Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.

3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
r- IV.B Evolution of the War (26 Vols.)
f Counterinsurgency: The Kennedy Commitments, 1961-
1963 (5 Vols.)
2. Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-63
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECR'::;'.£' - Sensitive
I V. B. 2 .
Strategic Hamle.!.
__ 1.36]
TOP - Sens i tive
Sec Cant :N:v. X-_____________ _
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
IV.B.2.
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP - Sensitive
STRliTEGIC Hfl .. ELET PROGRAI-1
A specific strategy by 1!lhich the U. S. and GVJ:l would attempt to end
the in South Vietnarn had never been agreed upon at the time
that the U.S, decided, l ate in 1961, to :i..ncrease materially its assist-
ance to GVW and to expand its advisory effort into one which vlOuld
implement a "limited partnership." By early 1962, hOl·.rever, there "I-ras
apparent consensus among the princ ipa l participants that the Strategic
Hamlet Program, as it c arD.e to be called , represented the unifying concept
for a strategy des i gned to pacif;y- rural Vietnam (the Viet Cong I s chosen
battleground) and to develop support among the peasants for the central
government.
The Strategic Hamlet Program VT8.S much broader than the construction
of strategic hamlets p er see It envisioned sequential phases which,
beginn ing vri th clearing the ins urgents from an area and protecting the
rural populace, progressed through the establish.ment of GVW infrastructure
and thence to the provision of services vThicn Hould lead the peasants to
identify with their government . The s trategic hamlet program "I,raS , in
short , an attempt to translate the nevTly articulated theory of counter-
into operational reality. The objectj.ve was polit:i.cal though
the means to its realization "I'Jere a mixture of military, social, psycho··
logical, economic and political
'I'he effect of these sequential steps to pacification 'tTas to make it
very difficult to make interTtlediate assessments of progress . One could
not really be sure hO'N one was doing unt il one ·\'Tas done . Physical
security by itself (the so-called 'Icl
ear
and hold" initial step ) was a
necessary condition for pacification, not a sufficient one. The establish-
ment of governmental functions was not, by itself, necessarily conducive
to a successful effort; the quality of those functions and their respon-
siveness to locally felt needs "lvas critical. This inherent difficulty in
assessi.ng progress did not simply mean that it VIas difficult to identify
problems and to make improvements as one went along -- which it v!as. It
also meant that it was quite possible to conclude that the program as a
whole "lms progressing well (or badly) according to evidence relating only
to a single phase or a part of a phase.
A related problem arose from the uniaueness of this program in
American experience -- pacification-by pr;xy. The theory of sequential
i
TOP SF.CRBT - Sensitive
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sens i t i ve
phases could be variously int erpreted. This is not the problem of the
three blind men describing the elephant; it is the probl em of men vIi th
different perspectives each moul ding his olm conception of a proper
body to the same ske leton. If the final product vTere to have some sem-
blance of coherence and mutual satisfaction it \\Tas necessary that the
shapers came to agreement on substa.nce and operational procedure, not
just that they agree on the proper skeleton upon which to work .
The problem "lith the apparent consensus hich emerged early in 1962
was that t he principal participants did view it with different perspec-
tives and expectations. On the U.S. side, military advisors had a set
of preferences which affected their approach to the Strategic Ha...11l1et
Program. They wanted to make RVNAF more mobile , more aggressive, and
orga.nized to take the offensive against the Viet Cong o They vrere ,
consequent ly, extremely l eery of proposals which might l ead it to be tied
dOlm in strategic defenses ("holding" after liclearing" had been completed)
or diverted too much to military civic act ion undertakings .
The American political leadership, insofar as a generalizat ion may
be attempted, may be said to have b een most concerned with the later
phases of the program .. . - those in which GVH services vTere provided,
local governments established, and the economy bolstered. Mi litary
clearing operations were , to them, a distasteful, expensive, but neces-
sary precondition to the really critica l and important phases of the
effort.
Both of these U.S. groups had perspect i ves different from those of
the Diem administrat ion. In the U.S. view the i nsurgents were onl y one
of Diem I s enemies ; he himself vTaS the other. I n this view the p rocess of
pacification coul d proceed successfully only if Diem reformed his OvlD
government . It was precisely to achieve these goals simul taneously that
the U. S. agreed to enter a !!limited partnership!! with GVF in the cOUllter-
insurgent effort. The strategic Hrunlet Program became the operat iona l
symbol of this effort .
President Diem -., unsurpris i ngly -- had a very different viev! . His
need, as he saw it, was to get the U. S. committed to South Vietnam ( and
to his administration) 'without surrendering his i ndependence . He knew
that his nation vTOuld f all without U. S. support; he feared that his
government ,wuld fall i f he either appeared to toady to U. S. vrishes or
allowed any single group too much pot ential power -- p articularly coer-
cive povTer. The Strategic Hamlet Program offered a vehi cle by vrhich
could direct the counterinsurgent effort as he thought it should be
directed and 1'Tithout giving up either his prerogatives to the U. S or his
mantle to his restles s generals .
The i n the form of a plan for pacification of the Delta,
)Vas formally proposed to Diem in November 1961 by R. G. K. Thompson,
head of the ne.vly arrived British Adv isory Mi ssion. U. S. military
ii
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
advisors favored at that time an ARV":{ penetration of the VC redoubt in
Hal' Zone D prior to any opere,tions aimed specifically at pacification.
But UoS. political desires to start some local operation which could
achieve concrete gains combined vrith Die..rn ' s preference for a pacifica-
tion effort in an area of strategic importance led to the initi al effort
i n Harch 1962, 1T0pers,tion SmmISE, II in Binh Duong Province north of
Saigon. This was a heavily VC-infiltrated area rather than one of
minimal penetration, as Thompson had urged. But planning .. - as distinct
from operations -- continued on the Delta plan and strategic hamlets were
constructed in a variegated, uncoordinated pattern throughout the spring I
and early summer. The U. S. had little or no i nfluence over these activi-
ties; the primary impetus vms traceable directly to the President's
brother and political counsellor, Lgo Dinh ?lhu.
'In August 1962, GVN produced its long aI>Jaited national pacification
pleD with four priority areas and specified priori ties vri thin each area.
At the same time, however, it indicated that over 2,500 strategic hamlets
had already been completed and that vlork was already undenvay on more
than 2 ,500 more. Although it viaS not until October 1962, that GVS
explicitly annou.nced the strategic Haml et Program to be the unifying
concept of its pacification and counterinsurgent effort it 'tTaS clear
earlier that the program had assumed this central position.
Three import ant implications of this early progress (or , more pre-
cisely, reported progress ) are also clee,r in retros:pect. These impli-
cations seem not to have impressed themselves acutely upon U. S. observers
at the time . First, the program viaS truly one of GVH initiat ive rather
than one embodying priorities and time phasing recommend ed by the U. S.
Diem was running -.;dth his ovm ball in programmatic terms, no matter viho
articulated the theory of the approach. The geographic dispersion of
hamlets already reported to be complet ed indicated that there was, in
f act , a conscious effort to implement this phase almost simultaneously
throughout the entire nation r ather than to build slowly as Di em' s
foreign advisors (both U. S. and British) recommended.
Finally, the physical aspects of Die..:m' s program 'I>Jere s i milar if not
identi cal to earlier population resettlement and control efforts prac-
ticed by the French and by Diem. The l ong history of these efforts was
marked by consistency in results as well as i n techniques: all fai l ed
di smally because they ran i nto resentment i f not active resistance on
the part of the peasants at whose control and safety, t hen loyalty, they
were aimed. U.S . desires to begin an effective process of paci fication
had fastened onto security as a necessary precondition and slighted the
histor i c record of rural resistance to resettlement . President Di em and
hi s brother, for their part , had decided to emphasize control of the
rural population as the precondition to vTinning loyalty. The record is
i nconclusive 'I'lith respect to their v:eighing the record of the past but
it appears that they, too, paid it scant attention. Thus the early
operational efforts indicated a danger of peasant resist ance , on one hand,
iii TOP SECR!.IT - Sens itive
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECHET - Sensitive
and of divergent approaches between, in the i nitia,l steps, the U.S.
(focused on security measures) and Diem (conce rned more vlith control
measures ). Since the physical actions to achieve security and those
to impose control are in many respects the same, there was generated
yet another area in vlhich assessments of progress 'Ivould be inconclus ive
and difficult to m a J ~ e .
U.S. attention, once an apparent consensus had been forged con-
centrated on program management efforts in t iro categories: to convince
GVN to proceed at a more measured, coherent pace vlith a qualitative
improvement in the physical construction of strategic hamlets; and to
schedule materi al assistance ( fortifica.tion materials, etc.) and train-
ing for local defense forces to match the rate of desired hamlet con-
struction .
U.S. assessment s, at the same time, concentrated on the physical
aspects of the program and on VC activity in areas 'I-There strategic
hamlets had been constructed. Assessments tended to be favor able from
a security (or control) viewpoint and uneven with respect to political
development. The general conclusion was almost abmys one of cautious
optimism when security (control ) vms emphasized, one of hopeful pessi-
mism vThen political follow-up vIas stressed. The impression in Hashing·,
ton vms typically slanted tOl-lard the more optimistic appraisals i f for
no other reason than that hamlet construction and security arrangements
'\ITere the first chronological steps in the long process to pacification.
Ha.s it not, after all, "progress" to have moved from doing nothing to
doing something even though the something was being done imperfect ly?
These U.S. assessments changed only marginally throughout the life
of the program. By the time , in 1963, that the hopeful pessimist voices
were clearer, it 'Has also much clearer t hat the Ngo brothers had made
the Strategic Hamlet Program i nto one closely identified with their
regime and with Diem' s r ather esoterically phrased "personalist revolu-
t ion.
11
Fears grew that Diem vTas attempting to impose loyalty from the
top through control rather than to build it from the bottom by deeds.
These fears 'I<Tere not limited to the Strategic Hamlet Program, hm<Tever ;
they extended to urban as well as rural phases of South Vietnamese life
and liere subsumed, as the Buddhist question moved to the fore , by the
general issue of the viability of Diem' s regime .
President Diem gre'I'T increasingl y umiilling to meet U. S. demands for
r eform. He believed that to do so lvould cause his government to ' fail.
U. S. observers held that. failure to do so would cause the nation, not
just the government to fall. In the event the government fell and the
nation ' s counterinsurgent program took a definite turn for the worse ,
but the nation did not fall. The Strategic Hamlet Program did. Closely
i dentified Iii th the Ngo brothers , it vms alnl0st bound to suffer their
fortunes; when they died it died, too. The nevr government of generals ,
presumably realizing the extent of peasant displeasure with resettlement
and control measures, did nothing to save it.
iv
TOP SECRET Sens i tive
. (
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
A number of contributory reasons can be cited for the fai l ure of the
Strategic Hamlet Program. Over-expansion of construction and poor
quality of defenses forms one category. This r eason concentrates only
on the initial phase of the prograil1, however . valid, it does little
to explain why the entire program collapsed rather than only some hamlets
v!ithin it. Rural antagonisms l'lhich identified the program with its
sponsors in the central government are more suggestive of the basis for ,-
t he complete collapse as Diem and Nhu departed the scene. The reasons
why they departed are traceable in part to the di fferent expectations
which combined in the apparent consensus at the program' s beginning: to
Diem's insistence on material assistance and independence, to U. S. willing-
ness to provide assistance only if its advice was heeded, and to the
f ailure to resolve this question either by persuasion or l everage • .
Having said this , it does not automatically follo't1 that the program
would have succeeded even if Diem had met U.S. demands for change. To
point to the causes of failure is one thing; to assume that changes of
style v10uld have led to success is c; uite another . It may well be that
the program was doomed from the out;et because of peasant resistance to
measures yrhich changed the pattern of rural life .. whether aimed at
s ecurity or control. It might have been possible, on the other hand, for
a well- executed program eventually to have achieved some measure of success.
The early demise of the program does not permit a conclusive evaluation.
·The weight of evidence suggests that the Strategic Hamlet Program was
fatally fla'tred in its conception by the unintended consequence of alienat-
i ng many of those whose loyalty it aimed to 'tri n.
This inconclusive finding, i n turn, suggests that the sequential
phases embodied i n the doctrine of counterinsurgency may slight some
very i mportant problem areas. The evidence i s not sufficient f or an
i ndictment ; still less i s one able to validate the counterinsurgent doc -
trine with reference to a program that failed. The only verdict that
may be given at this time with respect to of the doctrine is
that used by Scots courts -- !I case not proved;"
v
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
()
I
:xJ
o
Z
o
r
o
G>
-<
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Secti on 3.3
NND Proj ect Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
IV.B.2.
DATE
1953-1959
1959
Late 1960
Early 1961
May 1961
J uly 1961
15 September 1961
18 October 1961
27 October 1961
3 li[ovember 1961
13 Fovember 1961
15 November 1961
22 November 1961
15 December 1961
2 February 1962
3 February 1962
TOP - Sensitive


French and GVE early attempts at popul ation r esettle··
ment int o defended communities to create secure zones.
Hural Community Development Centers (Agroville ) Pro-
gram initiated by GVf.L
Counterinsurgency Plan Vietnam completed.
Agroville Program modified by construction of "Agro-
Harnlets II to meet peasant obj ections.
Vice President Johnson I s visit to RVN .
Staley Gro'up report on i ncreased economic aid and
i ncrease in strength.
USVlALiG Geographically Phased I,rational Level Operation
Pla.n for Counterinsurgency.
Genera.l Taylor arrives i n President Diem declares
nat i onal emergency.
R. G.K. Thompson submits to President Diem hi s
Appreciation of Vietnam, .November 1961-April 1962.
General Taylor submits his report and r ecommendations
to President Kennedy.
RoG. K. Thompson submits his draft plan for pacification
of the Delta to Presi dent Di em.
NSC drafts FSJ:":f 111. Cable to .JiJnbassador Nol ting,
i nstructing hi.lll to meet ,,7ith Diem, l ays out pr oposed
U. S. assistance and expected GVN effort .
NSA.vl 111.
First Secretary of Defense Conference , Honolul u.
Roger Hilsman I S A strategic Concept for South Vietnam.
Di em creates Inter-Mini sterial Committee on Strategic
Hamlets.
vi TOP SECRE'l' - Sensi ti ve
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
DATE
19 Harch 1962
22 Narch 1962
8 August 1962
28 October 1962
8 May 1962
24 August 1963
10 September 1963
2 October 1963
1 November 1963
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
OCCU.HREl'fCE
Diem approves Thompson's "Delta Plan
ll
for execution.
"Opera,tion SliHRISE
tl
corolUences in Binh Duong Province.
G V ~ Nat ional Strategic Hamlet Construction Plan.
GYii devotes ent ire is sue of The Times of Vietnam to
"The Year of the Strategic Hamlet . Ir
Buddhist controversy erupts I'Then GVh troops fire on
demonstrators i n HUe.
State to Lodge, Message 24.], says that U, S. c an no
l onger tolerate Fhu ' s continuation in po''.'"er.
General Krulak and Mr . Mendenhall give contradictory
r eports on progress of war to I\"SC .
Secretary McNamara reports to President Kennedy folloVl-
i ng his visit to RVH vlith General Tayl or.
Coup d' etat by group of generals agai nst President Diem.
vii
TOP SECRET - Sens itive
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
1.
II.
III.
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
TIlli STRATEGIC PROGRAM
1961 - 1963
TABLE OF CONTENTS AND OUTLINE
INTRODUCTION ........................ .... ... ...... .. .... .
1
A. Scope and Terminology • eo •••••• ••••• " " •••• 0 • • • • • • • • • 1
B. .Arlt·ecedent·s ••• o. e ••••••••••••• II 0 ... eo. e •••••• 0....... 1
C. The Situation in Late 1961 .•••••.••..•. ••• •••• ••••• · 3
Tllli FORMUlATION OF TIlE STRATEGIC PROGRAM ..••• • •••
4
A. U. S. -GVN Consultations •.•• " ••• 0 ............... 0 (I ... ... 4
B. "Limited Partnership"... ............ ....... . ....... . 7
C. U.S.-Proposed National Plans •••••••••••••••••.•. ••·• 7
D. Initial Vietname se Reactions ... . .... .... .. .... ...... 8
E. Thompson ' s Counterproposals......................... 10
DEVELOPING A CONSENSUS AMONG THE ADVISORS ••.••.•..•..•••
12
A. Initial Reaction of UoS. Military Advisors.... ...... 12
B. Reactions in Washington .••.•..••..••• •• ••• •• • . . • • •. 13
C. The Advisors Reach Agreement... ..................... 14
IV. . THE ADVISORS "SELL" DIEM (OR VICE-VERSA)................ 15
A. to Begin? •••••• • •• • •• •• 0 •••• e..... ........... 15
B. Concurrent GVJIif Acti vi ty. • • • • • • • • • • . • • • • • • • • • • • • . • . . . 16
C. Early Signs of GVN Expectations .............. . ...... 17
V. DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES AND EXPECTATIONS ••.•.•••••••••.•• 18
A. U.S. Military Advisors.............. ................ 18
B. U.S. Political Leadership........................... 18
a
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
VI.
VII.
VIII.
C.
D.
E.
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
President Diem •••••••••
e ••• •••••• • ••• " • ••••••••
The Central Issue .••••••• •• ..0 ••• 0 ••••• ••••• • •••••
The Problem of Assessment . ••••••• co.c ••••• •••• .. ••
TEE NATION_AL PLAN EMERGES .••••.••.•••••••••• ••••••••••••
A. Awareness of the Unifying Potential. •••••••••• ••••••
B. tfOperat·ion Sunrise tf • • .. • • • • " •••••• " .0 • ••• e " CI ••••••
C. Other Early Progra.rn.s ......... " .. c ...... " • " ••••••••• " "
D. At Last -- A National Plal"l ••••
• ••• " •••••••• 0 •••••
E. Effect on U. S. Perceptions ••••••.••••••••• ••••••••••
F. Differences Begin to Emerge •••••••••••••• •••••••••••
TIrE P AT1-1 TO TEE EN])....... ..". .. . ....... " .... 0 • • • • • • • ••••
A. Di em t s Position Hardens •• .... .... ....
. " .. " . " ... " .....
B. The Program Dies With the =Tgos .
AN INCONCLUSIVE SUMMARy .•••••.••••••••••••• •••••••••••••
b
Pa.ge
19
19
20
20
20
22
22
24
24
30
35
35
35
36
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
(
IV. B.2 .
I. Il\lTRODUCTION
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
THE STRATEGIC HAMLET PROGRAM, 1961-1963:
AN APPRAISAL
A. §cope and Terminology
The Strategic Hamlet Program in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) - -
articulated and carried forward from late 1961 until late 1963 -- has cre-
ated some confus ion because of terminology . One source of confusion stems
from the similarity betvTeen the physical aspects of the program and earlier
fortified communities of one kind or another. Another source of confusion
rises because of the loose usage of I1hamlet
l1
as compared to I1 village
l1
and
because of the practice of referring to these communities as I1 defended, 11
I1secure ,11 and fortified
l1
as well as I1
s
trategic.
11
But the greatest source
of confusion lies in the distinction between a strategic hamJ_et }!er se
and the strategic hamlet program.
The hamlet is the smallest organized community in rural South Viet-
nam. Several hamlets (typically 3-5) comprise a village . During the stra-
tegic hamlet program both hamlets and villages were fortified . The distinc-
tion is unimportant for the present analysis , except as it bears on the
defensibility of the protected. The several adjectives coupled
with hamlet or village were occasionally used to differentiate communities
accord:i..ng to the extent of their defenses or the initial presumed loyalty
of their inhabitants . More often no such distinction was made; the terms
were used interchangeably. Where a distinction exists, the follo\<Ting ac-
count explains it .
The phrase Strategic Hamlet Program when used to represent the pro-
gram is much broader than the phrase applied to the haml ets themselves .
The program, as explained below, envisioned a process of pacification of
which the construct ion of strategic hamlets was but part of one phase , al-
beit a very important part . This paper examines the program, not just
t he hamlets .
B. Antecedents
Population relocation into defended villages was by no means a
recent development in Southeast Asia. Parts of South Vietnam had experi-
ence with the physical aspects of fortified communities going back many
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
1
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
years . As the int ellectual godfather of the Strategic Program has
put it, the concept's use as one of the measures to defeat communist insur-
gency " ... has only meant that the lessons of the past had to be relearn"; ." 2:.,/
The aruninistration of President Diem had relearned thFse lessons
much earlier than late 1961. There I'Tas, in fact, no need to r.elearn them
because they had never been forgotten . The French had made resettlement
and the development of "secure zones" an important element in their effort
near the end of the war with the Viet Minh. The government of newly-created
South Vietnam, headed since by President Diem, had continued resettle-
ment schemes to accofimodate displaced persons, to control suspected rural
populations, and to safeguard loyal peasants in the threatened areas .
None of these efforts i nvolving resettlement had succeeded . Each had in-
spired antagonism among the peasants who were moved from their ancestral
lands and away from family burial plots.
Diem' s actions in late 1961 'were thus inescapably tied to earlier
actions by proximity in time, place, and the personal experiences of many
peasants . Chief among the earlier programs was that of the so-called
Agrovilles or "Rural Community Develo"pment Centers," launched in 1959 ·
The Agrovilles, groupments of 300-500- families, were designed to afford the
peasantry the social benefits of city life (schools and services), to in-
crease their physical security, and to control certain key locations by
denying them to the communists.?J They were designed to improve simultane-
ously the security and well-being of their inhabitants and the government's
control over the rual population and rural areas .
The Agroville program was generally unsuccessful . The pea,sants
had many complaints about it ranging from clumsy, dishonest administration
to the physical hardship of being too far from their fields and the psy-
chological wrench of being separated from ancestral home s and burial plots . ;J
By 1960, President Di em had slowed the program in response to peasant com-
plaints and the Viet Cong ' s ability to exploit this dissatisfaction. !!J
The transition from Agrovilles to strategic ha.mlets in 1961 was
marked by the so-called "Agro-hamlet " "lvhich attempted to meet some of the
peasants ' objections :
The smaller 100 family Agro-hamlet was located more
closely to lands tilled by the occupants . Construction vms
carried out at a slower pace filled to the peasant ' s plant -
ing and harvesting schedule ... By the end of 1961, the Agro-
hamlet had become the prototype of a vast civil defense
scheme known as strategic hamlets, Chien Luoc . 21
It was inevitable, given this lineage , that the strategic hamlet program
be regarded by the peasants as old wine in ne\'I"ly-labelled bottles . The
successes and failures of the past were bound to condition its acceptance- -
and by l ate 1961 the Diem government "l8,S ha,ving more failures than successes .
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
2
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number : NND 63316 . By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
C. The Situation i n Late 1961
By late 1961, if not earlier , it had become clear in both Siagon
and Washington that the yellow star of the Viet Cong \Va s in the ascendancy.
Following the 1960 North Vietnamese announcement of the twin goals of oust-
ing President Diem and reunifying Vietnam under communist rule, the Viet
Cong began sharply to i ncrease its guerrilla, subversive, and political
warfare . §/ Viet Cong regular forces, nOl'T estimated to have grown to
25,000, had been organized into larger formations and employed with increas-
ing The terrorist-guerrilla organization had grown to an esti-
mated 17,000 by November 1961. 11 During the first half of 1961, terror-
i sts and guerrillas had assassinated over 500 local officials and civilians,
kidnapped more than 1,000, and killed almost 1,500 RVNAJI'" personnel. §/
The VC continued to hold the ini tia ti ve in the 'countrys ide , controlling
major portions of the populace and drawing an increasingly tight cinch
around Saigon. 21 The operative was not whether the Diem govern-
ment as it was then moving could defeat the insurgents, but whether it could
save itself .
Much of this deterioration of the situation in RVN vTas attributable,
in U. S. eyes, to the manner in which President Diem had organized his govern-
ment . The struggle -- vlhether viewed as one to gain loyalty or simply to
assert control -- was focused in and around the villages and hamlets in the
countrys ide. It was in those areas that the bilineal GVN organi-
zation (ARVN and civilian province chiefs) most lacked the capability for
concerted and cohesive action. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN)
was developing a potentially effective institutional framework under U.S.
tutelage, but that effectiveness against the VC, Diem realized, could po-
tentially be transferred into effectiveness against himself . The abortive
coup of late 1960 had made Diem even more reluctant than he had earlier
been to permit power (especially coercive power) to be gathered into one
set of hands other than his own. Still, the establishraent of an effective
military chain of command which could operate where necessary in the country-
side remained the prime objective of U. S. military advisors .
A unitary chain of command had recently been ordered into effect
within ARVN, but this had not solved the operational problems, for mili-
tary operations were inescapably conducted in areas under the control of
an independent political organizati on with its own military forces and in-
fluence on operations of all kinds -- military, paramilitary, and civic
action . The province chiefs, personally selected by President Diem and
presumably loyal to him,controlled politically the territory in dispute
with the VC and within which ARVN must operate . They also controlled terri-
torial forces comprising the Civil Guard (CG) and Self Defense Corps (SDC) .
For President Diem' s purposes this bilineal organization offered
an opportunity to counterbalance the pOvler (and coup potential) of the
generals by the power of the province chiefs . It was a device for survival.
But the natural by-product of this duality, in terms of the effectiveness
of actions against the VC, was poor coordination and imperfect cooperation
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
3
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
in intelligence collection and production, in planning, and in operational
execution in the countryside, where the ba ttles ~ r e r e fought - - both the
"battle for men's minds" and the more easily understood battles for con-
trol of the hamlets, villages, districts, and provinces .
(
The U.S. and GVN were agreed that in order to defeat the insurgency
it was necessary that the rura.l populace identif'y with at lea. st the local
representatives of the central government. They were agreed, too, that
some measure of physical security must be provided the rural population
if thi s end were to be achieved. Both agreed that the GVN must be the
principal agent to carry out the actions which 1vould bring the insurgency
to an end.
The high level U. S. -GVN discussions held during President Kennedy ' s
first year in office focused on wha.t the U. S. could provide GVN to assist
the latter 's counterinsurgency efforts and on Ivhat GVN should do organi-
zationally to make its efforts more effective . A subsidiary and related
discussion revolved around the U.S. advisory organization to parallel the
GVN reorganization. The problem of how additional resources jn some im-
proved organizational framework were to be applied operationally was frag-
mented into many sub-issues ranging from securing the border to building
social infrastructure.
The story of the Strategic Hamlet Program, as it came to be called,
is one in which an operatj.onal concept specif'ying a sequence of concrete
steps was introduced by an articulate advocate, nominally accepted by all
of the principal actors, and advanced to a position of apparent centrality
in which it became the operational blueprint for ending the insurgency .
But it is also the story of an apparent consensus built on differing, some-
times competin& expectations and of an effort which was, in retrospect ,
doomed by the failure to resolve in one context the problem it was designed
to alleviate in another -- the .pr09lem of GVN stability.·
II. THE FORMULATION OF THE STRATEGIC HAMLET PROGRAM
A. U. S. - GVN Consultations
Beginning in May 1961, the U.S . and GVN conducted a series of high
l evel conferences to fashion r esponses to the insurgent challenge . The
first. of these was the visit to Saigon by the Vice President , Lyndon B.
Johnson. The Vice President ' s consultations were designed to reinforce
the U. S. commitment to RVN and to improve the image of President Di em' s
government .
In a comm1.mique issued jointly in Saigon, it was agreed that the
RVNAF was to be increased to 150, 000 men, that the U.S . would support the
entire Civil Guard I'd th military ass i stance funds, that Vietnamese and
U. S. military specialists would be used to support village-level health
and public works activities, a,nd that the two governments vTould "discuss
TOP SECRET - Sens itive

