Rand in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era

By Mai Elliott | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
“What Makes the Viet Cong Tick?”

It was with the rank of general that Joe Zasloff arrived in Saigon with his wife Tela in summer 1964 to run a new RAND research project called “Viet Cong Motivation and Morale.” Harry Rowen in the Pentagon had agreed to fund the project. As did other civilians attached to the Defense Department in Vietnam, Zasloff had to carry a military rank roughly the equivalent of what he would have qualified in civil service status. Before Zasloff’s departure, an aide to Harry Rowen telephoned RAND and asked what rank Zasloff should have. Since Zasloff was going to depend on the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam for support for everything from obtaining living quarters to securing transport for his field study, the reply was, “Do the very best you can, it’s a difficult project, and the higher we can get, the better.”1 The Pentagon obliged and gave Zasloff the rank of general to facilitate his work in Vietnam.

Traveling to a war zone required more than getting a ticket and boarding a plane. First, the Zasloffs had to obtain theater clearance from the Department of Defense. This did not pose a problem since the Viet Cong Motivation and Morale Project had been approved by the International Security Affairs within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. For Joe Zasloff, who knew French, the language most of South Vietnam’s elite still spoke, going to Vietnam was not as novel as it had been in 1959, when he was selected to teach at the University of Saigon. He had applied for a grant simply to teach abroad, destination unspecified, and when he was informed that he had been assigned to a place called Saigon, he ran to a map to see where it was located.2

Zasloff had learned French in high school and college. His fluency had improved while he served in France during World War II and subsequently while studying at the University of Geneva for his doctorate degree. In Saigon, he taught as a visiting professor at the Faculty of Law, lecturing in French, and collaborated with the University of Michigan Group on a study of provincial administration in Vinh Long in the Mekong Delta. Zasloff thus belonged to a small group of Vietnam experts who possessed first-

1 David Landau, “Behind the Policy Makers: RAND and The Vietnam War,” Ramparts, November 1972, pp. 31–32.

2 Author interview with Joe and Tela Zasloff, 2003.

-45-

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Rand in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Foreword iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents xiii
  • Photos xv
  • Maps xvii
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • Introduction - Rand- The Beginning 1
  • Chapter One - A Remote Corner of the World- The Beginning in Vietnam 7
  • Chapter Two - "What Makes the Viet Cong Tick?" 45
  • Chapter Three - Escalation and Airpower 91
  • Chapter Four - Controversy 149
  • Chapter Five - The Many Aspects of the War 205
  • Chapter Six - The Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands 249
  • Chapter Seven - The Tet Offensive 285
  • Chapter Eight - Pacification and Vietnamization 349
  • Chapter Nine - The Pentagon Papers 415
  • Chapter Ten - The End of the War 499
  • Chapter Eleven - Laos and Thailand- Sideshows 541
  • Epilogue - Diversification 615
  • Bibliography 627
  • Author Biography 653
  • Index 655
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