''A far more formidable task'': the 101st Airborne Division's pacification of Thua Thien Province, Republic of Vietnam, 1968-1972



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas A&M University


This thesis seeks to identify, describe, and analyze the tactics used by the 101st Airborne Division in the pacification of the Republic of Vietnam's Thua Thien province from 1968 to 1972. Despite the larger calamity of the Vietnam War, the 101st developed an effective set of measures against the Vietnamese communist insurgency. These measures depended largely on the ability of the division's lower-level units to attack the Viet Cong political infrastructure, provide security for Thua Thien's population, and build effective South Vietnamese territorial forces in their areas of operation following the communist 1968 Tet offensive. These findings are based on the official reports, orders, and records generated by the division during its service in Vietnam and currently stored in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland and U.S. Army's Military History Institute in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Additionally, the Military History Institute's "Company Command in Vietnam" series of interviews conducted from 1982 to 1984 with officers who served in Vietnam provided valuable insight. This thesis looks at counterinsurgency practices at the lowest levels where theory and policy are translated into action. Operations Narrative: 3 September 1970. "At 0525 hours D Company, 3d Platoon had two frag grenades tossed into its night defensive position. A member of the platoon threw one of the grenades out of the position before it exploded. He jumped on the other grenade and covered it with his body. The grenade did not explode due to the fact that the safety had not been removed."1 I was inspired to undertake and complete this study by the courageous and fortunate soldier in 3rd Platoon, D Company, 3-187th Infantry and the thousands of others like him whose exploits I found in the footnotes of the Vietnam War. Their stories were resting uneasily as antiseptic fragments in a hundred reports, giving single-sentence snapshots of their part in a war many more clever people declared lost just as they began their fight in 1968. Their names are forgotten to time and their efforts largely relegated to obscurity by others who occupied a larger, grenade-free stage at much less personal risk. Still, they are the men we all want alongside us in our night defensive position. Their deeds are much easier to comment on than they were to perform.

  1. Hq., 3-187 Infantry, "Combat After Action Report: Operation Texas Star, dated 20 September 1970," p. 5, Box 19, Command Reports, Assistant Chief of Staff Intelligence/Operations (S-2/3), 3d Battalion, 187th Infantry, Infantry Units, Record Group 472, National Archives and Records Administration II, College Park, MD.