When concentrating on a particular aspect of any topic, the first question is why. In my case, the observations of Phu Yen Province by a single CORDS advisor caught my attention, therefore demanding further scrutiny. After extensive research, few things fascinated me more than pacification in this province. Upon such closer examination, events in Phu Yen encapsulated the problems with pacification especially when combined with Vietnamization, as faced by the South Vietnamese and their American allies.
Indeed, analyzing the war in Phu Yen revealed much about the Republic of Vietnam after years of war and questionable gains. Emblematic of Phu Yen at the end of America’s participation were the remarks of Advisory Team 28’s last PSA. In his 1973 “Province Advisor’s Completion of Tour Report,” LTC. John M. McDonald wrote:
Lack of knowledge as to just how much territory in Phu Yen is physically controlled by the VC-NVA. While the GVN has successfully controlled 80-90% of the population and the critical crop-lands (20%-30% of Phu Yen’s land), there has been little or no attempt to operate in the remaining landmasses. Consequently no one knows just how much of Base Area 236, the Cay Vung (Ky Lo Valley), the Ha Roi and the Hon Cheng areas are, or have been under VC-NVA physical control. If claimed by the VC-NVA it will be difficult for the GVN to refute their claims.1
The information above is why I study Phu Yen. As my dissertation connects the various phases of the Vietnam War, McDonald’s words make increasing more sense. Despite all the blood and treasure spent to place Phu Yen under the control of the government in Saigon, by the time of the Paris Peace Accords the fruits of such sacrifice remained hard to establish.
Chapter five of my dissertation explores late war pacification at great length, centering on observations such as the one offered by McDonald. In that vein, if the PSA’s words catch your fancy, you will greatly appreciate reading chapter five.
- LTC. John M. McDonald, “Province Advisor’s Completion of Tour Report,” 19 February 1973, Adjutant General’s Office (Army), Washington D.C., 6. ↩