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Thread: The Village

  1. #1
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    Default The Village

    I hope this is the right subforum.

    I've just finished The Village by Francis J. 'Bing' West: .

    This is what I've been looking for all my life.

    Review to follow in due course. Suffice to say that it should be handed to every ISAF soldier and contractor, civilian or military.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-10-2011 at 11:58 AM. Reason: Minor addition and link corrected

  2. #2
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Denver on occasion


    The Marines have handed it out in the past to people going to Afghanistan. It is the single best book on small wars ever written in my forever a civilian opinion. It is interesting to remember how excited I was when I first read it over 30 years ago and to see how excited you seem to be after having read it now.

    There was an article about it and a discussion of the article on the SWJ Blog almost two years ago.

    I look forward to your review. One done with contemporary eyes would be good.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  3. #3
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    I enjoyed The Village, but have found other readings on the CAP program to be more informative; from what I understand it wasn't as successful as some claim. Has anyone else read into the program?

  4. #4
    Council Member Graycap's Avatar
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    Wonderful book. I read it some years ago and found it very interesting.

    On another note, with ref to Vietnam war and its loal level in a general context, I would suggest you another, and totally different, title: War comes to Long An.

    I found it enlighting.

  5. #5
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    Default A couple of links

    Agree (most will) as to The Village and War Comes to Long Am. The latter is one which one can study for a long time by following up the many footnoted sources.

    More personal (along the lines of The Village) is David Donovan (a pseudonym), Once a Warrior King (1985; used hardcovers at very low cost), following a US Army 5-man advisory team in Kien Phong Province.

    Infanteer: Yes, I've read into USMC-CAP. Some resources which may prove useful/of interest to you.

    1. US Marines Combined Action Platoons (CAC/CAP) Web Site, which simply has a lot of factual data (rosters, unit histories, etc.) in its links. Its Historical Data page is useful; and so is Tim Duffie's caveat:

    Much has been written about the effectiveness of the CAP program. However, a conclusion is beyond the scope of this Web Site, or me, for that matter. We will trust the reader to formulate his/her own opinion.
    2. Russel H. Stofl, USMC Civic Action in Vietnam March 1965 - March 1966 (part 1) (part 2). His six points (starting at p.67 pdf of part 2) point out success and failure - and still ring true today.

    3. Fact Sheet on the Combined Action Force (III MAF 31 Mar 1970) (the last item, a letter from Francis McNamara).

    4. Bill Corson, CAP's Formative Years - which is pure Corson (e.g., 2 snips; my emphasis added):

    Although the mission of the CAPs, as we deduced it to be, was simple to state, it was difficult to accomplish. Stated simply, it was to keep the Vietnamese peasants and Marines in a given hamlet alive. In so doing, security was maintained from the two predatory elements the Marines and peasants faced. Namely, the Communists and the ARVN/GVN. Once this condition of security was established, much was possible. But, without that condition, nothing in terms of real "pacification" was possible, no matter how the term was defined. The CAP Marines understood this essential fact of our effort. Some more than others. But, as a general rule, our goals were understood by the Marines who worked incredibly hard to make them happen.
    Before I take leave of this historical critique, let me give you my definition of pacification, i.e., the one which I used to guide the activities of the Combined Action Program and those wonderful Marines who gave of themselves to the people in the hamlets of South Vietnam.

    Pacification includes a number of processes. However, it is not defined simply as a process. A better term is that it is descriptive of a condition. In the case of the hamlets in South Vietnam, it was the belief and perception of the Vietnamese people that they were safe in their own homes. This idea, or feeling of safety, was the sine qua non without which there was no "pacification purpose", or potential gain simply from providing the humanitarian assistance that the indigenous government had never provided. The CAP Marines, by virtue of their willingness to stand and die to protect the Vietnamese from their twin enemies, i.e., the Communists and the GVN [South Vietnamese Government] made believers out of the Vietnamese peasants. Once that had occurred, the hamlet had been "pacified". In one very important sense, this speaks to the people's "state of mind". If the people's state of mind was such that they believed they were safe, or at least would be protected, the essential condition to proceed with visible pacification/rehabilitation efforts was in hand and in place. Without it, everything was just to much dross. I can't emphasize too strongly that the desired state of mind had to be achieved first. Parenthetically, I observed on many occasions following a heavy VC attack which had been finally beaten off after a toll of lives and physical destruction, a spirit of unity between the CAP Marines and the people as they set about the task of rebuilding the hamlet and getting ready for the next attack or problem. In sum, security and its acquisition is not simply the erection of barricades.
    There is neither time, nor do I have the inclination to attempt to resolve the question about fixed and mobile CAPs. The putative reasons for going to the mobile concept have less to do with valid military analysis than the politics of MACV. On the other hand, the politics which drove part of that decision were unstated and unacknowledged by those who issued, or acquiesced, in the orders. Namely, that by the time the mobile concept had been adopted, the war had been effectively lost. It (this decision) can be used to prove that our use of the CAP concept, beginning in 1966, was doomed to ultimate failure because it was at least two years too late. I knew that before I went to Vietnam, but I agreed to take on the job because, as I mentioned above, my purpose was to save Marine and Vietnamese lives. Lives, in my opinion, that would have otherwise been lost in the pursuit of a futile military and political strategy.
    5. Phil Ridderhof (SWC member), Combined Action & USMC Experiences in Vietnam 1965-71 (this online version of his thesis omits its 347 footnotes ). His conclusions:

