tion figures showed 69.8 percent of the population country-wide living in generally secure areas, a record high exceeding that of the pre-Tet period. According to American observers, the improvement was countrywide and reflected in all four Corps areas. The general mobilization had not only created the Self Defense Corps, but had improved the caliber of the Regional and Popular Forces, most of whom were now equipped with American M16 rifles. In all Corps areas, pushed by the central government, provincial and district chiefs "slowly began to increase their pacification efforts."34
The results were equally impressive in I Corps. Although the enemy attacks near Da Nang in August had caused some diminishment in Revolutionary Development, according to the American statistics, both the security and the economy picked up in the following months. From the onset in mid-February of Operation Recovery until its end in October, the Corps provincial and local governments had spent in excess of $500,000.00 to reestablish "normalcy to the lives of victimized civilians in I CTZ." The government had resettled more than 152,000 or 98 percent of the temporary refugees. Through the funds provided for the purpose, local officials had given more than 131,000 bags of cement and 276,000 sheets of roofing tin for the rebuilding of homes. In addition, the relief groups had distributed nearly 50,000 tons office and grain to the devastated areas and medical workers inoculated approximately 500,000 civilians against contagious disease under the program. Yet, as one observer cautioned, these quantitative figures, which he referred to as a "wonderful futility," did not necessarily measure the qualitative aspects of the war.?5
While not formally under Operation Recovery, one of the more notable accomplishments during the period was the effort to reopen the national railroad in I Corps from Da Nang to Hue. Part of a combined U.S.-South Vietnamese plan to have unhampered railroad traffic from the capital of Saigon in the south to Dong Ha in the north by the end of 1969, the idea was to work simultaneously on two important sections, the 103 kilometer Da Nang-Hue link and the 375 kilometer segment from Saigon to the I Corps/II Corps border. While the latter had priority, the planners called for the Da Nang-Hue portion to be completed by the end of February 1969.36
Despite rail communications between Da Nang and Hue having been cut by the VC in 1964, by 1967, the allies had three trains a week running, but requiring armed escort and subject to frequent delays and sabotage incidents. The enemy Tet offensive disrupted even this small traffic. In May 1968, MACV ordered III MAF in coordination with the Commanding General I Corps and the Vietnamese National Railroad System (VNRS) to "restore to operational condition the railroad from Da Nang to Hue when required security forces are available." On 19 June, General Cushman issued a combined plan to carry out the mission. Navy Seabees were to repair four long-span bridges in the rugged terrain north of Da Nang while Army engineers cleared debris and mines from a vital tunnel north of the Esso depot of Lien Chieu. Two South Vietnamese VNRS work crews would make the repairs of the roadbed and the track, one working south from Hue and the other north from Da Nang. They were to make their junction at Phu Loc in Thua Thien Province. The 101st Airborne Division and 1st Marine Division were responsible for general protection of the workers in their respective TAORs, while RF and PF troops reinforced by a VNRS security battalion provided close-in security.37
Starting work on 15 July, the work crews made rapid progress. By 10 October, they had completed repairs of track over half of the distance, 63 kilometers. In the 101st Airborne sector, the crew had reached the Truoi River Bridge while the southern crew had completed restoration in the 1st Marine Division area. As of 10 October, there had been no incidents of sabotage to hamper the work. By the end of November, the northern crew had reached a position about seven miles north of Phu Loc. While the VC blew a bridge just east of Phu Loc, the Seabees immediately started their repairs which were completed before Christmas. This left at the end of the year only 12 kilometers of track to be restored. The project was nearly two months ahead of schedule. As a III MAF report observed, completion of the railroad link would be "a tangible sign of return to normalcy." Thus, country-wide, a MACV historian concluded about Operation Recovery, "efficiency was often lacking but the overall GVN performance in reestablishing over a million refugees and renewing urban viability was one of the bright spots of 1968."38 III MAF and Pacification
During 1968, there was to be little of the debate between the MACV search and destroy strategy of attrition and the emphasis on pacification that marked the Marine stance toward the war. There were of course several reasons for this, not the least of which were the Tet offensive and the Mini-Tets in May and September.