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
new economic and social measures to be undertaken in rural areas to
accompany the anti-guerrilla effort ... . "!Y These discussions implied
that more GVN effort should be devoted to rural pacification and civic action
and acknowledged that more regular military forces were needed, but they
did little to clarify the relationships of these parts to the whole or to
an overall scheme by which the process i.,rQuld develop.
The Staley group, a joint economic and financial committee co-
cbaired by Dr . A. Eugene Staley, Stanford Research Institute, and Vu Q,uoc
Tuc, GVN, followed much the same pattern. Meeting in Saigon in June 1961,
the corrrmittee agreed that RVNAF strength should be increased to 200,000
during CY 1962 and that U. S. funding should be provided to various emergency
economic and social programs . § But the group did noghing to tie together
the strands of what it recognized as the central problem: to achieve a
simultaneous "breakthrough" on both the military-internal security front
and the economic- social front. 13/ Its recormnendations "\-Tere restricted
(in part , no doubt, because of its limited charter) to specific program
increases and to a restatement of the dimensions of the problem.
The devastation caused by the September monsoonal floods (320,000
r efugees, 1,000 kilometers of road destroyed, 10 million acres of rice and
other crops lost), combined with the losses attributable to increased insur-
gent 8.ctivity, led President Diem to declare a state of national emergency
on 19 October 1961 . This declaration coincided with the visit to Southeast
Asia (15 October - 3 November) of General Maxwell D. Taylor, heading a
mission asked by President Kennedy to appraise the situation in South Viet-
nam. The President stated the scope of Taylor ' s mission in the broadest
terms :
While the military part of the problem is of great
importance in South Viet-Nam, its political, social , and
economic el ements are equally significant, and I shall ex-
pect your appraisal and your recormnendations to take full
account of them. ~
I n his report to the President, General Taylor sketched out the
nature and aims of the Viet Cong threat and assessed the strengths and
weaknesses of the Diem government . He proposed a U.S . strategy for "turn-
i ng the tide and for assuming the offensive in Vietnam." 15/ The report
warrants summarizing in some detail, not because it outlined the main
thrust of the pacification effort (it did not ), but because itr'epresents
t he best document to portray the range of U. S. concerns at the time the
U. S. was making a major comrnitment to South Vietnam and because it lays
out the major el ements of the U. S. strategy of response .
The Viet Cong, Taylor judged, vTere militarily powerful and becom-
i ng more powerful . But they were not yet ready to move to the third ,
climactic phase of I ~ a o ' s classic format for guerrill a warfare :
The military stra.tegy being pursued is , evidently, to
pi n down the ARVN on defensive missions ; to create a per -
vasive sense of insecurity and frustration by hit - and-run
raids on self-defense corps and militia units , ambushing
5
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
the reserve forces if possible as they come up to defend;
a,nd to dramatize the inability of the GVN to govern or to
build, by the assassination of officials and the sabotage
of public works . ~
The purpose of this military strategy, Taylor asserted, was apparently not
to capture the nation by force. Rather, in concert with non-military means ,
it was to produce a political crisis which would topple the goverrnnent
and bring to power a group willing to contemplate the unification of Viet-
nam on Hanoi I s terms. };])
It was in the U. S. interest, Taylor reasoned, to act vigorously --
with advice as i'Tell as aid -- in order to buy the necessary time for Vi etnam
to mobilize and to organize its real assets so that the Vietnamese them-
selves might "turn the tide" and assume the offensive . 18/ But U. S. aid
and U. S. advice on where to use it were not enough . TheDiem Government
i tself had to be reformed in order to permit it to mobilize the nation.
Diem had, in Tayl or ' s assessment, allowed two vicious circles to develop
which vitiated goverrnnent effectiveness . In the first of these circles
poor military intelligence led to a defensive stance designed primarily to
guard against attacks , which in turn meant that most of the military forces
came under the control of the province chiefs whose responsibility it was
to protect the populace and installations . This control by province chiefs
meant that reserves could not , because of tangled lines of command and
control, be moved and controlled qui ckly enough to be effective . The effect
of high losses in unsuccessful defensive battles served further to dry up
the basic sources of i.ntelligence . W
The second vicious circle stemmed from Diem's instinctive attempts
to centralize power in his own hands while fragmenting it beneath him.
Hi s excessive mistrLlst of mB,ny intellectuals and younger Vietnamese , i.n-
dividuals badly needed to give his administration vitality, served only
to alienate them and led them to stand aside from constructive participation
thereby further increasing Diem' s mistrust . ~ This administrative style
"fed back, too, into the military equation and through it, created another
potentially explosive political-military problem:
The inability to mobilize intelligence effectively for
operational purposes directly flows from this fact LDi em' s
administrative practici7 as do the generally poor relations
between the Province Chiefs and the military conwanders,
the former being Diem I s r eliable agents , the latter a pmver
base he fears. The consequent frustration of Diem I s mili -
tary commanders -- a frustration well-knoi'm to Diem and
heightened by the November 1960 coup -- l eads him to ac-
tions which further complicate his problem; e . g ., his un-
willingness to del egate military operations clearly to his
generals. 21/
General Taylor ' s recommended actions for the U. S. were designed
to demonstrate U.S . commitment in order to strengthen Diem' s stand and ,
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
6
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
simultaneously, to broaden U. S. participation in the hope of bringing
about necessary reforms in Diem's regime. The President ' s emissary rejected
the alternatives of a military takeover which would make the generals
dominant in all fields . He rejected, too, the alternative of r eplacing
Diem with a weaker figure l'lho l'lould be vlilling to delegate authority to
both military and civil leaders . 22/ The first course l'lould emphasize
the solution to only one set of problems while slighting others; the
second would permit action, but not coordinated action.
B "L;Ynl · ted Fa t "
. ·.wu r nership
In order to move in a coordinated way on the intermingled military,
politi cal , economic , and social problems facing South Vietnam, General
Taylor reconunended that the U. S. initiate a "limited partnership" ,'lhich
would stop short of direct U. S, action but would also, through persuasion
at many levels judiciously mixed vlith U,S. leverage , " ... force the Viet-
namese to get their .house in order in one area after another. " ?J.! In-
creased material assistance from the U. S. would be accompanied l'li th increased
U. S. participation at all l evels of government in which the American advisors
must " ... as friends and partners -- not as arms-length advisors -- show
them how the job might be done -- not tell them or do it for them. " If
strongly motivated, tactful Americans were assigned primarily outside
Saigon, thus avoiding the establishment of large headquarters not actually
engaged in operational tasks, Taylor thought that this increased U. S.
participation would not be " counter-productive" ; e . g ., lend substance to
claims of U. S. imperialism and dominance of the Diem Government . ~
Thus, Taylor consciously opted for a U. S. cours e of action in which
the major thrust of effort would be to i nduce Diem to do the things that
the U. S. thought should be done : to dravl the disaffected into the national
effort and to organize and equip so that effective action would be possible .
General Taylor did not argue explicitly that success would follovl automat ic-
ally if Diem' s practices could be r eformed and his operational capabilities
upgraded, but he impli ed this outcome . The question of an overall strategy
. to defeat the insurgency came very close to being regarded as a problem
in the organization and management of resources . Since GVN had no national
plan,efforts were concentrated on inducing them to produce one . There was
much less concern about the substance of the non- existent GVN plan. It
was almost as though there had to be something to endorse or to criticize
before substantive issues could be treated as relevant .
C. U.S.-Proposed National Plans
This priority of business is r eflected in the U. S. ple,ns which
were proposed to GVN for adoption by the latter. In l ate 1960 the U.S .
Country Team in Saigon produced an agreed "Counterinsurgency Plan for
Vi et - Nam" (CIP). The plan was an attempt to specify roles and relation-
ships within GVN in the counterinsurgency effort, to persuade Diem to
abandon his bilineal chain of conunand in favor of a single command line
with integrated effort at all levels within the government, and to create
the governmental machinery for coordinated national planning . ~ It
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
7
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
was recognized that these recommendations were not palatable to President
Diem, but reorganization along the lines specified was regarded as essential
to successful accomplisl1ment of the counterinsurgent effort. ~ .
The CIP 1-laS an indi ctment of GVN failure to organize effectively
and to produce coordinated nationa.l plans . ?:JJ It advanced no operational
concepts for adoption by GVN. This obvious omission ,·TaS corrected in the
"Geographically Phased National J.Jevel Operation Plan for Counterinsurgency"
which MAAG Vietnam published on 15 September 1961. ?:§} Not only did this
plan specify the areas of primary interest for pacification operations --
as its title indicates - - it also set forth a conceptual outline of the
three sequential phases of actions 1-Thich must be undertaken . In the first,
"preparatory phase, " the intelligence effort "ras to be concentrated in the
priority target areas , surveys were to be made to pinpoint needed economic
and political reforms , plans were to be drawn up, and military and politi -
cal cadres were to be trained for the specific objective area . ?!1I The
second, or "military phase, " would be devoted to clearing the objective area
with regular forces, then handing local security responsibility over to the
Civil Guard (CG) and to establishing GVN presence. 30/ In the final ,
"security phase, " the Self Defense Corps (SDC) "lYOuldassmne the civil
action-local security mission, the populace was to be "reoriented," politi-
cal control was to pass to civilian hands, and economic and social pro-
grams 'were to be initiated to consolidate government control. Military
units would be withdrawn as security was achieved and the target area
would be "secured" by the loyalty of its inhabitants -- a l oyalty attribu-
table to GVN!s successful responses to the felt needs of the inhabitant s . ~
First priority in thi s plan (1962 operations) was to go to six
provinces around Saigon and to the Kontum area. Second priority (1963 )
would be given to expansion southvrard into the Delta and southward in the
Central Highlands from Kontum. Third priority (1964) would continue the
spread of GVN control in the highlands and shift the emphasis in the south
to the provinces north and east of Saigon . Before any of these priority
actions were undertaken, however , it was proposed to conduct an ARVN sweep
in War Zone D, in the jungles northeast of Saigon, to r educe the danger
to the capital and to increase ARVN! s self- confidence . 2 (See Map 1.)
The geographically phased plan compl emented the earlier CIP.
Together , these two U. S. efforts constituted an outline blueprint for
a ction. It is, of course, arguable that this was the best conceivable
blueprint , but it was at least a comprehensive bas i s for r efi nement --
for arguments for different priorities or a changed " series of events "
in the process of pacification.
D. Initial Vietnamese React i ons
Thi s is not h01-7 matters proceeded, in the event . Ambassador
Durbrow, General McGarr , and others urged acceptance of the CIP upon
President Diem, but with only partial success . ~ Diem stoutly resisted
the adoption of a singl e , i ntegrated chain of operat i onal cormnand , show'ed
no enthusiasm for detai l ed prior plamling, continued hi s practice of cen-
t ralized decision-making (sometimes tantamount to decision piegonholing),
8
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
i .
j
I
1
j.'
t
I
j
I
I
[ 1
t
1
I t
J
:1·,··
..
I
!
[.
I t
I
r
I
i
\
1
It

.
. -( ' ..
:. • r ..
. .
\.
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
U.s. MAAG Geographically Phase'd Plan
, ..
-l"
0\
'II -IAI LAND ",\
"
··· L ..-:.--' -
.- -
MAP 1
9
...
. '
..
, ,
. '

".
, ,
. j.
t
I
t
<
!
r.
\'"
-, ,
"
- .. ----- -------- -----,.
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP - Sensitive
and continued to playoff the provin:::8 chiefs against the generals . Some
aspect p of the eIP were accepted, the basic organizational issues
remained unresolved and the strategic approach QDresolved by default .
The unsuccessful U.S . atter::."Jts to secure organizational reforms
wi thin the Diem goverr1.1nent had psychological pr:Lrnacy by the time
of General Taylor ' s October 1961 mis3ion to Saigon. The Ameri.can posi-
tion ,'ras essentially that no operaticnal plan could succeed unless GVN
were reorganized to permit-effective i.mplementation . It was reorganiza-
tion that Taylor emphasized, as above . But General Taylor did
bring up the need for some coordinated operational plan i n his talks with
President Diem. Diem's r espons e is :::escribed in a cable to Washington
by Ambassador Nolting :
Taylor several times stre3sed importance of overall
plan -- military, politica.l, ecc::1omic, psychological , etc .
for dealing with guerrillas. tended avoid clear re-
sponse this suggestion but fine.=-ly indicated that he has
a new strategic plan of his ovl::1 . Since it was not very clear
in spite efforts to dra"T him Ivhat this plan is, Ta.ylor
asked him to let us have a copy in vTri ting . W
E. Thompson ' s CounterRroposals
President Diem may have vlhistling in the dark about a new
plan of his own . It is likely, howe-,cer, that he I'Tas already conversant
with the ideas of a new high level 6.:::visor "Tho had been in Saigon for
several weeks and whose .approach to prosecuting the war he would soon en-
dorse officially as his own . The ad-,-isor vTas RGK Thompson, a Bri tish civil
servant who had come from the position of Permanent Secretary of Defense
i n Malaya . Thompson ' s British Advis cry Mission VTas in Saigon in response
to Diem' s for experienced country nationals to assist him
in his counter insurgent operations . There had been some i nitial U.S. ob-
j ection to British "advice without r espons ibility," but fears had been
temporarily alla.yed when it was agreed that Thompson ' s charter would be
limited to civic action matters .
Thompson provided Diem his initial "appreciation" (or , i n U. S.
terminology, "estimate of the situation") in October 1961. 22.1 His assess-
ment was well received by the Presi c.ent , I'rho asked him to fol lov7 it up with
a specific plan . Thompson ' s response , an outline plan for the pacifica-
tion of the Delta area, was given to the on 13 November . Thus ,
Thompson was in the process of articulating one potentiall y comprehensive
strategic approach at the same time that the U. S. was deeply involved in
fashioning a major new phase in U. S.-Gv}T rel ations in which major new U. S.
aid would be tied to Diem' s acceptance of specified reforms and , inferentially,
t o his willingness to pursue some agreed, coordinated strategy. Thompson ' s
plan was, in short, a potential rival to the American- advanced plans repre -
sented by the CIP and the geographically phased IVlAAG plan of September 1961.
TOP SECRET - Sensiti ve
10
Declassified per Execut ive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
In order to assess the similarities and differences between t:re
U. S. plans and that advanced by the British Advisory Mission, it is neces-
sary to summarize Thompson l s argument and proposals. Like Taylor (with
whom he talked and to whom he gave a copy of his initial "apprecj.ation"
at the latter l s request), Thompson saw the VC objective to be one of politi-
cal denouement by combined military and political action rather than a mili -
t ary takeover of the entire nation . Like McGarr and the other U.S. military
advisors, he recognized the probability and danger of VC attempts to con-
trol the unpopulated areas and to use them both as a base form which to pro-
j ect an image of political strength and as secure areas from vlhich (in
the case of War Zone D, northeast of Saigon) to threaten the capital.
But unlike the U:S : Thompson viewed the primarj threat
t o be to the polltJ..cal stablllty of the populated rural areas . 36 Con-
sequently, he regarded McGarr I s proposed ini tial operation in Wa,r Zone D
to be a step in the wrong direction .
The main government target, Thompson argued , should not be simply
the destruction of VC forces . Rather, it should be to offer an attractive
and constructive alternative to communist appeals . This could only be done
by empha,sizj.ng national reconstruction and development in the populated
rural areas . To do so would r equire extensive and stringent secu.rity mea-
sures, to be sure, but these measures required primarily police rather
than regular milj.tary forces . The police could establish a close rapport
with the populace; the army could not . The army should have the mission
to keep the VC off balance by mobile action in order to prevent insurgent
attacks on the limited areas in which GVN would concentrate its i nitial
pacification efforts . J1I
This line of argwnent vIas more fully developed i n Thompson I s draft
plan for the pacification of the Del ta area, given to President Diem on
11 November.]§I The objective of the plan was to win l oyalt i es r ather
than to kill i nsurgents . For that reason Thompson selected a populous area
with r elatively l ittle VC main force activity. The thrust of his proposal
was that " clear and hold" operations should r eplace " search and destroy"
sweeps . ARVN might be used to protect the villages while the villages were
organizing to protect themselves and mobile ARVN forces must be available
to reinforce local defense units, but the process should be abandoned of
" sweeping" through an area - - and then l eaving it. The peasants must be
given the assurance of physical security so that economic and social im-
provements , the r eal object of the plan, could procced without interruption.
The means by which the villagers would be protected was the II stra-
tegic hamlet," a lightly guarded village because it was -- by definjtion --
in a relatively low risk area . More heavily defended centers , ca,lled "de_
fended hamlets" and involving more relocation, Ivould be employed i n areas
under more VC influence, particularly along the Cambodian border .
To control this effort i n the Delta , Thompson r ecommended that
the ARVN III Corps Headquarters be r einforced with paramilitary and civil
components, relieved of its r esponsibility for the area around and north
of Saigon, and function under the immediate supervision of t he National
Security Council - - presided over by Pr esident Diem. The province chiefs ,
11
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
already under Diem' s personal direction, would be responsible on all
emergency matters to the r einforced III Corps Headquarters (to be called
the Combined Headquarters), but continue as before with respect to r outine
admini stration . J2/
Thompson presented this Delta plan as a program of wide potential :
... It should lead by stages to a reorganization of
the government machinery for directing and coordinating
all action against the communists and to the production of
an overall strategic operational plan for the country as
a whole dehning responsibilities, tasks and priorities .
At the same time it will lead to the establishment of a static
security framework which can be developed eventually into
a National Police force into which can be incorporated a
single security intelligence organization for the direction
and coordination of all intelligence activities against the
communists . I agree with Your Excellency that it would be
too disruptive at the present moment to try to achieve these
immediately and that they should be developed gradually.
Using a medical analogy, the remedy should be clinical
r ather than surgical .
III. DEVELOPING A CONSENSUS AMONG THE ADVISORS
A. Initial Reaction of U. S. Military Advi sors
It is not difficult to imagine the shocked r eaction t o Thompson ' s
proposals , especially in U. S. military circles . In fact , one need not
imagine them; General McGarr has recorded a detailed rejoinder to Thompson ' s
proposals . He was , to begin with, upset about the lack of prior coordina-
tion:
Following Mr . Thompson ' s medical analogy .. . we have the
case of a doctor called in for consultation on a clinical
case , actually performing an amputation without consul ting
the r esident physician -- and without being required to
a ssume the overall responsibility for the patient .
General McGarr ' s unhappiness with Thompson was not simply a case
of injured feelings . He had four r elated categories of disagreements with
the plan proposed by the British Advisory Mission . First , Thompson ' s
command arrangements , if adopted, would demol ish the prospect
of a unitary chain of command within ARVN, an obj ecti ve tOY-lard which McGarr
had been working for over a year . Additionally, the Thompson proposal s
would l eave Diem as the ultimate manager of an operation dealing with only
a portion (the Delta) of RVN. The el imination of practices such as this
had been an explicit ot j ective of the entire U. S. advisory effort for a
l ong time .
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
12
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3,3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Second, the proposed priority in the Delta clashed with MCGarr ' s
priorities which placed War Zone D first, the area around Saigon second,
and the Delta third . There was a lack of unanimity among the U. S. advisors
about the relative importance of the War Zone D operation but the military,
in particular, were looking for an important operation to help the (hope-
fully) revitalized ARVN demonstrate its offensive spirit and mobile capabili-
ties. This desire gave rise to the third and fourth objections -- or fears.
The II static security frame"Tork" in the villages to which Thompson
referred struck General McGarr as an unwarranted dOlmgrading of the need
for a sizeable conventional military force to play an important role in
pacification. Thompson's stated desire to emphasize police forces in lieu
of regular military forces was regarded by the U.S. military advisory chief
as unrealistic -- a transferral of Malayan experience to a locale in which
the existing tools of policy were very different .
Related to this obj ection "Tas a final set of disagreements.
Thompson had want ed to go slowly and to let a ne"T GVN organization grow
from the effort . The U. S . military advisory chief also wanted to go slow'ly
but not that SlO"Tly. Not only would the Viet Cong not wait, it was simply
unsound policy not to use the tools at hand. It would not do to reduce the
ARVN and increase police forces while the VC continued thier successes .
It was necessary, in sum, to act in a limited area but to act
Thompson ' s recommendations did not look to action, emphasized the wrong
area, were designed to emphasize the wrong operational agency, and proposed
unacceptable lines .
It is important to note that in'spite of these explicit disagree-
ments there "Tere broad areas of apparent agreement between Thompson and
his U.S. counterparts . (Apparent, because the "areas of agreement " concealed '
differences, too .) The U.S . MAAG was amenabl e to the development of strate-
gic hamlets, General McGarr claimed . Indeed, MAAG ' s long, diffuse doc-
trinal "handbook" for advisors in the field did devote three pages - - without
any particular emphasis -- to the "secure village concept ." 44/ MAAG did
not stress the centrality of strategic per se, but neither did
Thompson . Strategic hamlets were to Thompson a ,.:ray station enroute to
hi s real objective -- winning the loyalty of the rural peasants . Thi s
was apparently compatible with the steps to pacitication out-
lined in MAAG ' s own Geographically Phased Counterinsurgency Plan. If the
competing approaches of the U. S. and British advisors had not been made
compatible,there was , at l east , some agreed ground from which to launch
the effort to make them compatible.
B. Reactions in Washington
That such ground existed was fortunate, for Thompson' s evolutionary
plan was not only finding a warm reception at the Presidential Palace,
it was also winning an attentive ear in Washington. As already mentioned,
Thompson talked with General Taylor during the latter's October 1961 mission
to Saigon and provided Taylor a copy of the initial British "appreciation ."
13
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Copi es of the Thompson memorandmfi on the Delta were also forwarded to
Taylor at the latter's request. ~ Then in January 1962 , Thompson, again
r esponding to Taylor's request, sent the l atter a long letter outlining
his views. In l ess than a month, General Taylor could present to Presi-
dent Kennedy a plan entitled "A Strategic Concept for South Vietnam" by
Roger Hilsman which was an unabashed restatement of most of Thompson ' s
major points and to\vard which President Kennedy had, not incidentally,
already expressed a favorable disposition. ~
Hilsman ' s "strategic concept" avowedly flowed from three basic
principles : that the problem in Vietnam presented by the VC was political
rather than military in its essence; that an effective counterinsurgency
plan must provide the people and villages with protection and physical
security; and that counter guerrilla forces must adopt the same tactics
as those used by the guerrilla himself. ~
To translate these principles into operational reality, Hilsman
called for "strategic villages" and "defended villages" a la Thompson,
with first priority to the most populous areas; i.e., the Delta and in the
vicinity of Hue. 48/ ARVN would, much as in Thompson' s proposal, secure
the initial effort, when necessary, and be employed to keep the VC off
balance in those areas already under Viet Cong control. The plan envisaged
a three-phase process by which GVN control would progressively be expanded
from the least heavily VC-penetrated provinces with large populations
(phase I), into the more heavily penetrated population centers (phase II),
and finally into the areas along the I,aotian and Cambodian borders (phase
III).!t1/ Hilsman eschewed use of the "oil spot" analogy but the process
and rationale he put forth were the same . His plan moved "strategic vil-
lages" to a place of prominence greater than that in Thompson 's Delta plan
and far in excess of the offhanded acceptance which had thus far been
afforded them by U. S. military advisors . Strategic hamJ.ets were not the
heart of the Hilsman plan -- civic action was that - - but they were the symbcl,
the easily recogni zable, easily grasped initial step by which GVN could be-
gin, following Hilsman ' s second principle, to "provide the people and the
villages with protection and physical security." zY
C. The Advisors Reach Agreement
Thompson's bas ic ideas were gaining wide dissemination at the
highest level within the U. S. government in early 1962 . What of his r el a -
t ions with the U. S. MAAG in Saigon? These had been significantly improved
as the resll1t of a meeting between Thompson, Ambassador Nolting, and
British Ambassador Hohler . Thompson agreed to revise his paper so as to
remove the objection to his proposed command arrangements. Ambassador
Nolting r eported that Thompson 'i'laS nOlV' working "closely and amicably" with
MAAG. ~ This took care of one of MCGarr ' s objections . Thompson had
apparently decided, too, to allow the issue to drop for the time being
of police primacy in pacification vis - a-vis ARVN. It was not, after all,
a change that could be made quickly; President Diem was convinced that
some start was needed to save his administration . Tha,t had been his rea-
son, after all, in reluctantly inviting increased American participation
in the war.
TOP SECRET - S...;.dsiti ve
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Secretary McNama.ra played an important role in disposing of still
another issue in dispute -- that of ,·;here to begin . In mid-December 1961,
after President Kennedy had decided to adopt essentially all of General
Taylor ' s November except the introduction of major U.S .
forces into Vietnam, Secretary McNamara met in Honolulu with the U. S.
principals in Vietnam to discuss futuxe plans. A central question was that
of what could be done in the short term future. The Secretary of Defense
made it clear that RVN had "number one priority." 5JJ... McNamara urged
concentration on one province : "I ' ll guarantee it7the money and equipmeny
provided you have a plan bas ed on one province . Take one place, sweep it
and hold it in a plan ." 2J./ Or , put another W8.y, let us demonstrate that
i n some place, in some way, we can achieve demonstrable gains .
General McGarr , immediately upon his return to Saigon, wrote to
Secretary Thuan and passed on this proposal :
I would like to suggest that you may wi sh to set aside
one specific area, say a province, and use it as a "test
area, " in establishing this type "pacification infrastruc-
ture . " My thinking is th8.t all the various elements of this
anti-VC groundwork be designated i mmediately by your govern-
ment and trained as a team or teams for the actual reoccupa-
tion and holding of the designated commlmist infiltrated
area when it has been cleared by RVN.A.F military action. 2!3J
Such teams would embrace, McGarr suggested, police, intelligence , financial ,
psychological, agricultural, medical, civic action, and civil political
functions . 55/
IV. THE ADVISORS "SELL" DIEM (OR VICE-VERSA).
A. Where to Begin?
GVN did indeed have a province in mind . It was not a Delta province ,
however . Nor 1-laS it a province relatively secure from VC infiltration.
to the contrary, Binh Duong Province , extending north and northwest
of Saigon, had been heavily infiltrated. Its main communications axis
(National Highw'ay 13, extending north\-Tard from Saigon into Cambodia ) sliced
di r ectly between War Zone D and War Zone C. The province was crossed
by important routes of communications , liaison, and supply between two
i nsurgen redoubts . Hardly the logical place to begin, one might say,
but "logic" was being driven by events and desires more than by abstract
r easoning .
One desire was the widely held wish to do something concrete
and productive as a symbol of U. S. determination and GVN vitality. Another
desire was GVN' s ,vish to commit the Amer icans to support of Diem' s govern-
ment on terms which would be in fact acceptable to that government and
would -- equally important -- aEpear to be U. S. support for GVN-initiated
actions . I f one were Vietnamese one might reason that Binh Duong was an
15 TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Proj ect Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
ar ea of unquestionable strategic importance -- and one in which GVN had
already initiated some pacification efforts . If the Americans wish to
concentrate in one province and i f they are willing to underwrite the effort
with r esources , why not begin in an important strategic area where work.
is already underway?
GVN had initiated , in August 1961, a "Rural Reconstruction Cam-
paign" in the Eastern Region of South Vietnam to secure the provinces of
Tay Ninh, Binh Duong, and Phuoc TUy. 2fJ Most of the effort prj_or to
December 1961 had been concentrated in the Cu Chi District of Binh Duong .
Xom Hue Hamlet of Tan An Hoi was , during December , in the process of being
fortifi ed as a strategic hamlet . 211 General McGarr was under the impres-
sion that " conSiderable progress" had already been made in these three
provinces in the establishment of the GVN village level activities so
necessary to winning popular support . 2§/
In mid-January General McGarr met (just prior to his departure
for Honolulu) with President Di em and Secretary Thuan to dis cuss pacifica-
tion plans . As McGarr told Secretary McNamara , Diem stressed that the
If.tAAG-endorsed military operation in War Zone D might merely close the
string on an empty bag . Such a failure would be detrimental to ARVN morale .
Besides, the President observed echoing Thompson, "sweeps " solved nothing;
the problem was to bold an area and to separate the VC from the rest of the
populace . Diem preferred a concentrated effort in Binh Duong, a heavily
infiltrated province , close to Saigon, of great strategic importance , and
in ''i'hich only 10 of 46 villages were under GVN control -- but in which the
groundwork for a sound governnlent infrastructure had already been laid . ) ~
The di scussions at the Secretary of Defense ' s Confer ence in
Honolulu turned on whether or not the War Zone D operation offered more
hope f or a concrete gain than a " single province" pacification scheme .
McNamara concluded that it did not. General McGarr dissented mildly from
the sel ection of Binh Duong . He would have favored Phuoc Tuy (where U.S.
troops were scheduled to land if a decision wer e ever made to commit them).
But Bi nh Duong was GVN' s plan and the "limited partners" finally agreed
to back Diem' s preferred attempt . §2/ Thus, the U. S. cmae to a roundabout
decision t o support as a "test" of vlhat would l ater be called the " strategic
hamJ_et program" an operation about whose details they kne'\v little , in an
area that all recognized to be difficult, because it allegedly r epresented
a long-sought example of GVN i nitiative in planning and civil-military
preparation . Much of the public i mage of the strategic hamlet program was
to be established by thi s operation, as it turned out . Its name was
"Operation Sunri se .,t But it was not -- U.S. desires to the contrary --
the only strategic hamlet effort to be carri ed fOY'\'i'ard during this peri od .
It was only one of several -- and several grew very quickly into many .
B. Concurrent GVN Activity
It has al ready been suggested that President Diem responded wi th
some enthusiasm to the early proposals from Thompson ' s Brit i sh Advisory
Mission. In mid-February 1962 , President Diem approved orally Thompson' s
16
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
"Delta Pacification Plan" and said he would like to see it executed with-
out delay. Earlier, on 3 February, he had created by presidential
decree the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Strategic Hamlets (IMCSH),
comprising the heads of various ministries (Defense, Interior, Education,
Civic Action, Rural Affairs, etc .). 62/ The IMCSH was, as its membership
indicates, a coordinating body designed to give national direction and
guidance to the program. Its importance is not in its work -- for it
apparently did very little -- but as an indicator of Diem's early 1962
thinking of strategic hamlets as a national program and of the central
role which his brother, Ngo Dim1 Nhu , would play in this program.
was the real driving force behind GVN' s uneven but discernible
movement toward adoption of the strategic hamlet theme as a unifying con-
cept in its pacification efforts. In the early period under discussion
he masked his central role, however. He was not announced as the Chairman
of the IMCSH (nobody was), but the committee was responsible to him. 63/
He did not, hO'trever, lead it actively. As two American observers remarked
at the time, "Nhu seems to have consulted the committee seldom and to have
shared his policy-making power with it even less frequently ." 64/
C. Early Signs of GVN Expectations
But although brother Nhu was behind the scenes in late 1961 and
early 1962, an occasional fleeting glimpse of his thinking and the direction
in which he was hea,ding has still managed to show through. A CIA report
from Saigon summarized Nhu ' s instructions to a dozen province chiefs from
the Delta in a meeting held on 14 December 1961. Primary emphasis was to
be placed on the strategic hamlet program, Nhu said, and this program was
to be coupled with a "social revolution" against "Viet-Nam' s three enemies :
divisive forces, low standard of living, and communism." 65/ The CIA
Task Force - Vietnam observed , in forwarding this report, that Nhu ' s "social
revolution and strategic hamlets appear to be fuzzy concepts with little
valv.e in the fight against the Communists ." f!J
No doubt these concepts seemed fuzzy at the end of 1961. But
within another twelve months, as events would prove, they would be widely
recognized as the twin spearheads of GVN's counterinsurgent effort, fuzzy
or not . The strategic hamlet program would have broad support within the
U.S. and financial resources to underpin that support. The
"social revolution" to which Nhu referred in December 1961 would be surfaced
as Diem' s "personalism" drive. The important thing for the present analysis
is that all of the expectations of the several participant groups -- both
U.S. and GVN -- were identif.iable by very early 1962 at the latest, and that
the concept of the strategic hamlet prograrn in the broad sense had been
fully adumbrated. The skeleton -- the rationale -- was complete; the body - -
operational programs -- had not yet taken form. Each group could, however,
work tOvlard construction of a slightly different body (and for differing
reasons ) and claim ,vi th some plausibility to be 'Ivorking from the same
skeleton .
17
TOP SECRET - Se
1
iti ve
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Proj ect Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
V. DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES AND EXPECTATIONS
Thr ee somewhat different views may be categorized which are of interest
to the present inq,uiry: those of the U. S. military advisors, of the U. S.
political leadership, and of the Diem government ' s leaders . Such generali-
zations are admittedly risky and easily overdrawn; there were, of course,
differences betvleen the perceptions and expectations of, say, the U. S.
military advisors . For example , those farthest from Saigon tended to be
less patient -- 'Ivi th Diem and in expecting results -- than were those closer
to the area of operations . Still, discernible differences of outlook and
expectations may be said to represent the prevailing views in each of these
three groups .
A. U. S. Military Advisors
The U.S. military advisors mistrusted arguments which stressed
the Vietnamese struggle as essentially political rather than military.
They were q,uite willing to concede that the struggle was multi-di.mensional
but they feared instinctively any line of reasoning which might appear to
argue that military considerations were relatively unimportant in Vietnam.
So, too, they were wary of schemes which might lead ARVN to perpetuate its
defensive tactical stance . Both dangers were present in the strategic
hamlet program. The same military advisors were more forceful than others
in stressing the need for the Diem regime to rationalize its c o m ~ a n d arrange -
ments and to plan comprehensively and in detail from the highest to lm·rest
levels . Their operational interest concentrated on making ARVN not just
more mobile but more aggressive . Their creed, devel oped through years of
experience and training (or vicarious experience ) was to "cl ose with and
destroy the enemy ." One could expect them, then, to be more than willing
to turn over the job of static defense to the CDC and CG at the earliest
opportunity, to keep a weather eye out for opportunities to engage major
VC format i ons in decisive battle, and to chafe under the painfully slow
evolutionary proces s which was implicit even in their own 1961 geographically
phased plan .
B. U.S. Political Leader ship
The D. S. political l eadership, and to varying degrees the l eaders
i n the Saigon Embassy and in USOM, were more attuned to the political
problems -- both with r espect to GVN-U.S. r elations and t o the problem
of winning broad support among the Vietnamese for the Diem administration .
This made members of this group i nherently more sympathetic t o proposals
such as the Thompson pl an for the Delta than they were , for i nstance , to
i ncreasing ARVN' s size and capabilities . They found compelling the logic
of analyses such as Hilsman' s which cut to the political root rather than
treating only the military symptoms . One suspects -- though documentation
would never be found to support it -- that they were attracted by an argu-
ment which did suggest some hope for "demilitarizing" the war, de- emphasizi ng
U. S. operational participation, and increasing GVN' s ability to sol ve its
ovlD. internal problems using primarily its own human resources .
18
TOP SECRET - Sensitive

