A Unique Counterinsurgency Capability For The Contemporary Operating Environment
Author: Major Ian J. Townsend
Publisher: Pickle Partners Publishing
In Vietnam, the III Marine Amphibious Force used Combined Action Platoons (CAPs) as one part of its operational level counterinsurgency campaign. These platoons provided security assistance to the South Vietnamese Popular Forces and civic action to the village based population. To measure the operational effectiveness and the current relevancy of this specific type of combined action their activities are evaluated against current Army counterinsurgency doctrine. This monograph demonstrates the value of the CAPs as one element in the context of a counterinsurgency campaign, and how this form of combined action may serve as a tool for Army commanders conducting operational art in future. Independent operations are not the future of American warfare in the 21st Century. Contemporary thought about the future of American warfare is that the “conventional forces of the United States Army will have an enduring requirement to build the security forces and security ministries of other countries.” Some form of combined action will be a required in American military operations for the foreseeable future. Given this truth, CAPs provide a practical historical example of a combined action technique that can serve as a tool for the future.
The Marine Corps Combined Action Program was a part of the Vietnam War that is not commonly known. Marines and Navy Corpsmen were embedded in the villages and hamlets of Vietnam. Marines were augmented by Vietnamese Popular Forces somewhat akin to a local militia. The mission of the Marines was to protect themselves and the villagers they lived with, provide the Popular Forces with weapons training, defense and operations tactics with the Marines learning the local language and customs. The end goal was to deny sanctuary to the enemy that would terrorize villagers to support them, forcibly recruit all the able bodied young men and rob the villagers of food and money. When not busy defending their villages, Marines would perform civic action projects that included Navy Corpsmen providing medical services and sanitation, providing materials and assistance for improving living conditions, providing clothing and school supplies donated by supporters in the United States while educating them about their government and democracy. This Combined Action of Marines and Vietnamese was about winning "hearts and minds" leading to a successful pacification program throughout the Marine's tactical area of responsibility. With the Marine Corps assigned responsibility for the northern most section of Vietnam, referred to as I Corps (pronounced Eye Corps). By 1968, this program increased exponentially, succeeding driving the enemy (Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, known as NVA) away from the I Corps area. Using the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos and Cambodia, the NVA bypassed the Marines and moved through the delta. This program was one of limited success as noted by Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) leaving some historians to ponder if that success would have also borne fruit throughout all of South Vietnam. This book describes in detail all the above, including the many acts of valor and courage of Combined Action personnel.
A Proposed Alternative Strategy for the Vietnam War
Author: Curtis L. Williamson
Category: Combined operations (Military science)
The Vietnam War was a war against an insurgency sustained by the resources drawn from the South Vietnamese peasant. The CAP offered a viable alternative to the strategy taken in Vietnam, challenging the sustaining infrastructure of the guerrilla, while providing security for the largely agrarian populace.
United States Marine Corps Combined Action Platoons in the Vietnam War
Author: Theodore Easterling
The United States is often criticized for using ineffective strategies and tactics to fight the Vietnam War, but the United States Marine Corps attempted to use strategies and tactics it considered appropriate for a counterinsurgency war in Vietnam. As part of its counterinsurgency plan, the Marine Corps used Combined Action Platoons, and whether or not these units were effective as a counterinsurgency tactic in the war is the topic of this study. This study concludes that Combined Action Platoons were not a successful counterinsurgency tactic in the Vietnam War. To the extent the Combined Action concept might have been well-conceived and successful, it was overwhelmed by a number of problems. The conflict over strategy between the Marine Corps and the US Army hampered the development and the performance of the Combined Action Platoons. Other critical problems for the Combined Action Platoons resulted from the weakness of the government of the Republic of South Vietnam and the strategic ability of the North Vietnamese Army. The primary problem was that Vietnam was a poorly chosen battlefield , and the war was unwinnable. This study of the US Marine Corps Combined Action Platoons is a qualitative study based on research in a variety of primary and secondary sources. Research at the US Marine Corps Archives at Quantico, Virginia was especially useful for acquiring original information related to the Combined Action Platoons (CAP) in the Vietnam War. Primary sources for the study included books written by participants in the war, and veterans of the CAP. A collection of the private letters of a CAP veteran was also used. Among the secondary sources for the study were books by historians who studied the war, and books by counterinsurgency theorists who study counterinsurgency warfare.
United States. Marine Corps. History and Museums Division