War in the Villages
Listen to Ted N. Easterling’s interview discussing War in the Villages
on the Military History Inside Out podcast hosted by Cris Alvarez.
Much of the history written about the Vietnam War overlooks the U.S.
Marine Corps Combined Action Platoons. These CAPs lived in the
Vietnamese villages, with the difficult and dangerous mission of
defending the villages from both the National Liberation Front
guerrillas and the soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army. The CAPs also
worked to improve living conditions by helping the people with projects,
such as building schools, bridges, and irrigation systems for their
In War in the Villages, Ted Easterling examines how well the CAPs
performed as a counterinsurgency method, how the Marines adjusted to
life in the Vietnamese villages, and how they worked to accomplish their
mission. The CAPs generally performed their counterinsurgency role well,
but they were hampered by factors beyond their control. Most important
was the conflict between the Army and the Marine Corps over an
appropriate strategy for the Vietnam War, along with weakness of the
government of the Republic of South Vietnam and the strategic and the
tactical ability of the North Vietnamese Army.
War in the Villages helps to explain how and why this potential was
realized and squandered. Marines who served in the CAPs served honorably
in difficult circumstances. Most of these Marines believed they were
helping the people of South Vietnam, and they served superbly. The
failure to end the war more favorably was no fault of theirs.