Myth: The Phoenix Program was an immoral 'assassination program' that killed many innocent civilians, as well as Viet Cong political cadres.

Fact: The Phoenix Program was a somewhat effective effort to eradicate the VCI (Viet Cong Infrastructure through conversion, capture and killing, if the subjects resisted capture.

  • The Phoenix Program was conceived by Robert Komer, the head of CORDS, and was designed to better coordinate pacification efforts, which included degrading the VCI.
  • The effort was overseen by American military officers nominally working for the CIA, and operations were carried out by South Vietnamese PRU (Provincial Reconnaissance Units).
  • Records show that about 1/3rd of the VCI eliminated were converted (turned into spies or recruited for the GVN), 1/3rd were captured and jailed and 1/3rd were killed resisting arrest.
  • It has been falsely claimed that the targets of Phoenix were civilians, but these so-called civilians were political, financial and logistical cadre of the communist forces who did not wear uniforms.

Confirming Evidence

A Retrospective on Counterinsurgency Operations

Two new programs initiated in South Vietnam

The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency

Vietnam: the Phoenix Program