Marine Corps went to considerable trouble to make a Marine's time in Vietnam as tolerable as possible. Major General Carl W. Hoffman, who spent almost all of 1968 in Vietnam, recalled that "it was terribly important . . . that people had something to look forward to like a period of rest and recuperation."'-' About halfway through their tour, every Marine rated an out-of country Rest and Recuperation (R&R) trip. In every month of 1968, somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 Marines flew to Hawaii, Australia, Japan, Thailand, or other Asian locales tor a five-day respite. Marines could also enjoy shorter R&Rs in Vietnam, and every month a thousand or so spent extended liberties at the Navy's China Beach recreational facility near Da Nang.
The protracted nature of the Vietnam conflict led to the creation of large base camps. For troops in these
areas, the biggest enemy was boredom." To alleviate this problem, the Marine Corps tried to provide as many distractions as possible, and rear areas included numerous clubs, pose exchanges, and air conditioning. Troops in the rear enjoyed many of the comforts 01 home, including "security, movies, free time, dry beds with clean sheets, mail and showers every day, radios and stereos, and plenty to eat and drink."54 From January to September 1968, the China Beach recreation area received no fewer than 15,000 and often well beyond 30,000 daily visitors from the Da Nang area. After the local Navy commander restricted the use of the facility to authorized patrons in October, the number of daily visitors dropped to around 5,000 a month."
Photo from the Abel Collection
Noted Comedian Bob Hope, with two members of his cast, entertains the troops during his annual Christmas show at Da Nang. The Marines and U.S. military in general tried to raise morale and reliei'e stress at the big base areas by providing such entertainment.
Between operations, front-line Marines often returned to these rear areas. During these sojourns these men undoubtedly enjoyed the security and amenities offered by these bases, but they could also plainly see the stark contrast between their lives in the field and the much safer and more comfortable lives of headquarters and support personnel. Many combat Marines resented the soft life of rear area trx)ps, although this resentment was often tempered by the desire to enjoy these benefits themselves.16*
At times the effort to make life as comfortable as possible became an end in itself. Major General Hoffman observed that
[A]lthough there's nothing wrong with getting yourself as comfortable as possible, there is something wrong with getting so preoccupied with the creature comforts that you don't get on with the prosecution of the job at hand.57
The Marine Corps also sought to increase esprit by following Napoleon's maxim that "a soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon."58 Beginning in 1967, the Marine Corps began increasing the number of medals and ribbons awarded to Marines. At the General Orficers Symposium in July 1968, Brigadier General Ronald R. Van Stockum, Retired, Deputy Senior Member, Navy Department Board ot Decorations and Medals,
*The disdain of frontline croops for rear area personnel is almost a universal plirt ot military life. Combat troops typically invent dero^a-rorv terms to refer Co non-combat men. In Vietnam, Marines usually used the term "poyue" and even more explicit derogatory lan^ua^e. Often support troops accept this disdain, acknowledging that the greater hardships and risks endured by combat men entitle them to deference from non-combat men. For a discussion of the relations of combat men and non-combat men in World War 11, see Samuel A. Stoulfer ct al.. The American Suit/w (Princecon, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1949) 2 vols, v. 2, Ch. 6.