Vietnam Combined Action Unit


Verified Military
Sep 12, 2012
Found this when looking something else up. Thought of you @Ocoka and decided to share.

Vietnam: Combined Action Company | Marine Corps Association

Circa 1966

The typical Vietnamese villager cares little for politics or ideological causes. His biggest worry is raising enough food to feed his family and earning enough to provide for their other necessities.

In areas controlled by the communists, he sees his sons conscripted into the VC forces; sees much of his hard-won rice crop confiscated as “taxes” by the guerrillas.

As long as the VC control his village, they hold over him and every other person in it the power of life and death. Defying a communist order or refusing to pay his “taxes” brings quick punishment from his communist masters.

Any hope of winning a war against the guerrillas must separate the insurgents from the people, dry up the vital “sea” they desperately need to survive, break up the Red domination of the villages.

This is being accomplished by various means in different parts of Vietnam.

In the northernmost Marine enclave in Vietnam, Hue-Phu Bai, it’s being done very effectively by a unique company of Marines and local militia.


Combined Action
Verified Military
Jun 29, 2014
Decisive Terrain
Found this when looking something else up. Thought of you @Ocoka and decided to share.

Vietnam: Combined Action Company | Marine Corps Association

By the time I got there, the program had evolved into a more cohesive, specialized organization. It became, ostensibly, a special operations (lower case) initiative of the Marine Corps involving infantry volunteers with higher GCT and rifle range scores who were sent thru a Combined Action course in Danang, and later Hoi An.

At it's height there were four Combined Action Groups, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Grps, each comprised of roughly 600 officers and men. Each Group fielded a number of companies of 120-160 men each. The Companies were situated in their own small HQ compounds, with its CAP unit AOs radiating into the countryside, like the web of a spider. Each CAP was comprised (on paper) of 12 infantry-MOS Marines and one Navy Corpsman, although many CAPs were understrengthed due to casualties. Each individual CAP AO was roughly 3-5 square miles and contained a main village and perhaps one or two smaller hamlets.

Combined Action Platoons were mobile, never static more than 8-12 hours for security, usually hunkered down during the day near a ville with a good field of fire around a randomly chosen house called a "Day Haven." Day Haven's were typically given nick-names like "Joe's Place," or "The Old Woman's," or the "Banana Farm" etc. During the afternoon, half the unit would conduct a combat patrol. The CAP Actual would plan his "Night Acts"--night ambush plans--and code up the various check-point and ambush-site grid coordinates and then call them into the company HQ...where they would be decoded and plotted on a plexiglas map.

The unit would go mobile toward night ambush destinations an hour before sunset, moving through 3 checkpoint locations before total darkness and then advancing in stealth toward the ambush site location. Often the unit would split into two mutually supporting teams, Alpha and Bravo...or dispatch a three-man KT (Kilo Tango/Kill Team) from the main ambush position.

CAP responsibilities included civic action, medcaps, establishing and exploiting HUMINT, conducting COIN warfare, advising and training Counterpart RVN militia units (FID). The emphasis was always on denying the enemy tactical advantage by aggressive patrolling, ambushing and killing.

By 1970, 1st, 3rd and 4th CAGs had been disbanded. Only 2nd CAG was left and it inherited a considerable operational responsibility. Headquartered in Hoi An, 2nd CAG's TAOR included the main enemy infil routes from An Hoa and the Que Son Mountains down into the "rocket belt" around Danang and Hoi An.

Because of their small size and relative isolation, the casualty figures for Combined Action units were high. But their kill ratio was substantial, with CAPs accounting for more enemy KIAs than the entire 101st Airborne Division...and man-for-man more EKIAs than regular Marine infantry.

Never growing beyond 2,500 men and 114 platoons, the program achieved unsurpassed success towards providing security for the populace, threatening the guerrilla infrastructure, empowering the local and regional leaders to govern, and killing the enemy. Additionally, all attempts by senior Marine leaders to convince General Westmoreland of the CAP's validity as a fitting strategy for all ground forces failed to overcome his conventional inclination towards the nature of the war.

The strategy proposed contains three elements: separating the guerrillas from the people through combined action, fighting the guerrillas as guerrillas, and limited pursuit of large NVA units with "fix and destroy" forces. Accepting that the war was among the people, this alternative strategy strives to achieve first pacification through combined action, then destruction of enemy forces.

-- Major Curtis Williamson III, USMC

Navy Cross recipient S/Sgt Claude Dorris was with 3rd Combined Action Group and was killed in 1968. RIP Brother and Warrior.
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