Nightfall. The CAP Marines embedded in the Vietnamese village of Duc Duc (also known as Phu Da) knew that nightfall meant even more danger. Tension was high. After all, their commander repeatedly told them they were going to be overrun by the enemy at any moment. Would it happen tonight?
They knew not to venture too far from the village as darkness fell. A pit full of sharp punji sticks, a furtive patrol of the Viet Cong silently surrounding them, mortar rounds or rifle fire from the jungle…any number of dangers awaited them in the darkness. They were CAP Marines, ready for anything. But…would they survive the night?
The CAP – Combined Action Program – was a special program of the US Marine Corps and Navy Corpsmen during the Vietnam War. It embedded small contingents of troops within Vietnamese villages from 1965 to 1971. The Marines learned the local culture, made many friends among the villagers, and gained a unique perspective of the people…at great risk to themselves.
Now, there is a movement afoot to create a television show about the special program. One Cap Marine, Jack Cunningham, is working with Dr. Keith Ablow to possibly create a show worthy of the Marine Corps and troops who participated in the program. You can read about the endeavor here at this Yahoo News link.
There was interest in the past, but with renewed interest, Jack sees possibilities. “I was always put off by how Hollywood portrayed Vietnam veterans. So for over 40 years, I’ve been more than actively motivated to get out the story of the Marine Corps Combined Action Program (CAP). At the time, I was extremely upset how the image of Vietnam vets was still an active “Baby-killer, Village-burner, Rambo, Crazed-Vietnam vet.”
“I lived in a village (24/7). I used my own story, because it was the only story that I knew in detail. As the years dragged on, I became more interested in getting out a TV series on CAP. Over the years, it drew interest of John Huston, Jimmy Stewart and Charlton Heston.
Twenty-two years ago, I placed the project on the internet as CAProductions. The CAP program brought protection to the villagers, and the Marines earned the love and respect of those locals who just wanted to survive a war they hated. It was a concept that those in charge of the war often ignored.”
But the CAP Marines were not “baby-killers,” they were friends who did everything in their power to help the villagers in the midst of the real monsters – the Viet Cong. It cost many of them their lives when small groups of Marines were overrun by the enemy. A television series would bring to life a part of Marine Corps history often forgotten and ignored. They also protected the rice harvest from the Communists, who would not only steal it, but tax the peasants.
Though there were problems with the program such as language barriers, and constant danger, the men overcame those issues and befriended the ordinary people of Vietnam. Tensions between the Marines and villagers, the ability to work with local Vietnamese militia (or not), the friendships built, would be great drama.
Isn’t it time to reveal the truth?
Featured photos all provided by Jack Cunningham. The “General” – a villager who always saluted the Marines out of respect, and the Phu Da village market for the main picture.