Guerrilla tactics can sustain a struggle for national liberation over a long period of time, but they can never achieve decisive victory. They are the devices of a movement which is unable to fight in conventional terms against its enemies, but which must lie low, conserve its energy, and gradually wear down the adversary. In the final stage of a guerrilla campaign, paramilitary local units give way to the regular army which the insurgents have gradually assembled. If all goes well, this army fights and wins conventional battles leading to the dissolution of the established government and the end of the war.

In 1964-1965, the NLF entered this apparently crucial stage of guerrilla warfare. With large areas of the country side under its jurisdiction, the Front organization functioned openly, more and more like an established government, while the division-sized units of its army inflicted a series of crushing defeats on the Saigon forces. Up to that moment, the NLF had relied on volunteers to fill its military ranks and had solicited contributions to pay the bills. However, in preparation for the anticipated final phase of the war, cadres organized a regular system of taxation and instituted universal conscription in the villages. These moves were highly successful. The Saigon government was driven to the verge of collapse, and as a consequence the United States had to make what for a great power was a humiliating choice ~ should American leaders acquiesce in C the defeat of their GVN allies? Or should they risk an international crisis by sending substantial military forces into South Vietnam to stop the NLF? But when the United States did intervene, the inherent dangers of the Front's initiative came to light. At the moment when the Pentagon started to increase its efforts, the guerrilla movement was fully extended, its cadres geared for a showdown, its peasant supporters exerting every effort to win key battles and thus bring the liberation war to a rapid, successful conclusion. Just when the United States began to escalate, the NLF was fully mobilized, its reserves already committed to the struggle.


U. S. intervention sent shock waves throughout the countryside. Here was a new adversary on the battlefield, incomparably more powerful than any the insurgents had faced up to that time. One respondent remembered a depressing conversation with a friend in the summer of 1965. "A district committee member disclosed to me one night when we had dinner together that the United States was a very strong and rich country. He stressed that only one American capitalist could finance this war for a full year." Even the most dedicated cadres were shaken as the full weight of American power made itself felt. A POW remembered having these reactions:

Formerly when I was in the liberated area, I believed firmly that the Front would win, because it had been able to start from nothing and accomplished a very strong organization and a powerful army. But now, after having compared the strength of both sides, I came to the conclusion that it will be difficult for the Front to win this war, because the U.S. is too rich and too powerful. How is it possible to wear it out? I am too inferior intellectually therefore cannot tell who will win this war. It is difficult for the Front to win, but probably it is not going to lose, and I am afraid the war might go on and on until the generation of my descendants.

Cadres who thought they had reconciled themselves to the realities of a protracted war suddenly faced the possibility of struggling on far longer than even the most pessimistic observers had imagined. Many had already

been fighting for a long time, and their families were waiting for them to come home and support them, this is why they were all eagerly awaiting the restoration of peace to go home and work for their living. But the war just went on and on, and they became discouraged.


People speculated that "the war would drag on for five, ten, fifteen or twenty years." In such gloomy discussions, one pessimistic prediction led to another. A respondent recalled: "a number of cadres said that if the war lasted this long, the Vietnamese people would all die. They were afraid that the war would last five times as long as the Resistance -45 years. A number became discouraged... "

Fighters and cadres had to reassess their own individual prospects in the light of U. S. escalation. Instead of looking forward to imminent victory and the satisfactions of a victorious peace, observed a defector,

all of us thought that we would have to die and the cadres also said that we ought to expect to be killed if we were decided to fight for the revolution. They added that our death would serve our children's interests and therefore would be of value.

"I asked myself whether I could stand up under another ten years of fighting," mused another defector. "I saw the possibility of the war dragging on for ten or more years and I felt I couldn't even take another year or two of it, let alone ten. I had what they call in the Front the 'surrender complex.'" Just when the war's most dangerous phase was get ting underway, the NLF had to cope with this spreading disappointment and demoralization within its own ranks.

The villagers too were discouraged. Speaking of the situation in 1965, a cadre noted, "All of us agreed that the people were then very tired of the war and that they were also very afraid of it." This fatigue was laced with a certain bitterness. The Front had "promised victory too many times," and people remembered how they had been told of the coming "General Offensive and Insurrection" which would 'finish off" the GVN.

The Front said that in April 1965 all the cities would fall in its hands, and there would be no more cities because they would be merged with the countryside-My Tho would be a village of Go


Luy only. But we are in 1966 now, and no such thing has happened, All the fighters, cadres and people know that the Front hasn't been able to do what it promised. At that time all the people had to study about the general insurrection and offensive, but two years have passed since that time, and this is why the people are so pessimistic and dissatisfied with the Front.

The new tax and draft obligations were points of particularly heated controversy. Resistance to such measures had at first been undercut by the expectation that quick victory would both justify the sacrifices and bring them to a rapid end. A defector explained.

The people said that if national reunification was close at hand they would gladly let their children fight for the Front, but since the war was going to last for a long time they didn't want to let their children join the Front. They said that their children would run the risk of getting killed, and that with their children gone no one would help them in their farm work.

U.S. escalation meant that even more money and recruits were needed. Within a few months, the end of the war suddenly receded off into the distant future, and the peasants realized that their burdens were bound to increase in the days ahead.

In late 1965, the NLF held "supplementary reorientation sessions" throughout My Tho Province. Province and district representatives stressed the need to prepare for 'a long and bloody war," and they indicated how the Front intended to deal with U. S. escalation. The situation seemed grim, but not hopeless. In this crisis, and in the ones to follow, cadres took heart from the history of the movement. Some remembered the events of 1962, when U.S. helicopters terrorized the people, casualties increased, and numerous villages fell to the Saigon regime. Supplementary reorientation sessions then helped the insurgents pull


themselves together, and the Ap Bac battle inaugurated a new phase of expansion for the NLF. Looking back further, many recalled that in 1960 just getting the revolt underway 19 had seemed like a miraculous achievement. As one defector put it,

No movement in the world has expanded as rapidly as the Front did. The Front started to build up its forces right in the midst of the enemy. It neither had weapons nor training schools to train its men. And yet it was able to form Province Mobile Units and then Main Force Units, and expanded very rapidly right in the midst of the enemy. The Americans and the GVN tried to nip it in the bud by arresting the Front cadres and jailing them in Phu Loa and so on -but failed.

