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Page 576 (1968: The Defining Year)



Marine Casualties in Southeast Asia, 1968.

 


Month

Killer

Missing

Wounded

Total

January

439

7

1,770

2,216

February

691

3

4,197

4,891

March

504

3

2,930

3,437

April

450

2

2,610

3,062

May

810

4

3,812

4,626

June

445

1

2,962

3,408

July

357

3

2,683

3,043

August

389

0

2,210

2,599

September

348

0

1,968

2,316

October

180

1

1,432

1,613

November

227

0

1,612

1,839

December

223

2

1,134

1,359


f From MGySgt Lock file, compiled from records of the Vietnam War Memorial, May 1990. Killed includes all Marines who died in Southeast Asia or as a direct result of injuries suffered in Southeast Asia; Missing includes only those still officially considered missing as of May 1990. tt From CMC Reference Notebook 1968; includes serious wounds resulting from accidents.

arms.111 The field grade officers course at Staging Battalion, which lasted only three days before 19 June, expanded to seven and a half days on 31 July. In October 1968, the Commanding General, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, recommended that infantry corporals and sergeants also receive two days of fire support training. This training began in January 1969.112

Shortly after this flurry of concern, the casualty picture improved markedly, due not to Marine Corps action, but to the inaction of the North Vietnamese Army. In June, July, and August, the reluctance of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong units to engage in combat resulted in the casualty rate falling by a quar-ter.113 Throughout the rest of the year casualties in the 1st Division remained fairly steady, averaging approximately 120 dead and 1,000 wounded a month. In the 3d Division, casualties dropped dramatically in July, August, and September, averaging around 80 killed and less than 700 wounded, and then fell to about 30 dead and 250 wounded in the last three months of 1968. Over the course of the year, the 1st Division suffered somewhat more casualties than the 3d Division.

The types of casualties in the two divisions also differed greatly. The 3d Division was tied to the DMZ, and faced North Vietnamese regulars supported by artillery. In contrast, the 1st Division fought a guerilla war in the heavily populated coastal areas around Da Nang. Between l January 1968 and 31 May 1969, mortars, artillery, and rockets caused 47 percent of the 3d Division's casualties, while mines and boobytraps inflicted only 18.2 percent. The 1st Division experienced exactly the reverse, suffering only 17.9 percent of its casualties from indirect fire while mines and boobytraps accounted for 50.8 percent.114

In 1968, the Marine Corps lost 5,063 killed or missing and 29,320 wounded, more than a third of all casualties during the entire war. Over half of all casualties had less than one year of service. Infantrymen accounted for over four-fifths of all casualties. While privates, privates first class, and lance corporals made up just above half of the total Marine Corps, they accounted for almost three-quarters of the casualties. Their average age was about 20 years and six months.115 Foxhole Strength: Still Too Few Marines

The total number of Marines in Vietnam reached its wartime peak of 85,996 on 30 April 1968, with 85,402 of these Marines assigned to III MAF. This increase largely resulted from the deployment of RLT 27. The average strength of line battalions actually declined. The Marine Corps had already resorted to extraordinary efforts to maintain numbers in Vietnam in late 1967. The deployment of RLT'27 not only increased the number of replacements needed, it had also used up much of the March replacement pool to bring the deploying units up to strength. Manpower planners at Headquarters Marine Corps reacted by moving 300




Page 576 (1968: The Defining Year)