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so that they would be able to provide some form of organized protection to their neighborhood or local community to supplement the territorial forces. The Self-Defense forces were divided inco two groups: one combat and the other support. Further divided into three groups, the support forces consisted of youth, women, and elders. Membership was voluntary and open to all citizens seven years of age or above. The new mobilization law required all youths between 16 and 17 and men between 38-50 to serve in the combat Peoples Self Defense Corps. Within each of the combat forces were to be specially trained personnel, organized inro 35-man teams, each man being armed."'


Like the rest of Operation Recovery, after much fanfare and formation and drilling of units, the program lacked cohesion. While a wide variety of units were organized, they received little direction, training, or weapons. American CORDS officials observed aimless drift and almost no coordination. By the end of June, according to the MACV history, "the population was, in effect, ahead of the government in terms of its willingness to participate actively in self-defense.'110


The second wave of the Tet offensive in May gave a new impetus to Operation Recovery in both reconstruction and the mobilization of the population. As North Vietnamese officials met formally with the Americans in Paris for the first time, these negotiations reinforced the new sense of urgency. Ambassador Komer later wrote that the South Vietnamese government's "realization that a far greater effort on its part would be required to survive finally led to actual national manpower mobilization, extensive training programs for local officials, a major acceleration for pacification efforts, several economic reforms and the like."''


At this point President Thieu called a meeting of his Corps commanders and expressed his unhappiness. He told them in "no uncertain terms that whatever the anomaly involved in exercising authority, recovery was not to wither on the vine." By July, according to American officials, the reconstruction of the rural economy in I, II, and III Coq->s had reached pro-Tet levels.'2


The South Vietnamese president also took the initiative relative to the Self-Defense Corps. In July, he placed the program directly under his prime minister, who formed a National Peoples Self Defense Committee chaired by himself. By the end of the year, some l,OCX),()()() people were members of such groups and nearly half of them had received training. The government had distributed some 173,000 weapons. In I Corps, for example, at the end of October, nearly 106,000 of the civilian population had joined the Self Defense Corps with 16 percent armed. At the end of the year, the number had increased to 225,162 with 10 percent of them armed."


Operation Recovery itself came to an end in October with the claim of the government that it had accomplished its basic mission, the return of security and extension of public services to the level enjoyed prior to the offensives. The third enemy offensive by this time had petered out and wreaked far less damage than the earlier attacks. The October Hamlet Evalua-

PEOPLE'S SELF-DEFENSE ORGANIZATION - I CTZ







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