Strategic Hamlet

In 1962, the Strategic Hamlet programme was introduced. For sometime the governments of South Vietnam and the United States had been concerned about the influence of the NLF on the peasants. In an attempt to prevent this they moved the peasants into new villages in areas under the control of the South Vietnamese army. A stockade was built around the village and these were then patrolled by armed guards.

This strategy failed dismally and some observers claimed that it actually increased the number of peasants joining the NLF. As one pointed out: "Peasants resented working without pay to dig moats, implant bamboo stakes, and erect fences against an enemy that did not threaten them but directed its sights against government officials."

In the majority of cases the peasants did not want to move and so the South Vietnamese army often had to apply force. This increased the hostility of the peasants towards the Ngo Dinh Diem government.

The peasants were angry at having to travel longer distances to reach their rice fields. Others were upset for religious reasons for they believed that it was vitally important to live where their ancestors were buried.

Kennedy became worried when he was informed that despite the Strategic Hamlet programme, the membership of the National Liberation Front had grown to over 17,000 - a 300 per cent increase in two years - and that they now controlled over one-fifth of the villages in South Vietnam.