Created: 12/1/1984

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A collection ol articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol Intelligence.

All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of

the authors They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construedsserting or implying US Government endorsement of an ankle's factual statements and interpretations




General Bruce Palmer, Jr. (United State* Abht. Rctihzd)

The Editorial Board ol Studies in Inlelllaenct, in deliberation)prilecided topec ill feme of Studies to thii account of tbe role of American In the Viet mmhisupplement to the seasonal editions of Studies



US Intelligence and Vietnam CONTENTS

IIIustiations: In addition to the maps that appear with the text, two oversize pull-out illustrations will assist the reader In following the account in this special issue of Studies in Intelligence. Onehart, "US Leaders hip during tbe Vietnamnd the otherap of Indochina asoth are contained In envelopes at the back of the journal The reader is cautioned that the chart, like this entire Issue of Studies, isUilJ


Prologue: The BeginniiiR of US Involvement In

Earlv American Presence in

End of East-West

SUrt of US Aid to


Part I: The Truman. Eisenhower, and Kermedv Year*.

US-French Intelligence Relations.

Principal US Intelligence Agencies Involved with

Sta%te "IM iM iWHaHl M

Office of National Estimates

CINCPAC and Component

US Mission


Senior CIA Representative (Station

Overall Coordination of Intelligence In Vietnam




Overview ol ONE Production

Viet Minh Strategic

Rattle ol Dien Ken Phu,

Post-Geneva Prospects (or Vietnam.

Effects of the French Withdrawal from Indochina.

Rise and Decline of South Vietnam under Diem.

Kennedy Administration and Indochina.

The Coup and Diem's3

Aftermath ol the

Overall Judgments on US

Pari I

Part IE: The Johnson Years.9

Post-Diem South

Commitment of US Air

Intelligence Estimates on South Vietnamarly

Commitment of US Ground Combat

National Intelligence5

CIA Assessments.

Organizational Developments Within CIA/DI.

Development of MACV Intelligence Capability.

Assessments of US Air Attacks Against North Vietnam,

Tactical Air Support) in South

The War in South. and US

Estimates of Enemy Forces andOrder of Battle

8 and US

Aftermath of the Tet

A New Look at the War by the Johnson

The8 Complete Bombing

Summary of Part

Part II66

Part III: The Nixon and Ford Administrations to the Fall of Saigon,pril

A New Look at the Vietnam

A New US Approach to the


Role of

Invasion of Cambodia,nd Its Aftermath

US Raid on the Son Tay POW Camp. November

South Vietnamese Incursion into Laos,)

and lu



US Intelligence nnd theeriod.1 -


Easternd Its92

Changing Balance of Military Power in the South.96

Renewed Air and Naval Campaign Against North Vietnam, April-


Achievementegotiated Cease-Fire.9

First Year of the Cease-Fire,4

ol Power Shifts to North

1ituation in Vietnam on the Eve of the Final

Final0 April

Summary of Part

Part III

Conclusions i i



To (liis study, US Intelligence and Vietnam, General Bruce Palmer, applied the perspectivescholar,onsumer and evaluator of intelligence.

Born in Texas ol an Army family, he was graduated from the United States Military Academyuring World War II. he served in North Africa, the Middle East, and in the PaclBc.6e carried out staff assignments in the United States and Europe, graduated from and taught at the Army War College, and/commanded an infantry regiment in Cermany.

After duty as Assistant Commander of the Eighty-second Airborne Division. Fort, and Chief of Staff. Eighth Army in. he was promoted to Lieutenant General and served in Washington as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. US Army,3

Ordered to the Dominican Republic In the crisis that erupted In the springe commanded US Forces there and concurrently served as Deputy Commander. Inter-American Peace Force,e commanded II Field Force, Vietnam, and was Senior Advisor to the Vietnamese Commanding General, III Corps. Republic of Vietnam. From7 toe was Deputy Commanding General, US Army Vietnam.

Returning to the United States, he was promoted to four-star rank and served as Vice Chief of Staff. US Army,ith duty as Acting Chief of Staff in the2 period. His final active duty military assignment was leading the US Readiness Command, consisting of the Army and Air Force tactical forces stationed in the continental United States, with headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base. Florida, from3 toe then retired from the Army. His decorations include five Army Distinguished Service Medals, the Air Force DisHngulshed Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Lespon of Merit, and the Bronze Star.

From4 toeneral Palmer was Executive Director, Defense Manpower Commission.eefense policy consultant to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

The Director of Central Intelligence appointed Central Palmer to the Central Intelligenceenior Review Panel inS. The Ceneral served on the Panel untilne was awarded the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal.

Ceneral Palmer is author ofYear War: America's Military Bole in Vietnam, to be published this fall by the University of Kentucky Press.


This study of VS Intelligence and Vietnam originated in tbe Ule summer2 wilh Ihe Center for Ihe Study of Intelligence. Office of Training and Education. Directorate of Administration. Central Intelligence Agency. In2 the Executive Director. CIA approved the appointment of the author. General Bruce Palmer,S Army-Retired,enior Fellow with the Center under sponsorship from the Directorate of Intelligence toa detailed examination of finished intelligence relating to the Vietnam conflict from the time of introduction of US combat forces5 through the fall of the Saigon Government" The author was granted Top Secret clearance nn2 to work as an independent contractor and2 was granted access lo the Agency Archives and Records Center for the purpose of the study.

In settling on the scope of ihe study it was decided to go back to theof the American Involvement in Indochina toward the end of World War II and cover at least the major developments that occurrederiod of approximately three. The author found it convenient, and fairly logical, to divide the overall periodrief prologue coveringears, followed by throe parts: the first spanning the Truman-EUenhower-Kennedy; the second, the Johnson; and the third, the Nixon-Ford years of our Vietnamese.

US intelligence was examined during each of the above timeframes. The focus was on finished Intelligence, principally that produced by CIA and by the intelligence community on an interagency basis, with but limited coverage of Defense (DIA, CINCPAC andtate/INR. and NSA analytical production Current intelligence and reporting were givenursory look, although the author gained the impression that they were professionally well done and of high quality. Thus the primary research and study effort was on longer term estimates. Intelligence input into US policymaking and its influence on policy decisions and actual events were examined only tangen-tially. Collection, paramilitary operations, and covert action were outside the scope of the study.

The judgments expressed herein are for the most part the author's own (or which he assumes sole responsibility Moreover, the author acknowledges that many of these Judgments reflect the clairvoyanceindsight.

For gathering and making available the large number of Intelligence documents produced during the period of history under study, the author is indebted to the Office of Central Reference. Directorate ofhe Agency's Archives and Records Center; the Directorate of Operations; and the Agency's History Staff. The Prtnident's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board granted access to its files; the material on8 was of specific interest.


The aulhor is also deeply indebted to many individuals for their substantive contributions to tliis endeavor. Particularly valuable were the guidance, encouragement, and specific suggestions received from the Editorial Board. Studies in Intelligence.

Especially valuable as sources were:

George Allen, who probably knows as much about the Indochina problem as any American. His manuscript. "The Indochina" was in many respects the author's basic source, particularly with respect tond II of (he study.

paper. "Vietnam and the Office of National bAtimatesdybl-iyWj".

David Coffin's three volume history of ORR/OER. Development of Economic Intelligence.

William E. Le Gro's study. Vietnam from Cease-Eire tone of the most complete and authentic accounts of the military side of South Vietnam's last three years.

R.J. Smith's

the author would like to express his profound appreciation for tbe personal help received from Agency officers who were engaged in the Vietnam intelligence effort, and who shared their recollections and insights with him in the course of this study.

Bruce Palmer Ceneral, US

Center for the Study of4


The Beginning of US Involvement in

Scholars and historians cannot objectively analyze the policies pursued and actions taken {or not taken)ationast crisis unless they can reconstructeasonably accurate way the climate and circumstances surrounding tbe period examined. Particularly important to this reconstruction are the accuracy and completeness of the knowledge pertaining to the crisis available at the time to policymakers, advisers, and supporting staffs. In the absence ofareful review, hindsight and the knowledge of significant happenings thai occurred later tend to bestow on the historian inspirational insights lhat are denied to the responsible principals on the scene at the time in question.

Another essential ingredient of the overall pictureeriod in time concerns the larger context within which eventsation with important interests world-wide, for example, can be profoundly influenced in its outlook with respect to protecting its interests in one area of the world, by its situation at home, or by the relative threat to Its interests in another region. One purpose of this prologue, therefore, is toroader perspective of the US involvement in Vietnam, which began near the end of World War II, by briefly reviewing, among other things, the sweep of world-shaking events that occurred in the immediate post-war period.


