were ordered to a new duty station-almost one set of orders for every Marine.14

Before 1965, the Marine Corps consciously fostered personnel stability: Marines tended to serve comparatively lengthy enlistments; a fairly small proportion of Marines entered or left the Corps in any given year; and Marines tended to serve with the same unit for long periods.' By the beginning of 1968, the high level of personnel turnover generated by Vietnam made it unusual for any junior Marines to remain in the same unit for more than a year or in the Marine Corps for more than two years. The Quality Issue and Project 100,000

Length of enlistment was not the only standard compromised in the Marine Corps' effort to find enough new recruits to support the Vietnam deployment. The Marine Corps was also forced to lower the mental scores required for enlistment and to accept fewer high school graduates. Project 100,000 has received much of the blame for this decline. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara launched this program in October 1966, directing the Services to take a set percentage of the new recruits from men scoring below the previous minimum acceptable scores on the entry tests. McNamara predicted that military training would provide these disadvantaged youths with skills that would greatly increase their opportunities in civilian life.15

Project 100,000 required the Marine Corps to accept between a fifth and a quarter of its new recruits from men scoring in Mental Group IV on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, the lowest category legally allowed to serve. Half of these mental Group IV's were 'New Standards' men, men who would have been barred under the enlistment standards in effect in August 1966. From the start, the Marine Corps opposed Project 100,000 on the grounds that the quotas forced the Corps to turn away better qualified applicants.16

While Secretary McNamara heralded Project 100,000 as a new departure and part of the 'Great Society' program, the Selective Service System had already lowered its minimum mental standards a few

*Colonel James W. Stemple, who served at Headquarters Marine Corps after his tour in Vietnam, recalled that manpower managers at headquarters referred to Marines who had returned from Vietnam with still time to serve in the Marine Corps as 'throw away Marines.' Col James W. Stemple, Comments on draft, n.d. [1995] (Vietnam Comment File).

**See Shulimson and Johnson, U.S. Marines in Vietnam 1965, p. 117, and Shulimson, U.S. Marines in Vietnam 1966, n, p. 283, for a discussion of the change from unit to individual rotation policies.




Page 559 (1968: The Defining Year)