Hello! My name is Ed Palm. Welcome to my site. By avocation, I am a photographer and writer. By vocation, I am a retired U.S. Marine major turned academic. Since retiring from the Corps in 1993, I have been a professor, a department head, and a dean. My last academic position was teaching full-time online for Strayer University, I am now retired, although I do still write a weekly column for our local paper, the Kitsap Sun (Bremerton, WA).
A long time ago, I served as an enlisted Marine with the Marine Corps' Combined Action Program (CAP) in Vietnam, an experience I documented with my camera and about which I have written extensively. I started this site to share some of my photographs, my "Palm-Prints," of that experience and of my trip back to Vietnam in June 2002 to find my old CAP village.
I am also using this site to share some of my writings about Vietnam. Unfortunately, since my original Combined Action memoir, "Tiger Papa Three," has since been published as a book, I'm no longer able to offer it here. (See the "Tiger Papa Three" page for book-ordering information.) An essay on my 2002 trip back is still here. A revised version that essay was published under the title "Graham Greene and I Were Wrong" in the August 2011 edition of the "Montreal Review." (It's reprinted here.)
A word of warning is probably in order: I am an iconoclast when it comes to the Combined Action Program. I don't believe we were nearly as effective as many of my fellow CAP veterans and some military analysts think we were. One of the persistent claims for our success, for instance, is that none of the CAP villages returned to Communist control during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
But that claim is largely meaningless. Many of those same villages probably never really came under our control in the first place. As we would learn at Papa Three, the VC infrastructure could be remarkably disciplined, resilient, and patient. The local VC knew when it was to their advantage to lie low and not call attention to themselves, and many of our PFs had to have been in league with them. Others had at least made an accommodation with their VC friends and neighbors. After all, our PFs had to live in the village. We couldn't protect them alI the time.
The ultimate question to ask about Combined Action is this: If the program was so effective, why did it not turn up any hard intelligence of the impending Tet Offensive? Throughout the last weeks of 1967, NVA troops were infiltrating the South in large numbers, and local VC were helping to hide and supply them. Many of our CAP villagers and PFs had to have known it. I've yet to hear that any of them told their CAP Marine "friends" anything about the build-up.
Still, as I concede in "Tiger Papa Three," the Combined Action Program was at least an enlightened gesture of dissent against a search-and-destroy strategy that clearly wasn't working and which would ultimately prove self-defeating. For standing apart from that strategy, the Marine Corps deserves high praise. As for me, I'm proud to have served, and I don't regret a day I spent out there in the "ville" trying to win those elusive hearts and minds.
I invite you to take a look at my CAP Palm-Prints and to read my CAP memoir and my account of what I found when I went back to Vietnam in search of Papa Three.
If you're interested in learning more about my personal and professional odyssey, please click on the Navigation button to my CV.
If you would like to see some of my photography--from Vietnam and from other times and places--click on the link to my "Existential Travels" site.
Finally, if you would like to read some of my other writings, please click on the images and links above or on the link to "Palm in the "Sun." You can also hear me holding forth on NPR's "All Things Considered." Just click on one of the blue buttons.
--Edward F. ("Ed") Palm, (originally established August 2003, last updated May 2017)