Page 625

Page 625 (1968: The Defining Year)








By December, the four Combined Action Groups together totaled 19 Combined Action Companies, 102 Combined Action Platoons, and 7 Mobile Training Teams. During the course of the year, III MAF had activated one Combined Action Group, six companies, 28 Combined Action platoons, and all seven of the Mobile Training Teams. At the same time, one company and five CAPs had been deactivated. According to FMFPac, the number of Marines assigned to the program had increased by nearly 500 over 1967, from 1,265 in December 1967 to 1,763 in December 1968. Almost all of the 28 new CAPs were mobile rather than fixed and a large percentage of the compound CAPs were to be transformed into mobile ones. For example, according to the 2d CAG at Da Nang, 75 percent of its CAPs were eventually to become mobile. By the end of December, 13 of its 39 CAPs, or about 37 percent, were already in the mobile status.?5


Despite the growth and expansion of the Combined Action Program, many questions remained unresolved. MACV, CORDS, and even some of the Army units in I Corps still kept the Combined Action Program at arm's length. While individual CORDS provincial and district officials looked sympathetically on the program, a III MAF staff officer in a briefing for General Walt, the Assistant Commandant, referred to the CAP concept as an "I Corps exclusive." In personal letters, Brigadier General Anderson, the III MAF Chief of Staff, wrote that U.S. Army Lieutenant General Richard G. Stilwell, the XXIV Commander in northern I Corps, had been "very vociferous to his staff with respect to the CAP Program . . . [and later] voiced strong objections to having them [Combined Action Platoons] placed along the LOCs [lines of communication]." Because of that attitude, III MAF decided not to activate several CAP units between Hue and Quang Tri. According to Anderson, General Cushman agreed since he believed "to put them in an area where they're not wanted, especially when you have to rely on the U.S. unit in the area for supporting fires and reinforcement when under ground attack, would not be wise and that we can better use them elsewhere." The III MAF commander several years later observed, "we had a basic philosophical difference with the Army on it [Combined Action]. We kept on with it."?6*


Lieutenant Colonel Brady, the Combined Action Director, declared that as far as he was concerned, the relationship with both MACV and CORDS was "very poor." He later related the frustration that he experienced in attempting to ensure a coordinated U.S. pacification effort in the countryside. Brady had convinced General Cushman in July, as the Senior U.S. Advisor to I Corps and General Lam, to issue an order that called upon each of the Corps province senior advisors to chair a monthly conference for that purpose. At the conference would be representatives of CORDs, military advisors, and III MAF units including Army units attached to the Marine command, and the Combined Action Group commander. The province senior advisor would then forward through all three channels- CORDS, advisory, and III MAF-a "conference report (to include minority opinions on items of controversy) to CG III MAF." Upon the strong objection, however, of the senior CORDS official. III MAF canceled the order and issued a new one. The new order only stipulated that "province senior advisors may at their discretion convene combined meetings of appropriate military and civilian personnel to discuss and coordinate pacification within their respective provinces." No specific mention was made of the Combined Action Group commander.?7**


Even in I Corps, the effectiveness of many of the reforms, especially that of screening and training of new volunteers, remains a matter of conjecture. Despite questionnaires. Combined Action Schools, and screening boards, much depended upon circumstances and events. The questionnaires consisted of little more than 20 questions which largely dealt with the volunteer's attitudes. While statistical data remains elusive, anecdotal evidence in the form of oral history interviews would imply that both the initial screening and training of Marines for the program was often haphazard. Lieutenant Colonel Brady, for example, remembered that the school at Da Nang could last anywhere from two weeks to two months, "depending on personnel requirements in the field." Igor Bobrowsky recalled only very vaguely receiving any indoctrination training, but later wrote "there was a 'school' at 2d



*According to General Anderson, there was a difference of attitude among Army units in I Corps towards the Combined Action Program. For example, he wrote that the 1st Air Cavalry Division had "no use for the CAPs" while he had heard that the "101st Airborne Division thinks quite highly of the CAPs and will take any that they can get." BGen E. E. Anderson Itr to LtGen W. J. Van Ryzin, dtd l lSep68, End, E. E. Anderson Comments. Throughout this period, Combined Action Platoons remained assigned in the U.S. Army Americal Division area of operations.


**General Earl E. Anderson, who as the III MAF chief of staff, believed that the problem with CORDS extended beyond I Corps. In a contemporary letter, he wrote: "We still have problems with Komer in Saigon. He is adamant about the CAP Program and wants it placed under the CORDS advisory effort." BGen E. E. Anderson to LtGen W. J. Van Ryzin, dtd 16Oct68, End, E. E. Anderson Comments.







Page 625 (1968: The Defining Year)