[Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg, taught me that sometimes the truth is hidden in plain sight. In this case, all I had to do was open a book, and some of the truth spilled out. Bolded text is my emphasis.]



Chau was a brave soldier as well as an intellectual. He had been decorated by both the Vietminh and Diem for bravery in combat. He was clearly committed to seeing the GVN improve in areas that unmistakably needed improvement, and despite his obvious respect for the courage, discipline, and patriotism of the Communists, he still believed that it was necessary to fight against them and if possible to prevent their dominating Vietnam. …

As I had already learned, one of the things that prevented much progress in the war was the extremely poor quality of leadership in the South Vietnamese army. Most of the officers had either bought their positions or acquired them through nepotism. The problem wasn’t the lack of good officer material but the refusal to promote the good leaders who actually did exist. The officers had to have rich and educated backgrounds; they were part of the landowning class, meaning that they had little empathy or experience with their own troops. The French had favored Catholics, a tradition that Diem and his successors had continued. Chau was one of only two officers of his rank or higher in the army who had had serious experience in the Vietminh. That background, as well as his Buddhism, made it extremely unlikely that he would rise to the rank of general, despite his extreme ability.

John Vann and Doug Ramsey believed that the major “problem” in the countryside was that “the present leaders, bureaucrats, and province and district officials do not come from, think like, know much about, or respond to the wishes of the rural population.” In all these respects, they contrasted sharply with NLF officials.