In 1965, in the coastal province of Phú Yên, US Armed Forces embarked on an effort to pacify one of the least-secured regions of South Vietnam. Often described as the “other war” to win the “Hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese, pacification was, in reality, a destructive process that relied on the means of conventional warfare to succeed. Clearing, holding, and destroying communist incursions in the provinces would win the loyalty of the South Vietnamese and therefore the war. Nearly a decade later, US Armed Forces were gone and, Phú Yên, like many other provinces, was under Hanoi’s control, not Saigon’s. For these reasons, historians have taken a greater interest in how pacification was conducted on the ground. In this episode, Dr. Robert Thompson explains the significance of pacification to America’s defeat, his thoughts on Ken Burn’s popular documentary, and some of the myths that have shaped our understandings of America’s War in Vietnam.
Robert J. Thompson III, Ph.D. is a historian at Army University Press. At AUP he helps produce historical films to educate viewers on U.S. Army doctrine. He holds a doctorate in U.S. History from the University of Southern Mississippi. His new book is Clear, Hold, and Destroy: Pacification in Phú Yên and the American War in Vietnam. Robert currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri.