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James F. Dunnigan & Albert A. Nofi. Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War.
Pages 90 - 92
Copyright 1999
St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010


Marine Combined Action Platoons
The Marine Corps had spent most of the period between the two world wars in counterinsurgency operations in the Caribbean. Their experience was embodied in the Small Wars Manual of 1940. Unfortunately, World War II, and the general lack of any small war-type actions, led to the neglect of this publication. For many years the manual was largely ignored as the [Marine] Corps concentrated on amphibious operations against the Japanese, then conventional operations in Korea, and finally to adjusting to the demands of a potential nuclear battlefield in the 1950s. Some attention was paid to counterinsurgency, but when the [Marine] Corps came to publish a new manual for guerrilla [terrorist] operations in 1962, most of the lessons of the Small Wars Manual were ignored. Fleet Marine Force Manual 8-2, Operations Against Guerrilla Forces, was an ill-organized collection of borrowings from the Small Wars Manual, combined with some alleged lessons of more recent guerrilla wars and some theoretical musings on the subject. But some people in the [Marine} Corps remembered. One of the recommendations of the Small Wars Manual was the combination of Marine personnel with local personnel in operational formations. Almost as soon as they arrived in Vietnam, the Marines began organizing what became known as Combined Action Platoons (CAP.) A combined action platoon integrated a Marine squad into a Vietnamese local defense platoon. Typically, a CAP included fourteen Marines (a squad leader, grenadier/assistant squad leader, the three fire teams of four each), plus three Navy Corpsmen, with a Vietnamese local defense platoon of thirty-eight men (a platoon leader, four staff personnel, and three squads of eleven each).
CAP personnel lived with the local people, working closely with Vietnamese military and political leaders. Although primarily intended to strengthen and train local defense forces, they were responsible for many rural developing projects, such as running medical clinics, building schools, delivering supplies, and so forth.
Personnel assigned to Combined Action Platoons were routinely drawn from the general pool of available Marines. Since living conditions in the typical Vietnamese rural hamlet were pretty primitive, most Marines [and Navy Corpsmen] were in for some serious culture shock when they joined their assigned platoons…
The CAP program was responsible for securing many villages in the Marine Corps areas of Northern [South} Vietnam. Convinced of the effectiveness of the program, Marines wanted to expand it ( only a small proportion, c 10 percent, of ARVN's local defense forces was ever involved in the program ). However, this proved very difficult. Not only was the ARVN reluctant to supply troops, but senior U.S. Commanders in Vietnam saw it as a "waste" of fine infantry. In fact, at its peak in 1969, the program only involved about 2,000 Marines, about two battalions' worth of manpower at a time when the United States had well over a hundred combat battalions in country. With the introduction of Vietnamization in 1970, the program was abandoned.

James F. Dunnigan & Albert A. Nofi. Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War.
Pages 90 - 92 Copyright 1999
St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010
Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (RET.)
with Don Horan and Norman C. Stahl
Foreword by. Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret.), Director Emeritus, Marine Corps History and Museums
Amazing Grace by the
  1. S. Air Force Band
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