United States Counterinsurgency Operations in Vietnam from 1961 to 1968
The United States policies of counterinsurgency throughout the Vietnam War have largely been criticized by historians, government officials, and the U.S. population ever since the escalation of occupation the U.S. had in South Vietnam starting in 1961. The Geneva Accords of 1954 stated that there was to be no foreign military presence in North and South Vietnam, however the U.S. ignored the accords because of their belief in the Domino Theory.1 The U.S. was scared that if one country fell to communism then all of Southeast Asia would be susceptible to falling to communism. The National Liberation Front was gaining support in South Vietnam, and was starting to cause problems within its borders starting in 1959-1960.2 With the insurgency growing the U.S. knew that it had to take action in Vietnam, or fear losing the South to the insurgent communists. The U.S. counterinsurgency programs started to take form in South Vietnam starting in 1961 under the direction of the Kennedy Administration.3 The programs continued to gradually escalate under the Johnson Administration, until his tenure in office came to an end in late 1968. These counterinsurgency programs were created with the idea of separating and eliminating the Vietcong communists that were all over the Southern Vietnam population throughout the years of 1961 to 1968. The programs created focused on winning over the Southern population from falling to the National Liberation Front, however, these plans failed to succeed.4 This paper is going to analyze and discuss the U.S. counterinsurgency tactics used throughout the 1961 to 1968 time period, and show why the U.S. counterinsurgency plans in Vietnam were mostly unsuccessful and really did little to obstruct the Vietcong insurgency. The Geneva Accords of 1954 were entirely ineffective in creating a lasting peace in Vietnam. The U.S. did not abide to the accords, and claimed that they did not have to because they never officially signed them. The accords said that there was to be no foreign military presence in Vietnam, and that all North Vietnam troops had to return back to the North.5 The North troops returned back north of the 17th parallel, but a Southern insurgency was created with the National Liberation Front.6 Hanoi was controlling this insurgency from the North and was helping them militarily through planning, supplies, and aide.7 The Vietcong were growing rapidly in the South, and the U.S. knew that it had to get involved if it wanted to safeguard South Vietnam from communism. Starting in 1954 the U.S. succeeded the French in Vietnam, and began offering money and aide to the Government of Vietnam.8 This would be the main way the U.S. helped South Vietnam until the insurgency began to gain ground throughout 1959 to 1961.9 In 1961 the U.S. counterinsurgency policies started, and U.S. involvement in Vietnam continued to gradually increase until 1968.
Some aspects of the counterinsurgency programs that were first implemented included: the use of psychological warfare, political and social reforms in rural villages, intelligence campaigns to gain knowledge on where the Vietcong were stationed, and increased security measures on villages in areas that were more susceptible to Vietcong infiltration and attacks10. These would be the counterinsurgency strategies that would predominantly be used throughout the 1961 to 1963 time period under the direction of Paul Harkins, who was the Military Assistance Commander in Vietnam (MACV) during this period. At the start of 1964 the U.S. started to change its policies, as the Vietcong were causing many problems within the Southern Vietnamese population.11 This change of policy was headed by MACV William Westmoreland, and was used until the end of the Johnson administration in late 1968. The U.S. came to the conclusion that it needed to up its military campaign in...
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Redfern, William. "Consequences of Tet." Randolph-Macon College. 19 Apr. 2013. Lecture.
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Redfern, William. "Kennedy and Vietnam." Randolph-Macon College. 18 Mar. 2013. Lecture.
Redfern, William. "Nixon: Vietnamization and Pacification." Randolph-Macon College. 24 Apr. 2013. Lecture.
Redfern, William. "North Vietnam and The Start of the Southern Insurgency." Randolph-Macon College. 11 Mar. 2013. Lecture.
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