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The Brown Water Navy in the Mekong Delta: COIN in the Littorals and Inland Waters

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Master's thesis

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The Brown Water Navy, created in less than one year, conducted successful counterinsurgency operations against the Viet Cong only to be marginalized by its own governments policy of Vietnamization. In 1964 the Viet Cong were firmly entrenched in the Mekong Delta region. Using fear and terror tactics, the insurgency gained control of the population, creating a safe haven for the movement to thrive and expand. The United States and the Government of South Vietnam recognized the infiltration problem in the Mekong Delta but their military organizations were either unable or incapable to deal with the problem. The geography of the region made it impossible for a U.S. Army or Marine Corps division to operate effectively and the South Vietnamese Army and Navy lacked the training and equipment to operate successfully. In response to these obstacles, Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, commissioned the U.S. Navy to develop a fighting force capable of operating in the delta and ridding the region of the Viet Cong influence. The Navy used for main Operations MARKET TIME, GAME WARDEN, The Mobile Riverine Force, and SEALORDS to achieve these goals. In four short years the Brown Water Sailors experienced marked success with Viet Cong influence minimized and resupply efforts rerouted to the tortuous Ho Chi Minh Trail. However, by the end of 1968, American resolve to fight a war in South Vietnam had deteriorated and the Government needed a way out. President Nixons Vietnamization program provided the exit for American forces and in turn mitigated the Brown Water Navys successes of the previous four years. The Brown Water Navy overcame tremendous obstacles in less than one year to create and deploy a formidable fighting force to the Mekong Delta. In four years aggressive strides against the Viet Cong insurgency were achieved only to be mitigated by the effects of Vietnamization.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Unconventional Warfare

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