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
C. President Diem
Ngo Dinh Diem's perspective and expectations were the most
different of all . U.S. groups differed in dregre; Diem's were
different in kind. He vmnted, first of 8.11, to obtain uneCluivocal U. S.
support, not just to his nation but to his administration . It was
in his eyes , that this support not cc:npromise his authority or Vietnamese
sovereignty. He did not want to give credence to communist claims that
he was a puppet of the U.S., on one tand, or concentrate the coercive in-
struments of power in the hand of poc.;ent ial antagonists, on the other.
A r evealing assessment of Diem' s frame of mind is provided by
Ambassador Nolting . Diem invited increased U.S. aid and U. S. participa-
tion because he feared that, especia2.1y vith an impending settlement in
Laos, South Vietnam would come under increasing communist pressures.
If Diem' s government could not win o-rer these pressures -- and Diem feared
it could not -- it had only the of going down fighting or of being
overthrovTn by a coup . Thus, in reCluesting additional U. S. help, Diem had
"adopted an expedient which runs ag2.inst his O"Tn convictions, and he is
apparently willing to accept the att2ndant diminution of his own stature
. as an independent and self-reliant nc.tional leader ." §J}
But when Ambassador Nolting presented to Diem the U. S. Cluid pro
CluO for its "limited partnership," this apparent acceptance of decreased
stature and independence suddenly less apparent . §§j Then, as
Nolting reported, President Diem feared the reaction even among his own
cabinet aides . 69/ Secretary Thuan, in whom Di em did confide, said that
the President was brooding over the fa.ct that the U. S. was asking great
concessions of GVN in the realm of i ts sovereignty in exchange for little
additional help. 121 Diem argued that U. S. influence over his govern-
ment , once it was known, would play directly into the communists ' hands.
The first priority task, he added, ,·;c.s to give the people security, not
to make the government more popular. To try it the other way around was
to place the cart before the horse. 71/ .
Diem sa"l himself caught in a dilemma in which he was doomed if he
did not get outside assistance and doomed if he got it only at the price
of surrendering his independence . To him the trick was to get the U.S.
committ ed without surrendering hi s independence. One possible solution
lay in getting U.S. material aid for a program that would be almost wholly
GVN-implemented . The strategic program offered a convenient vehi-
cle for this purpose and one which ,·;as also appealing for other reasons .
It put achieving security before "liL1.ing loyalty -- in an operational con-
text in vlhich it "las difficult to di:::ferentiate between security for the
r ural populace and control of that populace, since many of the actions
to achieve one were almost identical to the acts to realize the other .
D. The Central Issue
The U. S., for its part, was asking Diem to forego independence by
accepting the wisdom of the American r ecommendations for reform. The
19
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number : NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
central question was 1-Thether he would -- or could -- do so . Among those
who responded to this question in the negative, J. Kenneth Galbraith wasmost
trenchant:
In my completely considered vie1-T . . • Diem 1-Till not
reform either administratively or politically in any
effective way. That is because he cannot. It is
politically naive to expect it. He senses that he
cannot let power go because he would be thrown out. 72/
The U.S. decided that Diem could make meaningful reforms and that he
would do so -- or at least it decided that it was likely enough that he
would do so and that support for his administration constituted the best
availabl e policy alternative.
E. The Problem of Assessment
The differences in perspectives and expectations outlined above
are important in their own right. They 100m even l arger , hmfever, when
one considers the difficulty of assessing progress in the program about
to be undertaken. These groups \fere about to embark upon a long, arduous
j oint voyage. Their only chart had never been to sea. This was the
newly-articulated and imperfectly understood doctrine of counterinsurgency
which stressed the interaction and interdependence of political, military,
social, and psychological factors . It posited the necessity for certain
actions to follow' immediately and successfully behind others in order
for the process of pacification to succeed . Above all -- and this point
cannot be overstressed -- while this doctrine recognized the need for both
the carrot and the stick ( for coercive control and appealing programs )
it made gaining broad popular acceptal1ce the single ultimate criterion
of success. Neither kill ratios nor construction rates nor the frequency
of incidents was conclUSive , yet these were all indicators applicable to
phases within the larger process. The gains of doing well in one phase,
however, could be ¥Tiped out by inactivity or mistakes in a subsequent
phase . It was, in short , very difficult to know how well one was doing
until one was done.
VI . THE NATIONAL PLA..l'if EMERGES
A. A1-Tareness of the Unifying Potential
Before examining the quality of execution of the operational pro -
grams for which some detailed r ecord is available it will be useful to
outline the process by Ifhich the strategic hamlet program became -- by late
1962 -- a comprehensive national program embodying the major effort of GVN
in paCification.
1t0peration Sunrise" in Bin,h Duong Province was launched on 22
March 1962 i n what was initially called the ItBen Cat Project. It 73/ The
Delta project, however, l anguished in a "planning stage" until May, when
it first became known that Diem was considering incorporating it into the
'Strategic Hamlet Program. 74/ By August the IMCSH proposed a priority
plal1 for the construction of strategic hamlets on a nation-vide basis.
20
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Later the same month, the U.S. Inter-Agency Committee for Province
Rehabilitation concurred in this plan ( with minor reservations ) as a
basis for planning and utilization of U.S. assistance . 75/ By October,
the Diem government had made the Strategic Hamlet Program the explicit
focus and unifying concept of its' pacification effort . The government -
controlled Times of Viet Nam devoted an entire issue to !l1962 : The Year
of Strategic Hamlets .!I 76/ Ngo Dinh Nhu was unveiled as the !larchitect
and prj.rne mover!l of the program which was the Vietnamese answer to
communist strategy. As Nhu proclaimed : !l Strategic hamlets seek to
assure the security of the people in order that the success of the polit -
ical, social , and military revolution might be assured by the enthusiastic
movement of solidarity and self- sufficiency." 77/ President Diem had
earlier put the same thought to an American visitor in clearer words:
The importance of the strategic hamlets goes beyond the
concept of hamlet self defense . They are a means to institute
basic democracy in Vietnam. Through the Strategic Hamlet
Program, the government intends to give back to the hamlet
the right of self-government with its own charter and system
of community law. This "l-Till realize the ideas of the consti -
tution on a local scale which the people can understand. 78/
By this time, too, influential American circles regarded the
Strategic Hamlet Program as the shorthand designation for a process which
represented a sensible and sound GVN effort . Roger Hilsman had said so
in February to President Kennedy, and found the latter highly receptive.
He continued to say so . 79/ As he advised Assistant Secretary of State
Averell Harriman in late 1962, "The government of Vi etnam has finall
B
developed, and is now acting upon, an effective strategic concept.!I ..52/
Even so lukewarm an enthusiast as the CJCS, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer
could report that " the Strategic Hamlet Program promises solid
benefits, and may well be the vital key to success of the pacification
program. !I 81/
The public record also shows early support from high U.S. officials
for the Strategic Hamlet Program and recognition of its central role in
GVN!s pacification campaign. Speaking in late April 1962, Under Secretary
of State George W. Ball, commented favorably in the progressive develop-
ment of strategic hamlets throughout RVN as a method of combating
insurgency and as a means of bringing the entire nation "under control
of the government." 82/ Secretary McNamara told members of the press,
upon his return to Washington from a Pacific meeting in July 1962, that
the Strategic Hamlet Program was the !lbackbone of President Diem! s .
program for countering subversion directed against his state .1f 83/
I t is reasonable to conclude from the evidence that official U. S.
awareness kept abreast of Diem! s progressive adoption of the Strategic
Hamlet Program as the Ifunifying conceptlf in his counterinsurgent effort .
The same officials were constantly bombarded by a series of r eports
from a variety of sources describing the progress of the hamlet program
and assessing its efficacy.
21
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
. ;
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
B. 1I0peration Sunrise
ll
The first operational effort in which the U.S. had a hand,
1I0peration Sunrise,1I got under way in Binh Duong Province on 22 March 1962
when work commenced on Ben Tuong, the first of five hamlets to be con-
structed for relocated peasants in the Ben Cat District in and around the
Lai Khe rubber plantation. ( See Map 2. ) Phase I of the operation - - the
military clearing phase - - was condu.cted by forces of the 5th ARVN Divi-
sion reinforced by ranger companies, a reconnaissance company, t'iw rein-
forced CG companies, and a psychological "Tarfare company. The Viet Cong
simply melted into the jungles.
With the Viet Cong out of the way -- at least for the time be;Lng
the :::elocation and construction of the new hamlet commenced . The new
program got off to a bad start. The government was able to persuade only
seventy families to volunteer for resettlement. The 135 other families in
the half dozen settl ements "rere herded forcibly from their homes . 84/
Li 'ttle of the $300,000 in local currency provided by USOM had reached the
peasants; the money was being withheld until the resettled families indi-
cated they Imuld not bolt the new hamlet. Some of them came ,vi th most of
their meager belongings. Others had little but the clothes on their backs.
Their old dwellings -- and many of their possessions -- were burned behind
them. 85/ Only 120 males of an age to bear arms were found among the more
than 200 families -- very clearly that a had epne
over to the VC, whether by cholce or as a result of lntlIDldatlon. 86/
. C. Other Early Programs
Progress in Binh Duong continued at a steady pace, beset by diffi-
culties. By midsummer 2900 persons had been regrouped into three strategic
hamlets. 87/ Elsewhere, the pace quickened. Although the Delta Plan, as
a coordinated effort, had not been implemented by the summer of 1962,
Secretary McNamara found in Mayan aggressive effort under way without U.S.
help near Ca Mao:
Here the commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment had gone
into an area 95% controlled by the VC, declared martial I m,r, and
r esettled 11, 000 people ( some under duress) i n 9 strategic hamlets ,
while fighting the VC wherever he found them. Since inception
of the program, none of his villages have been attacked, and the
freedom from VC taxation ( extortion) i s proving most appealing to
the people. It i s the commander fs hope ( doubtless optimistic)
that he will be able to turn the whole area over to the civil guard
and self defense corps ivi thin 6 months. 88/
These resettlement efforts in areas which had been under VC domination
were not the extent of the early hamlet tt program,tt however . Manyexist-
i ng hamlets and villages were tt fortified
tt
in one degree or a..YJ.other early
in 1962 follmung no discernible pattern. This appears to have been the
natural product of the varied response to Nhu ' s i njunction to emphasize
strategic hamlets. In April, the GV"N Ministry of the Interior informed
the U.S. that 1300 such hamlets were already completed. 89/ ttOperation
Sunrise
tt
had by this time been broadened to embrace efforts in several
provinces 0 90/ Several other Strategic Hamlet Programs i,rere begun :
ttOperation Hai Yen 1111 ( Sea SwallOlv) in Phu Yen Province with a goal of
281 hamlets, 157 of which were reported. as completed "¥ri thin two months:
22
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
' ,'
. . " .
.. " ." 4 : ' .
•... 1 '
.
< '.
- f . ,
• i
". ' .. .
• f J ,
• t.' :'!..• .
, '
"
"
.....
" -..
' j" "
•• r -".
" ..
....
"" ,
-':'
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
,," " .-.,.
I ..
..... :.":;, .. '
" '
. '
'.' j'"
" " , ,
.. '. ; . I I ,
. ."
'''.
. '.:
" '::
; .'
v -
, .'
, :
.' .. ' . ,.
,.',
.. '
.. ' ': .
.
.'!
t.: .... '..1; ••••
.:. ;, ,, ','
' . , ;: _ ; :- .'
' . ';", '!; .,\. , . '
...
.:..! .' ......
• ' .. I
.. ',I
, .
. .
,
-.. ,
,'t.
1\ OTHUUG
-! ' . '
PHUoe
vnm IllNHO
'v
, . '
i .,' "
" '
!. "
.",
- II
:SImI DUONG PROVINCE
. -.

.,
pP
D,\ U o/'NG 2 0
EAU
,
,
BEN S
.,
, Q
,
0. BE?l TUCr;O /
, c::> c?
... CII.,., <lD
, .
" "
. . .
i.' ' OJ
, ' . .
:-,.
I':,
'. :
.. : ....
"r_ ,.
_.':"
! : '
:',._,
'.! ' .. ' .
..
_.
' ,.
, '
, .
"'-'i"'.=':'
',;.
. :-:",
. .;
, . ... :.
. ,' • • ' j '.
- •• 1· .....
.
' "
.. . . " ' III
',' '; . . -.' .: . . :
.'. '\
:::.
.' .., ,,' I
:'; .. , .
. 0.' :' .: "
: . '\ .'
.,'
:i ... ';1:
,:' 0.:
' "
, 01;
, ,
'.
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3,3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
"Operation Dang Tien "(Let 1s go) ' in Binh Dinh Province with a goal of 328
strategic hamlets in its first year; and "Operation Phuong Hoang" ( Royal
Phoenix) in Quang Nai Province with a goal of 125 strategic hamlets by
the end of 1962.
D. At Last -- A National Plan
The GVN drew all of the partialistic programs together in its
August 1962 national priority plan) mentioned earlier . The nation was
divided into four priority zones (Map 3). First priority was assigned
to the eleven provinces around Saigon . This included essentially the
area of the Thompson Delta plan plus the original area of "Operation
Sunri se
fl
plus Gia Dinh Province (Map 4). Priorities within each zone
were further specified. Within the zone of first national prior ity) for
example ) the provinces of Vinh Long) Long AD, and Phuoc Try were assigned
the highest priority; Binh Duong -- Hhere operations were already in
progress -- was given priority three (Map 5) . By the end of the summer
of 1962 GVN claimed that 3,225 of the plarmed 11, 316 hamlets had already
been completed and that over 33 percent of the nation 1s total population
was already living in completed hamlets ( See Table 1) .
October 1962, when Diem made the StrategiC Hamlet Program the
avoi-Ted focus of his counterinsurgent campaign ) marks the second watershed
i n the development and implementation of the program. The first such
watershed had been the consensus ) on the potential value of such a pro-
gram, which had been developed at the end of 1961 and early 1962. There
would be no others until the program died with Diem.
E. Effect on U.S . Perceptions
The effect of the GVN1s concentraion on strategic hamlets was to
make U. S. assessments focus on several sub - aspects of the pr oblem. Atten -
tion tended to be directed toward how I-Tell hamlets were being fortified and
whether or not the implementation phase was ,·Tell managed; i . e ., whether
peasants were paid for their labor, reiInbursed for their losses , and given
adequate opportunity to attend their crops . Conversel y, attention was
directed away from the difficult - to- assess question of whether the follow' -
up actions to hamlet security were taking place - - the actions which would
convert the peasantry from apathy ( if not opposition) to i dentification
with their central government .
This focus ing on details I-Thich diverted attention from the ultimate
objective took the form of reports , primarily statistical) which set forth
the construction rate for strategic hamlets ) the incident rate of VC
activities) and the geographical areas in which GVN control was and was not
i n the ascendancy . These flspecifics" "ere coupl ed to generalized assess -
ments which almost invariably pointed to shortcomings iB GVN1s execution
of the program. The shortcomings) however) were treated as probl ems in
efficient management and operational organization; t he inel uctability of
i ncreased control ( or security) leading somehow to popular identification
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
.' .
':',
. . (
:'
..
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
GVN PRIORITIES FOR STRATEGIC HAMLE: TS BY ZONES
I.
TI 1/\1 LAND
0" .
I
I
,.
. ..
u
.j .,
" .
,. !

CON ()
o
" 0
-----------
----
,0
.. '
MAP 3
?5
".
.,
1
Yo
:,:..'
.......
SQUTH VI ET-NAM
,aWHIAI BOfJUDARY
f'ROV, 'NC[ BOU NDARY
________ L-_________________________
. .
' .....
4., .
:t.
!
I
r
t
," \.

. -

L .
."".
• \.' ""I ,.
:;, .
"
. ,
','
'. 1
I
, !
.'
t ·
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
.'
.... • • .. lot
.,'
'" .·f
.... .
... .. : " '"
"
-I. " . ' ,
,
! .
,"
. V
..
'TI--IA I LA I") D.
J
t ·· : .
c· A
M
. ' ..
DELTA PLAN PRIORITIES
... "
CON SON./1 '.
. cV
o
17th PIIRALLEL
.'
r- [fi' AREA INCL.UDED IN THE
c:: DEL. TA
. !fNI AREA IN THE NEW
. . tff:< GVN PL.AN AS PRIORITY NO, 1
. 'f IN PROGRESS'
, ""'-" r'-"'-;' PRIORITY . 1

-[ :=-=:-- ... - " PRIORITY Z
. t -' _' .
. '. '--'-.; :"; '," }:>R!,!I-S01,!R!,JI!,:TYCY.2 3 _____ -.;-:-::-:-__ -1
.'_._. ;-_. SOUTH VlET-NAM
NATIONAl BOUIIO hRY
PROYIfIC! BOUHDARY
___ ______________ ____ ________ __
---
26
(.
J
.'.
,,"'.
t
: .
1
1
!
j
1
i
1
I '
IV
I
I
I "
I r
I
,.
;. . ,
, c
..... .... ..
' ..
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
, "
. .
GVN PRIORITIES FOR STRATEGIC HArv1LETS WITHIN THE
FIRST PRIORITY ZONE

';

l
u
,
,·C
.'r ,
', .'
V

"' PHU QUO'G ,
,·',L /-\ C) S
> '
\ 1 , \.: ,,'
A
MB .()DIA
.
-.'
, .
CON SON './I •
, °V
, " 0 '
'MAP S
_ 17th PA RALLEL
;
,"
' . . ,
-,
" ,
_1 ._ •
,',
PRIoR I TY 1/4

SOUTH :VIET·Ni'.?-.;i :'
H A TI 0 N ALB 0 U N D'H Y,
PROVIH,E BOUNDARY
\ 27
. ' ,' ,
I, '/"
'_ .. __ ._.·: ...
, ,
,'"
i ' i:-

-

f
}
r

!
,
!-
\
....
l
r
I
I .
l
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Secti on 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECREE Sensitive
TABLE 1
GVN HEPOn'l' ON STATUS OF lL"l,jLSTS
, .
Strategic Sh'etcgic Stn.tcgic
Hamlets Hemlcts Hamlets Uncler Popub.tion in
Are 0. Planned Completecl ConstI'uction Cocnpleted HCJnlets
--
SOUTIlERN:
Saigon
433 105 115
261, 470
East ern F'rov' i nces
1,595 291 501
423,060
vrestcl'n Provi nces 4,728 1,236 702 1,874,790
SUB-TCYl'AL
6,756 1,632 1,318 2,559,320
CENTR.4JJ :
Ccnt:cal Lmrl anc1s
3, 630 1,
,
682 1,654,470
High Plateau
930 103 217
108, 244
. SUB-TOTP.L
4,560
1,593 899
1,762,714
-'--
GRAND TOTAL 11,316
3,225 2,217 4,322,034
- Percent age of planned hc'..mlets c empleted •••••• • • , ••••••• • 28.49%
- Percent aGe of t otal popule.tion i n completed hE:..llllets •••• • 33 . 39%
* Adapted f ro:n :£he 'l'incs of Victn3..'U, 28 Octobe}.' 1962, p. 17.
TOP SECRET - Sens i tive
28 .
/I.•• •
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
TABLE 1
GVN HE PORT ON STATUS OF S'l1J.iA'l"EGIC H.AHLE':rS
As of 30 September 1962 *
Strategic Str ;..tegic Strdegic
Hamlets Hamlets
EarnJ.ets Under
Are£.\ Planned Completed Construction
SOUTHERN:
Saigon 433 105 115
Eastern Provinces 1,595 291 501
vl estern Provinces 4,128 1,236 102
SUB-TOTAL 6,156 1,632 1,318
CENTRlI.L:
Central Lo\f1ands 3,630 1,490
682
High Plateau . 930
103 211
SUB-TOTAL 4,560
1,593
899
GRAND TOTAL 11,316
3,225
2,211
Popule.tion in
Completed H<:'mlets

423,060
1,814,190
2,559,3
20
1,654,410
108,24
1
+
- Percentage of planned hamJ.cts comp eted ••••••••• ••• •• •• .28.4%
- Percentage of total popula.tion in completed ••••• 33.39%
oX- Adapted from f,l1.e 'r imes of Vietno..'1l, 28 octobe:c 1962, p. 11.
TOP SECRET. - Sensitive
28
,
'0
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET Sensitive
by a process akin to the economic assumption of "flotation to stability
through development" Ivent unchallenged as a basic assumption. Cri tics
pointed to needed improvements ; the question of Fhether or not these
could be accomplished, or iVhy, almost never Has raised.
"Operation Sunrise", for example, I,ras criticized in some detail
by the US MAAG. Much better planning and coor<Unation "\-Tas needed in order
to relocate effectively: Aerial surveys iVere necessary t o pinpoint the
number of families to be relocated; unanticipated expenditures needed to
be provided for; preparation of sites shm.dd begin before the peasant s
were moved; and GVN resource commitments should be carefully checked by
U. S. advisors at all levels. 92/ There Ivas no discussion of the vulnera-
bility of the strategic he.mletsto VC infiltration ( as against VC attacks )
or of the subsequent steps to vrinning support. That vas not, one may
assume, the military's prime concern.
Political observers who examined this follow-on aspect were
cautiously optimistic:
The strategic hamlet program i s the heart of our effort
and deserves top priority. While it has not -- and probably
will not -- bring democracy to rural Vietnam, it provides t ruly
local administration for the first time. Coupled with measures
to i ncrease rice production and farmer i ncome , these local
admini strations can work a revolution in rural Vi etnam. 93/
The same tone was reflected in Michael Forrestal's report to President
Kennedy i n February 1963 following his visit to Vietnam va th Roger Hilsman.
The visitors found Ambassador Nolting and his deputy, William C. Trueheart ,
optimistic about the r esults vrhich the program might achieve once the
materials for it, then just beginning to come in, r eached full volume. 95/
The Department of Defense was devoting considerable effort to
insuring that these materials did r each Vi etnam in, the quantities needed
and i n t imely fashion. Secretary McNamara had been stuck with this prob-
lem during his May 1962 visit to "Operation Sunrise" . He saw a
need to program SDC, CG, and Youth Corps training so that it ,{Quld match
the role of hamlet building and to insure the provision of proper commu-
nications for "rarning purposes 0 96/ A substantial amount of the MAAG-DoD
effort subsequently iVent into programming. The Agency for Internat ional
Development had agreed to fund the "Strategic Hamlet Kits" ( building
materials , barbed wire and sta..."k.es , light vreapons, arnmuni tion, and commu-
nication equipment ), but in August 1962 it demurred, stating that support-
ing assistance fu.Ylds in the MAP vrere i nadequate for the purpose 0 97/
Secretary McNamara agreed to undertake the financing for 1500 kits""T13
million) but asked if the additional 3500 kits requested iVere r eally
necessary and, if so, on I'That deltvery schedule . The target l evels and
delivery dates unclenrent more or less. continuouS revision from then until
the question becarne irrelevant in late 1963. 98/ A separate but relatecl
effort went into expediting the proclJ.r ern.ent , delivery, and installation of
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
29
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
radios in the strategic hamlets so that each would have the capability
to sound the alann and request the employment of mobile reserves when
attacked.
F. Differences Begin to Emerge
All of these IIprogram management II activities vTere based on the
unstated assumpt.ion that the strategic hamlet program vmuld lead to effec-
t i ve pacification if only Diem vlould mal<;,e it work. As it turned out,
there was some disagreement behreen what the U. S. considered needed to be
done and what President Diem knew very well he was doing. He was using
the Strategic Hamlet Program to carry fonTard his II personalist philosophy. II 99/
As brother Nhu visibly took the reins controlling the program and began to
solidify control over the Youth Corps it became increasingly clear that
Diem was emphasizing government. control of the peasantry at the expense ( at
least in U.S. eyes ) of pacification. 100/
As awareness in Washington increased that strategic hamlets could
serve several purposes, there developed also a divergent interpretation of
vThether or not the GVN was ' \al1l1ing the ,yar. II When General Krulak, SAC SA,
and Joseph Mendenhall, an ex-counselor in Saigon then at State, visited
RVN i n September 1963, President Kennedy wryly asked upon receiving their
conflicting reports, lIyou hID did vi sit the same country, didn ' t yoU?1I 101/
The ansl·rer is that they had, but the general stressed that the war
was going well while the diplomat asserted that the political war was being
l ost . The argumept vTaS not, it· should be stressed, one between the generals
and the diplomats; experienced diplomats disagreed fundamentally with
Mendenhall. The disagreement vTaS between those iyho poi nted to signs of
progress and those who heJdup examples of poor planning, corruption, and
alienation of the peasants vThose loyalty was the obj ect of the exercise 0
Criticisms -- frequently accompanied by counterbalancing assertions that
"limited progress
ll
was being achieved __ mentioned corvee labor, GVN fail-
ures to reimburse the farmers for losses due to resettlement, the dishonesty
of some officials, and Diem's stress on exhortations rather than on the
provision of deSirable social services . 102/
Those who emphasized that the prograrn '\-Tas shmving real progress --
usually ,vi th a caveat or two that there was considerable room for improve-
ment -- stressed statistical evidence to portray the exponential increase
i n strategic hamlet construction ( Table 2 ), the decli.ning trend in Viet
Cong-initiated incidents (T:able 3) , ther:Lse in VC defections ( Table and
t he slovT but steady increase in GVN control of rural areas ( Table 5) .
The J CS observation va th respect to the establisbrnent of strategic
hamlets , for instance, was that since fewer than hTO tenths of one percent
( 0.210) of them had been overrun by the VC, liThe Vietnamese peopl e must
surely be finding in them a measure of the tranquility ,'Thich they seek. 103/
RGK Thompson later claimed that the very absence of attacks 'ioTaS
an indicator that the VC had succeeded in infiltrating the hamlets
o
104/
The point is not Thompson ' s prescience but the diffi culty of
assessment to which this analysiS has already pointed . The U. S. course,
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
30
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
" ',' ",' " ;, '
" .... . '
• .'. I I • • \.. .
• . t ' .t;':' ", ..
", . . ', .
\J.
o
c5
z
;
.... : .
. -'
STRATEGIC HAMLET GROWTH SOUTH VIETNAM
,.'
"

, I,
8500 STRATEGIC HAMLETS . .
ESTI M ATE D TO IlE C OMPLET E D
g' BY' JUI_V.
8000
b
0· ...
.\
0 N D
.. 1962
\
, \
",
',), .
J F M A
..
..
1963
M J
31
--
J A 5 0 N D J F M A M A
1964
TABLE 2

"
..
" .
" .
' .'
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
...... ··i . ' .
,. I . ., . ' , .
'. : - ~ __ .I VI ET CONG I NITI ATED I NCI DENTS BROKE.N DOWN I NTO CATEGORI ES
(AHACKS, TERRORI SM, SABOTAGE, PROPAGANDA),
I •
, -
. :-. _.-: .","::
:,1
tl OO
.: .' tooo
" ~ ....
.'. .

