Civilian veterans of the Vietnam pacification program known as Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) are planning a reunion at Arlington National Cemetery on May 12 to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The contact is Bruce Kinsey, who worked in Long An Province from 1968 to 1970 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Former CORDSmen include Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Raymond Burghardt.
Mr. Kinsey notes that CORDS was staffed by civilians from many agencies, but primarily U.S. AID. The workers helped build roads, hospitals, aid stations, training facilities and schools.
A subgroup of the CORDS program was the CIA’s Phoenix program that Mr. Kinsey said was “so unfairly maligned but ultimately so very effective at rooting out the underground communist cadres who had terrorized the lowest levels of the hapless South Vietnamese government almost unopposed for nearly seven years until [former CIA Director] Bill Colby came up with Phoenix.”
“War destroys people,” he said. “It destroys their lives, their homes, most of all their spirits. CORDS tried to build them back up. That’s what the CORDS program was, and we’re having a reunion to celebrate it.”
Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/6363274 or at email@example.com.