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In remarking about the quality of the Marines in his CAP and their qualifications, Bobrowsky remarked that about half had probably been "pressganged" into the unit much the same way he had. At the same time, they worked well together and "I saw them as being guys who knew what they were doing." Most of the Marines had little language training, but had picked up "rudimentary Vietnamese and fortunately, the Vietnamese picked up a lot more rudimentary English." Ferguson, who was fluent in Vietnamese, stated that the situation was similar in the CAP platoons that he served in. He estimated that about 50 percent of the Marines in his first platoon were qualified for their role, while the other "fifty percent were just trying to get away from a bad situation they were in before." One of the Marines in Bobrowsky's platoon, Lance Corporal Tom Harvey, was an exception to the above. Somewhat older than the other CAP Marines, a college graduate and a civil engineer, Harvey had enlisted in the Marines rather than be drafted into the Army. After serving in an engineer battalion, he volunteered for the CAPs. Having some facility with languages, Harvey had taught himself rudimentary Vietnamese.106


Despite anomalies like Harvey, Ferguson, and DuGuid, who had some degree of fluency, most CAP Marines had relatively little Vietnamese language skills. As a former South Vietnamese officer. Lam Ha, who served as a liaison officer with the CAPs, later wrote, the "language barrier was a vital problem" with the program. Without being able to converse with the people or the PFs, it was almost next to impossible for the Marines to have anything but a superficial knowledge of the people they were to protect.107*


Notwithstanding all of these obstacles, there was some statistical evidence that the CAPs were effective. Although based upon American military reports and the hamlet evaluation system, these analyses were completed at the MACV and at the DOD levels, two agencies which at best had shown only lukewarm support for the program. According to periodic reports from January through November 1968, prepared by the Southeast Asia Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for System Analysis, hamlets with Combined Action platoons assigned to them showed that they fared markedly better during and after the enemy's Tet offensive than hamlets without them. According to the HES ratings, there was about a 30 percent difference between the security ratings of the CAP hamlets and those without the platoons after Tet. In their November report, the DOD analysts concluded that "the CAP concept may provide a useful way to upgrade security in the short run and to ensure that application of massive allied firepower does not hurt pacification efforts."108


Still, many questions remained. One was the transformation from the stationary or compound CAP to the mobile CAPs. Some former Combined Action Marines including Lieutenant Colonel Corson criticized the change as altering the entire concept of the program. They suggested that instead of providing protection for the hamlets, the CAPs in effect became guerrillas themselves. In their view, the CAPs "had to maintain a demonstrably visible presence in commitment to the hamlet. It had to be an alternative to the guerrilla, as well as a tactic against the guerrilla." Others rejected that argument, stating that the compounds were usually outside of the hamlets and, moreover, they were sitting targets for the VC and NVA. Almost all of the Marines agreed that going to the mobile concept probably resulted in fewer casualties. Tom Harvey, who served in both, later wrote: "I think nearly everyone interested in the matter now recognized the advantages of the mobile CAP as opposed to those bound to fixed bases or compounds." Taking a middle ground, Michael Peterson argued that there was room for the two different approaches depending on the area. During 1968, both continued to coexist.10?


In their November 1968 report, while in general praising the Combined Action Program, the DOD analysts also pointed out some of the basic weaknesses of the program. Although not accepting the Komer and Westmoreland argument that one needed to place a Combined Action platoon in every hamlet in Vietnam, the analysts showed that the Marines had not met even their more modest goals. Two of the original objectives of the Combined Action program in 1968 were to obtain three effective Popular Force members for every Marine and to improve the PFs to the extent where the Marines could begin to phase out of the program. According to the DOD report, in November 1968 there was a ratio of 1.4 PFs per Marine and that the prevailing trend was downwards. Even more to the point, the Marines were taking about twice the num-





* Lieutenant Colonel Brady, the CAP Director unti1 October 1968 wrote that "Because of the importance of cross cultural communication an ongoing language program was instituted in mid-1968." Brady Comments. Each CAP Marine was also provided with a phrase book "designed primarily for use in the Combined Action Program." It contained such phrases such as "100% alert tonight ..." to make immediate contact with the PF members of the CAP. The book was also designed for independent study of both English and Vietnamese by the Marines and the Vietnamese. VietnameselEnglish Phrase Book, n.d.. End, Brady Comments.







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