The beginnings of the Indochina problem for the United States go back to the last months of World War II when Allied unity began to wane as victory neared and each ally devoted increasing attention to its national post-war goals and plans. The British. French, and other colonial powers had to consider the future of their overseas territories within the framework of their perceived accomplishments and prospects. The Soviets also had their own very specific political and territorial goals both in Europe and Asia.

Unfortunately, the United Staleslear view of its post-war objectives other than the idealistic issues and lofty purposes enshrined in the UN Charter. President Roosevelt's death In5 cameritical time,acuum in American political leadership just as post-war issues were comingead. Many American leaders wanted to concentrate on the military aspects of "winning" the war as quickly and with as few casualties as possible with little regard to the post-war political situation. Manifestations of this lack of foresight can be found In both Europe and Asia. In Europe, the agreed line between the Soviets and other Allied forces left the Sovietseep bridgehead in middle Europeerlin isolated from Western Europe. In Asia, the liberation of Korea from Japanese occupation by Soviet and US forces was hastily conceived and led inevitably to the partition of Korea and the ensuing Korean War. Moreover, the hasty demobilization of US forces at the end ol World War II drastically reduced American leverage to


influence post-war international developments as well as US ability to support its interests abroad.

Post-war prospects for France and its overseas interests were particularly troublesome for tbe Allies. Tbe Free French, under de Gaulle and with US support, fought on the Allied side. Although the Free French contribution was small, de Gaulle tried to gain recognition as the legitimate leader of Franceoequal partner with the other Allied leaders, but was never fully accepted inole during World War 11

With respect to French Indochina (Vietnam. Laos, andresident Roosevelt firmly opposed the French return to power in the region and proposed an internationally supervised trusteeship, but the idea did not survive his death. Nevertheless, the Allies had to solve the problem of how to accept the surrender of the occupying Japanese forces, and did so at the Potsdam conference in the summerhich the new US President,ruman, attended. Here it waS'agreed that Chinese Nationalist troops under Chiang Kai-Shek's China Command, an Allied headquarters in South China, would occupy Vietnam north ofh parallel. Indian troops under Lord Mountbatten's Southeast Asia Command were to take control of Vietnam south of the parallel. Division ath parallel was intended toemporary administrative convenience until the Allies could workore permanent arrangement.

Early American Presence in Vietnam

The first US presence in Vietnam at the end of World War II was in the formmall OSS detachment under Major Archimedes L. A. Patti, whoin Hanoi in5 iust before Chinese Nationalist troops moved in to take the Japanese surrender. Patti brought in withandful of Free French officials from South China. (During their occupation. Japanese forces had allowed the Vichy French to remain in Indochina and ostensibly control the region until5 when the Japanese suddenly seized direct control and interned the French exceptew who escaped intoatti's publicly avowed mission was to rescue Americans in Japanese POW camps; other OSS teams had such ostensible missions in various areas in the Far East. But their basic mission was to gather Intelligence on the situation as it unfolded after Japan's surrender.

Earlier in the spring and summerbe OSS hadmall intelligence organization in central and south China targeted primarily against the Japanese. Patti had been assigned the French Indochina part of the overall Intelligence effort. His instructions with respect to the French were to cooperate with them, but give them no support whatsoever toward regaining their former colonial status. He attempted to use the Free French on intelligence operations, bul the results were disappointing. Patti also supported Ho Chi Minh, who hadelatively small nationalist movement for Vietnamese Independence for many yean and had beenampaign against the Japaneseo's movement, known as the Viet MInh, consisted of quite diverse Vietnamese groups, but was dominated by Ho and his fellow Communists, and was based in the north centered on Hanoi Patti maintained an OSS team with Ho, who provided himteady flow of


useful information (according to Patti) and impressed him as an idealistic MarxistVietnamese patriot first,oscow-controlled Communist1

Events moved swiftly in Vietnam in the summer and fally the time Chinese Nationalist troops arrived to receive the Japanese surrender north ofh parallel. Ho Chi Minh had gained control of much of the area and the Chinese tacitly allowed the Viet Minh to remain in control, there being no effective French troops in the region to dispute the issue. (An American liaison mission under Brigadier Ceneral Philip E. Callaghcr, US Army, went to Hanoi with the Chinese general commanding the Chinese occupation forces. US instructions to Callaghcr were to remain neutral and let the French, Chinese, and Vietnamese resolve the political problems involved.)

South ofh parallel itifferent story- Byritish Indian Army and Free French.troops established firm control of the Saigon area, tbe Vict Minh being relatively weak in the south. Sympathetic to the French position and concerned for the future of their own colonial empire, the British lost little time persuading the Allies to turn over responsibility in the south to the Free French. This was accomplished ineanwhile, the Viet Minh on5 proclaimed all of Vietnam (encompassing Tonkin, capital Hanoi, in the north; Annam, capital Hue, in the center; and Cochin China, capital Saigon, In the south) as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh.

Then in6 the French and the Viet Minh agreedrench recognition of the DRV as an independent state within the Frenchntryimited number of French troops into Tonkin and Annam to replace Chinese Nationalist troops who would return to China;aterby referendum of the status of Cochin China aseparate state or as part of Vietnam. Chinese Nationalist forces accordingly withdrew from Vietnam and returned home by the end ofowever, by the endhe French agreement with Ho collapsed. Ho and his followers retired to their rural and mountain strongholds, and the Indochina war began. Thereafter, the French exercised little real power in the north and central part of Vietnam, and Vietnam in effect was divided alongh parallel.

Prior to this time, the French, who resented the US presence in Hanoi and perceived the Americans there as anti-French and pro-Vietnamese Nationalists, bitterly complained to Washington. Consequently in5 the OSS mission in Hanoi was withdrawn, followed by the departure of the Gallagher mission InUS intelligence collection in Southeast Asia and the Far East, however, continued withoutnfortunately, this marked the end of any close, direct US contact with Ho Chi Minh. Some veteran observers are convinced that thisajor turaing point in Vietnamese history and believe (most probably in hindsight) that the United States lost an Irretrievable opportunity to avoid its later deep involvement in the region.*

End of East-West Cooperation

Relations between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union rapidly deteriorated after World War II. Soviet intransigence In eastern Europe and in

Iran7 brought on tbe Truman Doctrine of containment which took concrete form with the provision of US aid to Creece and Turkey for theof resisting Communist takeover. The loss of Czechoslovakia and the Berlin blockade occurred8 and the Cold War was under way. To help restore the economic health of free Europe, the United States inaugurated the Marshall Plan7 (the Soviet Union and its satellites declined too provide for the defense of western Europe, the United States, Canada, and ten European countries created NATO

In Asia after the failure (most would say inevitable) of the Marshall mission to China, the Communist Chinese armies defeated Nationalist Chinese forces, the People's Republic of China was proclaimed In Peking under Mao Tse-tung innd the Nationalist government fled to Taiwan In December of thathen0 the Soviet Union and


Communist Chinayear treaty of friendship, repudiating5 treaty between the Soviet Union and Nationalist China sanctioned by the Yalta Agreement. It is quite understandable in the light of such momentous events, which sent shock waves throughout tbe non-Communist world, that the United States would tend to view the world-wide Communist threat at that time as homogeneous and monolithic in nature, and initially to assess the Sino-Soviet accordtrong, durable one despite the deep-seated, centuries-old enmity existing between the two countries. Many yean were to pass before US policymakerslearer understanding of Sino-Soviet relationsealization that Ho Chi Minh and his successors were masters of their destinies, not to be manipulated as anyone's puppet, not even by the Soviet Union or the People's Republic of China.

