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By Graham A Cosmas; Center of Military History

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The regime’s deficiencies grew worse with time. At the top President Diem, suspicious of everyone including the Americans, increasingly concentrated all political power in his own hands and in those of a shrinking circle of family members and sycophantic retainers. The closed, autocratic nature of the regime, and its ruthless suppression of all dissent, alienated a widening spectrum of non-Communist Vietnamese. In the countryside, the remnants of the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao were hostile to Diem. His anti-Communist campaigns, while gravely damaging the party organization in the villages, also inflicted injury and injustice on innocent peasants, making more enemies for the government.

The United States subsequently set up separate military assistance organizations for Cambodia and Laos. In South Vietnam, the MAAG constituted a component of the United States country team headed by the American ambassador. S. forces in the Pacific (CINCPAC). The advisory group, which grew from an initial strength of 342 officers and enlisted men in 1954 to 685 in 1960, included sections in charge of support for the Vietnamese Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, as well as small general and special staffs.

Iron Mike”) O’Daniel (April 1954–November 1955) and Lt. Gen. Samuel T. (“Hanging Sam”) Williams (November 1955–August 1960), concentrated on preparing South Vietnam to resist a conventional invasion across the 17th Parallel. S. or SEATO reinforcements arrived. Both commanders assumed the same units could readily counter any guerrilla challenge to the regime. Neither O’Daniel nor Williams envisioned that internal rebellion alone would bring South Vietnam to the verge of collapse. By 1959 the advisory group, through hard, persistent work, had brought the South Vietnamese armed forces a long way from the ragtag collection of disparate units that the French had left behind three years before.

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