Military Records

Command Chronologies: Vietnam War

This series of records was created between April 1962 and June 1987, it contains documents that describe events that occurred as early as April 1952. The vast majority of the documents in this series were created between 1965 and 1979.


On 14 July 1965, the Commandant of the Marine Corps issued Marine Corps Order 5750.2 (MCO 5750.2), which established the reporting requirements for command chronologies. The order defined a command chronology as "a documented report to the Commandant of the Marine Corps of the significant events of designated Marine Corps organizations," providing "a periodic summation of its experiences useful in future planning and orientation of new personnel."

Marine Corps districts, the Marine Air Reserve Training Command, and organized Marine Corps reserve units were required to submit Command Chronologies on an annual basis. During times of peace (non-emergency periods), the following types of units were to submit Command Chronologies on a semi-annual basis:

  • Fleet Marine Force, Pacific and Atlantic (FMF PAC and FMF LANT)
  • Force Troops (FMF)
  • Marine Divisions (MARDIVs)
  • Marine Aircraft Wings (MAWs)
  • Marine Corps Schools and Landing Force Development Activity
  • Marine Brigades
  • Landing Force Training Units
  • Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center
  • Marine Corps Bases and Camps
  • Marine Corps Air Stations and Facilities (MCAS and MCAF)
  • Marine Corps Supply Centers and Activities
  • Marine Corps Recruit Depots (MCRD)
  • Marine Barracks
  • Marine Security Detachments Afloat and Ashore
  • Headquarters Battalion, Headquarters, Marine Corps (HQMC)

If units were deployed in emergency situations (i.e., combat), their reporting period could be shortened, and this was usually done in monthly increments.

When an FMF air or ground unit below division, wing or brigade level (such as a portion of a fighter squadron or a battalion from a regiment) was detached from their parent unit for non-training activities, MCO 5750.2 required them to "submit a chronology upon completion of such assignment for enclosure with the chronology of their parent organizations." In practice, however, these chronologies were often filed separately from those submitted by parent organizations.

In some instances, both the forward component and the rear echelon component of the same unit submitted chronologies covering the same period of time. Sometimes a unit would submit a chronology covering the activities undertaken during a redeployment, then submit another command chronology that would cover both the redeployment period and the remainder of the month in which the move was completed.

As for the content of Command Chronologies, MCO 5750.2 further stated that:

The Command Chronology will provide a concise review of the highlights in the experiences of the command considered to be of special significance to higher authority of the Marine Corps as a whole.

  • Fleet Marine Force organizations will note, in particular, events related to their preparation for and execution of assigned missions.
  • Support, development, and training organizations will emphasize significant events related to the accomplishment of their respective missions, paying particular attention to progress made on existing programs, institution of new programs and procedures, important policy decisions made or implemented, experimentation with equipment and doctrine, and the like.
  • Base-type organizations shall include data on changes in plants and facilities. Evaluative and interpretive comments will be included when appropriate.

The order also provided an outline of the information to be included in the Command Chronologies submitted by FMF and non-FMF units. At the minimum, Command Chronologies submitted by FMF units (which would include Marine Divisions and their component regiments) were to indicate the following organizational information:

  • the unit's designation
  • the unit's physical location
  • the time period covered by the report
  • the name and rank of the unit's commanding officer
  • the names and ranks of the unit's staff officers and/or the unit's chief subordinates, including billet assignments
  • the average personnel strength of the unit during the reporting period

In addition, Command Chronologies of Fleet Marine Force units would typically include a "sequential listing" of events deemed to be of significance. These events could pertain to a number of different subjects, depending on whether or not the unit was involved in warfare operations. Marine Corps Order 5750.2 defined these topics as

  • administration
  • civil affairs/military government/community relations
  • personnel
  • logistics
  • training
  • intelligence
  • command and control
  • close combat
  • fire support
  • special operations
  • special types of warfare (nuclear, biological or chemical)
  • air defense
  • combat air support

Non-Fleet Marine Force organizations were given similar organizational reporting requirements as the Fleet Marine Force. Since non-FMF units were not involved with combat operations, their "sequential listing" requirements were a bit different:

  • administration
  • personnel
  • training
  • ceremonies
  • community relations
  • activations, deactivations and redesignations of units within the organization
  • modifications to physical plant and facilities
  • new programs and changes and/or status of existing programs
  • command relations with other military organizations within the immediate area

In addition to the organizational and sequential components, Command Chronologies could include other forms of supplemental documentation, including:

Operational and administrative plans and orders issued and those received from other than Marine Corps commands, journals, and periodic reports of units and general staff sections, aviation combat reports, general and special staff studies and estimates, standard reference maps (need to be submitted only once) and other documents of operational and/or historical significance such as sketches, photographs, briefing notes, local newspapers, telephone books, and other supporting documents [. . .]