The Korean War, which began with the invasion in0 of South Korea by North Korea,trong, pervasive, and prolonged influence on the United States. The American involvementajor conflict so soon after the Allied victory in World Warnd its inconclusive ending with ain3 after three years of bloody fighting was extremely difficult for the American people to understand. The Chinese intervention In the Korean War conditioned early US thinking with respect to Indochina as the United States looked beyond the Vietnamese insurgency in the north and

Southeast Asia. This perception, which persisted for almost the duration of the Vietnam War. became sharper after the cease-fire In Korea that allowed Chinese troops to withdraw from North Korea and seemed to put the Chinese

Start of US Aid to Indochina

President Truman's decision0 to provide aid to Indochina doubt strongly influenced by the military stalemate that had evolved in Vietnam with the French holding the main population centers and lines of communications In the north while tbe Viet Minh held the surrounding rural areas and mountainous regions. Unable to crack Viet Minh strongholds. the French had become essentially resignedilitary standoff while they tried toemi-independent non-Communist government within the framework of the French Union. The Communist victory in Chinaollowed by Peking's recognition of Ho Chi Minh in0 and the start of substantial Chinese military aid to the Viet Minh at about the same time, greatly heightened French pessimism with respect to achieving military success.*

Especially damaging to French morale was the loss0 of Frenchalong tbe Chinese border, coming at about the same time as the massive Chinese intervention in the Korean War inhese French border defeats were at the hands of Viet Minh "main force" regiments organized, trained, and equipped with the help of China. By far the mostimpact of this development was that it opened the major overland routes linking China to the vast mountainous region of northeastern Vietnam, thusree flow of Chinese aid and the ready establishment of Viet Minh bases Itundamental change to the nature of thehenceforth, any French or US actions to expand forces in Vietnam or Laos could be readily offset by Vict Minh force escalation.*


Prologue References

I. ALA Pitt I.tbattotsl forMi Umversi-ly of California.. Pant'i boot wm reviewed inntelligence (ClA. WaiWntlon. DC.v Carietoo A. Swiftichard D. kovaind Rutted j.1

Cailrton A. Swift, review of Why Vtrinem (Seetudin tn Intrllutenee.pecie. Adviw and Support.Waililnaton. DC; Center of MUiliry HhJoiy. (IS Army In Vietnam,

One of ihote veteran observers was William E. Colby, former DCI. Sec hit book. Honor able Hen.Life In the CIA (New York: Simon andnother wasetired senior intrllifrnco analyst with lweMy-6vo yonri ciperleoce in US AralV lotrlhsenoe, DIA, and CIA working on Indochina, author of an uopubluhed manuK-.p. "The Indochina"

Swift, review of Wm,

"The Indocbuu Wars". Ibid,

Pari 1

The Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedyntroduction

This part spans tbe Truman Administration0 toisenhower's two terms as; and John F. Kennedy's presidential tenure from1 to his assassination onneriod o( thirteen years. The author's research of this period was relatively limited compared with that for the rcmafndet ol this paper, nor did the author possess as much personal knowledge o( these thirteen years Consequentlyeans heavilyew principal sources.*


rench Intelligence

The United States started almost from scratch in developing intelligence on French Indochina, long regarded as French domain and only remotely related to American political, economic, and security interests.0 until the final French withdrawal inhe United States largely depended on the French for military information on the region.esser cxlctil this was true with respect to political and economic information

* For nurce maiMkaL theartKultriv indebted lo John Kerryludy "Vietnam and the Office ol Nationalatedllen') unpubtnhrd manuscript. "tv Indochinaraft dated Marchnd David CvRin'i three-volume hlMorv Denrtopmenl o) Economic Intetllgenor,) datednd VolumesWJndated4


S ma ag, Indochina, which rami- into existenceas of little value in an intelligence sense.he maag {at French insistence) had no advisory or training role but an exclusively logistic role, and even that role was an accounting one rather than one of providing substantive

(Principal agencies are considered to be organizations with significant collection, analysis, and production capabilities.)

National. At Washington level, these major organizations were:

CM. Principally the Office of Current Intelligence (OCI) and the Office of Research and ReportsCI, organized essentiallyountry/ regional basis andlobal reach, produced mostly intelligence on the current situation, often, however, making Judgments and assessments of an estimative nature. ORR, originally called the Office of Reports and Estimatesropped the estimates function when the Office of National Estimates (ONE) was established inRR's primary effort was directed at the Soviet Union; nevertheless, the various elements of ORR had their China/Taiwan specialists, who were also responsible for North Korea and North Vietnam (identified as such after the Geneva Accords, as well as East European specialists. At the most, the effort devoted to Vietnam was never more than five to ten percent of ORR's available economic research time. Fortuitously, this early research into such subjects as the Vietnamese transportation system and manpower availability gained valuable experience and knowledge that stood ORR In very good stead for tbe heavy demands that began in the


State. State's intelligence arm traditionally has been the Bureau of Intelligence and Researchelatively small but highly competent organization capable of high quality independent research and analysis.

Defense, Army intelligencealled the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligencelayed the principal intelligence role in Defense with

respect to Indochina until the creation of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the late summeraval and Air Force intelligence concerning this region played relatively minor roles in these early days. In the beginningCSI's Indochina desk was coveredart-time basis It had only very sketchy information on the order of battle of French Union and Viet Minh forces, and was in no position to assess military capabilities.owever, ACS1 had developed notredible data base on the military forces in Indochina but had alsoood understanding of the political-military strategies of the opposing forces. Moreover, in3 ACSI obtained French permission to establish Inmalt combat intelligence unit with the mission of acquiring more detailed information on Viet Minh forces. However, throughout the mid and, Army commanders in the Pacific {Hawaii and Saigon) complained that they lacked hard intelligence on the armed forces of North Vietnam i

Unfortunately, when DIA took over the production responsibilities of the military services Inajor hiatus occurred in DOD knowledge of and intelligence capacity to deal with the military situation In Southeastconflict that fundamentallypeople's war" on the ground. DIA's priority attention was quite properly on matterstrategicut strategic targets were conspicuously absent In Vietnam where ground combat held the center of the stage. ACSI in thead assignedresponsibility for ground order of battle research for Indochina to Headquarters. US Army Pacific (USARPAC) In Hawaii, the Army component of the Pacific Commandnified commander called the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) also located In Hawaii. USARPAC in theacked intelligence resources and neglected the order of battle function, partially in the belief that MACV, the US loint military headquarters established In Saigon Inas assuming this responsibility. Softer DIA had absorbed the analytical component of the Army intelligence staff, responsibility for doing the basic military intelligence research on Vietnam was diffused, and competent research on the subject scarcely existed/

Prior to the creation of DIA. the Joint Staff serving the JCS, Intelligence Section. It was small and had no production capability of its own. When DIA was established, its Director reported to both the Secretary of Defense and the JCS. andunctionesponsibility of DIA.

NSA. The National Security Agency, heading up the signal intercept and cryptological community, reported to the Secretary of Defense and had coordinating authority over the service security agencies which reported to their respective service chiefs. Army, Navy, and Air Force. (Elements of these agencies did not deploy to Vietnam until US forces were committed)

OrVE. The Office of National Estimates was established onnly months after President Truman hadillion grant


for urgently needed military assistance items forNE was established as an element of CIA. administered by that agency, andto the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI).

Although ONE was an autonomous production entity answerable only to Ihe DCI and the US Intelligence Boardt possessed no collection capabilities of its own and depended for most of its basic information on the US intelligence community. ONE did most of its own analytical work and drafting, and was capable of producing almost instant national estimates, butertain extent also had to rely on the ongoing research and analytical efforts within the community.

The principal contributors to ONE In the development of national estimates during this period were CIA (OCI andtatermy (ACSI) and Air Force intelligence. Other service intelligence agenciesf (he Joint Staff were relatively minor contributors.

During the period,NE produced forty-eight National Intelligence Estimates (NIE's) and Special National Intelligence Estimates (SNIE's) dealing withemarkably prolific accomplishment, (These figures do not include numerous estimates produced during the period dealing with China. Laos. Cambodia. France, and Southeast Asia in which Vietnamese considerationsecondaryn addition to estimates, ONE produced fifty-one Memoranda for the Director of Centra! Intelligence concerning Vietnam over the same period. Indeed, ONEmore on Vietnam than any other single subject, except perhaps the Soviet Union."

he principal Intelligence activities overseas concerned with Indochina were:

. In Hawaii. The Pacific Commend under CINCPAC and his Army (USARPACX Navynd Air Force (PACAF) component commands each with Its own Intelligence element. CINCPAC's major orientation was on naval and air aspects in Southeast Asia with considerable support from PACFLT and PACAF. As previously alluded to. USARPAC did not have the resources toajor ground intelligence effort.

In Saigon. Tbe US Mission under the US Ambassador reporting to the Secretary of State. Although the Ambassador had his own staff, to include military attaches, he normally looked lo the CIA representative (Station Chief) as the principal American intelligence officer in the country.