When times were bad, some of the older cadres delved even more deeply into the past. A POW offered this observation:

The government states that it will win. The Front also says that it will win, ultimately. So, it is difficult to predict which side is correct. In Front controlled areas, cadres and people like to believe the Front's statements because they have been proved correct once before. During the Resistance, they asserted that they would win ultimately. They said so when the people could see nothing which could guarantee that they would win. The Resistance dragged on for nine years, and indeed, they won after the Dien Bien Phu battle. This success has scored an excellent point and has enabled the cadres and people to draw a comparison between this war and the Resistance. This has given much credit to the Front.

One veteran, who had survived many rough periods, remembered 1952, when the French seemed to have excluded Viet Minh influence altogether from Chau Thanh District, as the worst time in the history of the revolution. These seasoned fighters were not about to be stampeded by U.S.



According to one report, two factions emerged from the 1965 "supplementary reorientation sessions." On the one hand were "the skeptics" who

believed that the Revolution would definitely fail because the Front couldn't possibly counteract the U. S,, a country with such a powerful and well armed force. They also believed that the more the Front prolonged this protracted resistance, the nearer they brought the country to the brink of destruction.

But on the other side, this same observer noted the consolidation of a second group, "the fanatics," who 'became more enthusiastic after the reorientation course, believing that their leaders had all the essential factors in their even hands to defeat the Americans and to liberate the South." The NLF had been shaken, some cadres had dropped out of the movement, but a hard core of dedicated insurgents re turned to their villages to meet with the backbone elements and eventually with the people to explain to them how the Front, with their help, planned to carry on the struggle.

The general policy which the NLF adopted in the 1965 1967 period involved a return to guerrilla warfare. The regular NLF army, which had been concentrated for the campaigns of 1964-1965, found it increasingly difficult to function in subsequent years. The Front had three Mai Force battalions operating in the upper Delta and one Local Force battalion which functioned within the boundaries of the Province, But these large troop concentrations, from 500 to 800 soldiers each, had difficulty operating in the conditions created by US-GVN bombing and shelling. Battalions maneuvered for months trying to get into position to attack the GVN without running the risk of prohibitively destructive counter attacks from planes and artillery. To a considerable extent in 1966 and 1967, intensive bombardment succeeded in neutralizing, if not in demolishing, these NLF units. (13) With regular armed forces in the background, local guerrilla units had to carry the brunt of the fighting.


Reemphasizing guerrilla methods was interpreted by some cadres as a step backward. Understanding full well, from a tactical point of view, why it was important to break up large NLF units, these cadres could plainly see that such a step amounted to a strategic retreat. Only regular forces could win the war, and so it naturally followed that withdrawing these forces from action postponed the phase of decisive fighting until some moment in the unforeseeable future. As one respondent put it, 'All cadres are very well aware that if they return to guerrilla warfare, they will never be able to win even if they have to fight for one hundred years." Another observer made basically the same point - "In a small nation, we have to progress from guerrilla warfare to modern warfare in order to achieve victory. If the NLF has done the contrary, it will never win by this war."

Guerrilla tactics are devices which grow out of military at and technological weakness, Cadres were depressed by the abandonment of positional warfare because they harbored no romantic illusions about the nature of the alternative. 0 Following the guidelines of a guerrilla strategy, the peasants of My Tho had to disrupt the environment in which they lived. As a POW observed, such efforts always threatened to cause them as much harm as they did the enemy.

Before a road was destroyed or dug up, or a bridge was blown up, a mass meeting was usually held, There the cadres explained that the sabotage work would be to obstruct the enemy operations in order to protect the lives and property of the population. The villagers easily took the explanation and went on to work as directed, At first, I was surprised. I asked myself why the roads and bridges were destroyed when they had been constructed for the people's own movement. But when I listened to the NLF cadres' explanation, I thought that they were right, and the villagers joyfully carried out the work, too.


Here is an account of the results of such tactics in one village:

At present, only waterways can be used. Roads are completely obstructed since they have been destroyed and planted with booby-traps, spikes, and mines. Furthermore, the NLF has officially forbidden the use of roads in order to facilitate the construction of defensive emplacements to holdout against operations.

Another interviewee noted that, "In 1966, the Village Committee ordered the villagers to destroy every road and bridge and forced the people to use new paths. Spike boards have been planted in the old roads." The Front had no choice about such tactics, Without heavy guns and planes, it could block enemy movement only by ripping up the ground itself.

Fortifying hamlets created the same kinds of problems. On the face of it, digging trenches, cutting and sharpening spikes, and setting booby traps were all pitiful expedients when the adversary had high powered weapons, amphibious vehicles and jet planes. Such fortifications seldom inflicted serious injury on the other side. As one peasant argued to a cadre, 'These spike traps are useless and yet we have to dig them all the time. When the soldiers come, they are too smart to walk in the orchards and fall in the traps. They are not as stupid as you think." What was worse, the villagers, as well as their animals were constantly blundering into the traps, which dotted their own fields and orchards. One village adopted the device of posting warnings around each trap; a guerrilla would hurry to remove the notices when enemy troops began an operation. No wonder many villagers resisted requests to maintain hamlet fortifications, since it appeared that their "efforts did not pay off commensurably."

These fortifications did, however, serve a purpose. While they might not deter a large ARVN force, they often discouraged smaller units from entering the village. More important, trenches, spikes and traps won time for the villagers. If "one GVN soldier was wounded," recalled a re


spondent, "the rest would become cautious and advance slowly." Another interviewee noted that "fighting a guerrilla war without the combat hamlets is just like having no point of support." GVN soldiers "could get at you from all directions," while by contrast the existence of fortifications must compelled them to "take a fixed route" into the village Sentry duty and village self-defence was thus much simplified. Finally, invading troops would be delayed by the obstacles, thus allowing 'the Front members enough time to go into hiding and to move their equipment and documents elsewhere. "

Fortifying hamlets was dull, hard work, requiring the constant attention of the peasants. The task was particularly frustrating because it produced no dramatic results. Without fortifications, NLF local organization would not have been able to protect itself, but such fortifications had no real offensive potential. At best, they affected the invaders' morale, since U.S. and Saigon troops usually found themselves picking their way through a hostile terrain literally bristling with lethal spikes and traps. (14) But the damage done to the other side was not much greater than to the villagers themselves. A painful trade-off was involved here. The tedious labor of the peasants, plus the in convenience of booby-trapping one's own hamlet, had to be weighed against the aggravation caused to the opposition, Success depended on the ability of the villagers to outlast the enemy, on their readiness to live with the strain and sacrifice of guerrilla war until adversaries of the NLF could no longer tolerate further combat.

