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Photo courtesy ut (.ol Talman C. Budd, USMC (Ret)


A Vietnamese tank protects the Vietnamese T F Alpha command post in Gia Dinh in reneu'ed fighting in Saigon during May 1968.


According to Khang, to avoid all suspicion, he retained only his post as Marine Corps Commandant. Lieutenant Colonel Breckinridge observed that there apparently was a rumor campaign to discredit Khang in October, claiming that he was about to bring in Marine battalions into Saigon to topple the government. By the end of the year, however, Khang accompanied President Thieu on a ceremonial trip to IV Corps. Breckinridge interpreted this fact to show that Khang was not in disravor.1'"


While the U.S. Marine advisors for the most part respected their Vietnamese counterparts and the righting qualities of the Vietnamese Marine, they also recognized several of the shortcomings of the Vietnamese organization. According to Breckinridge, who reviewed all of the American advisor after action and monthly reports, there was a constant theme of lack of staff work and refusal of commanders to delegate authority, lack of tactical coordination, poor employment 01 mortars, and poor caliber of the noncommissioned officers. During the battle for Hue, for example, the 1st Battalion was heavily engaged for two days while the "two other battalions of the task force watched the fighting rrom a distance of about one kilometer." The Marine advisor to the battalion attributed some of the heavy losses of the Marines during the fighting on the failure of the task force commander "to commit all or part of his watching idle battalions."'-''-


Despite such obvious weakness on the part of the Vietnamese Marines, Breckinridge, who was serving his second tour in Vietnam, the first being in 1955 with the first advisory group, also saw much improvement. The Vietnamese t(x>k several steps to improve both tactics and leadership. The Marines opened up a school for noncommissioned officers and a school for the use of mortars. In March 1968, after a review of the entire organization with the Joint General Staff, MACV agreed to support the transformation ol the Marine Corps into a Marine light division. In October the Vietnamese Marine Brigade officially became the Vietnamese Marine Coq->s division consisting of two brigades. With the potential of continued growth and an earned combat reputation, the Vietnamese Marine Corps had become an even more integral part of the Vietnamese General Reserve.70


-Colonel Breckinridge noted in his comments that his "after-tour report was a compilation of many such reports submitted by previous advisors and was an attempt to assist both advisors and Vietnamese. Areas wherein . . . [it] was reported that the VNMC made mistakes, in many cases, arc the same areas chat Americans would also have fallen short." Col James T. Breckinridge, Comments on draft, did lNov94 (Vietnam Comment File).




Page 651 (1968: The Defining Year)