The failure of the United States to win the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people was the main reason why their strategy in Vietnam was unsuccessful. Do you agree?

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‘The failure of the United States to win the “hearts and minds” of the South Vietnamese people was the main reason why their strategy in Vietnam was unsuccessful.’ Do you agree? Explain your answer.

        The ‘hearts and minds’ strategy, was developed to show the South Vietnamese people that the US were on their side. It aimed to undermine the popularity of the Vietcong and in turn lead to the people favouring the US and not harbouring Vietcong in their villages. The campaign was important in proving the United States was in the right, so much so that President Johnson underlined ‘hearts and minds’ in his ‘28 speeches’. The US built schools, bridges, clinics and roads; peasants were helped to improve farming and they encouraged the formation of a democratic government, under Diem. As part of the campaign the ‘Strategic Hamlet Programme’ was set up in 1962. It took peasants out of their homes and into safe villages, protected by wire and guns. The programme was unpopular with peasants, who had often been residents of the land for centuries. Similarly, they went from a tradition of farming, to digging trenches. Often these villagers turned to the Vietcong, who followed a Code of Conduct, similarly aimed at winning over the people. The ‘hearts and minds’ campaign was a success, as during the Tet Offensive civilians in urban areas did not up rise and support the Vietcong or NLF. In addition, by removing people from villages, they reduced the available places for Vietcong to hide.

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        US strategy in Vietnam was unsuccessful for a number of reasons such as the results of Napalm, Search and Destroy and Agent Orange. Napalm and Agent Orange were used in Vietnam to destroy jungles where Vietcong hid and to force peasants into urban areas, where the VC couldn’t hide. Agent Orange was a highly toxic defoliant, developed in the 1960s and first used in 1966. Over the course of the war, 82million tonnes were used, covering 10% of Vietnam and destroying five million acres of land. Napalm was a mixture of petrol and phosphorous, it was a tough, sticky gel ...

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