Similar difficulties arose out of the activity of village guerrillas. Such forces do not win wars, or even local engagements, and when they undertake offensive operations, it is usually to harry, to distract, to keep the pressure on enemy units. These tactics become increasingly costly as US-GVN authorities took to employing heavy fire power in response to small-scale NLF initiatives. When guerrillas harassed a post, then retreated through a nearby village, which was consequently shelled, a peasant angrily stated: "It is nonsensical to shoot at the post recklessly like that. If they want a fight they only have to attack the post once


and for all. This reckless shooting only hurts innocent people." In a similar situation, another peasant sarcastically called after the retreating guerrillas: "Why don't you stay here to enjoy the fight?" We can imagine what effect it must have had on the morale of local forces preparing for an engagement to hear villagers affirm - "We all may be killed because of you! They're very strong, don't stand against them! You can't overcome them!" The problem was that guerrillas could not deal with a well fortified GVN post "once and for all" any more than they could stay around to confront much larger enemy units, Still, we can also understand the point of view of peasants who insisted that guerrillas "only cause the people to get killed and to suffer damage, while causing no harm to the GVN at all."

Villagers were particularly angry when the guerrillas shot at passing planes. Here we have one of the most telling images to come out of the war- the Vietnamese peasant firing from the ground at a huge U.S. jet, the guerrilla fighter pitted against American technology. And in fact NLF cadres initially encouraged this kind of shooting, as part of a general effort to maintain morale among local fighters by giving them a sense that they could respond in some way to the firepower being directed against them. But when planes


 Facing the Enemy

were shot at, they tended to drop bombs in response, A single sniper could endanger the existence of a whole village, and as a consequence villagers bitterly resented guerrillas who fired randomly at passing planes, In response to this situation, Front cadres gradually developed a complicated set of ground rules which limited shooting at airplanes to certain relatively isolated parts of the countryside, In this instance, considerations of the trade-off involved with a particular tactic led to the decision to restrict its use. Spotter planes might be reluctant to fly over a village which was known for its sniper fire, and of course there was a slight chance that such planes might actually be downed by a shot from the ground. But these costs to the enemy usually did not overbalance the damage done to villages subject to retaliatory bombing and shelling.

The Front could refine such tactics, but it could not give them up completely. Like the destruction of roads or the fortification of hamlets, guerrilla activity was an integral part of NLF strategy. And like these other tactics, guerrilla actions were undramatic and indirect in their consequences. In fact, many of these effects would be invisible to the villagers - the ARVN soldier who decided to desert after narrowly avoiding one too many ugly spike pits during a sweep, the Saigon commander mindful of his reputation, who kept his troops close to base camp because regular small scale guerrilla activity in the area had given him the false impression that substantial Front forces were nearby. The local guerrilla who had time to do farm work because his unit only had to guard one entrance to the village, the cadre who managed to slip into hiding with all the Front's local records, the peasant whose livestock was not stolen because Saigon troops were afraid of the booby traps around his settlement-all were beneficiaries of hamlet fortifications. These tactics were not easy to carry out, and they usually did not produce conspicuously satisfying results, but in the absence of other means, the NLF had no other way of fighting the war.

The liberated zone was a school in guerrilla methods. In countless daily incidents, and in many study sessions, the point of the NLF approach had to be defined. Here is a typical complaint made by a villager to a local cadre:


"The guerrillas can't fight against GVN troops on sweep operations. What possessed them to fire at the troops anyway? They should have kept quiet and let the troops pass, If they had sneaked away quietly, nothing would have happened, But they fired at the troops while they ran away, so the troops shot back and killed my cow that was worth 7000 or 8000 piasters."

In this instance, as in so many others, military operations created a political problem for the NLF.

The Party Chapter heard about this and sent a cadre to see her and apologize. He explained to her why the guerrillas had to shoot at the GVN soldiers, and asked her to accept the incident as a war hazard. The guerrillas' shots were intended to warn the people so they could take refuge elsewhere and to warn the cadres so they could put their documents away and go into hiding.

The peasants were learning the hard way to understand protracted war. Short of the "General Offensive and Insurrection, " indefinitely postponed after 1965, they could never finish with the enemy once and for all, they could hurt the other side only a little bit at a time, and for every blow they landed there would be a counterstroke compelling them to pay for their gains with further disruption and sacrifices in their own lives.

The war required a major political effort from the cadres, a constant round of discussion and explanation, so that villagers would be willing to put up with the vexation of local guerrilla tactics. At the same time, the Front also had to support its Main Force units, not only in My Tho, but also in the north, where the NLF army was fighting pitched battles with U.S. forces throughout this period. Military necessity thus led to increased taxation and universal conscription at the local level, just as the war itself, the bombing and shelling, was crippling the village


economy. A popular movement, once so successful at appealing to the "general will," now had to ask peasants to carry on with a struggle which was tearing their society apart and causing a rapid degradation in their standard of living.

Villagers and cadres were trapped by the logic of guerrilla war. As the Front grew stronger, the United States was compelled to increase its military effort. In turn, the more fighting intensified, the more the Front had to demand contributions from the peasants. The draft, war-related inflation and other developments brought the conflict home to people in the United States, but at the same time escalation also took an impersonal form, in the shape of bombs, planes, defoliants, and other technological means of destruction. By contrast, the NLF had only one resource with which to fight: the Vietnamese people themselves. When the U. S. built new weapons, the Front had to ask villagers to work harder, to sharpen more spikes, pay higher taxes, send all of their children into the armed forces. On the one side, escalation was to some extent a matter of augmenting the mechanical war-making apparatus, and in this sense American capacity for intensifying the fighting was almost limitless. On the other side, escalation involved a growing political crisis, in which the NLF had to demand even more of peasants already driven almost beyond the limits of endurance by the exigencies of the struggle.


While escalation was forcing cadres to make increasing demands on the peasants, at the same time it was destroying those institutions on which the Front had depended for its political leverage. Bombardment of liberated zones did not just drive people out of their villages, it also disrupted NLF functioning in countless ways. Bombing and shelling made it very dangerous for the people to get together, for whatever purpose. As a defector put it, "The villagers stayed home simply because they thought that a big congregation of people would make the GVN shell them and that was the surest way to get killed." Political meetings were


naturally targeted. "About three months ago," a defector recalled in 1965, "my village was attacked by aircraft. People were attending a rally lit up with lamps. Four fighters came and strafed at 9 PM." The Front is slipping, stated another defector. "The weakening process is due to the heavy bombing and shelling which occurred almost every day. The villagers no longer dare to attend meetings and indoctrination sessions. " The GVN was not content with interrupting NLF attempts to "indoctrinate" the people; all gatherings were menaced. "Before, many people could gather in a house to eat and drink," remembered a POW, 'but now they no longer dare to do so, for fear that they would be detected and bombed. Before, guests who lived a few kilometers away came to the banquet, but now not many of them come." Wedding ceremonies were also bombed. So were peasants tilling the fields together. 'When a group of more than ten persons worked at any one place," affirmed another defector, "they usually were good targets for airstrikes." People in groups, social life itself, had become a military target.