. ' . . ' . .
' .. 900
'.1 '.
. ;;:
700
.. . ,.
, ', .
. i'
.. ,'.
. I '
TEn ROR I S M
. /
.1
. 1
. '. , .
.. ,
I I I I ' I l'
ATTf., CKS
0= TE:RRORISM
II GII'" SABOTAGE:
s PROPAGANDA
----;-- , .--
TAJ3LE 3
.-,',
..
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316, By: NWD Date: 2011
, ,
'" . .. - - ..
" .
VIET CONGDEFECTI,ONS,
' "
" '.
' 350 ca
C'
I ..
'/
h J--+,---I--+
.
, , .
..'
, "
, \ ,
o
. .. J 'F M A M J J ', A 5 0 ' N
J962 ------..-.;.-
, ,
: . : TABLE 4
• j
F M A/
1963--./
. t .... \. '
-"
:. .; ...
SIT UATION
AS OF
I JULY 1962
SITUATION
' AS OF
I OCT 1962
SI TUATI ON
AS OF
I DEC: 1962
"', :,.
SIT UATI ON
AS OF
I APRIL 63
,',
CHANGES
JUL 62 TO
A PRI L 63
, .,
v
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16, By: NWD Date: 2011
SON OF CONTROL; GOVERNMENT OF VI ETNAM AND VI ET CONG
JULY, OCTOBER AND DECEMBER 1962,
AND APRIL 1963
,GOVERNMENT OF GOVERNMENT OF NEITHER GOVERI':MENT
V IETNAM EFFECTI VE VIETNAM IN OF VI ETNAM NOR
CONTROL ASCENDANCY VI ET CONG CONTROL
NUMBER OF
VILLAGES
859 710
34 '.
RURAL
POPULATION
5, 800, 000 3, 622, 000
137, 000
% OF RURAL '
47 "10 29%
1 %
POPULATI ON
' NUMBER or-
1"8
VI LLAGES
929 61 3
RURAL
6, 071,000 3, 246 ,000
71 7. 000
POPULATI ON
-
%01" RURAL
49 %
,
6 %
POPULATION
27 "/0
NUMBER OF
120
VI LLAGES
95 1 6GG
-
RURAL
.
POPULATION
6,300, 000 3,33 \, 000
643,000
%01" RURAL ,
51 % 27%
5 %
POPULATI ON
NUMBER OF
139
VI L LAGES
935 73 1
,
RURAL
.
609.000 '
POPULATION
6,724.000 3, 356, 000
"!o OF RURAL
I
54 % 27%.
5 %
POPULATI ON
' NUMBER OF
+ 21
+ 105
+ 76
V1L,LAGES
RURAL
+ 924, 000 -266, 000
+ 472, 000
POPULATI ON .
%0 1" RURAL
. + 7 % - 2 %
POPULATI ON
NO;;;:'; IN ORDER 1'0 PRESENT A BETTER-PICTURE OF CONTPOL OF
OF RUR AL VIETNAM, 1,600,000 POPULATION OF AUTONOMOUS '
J CI TI ES OF SAI GON, DANANG, HUE, AN:) DALAl' U"DER GVN
CONTROL AS NOT USED I N T HIS STUDY, ( POPULATI ONS ARE
ESTIMATESl. ' • ,'.'- '.
"';:
. '. ! '
. :
• \ ',J
, .
+1,%
VI ET CONG
IN
ASCENDANCY
422
1,702,000
--
14 %
329
1, 275,000
10 %
340
I, 143,000
-
9 %
348
.
9G2,OOO
7 %
':"' 74
'-He, 000
- 7%
, " ..
VIET CONG
EFFECTI VE
CONTROL
454
1,1 57 , 000
--
9 %
-
437
=
1,008 , 000
8 %
445
926, 000
8 %
390
,
' 857,000
" :
' 7 %
-64
- 300,000
- 2 %
-- ....
'J .
'. '
I.)
v
,
,
,.-
. .
: : • • ,0 .
',?
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
in the face of these cautiously optimistic and hopefully pessimistic
was to continue its established program of material support
coupled with attempts to influence Diem to make desired changes.
VII. THE PATH TO THE EnD
A. Diem's Posit ion Hardens
The obvious U, S, alternatives, by mid-1963, remained the Salile
as they were in l ate 1901: (1) to induce changes within the strategic
Hamlet PiTogram ( among others ) by convincing Diem to make such changes;
( 2) to allow Diem to run things his own ,-my and hope for the best; and
( 3) to find an alternative to President Diem. The U.S. continued to
pursue the first course; Diem insisted increasingly on the second.
Finally, due to pressures from areas other than the Strategic Hamlet
Program, the U.S. pursued the third alternative . The Strategic
Program, in the event, died with its sponsors.
Far from becoming rnore reasonable, in U.S. eyes, President
Diem by mid-1963 had become more i ntractable . He insisted, for example,
that the U. S, cease to have an operational voice in the Strategic Hamlet
Program. 7he multiplication of U. S. advisors at many l evels, he claimed,
was the source of friction and dissension. The remedy was to remove the
advisors . 105/ The essence of Diem's position was that Taylor ' s
"limited partnership" would not vwrk.
Other U,S. missions visited Vietnam to assess the conduct of
the war. The result was much the same as reported by Krulak and
Mendenhall. This was essentially the findings of the r1cIl:amara-Taylor
mission i n September ; the military campaign is progressing, political
di saffection is growing ; U, S. leverage is questionable. 106/
B. The Program Dies With the Ngos
The r est may be summarized: the U.S. attempted to i nsist on
a program with more emphasis on broad appeal r ather than control; Diem,
finding himself increasingly embroiled i n the Buddhist controversy,
increased repressive measures; a coup toppl ed the Diem regime on 1
November ; the deposed President and his brother I'Jhu, "architect of the
Strategic Hamlet Program," were killed. The Strategic Hamlet Program--
or at l east the program under that name '\.,rhich they had made the unifying
t heme of their counterinsurgent effort--died with them. The inhabitants
who had wanted to leave the hamlets did so in the absence of an effective
government . The VC took advantage of the confusion to attack and overrun
others. Some offerred little or no r esistance . The ruling-junta
attempted to resuscitate the program as "Eevl Life Haml ets" early in 1964 ,
but the failures of the past provid.ed a poor psychological basis upon
which to base hopes for the future.
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
35
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECm-:;T - Sensitive
VIII. AJ:: INCm:CLUSIVE Sm10,lARY
'Jlhe dominant U. S. vie"r has been that the Strategic Hamlet Program
failed because of over-expansion and the establishment of hamlets in
basically insecure areas. 107/ That there "Tas overexpansion and the
establishment of many poorly defended hamlets is not questioned. This
contributed, beyond doubt, to the failure of the progrrun. But this view
finesses the problem of the process for \ ~ h i c h t he strate(Sic hamlets were
but the tangible symbol. The present analysis has sought to emphasize
both the essentially political nature of the objective of the Strategic
'Hamlet Program and the political nature of the context in which the
process evolved -- of expectations, bargaining, and attempts to exert
i nfluence on other participants in policy formulation 811d implementation.
In this context it is the U.S. inability to exert leverage on Pres ident
Diem (or Diem' s i nability to reform) that emerges as the principal cause
of failure.
Yet, both of these attempts to pinpoiDt the reasons >",hy the
strategi c hamlet program did not succeed fai l to get at another v"hole
issue: the validity of that body of writings which one may call the
t heory and doctrine of counterinsurgency. Reither the military nor
the political aspects of this doctrine can be upheld (or proved false )
by an exmfrination of the strategic Hamlet Progrruu. Quite aside from
whether or not Diem was able to broaden the program' s appeal to the
peasantry, what would have occurred had he made a determined and
sustained effort to do so? Would this have l ed in some more-or- l ess
direct way to stability or to even greater dissatisfaction? He simply
do not know. The quest ion is as unansvlerable as whether the appetite
grOlvs with the eating or is satisfied by i t . The contention here is
that claims of mismanagement are not sufficient to conclude that better
management would necessarily have produced the desired resul.ts.
In the military sphere the unanswerable questions are different.
It i s said that the military phase of the strategic Hamlet Program
progressed reasonably well i n many areas; the failure was in the political
end of the process . But did the military actions succeed? Might failures
to develop adequate i ntelligence ana. to ,,;eed out VC infrastructure in
these hamlets not as easily be attributable to' the fact that the
inhabitants knew they were not really safe from VC i ntimi dation and
reprisals? Does the analogy to an "oil spot" have operat ional meaning
when small bands can carry out hit and rQD raids or when many small
bands can concentrate in one location and achieve surprise? Hhere i s
t he key to this vicious circle -- or i s there a l,-ey?
In concl usion, vlhile the abortive strategic Haml et Program of
1961-1963 may teach one something, the available record does not pernlit
one to conclude either that the prograM fell because of the failure of
a given phase or that other phases "rere, i n fact, adequate to the
chal lenge. One may say that the program was doomed by poor execution
and by t he inability of the Ugo family to reform coupled with the i n-
ability of the U.S. to i nduce them to reform. The evidence does not
warrant one to proceed further .
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
"
o
o
-i
2:
o
-i
m
en
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number : NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET -Sensitive
IV. B. 2
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

10 .
11.
12 .
13.
FOOTNOTES
Sir Robert Thompson, Defeating Comrmmist Tnsurger..cy ( New York:
Praeger, 1966 ), p. 123 .
Seven Years of the Ngo Din}} Di em Admini.stra:tion, 125
4
..
1
2.§]:
( Saigon : 26 October 1961) , pp. 35'(-3t30.
See J.J. L2,slo1'f , "Rural Resettlement in South Vietnam: Th2
Argovi 11e Program", Pac:ific Affairs, Vol. XXXV, Nr 4 (Winter
1962-63 ), pp. 327-340.
Despatch, Saigon to State Nr 278, 7 Ma.rch 1960, Inte,llJ.. gcnce
Report, Hr 2137261, :p o 14· ( S/NF)
William A. Nighsvlonger , Rural Pacificatiol". i n Victncull ( NeVi York :
Praeger , 1966 ), p. 4.6 . '
SlUE 7 November 1961, Probe.ol e Conrrn'.mi st Re8.ctio!.1s i n
,South Vietnam. , p . 3 ( TS)
Bri efing Paper, n. d ., The Nort h Vi etmunese Role in Or i gi n ,
Directio:r:., and S'l'oportOfthe We.r in South p. i v ( S);
State Department Bureau of Intelligence ,211d Res earch, RFE.-3,
1 1961, ComTIYl.Hlist Threat Mounts in South VietIl8111,
1'. Lj. (8) .
p. 5
l\TJE 50-61, 28 March 19
6
1 , Outlook i n Southeg,st ASi 8. ,
p. 7 (s)
MAAG, Vietnam, 1 September 1961, First 'I'l-relve M2nth R2po2;' t of
. lfJAAG, Vietnam, p . 10 (S)
U:S. Senat e CO'ffir.dttee on Foreign Rel ations , 89th Congress ,
2nd SeSSion, Background Tnfonnat -j on Re l 8.t i ng to Sot;.theast Asi a
and Vi etnillll ( 2nd ReYised Ed . ), GPO, 19
66
, FP-:tSb-7.
Letter of Transmittal to Pre sident Di em 8:(,d Presidel".t Kennedy,
n.d. (JlJ.ne 1961), Joint Program Proposea by the Vi et rram-
Unitee. States S'pecial Groups (S)
See I bid., I ntroQuction, p . 1, passim.
TOP SECRET- Sel:.siti ve
37
14.
15·
16 .
17 .
18 .
19 ·
20 .
21.
22 .
23.
24 .
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP - Sensitive
J..Jette:c, President Kennedy t o Gen.eral Haxvlell D. Tayl or, 13 October
1961 ( C)
Reuort on General Taylor ! s 11; ssion to SOljth Vi etnam, 3 November
1961, bou.,'1d in loo'se l eaf "rith letter Of t ransmit tel , evaluations
cnd conclusions, and Appendices A-I. ( TS) Cited hereaft er as
Reuort . All referer.ces are to the section on eval uations
and conc l usions .
Ibid. , p . 2
I bid. , p .
3
I bid. , p . 8

pp. 6-7.

p.
9
Ibid. , p .
7
I bid. , p . 14
I bid. , See al so pp . 11-16.
----.--

pp. 11-12
25 . The pl an, cited hereafter as CIP-1960, is contained as a.n i nc l osure
to De spatch 1:Tr . 276, SeigoLl t o State, 1961, Com."!ter
Plan for SOl'.th Vi etnam. (S)
26. Despatch Nr . 276, Saigon to State, 9,E' cit., p.3
27. See for exampl e , I bi d., Annex B.
28. HAAG Vietn2.ill, 15 S2ytember 19
6
1 , GeorgrEmhic ally Phased. National
Level Operation P12.ll for Cwnteril1surgenc;/ ( C) (Secret) } cited
hereafter 2.S Georgraphie:all y Plnsed COlmt erinsurgen,cy Plan .
29 ..
Ibi d . , pp. Al-A3 .
30 .
I bi d . , pp . A3-AL1.
31.
Ibid. . } l)P · A4-A7 .
32. I bid. } p . C2 .
38
TOP SECRET ..
Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET .. Sensitive
33 . See , for eX3l!ll")le, Te1egrarn, Saigon to State Nr. 16 March
1.961 (S), snd Aiee Memoire , McGarr -Co Die.:ll, 3 July 1961, RevieH
of Mili tB.ry Si and Recormnenc1.atiol1s for COlltinued ( S).
34 . Telegram, S2. igon t o State, Nr . 508, 18 October 1961 ( S).
35 . Study, RGK Thompson to Presi d.ent Di em, 27 October 1961,
of Vietnam, November 1961 -April 1962 (S), Inc1. to letter Lt. Gen.
Lionel C. McGarr to Secretary of Defense , 20 November 1951, SecDef
Control j\l"r . 2654 ( s).
36 . I bi d .
37. I bic1.
38. Copi e s of Thompson ' s covering l etter EJ:,1d memorandum to Diem are
.:.enclosed Vii th msS, Sa igon to State Er. 205 , 20 November 19
5
1,
'l'honrDson l'viission Hecommendations to President Di em ( S) . The
mei:!lJr andtWl. is cited hereafter a s Thoru11sonMemora:.1'lQum.
-..---
39 . Ibid .
40. l etter of transmittaL ( Emj?hasis added) •.
41. Lett er, McGarr to Admiral H.D. Fe lt ( CHTCPAC ), 27 November 1961
( S), Inc1. to l ett er , McGarr to Secret ar y' of Defense, 27 November
1961 , op.
42 . I bid.
43 . Ibid.
44 . U. S. Militay.f Advisory Group, C:m.1AAG Gui dance Paper to Field
Advisors i n COULter I nsurgency, Fourth Revision, 10 February 19
62
,
T8.Ctics and Techniq'.;.es of Counterinsurgent Operations ( S)
h 5. De spatch Hr . 205, Sa i gon to State , 20 1961, op. cit .
LI· 6. D2partr.Jent of Ste. te, Bureau of Intelligence and Re.search,
2 Feoruary 1962, A Strategj.c Concept for South Vietnam ( S) ;
on the Presi dent I s i nterest and Thompson 1 s effect on Hi l sma;'--l ,
see Roger Rilsmau, To Eove a H2,t ion : T:ne Politics of Foreign
. 'Polic;! i n t he Administrat ion of Jo:b...n F . Kennedy (li"ei-f
Doubl eds.y, 1967 ), 1>:9 . 427 - 39 .
39
TOP SECEET - Ser:si tj.ve
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sensit ive
A St ratefSic CC?,ncept for 5l::mth Vi etnam, oJ2. cit. , pp . 9-14.
The third principle is Hi 1 sm821 I s own contribution, c1raving
heavi ly on his personal experiences ivi th the OSS o.uring
World 'YTcor II.
pp . 15-19.
49. Ibid" pp . 15-24 .
50.
51.
52.
53.
54.
55·
56.
57.
59 ·
Departmel1t of St ate, Task Force Vi etn81u, December 19
6
1,
St ah ,\s Report of Developp1ents Since De.c:ember 8, p. 3 (8')
HQCINCPAC, 16 De cember 1961, Transcript, First 8ecret ar:r.-2!
De!ense Conference, pp. 1-2 (S)
Personal notes of Assistant SEcretary of Defense Arthur Sylvester,
16 December 1961, SecDef Conference, Honolulu.
Memorandum, McGarr to Mr. Thuan, 18 December 1961, Government_
P!"-rami litary Infrastructure (Organization) Required as Int eg!ated_
Pr: Tt of tary Pha s e ot Peci!_ic;9.tiog :E;ffort_ rsT·
Ibid.
The GVN plan and actions are not well docwnented but are r eferred
to i n U. S. MAAG Vietnam Repor!., 31 July 1962 ,
!ir. 1,2,.
John C. Donne ll e.nd Gerald C. Hickey The Vietnamese IIStrategic
tf , --------...---. --
Hamlets: A PreliminarY' Report ( mum I-iemoTe.ndum Ri.1
30 August 1962), p. 24 (C).
Letter McGarr to Felt, 18 December 1961, op.
HQCINCPAC, 15 J antlaYT 1962, Record __ of Defense '
Conference, pp . 5A-l - 5A-3 rs;-
60. PI>. 6-1 - 6- 5.
61.
62.
Departmei.1t of State, R:; search Proj ect 630 R'3 cent American Policy
and Diplome.c;r. Concernin/L.Vidnp.Jll. ,
Telegralrl , Sa igon to St ate, Nr . 1031, 10 Februe,rJ 1962 ( 8 ).
Donne 11 and Hickey, op. cit., pp. 3 .. 4.
40
TOP SECP..ET·· Sensitive
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
_.
TOP SECRET .- Sensitive
64 . Ibid.,:p. 4.
65 . Departmer.t of State, Ts.sk Force Vietmuu, 28 December 1961, Status
Report of Deve lopments Since Dec enioer 21, p. 2 (S).
66 . p . 3.
67. Telegram, Seigon to State Nr . 495, 16 October 1961 ( S).
68 . The U.S. proposals are recorded in N2.tional Security Action
Mcmora'1dulll No. 111, 22 November 1961, First Phase of Vietnam
ProgrelU ( TS).
69. Telegrcm, Saigon to State Nr. 687, 22 November 1961 ( S).
70 . Ibid.
71. TelE;'gr81u, Saigon to State Nr . 708, 25 November 1961 ( s).
72 . Telegram, CAS New Delhi to Director No 9941, from Ambassador
Gal brai th for t he President, 21 November 1961 (rrs).
73 . See Homer C. Bigart , ItVi etnameseOpen a Drive on Reds , It New
York Times 29 March 1962:
74. Telegram Saigon to State Nr . 1367, 22 May 1962 (s).
75. Telegram, Saigon to State Nr . 133·, 8 August 1962 (C); Airgrmns ,
Saigon to State, Nrs . A-85 and A-llO, 9 August end 27 August 1962 (C).
76. "The Times of Vi etnam,"Vol IV, Nr 43, 28 October 1962 .
77. Ibid., p. 6.
78. Rufus Phillips, A Report on Counter-Insurgency in
31 August 1962, p, 5 (C) . ----
79 . See for eX81llple, Department of St8.te , Bureau of Intelligence and
Research Re search Memorandum RFE.·2'1, 18 June 1962, Report
on South ( ShfF).
80 . DepartmeYlt of State, Bureau of Intel ligence and Research, Research
Memorandun RFE-E:2, 5 Dec2lTIDer 1962, Saigon I S S!rategic Ccmc.ept for
Counter-Tnsurgency 2. Prog:;ress Report (S/ NF) .
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
41
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011
TOP SECRET - Sens itive
81. to S92:l.!hesst Asi a by the Secret a,ry of Defense, 8-11 May 19
62
,
p. 5 ( TS) , I nclos'-lre to CJCS to SecDef, 14 May 1962, Visit
to Southeast Asia.
82. Vte"tnam: li'ree-I'lorld in Asia ( Department of State
Publication 7388) , pp. 16 ·-17 ..
83. Remarks to press, 24 J'J.ly 1962, in OSD Historical Files .
84 H C B
· t "U'S . T t f' St J . 11 liT
' . omer. 19ar· , Helps "VietD2lll 1n es· 0.,. TSLegy
Yorl<:. Times , 27 ll,farch 1962 .
85 . Ibid.
86 . "No 'tlin,11 Th,e Ne:w Republic, 9 April19
62
.
87. US lflAAG, 31 July 1962, Lessons Learned r-Tr . 19, p. 2. (C).
8S. Visit to Southeast Asi a bl the Secretary ?f Defense., 8
n
ll May 1962,
op . cit., p . 2
89 Bureau of Intelligence and Research, RFE-27, 18 J une 19
62
, op. cit .
90. VlAAG Lessons IJec.rned nr . 19, op. cit.
91. COMUSMACV Message DA IN 262596, 8 September 1962, Province
( S).
92 . HAAG, Lessons Len.rned Nr . 19, 91:.' cit.
93. Theodore J. C. Heavner, Deputy Director Worldng Group
Report on Visit to Vietnam" October l S··Kovember 26, 19
02
, p . 2 ( S)
9
4
• MichaeLV. Forrestal , MemoranCl: ..lm for the Pre sident , A Report on
South ViehH3Jll. .
95 . Hilsman, To Move a r\"e.tioI':, op. cit., p. 453 •
. 96. Visit to Southeast Asia, by the Secretexy of Defense , 8 ··11 Iviay 1962,
op. ei t .
97 . Memo, ASD lISA to SeeDef , 9 August 1962, Fu.r:.ding of Strateg.i e Hamlet
Kits) Vietnam.
9
8
. See, for exampl e, JCSIvl 734 -62, 22 September 1962, Funding of
,§trategic Hamlet r:i ts, Vietnam.
42
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
" .
Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1
TOP SECRET - Sensitive
,
99. CIA for SecDef, 28 September 1962 ( S).
100. Department of State, Burea·oJ. of Intelligence 8nd Research,
27 l-iay 1963, Implications of GVN Difficulties i n ( S).
101 t
-T' 1 fjl FiT" • t 502
• II smen, .LO 1'10Ve a op . p. _.
102 . See, :for example, USOH Rure,l Affe,irs Office, 1 September 1963,
Second Informal Appreciation of the Status of the Strategic
HpJrrlet Progrs.m, IEcl. to Memora..ndmn, i·iichael V. Forrestal to
SecretaI"J McNamer-a, 20 September 1963, Vietnam, Se cDef Control
Nr . 497.
103.
104 .
105 .
106.
107 .
J'oint Chiefs of Steff, 11 Mey 1963, Tre:c.ds in the Counterinsurgency
Effort in South Vietne.m, p. 60 ( sjrIT).
i
Thompson, Defeati ng Communist Insurgency, oJ2. . cit., p. 136.
Dep8Ttment of State, RFE-42, 27 Hay 1963, op. cit.
Memorandum for the President , 2 October 1963 Report of the
MdJamara.-Taylor I:lission to South Vietnam ( TS).
See, for example , Depa.rtment of State, J;3ureau of Intelligence and
Resee..rch, RFE-102, 20 December 1963, Trends in the War Effort i n
South Vietnam ( S); See a lso Hilliam A. NighsVTtJuger , Pacifi cation
i n Vi etnam.
. 43
TOP SECRET -

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 . By: NWD Date: 2011

TOP SECR'::;'.£' - Sensitive

I V. B.

2.

Strategic Hamle.! . Pr~gr~
_1~9_6_1__3 6] 1.

TOP

SECRE~

- Sens i tive

Sec

~ef

C ant :N:v. X-_____________ _

By: NWD Date: 2011 . Section 3.Declassified per Executive Order 13526.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316.

y.S much broader than the construction of strategic hamlets p e r see It envisioned sequential phases which. One could not really be sure hO'N one was doing unt il one ·\'Tas done . ne cessar ily conducive to a successful effort. The Strategic Hamlet Program VT8.ncrease materially its assistance to GVW and to expand its advisory effort into one which vlOuld implement a "limited partnership. and GVJ:l would attempt to end the insu~ ge ncy in South Vietnarn had never been agreed upon at the time that the U.. there "I-ras apparent consensus among the princ ipa l part icipants that the Strategic Hamlet Program.ng progress did not simply mean that it VIas difficult to identify problems and to make improvements as one went along -. the qua lity of those functions and their responsiveness to locally felt needs "lvas critical.S. S.CRBT . The establishment of governmental functions was not. decided.ELET PROGRAI-1 A specific strategy by 1!lhich the U.Sensitive IV. represented the unifying concept for a strategy des i gned to pacif. Section 3. to :i. in short . social. economic and political measu~es . psycho·· logical. not a sufficient one.B. Physical security by itself (the so-called 'Icl ear and hold" initial step ) was a necessary condition for pacification. The theory of se quential i TOP SF. STRliTEGIC Hfl.Sensitive . l ate in 1961. by itself.Declassified per Executive Order 13526.. This inherent difficulty in assessi.xy.cal though the means to its realization "I'Je re a mixture of military.ve was polit:i. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SEC~ST .e to be called . It also meant that it was quite possible to conclude that the program as a whole "lms progressing well (or badly) according to evidence relating only to a single phase or a part of a phase. A related problem arose from the uniaueness of this program in Americ an experience -. progressed through the establish. The s trategic hamlet program "I.3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16.2. hOl·.rural Vietnam (the Viet Cong I s chosen battleground ) and to develop support among the peasants for the central government. as it c arD.pacification-by pr.rever." By early 1962.ment of GVW infrastructure and thence to the provision of services vThicn Hould le ad the peasants to identify with their government . The objectj.raS . an attempt to translat e the nevTly articulated theory of counterinsu~gency into operational reality. 'I'he effect of these sequential steps to pacification 'tT to make it as very difficult to make interTtlediate assessments of progress .which it v!as. beginn ing vri th clearing the ins urg ents from an area and protecting the rural populace.

