In 1965 - 66 the Marine Corps Command decided to introduce a Marine Squad usually consisting of twelve volunteers to live with a
PF [Popular Force] platoon in a Vietnamese village and provide security and support for the villagers against the Viet Cong, thus was
the begining of the CAC [Combined Action Company which was shortly renamed to CAP or Combined Action Platoon because the Vietnamse
pronunciation of CAC meant a derrogatory term]. The concept of Marines living amoung the people was a sound one, it would enable
the allied forces to deny the enemy a foothold in the rural coastal area's of Vietnam, considered the "bread basket" of the country.
Pacification of the local population was the goal Marines believed would ultimately be the downfall of the Communist insurgent forces
and bring a stable form of government thus ending the war. Denying the enemy food and shelter would force his hand to engage in
combat and ultimate destruction, or force him to retreat from the theater and his goal of domination. CAC L-5 was such a unit, nine young
Marines and a Navy Corpsman volunteer's drawn from the men of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines who lived in the Vietnamese
hamlet of Phuoc Thuan (1) and patrolled the area with the Vietnamese PF's from the village.
These units were supported by their parent organizations and the men were carried on the Company rosters until 31 January 1967 when
an administative transfer of all CAP personel was made to Sub Unit #2, HQ Co., HQ Battalion (Rein), 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF as well
as the Operational Control fell to their new Command. Thus the men of CAC L-5 left Bravo Company and became part of Sub Unit #2, HQ Co,
with the exception of LCpl James Adrian Setter of Bravo Co who joined the ill fated patrol.
The Patrol and Ambush
On the morning of 26 March, 1967, at approximately 09:30H sixteen men left the CAC L-5 compound, to visit the community and administer
medical help to the local population, only two survived their Med-Cap patrol.[ Med-Cap was a patrol which offered medical assistance to the local villagers,
who for the most part lived without medical services in the rural communities]. Information as to time, route, and destination of a patrol was
never shared with the PF's, this was a common practice by Marines in Vietnam for security purposes. The small unit consisting of nine Marines,
one Navy Corpsman and six PF's began their march south and slightly west towards their destination of Van Thuan (3), a distance of approximately
two miles, and thesite of two previous Med-Caps.
About an hours march from their compound, in the vicinity of Van Thuong (1) the patrol was ambushed by a numerically superior force of
Viet Cong, estimated to be 50 or more in number. The Marines and PF's were raked with automatic weapons and machine-gun fire by the VC, the
patrol returned the fire as best they could with small arms and M-79 grenades. Quickly realizing that they were vastly outnumbered, a desperate
call for assistance in the form of artillery support was radioed to the 1st Bn, 7th Marines. A artillery salvo was fired immediatly to try and
relieve the pressure the patrol was facing from the heavy volume of fire directed towards them by the attackers, but during the mission all radio
contact was lost.
A squad from "Bravo" Company departed from it's combat base as reinforcement, and a platoon of Marines from "Delta" Company was heli-lifted
just south of the ambush. By the time the friendly forces arrived in the vicinity of the ambush, the VC had melted away in the heavy brush leaving the
dead and wounded Marines and PF's.
The reinforcements found that from the 16 man patrol, 8 Marines were killed as was the lone Navy Corpsman and 5 of the PF's were also
dead from the deadly ambush. All of the bodies were within 15 paces of each other and all had died from multiple fragmentation and gunshot wounds as well
each man was shot in the head at close range after having being wounded or killed during the engagement. There were survivors, one Marine miraculously
survived who was wounded having been shot several times in the back and neck; and the PF Platoon leader who somehow escaped the carnage
with a wounded hand. The enemy had escaped with all of the patrols equipment and ammunition, leaving 8 of their own dead behind.
This Easter Sunday will never be forgotten by the men who survived, those who heard the cries for help, and those who recovered the living and the dead.
Patrol Members Killed in Action and where they are at Rest
|PFC James Charles Batson
||St Peter's Episcopal Cemetery
|LCpl Robert Thomas Brinkley
||Nashville National Cemetery
|PFC Clarence John Burley
||Baltimore National Cemetery
|LCpl David Estrada
|LCpl Barry Francis Price
||Mound City National Cemetery
|LCpl James Adrian Setter
|LCpl Terry Dean Shauver
|HN Cyril Jeffrey Westly
|PFC Charles Henry White