• December 9, 2019

GOOD NEWS: Former Odessan shines light on a lesser known aspect of the Vietnam War - Odessa American: Good News

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GOOD NEWS: Former Odessan shines light on a lesser known aspect of the Vietnam War

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Posted: Friday, September 20, 2019 3:00 am

Many stories have been written, told and shown on the silver screen about the Vietnam War, a war that many would choose to forget ever happened – a divisive war that spawned many opinions by people who were for and against going to Vietnam.

Gene Hays has written several books about his time serving as a Marine in the Vietnam, but his latest publication chronicles a group of Marines who were one of few bright spots in an unpopular war. Hays’ new book, “Combined Action,” tells the stories of Marines who served in the Combined Action Program.

The Combined Action Program embedded Marines in the Vietnam villages as members of their communities tasked with defending the villagers, and themselves, from the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong guerillas. Comprised of a 13-man Marine rifle squad and a medical Navy corpsman, they were augmented by three squads of Vietnamese Popular Forces. The VPK was akin to the United States’ National Guard but “much worse,” according to Hays.

“These guys were situated around all of I Corps, the northernmost tactical areas for the Vietnam War,” Hays said. “Their purpose was to embed themselves into the villages and hamlets. They were training the popular forces on how to defend themselves, how to use the weapons and also tactics. They in turn provided us with a background of their culture, and they also gave us names of people that were coming in at night with the Viet Cong and taking over the village.”

Hays joined the Marine Corps in September of 1965, and was trained as an aviation electronics technician at a Naval Air Station in Memphis. When he got overseas to Vietnam, he was introduced to the Combined Action Program after he was overheard conversing with a Vietnamese worker. Hays’ time spent working alongside the Combined Action Program during his one year in Vietnam helped him be selected to author this book.

He retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant.

Editor’s Note: Author Gene Hays is a former Odessan and a 1965 graduate of Permian High School.

Odessa, TX

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