. vris hes or allowed any single group too much pot ential power -.p articularly coercive povTer. and the economy bolstered. He knew that his nation vTOuld f a ll without U. but necessary precondition to the really critic a l and important phases of the e ffort. S or his mantle to his restle s s generals . he himself vTaS the other. military advisors had a set of preferences which affected their approach to the Strategic Ha. U. In the U. consequent ly. S.Sens i t i ve phases could be variously int erpreted.those in which GVH services vTere provided. extremely l eery of proposals which might l ead it to be tied dOlm in strategic defenses ("holding" after liclearing" had been completed) or diverted too much to military civic act ion undertakings .nized to take the offensive against the Viet Cong o They vrere . G. S. )Vas forma lly propos ed to Diem in November 1 961 by R . military ii TOP SECRET .. Thompson . committed to South Vietnam ( and to his administration ) 'without surrendering his i ndependence . support.had a very different viev! . The problem "lith the apparent consensus hich emerged early in 1962 was that t he principal partic ipants did view it with different perspectives and expectations. S. it is the probl em of men vIi th different perspectives each moul ding his olm conception of a proper body to the same ske leton. unsurpris i ng ly -.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 .wuld fall i f he either appeared to toady to U. may be said to have b een most concerned with the later phases of the program . By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . side. The Strategic Hamlet Program offered a vehi cle by vrhich E~ could direct the counterinsurgent effort as he thought it should be directed and 1'Tithout giving up either his prerogatives to the U.. i n the form of a plan for pacification of the Delta.. expensive. as he saw it. S. It was precisely to achieve these goals simul taneously that the U..Sensitive . local governments established.. head of the ne. Military clearing operations were . insofar as a genera li zat ion may b e attempted . to them. he feared that his government . agreed to enter a !!limited partnership!! with GVF in the cOUllterinsurgent effort. was to get the U. K. and bett ~r orga.11l1et Program. S. a distasteful. If the final product vTere to h ave some semblance of coherence and mutual satisfaction it \\Tas necessary that the shapers came to agreement on substa. more aggressive. not just that they agree on the proper skeleton upon which to work . The strategic Hrunlet Program became the oper at iona l s ymbol of this effort . Both of these U. President Diem -. view the i nsurgents were on l y one o f Diem I s enemies . On the U. His need.vly arrived British Adv isory Mi ssion . groups h ad perspect i ves different from those of the Diem administrat ion. The American politic al leadership .S . They wanted to make RVNAF more mobile .S. Section 3.Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526. This is not the problem of the three blind men describing the elephant. I n this view the p roc ess of pacification coul d proceed successfully only if Diem reformed his OvlD government .nce and operational procedure. The progra~.S.

The l ong history o f these efforts was marked by consistency in results as well as i n techniques: all fai l ed di smally because they ran i nto resentment i f not active resistance on the part of the peasants at whose contro l and safety.. This was a heavily VC-infiltrated area rather than one of minimal penetration. Lgo Dinh ?lhu . Finally. Section 3.Sensitive advisors favored at that time an ARV":{ penetration of the VC redoubt in Hal' Zone D prior to any opere.dth his ovm b a ll in programmatic terms.IT . paid it scant attention . however. President Di em and hi s brother. S. S. Thus the early operational efforts indicated a danger of peasant resist ance . more precisely. 'In August 1 962. observers at the time .as distinct from operations -. Although it viaS not until October 1962. the primary impetus vms traceable directly to the President's brother and political counsellor.S .nced the strategic Haml et Program to be the unifying concept of its pacification and counterinsurgent effort it 'tTaS clear earlier that the program had assumed this central position.r in retros:pect.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. GVN produced its long aI>Jait ed national pacification pleD with four priority areas and specified priori ties vri thin each area. political desires to start some lo cal operation which could achieve concrete gains combined vrith Die. it indicated that over 2. The geographic dispersion of hamlets already reported to be complet ed indicated that there was. a conscious effort to implement this phase almost simultaneously throughout the entire nation r ather than to build slowly as Di em ' s fo reign advisors (both U. . S. for their part . Three import ant implications of this early progress (or .:m ' s program 'I>Jere s i milar if not identi cal to earlier population resettlement and control efforts practic ed by the French and by Diem . too.tion SmmISE. The U. that GVS explicitly annou. But UoS. desires to begin an effective process of pac i fication h ad fastened onto security as a necessary precondition and slighted the histor i c record of rural resistance to resettlement .. 1T0pers.rn ' s preference for a pacification effort in an area of strategic importance led to the initi al effort i n Harch 1962.Declassified per Exec utive Order 13526. they were aimed. the physical aspects of Die. had little or no i nfluence over these activities. At the same time. had decided to emphasize control of the rural population as the precondition to vTinning loyalty.continued on the Delta plan and strategic hamlets were constructed in a variegated. S. I iii TOP SECR!. II in Binh Duong Province north of Saigon.. on one hand . as Thompson had urged. First. the program viaS truly one of GVH initiat ive rather than one embodying priorities and time phasing recommend ed by the U.Sens itive . no matter viho articulated the theory of the approach. But planning . Diem was runn ing -. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . These implic ations seem not to have impressed themselves acutely upon U.500 strategic hamlets had already been completed and that vlork was already undenvay on more than 2 . t hen loyalty. uncoordinated pattern throughout the spring and early summer. U.500 more. The record is i nconclusive 'I'lith respect to their v:eighing the record of the past but it appears that they. in f act . reported progress ) are also clee.tions aimed specifically at pacification. and Br itish) recommended..

Sensitive and of divergent approaches between. at the same time. in 1963. . ton vms typic ally slanted tOl-lard the more optimistic appraisals i f for no other reason than that hamlet construction and security arrangements '\ITere the first chronological steps in the long process to pacification.) and training for local defense forces to match the rate of desired hamlet construction . presumably realizing the extent of peasant displeasure with resettlement and control measures. hm<Tever . By the time . The general conclusion was almost abmys one of cautious optimism when security (control ) vms emphasized. one of hopeful pessimism vT hen political follow-up vIas stressed. 11 Fears grew that Diem vTas attempting to impose loyalty from the top through control rather than to build it from the bottom by deeds. etc. He believed that to do so lvould cause his government to ' fail. The impression in Hashing·. Assessments tended to be favor able from a security (or control ) viewpoint and uneven with respect to political development. did nothing to save it. U.tion materials. "progress" to have moved from doin g nothing to doing something even though the something was being done imperfect ly? These U. there was generated yet another area in vlhich assessments of progress 'Ivould be inconclus ive and difficult to maJ~e. coherent pace vlith a qualitative improvement in the physical construction of strategic hamlets. once an apparent consensus had been forged concentrated on program management efforts in t iro categories: to convince GVN to proceed at a more measured. by the general is sue of the viability of Diem ' s regime .S. not just the government to fall. and to schedule materi al assistance ( fortifica. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECHET . Sectio n 3. assessments changed only marginally throughout the life of the program. These fears 'I<Tere not limited to the Strategic Hamlet Program . Ha. (focused on security measures) and Diem (conce rned more vlith control me asures ). demands for r eform. they extended to urban as well as rural phases of South Vietnamese li fe and liere subsumed. Since the physical actions to achieve security and those to impose control are in many respects the same.S. The Strategic Hamlet Program did .l steps.s it not. S. ( iv TOP SECRET Sens i tive .S . U. assessment s. In the event the government fell and the nation ' s counterinsurgent program took a definite turn for the worse . Closely i dentified Iii th the Ngo brothers . S. but the nation did not fall. U. in the i nitia. President Diem gre'I'T increasingl y umiilling to meet U. attention.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 . when they died it died. that the hopeful pessimist voices were clearer. too. after all. it vms alnl0st bound to suffer their fortunes. observers held that.S. concentrated on the physical asp ects of the program and on VC activity in areas 'I-There strategic hamlets had been constructed. it 'Has also much clearer t hat the Ngo brothers had made the Strategic Hamlet Program i nt o one closely identified with their regime and with Diem ' s r ather esoterically phrased "personalist revolut ion.Declassified per Exec utive Order 13526. the U. failure to do so would cause the nation. as the Buddh ist question moved to the fore . The nevr government of generals .

demands for change. This r eason concentrates only on the initial phase of the prograil1. whether aimed at s ecurity or control.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. ~'lhile valid.Declassified per Exec utive Order 13526.. it does not automatically fo llo't1 that the program would have succeeded even if Diem had met U. The early demise of the program does not permit a conclusive evaluation. suggests that the sequential phas es embodied i n the doctrine of counterinsurgen cy may slight some v ery i mportant problem areas. Section 3. and to the f ailure to re solve this question either by persuasion or l everage • .!I case not proved . still less i s one able to validate the counterin surgent doc trine with reference to a program that failed.~ .S.executed program eventually to have achieved some measure of success.Sensitive . Rural antagonisms l'lhich identified the program with its sponsors in the central government are more suggestive of the b as is for t he complete collapse as Diem and Nhu departed the scene. Having said this . The only verdict that may be given at this time with respect to the~lidity of the doctrine is that used by Scots courts -. It may well be that the program was doomed from the out." . i n turn. Over-expansion of construction and poor quality of defenses forms one category. to assume that changes of style v10uld have led to success is c. it does little to explain why the entire program collapsed rather than only some hamlets v !ithin it. B y: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . S. This inconclusive finding.Sensitive A number of contributory reasons can be cited for the fai l ure of the Strategic Hamlet Program.- v TOP SECRET . willingness to prov ide assistance only if its advice was heeded. ·The weight of evidence suggests that the Strategic Hamlet Program was fatally fla'tred in its conception by the unintended consequence of alienati ng many of those whose loyalty it aimed to 'tri n . however . The evidence i s not sufficient f or an i ndictment . for a well. It might have been possible. To point to the causes of failure is one thing. The reasons why they departed are traceable in part to the di fferent expectations which combined in the apparent consensus at the program ' s beginning: to Diem's insistence on material assistance and independence.uite another .et because of peasant resistance to measures yrhich changed the pattern of rural life . to U. on the other hand.

Declassified per Executive Order 13526. Section 3. By: NWD Date: 2011 () o :xJ I G> -< o r o Z .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316.

K. Agroville Program modified by construction of "AgroHarnlets II to meet peasant obj ections.vl 111.rational Level Operation Pla. Honolul u .7ith Diem .2. NSC drafts FSJ:":f 111. l ays out pr oposed U. Hural Community Development Centers (Agroville ) Program initiated by GVf. 22 November 1961 15 December 1961 2 February 1962 3 February 1962 vi TOP SECRE'l' .l Taylor arrives i n nat i onal emergency .JiJnbassador No l ting. First Secretary of Defense Conference .lll to meet . i nstructing hi. Staley Gro'up report on i ncreased economic aid and i ncrease in RV=~AF strength. assistance and expected GVN effort . RVI~ .November 1961-April 1962. Di em creates Inter-Mini sterial Committee on Strategic Hamlets.Sensitive IV. S. Thompson submits to President Diem hi s Appreciation of Vietnam. NSA. Genera. .Sensi ti ve . Vice President Johnson I s visit to RVN . Secti o n 3. Thompson submits his draft plan for pacification of the Delta to Pres i dent Di em . DATE 1953-1959 1959 Late 1960 Early 1961 May 1961 J uly 1961 15 September 1961 18 October 1961 27 October 1961 3 li[ovember 1961 13 Fovember 1961 15 November 1961 C}mO=~OLOGY OCC uPI{E~WE French and GVE early attempts at popul ation r esettle·· ment int o defended communities to create secure zones..n for Counterinsurgency. USVlALiG Geographically Phased I.L USMN~G Counterinsurgency Plan Vietnam completed. Roger Hilsman I S A strategic Concept for South Vietnam. Cable to .3 NND P roject Number: NND 633 16. RoG. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECR~~"i' .B.Declassified per Exec uti ve Order 13526. President Diem declares R. G. General Taylor submits his report and r ecommendations to President Kennedy .K.

GV~ 19 Harch 1962 22 Narch 1962 8 August 1962 28 October 1962 8 May 1962 24 August 1963 10 September 1963 2 October 1963 1 November 1963 Nat ional Strategic Hamlet Construction Plan.Declassified per Executive Order 13526. Ir Buddhist controversy erupts I'Then GVh troops fire on demonstrators i n HUe. Mendenhall give contradictory r eports on progress of war to I\"SC . says that U.tion SliHRISE tl corolUences in Binh Duong Province. Secretary McNamara reports to President Kennedy fo lloVli ng his visit to RVH vlith General Tayl or. S.Sensitive DATE OCCU. State to Lodge. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . vii TOP SECRET . Coup d' etat by group of generals agai nst President Diem.'"er.]. Me ssage 24. c an no l onger tolerate Fhu ' s continuation in po''.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. General Krulak and Mr .Sens itive . Section 3. "Opera. GYii devotes ent ire is sue of The Times of Vietnam to "The Year of the Strategic Hamlet .HREl'fCE Diem approves Thompson's "Delta Plan ll for execution.

3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. Section 3.Declassified per Executive Order 13526. By: NWD Date: 2011 .

. C..........3 NND Project Number: NND 63316... By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . Scope and Terminology • eo •••••• 1 ~ ••••• " " •••• 0 • • • • • • • • • 1 1 B. B.....S.. . B... eo...... U.••. .. Concurrent GVJIif Acti vi ty....... 16 17 18 18 18 V.... .. IV....... ........•. B...•••••••••...-Proposed National Plans •••••••••••••••••. e • • • • • • 0. . • • • • • • • • • • ... 7 8 10 12 12 13 14 15 15 DEVELOPING A CONSENSUS AMONG THE ADVISORS ••..... Military Advisors...... • ..Arlt·ecedent·s ••• o.•.. (I ....... . C..•...... . S............ e • • • • • • • • • • • • • I0 . "Limited Partnership"..1963 TABLE OF CONTENTS AND OUTLINE 1.... .......S..... .....•• " ••• .. . ..S. . ...... THE ADVISORS "SELL" DIEM (OR VICE-VERSA).Sensitive TIlli STRATEGIC ~lliET PROGRAM 1961 .... A..... Thompson ' s Counterproposals. D. ............ ..... .••.•••••.....Declassified per Executive Order 13526..•• A. a TOP SECRET ....... Reactions in Washington ... ••·• Initial Vietname se Reactions ...••• ~ •• ••• •• • . -GVN Con sultations •. A........ ..... . ... . ••• •••• ••••• · HAMLE~ 0 3 Tllli FORMUlATION OF TIlE STRATEGIC A... The Situation in Late 1961 .. DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES AND EXPECTATIONS ••. Military Advisors.. .•.... . C...... . U.........••• • ••• 0 4 4 7 U. .......••... C... ....•........Sensitive .••...... Wb..••• A.....•...... Section 3.. Political Leadership. • • •. The Advisors Reach Agreement.. . B......~re to Begin? •••••• • •• • •• •• 0 •••• e.... III.. ........... E.. ... PROGRAM ........ • • • • • • • • • • • • .......... INTRODUCTION. Initial Reaction of UoS. U... . II.... Early Signs of GVN Expectations ....

..••••••••• •••••••••• Differences Begin to Emerge •••••••••••••• ••••••••••• VII.••••. Perception s ••••••... " ..s . . Awareness of the Unifying Potential. O ther Early Progra.. " .. • • VI... By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . 0 • • • • • • • •••• A. The Program Dies With the = Tgos ..... • ••• " •••••••• 0 ••••• Effect on U. . F..0 ••• 0 ••••• ••••• • ••••• • • • • • • • co. e ••• •••••• • ••• " • •••••••• 19 19 20 20 20 22 22 24 24 30 35 35 35 36 ( D. AN INCONCLUSIVE SUMMARy . ".Sensitive ..•••••. " .".... .. Diem t s Position Hardens •• .Declassified per Executive Order 13526. " .....3 NND Project Number: NND 63316..rn. ........... VIII... President Diem••••••••• The Central Issue ...••••••• •• The Problem of Assessment ..ge C.A National Plal"l •••• c . " • " ••••••••• " " D.. E.. . S. TEE NATION_AL PLAN EMERGES .. •••••••••• •••••• tfOperat·ion Sunrise tf • • .. B. . Section 3.Sens itive Pa.. .. E. At Last -.••••••••••••• ••••••••••••• b TOP SECRET . B.c • • • • • • • • • . TIrE PAT1-1 TO TEE EN]). "... ..0 • ••• e " CI •••••• C... • • • • " •••••• " .•••••••••• •••••••••••• A.••.

has created some confus ion because of terminology . except as it bears on the defensibility of the com~lmity protected. the follo\<Ting account explains it . Il\lTRODUCTION A. The hamlet is the smallest organized community in rural South Vietnam . B. 1961-1963 : AN APPRAISAL I..Sensitive IV. Several hamlets (typically 3-5) comprise a village . 11 But the greatest source of confusion lies in the distinction between a strategic hamJ_et }!er se and the strategic hamlet program. More often no such distinction was made. THE STRATEGIC HAMLET PROGRAM.3 NND Project Numbe r: NND 633 16.2 . §cope and Terminology The Strategic Hamlet Program in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) . Sectio n 3. This paper examines the program. Parts of South Vietnam had experience with the physical aspects of fortified communities going back many TOP SECRET . the terms were used interchangeably . The phrase Strategic Hamlet Program when use d to represent the program is much broader than the phrase applied to the haml ets themse lves . The several adjectives coupled with hamlet or village were occasionally us ed to differentiate communities accord:i.ng to the extent of their defenses or the initial presumed loyalty of their inhabitants . as explained below. 11 I1secure . not just t he hamlets . Antecedents Population relocation into defended villages was by no means a recent development in Southeast Asia.articulated and carried forward from late 1961 until late 1963 -. Another source of confusion l1 rises b ecause of the loose usage of I1hamlet l1 as compared to I1 village and because of the practice of referring to these communities as I1 defended. The distinc tion is unimportant for the present analysis .Declassified per Exec utive Order 13526. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . envisioned a process of pacification of which the construct ion of strategic hamlets was but part of one phase .Sens itive 1 . One source of confusion stems from the similarity betvTeen the physical aspects of the program and earlier fortified communities of one kind or another. During the strategic hamlet program both hamlets and villages were fortified . B. albeit a very important part .11 and fortified l1 as well as I1 s trategic. The program. Where a distinction exists.

Declassified per Exec utive Order 13526, Sectio n 3.3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16 . By: NWD Date: 2011

TOP SECRET - Sensitive years . As the int ellectual godfather of the Strategic H~mlet Program has put it, the concept's use as one of the measures to defeat communist insurgency " ... has only meant that the lessons of the past had to be relearn"; ."

2:.,/

The aruninistration of President Diem had relearned thFse lessons much earlier than late 1961. There I'Tas, in fact, no need to r.elearn them b ecause they had never been forgotten . The French had made resettlement and the development of "s ecure zones" an important element in their effort near the end of the war with the Viet Minh. The government of newly-created South Vietnam, headed since 195~· by President Diem, had continued res ettle ment schemes to accofimodate displaced persons, to control suspected rural populations, and to safeguard loyal peasants in the threatened areas . None of these efforts i nvolving resettlement had succeeded . Each had inspired antagonism among the peasants who were moved from their ancestral lands and away from family burial plots. Diem ' s actions in late 1961 'w ere thus inescapably tied to earlier actions by proximity in time, place, and the personal experiences of many peasants . Chief among the earlier programs was that of the so-called Agrovilles or "Rural Community Develo"pment Centers," launched in 1959 · The Agrovilles, groupments of 300-500- families, were designed to afford the peasantry the social b enefits of city life (schools and services), to increase their physical security, and to control certain key locations by denying them to the communists.?J They were designed to improve simultaneously the security and well-being of their inhabitants and the government's control over the rua l population and rural areas . The Agroville program was generally unsuccessful . The pea,sants had many complaints about it ranging from clumsy, dishonest administration to the physical hardship of being too far from their fields and the psychological wrench of being separated from ancestral home s and burial plots . By 1960, President Di em had slowed the program in response to peasant complaints and the Viet Cong ' s ability to exploit this dissatisfaction .

;J

!!J

The transition from Agrovilles to strategic ha.mlets in 1961 was marked by the so-called "Agro-hamlet " "lvhich attempted to meet some of the peasants ' objections : The smaller 100 family Agro-hamlet was located more closely to lands tilled by the occupants . Construction vms carried out at a slower pace filled to the peasant ' s plant ing and harvesting schedule ... By the end of 1961, the Agrohamlet had become the prototype of a vast civil defense scheme known as strategic hamlets, ~ Chien Luoc .

21

It was inevitable, given this lineage , that the strategic hamlet program be regarded by the peasants as old wine in ne\'I"ly-labelled bottles . The successes and failures of the past were bound to condition its acceptance- and by l ate 1961 the Diem government "l8,S ha,ving more failures than successes .

TOP SECRET - Sensitive
2

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 NND Project Number : NND 63316 . By: NWD Date: 2011

TOP SECRET - Sensitive C. The Situation i n Late 1961

By late 1961, if not earlier , it had become clear in both Siagon and Washington that the yellow star of the Viet Cong \Va s in the ascendancy . Following the 1960 North Vietnamese announcement of the twin goals of ousting President Diem and reunifying Vietnam under communist rule, the Viet Cong began sharply to i ncrease its guerrilla, subversive, and political warfare . §/ Viet Cong regular forces, nOl'T estimated to have grown to 25,000, had been organized into larger formations and employed with increasing fre~uency. The terrorist-guerrilla organization had grown to an esti During the first half of 1961, terrormated 17,000 by November 1961. i sts and guerrillas had assassinated over 500 local officials and civilians, kidnapped more than 1,000, and killed almost 1,500 RVNAJI'" personnel. §/ The VC continued to hold the ini tia ti ve in the 'countrys ide , controlling major portions of the populace and drawing an increasingly tight cinch around Saigon . The operative ~uestion was not whether the Diem government as it was then moving could defeat the insurgents, but whether it could save itself .

11

21

Much of this deterioration of the situation in RVN vTas attributable, in U. S. eyes, to the manner in which President Diem had organized his government . The struggle -- vlhether viewed as one to gain loyalty or simply to assert control -- was focused in and around the villages and hamlets in the countrys ide. It was precis e ~·" in those areas that the bilineal GVN organization (ARVN and civilian province chiefs) most lacked the capability for concerted and cohesive action. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was developing a potentially effective institutional framework under U.S. tutelage, but that effectiveness against the VC, Diem realized, could potentially be transferred into effectiveness against himself . The abortive coup of late 1960 had made Diem even more reluctant than he had earlier be en to permit power (especially coercive power) to be gathered into one set of hands other than his own. Still, the establishraent of an effective military chain of command which could operate where necessary in the countryside remained the prime objective of U. S. military advisors . ~ A unitary chain of command had recently been ordered into effect within ARVN, but this had not solved the operational problems, for military operations were inescapably conducted in areas under the control of an independent political organizati on with it s own military forces and influence on operations of all kinds -- military, paramilitary, and civic action . The province chiefs, personally selected by President Diem and presumably loyal to him,controlled politically the territory in dispute with the VC and within which ARVN must operate . They also controlled territorial forces comprising the Civil Guard (CG) and Self Defense Corps (SDC) . For President Diem ' s purposes this bilineal organization offered an opportunity to counterbalance the pOvler (and coup potential) of the generals by the power of the province chiefs . It was a device for survival. But the natural by-product of this duality, in terms of the effectiveness of actions against the VC, was poor coordination and imperfect cooperation

TOP SECRET - Sensitive

3

Declassified per Exec utive Order 13526, Section 3.3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16. By: NWD Date: 2011

TOP SECRET - Sensitive in intelligence collection and production, in planning, and in operational execution in the countryside, where the ba ttles ~rere fought - - both the "battle for men's minds" and the more eas ily understood battles for control of the hamlets, villages, districts, and provinces . The U.S. and GVN were agreed that in order to defeat the insurgency it was necessary that the rura.l populace identif'y with at lea.st the local representatives of the central government. They were agreed, too , that some measure of physical security must be provided the rural population if thi s end were to be achieved. Both agreed that the GVN must be the principal agent to carry out the actions which 1vould bring the insurgency to an end. The high level U. S. -GVN discussions held during President Kennedy ' s first year in office focused on wha.t the U. S. could provide GVN to assist the latter 's counterinsurgency efforts and on Ivhat GVN should do organizationally to make it s efforts more effective . A subsidiary and related discussion revolved around the U.S. advisory organization to parallel the GVN reorganization. The problem of how additional resources jn some improved organizational framework were to be applied operationally was fragmented into many sub-issues ranging from securing the border to building social infrastructure. The story of the Strategic Hamlet Program , as it came to be called, is one in which an operatj.onal concept specif'ying a sequence of concrete steps was introduced by an articulate advocate, nominally accepted by a ll of the principal actors, and advanced to a position of apparent centrality in which it became the operational bluepr int for ending the insurgency . But it is also the story of an apparent consensus built on differing , sometimes competin& expectations and of an effort which was, in retrospect , doomed by the failure to resolve in one context the problem it was designed to alleviate in another -- the .pr09lem of G stability.· VN II . THE FORMULATION OF THE STRATEGIC HAMLET PROGRAM A. U. S. - GVN Consultations
(

Beginning in May 1961, the U.S . and GVN conducted a series of high l evel conferences to fashion r esponses to the insurgent challenge . The first. of these was the visit to Saigon by the Vice President , Lyndon B. Johnson. The Vice President ' s consultations were designed to reinforce the U. S. commitment to RVN and to improve the image of President Di em ' s government . In a comm1.mique issued jointly in Saigon, it was agreed that the RVNAF was to be increased to 150 , 000 men, that the U.S . would support the entire Civil Guard I'd th military a ss i stance funds, that Vietname se and U. S. military specialists would be u sed to support village-level health and public works activities, a,nd that the two governments vTould "discuss TOP SECRET - Sens itive

He proposed a U." 15/ The report warrants summarizing in some detail. a joint economic and financial committee cocbair ed by Dr .000 r efugees. 13/ Its recormnendations "\-Tere restricted (in part . S. followed much the same pattern .Sensitive . ambushing 5 TOP SECRET . evidently. Meeting in Saigon in June 1961. strategy of response . S.3 NND Project Num ber: NND 633 16. concerns at the time the U.. The Staley group. but because itr'epresents t he best document to portray the range of U. to pi n down the ARVN on defensive missions . Taylor judged.tegy being pursued is .. ~ I n his report to the President. General Taylor sketched out the nature and aims of the Viet Cong threat and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the Diem government .social front. "!Y These discussions implied that more GVN effort should be devoted to rural pacification and civic action and acknowledged that more regular military forces were needed. Stanford Research Institute. S.and-run raids on self-defense corps and militia units . The Viet Cong.3 November) of General Maxwell D.S . funding should be provided to various emergency economic and social programs . Taylor.. strategy for " turni ng the tide and for assuming the offensive in Vietnam . social . climactic phase of I~ao ' s classic format for guerrill a warfare : The military stra. led President Diem to declare a state of national emergency on 19 October 1961 . . 1. was making a major comrnitment to South Vietnam and because it lays out the major el ements of the U. 10 million acres of rice and other crops lost). The President stated the scope of Taylor ' s mission in the broadest terms : While the military part of the problem is of great importance in South Viet-Nam. the corrrmittee agreed that RVNAF strength should be increased to 200. its political. S. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . This declaration coincided with the visit to Southeast Asia (15 October .Sensitive new economic and social measures to be undertaken in rural areas to accompany the anti-guerrilla effort .000 during CY 1962 and that U. combined with the losses attributable to incr eased insurgent 8. not because it outlined the main thrust of the pacification effort (it did not ).ctivity. But they were not yet ready to move to the third . heading a mission asked by President Kennedy to appraise the situation in South Vietnam .Declassified per Executive Order 13526. and Vu Q. Eugene Staley.000 kilometers of road destroyed. and I shall expect your appraisal and your recormnendations to take full account of them . because of its limited charter) to specific program increases and to a restatement of the dimensions of the problem . and economic el ements are equally significant.uoc Tuc. no doubt. vTere militarily powerful and becomi ng more powerful . The devastation caused by the September monsoonal floods (3 20 . to create a per vasive sense of insecurity and frustration by hit . but they did little to clarify the relationships of these parts to the whole or to an overall scheme by which the process i. A. Section 3.rQuld develop. GVN. § But the group did noghing to tie together the strands of what it recognized as the central problem : to achieve a simultaneous "breakthrough" on both the military-internal security front and the economic .

