The . commitment to Vietnam expanded under the Kennedy administration at the end of 1961 after a series of incidents (most notably the Bay of Pigs) allowed the Republican opposition to portray him as soft on Communism. Consequently, Kennedy chose to take a hard line against the advance of Communism in Southeast Asia , expanding the number of military advisers from 900 to 3,200 by the end of 1961 and then to 11,300 by the end of 1962. Despite these large increases in advisers and despite optimistic Defense Department reports to the contrary, little progress was being made in quelling the insurgency. Prominent . officials began to blame this failure on Diem, claiming that rampant corruption by his friends and family, lack of progress on land reform, and, above all else, an anti-Buddhist policy, were causing him to lose favor with Vietnamese citizens. Diem ’ s relationship with Buddhists was highlighted by a May 1963 incident in Hue when a deputy provincial chief gave orders to fire on 20,000 Buddhists at a religious celebration. Nine people were killed, and the Buddhist monk Quang Duc was prompted to burn himself a month later, calling for Diem to “ show charity and compassion to all religions. ” Photographs of his self-immolation appeared in . newspapers and were thought to undermine support for the war effort. Small-scale opposition to the war, mainly on . college campuses, erupted not long after the incident.
Aware of the influence of the NLF on the peasant community of South Vietnam, America, with the support of Diem, started the ‘Strategic Hamlet’ programme. This moved villagers into new villages that were surrounded by stockades and patrolled by armed guards. The policy was a dismal failure. Very many villagers resented being uprooted from a village they may have lived in for years and being forcibly moved to another area. They also had nothing to fear from the NLF, whereas the South Vietnamese army did. It also seems likely that if peasants in these villages were not totally sympathetic to the NLF before, they were after ‘Strategic Hamlet’. Many objected to having to leave their villages because the government said so. Many also objected to leaving their village for religious reasons – their dead relatives were buried there and they believed that they had to live with the spirits of their ancestors.
Opposition to American involvement in Viet Nam in the . was also increasing. This anti-war movement was bolstered by the Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) Offensive that began on Jan. 30, 1968. Communist forces launched simultaneous surprise attacks in 36 major South Vietnamese cities. While the communist forces were ultimately defeated, the offensive succeeded in swaying the public opinion of many people in the . who now felt that the war was going to be long, protracted, expensive, perhaps even immoral, and may not even be winnable.