Việt Cộng

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Việt Cộng
FNL Flag.svg
Fullname: Việt Cộng
Alias: VC
National Liberation Front
Origin: South Vietnam
Foundation: July 21, 1954
Headquarters: Mimot, Cambodia (1966–72)
Lộc Ninh, South Vietnam (1972–75)
Commanders: Trần Văn Trà (1963 - 1967, 1973 - 1975)
Hoàng Văn Thái (1967 - 1973)
Central Office: Nguyễn Văn Linh (1961 - 1964)
Goals: Unify North and South Vietnam under the banner of communism (successful)
Crimes: War crimes
Mass murder
Destruction of property

You will kill ten of us, we will kill one of you, but in the end, you will tire of it first.
~ Hồ Chí Minh

The Việt Cộng, also known as the National Liberation Front, was a mass political organization in South Vietnam and Cambodia during the Cold War. It had its own army – the People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam (PLAF) – that fought against the United States and South Vietnamese governments during the Vietnam War, eventually emerging on the winning side. It was controlled by the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN), which oversaw all of the Communist Party of Vietnam's operations in South Vietnam.

It had both guerrilla and regular army units, as well as a network of cadres who organized peasants in the territory it controlled. Many soldiers were recruited in South Vietnam, but others were attached to the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), the regular North Vietnamese army.

During the war, communists and anti-war activists insisted the Việt Cộng was an insurgency indigenous to the South, while the U.S. and South Vietnamese governments portrayed the group as a tool of Hanoi. Although the terminology distinguishes northerners from the southerners, communist forces were under a single command structure set up in 1958.


North Vietnam established the National Liberation Front on December 20, 1960, to foment insurgency in the South. Many of the Việt Cộng's core members were volunteer "regrouped", southern Việt Minh who had resettled in the North after the Geneva Accord (1954). Hanoi gave the regroups military training and sent them back to the South along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the early 1960s. The NLF called for southern Vietnamese to "overthrow the camouflaged colonial regime of the American imperialists" and to make "efforts toward the peaceful unification".

The Việt Cộng received support from Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China during the Vietnam War. They also supported the Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian Civil War in their efforts to depose Lon Nol, as well as during the early years of Pol Pot's dictatorship.

The PLAF's best-known action was the Tet Offensive, a gigantic assault on more than 100 South Vietnamese urban centers in 1968, including an attack on the U.S. embassy in Saigon. The offensive riveted the attention of the world's media for weeks but also overextended the Việt Cộng. Later communist offensives were conducted predominantly by the North Vietnamese. The organization was dissolved in 1976 when North and South Vietnam were officially unified under a communist government.

War crimes

The Việt Cộng were responsible for perpetrating numerous war crimes during the war, often resorting to using terrorism tactics:

  • During the months and years that followed the Battle of Huế, which began on January 31, 1968, and lasted a total of 28 days, dozens of mass graves were discovered in and around Huế. North Vietnamese troops executed between 2,800 and 6,000 civilians and prisoners of war. Victims were found bound, tortured, and sometimes apparently buried alive.
  • On December 5, 1967, two battalions of Viet Cong were reported to have killed 252 civilians in a "vengeance" attack on the hamlet of Đắk Sơn, home to over 2,000 Montagnards. It is alleged that the Vietcong believed that the hamlet had at one point has given aid to refugees fleeing Viet Cong forces.
  • VC terror squads, in the years 1967 to 1972, were claimed by the US Department of Defense as having assassinated at least 36,000 people and abducted almost 58,000 people. Statistics for 1968–72 suggest that "about 80 percent of the terrorist victims were ordinary civilians and only about 20 percent were government officials, policemen, members of the self-defense forces or pacification cadres." NVA/VC forces murdered between 106,000 and 227,000 civilians between 1954 and 1975 in South Vietnam. Up to 155,000 refugees fleeing the final North Vietnamese Spring Offensive were alleged to have been killed or abducted on the road to Tuy Hòa in 1975.
  • Another common VC tactic was the frequent mortaring of civilians in refugee camps, and the placing of mines on highways frequented by villagers taking their goods to urban markets. Some mines were set only to go off after heavy vehicle passage, causing extensive slaughter aboard packed civilian buses.
  • Another terror method involved deliberate random shelling of populated areas with 122-mm rockets. Areas victimized included Saigon, Danang, and other major cities. At other times the Viet Cong eschewed the use of stand-off weapons and directly attacked villages and hamlets with the express intention of killing men, women, and children to sow havoc, panic, and insecurity. A 1968 attack on the hamlet of Son Tra in Quang Ngai province, for example, used flamethrowers to incinerate 78 civilians, wounded many more, and destroyed most of the hamlet.