Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)





Committee Chair

Andrew Wiest

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Heather Marie Stur

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Allison J. Abra

Committee Member 3 Department



This thesis examines the interactions between the British Advisory Mission to South Vietnam (BRIAM) and the South Vietnamese government of Ngo Dinh Diem and his American advisors. By studying BRIAM’s efforts—and those of its leader, Sir Robert Thompson—this thesis argues that many of the tactics Thompson advocated and Diem executed, especially the Strategic Hamlet Program, foreshadowed the techniques Americans used several years later under General Creighton Abrams, during the period historian Lewis Sorley termed the “better war.”

Sorley argued that the American strategy in the Vietnam War was flawed until Abrams implemented his “one war” plan. With this interpretation, however, he ignored the earlier attempts by BRIAM, Diem, and many of the American advisors to win the war using South Vietnamese forces. Long before the introduction of US combat units into the conflict, the efforts of BRIAM and American advisors to work through the government of South Vietnam mirrored President Richard Nixon and Abrams’s later Vietnamization policy.

Drawing from the files of the Foreign Relations of the United States, military documents located in the US National Archives, and BRIAM’s records in the British National Archives, this thesis maintains that Abrams’s “one war” plan was not a unique, “better war” approach. Thompson and Diem pursued a similar strategy in the early 1960s, and it was Diem’s death in the American-backed coup of November 1963 that ended these original efforts at waging a better war in South Vietnam.