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Operation SUNRISE

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For more information, see: Pacification in South Vietnam.

Operation SUNRISE was a pilot attempt to create a strategic hamlet, which the U.S. had suggested, to the Republic of Vietnam government in the early sixties, as a fundamental national strategy. Beginning on March 22, 1962, in Hau Nghia Province in the Mekong Delta, it was called the "Ben Cat Project.", although a pilot program had started in Cu Chi District[1] Until it was defined as a starting point for pacification in South Vietnam in the Mekong Delta, it gathered little U.S. attention.

By August the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Strategic Hamlets (IMCSH) proposed a priority plan for the construction of strategic hamlets on a nation-wide basis; the corresponding U.S. committee agreed. [2] By October, the Diem government had made the Strategic Hamlet Program the explicit focus and unifying concept of its pacification effort. The government-controlled Times of Viet Nam devoted an entire issue to "1962: The Year of Strategic Hamlets."

It is reasonable to conclude from the evidence that official U.S. awareness kept abreast of Diem's progressive adoption of the Strategic Hamlet Program as the "unifying concept" in his counterinsurgency effort. The same officials were constantly bombarded by a series of reports from a variety of sources describing the progress of the hamlet program and assessing its efficacy.


The first attempt began in Cu Chi District, the first of five to be built around the Lai Khe rubber plantation in what later became part of Hau Nghia Province. Cu Chi is, today, within the Ho Chi Minh City province. Phase I of the operation--the military clearing phase--was conducted by forces of the 5th ARVN Division reinforced by Vietnamese Ranger companies, a reconnaissance company, two reinforced Civil Guard companies, and a psychological warfare company. The Viet Cong retreated into the jungles.

While the Viet Cong were not an immediate problem, the government had much difficulty in starting the project. Of 205 families eligible for resettlement, only 70 volunteered; the others were forcibly relocated. While some families were able to bring their possessions, others lost all but their clothing when the government burned their old homes.

The U.S. Operations Mission aid agency had granted $300,000; this was being withheld from the families until the administrators were certain they would stay in the new hamlet.

In the relocated families, only 120 men of fighting age were moved, suggesting the others had gone, voluntarily or involuntarily, to the VC.


  1. The Dynamics of Defeat: The Vietnam War in Hau Nghia Province (reprint edition ed.), Westview Press, 1993, ISBN 0813318742, p. 35
  2. , Chapter 2, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159, The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, 1971