As part of Washington Babylon’s release of Doug Valentine’s Life and Times of a South Vietnamese Special Police Officer we are going to feature content from worldwide archives that recall one of the most painful episodes of recent American and Asian history. This is one of many short films produced for Army training during the war.
The following is excerpted from the Pentagon Papers:
By the summer of 1967, pacification had become a major ingredient of American strategy in Vietnam, growing steadily in importance and the amount of resources devoted to it. The U.S. Mission in Vietnam had been reorganized three times in 15 months and each reorganization had been designed primarily to improve the management of the pacification effort and raise its priority within our overall effort.
Pacification–or as it is sometimes called by Americans, Revolutionary Development (RD)–had staged a comeback in priority from the days in 1964 and 1965 when it was a program with little emphasis, guidance, or support. It has by now almost equalled in priority for the Americans the original priority given the Strategic Hamlet program in 1962-1963, although the Vietnamese have not yet convinced many people that they attach the same importance to it as we do.
This study traces the climb in pacification’s importance during the last two years, until it reached its present level of importance, with further growth likely.
This study concentrates on American decisions, American discussions, American papers. It will be clear to the reader that, if this version of events is accurate, the Vietnamese played a secondary role in the move to re-emphasize pacification. It is the contention of this paper that this was indeed the case, and that the Americans were the prime movers in the series of events which led to the reemphasis of pacification. This study does not cover many important events, particularly the progress of the field effort, the CIA-backed PAT/Cadre program, and GVN activity.
The process by which the American government came to increase its support for pacification is disorderly and haphazard. Individuals like Ambassador Lodge and General Walt and Robert Komer, seem in retrospect to have played important roles, but to each participant in a story still unfolding, the sequence may look different. Therefore, it is quite possible that things didn’t quite happen the way they are described here, and someone else, whose actions are not adequately described in the files available for this study, was equally important.
Nor was there anything resembling a conspiracy involved. Indeed, the proponents of what is called so loosely in this paper “pacification” were often in such violent disagreement as to what pacification meant that they quarreled publicly among themselves and overlooked their common interests. At other times, people who disagreed strongly on major issues found themselves temporary allies with a common objective.
Moreover, there is the curious problem of the distance between rhetoric and reality. Even during the dark days of 1964-1965, most Americans paid lip service, particularly in official, on the record statements, to the ultimate importance of pacification. But their public affirmation of the cliches about “winning the hearts and minds of the people” were not related to any programs or priorities then in existence in Vietnam, and they can mislead the casual observer.
The resurgence of pacification was dramatically punctuated by three Presidential conferences on Pacific islands with the leaders of the GVN–Honolulu in February, 1966, Manila in October, 1966 (with five other Chiefs of State also present), and Guam in March, 1967. After each conference the relative importance of pacification took another leap upward within the U.S. Government–reflecting a successful effort within the U.S. Government by its American proponents–and the U.S. tied the GVN onto Declarations and Communiques which committed them to greater effort.
In addition, each conference was followed by a major re-organization within the U.S. Mission, designed primarily to improve our management of the pacification effort. After Honolulu, Deputy Ambassador Porter was given broad new authority to run the civilian agencies. After Manila, Porter was directed to reorganize the components of USIA, CIA, and AID internally to create a single Office of Civil Operations (OCO). And after Guam, OCO–redesignated as CORDS–was put under the control of General Westmoreland, who was given a civilian deputy with the personal rank of Ambassador to assist him.
The low priority of pacification in 1965 was the understandable result of a situation in which battles of unprecedented size were taking place in the highlands and along the coast, the air war was moving slowly north towards Hanoi, and the GVN was in a continual state of disarray.
But a series of events and distinct themes were at work which would converge to give pacification a higher priority. They were to meet at the Honolulu conference in February, 1966.