S . TOP SECRET . was apparently not to capture the nation by force. W The second vicious circle stemmed from Diem's instinctive attempts to centralize power in his own hands while fragmenting it beneath him . the latter a pmver base he fears. by the assassination of officials and the sabotage of public works . TheDiem Government i tself had to be reformed in order to permit i t to mobilize the nation . Taylor reasoned. too. ~ This administrative style "fed back.. By: NWD Date: 20 11 TOP SECRET . allowed two vicious circles to develop which vitiated goverrnnent effectiveness . in concert with non -military means . S. to act vigorously -with advice as i'Tell as aid -. were designed to demonstrate U. In the first of these circles poor military intelligence led to a defensive stance designed primarily to guard against attacks . Section 3. e .ny intellectuals and younger Vietnamese . S. The consequent frustration of Diem I s mili tary commanders -. S.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316.]) It was in the U. in Tayl or ' s assessment.Declassified per Exec uti ve Order 13526. S. Diem had. the former being Diem I s r eliable agents .in order to buy the necessary time for Vi etnam to mobilize and to organize its real assets so that the Vietnamese themselve s might "turn the tide " and assume the offensive . g . The effect of high losses in unsuccessful defensive battles served further to dry up the basic sources of i. Rather. interest.nd to dramatize the inability of the GVN to govern or to build.Sensitive the reserve forces if possible as they come up to defend. i. Taylor asserted.ndividuals badly needed to give his administration vitality. be moved and controlled qui ckly enough to be effective . created another potentially explosive political-military problem : The inability to mobilize intelligence effectively for operational purposes directly flows from this fact LDi em ' s a dministrative practici7 as do the generally poor relations between the Province Chiefs and the military conwanders.a frustration well-knoi'm to Diem and heightened by the November 1960 coup -. because of tangled lines of command and control. His excessive mistrLlst of mB. into the military equation and through it. ~ The purpose of this military strategy. 21/ General Taylor ' s recommended actions for the U. his unwillingness to del egate military operations clearly to his generals. it was to produce a political crisis which would topple the goverrnnent and bring to power a group willing to contemplate the unification of Vietnam on Hanoi I s terms. aid and U. advice on where to use it were not enough . served only to ali enate them and led them to stand aside from constructive participation thereby further increasing Diem ' s mistrust . commitment in order to strengthen Diem ' s stand and . a. which in turn meant that most of the military forces came under the control of the province chiefs whose responsibility it was to protect the populace and installations .l eads him to ac tions which further complicate his problem . This control by province chiefs meant that reserves could not . 18/ But U.ntelligence . }.Sensitive 6 .

initiate a " limited partnership" .efforts were concentrated on inducing them to produce one . " . "L. " If strongly motivated. It was almost as though there had to be something to endorse or to criticize b efore substantive issues could be treated as relevant . participation would not be " counter-productive" . would be accompanied l'li th increased U. Since GVN had no national plan. and to create the governmental machinery for coordinated national planning . S .not tell them or do it for them . By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . to defeat the insurgency came very close to being regarded as a problem in the organization and management of resources . He rejected. imperialism and dominance of the Diem Government . as friends and partners -.! Increased material assistance from the U.Sensitive simultaneously.not as arms-length advisors -. the second would permit action. U.g . S. participation at all l evels of government in which the American advisors must " . S. 22/ The first course l'lould emphasize the solution to only one set of problems while slighting others.S . General Taylor did not argue explicitly that success would follovl automatically if Diem ' s practices could be r eformed and his operational capabilities upgraded. There was much less concern about the substance of the non. " ?J. · . but he impli ed this outcome . The question of an overall strategy . S. S.Sensitive 7 . leverage .. S.S. but not coordinated action . thought should be done : to dravl the disaffected into the national effort and to organize and equip so that effective action would be possible .existent GVN plan. economic . The President ' s emissary rejected the alternatives of a military takeover which would make the generals dominant in all fields .show them how the job might be done -. S. thus avoiding the establishment of large headquarters not actually engaged in operational tasks. General Taylor reconunended that the U. participation in the hope of bringing about necessary reforms in Diem's regime. lend substance to claims of U. and social problems facing South Vietnam.ns which were propos ed to GVN for adoption by the latter.Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526. Taylor consciously opted for a U. Country Team in Saigon produced an agreed "Counterinsurgency Plan for Vi et . C. e . tactful Americans were assigned primarily outside Saigon.house in order in one area after another. In l ate 1960 the U. ple. action but would also. S. S. politi cal . through persuasion at many levels judiciously mixed vlith U. The plan was an attempt to specify roles and relationships within GVN in the counterinsurgency effort. Section 3...'lhich would stop short of direct U. ~ It TOP SECRET . S. Taylor thought that this increas ed U.3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16. ~ Thus. to per suade Diem to abandon his bilineal chain of conunand in favor of a single command line with integrated effort at all levels within the government.S.Nam" (CIP). the alternative of r eplacing Diem with a weaker figure l'lho l'lould be vlilling to delegate authority to both military and civil leaders .Ynl B. cours e of action in which the major thrust of effort would be to i nduce Diem to do the things that the U.. w u · ted Fa r t nership " In order to move in a coordinated way on the intermingled military. force the Vietnamese to get their . too..-Propo sed National Plans This priority of business is r eflected in the U. to broaden U.

it was proposed to conduct an ARVN sweep in War Zone D.Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526. continued hi s practice of cent ralized decision-making (sometimes tantamount to decision piegonholing).3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 . ~ First priority in thi s plan (1962 operations) was to go to six provinces around Saigon and to the Kontum area. these two U. but reorganization along the lines spe cified was regarded as essential to successful accomplisl1ment of the counterinsurgent effort. Together . plans were to be drawn up. ~ Diem stoutly resisted the adoption of a singl e . ?:§} Not only did this plan specify the areas of primary interest for pacification operations -as its title indicates . and others urged acceptance of the CIP upon President Diem. the populace was to be "reoriented . Ambassador Durbrow. ?!1I The second. Military units would be withdrawn as security was achieved and the target area would be " secured " by the loyalty of its inhabitants -. 30/ In the final . in the jungles northeast of Saigon . Section 3." political control was to pass to civilian hands. then handing local security responsibility over to the Civil Guard (CG) and to establishing GVN presence. " the Self Defense Corps (SDC) "lYOuldassmne the civil action-local security mission. of course. Third priority (1964 ) would continue the spread of GVN control in the highlands and shift the emphasis in the south to the provinces north and east of Saigon .Sensitive .l plans . S. arguable that this was the b est conceivable blueprint . or "military phase. " would be devoted to clearing the objective area with regular forces. In the first.) 2 The geographically phased plan compl emented the earlier CIP . ~ . but it was at least a comprehensive bas i s for r efi nement -for arguments for different priorities or a changed " series of events " in the process of pacification .confidence . ?:JJ It advanced no operational concepts for adoption by GVN . i ntegrated cha in of operat i onal cormnand . By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . Initial Vietnamese React i ons Thi s is not h01-7 matters proceeded. " the intelligence effort "ras to be concentrated in the priority target areas . surveys were to be made to pinpoint needed economic and political reforms . Before any of these priority ac tions were undertaken.·TaS corrected in the "Geographically Phased National J. "preparatory phase. show'ed no enthusiasm for detai l ed prior plamling. but with only partial success . General McGarr . and economic and social programs 'were to be initiated to consolidate government control. efforts constituted an outline blueprint for a ction .a l oyalty attributable to GVN!s successful responses to the felt needs of the inhabitant s . D.it also set forth a conceptual outline of the thre e sequential phases of actions 1-Thich must b e undertaken . to r educe the danger to the capital and to increase ARVN ! s self. and military and politi cal cadres were to be trained for the specific objective area . (See Map 1.Jevel Operation Plan for Counterinsurgency" which MAAG Vietnam published on 15 September 1961 ..Sensitive was recognized that these recommendations were not palatable to President Diem. in the event . "security phase. however . The CIP 1-laS an indi ctment of GVN failure to organize effectively and to produce coordinated nationa. It is. Second priority (1963 ) would be given to expansion southvrard into the Delta and southward in the Central Highlands from Kontum. This obvious omission . 8 TOP SECRET .

.. -( ' . Section 3. U.. t I j I I -l" 0\ \.---------. I t t < r. .Declassified per Executive Order 13526. j I 1 j. By: NWD Date: 2011 i.. \'" ! 'II -IAI LAN D ". . " i ··· L .:---'------~ ~--- .--~------.• ... -. • r . :. MAAG Geographically Phase'd Plan .-------. It r I I .s. t 1 It J :1·. . j..' . \ : 'l. .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316.---.-----.. ' .-------. .- -..-:.\ [1 . ----. I ! [..--'- MAP 1 . " . . ..·· .. ' ..~ ". \ It 1 9 .. .

a id would be tied to Diem ' s acceptance of specified reforms and . It is likely. was deeply involved in fashioning a major new phase in U. S.:::visor "Tho had been in Saigon for several weeks and whose . a Bri tish civil servant who had come from the position of Permanent Secretary of Defense i n Malaya . The ad-." but fears had been temporarily alla.S .mplementation .3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16. that he I'Tas already conversant with the ideas of a new high level 6. The unsuccessful U.yed when it was agreed that Thompson ' s charter would be limited to civic action matters . W E. Some aspect p of the eIP were accepted. But General Taylor did bring up the need for some coordinated ope rational plan i n his talks with President Diem . ob j ection to British "advice without r espons ibility. was given to the ~resident on 13 November . S.-Gv}T rel ations in which major new U.S. Thompson ' s response ."Jts to secure organizational reforms wi thin the Diem goverr1. Thompson ' s British Advis cry Mission VTas in Saigon in response to Diem ' s re~uest for experienced tt~rd country nationals to assist him in his counter insurgent operations . t o his willingness to pursue some agreed. atter::. p sychological . Diem's r espons e is :::escribed in a cable to Washington by Ambassador Nolting : Taylor several times stre3sed importance of overall plan -. Since it was not very clear in spite efforts to dra"T him 01:. ecc::1omic. a potential rival to the American.-isor vTas RGK Thompson.=-ly indicated that he has a new strategic plan of his ovl::1 . etc .'ras essentially that no operaticnal plan could succeed unless GVN were reorganized to permit-effective i. bu~ the basic organizational issues remained unresolved and the strategic approach QDresolved by default .Sens it i ve 10 .ylor asked him to let us have a copy in vTri ting . 22.ent . There had been some i nitial U. Thus . It was reorganization that Taylor emphasized. " estimate of the situation") in October 1961. The Ameri.1nent had asslJr::~d psychological pr:Lrnacy by the time of General Taylor ' s Octob er 1961 mis3ion to Saigon . Thompson ' s CounterRroposals President Diem may have be e~'"l vlhistling in the dark about a new plan of his own . D~em tended avoid clear response this suggestion but fine.advanced plans repre sented by the CIP and the geographically phased IVlAAG plan of September 1961. terminology. S. for dealing with guerrillas. His assessment was well received by the Presi c. Ta. Thompson was in the process of articulating one potentiall y comprehensive strategic approach at the same time that the U. politica.Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526. in short. howe-.cer. I'rho asked him to fo l lov7 it up with a specific plan .l. an outline plan for the pacifica tion of the Delta area. as deta~led above .can position .military. Section 3.~ Ivhat this plan is. coordinated strategy . i n U. By: NWD Date: 20 11 TOP SEeRE~ .approach to prosecuting the war he would soon endorse officially as his own .1 TOP SECRET . Thompson provided Diem his initial "appreciation" (or . Thompson ' s plan was.Sensitive and continued to playoff the provin:::8 chiefs against the generals . S. inferentially.

the army could not . it should be to offer an attractive and constructive alternative to communist appeals . relieved of its r esponsibility for the area around and north of Saigon .. But unlike the U:S : militar~ ~dvisors.tary forces . More heavily defended centers . The peasants must be given the assurance of physical security so that economic and social improvements . he regarded McGarr I s proposed ini tial operation in Wa. northeast of Saigon ) to threaten the capital. to b e sure. This could only be done by empha. Like McGarr and the other U. given to President Diem on 11 November. and function under the immediate supervision of t he National Security Council . Rather. Thompson r ecommended that the ARVN III Corps Headquarters be r einforced with paramilitary and civil components.and then l eaving it. The means by which the villagers would be protected was the II strategic hamlet.rity measures. Thompson argued .sizj.presided over by Pr esident Diem .by definjtion -in a relatively low risk area . could procced without interruption. To do so would r equire extensive and stringent secu. The thrust of his proposal was that " clear and hold " operations should r eplace " search and destroy" sweeps . Like Taylor (with whom he talked and to whom he gave a copy of his initial "apprecj. but the process should be abandoned of " sweeping" through an area .lled "de_ fend ed hamlets" and involving more relocation. plans and that advanced by the British Advisory Mission .Sensitive .Declassified per Execut ive Order 13526.Sensitive In order to assess the similarities and differences between t:re U. ARVN might be used to protect the villages while the villages were organizing to protect themselves and mobile ARVN forces must be available to reinforce local defense units. Thompson viewed the primarj threat t o b e to the polltJ.ng national reconstruction and development in the populated rural areas .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 .cal stablllty of the populated rural areas . should not be simply the destruction of VC forces . it is necessary to summarize Thompson l s argument and proposals. For that reason Thompson selected a populous area with r elatively l ittle VC main force activity .ation" at the latter l s request). ca.S.. The police could establish a close rapport with the populace.r Zone D to be a step in the wrong direction . S. 11 TOP SECRET . the r eal object of the plan. particularly along the Cambodian border . 36 Consequently. The main government target. military advisors. Thompson saw the VC objective to be one of political denouement by combined military and political action rather than a mili t ary takeover of the entire nation . Ivould b e employed i n areas under more VC influence. The province chiefs .. Section 3. he recognized the probability and danger of VC attempts to control the unpopulated areas and to use them both as a base form which to pro j ect an image of political strength and as secure areas from vlhich (in the case of War Zone D. but these measures required primarily police rather than regular milj. To control this effort i n the De lta . By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . The army should have the mission to keep the VC off balance by mobile action in order to prevent insurgent attacks on the limited areas in which GVN would concentrate its i nitial pacification efforts .]§I The objective of the plan was to win l oyalt i es r ather than to kill i nsurgents . J1I This line of argwnent vIas more fully developed i n Thompson I s draft plan for the pacification of the De l ta area." a lightly guarded village because i t was -.

He was . . actually performing an amputation without consul ting the r esident physician -. It should lead by stages to a reorganization of the government machinery for directing and coordinating all action against the communists and to the production of an overall strategic operational plan for the country as a whole dehning responsibilities. if adopted. Thompson ' s r eco~mended command arrangements . First . to begin with. At the same time i t will lead to the establishment of a static security framework which can be developed eventually into a National Polic e force into which can b e incorporated a single security intelligence organization for the direction and coordination of all intelligence activities against the communists . advisory effort for a l ong time . Additionally.Sensitive alr eady under Diem ' s personal direction. Section 3. Using a medical analogy. but continue as before with respect to r outine admini stration . I agree with Your Excellency that it would be too disruptive at the present moment to try to achieve these immediately and that they should be developed gradually .and without b eing required to a ssume the overall responsibility for the patient ..Sensitive 12 . The el imination of practices such as this had been an explicit ot j ective of the entire U.Declassified per Executive Order 13526. J2/ Thompson presented this Delta plan as a program of wide potential : ..3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16. we have the case of a doctor called in for consultation on a clinical case . the Thompson proposal s would l eave Diem as the ultimate manager of an operation dealing with only a portion (the Delta ) of RVN. TOP SECRET . In fact . especially in U. the remedy should be clinical r ather than surgical . By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . ~ General McGarr ' s unhappiness with Thompson was not simply a case of injured feelings . military circles . upset about the lack of prior coordina tion : Following Mr .. Thompson ' s medical analogy . S. tasks and priorities . S. DEVELOPING A CONSENSUS AMONG THE ADVISORS A. would demol ish the prospect of a unitary chain of command within ARVN. ~ III. would be responsible on all emergency matters to the r einforced III Corps Headquarters (to be called the Combined Headquarters). He had four r e lated categories of disagreements with the plan proposed by the British Advisory Mission . General McGarr has recorded a detailed rejoinder to Thompson ' s proposals . S. Military Advi sors It is not difficult to imagine the shocked r eaction t o Thompson ' s proposals . an obj ecti ve tOY-lard which McGarr had been working for over a year . one need not imagine them . Initial Reaction of U.

it was also winning an attentive ear in Washington. Thompson had want ed to go slowly and to let a ne"T GVN organization grow from the effort .S. in sum. Thompson talked with General Taylor during the latter's October 1961 mission to Saigon and provided Taylor a copy of the initial British "appreciation ." 44/ MAAG did not stress the centrality of strategic haro~ets per se.to the "secure village concept .Sensitive . It would not do to reduce the ARVN and increas e police forces while the VC continued thier successes ." 13 TOP SECRET . Thi s was apparently compatible with the se~uential steps to pacitication outlined in MAAG ' s own Geographically Pha sed Counterinsurgency Plan .) The U.without any particular emphasis -. because the "areas of agreement " concealed ' differences. and the Delta third . military advisory chief as unrealistic -.Declassified per Exec uti ve Order 13526. some agreed ground from which to launch the effort to make them compatible. Thompson's stated desire to emphasize police forces in lieu of regular military forces was regarded by the U.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 . The II static security frame"Tork" in the villages to which Thompson referred struck General McGarr as an unwarranted dOlmgrading of the need for a sizeable conventional military force to play an important role in pacification.there was . too . i t was simply unsound policy not to use the tools at hand. the area around Saigon second..S. Not only would the Viet Cong not wait. S. military advisory chief also wanted to go slow'ly but not that SlO"Tly . ~ It is important to note that in'spite of these explicit disagreements there "Tere broad areas of apparent agreement between Thompson and his U. If the competing approaches of the U. but neither did Thompson . Thompson ' s recommendations did not look to ~uick action.winning the loyalty of the rural peasants .a transferral of Malayan experience to a locale in which the existing tools of policy were very different . It was necessary. B. and proposed unacceptable coro~and lines . were looking for an important operation to help the (hopefully) revitalized ARVN demonstrate its offensive spirit and mobile capabilities. This desire gave ris e to the third and fourth objections -.. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . in particular. the proposed priority in the Delta clashed with MCGarr ' s priorities which placed War Zone D first. (Apparent. were designed to emphasize the wrong operational agency. for Thompson ' s evolutionary plan was not only finding a warm reception at the Presidential Palace. and British advisors had not been made compatible. Related to this obj ection "Tas a final set of disagreements. MAAG ' s long. S. diffuse doctrinal "handbook" for advisors in the field did devote three pages . advisors about the relative importance of the War Zone D operation but the military. MAAG was amenab l e to the development of strategic hamlets. Strategic hamlets were to Thompson a . As already mentioned. The U. General McGarr claimed . Reactions in Washington That such ground existed was fortunate.Sensitive Second.:ray station enroute to hi s real objective -. There was a lack of unanimity among the U. S .S . emphasized the wrong area. Section 3.or fears. to act in a limited area but to act ~uickly. counterparts . at l east . ~ Indeed.

ets were not the heart of the Hilsman plan -. to "provide the people and the villages with protection and physical security .. again r esponding to Taylor's request.a-vis ARVN. ~ To translate these principles into operational reality. 48/ ARVN would. MAAG in Saigon? These had been significantly improved as the resll1t of a meeting between Thompson . following Hilsman ' s second principle. military advisors . ~ This took care of one of MCGarr ' s objections .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 . much as in Thompson ' s proposal. ~ Then in January 1962 . By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . and British Ambassador Hohler . in reluctantly inviting increased American participation in the war.. In l ess than a month. What of his r el a t ions with the U.S. ~ Hilsman ' s "strategic concept" avowedly flowed from three basic principles : that the problem in Vietnam presented by the VC was political rather than military in its essence. with first priority to the most populous areas. after all. His plan moved "strategic vil lages " to a place of prominence greater than that in Thompson 's Delta plan and far in excess of the offhanded acceptance which had thus far b een afford ed them by U. The Advisors Reach Agreement Thompson's bas ic ideas were gaining wide dissemination at the highest level within the U.. easily grasped initial step by which GVN could begin. Hilsman called for "strategic villages" and "defended villages" a la Thompson . Tha. after all. to allow the issue to drop for the time b e ing of police primacy in pacification vis . into the more heavily penetrated population centers (phase II). a already expressed a favorable disposition.t had been his reason. Ambassador Nolting. S." zY C. S. not incidentally. S. Thompson. Thompson had apparently decided. that an effective counterinsurgency plan must provide the people and villages with protection and physical security. sent the l atter a long letter outlining his views. secure the initial effort.civic action was that . too. when necessary. Thompson agreed to revise his paper so as to remove the objection to his propo sed command arrangements. Ambassador Nolting r eported that Thompson 'i'laS nOlV' working "closely and amicably" with MAAG.Sensitive Copi es of the Thompson memorandmfi on the Delta were also forwarded to Taylor at the latter's request. the easily recogni zable. i. The plan envisaged a three-phase process by which GVN control would progressively be expanded from the least heavily VC-penetrated provinces with large populations (phase I).e. and b e employed to keep the VC off balance in those areas already under Viet Cong control. government in early 1962 . TOP SECRET . and that counter guerrilla forces must adopt the same tactics as tho se u sed by the guerrilla himself.. Section 3. Pre sident Diem was convinced that some start was needed to save his administration ...dsiti ve . a change that could be made quickly. General Taylor could present to President Kennedy a plan entitled "A Strategic Concept for South Vietnam" by Roger Hilsman which was an unabashed restatement of most of Thompson ' s m jor points and to\vard which President Kennedy had. It was not.but they were the symb cl. and finally into the areas along the I. the Delta and in the vicinity of Hue.!t1/ Hilsman eschewed use of the "oil spot" analogy but the process and rationale he put forth were the same .aotian and Cambodian borders (phase III). Strategic hamJ.Declassified per Executive Order 13526.

put another W8. 55/ IV .aEpear to be U. support for GVN-initiated actions .that of . The Secretary of Defense made it clear that RVN had "number one priority . In mid-December 1961. It was not a Delta province . wrote to Secretary Thuan and passed on this proposal : I would like to suggest that you may wish to set aside one specific area. I f one were Vietnamese one might reason that Binh Duong was an 15 TOP SECRET . Nor 1-laS it a province relatively secure from VC infiltration .F military action . 5JJ. and use it as a "test area. intelligence .. Secretary McNamara met in Honolulu with the U. principals in Vietnam to discuss futuxe plans. however . financial .S . Take one place. Another desire was GVN ' s . sweep it and hold it in a plan . and civil political functions . police. " in establishing this type "pacification infrastruc ture .Sensitive .ra played an important role in disposing of still another issue in dispute -." McNamara urged concentration on one province : "I ' ll guarantee it7the money and equipmeny provided you have a plan bas ed on one province . and supply between two i nsurgen redoubts . ~uite to the contrary." 2J.equally important -. A. Binh Duong Province . civic action. One desire was the widely held wish to do something concrete and productive as a symbol of U. liaison . determination and GVN vitality . let us demonstrate that i n some place. after President Kennedy had decided to adopt essentially all of General Taylor ' s November recom~endations except the introduction of major U. THE ADVISORS " SELL" DIEM (OR VICE-VERSA). 2!3J Such teams would embrace. S.3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16. agricultural./ Or . one might say. The province was crossed by important routes of communications . immediately upon his return to Saigon.y. extending north\-Tard from Saigon into Cambodia ) sliced di r ectly between War Zone D and War Zone C. but "logic" was being driven by events and desires more than by abstract r easoning . Its main communications axis (National Highw'ay 13.t all the various elements of this anti-VC groundwork be designated i mmed iately by your government and trained as a team or teams for the actual reoccupation and holding of the designated commlmist infiltrated area when it has been cleared by RVN. had been heavily infiltrated. S. Where to Begin? GVN did indeed have a province in mind .Declassified per Executive Order 13526.A. psychological. Section 3. extending north and northwest of Saigon. forces into Vietnam. A central question was that of what could be done in the short term future. we can achieve demonstrable gains . say a province.. Hardly the logical place to begin .here to b egin . S.Sensitive Secretary McNama. McGarr suggested.vish to commit the Amer icans to support of Diem ' s government on terms which would b e in fact acceptable to that government and would -.·. in some way. medical. " My thinking is th8. General McGarr . By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET .

the President observed echoing Thompson.and several grew very quickly into many .U.tAAG-endorsed military operation in War Zone D might merely close the string on an empty bag .but in which the groundwork for a sound governnlent infrastructure had already be en laid . " sweeps " solved nothing. and in ''i'hich only 10 of 46 villages were under GVN control -. in an area that all recognized to b e difficult. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . 211 General McGarr was under the impression that " conSiderable progress " had already b een made in these three province s in the establishment of the GVN village level activities so necessary to winning popular support . a "Rural Reconstruction Campaign" in the Eastern Region of South Vietnam to secure the provinces of Tay Ninh. and Phuoc TUy. in August 1961. the U. of great strategic importance . Xom Hue Hamlet of Tan An Hoi was .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 .Sensitive . General McGarr dissented mildly from the sel ection of Binh Duong . in the proce ss of being fortifi ed as a strategic hamlet . Binh Duong. is already underway? GVN had initiated . Much of the public i mage of the strategic hamlet program was to be established by thi s operation . the problem was to bold an area and to separate the VC from the rest of the populace . He would have favored Phuoc Tuy (where U. cmae to a roundabout decision t o support as a " test" of vlhat would l ater b e called the " strategic hamJ_et program" an operation about whose details they kne'\v little . as it turned out . §2/ Thus. As McGarr told Secretary McNamara . In mid-February 1962 . Concurrent GVN Activity It has a l ready been suggested that President Diem responded wi th some enthusiasm to the early propo sals from Thompson ' s Brit i sh Advisory Mission. But Bi nh Duong was GVN ' s plan and the "limited partners " finally agreed to back Diem ' s preferred attempt . a heavily infiltrated province . during December . Besides. It was only one of several -.S. why not begin in an important strategic ar ea where work .Sensitive ar ea of unquestionable strategic importance -. Diem stressed that the If.. If the Americans wis h to concentrate in one province and i f they are willing to underwrite the effort with r esources . McNamara concluded that it did not. 2§/ In mid-January General McGarr met (just prior to his departure for Honolulu ) with President Di em and Secretary Thuan to dis cuss pacification plans . because it allegedly r epresented a long-sought example of GVN i nitiative in planning and civil-military pr eparation . Sectio n 3. 2fJ Most of the effort prj_or to Dec ember 1961 had b een concentrated in the Cu Chi District of Binh Duong . troops were scheduled to land if a decision wer e ever made to commit them ). desires to the contrary -the only strategic hamlet effort to be carr i ed fOY'\'i'ard during this peri od .and one in which GVN had already initiated some pacification efforts .t But it was not -. B. Such a failure would be detrimental to ARVN morale . It s name was "Operation Sunri se . close to Saigon.Declassified per Exec uti ve Order 13526. Diem preferred a concentrated effort in Binh Duong. )~ The di scussions at the Secretary of Defense ' s Confer ence in Honolulu turned on whether or not the War Zone D operation offered more hope f or a concrete gain than a " single province" pacification scheme . S. President Diem approved orally Thompson ' s 16 TOP SECRET .S.