Inexorably, the bombardment was pounding at the complex social system the Front had created in zones under its control. Schools and hospitals were among the first institutions to crumble. In many hamlets, the NLF had established first level primary schools (grades one to three), and there was one second level primary school (grades four to five) in the Province. NLF commitment in this area was a vital feature of its program, In the words of a defector, 'The people had great confidence in the Front, because the Front was both fighting the enemy and building up the future of their children. This was why they were very eager in contributing money for the construction of the schools. " But bombing and shelling destroyed many school buildings, and caused parents to worry about the safety of their children. "In the Front-controlled villages," according to one respondent's description, 'the children had to dig foxholes near their school in order to have shelter when the village was shelled or strafed." One by one, parents decided to keep their children home, though the decision was "very painful," given the high value put on education. If the tran-


scripts are to be trusted, by 1967 almost all Front schools had been closed down.

The delivery of medical services was similarly disrupted. In the early days of the war, the Front maintained hospitals and clinics, often right under the noses of GVN authorities. A defector explained that:

When there was a GVN operation, hospital beds would be dismantled and submerged in the creek, while medicines, bowls, glasses, and wounded soldiers were carried into underground shelter. The villagers did not evacuate, they were educated to tell GVN troops that those houses (used as a medical station) belonged to villagers who had gone to the Richfield. So far, GVN troops have never discovered a wounded soldier or any medical agent, or medicines of the Chau Thanh District medical corps in the three above stations.

In spite of "living integrated with the enemy," doctors and nurses continued to function, and, in one locale, "The medical team were the most loved people in the village." Bombing and shelling destroyed hospitals and medical equipment just as it did schools and houses. To make matters worse, the departure of refugees from the center of the village made it increasingly difficult for medical cadres to be of service to the peasants. A respondent noted that

Whenever the people got sick, they went to the GVN areas for treatment. If they wanted the Front medical personnel to give them injections, they had to walk a long distance in order to find them. The medical personnel stayed in houses that people had abandoned, far off in the orchards. This was why no one went to see them when sick, The speaker had been strafed while walking in his fields, and had been taken to a GVN doctor. His perspective has been turned inside-out by the bombing. Living in a hut built in the ricefields, he is the one who is located 'far away,"


while the medical team remains in the original village. Health, like education, was an area in which US-GVN bombardment dealt the Front a serious blow.

Bombing and shelling also interrupted the activities of Front entertainment teams. The reports of a number of respondents indicate that these troupes had made a significant contribution to the growth of the NLF, Here is a typical description, from a defector

It was not before 1963 that my village came under Front control, I was then a 17 year old teenager and was very taken in by the happy and excited atmosphere that existed in the village. What impressed me most was the Village Entertainment Troupe which gave all of us a very good time once every one or two months, Whenever it came to my hamlet, the youths were overjoyed and I even neglected meals to be with the troupe all day long. Besides singing songs, the troupe also performed short plays in favor of the Front, and eventually, I heartily welcomed whatever the Front did. That's why when the conscription policy was put in force in (my village) I volunteered to join the Front's armed forces without the slightest hesitation.

Like any other gathering of villagers, audiences attending such presentations were bombed and shelled after 1965, and as a result the work of these troupes was seriously hindered. "Why weren't there any more spectators ? " asked one interviewer when this subject came up during discussions with a defector. "Were the people fed up with the shows ? " 'No, that wasn't it," was the answer

The people are still very fond of the shows, but they daren't gather to attend them because they feared being shelled. As evidence, instead of attending the shows, they came there when the entertainers were rehearsing for the shows. But on the day of the performance nobody dared to come. The people were convinced that if they gathered in


a crowd, the GVN would find out about it and shell them.

The shows had once stood at the center of a revolutionary culture which the Front was helping to build. According to the testimony of a defector:

The best period lasted from 1962 to 1963. Life in the countryside was a lot of fun. Every village meeting was followed by a show given by the village entertainment team and the villagers were very eager to attend them. At night, the people stayed up late to drink or to chat. We didn't have to worry about shellings.

After 1965, the disappearance of the entertainment teams indicated that this revolutionary culture was in deep trouble.

The most important institutions to fall apart under the bombardment were the popular associations. These organizations, "the reserve forces of the Revolution, "served both as local organs of self-government and as schools of revolutionary politics, from which the Party recruited its own membership. 'An association or a group is a bridge connecting the people with the Party," remarked one analyst; "To get to the Party, one must go through an association or a group." Associations were entrusted with much of the day to day detail of local administration and their officers, the neighborhood Party members and backbone elements, were the leaders-of hamlet and village. Associations mobilized the people, they were the vehicle through which the Front's line and policy was translated into action.

The Liberation Youth's Association was primarily responsible for recruitment, and from its ranks the Front drew most of its soldiers. Especially in its early days, this had been a revolution of young people. "I joined the Front almost immediately after I went back to my village," remembered one POW.


I was then a youth and was very excited by the atmosphere the Front had created in the village. The villagers knocking on drums and wooden fish every night, the explosions of fire-crackers, which I took for rifle shooting from afar, all these sounds excited my young mind longing for adventures and changes. It certainly was not what the mature and aged men felt; they were rather afraid of all these events.

The Liberation Youth's Association was the most important of the popular organizations during the first years of the revolution, when the army and local administration were being set up. But as time passed, several factors tended to empty the villages of their young people, Many were killed in the regular or the guerrilla forces, and others died under bombing and shelling. Since both the Front and the Saigon regime were increasingly rigorous about enforcing conscription, young men found it difficult to evade military service. Finally, the youth, along with everyone else, joined the flow of refugees who from 1965 on were making their way into the more secure GVN areas. As a result of all these developments, few young people remained in the villages, and many Liberation Youth's Associations ceased to function.

The Women's Association was responsible for the mobilization of women and for enlarging the political and social role they played in the village, More generally, it was in charge of "motivating the people," of presenting them with the requests of the Front and getting them to participate actively in its campaigns. As we have seen, the constant work of persuasion was the essence of the Front's political practice, and in this sense the Women's Association worked 3 at the very center of the insurgents' local effort. Women convinced the youths to enlist, the farmers to pay taxes, the villagers to build fortifications. Finally, the task of conducting political struggle against the GVN was also among the duties of the Women's Association. Women participated in demonstrations, protest marches and petition


drives in an effort to keep GVN officials on the defensive by forcing them to justify their actions as the "official" government to the people they claimed to represent. This form of agitation, called "face-to-face struggles" by the interview respondents, had been particularly important in 1962, 1963 and 1964, after the Diemists had lost the initiative, but before U. S. escalation lent a new ruthlessness to the Saigon regime, and in this period Women's Association was the most important mass organization in the villages.

