Cap Veterans Honor
|The Unknown Part of the Vietnam War|
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The script "So Alone" is based on Jack Cunningham's experiences of serving in the Marine Corps/ Navy Combined Action Program (CAP.) This special Civil Action/ Anti-Terrorist unit was one of the most unique fighting contingents in America's history. Small teams of four to fourteen Marines and Navy Corpsmen lived and served '24/7' in farming villages of sometimes thousands of peasants.
Although, the Combined Action Program (CAP) was part of the Marines, it worked very closely with the Republic of Vietnam and received that Country's highest unit awards for both "Gallantry and Civil Actions."
Prior to the American CAP teams taking over, many of these villages were once under Communist physical and political control. For unknown reasons, few Americans back in the United States ever heard from our News Media that the Communists were known and feared for their heartless tactics. But they were!
Terror and death were regular tools they used from their arsenals for controlling their own people.
On the other hand, the Americans of the Combined Action Program were known by the poorest of the Vietnamese poor for their kindness, friendship, help and protection. In order to be accepted as a volunteer, an American had to have some extraordinary qualities. Qualities that would make the (mostly teenage) Americans winners dealing with all cultures, societies and nationalities.
CAP performed many of the same Civil Action tasks around the villages that Peace Corps members would have achieved if they were assigned. The unit daily earned its nickname "The Peace Corps Volunteers with Rifles"
The American s' duties included everything from medical treatment to security for the villagers. Oftentimes the Marines and Corpsmen provided extra assistance -- building bridges, schoolhouses, wells, homes, irrigation ditches, delivering babies, breeding pigs, etc.
Well beyond what was called for in their duty rosters.
CAP supported the peasants, so much around their villages that many of the Vietnamese families adopted the young Americans. They became anti-terrorist specialists because of their kindness to the people.
Our Navy Corpsmen treated 300 to 500 peasants a month in each of the villages. These medical services, coordinated by our Navy Corpsmen, were called "MedCaps." These "MedCaps" were a major part of the success of the Combined Action Program.
To this day, Vietnamese village peasants still remember the names of the American Cap Veterans, who served so proudly and faithfully in their villages.
Because the peasants loved and trusted the young Americans, the Communist revolutionaries despised them that much more! Only half of the 5,000 Marines and Navy Corpsmen, who served honorably in CAP, survived the heavy combat. And 70 percent of those survivors were hurt at least once. A full 45% of the Americans were wounded more than once.
Cap Veterans are the ultimate survivors.
The terrorists were constantly thwarted by CAP Teams in their hideous campaigns to intimidate the peasants into submission. Often, the regular Vietnamese Communist Army was called in to strike against CAP. This led to many fierce firefights, where CAP Teams were out-manned by ten times their number.
In many cases, entire CAP Teams were wiped out to the last man, but the following day, another CAP Team would be back in the same village.
The script "So Alone" is based on Jack Cunningham's experiences living in the village of Phu Da, which was one of the villages outside the gates of the Fifth Marine Headquarters in An Hoa Valley. Located about 20 miles southwest of Da Nang, the large Marine Base was located in one of the hottest combat war zones in Vietnam. The base was surrounded by a number of notorious, Communist staging areas for thousands of dedicated North Vietnamese Army Regulars and Viet Cong Terrorists. The Que Son Mountains, Charlie Ridge and the infamous Arizona Territory were within easy site of Phu Da. Any Veteran, who served at An Hoa Valley, knows what type of neighborhoods the CAP Veterans of Ninth Company; Second Cag lived and served in.
The Americans finally left Phu Da in August 1970. Seven months later, in March 1971, the Communists slaughtered the village, burning 800 homes and killing and wounding 250 men, women and children. Jack Cunningham was one of the last Americans to serve in this village.
The stories surrounding the CAP program would make a great, interesting television series. 'So Alone' is just a two (2) hour introduction. Since CAP cared daily for the village' sick, especially the children, the story of CAP is a cross between Mash, St. ElseWhere, China Beach and a realistic Tour of Duty. A television series on CAP will also lean a little towards "Highway to Heaven."
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