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133 CHAPTER FIVE Overextension A prolonged lull occurred between the last high point (5–6 June) of the NLF’s summer campaign and the beginning of its autumn campaign in mid-August. July was therefore a quiet month by Binh Dinh standards and allowed phase II of both Operation Washington Green and the 1969 pacification campaign to begin under favorable circumstances. The latter had been officially retitled the 1969 Special Pacification and Development Campaign by President Thieu, who proclaimed that the new primary objective was to consolidate GVN control by upgrading half of all “relatively secure” (A, B, C) hamlets to “secure” (A, B). However, he also called for the accomplishment of the original goal of making nine-tenths of South Vietnam’s population “relatively secure.” Finally, the date for completing the 1969 special campaign was moved up from December to October.1 Thieu was, in effect, demanding the simultaneous expansion and consolidation of GVN control in the countryside. This was patently impossible, since the GVN’s resources had already been badly overextended by the requirements of expansion alone. In Binh Dinh, overextension had been a problem even before Operation Washington Green began, but it mushroomed dramatically in the second half of 1969. The 2/503rd had started moving into its nine phase II hamlets a month ahead of schedule, and in July the 173rd Airborne’s other three airborne battalions began occupying another twenty-five. Yet, even this ambitious program was soon eclipsed because the arrival of the 1/503rd from Hoai An made it possible to add many additional target hamlets in Phu My without thinning the security screen. Meanwhile, the ever-reluctant 40th and 41st ARVN Regiments finally began moving into their phase II hamlets as well. This was all well and good for breaking up the NLF’s liberated areas , but it actually slowed the pace of Vietnamization. The ARVN regiments should have been preparing to replace the Americans in operations against Communist regulars, but a shortage of Territorial Forces made it impossible to do so without bringing Operation Washington Green to a halt. Forty new PF platoons had been recruited, and twenty-four of them had already begun training by the end of July,2 but there would not be enough Territorial Forces available to defend all the new target hamlets until late 1970—over a year away. 1 1 506 514 514 LZ ENGLISH FSB PONY LZ HAMMOND Lake Dam Tra O Dam Nuoc Ngot SOUTH CHINA SEA Lai Gi a n g Sie m G i a n g QUANG NGAI BINH DINH Sa Huynh T am Quan DAMS Hoai Tan Hoai An Phu My Phu Cat Hawk’s Nest FSB TAPE BONG SON PLAINS FSB STINGER CAY GIEP MOUNTAINS 'THE CRESCENT' NUI MIEU MOUNTAINS SUOI CA VALLEY KIM SON VALLEY July to December 1969 AREA OF OPERATIONS LEE 0 200 400 600 800 and Abov e 5 0 Kilometers Miles 5 0 An Lao PHU CUU PASS ‘AO NORTH’ LZ UPLIFT Lake LZ CR AL YST PHU MY PLAIN ‘AO SOUTH’ VINH THANH VALLEY FSB MAHONEY Bong Son LZ TWO BITS Phu Tu An Hoa Qui Thuan Dinh Tri Dinh Cong 3A FSB BEAVER FSB ABBY ELEVATION IN METERS Area Of Operations Lee (July–December 1969). Source: George L. MacGarrigle, Combat Operations: Taking the Offensive, October 1966 to October 1977 (The United States Army in Vietnam Series) (Washington, DC: US Army Center of Military History, 1998), CMH Pub 94-1, Map 32, 317. [Adapted and reprinted by permission of the US Army Center of Military History] Overextension 135 CORDS advisors who had worried about overextension back in April, when just forty-two target hamlets in AO Lee were scheduled for pacification in 1969, expressed alarm when so many new phase II hamlets were added to the eleven that had already been added during phase I. Moreover, province-wide, forty-four uncompleted phase I hamlets and twenty-six regressed APC hamlets were simply tacked on to phase II.3 Phu My’s DSA, James Landberg, lobbied to have several remote, thinly populated coastal hamlets dropped from phase II, but he was overruled by South Vietnamese officials who were determined to bring the district’s entire population under GVN control.4 In August, Eldon E. Ewing, Advisory Team 42’s chief pacification and development advisor, told a visiting field historian that “the Pacification Program for 1969 has impeded real pacification. The plan calls for too much, too soon, in areas not ready for pacification...


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