Upon its establishment inhe Military AssistanceVietnameporting to CINCPAC and thence to the Secretary of Defense and the JCS. (Prior to that time, the US MAAG. Indochina, asabove, did notirect intelligence function, although later after it had taken over complete advisory and training responsibilities from the French, the MAAG was made responsible for Vietnam only and was supposed to advise the Vietnamese on the intelligencenfortunately, the first's assigned to MACV were USAF officers with little Intorest in the ground intelligence problems. TheS Marine Corps officer, well-motivated and intentioned. but with little intelligence experience. Not untilver three years after MACV was established and fifteen

years after the first US MAAC was organized in Saigon, was an experienced, trained US Army intelligence officer assigned too say the least, this was an incomprehensible failure. On the plus side. DIA2 did send its senior Indochina specialist, George W.ighly competent and experienced intelligence analyst, to Saigon forays temporary duty for the purpose of setting up tlie first order of battle effort conducted In the theater of operations."

Overall Coordination of Intelligence in Vietnam

Unity of US effort in the intelligence arena was never fully achieved inegrettable failure considering the fundamental, centralof intelligence as the basis for the entire countcriiuurgencyrimary reason for this lacknified US intelligence effort was the basic jurisdictional competition for preeminence between the CIA Station and MACV. In peacetime, the CIA Station Chief is normally the principal US intelligence officer in the country, but In times ofIA assets are passed to the control of tlie senior military commander,nified commanderheater of operations Vietnamnique situation, however, since the United States was not at war. at least notegal, formal sense, andhange in relationships was never invoked. Even after those elements of the US Mission carrying out pacification functions were placed under MACV iohe CIA Chief of Station remained responsible lo the Ambassador as his principal intelligence adviser. Thereafter unity of command of all phases of US coiinterinsurgency effort, both civil and military, was exercised except for the intelligence element.

Nevertheless, some cooperation and coordination among US intelligence activities did evolve On the combined side, some US-Vietnamese coordinated intelligence activities were established unilaterally by the military, but fully coordinated American-Vietnamese activities were severely inhibited by the same Jurisdictional conflict |


bind MACV-supported military intelligence activities. The lack

of effective exploitation of captuted documents and prisonersrime example of the need for joint mechanisms to coordinate CIA and MACV intelligence advisory and operational activities, and to mesh them with those of the Vietnamese!

intelligence and security services.

Overview of ONE

ONE plaved an influential role during these first years of American involvement in Southeast. In addition to the numerous and frequent national estimates published during the period, ONE produced, in approximately the same number and frequency, memoranda for the DCI that also carried weight in US councils of government, how much depending on the way the DCI used them and the extent to which they were circulated. Often such memoranda were precursors of estimates and at other times they had the same effect as national estimates.

The first national estimate on Indochina. NIE9Indochina: Current Situation and Probableameime when regular Viet Minh forces were operating in battalion size and taking the offensive against French troopsew miles from Hanoi. Publishedew months after tbe Chinese intervention in Korea, itery pessimistic estimate, it stated that the Viet Minh could probably drive the French out of Vietnam within six lo nine months and that Chinese Intervention might occur at any time if It had not already"

From this lime on. the possibility of Chlneat Intervention became virtually an obsession with ONE and the question was addressed in some way in almost every NIK published on Vietnam as well as in many other estimates dealing with Asia Another common thread running through many national estimates of the period concerned likely Chinese and Soviet reactions lo direct US intervention in Indochina under various circumstances After the alarming initial estimate, subsequent NIE's and SNIE's (twoournd foureflected general agreement within the US intelligencethat the odds were againsi Chinese intervention while French troops remained in Vietnam, and even after the armistice in Korea was signed In3 when ihe Chinese were ostensiblyetter position to march across iheir southernotable exception to the statements of general agreement was8Probable Communist Reactions to Certain Possible US Courses of Action in Indochina" "

SNIEas Ihe first lime that the intelligence community tried Io bite the bullet on the question of Communist reaction lo US intervention. ONEupported the estimate (approved by the DCI) which staled that even with the commitment of American forces sufficient to defeat the Viet Minh in the field, chances were better than even that the Chinese would not intervene provided that the United States made dear its willingness to use Its retaliatory military (nuclear) power. The Department of State (INR) and alt Ihe serviceofficers dissented from the estimate and called the chances better than esen that tlie Chinese wouldhe Intelligence communityood deal from this first effort Io deal with the complex problem of estimating Communist reactions to given US actions, and thereafter tried Io be

more precise in formulating possible US courses ol action. Dissents within tlie community, however, continued to be fairly frequent on the question of possible Chinese intervention.

There were other common threads that ran through ONE papers during: this early period. The internal political security situation in Vietnam, the ability of successive Vietnamese regimes in the South to survive, and the probable effectsommunist takeover in Vietnam on the rest of Southeast Asia were frequently addressed In addition, ONE estimates often included judgments concerning the French military position in Vietnam and probable developments in French policy toward Indochina."

The high water mark of ONE production on Vietnam cameith sixteen estimates and eighteen memoranda for the DCI (about one third ol the total produced by ONE duringyear. surveyed byhis effort covered, among other things. Dien Bien Phu. the Ceneva Conference, the assumption and consolidation of power in South Vietnam by Ngo Dinh Diem, consolidation by the Communist regime In the North, and thr beginning of the French withdrawal from Indochina. Major estimative questions Included the French willingness and ability to continue the struggle, the effects of the negotiated Geneva settlement, and the prospectsiable legime in the South under Diem"

ONE production in theas relatively low on Vietnam (only four estimates and four memoranda for the DCI In the fivehase of Viet Cong quiescence in the South as both North and South Vietnamese consolidated and strengthened their respective positions The estimates published during this period nevertheless were lengthy and comprehensive in their treatment of tbe two Vietnam*.

The final period of ONE activity substantively reviewed by, covered the rapid buildup of guerrilla warfare in the South by the Viet Cong, the acceleration of the US commitment to South Vietnam, and the decline and fall of the Diem regime culminating in Diem's assassinationNE production on Vietnam increased markodly, twelve estimates during the three years, reflecting the urgency of the situation In Vietnam (It waseriod of crisis in Laos, particularly, when ONE produced eleven estimates on Laos in addition to those on Vietnam and the overall region of Southeastajor estimative questions dealt with the relative strengths of the regimes in the North and the South, prospects for Diem before his assassination, and the ever present issue of probable Communist reactions to certain US courses of action."*

King in his overall review of ONE efforts concerning Vietnam generally gives ONE high marks, particularly with respect to "accuracy in analysis and forecasts of broad trendseto timeliness in relation to the needs of policymakers, and to balance He also brings out instances where ONE missed the mark in thes in underestimating Viet Minh militaryagainst the French and in the specific case of Dien Bien Phu. judging that the French would hold. King points out that estimates on broad, complex matters in the final analysis must restood background ofense of history, logic, and sound judgment. He concludes that ONE for the

most partremarkably consistent view" on key questions over the years despite the widely varying quality of information available to assist in arriving at estimative judgments"

Two issues discussed at length in King's study require further comment. One concerns the issue of the military threat to South Vietnam and the kind of armed forces needed to counter It. King properly points out that in the early years, the primary threat was Communist subversion, infiltration, andwarfare rather than overte-border invasion by North Vietnamese or Chinese forces. But he does not paint the whole picture. He overlooks the fact that an important element of the Vict Minh threat consisted of the regular "main force" units whichith Chinese aid, had been expanded to six regular divisions (about six to seven thousand menhese forces, fighting on their own ground, had held their own with tbe best French troops in Vietnam. Such Viet Minh regular forces in the North became an even greater threat to the South after French troops'departed Vietnam6ime when effective South Vietnamese troops had not yet been developed. South Vietnam, moreover, needed conventional forces in the beginning to establish preeminence over the various armed sects, pirates, and private armies that operated unopposed in various parts of the country. (In the last days of South Vietnamonventional North Vietnamese divisions in overwhelming numbers with modern tanks, artillery, and otheroverran thehe point, of course, is that various kinds of forces were needed from the beginning to provide security for the people from the multi-faceted threat that confronted them. Weakness in any part of the total security forces simply invited enemy attack at that weak area. King's point is nevertheless valid because the South Vietnamese government during its early years neglected the development of constabulary type units and local self-defense forces. These paramilitary forces were indeed needed to counter internal subversion and insurgency, but the latter were not recognized as major threats untileriod, while US military assistance for these forces was not provided in significant amountshus it can be fairly stated that the United States was quite slow in recognizing the true nature of the total threat."

