On "Fragging" And Such...
Printed from: Sgt Grit's Marine Forum
Topic URL: http://www.grunt.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=63211
Printed on: 10/02/2005
Topic author: GunnyG
Subject: On "Fragging" And Such...
Posted on: 10/02/2005 11:21:26
Recently, one of these forums here contained mention, in part, of the subject of "fragging" in Vietnam. People seldom mention personal knowledge of such things, although the subject has been discussed in detail long since Vietnam days. What made me think of this was that one of the posters who brought up the subject, was shortly thereafter responded to by another poster who took the poster to task for seemingly condoning such a thing.
I intended to begin this post with that thread, but I cannot seem to locate it now. Regretable, as the responder had stated to the effect that "fragging" was murder, and that no Marine should be a party to and/or condone murder. in any case, I applaud the now unknown responder who had both the decency and courage to respond as he did.
The following are some excerpts from articles on the topic. I am surprised that there is not more material available on this subject.
The following from the thread...
The Collapse Of The U.S. Armed Forces"
"Frag incidents" or just "fragging" is current soldier slang in Vietnam for the murder or attempted murder of strict, unpopular, or just aggressive officers and NCOs. With extreme reluctance (after a young West Pointer from Senator Mike Mansfield's Montana was fragged in his sleep) the Pentagon has now disclosed that fraggings in 1970(109) have more than doubled those of the previous year (96).
Word of the deaths of officers will bring cheers at troop movies or in bivouacs of certain units.
In one such division -- the morale plagued Americal -- fraggings during 1971 have been authoritatively estimated to be running about one a week.
Yet fraggings, though hard to document, form part of the ugly lore of every war. The first such verified incident known to have taken place occurred 190 years ago when Pennsylvania soldiers in the Continental Army killed one of their captains during the night of 1 January 1781."
"A Comparison Of Marine and army Performance"
There is perhaps no more crucial indicator that a unit has lost its discipline and cohesion than when soldiers kill their leaders for whatever reason. Information provided by the Office of the Secretary of the Navy does suggest that the problem of assassination of leaders may have been less of a problem among Marine units than in Army units.
Between 1964 and 1972, for example, the number of Marines charged with murder or attempted murder under the relevant articles of the UCMJ in all instances was only 121.8 An examination of the battle journals kept by Marine units reveals that in the First Marine Division 47 incidents of fragging were reported.9
The limited data indicate then that the incidence of fragging in Marine units may have been considerably below that found in Army units, which reported a total of 1016 admitted fraggings during the entire Vietnam War.10 The Marines may have done better in preventing the pathologies of individual soldiers within units from surfacing in the specific act of striking at unit cohesion by the assassination of unit leaders.
Another area in which Marine units fared consistently better than Army units was in the rates of mutiny and combat refusals. If the numbers of Marines charged under Article 94 (mutiny) and Article 94/80 (attempted mutiny) are combined for the period 1964 through 1972, the total number of offenses amounts to only 26.11
By comparison there were 245 cases of mutiny and attempted mutiny in a single division in the Army in 1970 alone. 12 The Marine combat refusal/mutiny rate then was considerably lower than that for the Army.
The lower rates of mutiny and of assassination of leaders in Marine units are very important data. They suggest that although desertion, AWOL, and drug use may have been in evidence at fairly high levels within Marine Corps units, these problems remained focused on individual soldiers and did not as a rule provoke a state-of-unit mutiny or even individual combat refusal.
Whatever provoked desertions, AWOLs, and drug use among Marines, it was seldom serious enough to provoke direct, "in combat" acts of overt disobedience or refusals to execute unit missions. Moreover, it was rarely serious enough to provoke what I feel is the ultimate act of unit discohesion, the assassination of leaders.
Intriguingly, the low rates of mutiny and fragging in Marine units as compared to all Army units suggest that individual problems of drug use, desertion, and AWOL in Marine units remained focused on the individual soldier and never combined to impact upon the levels of combat performance as they did in Army units.
While both Army and Marine units had relatively large numbers of soldiers who practiced behavior that was potentially devastating for unit cohesion, the Marines seem to have succeeded in controlling the problem and stopping it before it affected unit cohesion. It must be kept in mind, however, that some of the Army fraggings did occur in support areas and had no bearing on combat unit cohesion, but it is very hard to shread out these instances."
"Professionalism Vs, Managerialism In Vietnam"
Reply author: GunnyG
Replied on: 10/02/2005 11:31:07
On von Steuben....
Some of you may recall that a year or so ago I had viewed a program on the History Channel--or one similar to HC--on George Washington. One of the things that came up was that Wahington had Frederick William Baron von Steuben take charge of training for his new army. Out of this came "Baron von Steuben's Revolutionary War Drill Manual," otherwise known as the "Blue Book."
The program I watched made the point that the position of the sergeant major in the battle formation provided that he would be in a position, in the rear, and was responsible for, among other duties, to prevent soldiers from fleeing, and even to shoot them when necessary. I had heard this before through the years, but I had never seen anything, in writing or otherwise, that would substantiate this as fact. Then again, I had never made it a point to search for this.
I have even purchased a copy (reprinted) of the "Blue Book," but try as I may, I cannot find specifically anything to indicate that deserters were to be shot if they couldn't be turned back to their units.
Today I posted a query on this to the military history forum at SFTT; and somebody there came up w/an answer.
"This is from an 1864 publication, CUSTOMS OF SERVICE FOR NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS
AUGUST V. KAUTZ
CAPT. SIXTH U.S. CAVALRY, BRIG.-GEN. U.S. VOLUNTEERS
368. The most important duty of sergeant is that of file-closer. Posted in the rear of the company when paraded, it is his duty to see that the men pay attention to their duty, preserve order, march properly, and keep closed.
369. In time of battle, it is his duty to keep the men in ranks, not to allow them to fall out on any pretext, and to prevent them from misbehaving before the enemy. He is even required to shoot men down when they attempt to run away in times of danger.
I don't have a copy of the above, but it's a start.
Although, as I have said, I cannot find specifically, in the "Blue Book" that the sergeant major is to shoot deserters as a last resort, as indicated by the TV presentation mentioned above, I do find the following.
1. "Instructions For The Sergeant Major.
The sergeant major, being at the head of the non-commissioned officers, must pay the greatest attention to their conduct and behavior, never conniving at the least irregularity committed by them or the soldiers, from both of whom he must exact the most explicit obedience..."
2. "Instructions For The First Sergeant Of A Company.
...He is never to lead a platoon or section, but is always to be a file-closer in the formation of the company, his duty being in the company like the adjutant's in the regiment."
3. Instructions For The Sergeants and Corporals.
When a non-commissioned officer is a file-closer in action, he must take care to keep the ranks and files properly closed...He will do all in his power to encourage the soldiers, and use the most vigorous means to prevent any from leaving the ranks, unless wounded."
Baron von Steuben's Revolutionary War drill Manual, A Facsimile Reprint of the 1794 Edition, Dover Publications, Inc.,NY, 1985
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952 (Plt #437)--'72
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