the Viet Cong infrastructure was the key to winning the guerrilla
war. The Phoenix program was designed to do just that.
William Wilson, U.S. Army (retired)
sophisticated, secret enemy network existed in Vietnam that
tried to impose its authority on the people through terror
and threat. This network, called the Viet Cong infrastructure
(VCI), provided the political control and direction of the
enemy's war within the villages and hamlets.
instructors train members of a Civilian Irregular
Defense Group (CIDG) to protect their village against
the Viet Cong. The Phoenix program was designed
to carry the undercover war to the Viet Cong infrastructure
supplied the caches for the troops infiltrating from the border
sanctuaries; it provided the guides and the intelligence for
the North Vietnamese newcomers entering South Vietnam for
the first time; it taxed, terrorized and conscripted youth
for the military. During 1969, terrorists killed more than
6,000 people, 1,200 of whom had been selected for assassination.
In addition, there were 15,000 wounded. Among the dead were
90 village chiefs and officials, 240 hamlet chiefs and officials,
229 refugees and 4,350 of the general populace.
the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem
in 1963 and the emergence, in mid-1965, of General Nguyen
Van Thieu, South Vietnam's war effort was greatly hampered
by political instability. A period of some 19 months saw the
stagnation of the pacification programs (a broad term that
included all the past and present socioeconomic efforts of
the government to "win the hearts and minds of the people")
and the continued deterioration of rural security as the VCI
took advantage of the disarray in Saigon.
the situation was so grave that American and South Vietnamese
officials concluded that all efforts to date -- including
pacification plans, counterinsurgency operations and the reorganization
of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) -- were insufficient
to stave off defeat at the hands of the Communists.
1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Robert W. Komer
as his special assistant in Washington to direct, coordinate
and supervise nonmilitary programs (in his words, "the other
war") -- further evidence of the priority the president gave
to pacification. After several trips to Vietnam, Komer reported
pacification at a virtual impasse and recommended to the president
a number of measures that might produce results. He believed
the best way to weaken the Viet Cong was by consolidating
American assistance under a single manager empowered to eliminate
overlapping programs and disentangle competition for resources.
Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) Intelligence summarized
a comprehensive study of the enemy strategy, distributed June
29, 1967, based on an analysis of information reports, interrogation
reports and captured documents in U.S. and ARVN files. It
clearly stated that the VCI provided a pervasive and insidious
threat to meaningful victory in Vietnam, making the destruction
of the VCI our most formidable task. That same year, the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) proposed that all U.S. intelligence
agencies pool their information on VCI at province, district
and Saigon levels. Next
(c) 2000, PRIMEDIA Enthusiast Publications, Inc.