The Combined Action Marine: Projecting Another Vietnam Service Member Image




Bishop, Rebecca H.

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By focusing on Vietnam Combined Action Program (CAP) Marines and using them as examples of service members whose contributions, especially civic action, went mostly unnoticed during and after the war, this thesis will contribute to filling a specific void within a larger gap of Vietnam War pacification and civic action history. Furthermore, this study will reveal that these CAP Marines did not fit a publicly accepted image of Vietnam service members that was enabled by incomplete and sometimes inaccurate histories and war-time media coverage and both demonstrated by and further perpetuated by the 1980s popular film Platoon. That image is of a heartless, unintelligent, alcoholic/drug-dependent, narrow-minded “gook-”killer. In the service, he found his niche as only a combatant, yet he was beat down relentlessly by war's daily tragedies. The CAPs were made up of all kinds of people, many of whom were nothing like the popular Vietnam service member image that penetrated and lingered in the collective memory. In fact, in spite of endless criticisms, tongue-in-cheek references to the “hearts and minds” missions, and popular images to the contrary, many would argue that the CAPs actually did win hearts and minds in Vietnam. In the process of researching and writing this thesis, the author conducted literature and archival searches at Fenwick Library at George Mason University, The Alfred M. Gray Marine Corps Research Center, and the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections. The author also conducted interviews with multiple CAP veterans, as well as other veterans who offered information to the topic.



Combined Action Program, Combined Action Marine, CAP Marine, United States Marines