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After the heavy fighting during and after Tet had died down, III MAF reexamined the entire Combined Action structure. Colonel Harold L. Oppenheimer, a Marine reservist on active duty, who was on special assignment to III MAF, prepared a study on the program for General Cushman. Oppenheimer basically called for more centralization of the Combined Action command organization and the consolidation of units into more defensible units.85


More importantly, however, Lieutenant Colonel Brady, the III MAF Deputy Director for Combined Action, completed his own report on the program. While aware of Oppenheimer s study, he depended more upon the initiatives of his CAG commanders, especially the 3d CAG commander at Phu Bai, Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Keller. Since the fall of 1967, Keller had advocated less of a "fortified village" concept for the CAP defenses and more of a combat capability based upon night patrols and ambushes. After the overrunning of CAPs Hotel 5, 6, and 7* in the Phu Loc sector in January, Keller decided to reform these units into mobile CAPs. While assigned to a general village sector consisting of several hamlets, the mobile CAP had no specific base, but moved from hamlet to hamlet. According to Brady, the restructured CAPs had some success "in combat situations." He talked the concept over with Keller and then made a personal staff study.86


From his analysis of the situation, Lieutenant Colonel Brady noted that the preliminary evidence would indicate that the mobile CAPs sustained fewer casualties in relation to VC KIA than the CAPs in fixed positions. Still Brady noted that both types of Combined Action units had their advantages. The Compound CAPs were better geared to provide civic action and to obtain intelligence from the villagers. On the other hand, the mobile CAPs formed better relations with their Vietnamese Regional Force and Popular Force counterparts since they were "both living at the same level." At this point, Brady suggested that when III MAF form new Mobile CAPs that they be in the same vicinity of a compound CAP. According to Brady, this would insure that there would be a safe haven for the mobile units. In June, General Cushman concurred with Brady s recommendations.87


Following Tet, there were other changes in the Combined Action Program besides the establishment of the Mobile CAPs and the Mobile Training Teams. In April, III MAF changed the designations of all of the CAPs to numbers. Until that time, the Combined Action Platoons had been identified by a combination of letters and numbers. All of the Combined Action Companies carried letter identifiers, similar to infantry and artillery companies and batteries. The platoons then carried the letter plus a number. For example, the Combined Action Company at Phu Loc was CACO H or Hotel and the individual platoons under the control of CACO H were known as H or Hotel l through 8. This made for some confusion as there was no systematic way to identify which platoon or company belonged to a specific Combined Action Group. Under the new system, the Combined Action Companies took the number of the CAG they belonged to while the platoons in turn took the numbers of both the CAG and CACO plus an additional number. For example, CAP 3-2-1 would stand for the 1st Combined Action platoon, of the 2d Combined Action Company, of the 3d Combined Action Group.88


Concerned about the results of a survey of CAP Marines following Tet by Lieutenant Commander McGonigal that several experienced a sense of betrayal on the part of the PFs and some of the villagers for not warning them. Lieutenant Colonel Brady continued with both the efforts to systemize the program and to raise the standards for Marines to enter the Combined Action platoons. On 18 April, III MAF issued a Force Bulletin outlining the Combined Action Program and urging "commanders to actively recruit highly qualified personnel as volunteers for duty with the Combined Action Program." It remarked upon the need that every member of a CAP "must be a potential leader, who through professional capability, personal example, courage and dedication can foster the respect of Vietnamese Nationals and lead small unit combined forces in combat." Signed by Major General William J. Van Ryzin, who had relieved General Murray as III MAF deputy commander, the bulletin "requested that command interest be directed towards the recruiting of volunteers and the final selection of personnel. ..." It ended on the high note that the "recruiting of one highly qualified individual is repaid at least three fold in terms of military combat potential alone . . . ,"89


In June, III MAF followed up the bulletin with a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the Combined Action Program. While canceling the SOP of the previous year, it reconfirmed many of the basic tenets of the Combined Action Program. It continued the integration of a Marine squad plus a corpsman with the Popular Forces platoon and the command structure through III MAF exercised by the Director, Combined



*See Chapter 6 for a description of the fighting in Hotel 6.







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