By 1965, the Women's Associations were encountering growing obstacles. In the first place, political struggle with the GVN was no longer feasible, In the old days, no matter how repressive they may have been, Saigon officials nonetheless imagined that they were competing politically with the NLF, and so when demonstrations materialized outside their offices, they felt some obligation to give the protesters a hearing and to consider their petitions. (15) But with escalation, the GVN attitude hardened. Demonstrators were frequently beaten or jailed, and some were threatened with strafing from the air if they returned. In any case, massive bombardment was creating a new kind of atmosphere in the villages. Marches and protests were ineffectual gestures when the adversary was systematically attempting to pulverize the countryside in which the protesters lived, The Women's Association could not convince people to participate in "face-to-face struggles" under such conditions. At the same time, with more men either killed or in the army, women were forced to take over work in the fields, leaving them with less time for other activities, The difficulty in holding meetings, and the departure of many Association members from the village, when combined with these other developments, all contributed to the decline of many Women's Associations.

The Farmers' Association could not escape from this general process of dissolution. According to one respondent, the Association was "composed of the basic elements of the revolution, that is, the poor farmers between 18 and 55," and its members were expected "to play the role of vanguards in every -duty required by the Front." After cadres had discussed policy with backbone elements, the two


groups worked together in meetings of the Farmers' Association, supporting each other and setting a good example for the rest of the villagers. In such meetings, peasants heard backbone elements reiterate the cadres' point of view and observed that they took the lead in paying taxes, volunteering for work on hamlet fortifications, and promising to participate in various combat support functions like transporting ammunition or carrying the wounded away from nearby battlefields. In 1965, the Front was powerful in part because its Farmers' Associations were thriving. A well informed defector noted that 'the Farmers' Association is a very strong association because it enjoys very good and inspired leadership and a very wide spread organization throughout the countryside. It will not do the GVN any good if it tries to break it up by means of arrests and torture as Diem had done before."

What "arrests and torture" could not do was to some extent accomplished by bombing and shelling, From 1965 on, the constant drain of population away from the liberated zones hurt the Farmers' Associations severely. Many members became refugees, others were killed, and the survivors were discouraged and hesitated to attend meetings. Gradually this organization, along with the other popular associations, went into decline. In many villages, maintaining the skeleton of the old associations, "one or two cadres in the leadership positions," was the most that could be salvaged. 'In actuality, the Front's organizations in these hamlets could be considered as non-existent," remarked one observer, during a discussion of his own locale, "because the cadres were there but there were no villagers left for them to work with. The Farmers' Association Executive Committee still exists but it doesn't have any members." With its "infrastructure" at least partially "rooted out," the Front had lost a good deal of its political force.

Such damage was serious, but not fatal to the Front. As we have noted, the key to the NLF's local effort was the sequence of meetings linking district office to village cadres to backbone elements to the villagers in their hamlets, This vital communications system was responsible for the transmission of information and the inculcation of fighting spirit


throughout the countryside. Designed to withstand even the worst shocks, the system nonetheless began to break down in 1966 and 1967.

In the first place, bombing and shelling disrupted relations between villages and district offices so that organizing even one single meeting now required a major effort. To begin, a site was chosen. "The terrain should be favorable," explained a respondent, "and we should be able to disperse easily. The people living in the area should be good elements and the area should be one that wasn't often shelled or bombed." Once this decision was made, liaison agents "were sent out right away" to contact local Party members, since the mails were unreliable, and people were likely to "say that they hadn't received the invitations we sent them." Party members were taken to 'a temporary gathering place," then, if the situation was favorable, they were assembled at the real meeting site. Meanwhile, local guerrillas dug trenches and shelters for the participants. The discussion itself was likely to be interrupted, and the noise of nearby bombs and shells was enough to distract some members, making it hard for them to concentrate, and leaving them, at the end of the meeting, not quite sure that they had fully digested the points of the day.

Returning to their villages, local cadres were faced with similar difficulties. Many of the less determined officials found it impossible to carry on with the normal procedures, a point which emerges in one respondent's discussion of the "incorrect method of motivating the people to pay taxes."

Those Village Secretaries whose comprehension was limited did not initiate the campaign in accordance with the procedures. Others wanted to save time and held indoctrination sessions for both the Party members and the Popular Associations members. This way of initiating the campaign is called "Initiating with overhead leaps." In light of the Party's experience, this way of proceeding never brings about success.

When backbone elements met with Party members before


the latter had been fully convinced of the soundness of a new policy, the subsequent discussions did not go smoothly. After all, if the Communists and 'vanguard" elements seemed to hesitate, few of the other villagers were likely to participate with enthusiasm. Half-hearted cadres who approached popular associations without having fully prepared could only add to the growing mood of demoralization. Here is a defector's account :

I saw that many popular organizations were beginning to disintegrate, because I didn't see them holding meetings and carrying out activities as regularly as the Party regulations would have it. As for the Labor Youth Group and the Party, they were still in operation but they lacked a sense of responsibility. The group as well as the Party were only executing the directives handed down to them from above, and in a too mechanical manner. They simply received the resolutions from above, discussed them summarily in a Party Chapter meeting and then executed them right away, leaving out entirely the studying part of them. Previously, following closely to the principles, as soon as any directives or resolutions were received from the Party, the Party Chapter only executed them when all the Group or Party members had already been clear about the directives and were determined to carry them out. Only in this manner could the mission achieve the required targets.

Ostensibly, the system was still functioning in a normal way, but the essential ingredient, *the studying part," from which in the past real conviction and enthusiasm had been derived, was now missing.

The sequence of meetings was supposed to convey information up to the District level as well as send instructions down into the villages, But escalation made it just as hard for the local cadres to enlighten their superiors as it was for the higher echelons to give proper guidance to village and hamlet representatives. Before dispatching delegates


to district meetings, local Party Chapters were supposed were supposed to get together so that "weak and strong points were reviewed, checked and summarized." But in 1966 and 1967, "continuous GVN operations and airplane attacks" led to the cancellation of such meetings, so that the Village Party Secretary was forced to visit each of the other local cadres I individually. As a consequence,

the branches and structures cadres could make false claims without having to worry about their claims being checked or their strong or weak points reviewed because the Party Chapter Committee members could no longer hold meetings to determine and measure the overall successes of their activities in the village.