but the committee was responsible to him. that Nhu ' s "social revolution and strategic hamlets appear to be fuzzy concepts with little valv. an occasional fleeting glimpse of his thinking and the direction in which he was hea. work tOvlard construction of a slightly different body (and for differing rea sons ) and claim . however. low standard of living. ~ Earlier. 62/ The IMCSH was.Declassified per Exec uti ve Order 13526. would play in this program .Se 1 iti ve .the rationale -.both U.S. Nhu said. Rural Affairs. 17 TOP SECRET .operational programs -.e in the fight against the Communists . But within another twelve months. " Nhu seems to have consulted the committee seldom and to have shared his policy-making power with it even less frequently . 1~u was the real driving force behind GVN ' s uneven but discernible movement toward adoption of the strategic hamlet theme as a unifying concept in its pacification efforts. and this program was to be coupled with a "social revolution" against "Viet-Nam ' s three enemies : divisive forces. Interior. a coordinating body designed to give national direction and guidance to the program . gover~~ent and financial resources to underpin that support.). 63/ He did not. As two American observers remarked at the time. He was not announced as the Chairman of the IMCSH (nobody was).had not yet taken form. he had created by presidential decree the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Strategic Hamlets (IMCSH).Vietnam observed ." 64/ C.was complete.ding has still managed to show through. lead it actively . and communism . The strategic hamlet program would have broad support within the U. Each group could.but as an indicator of Diem's early 1962 thinking of strategic hamlets as a national program and of the central role which his brother. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . Early Signs of GVN Expectations But although brother Nhu was behind the scenes in late 1961 and early 1962. they would be widely recognized as the twin spearheads of GVN's counterinsurgent effort. as events would prove.were identif. as its membership indicates." f!J No doubt these concepts seemed fuzzy at the end of 1961. Education. Civic Action. The "social revolution" to which Nhu referred in December 1961 would be surfaced as Diem ' s "personalism" drive. and GVN -. etc .S. however. on 3 February.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 . A CIA report from Saigon summarized Nhu ' s instructions to a dozen province chiefs from the Delta in a meeting held on 14 December 1961. Its importance is not in its work -.Sensitive "Delta Pacification Plan" and said he would like to see it executed without delay.iable by very early 1962 at the latest. Ngo Dim1 Nhu . in forwarding this report." 65/ The CIA Task Force .vi th some plausibility to be 'Ivorking from the same skeleton . the body . comprising the heads of various ministries (Defense.for it apparently did very little -. fuzzy or not . The skeleton -. and that the concept of the strategic hamlet prograrn in the broad sense had been fully adumbrated. hO'trever. Section 3. The important thing for the present analysis is that all of the expectations of the several participant groups -. Primary emphasis was to be placed on the strategic hamlet program. In the early period under discussion he masked his central role.

mensional but they feared instinctively any line of reasoning which might appear to argue that military considerations were relatively unimportant in Vietnam . were more attuned to the political problems -. S. Military Advisors The U. de . to be more than willing to turn over the job of static defense to the CDC and CG at the earliest opportunity. r elations and t o the problem of winning broad support among the Vietnamese for the Diem administration .'Ivi th Diem and in expecting results -. They found compelling the logic of analyses such as Hilsman ' s which cut to the political root rather than treating only the military symptoms . for i nstance .Declassified per Exec uti ve Order 13526. U. So.S. those farthest from Saigon tended to be less patient -. Sectio n 3. S. differences betvleen the perceptions and expectations of. B. say. to keep a weather eye out for opportunities to engage major VC format i ons in decisive batt le.emphasiz i ng U. they were wary of schemes which might lead ARVN to perpetuate its defensive tactical stance ." One could expect them.S. A.Sensitive . S. Political Leader ship The D.than were those closer to the area of operations . They were q. interna l problems using primarily its own human resources . and increasing GVN ' s ability to sol ve it s ovlD. to i ncreasing ARVN ' s size and capabilities . military advisors. One suspects -. discernible differences of outlook and expectations may be said to represent the prevailing views in each of these three groups . Both dangers were present in the strategic hamlet program .b oth with r espect to GVN-U. deve l oped through years of exper ience and training (or vicarious experience ) was to " cl ose with and destroy the enemy . and of the Diem government ' s leaders .that they were attracted by an argument which did suggest some hope for "demilitarizing" the war. S. For example . The same military advisors were more forceful than others in stressing the need for the Diem regime to rationalize its com~and arrange ments and to plan comprehensively and in detail from the highest to lm·rest levels . and to varying degrees the l eaders i n the Saigon Embassy and in USOM. Such generalizations are admittedly risky and easily overdrawn . 18 TOP SECRET . of the U. then.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 . political l eadership . military advisors mistrusted arguments which stressed the Vietnamese struggle as essentially political rather than military . and to chafe under the painfully slow evolutionary proces s which was implicit even in their own 1961 geographically phased plan .uiry: those of the U. This made members of this group i nherently more sympathetic t o proposals such as the Thompson pl an for the Delta than they were .though documentation would never b e found to support it -. military advisors . Still. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . there were.S.Sensitive V. of course. S. too. Their operational interest concentrated on making ARVN not just more mobile but more aggressive . U. operational participation.uite willing to concede that the struggle was multi-di. S. Their creed . DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES AND EXPECTATIONS Thr ee somewhat different views may b e categorized which are of interest to the present inq. the U. political leadership.

as Nolting reported. or concentrate the coercive instruments of power in the hand of poc. on one tand.tional leader . He vmnted.in an operational context in vlhich it "las difficult to di:::ferentiate between security for the r ural populace and control of that populace. The --~ 19 TOP SECRET . in whom Diem did confide.11.ential antagonists. that this support not cc:npromise his authority or Vietnamese sovereignty. would play directly into the communists ' hands. S. as an independent and self-reliant nc. . S. he added.inst his O"Tn convictions.S.c. 121 Diem sa"l himself caught in a dilemma in which he was doomed if he did not get outside assistance and doomed if he got it only at the price of surrendering his independence . §§j Then. especia2.and Diem feared it could not -. The first priority task. If Diem ' s government could not win o-rer these pressures -. S. Section 3. and he is apparently willing to accept the att2ndant diminution of his own stature . committ ed without surrendering hi s independence. help. Thus. To try it the other way around was to place the cart before the horse.S. President Diem Ngo Dinh Diem's perspective and expectations were the most different of all . President Diem feared the reaction even among his own cabinet aides . U. The Central Issue The U. Cluid pro CluO for its "limited partnership. S. Diem had "adopted an expedient which runs ag2.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316." §J} But when Ambassador Nolting presented to Diem the U. 71/ .Sensitive C. Diem invited increased U. The strategic ham~et program offered a convenient vehicle for this purpose and one which . To him the trick was to get the U. support. participation because he feared that. groups differed in dregre.S. was asking great concessions of GVN in the realm of i ts sovereignty in exchange for little additional help .·. since many of the actions to achieve one were almost identical to the acts to realize the other .. not to make the government more popular. not just to his nation but to his administration . S. South Vietnam would come under increasing communist pressures.ing loyalty -.Declassified per Executive Order 13526.·. said that the President was brooding over the fa. in reCluesting additional U." this apparent acceptance of decreased stature and independence suddenly see~ed less apparent . A r evealing assessment of Diem ' s frame of mind is provided by Ambassador Nolting . S.Sensitive .s to give the people security. Diem argued that U. Diem's eA~ectations were different in kind. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . for its part.S. on the other. One possible solution lay in getting U. He did not want to give credence to communist claims that he was a puppet of the U.. material aid for a program that would be almost wholly GVN-implemented .S.1y vith an impending settlement in Laos. S. D. It put achieving security before "liL1.it had only the choi~e of going down fighting or of being overthrovTn by a coup . aid and U. was asking Diem to forego independence by accepting the wisdom of the American r ecommendations for reform . It was essential~ in his eyes . 69/ Secretary Thuan.. influence over his government .as also appealing for other reasons .ct that the U. once it was known. to obtain uneCluivocal U. first of 8.

Kenneth Galbraith wasmost trenchant: In my completely considered vie1-T . THE NATIONAL PLA. however. . J. It is politically naive to expect it. Neither kill ratios nor construction rates nor the frequency of incidents was conclUSive . yet these were all indicators applicable to phases within the larger process. It 73/ The Delta project. hmfever.do so .l'if EMERGES A.h Duong Province was launched on 22 March 1962 i n what was initially called the ItBen Cat Project. l anguished in a "planning stage " until May. Among those who responded to this question in the negative.Sensitive . 74/ By August the IMCSH proposed a priority plal1 for the construction of strategic hamlets on a nation-vide basis.3 NND Project Number : NND 63316. Section 3. military. could be ¥Tiped out by inactivity or mistakes in a subsequent phase . These groups \fere about to embark upon a long. The Problem of Assessment The differences in perspectives and expectations outlined above are important in their own right.by late 1962 -. 1t0peration Sunrise" in Bin. Above a ll -.or at least it decided that i t was likely enough that he would do so and that support for his administration constituted the best availab l e policy alternative. and psychological factors . 72/ The U. This was the newly -articulated and imperfectly understood doctrine of counterinsurgency which stressed the interaction and interdependence of political.and this point cannot be overstressed -. social.Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526. Their only chart had never been to sea. VI . when it fir st became known that Diem was considering incorporating it into the 'Strategic Hamlet Program.S. It posited the necessity for certain actions to follow' immediately and successfully behind others in order for the process of pacification to succeed . The gains of doing well in one phase. They 100m even l arger . however. very difficult to know how well one was doing until one was done. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . It was. 20 TOP SECRET .. arduous j oint voyage. E.a comprehensive national program embodying the major effort of GVN in paCification .Sensitive central question was 1-Thether he would -. • Diem 1-Till not reform either administratively or politically in any effective way .while this doctrine recognized the need for both the carrot and the stick ( for coercive control and appealing programs ) it made gaining broad popular acceptal1ce the single ultimate criterion of success. in short .or could -. when one considers the difficulty of assessing progress in the program about to be undertaken. That is because he cannot. A1-Tareness of the Unifying Potential Before examining the quality of execution of the operational pro grams for which some detailed r ecord is available it will be useful to outline the process by Ifhich the strategic hamlet program became -. He senses that he cannot let power go because he would be thrown out. decided that Diem could make meaningful reforms and that he would do so -.

commented favorably in the progressive develop . influential American circles regarded the Strategic Hamlet Program as the shorthand designation for a process which represented a sensible and sound GVN effort . and is now acting upon. 75/ By October. an effective strategic concept. awareness kept abreast of Diem ! s progressive adoption of the Strategic Hamlet Program as the Ifunifying conceptlf in his counterinsurgent effort . !I 81/ B The public rec ord also shows early support from high U.1f 83/ I t is reasonable to conclude from the evidence that official U. and may well be the vital key to success of the pacification program. He continued to say so . assistance . that the Strategic Hamlet Program was the !lbackbone of President Diem ! s .S.!I 76/ Ngo Dinh Nhu was unveiled as the !larchitect and prj.52/ Even so lukewarm an enthusiast as the CJCS.rne mover!l of the program which was the Vietnamese answer to communist strategy. Inter-Agency Committee for Province Rehabilitation concurred in this plan ( with minor reservations ) as a basis for planning and utilization of U. "The government of Vietnam has finall developed. Through the Strategic Hamlet Program. Under Secretary of State George W Ball. upon his return to Washington from a Pacific meeting in July 1962. S . Lemnitzer could report that " the Strategic Hamlet Program promises solid benefits . As Nhu proclaimed : !lStrategic hamlets seek to assure the security of the people in order that the success of the polit ical.Sensitive . This "l-Till realize the ideas of the consti tution on a local scale which the people can understand.Sensitive Later the same month. 79/ As he advised Assistant Secretary of State Averell Harriman in late 1962. Roger Hilsman had said so in February to President Kennedy. Speaking in late April 1962. They are a means to institute basic democracy in Vietnam.!I . social ." 82/ Secretary McNamara told members of the press . By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. and found the latter highly receptive. 21 . the Diem government had made the Strategic Hamlet Program the explicit focus and unifying concept of its' pacification effort .S." 77/ President Diem had earlier put the same thought to an American visitor in clearer words: The importance of the strategic hamlets goes beyond the concept of hamlet self defense .Declassified per Executive Order 13526. The government controlled Times of Viet Nam devoted an entire issue to !l1962 : The Year of Strategic Hamlets . . TOP SECRET .sufficiency . too. the government intends to give back to the hamlet the right of self-government with its own charter and system of community law. officials for the Strategic Hamlet Program and recognition of its central role in GVN!s pacification campaign. ment of strategic hamlets throughout RVN as a method of combating insurgency and as a means of bringing the entire nation "under control of the government.. the U. and military revolution might be assured by the enthusiastic movement of solidarity and self. 78/ By this time. program for countering subversion directed against his state . General Lyman L.S. The same officials were constantly bombarded by a series of r epo rts from a variety of sources describing the progress of the hamlet program and assessing its efficacy . Section 3.

.Declassified per Exec utive Order 13526. The government was able to persuade only seventy families to volunteer for resettlement. the GV"N Ministry of the Interior informed the U. ) Phase I of the operation . C. Although the Delta Plan. and a psychological "Tarfare company . 86/ . a reconnaissance company. The new program got off to a bad start.other early in 1962 follmung no discernible pattern . ( See Map 2.indic atin~ very clearly that a ~ar~e. 85/ Only 120 males of an age to bear arms were found among the more than 200 families -. had not been implemented by the summer of 1962. declared martial I m. 84/ Li 'ttle of the $300..S. With the Viet Cong out of the way -..and many of their possessions -. 1I0peration Sunrise ll The first operational effort in which the U. Sectio n 3. the money was being withheld until the resettled families indicated they Imuld not bolt the new hamlet. This appears to have been the natural product of the varied response to Nhu ' s i njunction to emphasize strategic hamlets. It i s the commander fs hope ( doubtless optimistic) that he will be able to turn the whole area over to the civil guard and self defense corps ivi thin 6 months. as completed "¥ri thin two months: 0 22 TOP SECRET . 89/ ttOperation Sunrise tt had by this time been broadened to embrace efforts in several provinc es 90/ Several other Strategic Hamlet Programs i.S.Sensitive B. the pace quickened. help near Ca Mao: Here the commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment had gone into an area 95% controlled by the VC. 157 of which were reported . The Viet Cong simply melted into the jungles.S. Their old dwellings -. num~er had epne over to the VC.Sensitive . t'iw reinforced CG companies.3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16 . By midsummer 2900 persons had been regrouped into three strategic hamlets. 88/ These resettlement efforts in areas which had been under VC domination were not the extent of the early hamlet ttprogram. while fighting the VC wherever he found them. whether by cholce or as a result of lntlIDldatlon. beset by difficulties. had a hand. and r esettled 11. and the freedom from VC taxation ( extortion ) i s proving most appealing to the people. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . The 135 other families in the half dozen settl ements "rere herded forcibly from their homes .vi th most of their meager belongings.000 in local currency provided by USOM had reached the peasants .at least for the time be.was condu. the first of five hamlets to be constructed for relocated peasants in the Ben Cat District in and around the Lai Khe rubber plantation. none of his villages have been attacked. M anyexisti ng hamlets and villages were tt fortified tt in one degree or a.YJ. Secretary McNamara found in Mayan aggressive effort under way without U. Other Early Programs Progress in Binh Duong continued at a steady pace. In April.Lng the :::elocation and construction of the new hamlet commenced .the military clearing phase .rere begun : ttOperation Hai Yen 1111 ( Sea SwallOlv) in Phu Yen Province with a goal of 281 hamlets.were burned behind them.r. Others had little but the clothes on their backs. 000 people ( some unde r duress) i n 9 strategic hamlets . that 1300 such hamlets were already completed . Some of them came . as a coordinated effort.1I got under way in Binh Duong Province on 22 March 1962 when work commenced on Ben Tuong.cted by forces of the 5th ARVN Division reinforced by ranger companies.tt however . 87/ Elsewhere . 1I0p eration Sunrise. Since inception of the program.

' BEN ~l. • '. ' '. . ~..~lJiG . Q ..'. 0. " ' III '.~ . •..' . .: " '.. ~: ... ~. ' _. .1 . .. • t. " "" .:~ _>.' .=':' '.." ' '.~ ~ . . : . '. . ' ': .... I " -.. . Section 3.' . ' . .'. ' . i. < '.' .: _ . . .: . . ' . ' ..! '. . .' ~ '.. . ~. .• ..: . :. :.. c::> .1... .' " " . " ' .".. .. .. ' ..' : .. :'.. '.. '. t.. . .. ...' I ~. '.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316.. ' " . '.'! .'. :." 4: ' . ~ . . f . •••• ~. S ..II . ' 1. :::. ..i~_ '. ..:'0.' .t_~'.~i"~ ~...':' . . :SImI DUONG PROVINCE .. • • ' PHUoe vnm IllNHO _.. I I .. ." " .. . '. .' : 0. " pP ~ D. ' j" .".' !. . .. . ' ....' .. ." ~' .. j'" . ' " " . <lD ... BE?l TUCr.' .: . :'. ' .. CII. ~ . .. v.. . . '\ .: .1: '" . " " ~. . .' i . . " ':: 'v ... . . .:. ~ ~.\U o/'NG 2 0 EAU .! ... . ~ •f J ..":. ... : . '!.' .. By: NWD Date: 2011 . .~ . -':' " •• ~ ~ .~. I':.~ . ~oo . . .. .. · f .. "r_ . r -"..\. :-:".-.. 't... :.... . "'-'i"'. j '. .. . . ...' 'O J ' ~ ". . . ~ .~. / c? . .-. .I " 1\ -! OTHUUG ' ~ ... " '" -. .. ' ....'. .:. .Declassified per Executive Order 13526.' '.. '\ . ...' .. • i . :-. ..._ . . I ~' . .O .':" ! :' - • •1· . ~ ' . ... 01.' :'!.' :i . . ~ . . '.

By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . October 1962.Declassified per Exec utive Order 13526. Binh Duong -. There would be no others until the program died with Diem . and given adequate opportunity to attend their crops . assessments focus on several sub . Effect on U. which had been developed at the end of 1961 and early 1962. i . First priority was assigned to the eleven provinces around Saigon .Sensitive "Operation Dang Tien "(Let 1s go) ' in Binh Dinh Province with a goal of 328 strategic hamlets in its first year. e ... attention was directed away from the difficult . Priorities within each zone were further specified . Sectio n 3. D. The nation was divided into four priority zones (Map 3).Sensitive . At Last -. t he ine l uctability of i ncreased control ( or security ) leading somehow to popular identification TOP SECRET . By the end of the summer of 1962 GVN claimed that 3. Perceptions The effect of the GVN 1s concentraion on strategic hamlets was to make U. S. 316 hamlets had already been completed and that over 33 percent of the nation 1s total population was already living in completed hamlets ( See Table 1) . E.the actions which would convert the peasantry from apathy ( if not opposition ) to i dentification with their central government . and Phuoc Try were assigned the highest priority. whether peasants were paid for their labor.S . The first such watershed had been the consensus ) on the potential value of such a program. These flspecifics" "ere coupl ed to generalized assess ments which almost invariably pointed to shortcomings iB G 1s execution VN of the program . primarily statistical) which set forth the construction rate for strategic hamlets ) the incident rate of VC activities) and the geographical areas in which GVN control was and was not i n the ascendancy .to .225 of the plarmed 11. Atten tion tended to be directed toward how I-Tell hamlets were being fortified and whether or not the implementation phase was . reiInbursed for their losses .aspects of the pr oblem .A National Plan The GVN drew all of the partialistic programs together in its August 1962 national priority plan) mentioned earlier .·Tell managed . This included essentially the area of the Thompson Delta plan plus the original area of "Ope ration Sunri se fl plus Gia Dinh Province (Map 4).was given priority three (Map 5) .Hhere operations were already in progress -. and "Operati on Phuong Hoang" ( Royal Phoenix) in Quang Nai Province with a goal of 125 strategic hamlets by the end of 1962. Converse l y .3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16 . The shortcomings) however ) were treated as prob l ems in efficient management and operational organization. This focu s ing on details I-Thich diverted attention from the ultimate objective took the form of reports . Within the zone of first national prior ity) for example ) the provinces of Vinh Long) Long AD. when Diem made the StrategiC Hamlet Program the avoi-Ted focus of his counterinsurgent ca mpaign ) marks the second watershed i n the development and implementation of the program .assess question of whether the follow' up actions to hamlet security were taking place .

( .. t TI 1/\1 LAND ... ~. - l~ 0" .. . :~ .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. MAP 3 ________L -_________________________~ f'ROV.. 'NC[ BOU NDARY " .---... I ...aWHIA I BOfJUD ARY u . .' . :' GVN PRIORITIES FOR STRATEGIC HAMLE: TS BY ZONES r ! I I. Section 3. ' ~( . . CON SO~ ( ) . . . ----------.. :t..Declassified per Executive Order 13526.. By: NWD Date: 2011 ..0 ~. "... . .:.' . ':'. .. o " 0 SQUTH VI ET-NAM . ! ?5 4.j . L .. Yo 1 :." \. .' I ...

" 'TI--IA I LA I") D.:TYCY. Section 3.2_ _ _ _ _-.J .! I c:: . !fNI AREA IN~L.. J " t ·· : . ~~:~ SOUTH VlET-NA M -1 NATIONAl BOU IIO hRY --- ___~______________~____~MAP~~~)~~________~__~----~--~~~--~ .."'. ' .' PRIORITY . '. : . tff:< . ~ PROYIfIC! BOUHDARY 26 .!R!. :".. ! .. " . .-:-::-:-_ _ 3 . : ./1 '..UDED P~N IN THE . . .. . t -' _' .UDED IN THE GVN PL... . 1 .'. • • . 1 .'".' ""I ... 17th PIIR ALLEL (. lot .JI!. .... .~ • \..' c· A M . By: NWD Date: 2011 t · ' . Z CON SON." PRIORITY [ . " " " '" " -I.!I-S01.' .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316..[fi' AREA DEL. . ~.. V :. '.'_.' .-_.Declassified per Executive Order 13526. .' DELTA PLAN PRIORITIES . ""'-" r'-"'-.AN AS PRIORITY IN PROGRESS' NEW NO. . 1 . . ." }:>R!. . t.' . TA INCL. cV o .·f ._... '--'-.. '. .... ~ 'f I "~ r.' '.""..:=-=:--.

" .·. ' . '. \1 . -. ~ . . PR IoR I TY 1/4 . . ~ '--._.' ' .. .. > '\. .. '.' V .._ • I CON SON '. " .: . 1 .' . .-:.i :' HATI 0 NALB 0 UND'H Y .' -. i 1 I ' IV I I" I Ir PHU QUO'G . . '/" '_.'r .Declassified per Executive Order 13526..?-.. . .. 1 . ~. By: NWD Date: 2011 . \ .·: .-=·.' .. L~·. f } r ~.------~~----~--------~------------------~~--_. c GVN PRIORITIES FOR STRATEGIC HArv1LETS WITHIN THE FIRST PRIORITY ZONE u _ 17th PA RALLEL p------~.'" ./I • . _1 ."' " . ~ .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 . . °V 0 ~------~------~----~----~~ ' SOUTH :VIET·Ni'. i 'i:- . ! j l .~.2~_:~~..L/-\ C) S ' !- ! . .~~. ... .E BOUNDARY \ 27 .( )DIA 1 .: I.. :~~~~--~~----------~~.~_~__. - ~. .'. Section 3.·C A MB .. . 'MAP S PROVIH." ... . ...~ ~.

1~90 .Percent age of planne d hc'.593 3.L 3.49% .Declassified per Executive Order 13526. TOP SECRET .320 vrestcl'n Provi nces SUB-TCYl'AL r I CENTR.714 -'-- 103 1.728 6. 17. ••••••• • 28. 39% * Adapted f ro:n :£he 'l'incs of Victn3.217 4. 470 423.Percent aGe of t otal p opule..316 1. SUB-TOTP.3 NND Project Number: NND 63 316.756 105 291 1.tcgic Hamlets Uncler ConstI'uction Popub.tion in Cocnpleted HCJnlets -- 433 1.jLSTS .mlets c emplete d •••••• • • .225 GRAND TOTAL 2.034 .322.470 108. Strategic Hamlets Are 0.tion i n c omplete d hE:.Sens i tive /I.060 1.236 1.632 115 501 702 1. 682 217 899 1.762.65 4..llllets •••• • 33 .318 261. 28 Octobe}. p.874.790 2. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECREE Sensitive TABLE 1 G VN HEPOn'l' ON STATUS OF STRA~('EGIC lL"l.' 1962. Secti on 3.560 11. • • 28 .559.4JJ : Ccnt:cal Lmrl anc1s High Plateau . 244 1.'U. • I ... SOUTIlERN: Saigon East ern F'rov'i nces l Planned Sh'etcgic Hemlcts Completecl Stn. 630 930 4. l .595 4.

316 3.241 + GRAND TOTAL 11. '0 .l1.654.559.595 4.593 682 211 899 1..060 1.4% .318 26J. TOP SECRET.cts comp eted ••••••••• ••• •• •• .'1l.39% oX- Adapted from f. p.e 'r imes of Vietno. 11.Sensitive TABLE 1 G HE PORT ON STATUS OF S'l1J.28.128 6. Section 3.ets Are£.814.410 108.490 103 1.630 .Percentage of total popula.L : Central Lo\f1ands High Plateau SUB-TOTAL Strdegic Popule.Percentage of planned hamJ.tion in Under Completed H<:'mlets Construction 433 1.3 20 3.Sensitive 28 .225 2.1~10 423.tegic Hamlets Completed * EarnJ..3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 .560 1.\ SOUTHERN : Saigon Eastern Provinces vlestern Provinces SUB-TOTAL CENTRlI.190 2.tion in completed b~unlets ••••• 33..AHLE':rS VN As Strategic Hamlets Planned of 30 September 1962 Str . 930 4. 28 octobe:c 1962.236 1.iA'l"EGIC H.632 115 501 102 1.Declassified per Executive Order 13526.211 . By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET ..156 105 291 1. .

then just beginning to come in.bring democracy to rural Vietnam. The Agency for Internat ional Development had agreed to fund the "Strategic Hamlet Kits " ( building materials .es . advisors at all levels. but in August 1962 it demurred.. 9l~/ The visitors found Ambassador Nolting and his deputy .and probably will not -. the military's prime concern. Much better planning and coor<Unation "\-Tas needed in order to relocate effectively: Aerial surveys iVere necessary t o pinpoint the number of families to be relocated. preparation of sites shm. unanticipated expenditure s needed to be provided for. CG. He saw especi8~ly a need to program SDC.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. for example. I. That vas not. 92/ There Ivas no discussion of the vulnerability of the strategic he. Cri tics pointed to needed improvements . Section 3. r eached full volume. and Youth Corps training so that it . barbed wire and sta.{Quld match the role of hamlet building and to insure the provision of proper communic ations for "rarning purposes 96/ A substantial amount of the MAAG-DoD effort subsequently iVent into programming. While it has not -. and communication equipment ).. these loc al admini strations can work a revolution in rural Vietnam .Declassified per Executive Order 13526.dd begin before the peasant s were moved. light vreapons.Ylds in the MAP vrere i nadequate for the purpose 97/ Secretary McNamara agreed to undertake the financing for 1500 kits""T13 million ) but asked if the additional 3500 kits requested iVere r eally necessary and. "Operation Sunrise".Sens itive 29 . continuouS revision from then until the question becarne irrelevant in late 1963.en t . or iVhy. 95/ The Department of Defense was devoting considerable effort to insuring that these materials did r each Vietnam in."k. Political observers who examined this follow-on aspect were cautiously optimistic: The strategic hamlet program i s the heart of our effort and deserves top priority. it provides t ruly local administration for the first time.ras criticized in some detail by the US MAAG. and inst allation of 0 0 TOP SECRET . optimistic about the r esults vrhich the program might achieve once the materials for it. the quantities needed and i n t imely fashion. almost never Has raised. one may assume. Secretary McNamara had been stuck with this problem during his May 1962 visit to "Operation Sunrise" . The target l evels and delivery dates unclenrent more or less. stating that supporting assistance fu. By: NWD Date: 20 11 TOP SECRET Sensitive by a process akin to the economic assumption of "flotation to stability through development" Ivent unchallenged as a basic assumption. 93/ The same tone was reflected in Michael Forrestal's report to President Kennedy i n February 1963 following his visit to Vietnam va th Roger Hilsman. Trueheart . 98/ A separate but relatecl effort went into expediting the proclJ. S. the question of Fhether or not these could be accomplished. arnmuni tion . if so .mletsto VC infiltration ( as against VC attacks ) or of the subsequent steps to vrinning support. William C. delivery. and GVN resource commitments should be carefully checked by U.r ern. Coupled with measures to i ncrease rice production and farmer i ncome . on I'That deltvery schedule .

course. As it turned out. The argumept vTaS not. S . there was some disagreement behreen what the U. F.ion that the strategic hamlet program vmuld lead to effect i ve pacification if only Diem vlould mal<. President Kennedy wryly asked upon receiving their c onflicting reports. an ex-counselor in Saigon then at State . S. The J CS observation va th respect to the establisbrnent of strategic h amlets . 100/ As awareness in Washington increased that strategic hamlets could serve several purposes .Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526. The disagreement vTaS between those iyho poi nted to signs of progress and those who heJdup examples of poor planning. and Joseph Mendenhall. lIyou hID did vi sit the same country .S.e it work. and t he slovT but steady increase in GVN control of rural areas ( Table 5) . control of the peasantry at the expense ( at least in U.stressed statistical evidence to portray the exponential increase i n strategic hamlet construction ( Table 2 ). II When General Krulak. and Diem's stress on exhortations rather than on the provision of deSirable social services . TOP SECRET . visited RVN i n September 1963. Differences Begin to Emerge All of these IIprogram management II activities vTere based on the unstated assumpt.210 ) of them had been overrun by the VC . liThe Vietnamese peopl e must surely be finding in them a measure of the tranquility . Section 3. eyes ) of pacification. for instance. GVN failu res to reimburse the farmers for losses due to resettlement. it· should be stressed. considered needed to be done and what President Diem knew very well he was doing.'Thich they seek.. corruption.frequently accompanied by counterbalancing assertions that "limited progress ll was being achieved __ mentioned corvee labor . was that since fewer than hTO tenths of one percent ( 0. SAC SA.Sensitive 30 .Sensitive radios in the strategic hamlets so that each would have the capability to sound the alann and request the employment of mobile reserves when attacked.ning trend in Viet Cong-initiated incidents (T:able 3) . there developed also a divergent interpretation of vThether or not the GVN was '\al1l1ing the . and alienation of the peasants vThose loyalty was the ob j ect of the exercise Criticisms -. ther:Lse in VC defections ( Table l~ ). The U. the dishonesty of some officials . but the general stressed that the ~ilitary war was going well while the diplomat asserted that the political war was being l ost . experienced diplomats disagreed fundamentally with Mendenhall.yar. He was using the Strategic Hamlet Program to carry fonTard his IIpersonalist philosophy. II 99/ As brother Nhu visibly took the reins controlling the program and began to solidify control over the Youth Corps it became increasingly clear that Diem was emphasizing government. one between the generals and the diplomats.vi th a caveat or two that there was considerable room for improvement -. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET .3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16. 102/ 0 Those who emphasized that the prograrn '\-Tas shmving real progress -usually . 103/ RGK Thompson later claimed that the very absence of attacks 'ioTaS an indicator that the VC had succeeded in infiltrating the hamlets o 104/ The point is not Thompson ' s prescience but the diffi culty of reasoned-~ assessment to which this analysiS has already pointed . didn ' t yoU?1I 101/ The ansl·rer is that they had. the decli.

o c5 z \J... . '. . I I • • \.' • .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. -- . . " .t.. \ ". . " ... . b g ' 8 500 STRATEG IC HAMLETS .. . BY' JUI_V . ' .' " 9000-~-r~--+--r~~-~-+--~~-4--_~~-4~+--~~_~--+--r~'--+--+~ I 8000 -6--+~+-~--~~--~-~~-~j~~--I--'-fl--~I--+--+--+--r--1--~--~~~~~-4 .. TABLE 2 " " ~ . I. .. t ' . -' STRATEGIC H AMLET GROWTH SOUTH VIETNAM . ~ ". " . ~. .).1962 \ 31 . . '. By: NWD Date: 2011 • ..'.\ 0 N D J F M A 1963 M J J A 5 0 N D J F M 1964 A M A .Declassified per Executive Order 13526.. .' '. ESTI M AT E D TO IlE C OMPLE T E D .. 0 ·. Section 3.' ".':' ". : .. . ..

