Ben Suc

Ben Suc was a village of possibly 5,500 people located along the Saigon River in Binh Duong Province. Around 30 miles northwest of Saigon, Ben Suc was in the heart of the Iron Triangle and a center of activity for the Vietcong. ARVN, Army of the Republic of Vietnam, soldiers had kept an outpost at Ben Suc between 1955 and 1964 until Vietcong troops ousted them. After that, the Vietcong received the active cooperation of the village people. Between 1965 and 1967, ARVN troops, assisted by substantial American air strikes (phosphorus bombs, napalm, and B-52 assaults), tried unsuccessfully to retake Ben Suc. Late in 1966, American officials launched Operation Cedar Falls to wipe out Vietcong resistance in the Iron Triangle. Although Ben Suc lay just beyond the northwestern tip of the Iron Triangle, it was a critical objective for American troops in Operation Cedar Falls. In the end, the village of Ben Suc became a notorious example of the futility of American military policy in South Vietnam.

On January 8, 1967, sixty troop-carrying helicopters took off from the Dau Tieng airstrip and deposited 420 soldiers right in the middle of Ben Suc. Since Ben Suc was reputedly the headquarters for Vietcong control of the Iron Triangle, the American soldiers expected extreme resistance. Instead, they encountered only sporadic small arms fire. The villagers were evacuated from the village and taken to a new refugee camp at Phy Loi near Phu Cuong. The1st Engineer Battalion of the 1st Infantry Division then moved into Ben Suc with Rome plows, tankdozers, and M-48 antimine tanks and leveled the village, destroying every home and building and bulldozing all the mango, jackfruit, and grapefruit fields. Miles of tunnels used by the Vietcong were destroyed at the same time. Two days after the end of Operation Cedar Falls on January 26, Vietcong were back in the area. At home, the American media reacted to the razing of Ben Suc with anger. Less than 30 miles from Saigon, U.S. and ARVN troops, after destroying a village and turning nearly six thousand people into refugees, had not been able to prevent Vietcong control of the area. Although Operation Cedar Falls was a blow to the Vietcong in the area of the Iron Triangle, it also raised grave doubts among the American press and American policymakers about the effectiveness of both pacification and the "search and destroy" strategy.

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