November 17, 1966
Nha Trang, South Viet Nam—Most Americans are familiar with the escapades of Al Capone's mobsters in Chicago during the 1920s.
Capone and his mobsters ruled that city by payoffs, murder, and violence. Chicago had a legal government, but Capone's shadow government was stronger. It ruled by intimidation, terror, and sudden death.
Free, intelligent people fell in line to the demands of the mob, rather than face the fate of a bombing or a hail of machine gun bullets. Capone ruled until the Federal government stepped in, showed that they could provide the people with protection, and rounded up Capone and most of his gunmen.
The current situation in South Viet Nam is similar in many respects. The Viet Cong has a shadow government which operates behind every legally constituted government in this country...from the smallest hamlet to the largest city.
The VC rule by fear, terrorist acts, murders, bombings, and ambushes, over a race of people not nearly as intelligent as the people of Chicago. And, the closest thing the Vietnamese have to an Eliot Ness are the American armed forces.
When Viet Nam, formerly French Indo-China, was partitioned into North and South states, part of the agreement in the partition was that, during a certain period, people from the south could move freely to make their home in the Communist North and the people in the North could move to the free republic in the South.
The communists stopped the exchange when nearly 10 times more people chose to move south than desired to come north.
Behind them, in the South, the communists had left the nucleus of the shadow governments in every hamlet, every village, and town. And by fear, terror, recruiting, and the forced payment of taxes, Viet Cong strength grew.
The VC shadow governments in South Viet Nam are highly organized in every phase, and their actions are controlled by a front organization with headquarters in Cambodia called the Committee of South Viet Nam. The head of the committee is reported to be a former Saigon professional man who takes his orders directly from Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi.
The communists like to set the stage for their take over of a country by planting their men in the small towns. Propaganda will get them a few recruits and sympathizers, but murder and violence bring them more followers faster.
When the VC have the populace largely under their control, then armed troops move in to dominate the area completely.
"That is exactly how the Communists gained control of China," one military expert said. "The Nationalists were so shocked they couldn't believe it was happening and they were beaten."
Progress in the war America is fighting is slow. The low intelligence of the majority of the Vietnamese people is one crucial factor, and the rugged terrain makes it hard to find VC strongholds. But gradually, we are winning, the expert said.
The people in South Viet Nam are swayed mightily by protection, and they form their ranks with the people whom they believe can best provide it.
The rank and file of the South Vietnamese people, the expert said, are unable to evaluate. In constant fear, they may swallow Communist propaganda and hollow promises and become active VC or sympathizers. They may pay taxes to the VC, purchase medicine for them, or pay tribute in rice to a regime which eventually will devour them.
Step-by-step, the military-political expert said, Americans and their allies are moving into the small villages, building hospitals and schools, and providing people with protection from the VC.
Gradually, the Vietnamese are growing confident that they will be protected from the VC, and many of them have informed on members of the shadow government.
Caches of rice, weapons, and documents have been recovered. Movement of VC troops have been obtained in time to wipe them out on information from Vietnamese people who no longer fear the VC.
But, the expert added, Americans will have to stay in Viet Nam until the last vestige of the ruthless shadow governments are destroyed.
(Based on a non-attributable interview with a military-political spokesman from Military Assistance Command)