U.S. Marine Corps Initiates Combined Action Program

Drawing from previous experience in "small wars", the United States Marine Corps operated the Combined Action Program during the Vietnam War, from 1965 to 1971.

"The Combined Action Platoon's (CAP) genesis was not a deliberate plan from a higher headquarters, rather, it was a solution to one infantry battalion's problem of an expanding Tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR). The concept of combining a squad of marines with local Popular Forces (PFs) and assigning them a village to protect proved to be a force multiplier."

While the exact implementation varied with the war and time, the basic model was to combine a Marine squad with local forces to form a village defense platoon. It was effective in denying the enemy a sanctuary at the local village level. The pacification campaign seemed to work under the CAP concept, and the Marines fully embraced it. Objectively, there is no solid proof that the CAP concept was a resounding success; however, subjectively the evidence suggests otherwise.

"Counterinsurgency operations and, in particular, the establishment of a foreign internal defense lends itself for the greatest utility of employing a CAP-style organization. Recent operations in Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia suggest a CAP-style organization could accomplish the assigned mission." In Iraq, the Marines reinstituted a variant of the CAP.

The original CAP program in Vietnam was a component of the larger pacification effort advanced by General Abrams’ “One War” approach: utilizing conventional warfare to fight large-scale battles, while at the same time addressing the underlying political element of the insurgency by contributing to rural development, improved infrastructure, and local security. CAP had seven major goals for villages in its region: to protect public security and maintain law and order; deny supplies to the Viet Cong (VC) insurgency; organize intelligence networks; train local militias and instill pride and aggression so that these militias might later function without the Marines; engage in joint patrols with the militias; identify and destroy VC infrastructure; and conduct civic action and propaganda operations.