Without collective discussion, Party Secretaries did not have a good grasp of the situation in their villages, and as a result they were much less effective at keeping district cadres in touch with local affairs.

When cadres and backbone elements were poorly pre pared, the general perfunctory quality of their presentation was immediately apparent to the villagers, As one defector noted, of the officials in his area,

The cadres were uninspiring. When they held meetings they kept repeating the same arguments over and over again because their level of under standing was low. In the end, the people in the hamlet refused to come to the meetings because they said that there never was anything new at the meetings.

In any case, villagers attending meetings in 1966 and 1967 were bound to be more skeptical and unfriendly than they had been in previous years, The Front was asking more and more of them, in the form of taxes and labor services like digging trenches and carrying ammunition, while at the same time bombing and shelling made village life close to unbearable. As a result, the atmosphere in local meetings


was tense, and cadres whose self-discipline faltered ran the risk of losing control of the progressively more delicate negotiations between themselves and the peasants.

One respondent described the danger in these terms:

Before, the Front cadres used to say that the Front's expansion was due to the fact that the people contributed their opinion to the cadres and informed them of many things that were going on. It was also said that when the Front committed an error, the people contributed their opinion and, therefore, helped the Front correct these errors and serve the people better. It was claimed that the cadres worked in a democratic manner because they listened to the people and didn't order the people around arbitrarily, as the mandarins used to do. But now, the people no longer contributed their opinion to the cadres, or supported them. The cadres are now isolated from the people, from the political point of view. This was why, when the cadres told them something, the people didn't listen to them, because they thought that what the cadres said wasn't close to the truth, This was why, when the cadres asked them to do something, the people refused to do it because the cadres couldn't convince them of the necessity of the tasks entrusted to them. When the people refused to perform these tasks, the cadres screamed at them, but in so doing, they behaved exactly like the mandarins, and this attitude, in turn, isolated them further from the people.

In situations like this one, cadres had come full circle. Representatives of a movement which had promised to deliver peasants from the oppressions of the old regime, they were now forced by the weight of circumstances into "screaming" at the villagers, and behaving "exactly like the mandarins." Such behavior only "isolated them further from the people," thus making the crisis even more serious than it had been before.


The central flaw described in the above episode, and in others like it, is that "the people no longer contributed their opinion to the cadres." This hardening of the peasants into day a mutinous silence was the one possibility most feared by the cadres, who had to intervene immediately and to do see everything possible to halt the villagers' downward spiral into a stubborn apathy, "They kept silent when we spoke to them," noted one discouraged cadre; 'We had to urge them to let us know their feelings." Another respondent commented that, "the villagers were fed up with (the cadres), to therefore nobody felt like criticizing them." Once this process gained momentum, it might be impossible to re verse. "I am a good citizen," announced one peasant to an importuning cadre. "I have not done anything against the Front. Therefore it is up to you to decide my fate. I am resigned to accept any treatment the Front wants to impose on me, because I have no choice. Such comments were full of historical irony. In response to cadres who demanded their participation in the political process, some villagers, with a perverse shrewdness, adopted the traditional attitude of peasants confronted with an alien authority, Deliberately, they chose resignation. Almost mockingly they insisted on offering nothing more than a sullen obedience.

The NLF communications system could spread demoralization almost as quickly as it once had promoted high morale throughout the countryside. Cadres who failed to enlist the full cooperation of the peasants in their hamlets, who found themselves quarreling fruitlessly and eventually losing their tempers, would have to report back to district officials that they had fallen far short of district goals. As usual, they would be strongly criticized by their superiors who always started with the assumption that political persuasion could overcome any problems among the people. From this point of view, difficulties in the village were invariably blamed on local 'cadres' lack of effort in motivating the people to participate eagerly in carrying out the Front's policies," as one respondent put it. Along the same lines, another interviewee noted, "In there, the Front usually stated that there weren't any bad villagers and if there were any it was just because the cadres hadn't indoctrinated


them well, and not because they were against the Revolution. " The Party members being criticized, who saw every day at first hand the terrible destruction caused by the war, must have come to resent this kind of criticism, which seemed to disregard objective circumstances prevailing throughout the countryside. With relations thus embittered, discussion of the latest policies was not likely to prove fruitful, and local cadres were as a result even less well prepared than before when they returned to their villages to launch new campaigns.

The NLF method of operations was also flawed in that it required plenty of time to function smoothly. The complicated and time-consuming process of maintaining morale had to work within the context of an escalating war. When villages were hard hit by bombs and shells, or when unusually punishing GVN sweeps took place, a cumbersome sequence of adjustments was set in motion. While the villagers milled about in confusion, rumors of new disasters mingled with grief for the victims, and with many packing


their bags to leave home, cadres had to resist the temptation to throw all their efforts into an immediate stop-gap response, Answering the aggression would take time, The first step was to rebuild the spirits of Party members, A respondent reported that after a sweep,

The Party Secretary had to hold a Party meeting to bolster their morale and reconsolidate their stand - this took at least 7 days, including the time it took to prepare for the meeting, After the morale of the cadres was bolstered they went out to try to and bolster the morale of the people.

Seven days ! And this step was only the first needed to repair the damage. If a second sweep followed hard upon the first, and a third upon the second, the Front position in the village was in danger of falling apart completely. (16)

Here as elsewhere, we can see how the NLF was forced to operate within the limits of its own situation. Taking such pains with Party morale was an agonizingly slow process, but, however time consuming, it still promised better results than more hasty methods, The materials out of which a strategy had to be constructed were human beings, some more resolute than others, but all subject to the normal emotions of fear, panic and despair. An immediate response to US-GVN inflicted disasters was impossible because people have only limited inner resources, It would take time to gather the most dedicated cadres, to encourage them to pull themselves together, to help them gain once more a sense of initiative and confidence. And it was just as certain that the same process of rebuilding would take even longer with the other villagers, and that the morale of the peasants could never be restored without the good example of their bolder neighbors, Thus U. S. escalation, with its largely technological and inhuman means of destruction, forced the NLF to draw more and more deeply on the inner resources of cadres and people.




Escalation completely changed the lives of NLF cadres. In the first place, simply staying in touch with the villagers was now a major problem, A respondent noted that

Because of intensive shelling, the cadres dared not gather the people in meetings for a time. They had to call on every villager to explain to them what they had to do. Even when they waged face-to-face struggles, they had to call on every family to urge them to go on demonstrations.