The other issue concerned the assessment of President Diem and his ability to hold South Vietnam together in the face of severe internal political problems and the rapidly growing insurgency. Published ONE assessments2 and3 were straightforward and accurate in their Judgments oneaknesses, but scrupulously stayed out of the policy realm. But then in the late summerew weeks before the successful coup against Diem in the early fall, Ceorge Carver,

* Memoranda lor the DCI usuaDy were intended to support the Director in his policy role, and at limes relaxed Ihe distinction between intelligence analysis and policy recommendations. The Din dime reed wiihiew.


_Jfhe ONE staff, submitted memoranda tor tne' Hatiy asserting his ownONElhat ihe removal of Diem was In the best interests of South Vietnam and (he United States. These memoranda went so far as to discuss various Vietnamese personalities who might replace Diem."


Vii'l Minh Sltategic Doctrine

At this point, it might be helpful to discuss the doctrine adopted by the Viet Minh in the North (and later by the Viet Cong in the South] It wasthe doctrine of the People's War. which called for the gradual development of conventional capabilities, the rate of growth depending on the availability of arms, equipment, and supplies, and concurrently an emphasis on the development of guerrilla warfare capabilities. Theoretically, the skillful, orchestrated employmentide variety of conventional and unconventional capabilities would ultimately pin down enemy forces to the pointgeneral counteroffers!ve" could be launched that would overwhelm remaining opposition.

Undertrategy, the Viet Minn's major conventional capabilities were vested in "main force" units, organized into regular units up to division size, whose role was to draw governmentinto combat underwhere their superiority in firepower, mobility, and air support could be neutialized Tbe other elements of the Viet Minh's three-tiered military capabilities consisted of those forces designed primarily for guerrillathe guerrilla-militia forces and the regional forces The guerrillaforces operated at the lowest levels and constituted the foundation of the People's War as without these it could not trulypeoples" struggle.

At bottom level, the hamlet citizens were formed into partially armed militia units, usually platoons of thirty to fifty people each, which alsoanpower pool for the other categories of military forces. The normal progression of proficient soldiers was from hamlet militia to village guerrilla units to the regional forces and finally to the main force units.

The next step up from the hamlet militia found tbe village guerrillas who were somewhat better armed and performed broader duties- Next came the regionala company at district levelattalion at province level District companiesocal strike force, backing up vlllane and hamlet guerrilla-militia forces and supporting provincial operations. The provincial battalion had similar functions at the province level. District and provincial soldiers were essentially full-time in contrast to the mostly part-time guerrilla-militia forces-Regional units, often referred to as "local force" units, were organized along conventional lines and had only limited capabilities to engage in conventional combat and then onlyhorl time. And so regional units, like guerrilla-militia forces, normally employed guerrilla tactics. Conversely, large-scale Vict Minh conventional operations often had guerrilla characteristics The main objectives of regional and guerrilla-militia forces were to pin down government forces, cause them to disperse in order to protect valuable targets, and constantly wear them down, thus limiting their ability to take the offensive against Viet Minh bases and forces.

This force structure, and these tactics, which characterized both tlie Viet Minh war against the French Union and the subsequent struggle against the Americans and South Vietnamese, were not always very well understood outside of French and later US intelligence circles. One major consequence was that American leaders after taking over from the French in Vietnam were

slow in grasping the nature of tho conflict and devising effective measures and means lo counter the insurgency in the South.

Battle of Dien Bien

In the summerhe French decided toajor base at Dien Bien Phu in the remote, rugged northwestern part of Vietnam, intending to use it for mounting guerrilla operations against Viet Minh rear base areas northwest of Hanoi and against VJet Minh movements into Laos. There were no motorable roads into Dien Bien Phu; the base would be totally dependent on aerial delivery, pack trains, or porters for resupply. But the terrain wasfor defense and couldarge force (twelve to fifteen


infantrynd so the French were confident that they could hold the position against any attack the Viet Minh could muster, and indeedajor test of strength. The French, however, seriouslythe sheer will power of the Viet Minh and their ability to maintain the attack despite frightful casualties. The Viet Minh resortedh century siege tactics to offset French advantages In firepower and air superiority; effectively nullified the superior French artillery with primitive but reliable artillery techniques of their own; and used their limited antiaircraft artillery weapons in ingenious ways to limit substantially the amount of supplies the French could deliver by air. And to make it all possible, the Viet Minheemingly hopeless logistic situation."

The performance of the US intelligence community was mixed in foreseeing the timing and nature of the Viet Minh attack, if there was to be one, and eventually the outcome of the battle. By earlyhen three reinforced Viet Minh infantry divisions were known to be in the area, there was little doubt In French or American intelligence circles about the scale of the Viet Minh buildup and their capabilities. DIA and Army intelligence analysts were divided on the question of whether the Viet Minh would actually launch the assault, but this was quickly settled when the offensive began in earlyssessing the outcome, of course,ar more complicated matter as itet assessment of at least threeViet Minh (supported by thehe French, and the Americans. US intelligence community analysts could readily assess likely enemy actions, but were less certain about what the French might do. and were in no position to judge the probable actions of their own government.M

Army intelligence was convinced that the Viet Minh wouldtrong effort lo defeat the French and that Ihe Chinese would provide necessary support, but would not intervene wiih their own combat forces to ensure victory at Dien Bien Phu. ONE held similar views. Army intelligence could not believe that the French would allow themselves to be defeated. ONEemorandum for the DC! dated4 likewise staled that the French would hold. These judgments proved to be incorrect The French could have launched an attack against the Viet Minh bases to disrupt theirof Viet Minh forces at Dien Bien Phu but failed to do so. The French could also have tried to extricate their forces by. for example, coordinated ground and airborne actions launched from Laos toward Dien Bien Phu, and apparently tried to do so but loo late. By late April ihe French lost heart and Dien Bien Phu fellroader context, however, the intelligence community was quite accurate in Its appraisal of the political and psychological consequences of the loss of Dien Bien Phu, judging thai it would probablyatal blow to French morale. And indeed the international conference on Southeast Asia, which began in Geneva inrench initiative that Ihe intelligence community had anticipated."

During ihe last few weeks before Dien Bien Phu fell, the United States seriously considered intervening with air and naval power in support of the French, and at one point tho JCS. with the Army dissenting, recommended such action. Tho Army's view was that US alrpower would not be decisive either in effectively Interdicting the overland routes used by the Viet Minh to

resupply their forces al Dien Bien Phu or in dissuading tlie Viet Minh from pressing the attack. {The debate over the effectiveness of ulr interdiction was to continue within the US military services and the intelligence community for the next twentyhe Army also believed that the French lacked the military forces (French and Vietnamese) to turn the tide against the Viet Minh and stated that only interventionS corps-sue ground force could swing the halance in favor of the French. This would entail at least partialof US manpower and industry, and the straggle would be long and costly. Finally, if the Chineseikely event if defeat of the Viet Minh seemed imminent, the Army held that the US corps force might not be sufficient President Eisenhower sided with the Army view and decided against any USIneveral years before the French lost Dien Hien Phu, US Army War College studentseview of US policy in Soutlicusi Asia unequivocally stated that Vietnam was of secondary strategic importance to the United States^ that Vietnam would be extremely difficult to defend against either infiltration or overt attack, and that under no circumstances should the United States intervene with its own

In these years US policymakers were heavily influenced by the views of senior US military leaders in the Pacific, especially tbe commander of US Army Pacific (USABPAC) (headquarters in Hawaii) and the chief of the US MAAG in Saigon Unfortunately, some of these commanders had little grasp of the nature of the struggle,ighly unrealistic perception of the political and military situation in Vietnam, and consistently were overly optimistic about French progress and prospects in the war An example was Lieutenant General Johnaniel. CC. USABPAC3 (and later Chief. US MAAC.ho visited Vietnam in the summer and fallndDien Bien Phu in* After this latter visit, he confidently advised the JCS that the Frencb would not only hold Dien Bien Phu. but were getting stronger throughout Indochina with promising prospects for ultimateunior US Army attache in Indochina, who also visited the doomed French base not long before its capture,astly differentthat was quite pessimistic about the French ability to hold. Although the JCS were aware of the attache's report, they nevertheless accepted General O'Daniels optimistic view. One adverse consequence of such unreliable reporting was lhat the US government was somewhat surprised by the rapid deterioration of the French position in Vietnam."