In practice, supplemental documentation was submitted intermittently and usually by FMF units operating in combat zones (i.e., Vietnam) or other unusual circumstances.

Among the command chronologies are a small number of after action reports (AARs) covering operations during the Vietnam War, filed under the designations of the units that submitted them. In some cases, it appears that an AAR was submitted in lieu of a command chronology. There are about 30 AARs known to be part of this series:

  • Operation Dewey Canyon (3rd Marine Division, 10 January-18 March 1969)
  • Operations Prairie and New Castle (1st Force Reconnaissance Company, 1966-1967)
  • Operation Virginia Ridge (1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, 30 April-16 July 1969)
  • Operation Granite (4th Marines, 26 Oct-4 Nov 1967)
  • Operation Oregon (1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 28-31 March 1966)
  • Operation Mameluke Thrust (3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 20 July-23 October 1968)
  • Operations Lancaster Trousdaleand Lancaster Trousdale North (9th Marines, 27 August-8 October 1968)
  • Operation Prairie IV (1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 20 April-16 May 1967)
  • Operation Lancaster II(1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 17-25 August 1968)
  • Operation Napoleon-Saline II (1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 9 July-23 August 1968)
  • Operation Pipestone Canyon (1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 26 May-7 November 1969)
  • Operation Herkimer Mountain (3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, 9 May-16 July 1969)
  • Operation Kansas (4th Battalion, 12th Marines, 17-22 July 1966)
  • Operation Rush (4th Battalion, 12th Marines, 5-9 August 1967)
  • Operation Houston V (1st Battalion, 13th Marines, 25 July-12 September 1968)
  • Operation Owen Mesa (1st Battalion, 13th Marines, 18 September-14 October 1968)
  • Operation Ardmore (26th Marines, 17 July-31 October 1967)
  • Operation Houston (26th Marines, 25 July-3 September 1968)
  • Operation Badger Catch (Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 [HMM-165], 23 January-18 February 1968)
  • Operation Daring Endeavor (Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 [HMM-165], 10-17 November 1968)
  • Operation Swift Play (Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 [HMM-265], 23 July-19 August 1968)
  • Operations Ballistic Armor and Neosho II (Medium Helicopter Squadron 361 [HMM-361], 22-26 January 1968)
  • Operations Fortress Attack, Kentucky, and Lancaster II (Medium Helicopter Squadron 361 [HMM-361], 27 January-8 February 1968)
  • Shu-Fly Operations (Medium Helicopter Squadron 362 [HMM-362], Task Unit 79.3.5, July 1962)
  • Operations Eagle Pull and Frequent Wind (Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 [HMH-463], March-May 1975)

In addition to the AARs, the series contains monthly summaries of operations in Vietnam prepared by the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific Fleet (FMF PAC). Through February 1966 they were titled "Operations of the III Marine Amphibious Force, Vietnam," and from March 1966 they were titled "Operations of US Marine Forces, Vietnam." There are also two unit histories among the command chronologies: 2nd Armored Amphibian Company, covering the period from April 1952 to December 1966; and 2nd Ordnance Field Maintenance Company, covering June 1952 to December 1965.

While most of the command chronologies in this series date from the period of American involvement in the Vietnam War (1962-1975), there are a few documents that date from later than 1975. Units whose documentation extend into the 1980s include: 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines (a narrative summary of events from February 1975-December 1982); 21st Dental Company (April 1970-June 1982); Marine Barracks, Naval Air Station, Alameda, California (July 1965-December 1986); and Marine Base, Naval Station, Bermuda, British West Indies (July 1965-June 1987). By and large, however, command chronologies created after the end of 1975 remain in the custody of the Marine Corps. Command chronologies are still being submitted to Headquarters, Marine Corps today.