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sion opened an average of 24 investigations into drug offenses a month.*


By the end of 1968 Marine leaders realized that a problem even worse than illegal drug use had emerged: "fragging," the deliberate killing of officers and NCOs by their own men. Although small in absolute numbers, the knowledge that fraggings occurred often had a chilling effect on a leader's willingness to enforce discipline.**


More offenses naturally resulted in more prisoners, quickly overcrowding the limited brig space in Vietnam. Most Marine prisoners were confined at the III MAF brig in Da Nang, run by the 3d Military Police Battalion. This brig was built to house 200 prisoners.44 In May 1968, it housed 175 prisoners, but by August it held 298. According to the officer who kept the prisoner's records, "[t]he most common offenses were smoking marijuana, refusing to get a haircut, or refusing to go on a second combat operation after surviving the hell of their first."45 The prisoners tended to be poorly educated; about 30 percent were functional illiterates. At least a quarter had civilian judicial convictions.46 Although the prisoners as a group lacked a particular ideology, they all shared a general resentment of and hostility toward authority. Major Donald E. Milone, who later commanded the 3d MP Battalion, observed that most of the "brig population did not have formal charges presented to them, and they had been confined for over 30 days awaiting charges."47


On 16 August a scuffle between prisoners and guards escalated into a riot. The prisoners controlled the brig for two days, holding kangaroo courts and beating prisoners accused of collaborating with the guards. Finally, on the 18th, the brig guards, using tear gas, reclaimed control of the prison.*"


In addition to disciplinary problems, racial incidents also started to attract command attention in the latter half of 1968, and Headquarters Marine Corps began to make an effort systematically to track racial incidents.48 In October, General Chapman asked Lieutenant General Buse, Commanding General FMFPac, to look into reports of racial trouble in III MAF, noting that this matter warranted "careful watching."4? Shortly after this request, racial incidents led Commander Linus B. Wensman, USN, commander of Camp Tiensha at Da Nang, to put the China Beach recreation area off limits to casual users.50 By July 1969, racial incidents had become serious enough to receive considerable attention at the annual General Officers Symposium.****


While a growing problem, offenses and racial troubles tended to be confined to rear areas and did not have a serious impact on combat operations. Former corporal and squad leader Kenneth K. George recalled that:


[I]n the rear you get a lot of flak from the guys because they think that you are picking on them. When you are in the field and the second there is any kind of problem . . . the minute you open your mouth, they react and they react very quickly.51 Morale


In contrast to the discipline problem, which took a few years of fighting to appear, Marine leaders worked hard from the beginning to keep up morale. The




"-Colonel Poul F. Pederson, the III MAF G-l, noted that in 1968 the Marine command introduced "sniffing dogs ... to catch drugs coming and going." According to Pederson, this program was put under the Provost Marshal, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph J. N. Gam-bardella, who also commanded the 3d MP Battalion. Cot Poul F. Pederson, Comments on draft, n.d. [1994] (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Pederson Comments.


**For further discussion of fragging, see LtCol Gary D. Solis, Marines and Military Law in Vietnam: Trial By Fire (Washington, D.C.: Hist&MusDiv, HQMC, 1989), pp. 110-111, 133-138, 168-170, hereafter Solis, Trial by Fire, and Anderson, The Grunts, pp. 187-194. In Platoon Leader (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1986), pp. 74-76, former U.S. Army lieutenant James R. McDonough recounts how a soldier attempted to intimidate him with the threat of fragging. Colonel William J. Davis, a Marine tank officer who served in Vietnam in 1968 as a lieutenant, agreed that the threat of fragging had an effect on Marine officers, but most still enforced the rules and discipline. Col William J. Davis, Comments on draft, n.d. (Vietnam Comment File).


***Two weeks later, a violent prison riot occurred at the U.S. Army's Long Binh brig. Prisoners controlled a portion of the brig for more than a month. For a more detailed description of the Da Nang brig riot, see Solis, Trial By Fire. Major Milone, who took over the 3d MP Battalion in September 1968, noted that during the three-day riot, "no prisoner or guard was seriously injured during this 3-day period. If the procedure for brig riots had been put into effect the Marine Corps would have had [as] violent a riot that occurred at the Army's Long Binh Brig. During the investigation [of the III MAF incident] the officer-in-charge was criticized for not shooting prisoners that did not obey guards commands and for not going by the SOP. The investigation was dropped after the Long Binh riot when the Army went by a SOP." Maj Donald E. Milone, Comments on draft, n.d. [Dec94] (Vietnam Comment File).


****Colonel Maurice Rose, who relieved Colonel Pederson as III MAF G-l in July 1968, noted that in the second half of 1968, "we set up a III MAF Watch Committee composed of G-1 Representatives which met monthly to discuss the situation in I Corps, report any problems, and recommend solutions if required." Col Maurice Rose, Comments on draft, dtd 25Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Rose Comments.







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