The U.S. mission in Saigon initiates two operations designed to bolster rural security and development efforts.
The Le Loi program was an intensified civic action campaign intended to repair the damage done by the enemy’s offensives earlier in the year and to return control of the rural population to the Saigon government.
The other operation was the Phuong Hoang (Phoenix) program, a hamlet security initiative run by the Central Intelligence Agency that relied on centralized, computerized intelligence gathering to identify and eliminate the Viet Cong infrastructure–the upper echelon of the National Liberation Front political cadres and party members. This program became one of the most controversial operations undertaken by U.S. personnel in South Vietnam.
Critics charged that American-led South Vietnamese “hit teams” indiscriminately arrested and murdered many communist suspects on flimsy pretexts. Despite these charges, the program was acknowledged by top-level U.S. government officials, as well as Viet Cong and North Vietnamese leaders after the war, to have been very effective in reducing the power of the local communist cadres in the South Vietnamese countryside.
According to available sources, from 1968 to 1972, the Phoenix program resulted in the capture of 34,000 Viet Cong political cadre, while an additional 26,000 were killed. The program also convinced 22,000 communists to change their loyalties and support the South Vietnamese government.