Phoenix and the Birds of Prey


Phoenix and the Birds of Prey

Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in Vietnam

Mark Moyar
Foreword by Harry G. Summers Jr.
With a new preface and chapter by the author

496 pages
36 photos, 3 maps, 2 tables


December 2007


$27.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

January 2022


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About the Book

This study explodes prevailing myths about the Phoenix Program, the CIA's top-secret effort to destroy the Viet Cong by neutralizing its “civilian” leaders. Drawing on recently declassified documents and interviews with American, South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese sources, Mark Moyar examines the attempts to eradicate the Viet Cong infrastructure and analyzes their effectiveness. He addresses misconceptions about these efforts and provides an accurate, complete picture of the allies’ decapitation of the Viet Cong shadow government.
Combining social and political history with a study of military operations, Moyar offers a fresh interpretation of the crucial role the shadow government played in the Viet Cong's ascent. Detailed accounts of intelligence operations provide an insider’s view of their development and reveal what really happened in the safe havens of the Viet Cong. Filled with new information, Moyar’s study sets the record straight about one of the last secrets of the Vietnam War and offers poignant lessons for dealing with future Third World insurgencies. This Bison Books edition includes a new preface and chapter by the author.

Author Bio

Mark Moyar is an associate professor at the U.S. Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia, and the author of Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954–1965. Harry G. Summers Jr. (1932–99) served in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War and was an instructor and distinguished fellow at the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College.


“A groundbreaking piece of revisionist history on the war.”—Senator James Webb, Wall Street Journal

Phoenix and the Birds of Prey is the definitive work on the Phoenix program to date, and will remain so for a long time.”—Periscope

“There are as yet only a few nonfiction works dealing with the Vietnam War that are worth the reader’s time. . . . We can happily add Mark Moyar's Phoenix and the Birds of Prey to this short list of ‘required reading.’”— John D. Waghelstein, Journal of Political and Military Sociology

“[Moyar] succeeds admirably. His work could be a textbook for the do's and don'ts of counterinsurgency warfare.”—William Nester, Asian Thought and Society

"At last! An intellectually and academically honest overview of the Phoenix Program. Moyar has balanced both the military and social historical perspectives and dealt fairly with all factions—American and Vietnamese, non-Communist and Communist, northern and southern—to give the reader the first full and sensible accounting of the Phoenix."—John M. Del Vecchio, author of The 13th Valley

"A fascinating, readable, long overdue exposition of the war in the shadows behind the big unit war in Vietnam."—Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, author of We Were Soldiers Once..and Young

"Mark Moyar's well-researched book will likely become a frequently cited reference. He addresses one of the least understood and least documented aspects of the Vietnam conflict with clarity and objectivity. Unlike the plethora of 'I was there' narratives and the histories that end with Tet of 1968, Moyar's book follows the conflict from beginning to end pointing out how changes in strategy, operations, and tactics impacted upon the campaign against the Viet Cong infrastructure."—Lt. Gen. James Terry Scott, Director, National Security Program

"Phoenix and the Birds of Prey elevates Mark Moyar to the ranks of the rare scholars who truly understand the Vietnam War and its warriors."—Lt. Col. Michael Lee Lanning, author of Inside the LRRPs

"Moyar's examination and assessments of the struggle against the Communist shadow government in South Vietnam are fresh and, in my view, right on the mark. His book warrants serious consideration by all scholars of the Vietnam War, as well as those who would apply the 'lessons' of that war to future American involvements."—Prof. James R. Reckner, Director Study of Vietnam Conference, Texas Tech University

Table of Contents

Preface to the Bison Books Edition
Foreword, by Col. Harry G. Summers, Jr., USA (Ret.)
1 Vietnam at War: Before Phoenix
2 The Shadow Government and the Viet Cong
3 The Shadow Government and the People
4 The War against the Shadow Government: Before Phoenix
5 The New Attack on the Shadow Government
6 Targets
7 Informants and Agents
8 Prisoners: Interrogation, Torture, and Execution
9 Ralliers, Documents, and Photographs
10 Misinformation
11 The Challenge: Phoenix Centers
12 Attempts to Make Phoenix and Phung Hoang Work
13 Other Intelligence and Operations Coordination
14 The Nature of Operations
15 The Birds of Prey
16 The South Vietnamese
17 The Americans
18 Neutralization of Non-Communist Civilians
19 Assassinations
20 Neutralization Statistics
21 Actual Viet Cong Cadre Losses
22 Additional Setbacks for the Shadow Government
23 The Shadow Government in Decline
24 Abuse of the Population
25 Changing Attitudes
26 The Impact of the New Attitudes
27 Theories of Revolutionary Warfare
28 Reflections
29 Lessons Learned
Selected Bibliography

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