In some villages, the cadres divided hamlets into "sectors," and sectors into "sub-sectors," each containing five families. Individual cadres then took responsibility for carrying on political work in one sub-sector at a time. Business previously dispatched in one large village meeting now required a considerable number of small ones. "This has made the NLF cadres busier than before," remarked one observer, no doubt with some understatement. Trying to mobilize people individually or in small groups would be more difficult than appealing to them in large crowds, where each listener could feel the potential strength of the mass simply by looking around. So in addition to the fact that there were a greater number of meetings for cadres to attend, the work of persuasion itself was probably more difficult than before.

Local cadres also had to undertake a growing volume of physical work. Earlier, the three associations organized labor teams to dig trenches, transport ammunition, or carry wounded fighters to medical centers, but as these organizations disbanded, cadres "had to grab everyone they came across," or else do the work themselves. They '"were angry at having to do the labor which they had been exonerated from previously," according to this respondent.

Many a time, we reported our dissatisfaction to


the village chapter, but what it replied to us was to say that we had to make more efforts to endure it. Since the beginning of this year, I had to carry out these labor jobs almost all the time.

In addition, villages could no longer afford to maintain special funds to support NLF personnel, so its members were compelled to adopt a policy of self-sufficiency, They took part time jobs, either cultivating lands held from the Village Committee, or delegating some of their members to do hired labor around the village. As one cadre put it, "All of the members of the group took turns earning money"; they busied themselves "catching fish or getting firewood," in order to support their comrades.

These measures were politically necessary. According to a cadre,

In order to be able to wage a long war and lighten the burden of contributions for the poverty-stricken people who have been suffering for a long time because of the war, the Front has decided that each fighter would have to try his best to provide for his needs from one to four months, depending on the nature of his missions and the circumstances. By helping the Front cut down the people's contributions to the war efforts, fighters prove that they re are grateful to the people.

As the villagers' ability to contribute to the Front went of down, cadres had to take up the slack. A small respite for all the peasants meant substantially increased work loads for each of the cadres in the village. Not only did peasants stop working for the NLF, in some hamlets, the Front began to work for the peasants. A respondent provided the following explanation for this development:

We had to carry out the civilian proselyting task, pre; that is to work for the people in taking care of their orchards or in dredging the ditches. At present, there is not much manpower left in the village) and our help is much appreciated.


The fact that casualties and defections were simultaneously creating a shortage of experienced officials compounded such difficulties. Increasingly, cadres were forced to do the work of two or three people at the same time.

While struggling with all these obligations, cadres were also expected to support their families, In some ways, they were even worse off in this respect than the other villagers.

Those who didn't work for the Front were better off than those who did, because they could spend all their time tilling their land. The revolutionaries just got poorer and poorer, and their families didn't enjoy any benefits at all. On the contrary, they had to pay higher taxes to the Front than the common people, because they were told that they had to set the good example for the rest of the villagers.

After years of sacrifice, 'The revolutionaries just got poorer and poorer." The interview transcripts eloquently testify to the despair of many cadres as they watched their families becoming increasingly miserable, with parents and young children unable to provide for themselves, huddled in shelters, without enough food to eat.

Even more sobering for cadres was the departure of the refugees. At first convinced that it could hold village communities together in spite of bombing and shelling, the Front had by 1967 reluctantly come to accept the evacuation of many villagers from their homes. When U. S. escalation was just gathering momentum, cadres had sternly prevented peasants from fleeing the bombs and shells, and had threatened to confiscate the land of those who did succeed in leaving the village, At the same time, projects were organized to dig trenches and shelters. According to one account, it was impossible to make people 'ignore the fear of shelling," but at least with shelters the peasants felt "less depressed" and temporarily set aside thoughts "of leaving their villages for the town."

But as bombing and shelling went on for month after month, year after year, cadres lost control of the situation.


A respondent explained. The people were told that if they moved into the Strategic Hamlet, they would not have land to work on, they would lose their freedom, and they would live in virtual confinement, and that they should live in the liberated area to have land to work on and to till that land in togetherness with other people. Political indoctrination against moving into the Strategic Hamlet was successful at the beginning, because the people tended to cling to their land and therefore few would move into the Strategic Hamlet. But when they began to be harassed by bombs and bullets and the fear of death, nothing could deter them from leaving any more.

The United States had resolved that peasants should not be allowed "to till the land in togetherness with other people," and as time passed it became clear that the NLF had no effective means of reassuring villagers who were being 'harrassed by bombs and bullets and the fear of death."

As refugees continued to leave the village, cadres were beard to sponsor tactics they originally had scorned, For example, in 1965 they attempted to prevent peasants from building huts in the ricefields, but now the construction of such makeshift dwellings was encouraged in order *to re duce the present atmosphere of sadness and desolation in the liberated zone." The confiscation policy was also modified, so that those who resolved to depart were no longer threatened with the loss of their lands, "The VC wanted to keep the land of those who had left in order to use it as bait to lure them to come back to their hamlet," explained an interviewee.

For the first time in its history, the NLF had been unable to persuade a significant number of people to follow its "line and policy." As they attempted to counter U. S. escalation, cadres came back again and again to the same problem. A POW noted:

The present war fought by the NLF is a people's war. The people are considered its main power.


If all the people flee, the NLF armed forces can have nobody to support and strengthen them. Therefore I realize that the more the people leave the village, the more the armed units of the district and village will be weakened.

Departure of the refugees and the subsequent decline of the popular associations were devastating blows to cadres who were quite unused to a political defeat of this magnitude, A defector stated that :

This situation made all of us feel more and more isolated from the people. We can't help feeling this, because all of us have been intensively indoctrinated that the Party is like a human body whose legs and arms are the popular associations. Now, without legs and arms, how could a human body survive? We were also told that the Party represents the enlightened leadership, while the people are the ones who carry out the policies. Now, without the people's help, how could the policies be implemented ?

Cadres felt lonely and exposed, "Without the people, life was very dull and sad," remarked a defector from a village which had been considerably emptied by bombing and shelling. Another remembered the mournful reflections of a comrade: "We have to convince the villagers not to leave the village and this must be the primary goal because if they leave us, who will we work with, who will we live with ? "

Deprived of communal support, cadres were completely out of their element. One defector explained that

In the cadres' eyes, the loss of the people's support is always the worst thing, because all of them know well that every cadre had to rely on the people's support for his own security and for turning in a good performance. They are convinced that they never could accomplish their assignments if


they cannot get the people's support. Not only did they have to rely on the people to safeguard their own lives. When they lived surrounded by the people, they felt much more reassured. Not because the people were very eager to inform them of the arrival of GVN forces -very few people did -but because whenever GVN soldiers came into their hamlets, those villagers who had their sons and their relatives working for the Front always rushed to advise them to flee. Therefore, the village cadres always knew of the danger in time and to succeeded in fleeing, That's what the cadres understood by the common saying that the people are like water and the cadres are like fish, Without water, the fish cannot survive.

