Locals waiting to be processed during a village search - January 1967  -  (Author's collection)

Hearts  and  Minds


We’d set up camp at Nui Dat,
And cleared a mile or two;
So houses near where we were at,
All had to go, like Ap An Phu. 

Another village, mostly French in style,
Long Phuoc ’twas among those names;
Peasants resettled elsewhere, while,
Homes went up in smoke and flames. 

And five Ks north of our Aussie base,
’Twas a plantation, called ‘Gallia’;
Rubber trees again around this place,
A group of hamlets called Xa Binh Ba. 

We ‘Tigers’ of 5 R.A.R.,
Soon developed good rapport,
Assuring all those local folk we are,
Protecting them in this war. 

A village search, checked all I.D.s,
Barbed-wire compounds, long static lines;
Detained were these, South Vietnamese,
Winning all their hearts and minds!


*

We blocked their roads on market days,
Made them wait in turn in queues;
Imposed our will in various ways,
Ignored their customs and their views. 

With S.L.Rs, M.60s, Armalites,
Mortar and ‘arty’ rounds galore,
Surrounds were cleared in fire-fights,
Throughout that decade’s dirty war. 

Destroying ‘hootchie’ huts, felling trees,
Poisons were sprayed down from the air;
‘High brass’ knew best, ignored their pleas,
And so it seems they didn’t care. 

By then affecting their livelihood,
Rice paddy fields, crops and farms,
Couldn’t understand why any would,
Take up opposing arms. 

Having crowded them into Xa Dat Do,
And Hoa Long, then laid those mines,
Gratitude ’twas nil! Didn’t they all know?
We were winning their hearts and minds!
.


©


Hearts  and  Minds

   It was believed that the way to winning the political war was through the ‘hearts and minds’ of the civilian population. Yet, some of the policies of the politicians and the military were carried out in such a manner and or were so ill-conceived that they achieved the opposite ... they in fact often lost the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people, if indeed they ever gained them in the first place.  
     In this poem 5 RAR is read as ‘Five ah ay ah’ and not as ‘Five rah’ Also, the rubber plantation referred to called ‘Gallia’ is read as ‘Gar-lee-a’.     

                                    “The answer lies not in pouring more troops into the jungle,
                                                     but in the hearts and minds of the people!”

                -   General Templer quoted in The War of the Running Dogs (Malaya 1948-60), by N. Barber, 1989. 

                    “Grab ’em by the balls and their hearts and minds will automatically follow!”
                                                                - a cynical slogan quoted from some in the U.S. hierarchy, 1966.

                     “In the cities and villages we moved families from their ancestral homes with
              the same disregard for their culture and religion as we [ie our forebears] had shown
               the Red Man in America [and the Aborigine in Australia] ... made them prisoners in
             strategic hamlets about as free as concentration camps. Meanwhile, we ruined their
         crops with our chemicals and their economy with our Yankee dollars, supported a chain
              of corrupt governments and a corrupt Viet military machine [and tried] to win their
                                                       hearts and minds by destroying villages.”

                                                                                  - Lt. Col. David Hackworth (U.S. retired) in About Face, 1989.