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Operational Social Influence in the Vietnam War: An Analysis of Influence Tactics Used by the U.S. Marine's Combined Action Program and the Viet Cong in South Vietnam

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Master's thesis

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Shortly after Marine forces landed in Vietnam in March, 1965, leaders in the field began experimenting with pacificationcombined action. Although this concept went directly against the military strategy of the top leaders, which involved unlimited combat operations, four Combined Action Platoons were formed into a Combined Action Company in the summer of 1965. The Marine Corps Combined Action Program was viewed by many as one of the only successful pacification programs conducted in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The CAP concept in Vietnam combined a squad of Marines and a platoon of South Vietnamese Popular Forces to assist villages in resisting VC influence. By combining forces and living inside the villages, the Marines believed they could win the hearts and minds of the villagers. Although they may not have been aware that the science of social influence even existed, the Marines who were part of the CAP used several social influence tactics in their effort to gain the trust of the villagers and deny influence attempts from the VC. What they accomplished by chance should not be lost to history it should be studied within the context of established social influence theory so future operations may benefit from their experience. This study views the Combined Action Program conducted by the U.S. Marines in South Vietnam through a lens of the science of social influence. A social influence analysis is conducted using cognitive Centers of Gravity and specific social influence tactics. The analysis results provide an insight into which social influence tactics can be applied during counterinsurgency operations.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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