Operation Sunrise was the first phase of a long range counter-offensive against the Viet Cong. It was launched in the Ben Cat region of the Binh Duong Province (35 miles from Saigon). It began the Strategic Hamlet resettlement program in which scattered rural populations in South Vietnam were uprooted from their ancestral farmlands and resettled into fortified villages defended by local militias. However, over 50 of the hamlets were soon infiltrated and easily taken over by Viet Cong who killed or intimidated village leaders.
As a result, Diem ordered bombing raids against suspected Viet Cong-controlled hamlets. The air strikes by the South Vietnamese Air Force were supported by U.S. pilots, who also conducted some of the bombings. Following the air strike South Vietnamese light tanks pushed into the hamlets to sweep out rebels. Although dozens of Viet Cong were killed, the operation took a hard toll on the populations as civilian casualties eroded popular support for Diem and resulted in growing peasant hostility toward America, which was largely blamed for the unpopular resettlement program as well as the bombings.
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