MATs in a mad war: The U.S. Army’s advisory efforts in waging peace in Viet Nam"
Nguyen, Uyen Hong
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As the field of military history has expanded beyond traditional battle narratives to examine diverse social and cultural perspectives, this doctoral research uses the bottom-up micro-history approach to explore an understudied aspect of human experiences in the Vietnam/American War: the U.S. Army’s Mobile Advisory Team (MAT) advisors and their local counterparts. Waging both war and peace amidst a fierce counterinsurgency, these small units of American advisors operated in a highly flexible, challenging, and isolated environment where they lived and fought alongside the Vietnamese local soldiers, indigenous forces, and civilians in remote areas. Serving in this prolonged conflict, which historian George Herring once called “America’s longest war,” MAT was the microcosm of the U.S. ultimate understanding and application of irreplaceable civil-military integration in the last phase of the war. Not only did MATs serve as military field advisors to train small units of territorial forces, they also carried out a wide spectrum of multiple non-military duties to provide the host country’s people a clearer sense of peace, no matter how fragile it might be. A lasting peace would not be possible until the war ended, yet everyday extraordinary fighting went on to defend ordinary lives. Many conundrums and intersections of waging war and waging peace through MAT teams’ unique lens shaped the cross-cultural experiences of these local advisors, local soldiers and their families, revealing insightful voices of human beings on the ground who bore and have silently continued to bear a direct impact of America’s engagement in overseas missions, and illuminating thoughtful interconnections between peace and conflict. Tracing the development of the MAT program through multiple layers, from its institutional origin to fieldworks evolution, this research hopes to accurately portray complex, myriad aspects of the U.S. Army’s advisory supporting the challenging task of pacification in Vietnam. Through the MAT unique lens, this research aims to enhance a deeper understanding of the diverse experiences of human beings at the lowest rung of the military advisory hierarchy, the rice-roots level, in many remote villages and hamlets across South Vietnam from 1968 to 1972.Embargo status: Restricted until 09/2172. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.