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CHAPTER 4

Reinforcement and Expansion

The Need for Further Reinforcements-The Establishment of the Qui Nhon Enclave-The Attack on the Airfield-Expansion to the South-Further Reinforcements

The Need for Further Reinforcements

Despite increasing U. S. involvement, the major Viet Cong effort bypassed American concentrations during the spring of 1965. Most of the contacts between the Marines and the VC were the results of American initiative. Other than sporadic harassment, the Communists generally left the U.S. troops alone, and reserved their major efforts for the Vietnamese Armed Forces. Apparently the Communist strategy was to finish off the South Vietnamese before more American forces could be deployed to South Vietnam.

In many respects, the moment for concentrated VC action appeared opportune; the South Vietnamese government's war against the Communists was in disarray. According to the government's campaign plan for 1965, the South Vietnamese had established as their objectives the defense of bases and lines of communications, the harassment of VC bases and lines of communications, surveillance of border and coastal areas, and most important, support of the Chieu Thang ('Struggle for Victory') pacification program. Promulgated in early 1964 and based on the 'spreading oil 'concept, the Chien Thang program placed priority on the consolidation of the secure populous area by a combination of military, paramilitary, police, economic, and social reform activities. At the heart of the program was the ''New Life'' hamlet, a variation of the planned community. Although similar in many respects to the abortive 'Strategic Hamlet' program of the Diem regime, the Chien Thang campaign was supposedly better planned and more realistic, in that security was to be 'restored in one area prior to going to another.' These secure areas were then to serve as 'springboards to pacify the areas' which were insecure.1

Once more the South Vietnamese pacification plans proved to be too ambitious. In I Corps, for example, where the 1965 campaign plan called for pacification of the coastal plain inland to the railroad in Quang Nam and Quang Ngai Provinces, the situation had deteriorated by the end of March 1965 to the extent that the government controlled only the areas surrounding the provincial capitals. Only in the Saigon region, where the South Vietnamese had begun an intensive pacification campaign in 1964, code named HOP TAC, did the government enjoy a modicum of success in its efforts against the Communists during the spring of 1965.2*

Compounding the difficulties for the South Vietnamese, the government, at the end of May, was in the throes of another internal crisis. Head of State Suu and Prime Minister Quat disagreed over the makeup of the cabinet and were unable to resolve their differences. They both stepped down and handed the reins of power to a military directorate presided over by Generals Thieu and Ky. As one study on pacification concluded, this entire period was marked by governmental instability and 'as a consequence, Saigon's military efforts and related pacification programs sputtered both at the national and local levels,' and there was 'neither the time nor the inclination on the part of the various

 

* Coincident with the Chien Thang program, the South Vietnamese, at the urging of MACV, launched the HOP TAC (Working Together) campaign in mid-1964 with the aim of linking together the six rural provinces surrounding Saigon. Using Saigon-Cholon as a hub, the provinces were divided into four concentric zones. The idea was to first pacify the closer zones and then move outward until all six provinces were pacified. A special HOP TAC directorate was formed with U.S. advisors to coordinate the military, police, social, and economic activities of the program. In 1965, an effort was made to use the HOP TAC example in other Corps areas. See the Ngu Hanh Sonh section in Chapter 9 for the effects of this effort in I Corps.

 

 

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