The dictum about fish in water was as much a 'common saying" in the corridors of the Pentagon as it was among the villagers, According to the testimony of the "fish" themselves, U. S, bombing and shelling was doing its job.

Over the years, sharing common dangers and common hopes had created a profound solidarity among local cadres, Seeing dear friends killed and the long-sought victory receding was almost too much for many to bear, They gathered together and talked in somber tones of the future.

Some of them said that in 1967 it was going to be a life and death struggle, and that the risk of their getting killed would be greater. Some said 'I am looking at your face today, but tomorrow we might never see each other again." That was all they said, They all seemed very confused and demoralized.

For years, these cadres had looked forward to the day when they would capture My Tho City, when they would cut once and for all Route 4, "The Indochina Road," which bisects the Province and serves as a lifeline between Saigon and the lower Delta. Now, as one discouraged cadre put it,


The villagers have all left the village and moved out there to make their living. The village is large, but there are only a few of us cadres living here, so how are we going to expand the movement ? It's certain that from now on until we die we won't see My Tho or the Indochina Road.

Some cadres became so demoralized that they plunged into a frenzied hedonism. For example, one respondent belonged to a local Party faction which "took joy and consolation in liquor to forget the times when we had to work hard." This Chapter was regularly disrupted by bitter disputes between these drinkers and the 'zealots" who clung to the austere mode of life the Front had always recommended.

Multiplying failures prompted an increasing number of cadres to defect to the other side. Saigon's "Chieu Hoi" ("Open Arms ") program did not compete effectively with the Front for the allegiance of NLF cadres, and so long as the insurgency was making good progress, it had little to fear from defections. (17) But in villages where the Front was on the defensive, where local cadres were losing their morale and perhaps beginning to quarrel among themselves, the Chieu Hoi program could wreak havoc. The desertion of just one cadre always threatened to touch off a chain reaction which could prove very difficult to bring under control. After a defection, all local offices and supplies had to be shifted to new hiding places, a respondent explained, "for fear that the rallier might inform the government about their location and lead them there to destroy their bases." Meanwhile, close friends of the defector were now left alone with their own thoughts, As one defector surmised:

Such a radical shift coming from a district committee member must have raised a lot of questions in the cadres' and villagers' minds. They couldn't help guessing that I must have some good reasons to do so, They would certainly try to discover the motives for my shift, but first, they must have thought of their own cases and their endeavors to


stand hardships and privations. Unavoidably, they must have questioned themselves about their own future. From thought association, they would have wondered whether or not there would be any profit for them in continuing to serve the Front, since a cadre like myself has to abandon it half-way.

And indeed, the interviews show that some defectors resolved to change sides after hearing about the flight of other cadres they had known.

While thinking such thoughts, local officials were also surveying all the other cadres and wondering if they too were contemplating desertion. In this poisonous atmosphere, the very realization that one was for the first time an object of suspicion was sometimes enough to catalyze long-standing grievances. A respondent described the following situation after his cousin had defected:

I thought I had worked for the Front for a long time, and that it must be well aware of my revolutionary standpoint. But I couldn't help thinking over (my cousin's) behavior. I told myself that since (he) has a larger comprehension than mine, he might have had a good reason to act the way he did.

In this way, defections tested the solidarity of local Front organizations, Only the most cohesive would be able to pull together after such betrayal and succeed in rebuilding mutual trust.

Defections did their most serious damage in the area of relations between cadres and villagers. Here are the thoughts of one defector on this matter.

In the Front areas, the cadres very often don't have enough to eat, and they usually go to the houses of the people to ask for help and food, When a cadre rallied and the GVN conducted an operation in the village about two weeks later, the people believed that it was the rallier himself who had


guided the GVN troops into the village to arrest the people and seize their paddy, They hated the rallier a lot, and as a result, they opposed the cadres who were still in the Front whenever the latter came to see them to ask. for help, They told the cadres : "You ask for our help, but when you rally and surrender to the enemy, you will denounce us to the GVN so they can come and make a mess of our house. If we help you, it will be like 'raising wasps in one's sleeves.' We've paid all our taxes, and we don't have anything left to give you." What a humiliation for the cadres !

This "humiliation, " along with the other problems cited, made defections a political problem for the Front, "Each time a cadre rallied," affirmed a female respondent, "confusion reigned and control couldn't be maintained as tightly as before. It took the Front at least two months to reconsolidate its ranks and bring things back to a normal level. Every time a cadre rallied, the movement went way down hill." Added to all their other worries, defections from within their own ranks increased the strain on already hard-pressed militants.

Representatives of a movement which seemed to be losing the war, cadres suffered a decline in personal influence and prestige. Formerly, they had moved around in the open, immune to GVN armed intervention, but in 1967, according to one observer, "They have to hide most of the time in the secret trenches. They are no longer free to talk loudly in front of the mass, or to travel to and fro to carry out their missions. Self defense becomes important to the cadres, and their missions only came second.* Activities were constantly interrupted by bombing, shelling and sweeps. At such times, cadres ran for their lives, flinging themselves into damp trenches six or seven times a day, or taking refuge in underground hideouts where some died of asphyxiation, or seeking concealment in the chilly waters of a nearby canal until they almost froze.

Attitudes toward the cadres changed now that "the Front no longer could protect (the people's) lives and property."


As one defector observed:

The cadres have lost their prestige in the eyes of the people, because the people have seen that the cadres are much more afraid of the commandos than they are. At present, the cadres no longer stand up majestuously and bravely in front of the people during meetings to bolster their morale after each GVN operation in the village, as they used to do in the previous years.

Another defector stated that villagers once "looked up to (the cadres) as national heroes who dared to sacrifice themselves for the people." But now

When the war came to the area, the Front's secure base was attacked, the cadres' prestige decreased a great deal. Whenever there was a military operation or an air and artillery attack, the cadres always ran away very quickly and ahead of the villagers. They were the last to return to the village. The villagers realized that the cadres were no better than themselves.

A history of dramatic successes had invested the Front with a special aura, and its cadres commanded respect at least in part because they seemed so sure of themselves and of their movement. But now, as villagers saw that the cadres *were no better than themselves," this aura was stripped away. Once proud leaders could no longer hold the attention of their frightened constituents. Those who participated so enthusiastically when the Front was winning now hesitated as the tide of events began to run against the insurgents.

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