SAB O I I 0= tl OO II GII'" s ' .1 . i' .: ..1 I • - '.. '. . .-: :. TEn ROR I S M ~ ..Declassified per Executive Order 13526. ..I VI ET CONG I NITI ATED I NCI DENTS BROKE. .1 . ----. TERRORI SM. . . ' . . • '. '. .. . (AHACKS. .":: _.-- . :-. ' ... '..1 '. . TAJ3LE 3 . ..".' ..3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 .. CKS T E:RR ORISM S AB OTAGE: PROPAGAN DA . 900 .' . . I ' .N DO I NTO CATEGORI ES _ WN TAGE.' I I ' I l' ATTf. I .. Section 3../ .-.. .. .'. tooo ' " .. . ··i . ... . . By: NWD Date: 2011 " ... . PR OPAGANDA). :-~_.'.: 700 . .

. o . .. ~'50 ..ONS..: • j TABLE 4 . . ' " " '.Declassified per Executive Order 13526. . t. . . . .. '~ ...3 NND Project Number: NND 63316.. .. '" " .-. J 'F M A M J J '. ' . \ . .. ~ . - - .J. A 5 0 ' N F M A/ 19 63--.. . ' 350 ca --+--+---l--+--+--~-+-'---+--f-. .. ./ : .--t---t--t---r-fiT---t C' I ..--.' ". .'------.-l--+-~-+-t--j---t--- .'. ..... '/ h J--+... \.. Section 3. . By: NWD Date: 2011 ..-+--:'-+--+---l--+--1--J-:.-. VIET CONGDEFECTI.-~ J962 ..---I--+ .

. 926.' . . 000 437 - = 1. 000 -14 % 329 1. By: NWD Date: 20 11 -" :. 1. 27 5.% ':"'74 -64 . '. ~OMPAR I SON O CONTROL. AND APR IL 1963 .) v .- .. ~.000 54 % 27%.. 356.000 3.000 P OPULATION OF AUT ONOMOUS ' J CI TIES OF S A I GON. 000 '-He.OOO ' 857. : :•• .. + 76 +92 4.2% .724. 000 . :.0 00 445 6. 000 . "'.'.0 00 % 0 1" RUR A L POPULATION . .000 . VIE T CONG IN AS CENDANCY 422 1. IN OR DER 1'0 PRESE NT A BE T TER-PICTURE OF CON TPOL OF OF RUR A L V IE TN AM .. 000 .600 .: . 246 ..:'. 000 137..7% .Declassified per Exec uti ve O rder 13526. OCTOBE R AND D ECEMBER 1962.2% NO. v :_':~ " ..0 .. 6. 000 643.LA GES CHANGES JUL 62 TO A PR I L 63 RU RAL POP ULA TI ON I 935 73 1 .008 . ( POP ULAT I ONS ARE E STIMATESl. ! ' .J . -.? .3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16 .300.. ..000 1. 622. " .' . 609.+ 7 % + 21 + 105 + 472. 51 % 27% 5% 139 9% 8% NUMBER OF VI L LAGE S SIT UATI ON A S OF I A PR IL 63 RU RAL POPULATION "!o OF RU RAL POPULATI ON ' NUMBE R OF V1 L. 800.. 000 +1. 000 SITUAT ION ' AS OF I OCT 196 2 RUR AL POPULATI ON 6.0 00 ' 9G2. '. 000 -9% 47 "10 29% 61 3 1% 9 29 1"8 71 7. 000 GOVERNMENT OF V IETNAM IN ASCENDANC Y 71 0 NE ITHER GOVERI':MENT OF VIE T NAM NOR VI ET CONG CON TROL 34 '. . 5% 7% ": '7 % . 000 %01" RU RAL .GOVERNMENT OF V IETNAM EFFECTI VE CONTROL NUMBER OF VILLA GES 859 5.. DANANG .. 143. I.1 57 . 27 "/0 6% 120 49 % 10 % 8% 95 1 6GG 3. 07 1. '. 'J . .300 . ' . 348 390 . '.000 %01" RURA L POP ULATION NUMBER O F VI LLAGES S I TU ATI ON AS OF I DE C: 196 2 RURAL POPULATION .: • \ '. HUE .. 000 340 I. 3.000 . POPULATION "'. -2 66.000 V IE T CONG E FFE CTI VE C ON T ROL 4 54 SIT U AT ION AS OF I JULY 1962 RURA L POPULATION % OF RU RA L ' POPULATI ON 'NUMBER orV I LLAGE S 3. AN:) DALAl' U"DER GVN CONTROL AS NOT USED I N T HIS S TUDY .. GOVERNMENT OF VI ETNAM AND VI ET CONG F JULY. ' • . Section 3.33 \.'.702.

S. TOP SECRET . by mid-1963. Diem insisted increasingly on the second. cease to have an operational voice in the Strategic Hamlet Program. the U.Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526. continued to pursue the first course. the military campaign is progressing. The Strategic Hamlet Program-or at l east the program under that name '\.S.rhich they had made the un ifying t heme of their counterinsurgent effort--died with them. a coup toppl ed the Diem regime on 1 November . was the source of friction and dissension.-my and hope for the best. Section 3. alternatives. for example. The ruling-junta attempted to resuscitate the program as "Eevl Life Haml ets" early in 1964 . he claimed.3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16 . Diem's Posit ion Hardens reJ2ort~? VII. missions visited Vietnam to assess the conduct of the war. The inhabitants who had wanted to leave the hamlets did so in the absence of an effective government . The result was much the same as reported by Krulak and Mendenhall. in the event. pursued the third alternative . Other U. 7he multiplication of U.Sensitive in the face of these cautiously optimistic and hopefully pessimistic was to continue its established program of material support coupled with attempts to influence Diem to make desired changes. remained the Salile as they were in l ate 1901: (1) to induce changes within the strategic Hamlet PiTogram ( among others ) by convincing Diem to make such changes. that the U.S . Far from becoming rnore reasonable. The Strategic H~mlet Program. The remedy was to remove the advisors . increased repressive measures.S. S. leverage is questionable. attempted to i nsist on a program with more emphasis on broad appeal r ather than control. in U. 105/ The essence of Diem's position was that Taylor ' s "limited partnership" would not vwrk . eyes. advisors at many l evels. U. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET . Finally.S. He insisted. S. This was essentially the findings of the r1cIl:amara-Taylor mission i n September . but the failures of the past provid. The U. died with its sponsors. Diem. 106/ B. finding himse lf increasingly embroiled i n the Buddhist controversy.Sensitive 35 . S.. The VC took advantage of the confusion to attack and overrun others. due to pressures from areas other than the Strategic Hamlet Program. S.ed a poor psychological basis upon which to base hopes for the future. Some offerred little or no r esistance . "architect of the Strategic Hamlet Program. President Diem by mid-1963 had become more i ntractable . the deposed President and his brother I'J hu. political di saffection is growing . and ( 3) to find an alternative to President Diem. THE PATH TO THE EnD A. The obvious U." were killed. The Program Dies With the Ngos The r est may be summarized: the U. ( 2) to allow Diem to run things his own .

what would have occurred had he made a determined and sustained effort to do so? Would this have l ed in some more-or. The quest ion is as unansvlerable as whether the appetite grOlvs with the eating or is satisfied by i t .3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. to i nduce them to reform .S. the failure was in the political end of the process . AJ:: INCm:CLUSIVE Sm10. Reither the military nor the political aspects of this doctrine can be upheld (or proved false ) by an exmfrination of the strategic Hamlet Progrruu. It i s said that the military phase of the strategic Hamlet Program progressed reasonably well i n many areas.Sensitive . 107/ That there "Tas overexpansion and the establishment of many poorly defended hamlets is not questioned . Section 3. The contention here is that claims of mismanagement are not sufficient to conc lude that better management would necessarily have produced the desired resul. The present analysis has sought to emphasize both the essentially political nature of the objective of the Strategic 'Hamlet Program and the political nature of the context in which the process evolved -. to .Declassified per Executive Order 13526. But did the military actions succeed? Might failures to develop adequate i nte lligence ana. Yet. One may say that the program was doomed by poor execution and by t he inability of the Ugo family to reform coupled with the i nability of the U.ts. adequate to the chal lenge.. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECm-:.or i s there a l.of expectations. TOP SECRET . In the military sphere the unanswerable questions are different.l ess direct way to stability or to even greater dissatisfaction? He simply do not know. S.eed out VC infrastructure in th ese hamlets not as easily be attributable to' the fact that the inhabitants knew they were not really safe from VC i ntimi dation and reprisals? Does the analogy to an "oil spot" have operat ional meaning when small bands can carry out hit and rQD raids or when many small bands can concentrate in one location and achieve surprise? Hhere i s t he key to this vicious circle -. the availab le record does not pernlit one to conc lude either that the prograM fell because of the failure of a given phase or that other phases "rere. bargaining.hy the strategi c hamlet program did not succeed fai l to get at another v"hole issue: the validity of that body of writings which one may call the t heory and doctrine of counterinsurgency.T . But this view finesses the problem of the process for \~hich t he strate(Sic hamlets were but the tangible symbol.S.Sensitive VIII. both of these attempts to pinpoiDt the reasons > ". to the failure of the progrrun. The evidence does not warrant one to proceed further . vlhile the abortive strategic Haml et Program of 1961-1963 may teach one something. Quite aside from whether or not Diem was able to broaden the program ' s appeal to the peasantry. vie"r has been that the Strategic Hamlet Program failed because of over-expansion and the establishment of hamlets in basically insecure areas. beyond doubt. i n fact. In this context it is the U.-ey? In concl usion . and attempts to exert i nfluence on other participants in policy formulation 811d implementation. in ability to exert leverage on Pres ident Diem (or Diem ' s i nability to reform) that emerges as the principal cause of failure..lARY 'Jlhe dominant U. This contributed.

3 NND Project Number: NND 63316.Declassified per Executive Order 13526. By: NWD Date: 2011 o " o -i oi m 2: en . Section 3.

.South Vietnam.rch 1960 . 2. ~. The Nort h Vietmunese Role in t~e Or i gi n .. Outlook i n Ma in l~md Southeg. p .llJ. pp. 1966 ). 7. 2nd SeSSion . ~ef lfJAAG.dttee on Foreign Re l ations .ctio!.ne 1961). RFE .1s i n . 19 66 . 1 September 19 6 1. 2 FOOTNOTES 1. 6. 4. See J. TOP SECRET. Prob e. Directio:r:. Defeating Comrmmist Tnsurger. 1 Nove~ber 1961.Actio·~ Program Proposea by the Vi e t rramUnitee.211d Res earch. pp. 5. Sir Robert Thompson. 4. 1 966 ). Hashingto~'l .. Rural Pacificatiol". 3. 1.J. :p o 14· ( S/NF) W illiam A.3 NND Project Number : NND 63316. Vietnam. and S'l'oportOfthe W in South Vietna~i1. 3 ( TS ) Bri efing Pape r.slo1'f . n. 1'..o l e Conrrn'. 12 . ).. Nr 4 (Winter 1962-63 ). First 'I'l-relve M2nth R2po2. i n Victncull ( NeVi York : Praeger .theast Asia and Vi etnillll ( 2nd ReYised Ed . GPO. FP-:tSb-7.Hlist Threat Mounts in South VietIl8111. B. n. 89th Congress .. Pac:ific Affa irs. 7 (s) MAAG.'t of .3t30. 7 November 1961 . p.-3. 123 . 13. i v ( S). Section 3.siti ve 37 . Lj. 35'(. 327-340. 8.r Sta te Department Bureau of Inte lligence .Declassified per Executive Order 13526.d Presidel". Saigon to State Nr 278 . Seven Years of the Ngo Din}} Diem Admini. passim . 28 March 19 61 . p . d . 7 Ma. 5 l\TJE 50-61. States S'pecial F2:E~::"cial Groups (S) See I bid . 11.gcnce Report. Inte.stra:tion. p.mi st Re8. p .§]: ( Saigon : 26 October 1961) . Vietnam.st ASi8. XXXV. . p. Letter of Transmittal to Pre sident Diem 8:(. By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET -Sensitive IV. Senat e CO'ffir. p.t i ng to Sot. 125 4 . Hr 2137261.. Nighsvlonger .cy ( New York: Praeger .6 . 10 (S) U:S.d. Background Tnfonnat -j on Re l 8.. L2.Sel:. (8) p. "Rural Resettlement in South Vietnam: Th2 Argovi 11e P rogram".. Vol. ComTIYl. I ntroQuction .t Kennedy. ' SlUE 10-L~-61 . Despatch. e. (JlJ. Joint .12.. 9· 10 .

( TS ) Cited hereaft e r as .. 14 ----. 30 . A3-AL1. 32 . ~ .S Georgraphie:all y Plnsed COlmt erinsurgen. 21. 29 . pp .th Vi etnam . I bid .Jette:c. 9.. (S) Despatch Nr . 276 . Annex B.. 28 . .-- I bid . 2 I bid .Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. 19 · 20 . . Ibid ..cy Plan . Com. 18 .3 See for exampl e . 25 . p . and Appendices A-I. pp . 276.n i nc l osure to De s patch 1:Tr ./ ( C) (Secret) } cited hereafter 2. } p . 15 S2y tember 19 61 . National Leve l Operation P12. Ibid. Section 3.rge~lcy Plan for SOl'.ll for Cwnteril1surgenc. . 26 . . 1 1-16. Saigon to State . 27 . p . cited hereafte r as CIP-1960 . 9 Ibid. Al-A3 . pp. p. 17 . 13 October 1961 ( C) Reuort on General Taylor ! s 11. } l)P · A4-A7 . J. 7 I bid.E' cit. 31.ces are to the section on eval uations and c onc l usions .1.?~~rlo:c Reuort ..~ J~(lU21j' 1961.Sensitive 14. SE~mI'I'IVE ."!ter I nS1. C2 . I b i d . p. 8 ~..ill. 3 November 1961. 1 5· 16 . 6-7. evaluations cnd c onclusions . President Kennedy t o Gen. SeigoLl t o State . . ssion to SOljth Vi etnam . pp.eral Haxvle ll D. l. bou. . 24 . . 11-12 The p l an. ~ . I b i d ..'1d in loo'se l eaf "rith letter Oft ransmit tel . . 23. . p . p . All referer. 38 TOP SECRET .. See a l so pp . 3 I bid . By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRE~ . Tayl or.. Ib i d . is contained as a. 22 . HAAG Vietn2. p . GeorgrEmhic ally Phase d. .

RevieH of M tB. 2654 ( s). Bureau of Inte lligence and Re.igon t o State . 18 October 1961 ( S). S.search. ~if .1'lQum . 36 . Lionel C. 27 November 1961 ( S). Te1egrarn. Ibid. Sa igon to State ~ Er.D.ov~mber 1961 . 20 November 1951 .66 . I bic1 . 38. Appre~i at ion of Vietnam . 27 October 1961. for eX3l!ll")le . 39 .ent Diem.c Concept for South Vietnam ( S ) . Study. ~b i d . to letter Lt. RGK Thompson to Pres i d. snd Aie e Memoire . McGarr to Se cre t a r y' of Defense . By: NWD D ate: 2011 TOP SECRET . 44 . 205 . 508 .atiol1s for COlltinued Improveme~l t ( S).--Thoru11sonMemora:. 20 Novembe r 19 51 . 37 . Copie s of Thompson ' s covering l etter EJ:. 1967 ). 'Polic.Jent of Ste.ry Si tuat~on and Recormnenc1. 1 6 March 1. November 1961 -April 1962 (S).. U. Inc1. Fourth Revision. Saigon to State Nr. 3 July 1961.:ll. 35 . Inc1. 427 .'--l .enclosed Vii th msS. l etter of transmitta L ( Emj?hasis added ) •. McGarr to Secretary of Defense . A Strateg j.te. I bi d . To Eove a H2.Ctics and Te chniq'.es of Counterins urgent Operations ( S) De spa tch Hr .n F .1AAG Gui dan ce Pape r to Field Advisors i n COULter I nsurgency. Sensitive See .! i n t he Administrat ion of Jo:b.961 (S). C:m. 2 Feoruary 1 962 . McGarr to Admira l H. 205 . LI· 6 .Declassified per Executi ve Order 13526. 1>:9 . Kennedy (li"ei-f Yor!~ : Doub l eds. T8.Ser:si tj. Ibid . The mei:!lJr andtWl. Sectio n 3. ~- 33 .tion : T:ne Politics of Foreign ..y. Se cDef Control j\l"r . ili Telegram.ve . S2. Sa i gon to State . 10 Feb rua ry 19 62 . I b id . McGarr -Co Die. Gen. 20 li.f Advisory Group . 39 TOP SECEET . 27 November 1961 . see Roger Rilsmau . Fe lt ( CHTCPAC ). op. to l ett e r . op. Militay. . 1~.1d memorandum to Diem a re .3 NND Project Number: NND 633 16 . 40.39 .. 43 . ---~ 42 . on the Presi dent I s i nterest and Thompson 1 s effe ct on Hi l sma. Lett er . 34 . cit . Nr .:. D2partr. is cited hereafter a s -. 'l'honrDson l'viiss ion Hecommenda tions to President Di em ( S ) .... 41. h5 .

tiog :E. cit.. ot rsT· 55· Ibid .. r ~ .Sensit ive A St ratefSic CC?. HQCINCPAC.. 62. Hickey .c:ember 8. Task Forc e Vietn81u. Sa igon to St ate . 57. 5A-l .. 16 De c emb e r 19 61 . 31 July 1962 .5. .. Government_ P!"-ramilitary Infras tructu re (Organization ) Required as Int eg!ate d_ Pr: Tt of ~Hli tary Pha s e Pec i!_ic.. 1 5 J antlaYT 1962 . Thuan . Rec ord o::f~S~__ e c.~ De cember 19 6 1 . Ibid" 51.- ~. St a h . .1t of State. SecDef Conferen ce. ~l .. 54.n~retary of Defense ' Conference. Conc e rnin/L. Departmei.. pp .. 18 De cembe r 1961. Section 3.Declassified per Exec utive Order 13526.Vidnp. 1. pp.tf Hamlets: A PreliminarY' Report ( mum I-iemoTe. ll. Departmel1t of St a te. 50. McGarr to Mr.ncept for 5l::mth Vi etnam.-2! De!ense Conference .r.:o.uring World 'YTco II. 61. 15-24 .. First 8ecret ar:r. S. !ir. Le tter McGarr to Fe lt.9. The GVN plan and ac tions are not well docwnented but are r eferred to i n U. op... 6-1 . 18 De cembe r 1961. MAAG Vietnam Repor!.ET ·· Sensitive . cit. c1raving h eavi ly on his personal experiences ivi th the OSS o.2. 16 December 1961 . Nr .c. 9-14. pp . pp . c~. Tran script. 10 Februe.. 59 · 60. 3 . Donne 11 and Hickey. 4.6. 52... By: NWD Date: 2011 TOP SECRET .. 49. ~1S L~rne~ 56. p.Jll. Memorandum. PI>...\s Report of Deve lopp1ents Since De.nd Gerald C. pp . John C. se arch Proj e ct 630 R'3 cent American Policy and Diplome. p..1 3200~ARPA.IIStrategic tnamese . Donne ll e. 24 (C).rJ 1962 ( 8 ).ndum Ri. 1031. op.!..3 NND Project Number: NND 63316 .. The third principle is Hi 1 sm821 I s own contribution . The Vie. 1-2 (S) Personal notes of Assistant SEcretary of De fense Arthur Sylvester. 30 August 1962).. oJ2.. 15-19.. Honolulu. 40 TOP SECP. R:.ffort_ 53. ... pp.. 3 (8') HQCINCPAC.5A-3 rs. 1960-1963~99-'(TS)---' Telegralrl .

.'gr81u.:p..tional Security Action Mcmora'1dulll No. 133·. 72 .te . 22 69. A-85 and A-llO. .S. Ts. p . The U. Ibid. Rufus Phillips. A Report on Counter-Insurgency in Vietn8~. 22 November 1961 . proposals are recorded in N2. Departmer. 708. 71. See Homer C. Bureau of Intelligence and Research Re search Memorandum RFE. Bureau of Inte l ligence and Research . p.ept for Counter-Tnsurgency 2. 5 (C) . 22 November 1961 ( S)."Vol IV. 21 November 1961 (rrs ). May 1962 (s). 67. 2 (S). 6.ress Report (S/ NF) . Saigon to State Nr . p. Saigon I S S!rategic Ccmc. 4. Nr 43. Telegram. from Ambassador Ga l brai th for t he President. ItVi etnameseOpen a Drive on Reds . 78. 77. Saigon to State Nr. Progr~ss Report on South Vietn~ ( ShfF). 5 Dec2lTIDer 1962 . 495.Sensitive 41 .Sensitive 64 . Telegrcm.Declassified per Executive Order 13526. Research Memorandun RFE-E:2. Sa igon to State. ---See for eX81llple. Status Report of Dev e lopments Since Dec enioer 21. 28 December 1961. Bigart . First Phase of Vietnam ProgrelU ( TS). Ibid . TOP SECRET . TOP SECRET . Section 3. 9 August end 27 August 1962 (C). 8 August 1962 (C). CAS New Delhi to Director No 9941. 66 .. ~. 1 367. 79 . 25 November 1961 ( s). Department of St8. 31 August 1962 . Saigon to State Nr . Telegram. 28 October 1962 . 70 . "The Times of Vi etnam. 687. 18 June 1962 . 65 . DepartmeYlt of State . 80 . By: NWD Date: 20 11 _. Airgrmns . Telegram.t of State. 111. TelE. Seigon to State Nr .sk Force Vietmuu. It New York Times 29 March 1962: Telegram Saigon to State Nr . 16 October 1961 ( S ). 73 . 74. Ibid. 68 . 76. p . 75.·2'1.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. Prog:. Nrs . 3.

t . 8-11 May 19 62 . Times . Lessons Learned r-Tr . "No 'tlin.farch 1962 . Deputy Director Worldng Group V~etnam j Report on Visit to Vietnam" October l S··Kovember 26. JCSIvl 734 -62 . Section 3. t · C Homer. I nclos'-lre to lvlemo ~ CJCS to SecDef.§trategic Hamlet r:i ts. B19a r· . 19. To Move a r\"e.Declassified per Executive Order 13526. 9 April19 62 . 8 ··11 Iviay 1962 .~theast Asia ( Depa rtment of State Public a tion 7388) . 27 ll. pp. 42 TOP SECRET . p. "U'S Helps "VietD2lll 1n Tes· Yorl<:. c it. 8 September 1962 .rned nr .i e Hamlet Kits) Vietnam. 19 02 . C. 5 ( TS) . 87. 9 August 1962 . lm for the Pre sident . Remarks to press. Heavner.tioI':. 14 May 1962 . Lessons Len.. StTSLegy 11 J.Sensitive .e Ne:w Repub lic. 19. 91:. op. 22 September 1962 .ding of Strateg. Vietnam. cit. for exampl e. MemoranCl:. Theodore J.hab ilit ation Prog~ ( S ). RFE-27 . By: NWD D ate: 2011 TOP SECRET .. Hilsman . 98 . 91. (C). ASD lISA to SeeDe f . 31 July 1962 . 93. p . Memo . 92 .ry of Defen se.. 2 ( S ) MichaeLV.3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. 90 . 2. in OSD Historical Files . South ViehH3Jll. ' 84 . 2 n 82. See . by the Secretexy of Defense . p . liT ~ 89 Bureau of Intelligence and Research. 453 • Visit to Southeast Asia. cit.ly 1962 .Sens itive 81. ~ to S92:l.r:.. cit . HAAG. Vte"tnam : li'ree-I'lorld Cha lleDg~ in So.11 Th. . ei t . Ibid. 16 ·-17 . 96. 8 ll May 1962 . US lflAAG. Visit to Southeast Asia bl the Secretary ?f Defense. COMUSMACV Message DA IN 262596 . 18 J une 19 62 .. A Report on . 83. p. Fu. 24 J'J. op. Funding of . op . op. 97 . Province ~e. 19. 8S . p. 94 • 95 ..rned Nr . VlAAG Lessons IJec. op. 86 .!hesst Asia by the Secre t a. 85 . f' 0. Visit to Southeast Asia. Forrestal .' cit.

43 TOP SECRET - S ?~sitive . -T' 1 smen. 2 October 1963 Report of the MdJamara. Se cDef Contro l Nr . Department of State . • ~. 136. cit. cit. i·iichael V. 1 September 1 9 6 3. CIA M~.LO F i T " 1'10Ve a _~aTlon. Thompson .rJ. RFE-102 . IEcl. NighsVTtJuger .42.3ureau of Intelligence and Res ee. to Memora. . op.m. J. See . J'oint Chiefs of Steff. 20 December 1963... p. i 103. Depa. 100. By: NWD Date: 201 1 TOP SECRET . Tre:c. ~ural Pacifi cation i n Vietnam . See a lso Hilliam A. p.-Taylor I:lission to South Vietnam ( TS ). op . 27 l-iay 1 963. 60 ( sjrIT ).ds in the Counterinsurgency Effort in South Vietne. 27 Hay 1963 . tII fjl 101 • 1 02 . Vietnam. USOH Rure. Second Informal Appreciation of the Status of the Strategic HpJrrlet Progrs.m. " .ndmn. Implications of GVN Difficulties i n Viet~~ ( S ). See. oJ2. Trends in the War Effort i n South Vietnam ( S ). Forrestal to SecretaI"J McNamer-a.irs Office . Memorandum for the Pres ident . Burea·oJ. 11 Mey 1963. 105 . Defeati ng Communist Insurgency. Dep8Ttment of State . 106 .rtment of State .rch. . 107 . 104 .. :for example.Declassified per Executive Order 13526. 28 September 1962 ( S).3 NND Project Number: NND 63316. for example .Sensitive . Section 3. 20 September 1963. . t p.l Affe. 4 97 . 502 _. . RFE~. of Intelligence 8nd Research. RFE-42.o for SecDef. 99 .

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful

Master Your Semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer: Get 4 months of Scribd and The New York Times for just $1.87 per week!

Master Your Semester with a Special Offer from Scribd & The New York Times