bring units to full strength by calling up Class III (non-drill pay) Reservists.104
Before Tet, the Marine Corps had only one plan in the event of a Reserve mobilization: to activate the entire IV MEE On 4 March, the Secretary of Defense proposed to send 22,000 reinforcements to Vietnam by 15 June, including IV MEF (-), consisting of 18,100 men. The Secretary of Defense's proposal to activate less than the entire Reserve structure caught the Marine Corps unprepared, requiring frantic planning. Creating a composite Marine Aircraft Group would have undermined the readiness of the entire 4th MAW. Task organization plans envisioned calling up detachments of combat support and combat service support, a move which would have left the Marine Corps open to serious legal challenges. Political constraints ruled out the call up of Class III Reservists, upon whom the mobilization planners had relied to fill "gaping holes" in activated Reserve units.105
Up until the last minute, administration officials considered calling up 26,000 Marine Reservists.106* On 13 March, President Johnson decided to send an additional 30,000 troops to Vietnam, but his troop list did not include any Marine units. From 14 to 28 March, administration officials contemplated various proposals with even larger numbers of Reservists to be activated, but still none of them included Marines. When the President announced the caliup of 62,000 Reservists on 31 March, no Marines were activated.'07 The Bloodiest Month, The Bloodiest Year
Although not as bad as February, casualties remained high throughout March and April. In May 1968, 810 Marines died in Vietnam, making that month the bloodiest of the war for the Marine Corps. Another 3,812 Marines were wounded in action. The first six months of 1968 proved the costliest of the war for the Marine Corps, accounting for almost one quarter of all Marine deaths during the Vietnam War. In these months 3,339 Marines died, less than 500 short of the 3,803 Marines killed in all of 1967. During this period the 3d Marine Division averaged around 220 Marines killed and over 1,250 wounded a month, while the 1st Marine Division suffered about 190 Marines killed and 1,450 wounded each month. The casualty rate of the 3d Division remained fairly steady, with a bad month in March, while the 1st Division suffered almost half of its casualties in February and May.
The high casualty rate concerned General Cushman, who sent a message on 20 May, telling the commanders of the 1st and 3d Divisions that "we are suffering too many Marine casualties-particularly KIA." General Cushman attributed these excessive casualties to a misplaced reliance on "do or die assaults" more appropriate for amphibious attacks. He provided a list of tactical principles to reduce casualties, emphasizing firepower and supporting arms. Division commanders were directed to school their officers from the division to the company level in these principles. General Cushman concluded by saying:
[I]t is hard to soft pedal a generation of training in the assault as required for establishment of a beachhead, but it must repeat must be done if we are to fight and win this war.108
Lieutenant General Krulak, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, quickly responded to this message. While agreeing that "there has been needless loss of Marine lives" during the war, and that "we need to do all we can to diminish the number of avoidable white crosses," General Krulak was troubled by the implication that the war in Vietnam required a set of tactical values different from those used in amphibious assaults. While agreeing with most of the principles espoused by General Cushman, he argued that "basic tactical principles are immutable," and that "there is no evidence that those basic principles should in any way be altered."109
General Cushman's message also drew criticism from General Chapman. The Commandant was "convinced that in the main the offensive principles taught to our Marines from Boot Camp to C&SC [Command and Staff College] are sound." Although endorsing most of the tactical techniques espoused by General Cushman, General Chapman worried that a "literal interpretation" of General Cushman's direction to assault only by firepower "could lead to a derogation and even the loss" of the Marine Corps' traditional '"can do' offensive spirit."110
Perhaps in response to General Cushman's concerns, Headquarters, Marine Corps directed that all majors and lieutenant colonels bound for Vietnam, except for recent graduates of professional schools, would receive instruction on the use of helicopters and supporting
*In mid-March 1968, Brigadier General Earl E. Anderson, the III MAF Chief of Staff, observed in a personal letter that the Marine command had hopes ar that time of obtaining another Marine and division headquarters for Vietnam together with units associated with such an increase. BGen E. E. Anderson Itr to MajGen Keith B. McCutcheon, dtd l4Mar68, End, Gen Earl E. Anderson, Comments on draft, dtd l4Mar68 (Vietnam Comment File).