The Vietnam War was one of the most challenging and complex conflicts of the Cold War era. As the conflict wore on, casualties rose and the American public became increasingly opposed to the war. With no end in sight, the U.S. government knew it would need a unique approach to win the war. For this reason, the government created the CORDS (Civil Operations and Revolutionary/Rural Development Support) pacification program in 1967.
Conflict in Vietnam had been brewing for years, as Viet Minh forces waged an anti-colonial war against the French. With the defeat of the French colonial regime, the U.S. became concerned about the potential spread of communism in Southeast Asia. However, after several years of war, the government wanted to develop a new approach that would ultimately allow the U.S. to exit the conflict. The government decided on a program of “Vietnamization” that would prepare South Vietnamese forces to fight the war on their own.
The previous year, the U.S. Army had commissioned a study known as “A Program for Pacification and Long-Term Development in Vietnam.” This study made it clear that in order to turn the tide, the U.S. would need to abandon the strategy of waging a war of attrition, and instead gain the trust of ordinary civilians. President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered National Security Advisor Robert Comer to create CORDS, a comprehensive pacification program that would involve the military and various civilian agencies.