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Title: Understanding the United States Marines' strategy and approach to the conventional war in South Vietnam's Northern provinces, March 1965 - December 1967
Author: Nevgloski, Edward Thomas
ISNI:       0000 0004 7970 0922
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis analyses the U.S. Marines' operational approach to military strategy at the height of the Vietnam War. Although empirical evidence points to a Service-wide focus on the unconventional practice of pacification, this thesis suggests that conventional military operations and attrition were not only part of the Marines' approach to fighting the war in South Vietnam's five northern provinces, but that both played a much greater role in their overall strategy from March 1965 to December 1967 than the war's vast historiography portrays. Unlike the incessant coverage of the Marines' occupation of the populated coastal areas, their acts of kindness toward the South Vietnamese people, and their dismantling of the National Liberation Front (NLF) insurgency's elusive village-level political infrastructure and armed organization, renewed interest by contemporary scholars skeptical of what they deem to be flawed interpretations of the Marines' strategy and approach shaped not only by incomplete and outdated research, but by some of its opportunistic senior leadership is changing the way we look at how the Marines dealt with the NLF's conventionally organized, trained, and equipped main forces as well as the larger and more lethal units of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). This thesis explores conventional military operations as an integral part of the Marines' concept on fighting the war in the northern provinces. It challenges the assertions made by the war's historiography and the Marine Corps' own Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak that pacification was the sole focus of their military strategy and that attrition of the main forces and NVA was incompatible with their operational approach to its implementation. Additionally, it rebuts Lieutenant General Krulak's assertion that when the Marines did engage the main forces and NVA, they did so as a part of a compromise with senior U.S. civilian and military officials to produce more immediate and tangible results. The study of unexamined or overlooked primary source documents, such as the personal papers of Marine Corps Commandant General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., underscores the recent hesitancy to accept these many conclusions that to this day hinder ex-post analysis of certain critical aspects of the conflict. Historians have yet to consider the war in the northern provinces from any perspective other than the Marines' bias for pacification and their limiting operations to the coast. To fill the gap in the existing literature on the Vietnam War, this thesis examines the Marines' conventional military operations against the main forces and NVA in South Vietnam's populated coastal lowlands, rural countryside, and remote highlands, and explores how the Marine Corps in general viewed pacification and attrition as co-equal lines of operation. It neither argues the potential for a different outcome of the war nor attempts to dismiss the role pacification of within the Marines' strategy and approach. Instead, this thesis stresses that pacification was a mechanism to hold areas cleared of the conventional and unconventional enemy forces threatening South Vietnam and enabled the creation of an environment secure enough for pacification to succeed.
Supervisor: Foley, Robert Thomas ; Robb-Webb, Jonathan James Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available