This article examines the Special Commissariat for Civic Action as an instrument for nation-building in the First Republic of Vietnam. Originally, the Special Commissariat was intended to serve as a means to fill the power vacuum in the countryside that emerged in the wake of the departure of the Việt Minh cadres relocated to the North, as required by the Geneva Accords. Over time, the Special Commissariat would become tied into Ngô Đình Diệm's larger nation-building agenda of creating a viable, noncommunist South Vietnam capable of standing independently among the nations of the so-called “free world.”

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