Post-Geneva Prospects for4

But much of the intelligence community was not at all sanguine about the future prospects for Vietnam, whether guided and assisted by France or by the United States This was particularly evident in the wake of the Geneva conference which concluded in4 and resulted in the partition of tbe country athivision intended to be temporary pending elections two years later. (The elections did not takerance and North Vietnam (the DRV) were the two signatories of the Geneva Accords. The United States did not sign tbe accords but agreedeparate declaration to support them. There were Army intelligence analysts who pointed out that the Communists would almost certainly gain control of the whole country if elections were heldnd if elections were not held, would almost

certainlyeople's war in Sooth Vietnam; who believed it unlikely that the United States could develop within South Vietnam the political cohesion and military capacity toommunist takeover; and who judged lhatreat expenditure of US resources, including the commitment of substantial numbers of American troops, would not ensure success, particularly if the Chinese and Soviets continued to support the Vietnamese Communists. ONEimilaremorandum for the DCI.ointed out the enormous political, economic, social, and military problems to overcome if South Vietnam were to survive, and, "Post Geneva Outlook inave no cause for optimism as to South Vietnam's future, estimating that prospects were poor and would probably worsen even with strong support from the United States and other allies"

The JCS were also pessimistic about the post-Ceneva future, declaring In4 that it was "hopeless.toS military training (and advisory) mission lo achieve success" unless South Vietnam "can effectively perform those governmental functions essential to the raising and maintenance of armedecretary of State John Foster Dulles took the converse view that underscored the need "to bolster the {South Vietnamese) government by strengthening the Army which supportshe President supported Dulles andew. accelerated, and comprehensive military assistance program designed to improve the loyalty and effectiveness of Southforces. For the record, however, the JCS In these early years were ambivalent about the strategic Importance of (he region.or example, the Chiefs emphasized (he strategic importance of Indochina In the cold war. while at the same time noting that (he area was of little strategic valueeneral, global conflict"

Shortly after (he fall of Dien Bien Phu, the French reluctantly agreed to the US proposal to appoint Ngo Dinh Diem, an autocratic Catholic mandarin, as premier of South Vietnam. Immediately setting out to centralize control of the country. Diem ran into opposition from (he French, whoelatively weak central government. Diem wanted to break away from French influence

Jtem moved swiftly, subduing the private armies, river pirates, and

religious sects that controlled various parts of the country (Some US"surprised"is tnuiai success earned the firm support ofAdministration. In the beginning, within both tbe USand intelligence communities, there were divided views onto govern effectively as well as on the realistic prospects of

It was now abundantly clear that American and French objectives In Vietnam were incompatible, the UStrong, independent, non-Communist Vietnam oriented toward (he West and Franceolitical solution that would preserve its special relationship with Vietnam and (he associa(cd states of Laos and Cambodia. The ensuinge rican showdown culminatedith the displacement of France In the region by the Unitedesult bitterly resented by the French and an outcome thai much have seemed hypocritical to all our European friends. No


doubt this episode contributed to the unwillingness of our European allies to support the United Slates in Vietnam.

Effects of the French Withdrawal from

Meanwhile, Diem completed the initial stage of his consolidation of power by deposing Bao Dai as chief of stateational referendum and on5 proclaiming Vietnam toepublic under Diem's presidency. With that the French recognized the futility of their position, and in6 withdrew the last of the French Army troops and advisers from the country. (French air and naval advisers remained for one morehe French departure left an enormous vacuum in South Vietnam, the significance of which had been obvious to US intelligence officials but seemingly had escaped US policymakers at the time.

On the military side the French Expeditionary Corps (non-Vietnamese colonial troops for the mostough, combat-e'perienced professionaltrong,rench Army advisers (officers andofficers) were replaced by an American military presence consisting of no troopsS MAAG numbering about three hundred personnel, mostly logisticians. Moreover, the ceiling placed on the size of the US MAAG by the Geneva agreements was to limit severely American training and advisory efforts in Vietnam for the rest of the decade. The Vietnamese Army, most of whose officers and noncommissioned officers had been French or French colonials, wasorry state. The French had been unwilling to develop Vietnamese officer* and noncommissioned officers in any significant numbers, and the Vietnamese were not prepared for leadership in the Army, especially at higher levels, and in technical areas such as logistics. Moreover, politiclration was rampant among Army officers and the Army was heavily infiltrated by agents and sympathizers of the Viet Cong. The strength of the Army had decreased after Geneva,esult of desertionsiatus in recruiting efforts, and facilities lo handle the Army units regrouped from the North to the South did not exist. Equipment and supplies hastily evacuated from the North were scattered and were neither properly accounted for nor guarded.14

On the nonmllltary side, the French withdrawal wasevere loss. French officials held influential positions, not only at bureau level in Saigon but also at province and district levels. And again the French had been slow to develop Vietnamese abilities to govern themselves. The loss of French technical know-how, financial support, and business and industrial activities, because it took placeore extended period of time, was not so traumatic as the military withdrawal.**

Overall the situation in Vietnam Inherited by the United States from France6 was disadvantageous. If not hopeless. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the United States in deliberately pushing the French out of the way and replacing them in Vietnam acted unwisely.

Rise and Decline of South Vietnam Under

Duringeriod. Diem appeared to be making progress in gaining internal control, resettling the refugees who moved South after

Geneva, andtart toward economic development and agrarian teform. But it was only tlx? lull before the storm In8 and9 Viet Cong terrorist activities liegan to increase steadily. President Diemlatedly9 with countermeasures and the commitment of more regular troops to internal security, but the situation continued to deteriorate In0attalion-sire Viet Cong forceouthArmy regimental headquarters in Tay Ninh Province, lessundred miles from Saigon, it was evidenteoples war was well under development. In1 Diem asked for increased military assistance in material and training. Meanwhile in the fallhe US mission in Saigon, with the approval and support of the Departments of State and Defense, drew up the first comprehensive national planning document dealing with the political, military, and economic requirements for coping with insurgency in South Vietnam. This counterinsurgency plan urged the South Vietnamese government to carry out major reforms in the organization and direction of military, paramilitary, and civilian resources dedicated to the task."

ONE closely followed the deteriorating situation in South Vietnam and consistently warned US policymakers on the growing crisis in the80 memorandum for the DCI pointed out that while the Viet Cong stepped up the strength and tempo of their activities, public grievances against ihe Diem regime were becoming increasingly urgent and articulate. The paper highlighted the roles played by Diem's brother Ngo Dinh Ngu and Madame Ngu, and indicated an approaching crisis for Diem. Thewas followed up by an SNIE dated0 that clearly warned of the general decline in the political and security situation, which if not checked, could cause the collapse of the Diem regime within the neat year or soittle over two months later, the first of several coup attempts against Diem occurred

Concurrently with the stepped-up insurgency in Vietnam, internal conflict was boiling in Laos, which was supposed to remain neutralesult of4 Geneva agreements- With the entry of North Vietnamese troops and Soviet arms in Laos in the, the United States responded with US Army special forces training teamsogistic support for the tribes waging guerrilla warfare against Communist troops in the region."

Kennedy Administration and


And so when President Kennedy was inaugurated ine faced grim challenges in Southeast Asia. Heajor expansion of the US military advisory- effort in Vietnam that saw the number of advisers Increase fromn1 to0 by the endesult of the President's deep interest in counterinsurgency, education and training on this subject was expanded and emphasized in all of the US armed services. The President also authorized the commitment of US Armyin direct combat support of Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops, and the first airmobile assault against the Viet Cong by heliborne ARVN soldiers took place in1 in an area about fifteen miles west of Saigon. By3 ARVN troops were routinely going Into battle via

the Americanelicopter, dubbed the Huey. which was to become a

universally recognized silhouette in Southeast Asia

President Kennedy decided to so the diplomatic route and neutralize Laos, trying to separate it from the larger conflict in Vietnam.ourteen-nation conference in Ceneva approved certain accords in2 guaranteeing the neutrality and independence of Laos. In compliance with the agreement, the United States ceased support of the Meo and other tribes, and withdrew the US Army training teams from Laos;orth Vietnamese troops remained In northern Laos in violation of the accords and continued to collaborate with the Pathet Lao in undermining the coalition government. Some time later the United States reinstated its support of the Meo effort and the so-called "secret war" in Laos escalated."

