Accelerated Pacification Campaign

After the Tet Offensive of February 1968, the United States renewed its commitment to a stronger military and political position in the Republic of Vietnam, and that became especially important later in the year when Vietcong representatives at the Paris peace talks began hinting at their willingness to accept a "cease-fire in place." If that really was a possibility, it was important for the United States to gain control of the countryside through more aggressive pacification programs. The United States launched the Accelerated Pacification Campaign on November 1, 1968, with an objective of expanding government control over 1,200 villages at this time controlled by the Vietcong. The Accelerated Pacification Campaign was put under the jurisdiction of William Colby, and he was given a ninety-day time frame for the program. The United States had great hopes for the program because the Vietcong had been badly sapped by the Tet Offensive and had basically adopted a defensive strategy. The Phoenix Program was launched simultaneously.

The Accelerated Pacification Campaign was basically a "clear and hold" strategy using Regional Forces (RF) and Popular Forces (PF). Operating in or near their home villages, the RF and PF were familiar with the countryside as well as the people, knew how to differentiate between Vietcong and non-political families, and built some confidence because villagers knew they would remain in the area. After destroying, or at least expelling, the Vietcong infrastructure, Accelerated Pacification then turned its attention to economic development, and included clearing roads, repairing bridges, building schools, and increasing farm production. The Americans also tried to train villagers in free elections and then trained elected officials in village administration. Lastly, Accelerated Pacification tried to bring about land reform by distributing land to peasant farmers.

The results of Accelerated Pacification were mixed at best. By March 1970, more than one million hectares of land had been redistributed, and the number of RF and PF engaged in pacification had increased to 500,000 men. They were armed with M-16 rifles and had received improved training. But destruction of the Vietcong infrastructure was never accomplished, nor did Accelerated Pacification truly change the way most South Vietnamese looked upon the government of Nguyen Van Thieu. Nor could Accelerated Pacification really survive the withdrawal of American troops, which President Richard Nixon began implementing in the summer of 1969. As the U.S. military presence declined, the South Vietnamese were unable to fill the vacuum.