Introduction onduring the Vietnam War, focusing on how the hamlets were constructed and the effect the implementation and construction had on the overall Strategic Hamlet Program. The paper must contain a clear connection between the implementation and construction efforts of the Strategic Hamlet Program to the significance of the Vietnam War.
The paper is not an effort to answer the question, "Would the Strategic Hamlet Program have worked had something been done differently?" Rather, the paper is an effort to explore how the Strategic Hamlet Program was implemented, emphasizing where/why/how/by whom/effects of hamlet construction, and then connect these effects to the Vietnam War's significance.
The Strategic Hamlet Program end has often been blamed on the assassination of President Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, however if one peels off the top layer of the program and its history and examines the underpinnings one will see that it began to fail before the assassination took place.
By mid-1963, attacks had been increasing against the hamlets, especially in the populous Mekong Delta area. And many previously secure hamlets had been lost to the Viet Cong. Now with the death of the President and his brother, and the haste of the new regime to disassociate itself from anything to do with Diem's regime, the Strategic Hamlet Program simply fell apart http://www.ehistory.com/vietnam/essays/hamlets/0158.cfmWHY THE STRATEGIC HAMLET PROGRAM FAILED). This study of the Strategic Hamlet Program while identifying some limited success, has catalogued the overall failure of the program to bring about pacification in South Vietnam over the period 1961 to 1963(http://www.ehistory.com/vietnam/essays/hamlets/0158.cfmWHYTHE STRATEGIC HAMLET PROGRAM FAILED)."
Experts now agree that the failure can be attributed to inadequate planning as well as substandard coordination. Part of this was caused by the speed in which the program was put together and implemented and part of it was the fact that the program itself did not provide an adequate solution to the need and the problem at the time.
The Vietnamese did not understand the need to ensure that all the components of the Strategic Hamlet Program came together in a coordinated manner. They "seemed unable to understand" that nothing would be accomplished "unless the other necessary measures were taken to achieve the three objectives of protection, of uniting and involving the people, and of development with the ultimate aim of isolating the guerilla units from the population. The construction of hamlets which indicated a lack of coordination. In these instances the hamlets and their defenses were constructed, but "no men. from the hamlet have been trained or armed to defend it."2 According to Thompson, defences and training as well as an alarm and communications system needed to be provided simultaneously. In other examples, militia volunteers received training but the weapons they had been promised "came late or were too few or never arrived at all (http://www.ehistory.com/vietnam/essays/hamlets/0158.cfm
WHY THE STRATEGIC HAMLET PROGRAM FAILED)." final problem was the lack of resources to properly fund the development and sustenance of the program.
It is often said that history repeats itself which underscores the importance of understanding how the hamlets were constructed, why they were implemented and how they were operated.
The stepping stones of conception, construction and implementation of the program had a significant impact on Vietnam. For the future of historic decisions it is important to understand the undeniable connection of these elements to the nation in which the program was used.
The strategic hamlets were widely distributed throughout South Vietnam and their construction was not linked to an overall national strategy. This meant that hamlets were not established in an area and then expanded out as government control was consolidated (http://www.ehistory.com/vietnam/essays/hamlets/0158.cfmWHYTHE STRATEGIC HAMLET PROGRAM FAILED). This approach went directly against the advice of experts who had advised all along that the government needed to follow something like the "oil spot" approach which had been so successful in Malaya. Instead of this or some other deliberate strategy, many of the hamlets were simply placed where there was some local interest, or where local officials thought appropriate (http://www.ehistory.com/vietnam/essays/hamlets/0158.cfmWHYTHE STRATEGIC HAMLET PROGRAM FAILED)."
The "haphazard" method that was used in the decisions to place hamlets where they were placed also contributed to the impact of the program on the nation, its people and its eventual seemingly sudden demise.
History of the Program
For one to fully understand the impact and effect that the Strategic Hamlet Program had on the nation and its people it is important to have a grasp on the history of the program itself.
The strategic hamlet program was, in short, an attempt to translate the newly articulated theory of counter-insurgency into operational reality. The objective was political though the means to its realization were a mixture of military, social, psychological, economic and political measures (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2
Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)"
The program though implemented by the Vietnamese government was actually proposed by R.G.K. Thompson. Thompson was the head of the British Advisory Committee which in November of 1961 was newly formed and arrived.
The program, in the form of a plan for pacification of the Delta, was formally proposed to Diem in November 1961 by R.G.K. Thompson, head of the newly arrived British Advisory Mission. U.S. military advisors favored at that time an ARVN penetration of the VC redoubt in War Zone D. prior to any operations aimed specifically at pacification. But U.S. political desires to start some local operation which could achieve concrete gains combined with Diem's preference for a pacification effort in an area of strategic importance led to the initial effort in March 1962, "Operation SUNRISE," (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2
Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971) in Binh Duong Province north of Saigon. This was a heavily VC-influltrated area rather than one of mini-mat 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 and early summer. The U.S. had little or no influence over these activities; the primary impetus was traceable directly to the President's brother and political counselor, Ngo Dinh Nhu (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2 Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)."
In 1962 the Strategic Hamlet Program was officially announced though by the time the announcement came there had already been more than 2,500 hamlets completed with an additional 2,500 more under construction (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2 Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).
In the years leading to the construction and implementation of the hamlets several things were attempted in their place. From 1953 to 1959 the French and the GVN made early attempts to resettle populations to create secure zones. What this meant was that village people were supposed to belong to secure zones by which they would be protected from the fallout of military action.
In 1959 the government attempted to organize a program called "Rural Community Development Centers (Agroville) Program initiated by GVN (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2
Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)."
By late 1960 the government created a USMAAG Counterinsurgency Plan Vietnam and another year later the Agroville Program began its modification process through the construction of Agro-Hamlets. This was for the purpose of meeting demands by angry peasants who objected to the previous program.
The following table of chronological dates details the history and movement of the hamlet program.
May 1961 Vice President Johnson's visit to RVN.
July 1961 Staley Group report on increased economic aid and increase in RVNAF strength.
15 Sep 1961 USMAAG Geographically Phased National Level Operation Plan for Counterinsurgency.
18 Oct 1961 General Taylor arrives in RVN; President Diem declares national emergency.
27 Oct 1961 R.G.K. Thompson submits to President Diem his Appreciation of Vietnam, November 1961-1962.
Nov 1961 General Taylor submits his report and recommendations to President Kennedy.
13 Nov 1961 R.G.K. Thompson submits his draft plan for pacification of the Delta to President Diem.
15 Nov 1961 NSC drafts NSAM 111. Cable to Ambassador Nolting, instructing him to meet with Diem, lays out proposed U.S. assistance and expected GVN effort.
22 Nov 1961 NSAM 111.
15 Dec 1961 First Secretary of Defense Conference, Honolulu.
Feb 1962 Roger Hilsman's A Strategic Concept for South Vietnam.
Feb 1962 Diem creates Inter-Ministerial Committee on Strategic Hamlets.
19 Mar 1962 Diem approves Thompson's "Delta Plan" for execution.
22 Mar 1962 "Operation SUNRISE" commences in Binh Duong Province.
Aug 1962 GVN National Strategic Hamlet Construction Plan.
28 Oct 1962 GVN devotes entire issue of The Times of Vietnam to "The Year of the Strategic Hamlet (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2 Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159…