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never becomes wholly familiar with the conception of his foes as men like himself; he cannot divest himself of the feeling that they are another order of beings, differently conditioned, in an environment not altogether of the earth." This obviously reinforced Chaplain McGonigal's observation that it was important that the individual Marine view the individual South Vietnamese peasant as a "full-fledged human being."64"


This, of course, was much easier said than done. As strong a supporter of the Marine pacification program as Major General Murray, the III MAF deputy commander, remarked, "I'd visit villages where the village chiefs and the villagers themselves would give every appearance . . . that we were just the greatest people in the world," but there also remained in the back of his mind the fugitive thought "who in this crowd of people would lead us to believe that they love us ... {but} actually were ready to slit our throats, the first chance they would get." Obviously, the young Marine who took sniper fire from a village or witnessed a comrade either killed or horrendously wounded by an enemy boobytrap or mine set by these same villagers had his doubts about the friendliness of the local population. The attempt to convince him otherwise would take some doing.65**


Changing Attitudes


Such attitudes were a disturbing factor to the Marine command and lay behind the continuing efforts of the Marine Corps Personal Response Program. The Marine Corps pacification program depended upon the troops understanding the complexity of the situation they faced. While it might be too much to expect all Marines to like the Vietnamese, the command undertook extensive efforts to ensure that the Marines respected the rights and lives of the villagers who depended upon their protection.


Working against the perception on the part of some Marines and even some commanders that it was a "chaplain's program" or a "do-gooder concept," Personal Response officers tried to bring relevance to their message. Each Marine infantry platoon commander received a Personal Response notebook, a 53-page booklet, with examples and suggestions for further discussion with the Marines under him. For example, it offered the case where a CAP Marine by holding hands with a local girl destroyed the existing good relationship within the hamlet between the Marines and the villagers. In a graphic paragraph, the pamphlet observed:


Put it this way. If a foreigner squatted down on a street corner in Chicago and crapped in the gutter we would be offended. Most of us would hardly notice it, however, if a Vietnamese man walked down the street holding hands with an American girl. Here it is just the other way around-only worse. Holding hands with a Vietnamese girl in public is labeling all their women as 66 prostitutes Of course, the effectiveness of the pamphlet depended upon the initiative of the individual platoon commander and the command interest of his seniors. Each division, the wing, the Force Logistic Command, and Naval Support Activity had Personal Response contact teams. Each team consisted of a commissioned officer and a senior noncommissioned officer who were responsible for the conduct of schools and orientation in their respective commands.


The emphasis was upon formal and informal instruction. For example, in January 1968, the 3d Marine Division contact team held a two-day division Personal Response course for Personal Response officers at lower echelons. Personal contact teams gave field lectures and held discussion groups with seven infantry battalions which numbered over 970 Marines in attendance. The division teams provided instruction at the Combined Action Group school, the 3d Recon-




*Michael E. Peterson, a former Combined Action Marine and who has published a book on the Combined Action Program, questioned "how could any Marine view the South Vietnamese peasant as a full-fledged human being . . . when, from the very beginning . . . we were fed "Luke the Gook" from Boot Camp onward? The enlightenment of the writers of the Small Wars Manual, Lew Walt, Victor Krulak, and other pacification commanders simply could not offset the condescension, at best, or vicious . . . racism, at worst-of American commanders and soldiers toward the Vietnamese. And, given the Vietnamese tradition of xenophobia, a single negative act was multiplied manyfold in their eyes;


and across the country by many thousands of Americans." Michael E. Peterson, Comments on draft, dtd 10Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File).


**In a letter to his parents in 1968, William R. Black, Jr., then a second lieutenant, wrote about some of the contradictory emotions pulling at the Marines as they fought the war in the villages. He wrote about his platoon taking heavy sniper fire in a hamlet. Black permitted some of the men to throw hand grenades into family bunkers before entering them because he "felt the whole place was unfriendly and that enemy were probably hiding in the family bomb shelters." The troops saw "very few civilians," but suddenly they heard a child cry. A family had been in one of the shelters. While sniper fire continued against his forward platoons, he directed his Navy Corpsman, "Doc, do what you can for them immediately, [emphasis in original] we can't leave you here." According to Black, this was a "sore spot among many of our troops that the corpsmen spend their medicine and energy helping the VN civilians." He quoted one of his men saying "Damn, man! This is a war\ [emphasis in the original] We can't go hold'n up for no gook civilians!" The corpsman reported that the civilian wounds were superficial and the troops moved on. 2dLt William R. Black, Jr., Itr to parents, dtd 20-lApr68, End, William R. Black, Jr., Comments on draft, dtd 4Jan95 (Vietnam Comment File).







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