Term Paper: Strategic Hamlet Program Flow

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May 1962 Buddhist controversy erupts when GVN troops fire on demonstrators in Hue (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2 Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)."

The structure of the program

The Strategic Hamlet Program in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN)-articulated and carried forward from late 1961 until late 1963-has created some confusion because of terminology. One source of confusion stems from the similarity between the physical aspects of the program and earlier fortified communities of one kind or another. Another source of confusion rises because of the loose usage of "hamlet" as compared to "village" and because of the practice of referring to these communities as "defended," "secure," and "fortified" as well as "strategic." But the greatest source of confusion lies in the distinction between a strategic hamlet per se and the strategic hamlet program (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2 Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)."

Hamlets were small organized groups or communities in South Vietnam. Each village typically had between three and five hamlets.

Hamlets were population relocations that were used to protect defended villages.

Population relocation into defended villages was by no means a recent development in Southeast Asia. Parts of South Vietnam had experience with the physical aspects of fortified communities going back many years. As the intellectual godfather of the Strategic Hamlet Program has put it, the concept's use as one of the measures to defeat communist insurgency.".. has only meant that the lessons of the past had to be relearned (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2 Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)."

Before hamlets were implemented there was an earlier program called Agrovilles. This program grouped 300-500 families together in rural community development centers. The program was unsuccessful because of many elements. Those who had to submit to its boundaries complained that the program was being administered in a dishonest manner. They were also angry at being taken away from their fields and homelands.

The transition from Agrovilles to strategic hamlets in 1961 was marked by the so-called "Agro-hamlet" which attempted to meet some of the peasants' objections:

The smaller 100 family Agro-hamlet was located more closely to lands tilled by the occupants. Construction was carried out at a slower pace filled to the peasant's planting and harvesting schedule... By the end of 1961, the Agro-hamlet had become the prototype of a vast civil defense scheme known as strategic hamlets, Ap Chien Luoc (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2 Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).

It was inevitable, given this lineage, that the strategic hamlet program be regarded by the peasants as old wine in newly-labeled bottles. The successes and failures of the past were bound to condition its acceptance and by late 1961 the Diem government was having more failures than successes (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2

Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)."

The foundation of strategic hamlets had to do with what was referred t as a clear and hold operation instead of a search and destroy mission. They were meant to protect the villages while they were able to continue farming and other ventures.

The means by which the villagers would be protected was the "strategic hamlet," a lightly guarded village because it was-by definition-in a relatively low risk area. More heavily defended centers, called "defended hamlets" and involving more relocation, would be employed in areas under more VC influence, particularly along the Cambodian order (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2

Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)."

The principles of the hamlets was to allow villages to move to places of prominence where they would be more easily guarded and defended.

To translate these principles into operational reality, Hilsman called for "strategic villages" and "defended villages" a la Thompson, with first priority to the most populous areas: i.e., the Delta and in the vicinity of Hue. ARVN would, much as in Thompson's proposal, secure the initial effort, when necessary, and be employed to keep the VC off balance in those areas already under Viet Cong control. The plan envisaged a three-phase process by which GVN control would progressively be expanded from the least heavily VC-penetrated provinces with large populations (phase I), into the more heavily penetrated population centers (phase II), and finally into the areas along the Laotian and Cambodian borders (phase III) (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2 Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971). Hilsman eschewed use of the "oil spot" analogy but the process and rationale he put forth were the same (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2 Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971). His plan moved "strategic villages" to a place of prominence greater than that in Thompson's Delta plan and far in excess of the offhanded acceptance which had thus far been afforded them by U.S. military advisors. Strategic hamlets were not the heart of the Hilsman plan-civic action was that-but they were the symbol, the easily recognizable, easily grasped initial step by which GVN could begin, following Hilsman's second principle, to "provide the people and the villages with protection and physical security (The Pentagon Papers Gravel Edition Volume 2 Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159 Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)."

Construction

BUILDING THE STRATEGIC HAMLETS (http://www.ehistory.com/vietnam/essays/hamlets/0076.cfm)

Strategic hamlets were constructed for a common cause. They were meant to be able to provide defense and protection for the villagers who were a part of them. Because of the way they were developed and used it would be difficult to describe a typical hamlet though they all had commonalities. The reason there was no standard was because of the very way they were constructed. They were put together using construction resources that were available to the immediate area and they were dependent of the funding that was available at any given time when construction was underway.

Each hamlet had to take into account what security threats were exclusive to the area as well as the general and overall risk that pervaded the nation's people. Because of the different security risks in different areas it would be difficult to standardize anything about the strategic hamlets other than the fact that their purpose was to protect and defend.

In addition to being dependent on available resources and funding the hamlet constructions also had to depend on the abilities and eagerness or lack of eagerness of those who constructed it. Developing the hamlets as they were constructed also depended on the skills and willingness of those involved to put forth their best efforts.

Variations between hamlets existed because of differences in the security threat, available resources and the enthusiasm of the people to construct and develop the hamlets. There were, however, common attributes. "

The first hamlets tended to be extremely strong and heavily fortified. This may have been because of their new concept and the hope of those involved that they would provide maximum protection against perceived threats and dangers.

The first type was the heavily fortified hamlets found in the contested areas around Saigon."

These first hamlets were generally surrounded by many protective barriers that were constructed and conceived from natural resources in the area. One of the more common features of the early hamlets was the use of a ditch. Most of them had ditches surrounding them that were approximately five feet deep and ten feet wide. Those who took part in the construction of the hamlet also placed hundreds of bamboo spears inside the ditches making it extremely difficult to try and navigate across the ditch from either direction.

If there were no bamboo sticks available the villagers would instead use wooden picks or barbed wire. There were also hamlets that used thorned hedges to line the inside and tops of the perimeter ditches with.

The second set of strategic hamlets that were built were in an area that was not considered as dangerous. The risks were perceived to be less dangerous therefore it was not felt as much physical labor needed to go into building the barriers.

In the second type, observed in Vinh Long Province, which had less of a security problem, the hamlets were divided into defensive blocks which comprised most of the residential areas. These blocks were afforded defense by bamboo spears embedded in the ground, thorn hedges portable steel spike boards, and a few hand grenades p1anted as landmines."

There was a third type of strategic hamlet that was even less strongly fortified and provided greater ease for the villagers to come and go from their boundaries.

Funding of the strategic hamlets was also largely dependent on the perceived dangers the area produced. Those hamlets that were in more risky areas… [END OF PREVIEW]

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