Howdy all. My name is Brandon Bub, and I’m a senior at Southern Methodist University studying history, political science, and English. This year I’m particularly excited to incorporate my senior thesis topic into my research for the fellowship.
Last year, I completed a research seminar in which I studied the early part of LBJ’s presidency and the decision to escalate the war in Vietnam in July of 1965. For my research with the fellowship, I’ll be continuing that work by studying the pacification campaign or, as it was more colloquially known, the “war for the hearts and minds” of the citizens of Vietnam. While the military conflict often receives the lion’s share of study (and criticism) in Vietnam literature, the war cannot be fully understood without a thorough grounding in pacification efforts. USAID was the executive department charged with completing this work in South Vietnam, and two of the most important figures were Ambassadors Robert Komer and William Leonhart. Particular concerns for USAID were investigating corruption charges in the South Vietnamese government, maintaining security at key shipping ports, distributing food (before the war began, South Vietnam was one of the leading producers of rice, but by 1968 the U.S. had to import tons of it to make up rice deficits), and winning the loyalties of Viet Cong soldiers under a program called Chieu Hoi.
So far, my work has been hugely rewarding. A few weeks ago, I got to visit the LBJ Library in Austin, TX and work in the manuscript reading room. I have countless primary documents I’m still trying to organize, but I’m hoping as everything falls into place I’ll have a better idea of how the pacification campaign was executed, as well as the ways in which it went wrong.