In the meantime, Diem's position in South Vietnam was growing worse. National estimates produced1 emphasized widespread dissatisfaction with Diem's leadership and tended to relate this with his failure to deal effectively with the Viet Cong, who were operating with greater impunity and in larger units. Coup d'etat indicators were markedly more2 Diem's strategic hamlet program with strong US support got offood start and South Vietnamese military effectiveness seemed to have checked, at least temporarily, the tide of Viet Cong successes, primarilyesult of increased tactical support by US helicopter and logistic units. This seemed to have lured both US policymakers and Intelligence officials at this timealse "all is well" frame of mind, exemplified by the encouraging tone of. datedProspects in Southhe estimate took over six months to produce and illustrates what happens when estimates are too thoroughly coordinated and senior policymakers get too close to intelligence officials drafting the estimate. King in his study of ONE performance during the period makes the point.*0

The Buddhist crisis, which ultimately led to the overthrow of the Diem regime, began in Hue in3 less than three weeks after publication of the above cited. It seemed clear to the intelligence community that an internal religious conflict had now been added to the almostpolitical and security problems already present and the resulting overload would be more than the regime could stand. Timely ONE papers produced during this period highlighted the adverse Impact on US-Vietnamese relations of the Buddhist matter and the inflamed nature of Vietnamese emotions, and warned that the chancesoup or assassination attempt against Diem were "better than

Then In August andeorge Carver of the ONE staff drafted two memoranda for the DCI that, according to John Kerry King, came closer to outright policy recommendations than any Vietnam papers written up to that time. These papers concluded that the United States no longerhance of achieving its objectives in Vietnamgu family-Diem regime and that there were other Vietnamese personalities who should be considered as alternative leaders."

The Coup and Diem's3

From3hen Diem and his brother Ngu were killedilitaryierce debate between Diem supporters and Diem detractors raged in both Washington and Saigon. In

Saigon, US Ambassador Frederick E. Nolting,ho stood by Diem and wanted to give him one more chance, was replaced iny Henrydce, who had made up his mind against Diem. According toolby. Chief. Far Eastern Division. Operations Directorate. CIA. at the time. ClA and Defense were pro-Diem while State was anti-Diem, but tbe State position ultimately carried the day. (As noted above, however, there were those in ONE who also strongly opposednrucial State cable was sent to Saigon that Amlyassador Lodge interpretedirect order to prepareilitary coup This message stated In fact that the US Ambassador was "to examine all possible alternate leadership and make detailed plans as to how to bring about Diem's replacement if this should becomender Secretary of State Averell Harriman, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Roger Hllsman,hite House staff member. Michael Forrcstal, had prepared and dispatched the message with only cursory clearance with the Under Secretary of State George Hall (on the golf course) and after telephonic clearance with President Kennedy at Hyannisport. Massachusetts. Neither the Secretary nor Deputy Secretary of Defense, nor the JCS were consulted. During the last few days of August, there were many after-tboughts in Washington about the message and Kennedy further discussed the matter with the Secretaries of State (Dean Rusk) and Defense (Robert S.hairman of the JCS {General Maxwell D.nd others, but it was too late. Lodge immediately upon receipt of the cable set out to implement State's instructions

Lodge contacted the Chlel o! theeraT^raiTTVietnamese armedeneral Tran Thieu Khiem. The fat was now in tbe fire.**

In Saigon. General Paul. D. Harkins. the first commander of the US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) (created in. admitted that the war could not be won with Diem and Ngu, but he wanted (as former Ambassador Nolting did) toast-ditch effort to persuade Diem to remove his brother Ngu and his wife from the government. Unfortunately, Lodge and Harkins were not on either close or good terms. Moreover, the Ambassador disagreed with the Chief of Stationohn Richardson, on the Diem question and asked for his relief. Richardson departed in3 and his successor did not arrive In Saigon until after the coup. Thus in effect the Ambassador called the shots in Saigon completely on his own."

President Kennedy, concerned about reports that the senior US officials in Saigon were not pulling together, directed Secretary McNamara and General Taylor touick trip to Vietnam In late3ctober, only one month before the coup thai resultedisastrous setback for South Vietnam, McNamara and Tayloreport to the National Security Council that, certainly In hindsight, seems almost ludicrous In Its misreading of the situation. They reported that the political situation, although serious, had not yet affected Ihe South Vielnamese military, that ihe rngfor military tasks in South Vietnam could be successfully completed by the endndeduction of US military personnel could be started now with one thousand withdrawn al the endhey recommended lhat General Harkins be directed to plan for such reductions, withdrawing the bulk of US

military personnel by the endinally, they stated that Lodge and Harkins were in substantial agreement with theseew weeks later the US government was to discover that our US civilian and military leaders in Saigon were in essence ignorant ol the true situation in Vietnam and that the optimistic American assessments coming out of Saigon were unjustified,

George Allen, having left the DIA and now working in CIA at the time of the coup, told his Agency associates just before the coup that although he agreed with those who fell that it was "not possible to win withe also agreed with those who seriously "doubted that we could win withouttno-win" situation. The Diem-Ngu family tightly controlled all the strands ofeb that would quickly unravel if they were to be deposed. Allen was of the opinion that unless there were valid reasons to believeuccessor was prepared to pick up the pieces, the United States would be foolish tooup; and thai over the long run, it was doubtfuloup against Diem was in the best interests of the United States. As for tbe wide discrepancies between American press reports emanating at the time from Saigon and the growing reports of progress issued by MACV and the US Embassy, Allen believed that the press stories more accurately reflected the realitiesapidly worsening situation."

Aftermath of the Coup

According to General Taylor, President Kennedy was appalled by Diem's assassination and bitterly regretted the US role in it. (Kennedy, himself assassinated only three weeks later onid not live to see theIem's death no doubt prolonged tbe war and led to theAmerican involvement in later years. It broughtequence of political and military events over the next two years which in General Taylor's words, would force "President Johnson5 to choose between accepting defeat or introducing American combat

Just before the coup. State/INR In an analysis datedoncluded that the trend against South Vietnam was accelerating in the latter half3 and that the military situation was deteriorating as rapidly as the political one. After the coup, the security situation was found to be far worse than Washington had realized. The Viet Cong in the Delta were not being "compressed" by government forces but were in reality lyingarger percentage of reported ground attacks were deliberately made against targets where the Viet Cong were known no* to be; and the government statistics on the number of strategic hamlets and villages claimed to be under government control were greatly exaggerated."

To appreciate the widespread impactoup or any shakeup of the South Vietnamese government, it is helpful to understand the Vietnamese customs in the selection of new top officials to succeed those officials rather abruptly turned out of office. It was the Vietnamese practice in both government and private sectors to pay for jobs, favors, even routineBoth influence and affluence were acquired by the sale ofew corps/military region commanderozen or so province chief positions to sell, and each province chiefozen or more district chief jobs to put on the market It was the same for corps, division, and province staffs.

Similar customs were prevalent at the Saigon governmental level. And so after3 coup there were "loyalty" purges from Saigon to district levelsholesale peddling of job opportunities The government changed some five times in rapid succession after Diem's death and eachew purge occurred and fortunes were madeew months. The male principals usually stayed out of the direct transactions and let their wives handle them, apparently soothing their male consciences somewhat. All in all, such war profiteering seems to haveundamental characteristic of Vietnamese life. The consequence* werea loss of momentum and continuity in government and the war effort that was especially felt in the countryside In fact duringeriod, the Viet Cong were able tosystematically ihe strategic hamlet program started

There were similar practices within the South Vietnamese Army.the pay In staff jobs and troop jobs was comparable, officers and noncommissioned officers paidor example, ten percent of their pay. for the privilege of workingtaff. The demoralizing effect ofustom on the Army was significant, although it probably bothered American advisers more than their Vietnamese counterparts who were accustomed to such arrangements'*

Finally, perhaps the most devastating setbackesult of the coup against Diem was the rapid collapse and dismantling of the secret policy and intelligence system which sought to identify and root out the Viet Cong. In the next several yearsesult, the Viet Cong were relatively free to intimidate, terrorize, and recruit from the local population

In sum. the Diem episode was one of the major turning points of theconflict. Certainly it was of enormous encouragement to Hanoi and an important cause of the costly prolongation of the war Into the next decade.

Overall Judgments on US

In brief. US intelligence performed overallixed, but generally creditable fashion. Results were ambiguousew occasions, but generally during the first fourteen years or so of US involvement in Indochina. American intelligenceood feel for the true situation andar better grasp than US policymakers and leaders who tended to deceive themselves in their desire to make their chosen policies succeed. On the other hand. It can also be said that US intelligence officials failed to articulate their viewsanner convincing enough to make US policymakers understand the harsh realities of tlie Vietnamese problem. It seems particularly ironic that the United States in essence ignored the French experience and committed itself in haste without adequate thought Diem's death was probably the last time when the United States might have gracefully decided to disengage from the region. But4 it was too late.


llen, "The Indochinabid..

l Colli in.evelopment and Training of ihe South Vietnamese Amy,(Vietnamese Studies. Wathingion. DC; US Department ol ihe,nd


"The Indochina

David Coffin. Deorfopmeni of Economic Intelligence: Office of Research ond fleportr.: ClA,..