    Combined Action began in 1965. The Marines started it as a cost effective way to provide security for their rear areas. The program was a success. A degree of control was placed over the villages that contained CAPs. Marine leaders saw their troops working together with the PFs and providing an outward appearance of pacification. The Marines looked back in their history and saw that they had trained good armies in Latin America. They saw the VC infrastructure as the real threat to the GVN. Combined Action, in concert with other pacification programs, would use Marine tradition from the early 20th century to win the Vietnamese war.

    The Popular Forces that worked with the Marines were being prepared to carry on the pacification war after the Marines left. The GVN, however, was not prepared to support the Popular Forces after the Marine's left. The needs of area security, and the activities of the large VC units, also meant that combat operations took priority over training the PFs. They would not be able to carry on the fight as effectively when the Marines left.

    Combined Action worked at providing area security. It excelled at this. It did work at pacification and Vietnamization. Pacification could only occur if the population felt that the GVN was stronger and preferable than the VC. Successful Vietnamization of the war was the only way this shift of thought could happen. No matter how effective at combating the VC the CAPs were, the CAPs were still US run units and represented foreigners who would someday leave. Unless the GVN was able to survive without US troops, it would lose the war. Combined Action could have been a positive step towards preparing the GVN to survive alone, but the effort in that direction was not there. There is also evidence that with the GVN, all the effort in the world would not have worked.

    Disregarding the political aspects of Vietnam, as a military answer to counterinsurgency, Combined Action was effective. Its use for area security could come in handy again. There is a good chance that in future, US forces could again be called on to support a friendly government against an insurgency. Combined Action, properly employed would achieve area security while providing training for the indigenous forces involved. It would have to be clear that the Combined Action units would be there for security only.

    The establishment of government, law and order would be up to the host government, possibly with US economic assistance. Combined Action will not win a counterinsurgency war, but it would provide civil authorities time and protection to establish themselves. Combined Action, if implemented in the future, is a military concept. Being such it can only help fight, not win in revolutionary warfare.
    6. Katie Johnson, A Reevaluation of the Combined Action Program as a Counterinsurgency Tool (2009 Masters Thesis) (JMM BLUF: the author evidences both success and failure in CAP-type efforts).



  6. #6
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    Concur in the foregoing. On War Comes to Long An: I agree, it's probably an essential read and, as suggested, I have indeed reread my copy at least three times. However, one would be advised to exercise caution--as with any book--in accepting all of the author's conclusions. Specifically, Race has difficulty explaining what happened in Long An that turned it from a notable problem case to arguably the most secure province in MR-III 1970-early '75. He lamely (IMO) suggests land reform--but Land to the Tiller land distributions weren't implemented till 1971-2...

    On the other hand, Race forcefully disparages the massive kinetic onslaught that began 1967 and the unfortunate dislocations suffered as a result of the concomitant attrition and population resettlement. I would suggest that these were, in fact, the sine qua non for the "pacification" of Long An...

    Illustrative of the change in the province, Long An RF, considered among the best troops in the country, held their own against PAVN 5th Division in March and early April 1975, despite taking considerable casualties. (Source, Col. William LeGro, From Cease Fire to Capitulation:

    Re: The Village. Concur regarding the tremendous importance of this work. I'd like to highlight one point: The CAP working with PF was essential in keeping the village from being overrun. Yet, it wasn't until, after a more highly kinetic phase (1968-69), that you could walk through the village without having to look over your shoulder. Bing attributes the difference to destruction by US air power (quite extraneous to the village) of the enemy unit based in its nearby sanctuary,that had been the major source of insecurity for the village...and to the shift in the balance of forces (decimation of the enemy units) that was the result of the kinetic activity brought on by the enemy initiated offensives of 1968 and '69.

    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-14-2011 at 09:07 AM. Reason: Link added

  7. #7
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Mike in Hilo:

    I wish you would post more often. You say wise things.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  8. #8
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Moderator at work

    There are two quite clear sections to this thread: reviews of the book 'The Village' in 2011 and the 2012 debate whether CAP could work in Afghanistan. So I have split them and creating a new thread for the debate:
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-10-2012 at 12:34 PM.

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