Allen, "The Indochina; Specter. Adoice and Support,.

Allen, "The Indochina.


Collins. Deoekrpment and Training of the South Vumomeie.

ohn Kerry King. "Vietnam and ihe Office of National" (unpuMBhed Study,.

first experienced intelligence officer assigned, MACV was Major CeneralNlcChristian, US Army, who held the position from

"The Indochinap.Ibid..

King, "Vietnam and the.






Ibid, p. 9.



Allen. "Tbe Indochina.


Ibid,; King. "Vietnam and. 6.

Allen. "The Indochina.

US Policy in Southeasteports of Student7 (Carlisle Barrarks. PA: US Armv War

llen. "The Indochina

Vietnam and (be.

Collins. Development and Training of the South; Specter, Adttee and Support, pp..

Allen. "The Indochina.

. La-ton Cofliro, Lightning Joe, An Autobtographu (Baton Rouge. LA; Louisiana Stale University

lien. "Thr Indochina. Cullmv Development and Training ol the South Vietnamese Ami v.; Specter, Adotce end Support,2

llen. 'The Indochina

Colllnt. Development and Training of the South Vietnamese Armu..

Kinc. "Vmaim and (he

olby. Honorable Hen Uphe CIA (Hem York Simon and.


King. "Vietnam and the.



Colby. Honorable Men.

aykx. Stands and Ptoutnart, (New YorL WW.owe ll.liman. Toolum (Sew YArfc: Dell

aylor. Smortk end rloumheret.

htd.: Hlbrnan. Toation,.

Den. "The.

aylor. Sioordi

Hlbrnan, Too/Ion..

Allen. 'The Indochina.

Part II

The Johnson Years,9


President Johnson, succeeding President Kennedy, who had beenjust three weeks after Diem's assassination, hadupporter of Diem as the only Qualified leader on the scene, and believed strongly that the actions of the United States that led to the coup in South Vietnam were serious blunders. President Johnson conducted his own personal review of the situation in Vietnam and by the end3 concluded that things were much worse than he had previously believed. Blaming unreliable reporting on too much wishful thinking on the part of some American officials and too much uncritical reliance on South Vietnamese reports, he directed State. Defense, and CIA to demand realistic reporting from the Geld that pulled no punches and described problems as well as progress."

John McCone was retained as the DCI until after Johnson was elected to his own term of the presidency incCone reportedly opposed the introduction of American combat troops and had reservations about US air attacks against North Vietnam; his views thus ran counter tothinking. In5 President Johnson replaced McCone as DCI with Vice Admiral William F. Raborn. who lacked any intelligenceThis appointment was interpreted by some to mean that like it or not, the United States was going to war, and that the intelligence community's role was to help win it. As the war continued to escalate, the President in6 turned to an intelligence professional, Richard Helms, from the CIAof Operations) to take over aselms' tenure lasted almost six years. Heeputation that gained him the confidence of, and access to, the White House inner circle.

The Johnson Administration did not to any extent question US objectives in South Vietnam; they were simply accepted as inherited from previous administrations. These objectives, enunciated by tho4 and reaffirmed by the Kennedy Administrationtrong, viable, independent. non-Communist South Vietnam oriented toward the West.

Post-Diem South Vietnam


The period following Diem's assassinationlimactic one for the United States and Vietnam as events seemed to lead Inexorably to the direct commitment of US power in the region. The political situation in Saigon was toritical factor in South Vietnam's future for four yean after Diem's death. The first change of government after the3 coup occurred on4 when Major Ceneral Nguyen Khanh overthrew the ruling military junta. Khanh's regimeittle over six months. Nine more changes in power occurred during the ensuing ten months.4 toyeneral Nguyen Van Thieu, an obscure Army

colonel at rite time of the coup against Diem, emerged as Chief of State and Air Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky became Premier. This combination governed South Vietnam for the next two years.

Meanwhile, the war was heating up. The Tonkin Culf Incidents In early4 brought on the first US air strike against North Vietnamby Navy carrierater revelations cast some doubts as to the actual circumstances that triggered the USlthough North Vietnamese plans were not known to the United States at the time, later evidence indicated that Hanoi had already decided, probably before the Tonkin Gulf Incidents, to escalate the war in the South, hoping to exploit the deteriorating situation following Diem's assassination. North Vietnamese soldiers moved south as replacements to bolster Viet Cong units along with complete North Vietnamese Army (NVA) combat and logistic units Although the southward movement of such units had been suspected earlier by national intelligence, their presence in South Vietnam was not confirmed by US Intelligence until4 and'

Commitment of US Air Power

The commitment of US air power to Vietnam was heavily debated in Washington in3 andfter Diem's death US officials began to realize that the situation was much worse than they previously thought it was and that Hanoi was escalating its war against South Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were not in complete agreement as to the role and effectiveness of US air power. There was never any question that the United States could establish air superiority, nor was there ever any real enemy air


threat to our position in South Vietnam, Enemy air defenses, however, with massive support from the Soviet Union, eventually developed into the most formidable ever encountered by our forces; the price of admission for our attacking aircraft ultimately became very high. The US Air Force and US Marine Corps firmly believed that an all-out air offensive would make North Vietnam incapable of fighting any longer and would compel Hanoi to cease and desist in its efforts to take over South Vietnam. The US Army did not share this view and the US Navy was not completely convinced. The Army was likewise highly skeptical that air interdiction would be effective in Southeast Asia, especially in view of the infiltration tactics and techniques expertly employed by the enemy, the dense cover of the terrain, and the highly redundant road-trail-waterway networks found in the region. The Navy shared these Army reservations, but again (he Air Force and Marine Corps were confident that air interdiction would be successful. Despite these basic internal disagreements with respect to air power, the JCS, beginningubmitted agreed recommendations to the Secretary of Defense and the President The Chiefs' rationale in part was that the situation was worsening, that strong military actions were necessary to save the day, and that all-out employment of US air power was worth trying. Moreover the JCS were unanimous in the view thai allied, that isouth Vietnam, air attacks against ihe North would greatly bolster the morale of the South Vietnamese.*

The JCS moreover knew that the air power question was being hotly debated among US civilian officials and feared that submitting split views would play into the hands of those who opposed any direct US military involvement in Vietnam. Quite apart from the issue of the militaryof air power, American civilian officials debated Ihe political and psychological aspects, both domestic and international, as well as economic implications of bombing North Vietnam. Those who opposed air attacks emphasized the adverse repercussions and predicted the propagandaHanoi would reap internationally. They also pointed out that North Vietnam, with an economy based on agriculture and possessingottage Industry, was not vulnerable to strategic bombing and that Hanoi would exploit the bombing to harden North Vietnamese altitudes toward the United States and to whip up domestic and international support of the North Vietnamese regime. The critics were mostly right. Politically the United States, at least in partesult of the bombing, lost support in Western Europe and most of the Third World. Air power proponents very properly point out. however, that the United States did not conduct an all-out air offensive from the outset but allowed North Vietnam ample time to build its air defenses, condition its people, and adjust economically to the damage caused by the US air attacks.'

The intelligence community, in assessing communist reactions toincreasing US air attacks against North Vietnam, iudged4 estimate, "Probable Communist Reactionsertain Possible US Course ofhat Hanoi more likely would ceasemilitary attacks in South Vietnam, but would plan to renew the insurgencyater date. INR/State dissented from this judgment, holding that Hanoi would be more likely to send its own armed forcesarge scale into Laos and South Vietnam. As events turned out, the SNIE was dead wrong while

INR was right on llie money. Some of ihe laler views held within the intelligence community with respect to the anticipated effect of US air power are covered briefly in the section entitled "National Intelligence" appearing below.

In anyepeated Viet Cong attacks against Americans in South Vietnam brought on what amountedustained US air offensive against North Vietnam beginning in latearlylthough it was later to be punctuated wth numerous bombing pauses. The air offensive was given the name, "Rollingarallel air interdiction campaign against military targets in the Laotian panhandle, already begunimited scale inas named "BarrelS air power was based in South Vietnam. Thailand, and the Philippines, as well as on aircraft carriers in the South China Sea. while2 bombers based in Guam were added to the US tactical air arsenal In

Intelligence Estimates on South Vietnam

In Saigon newly arrived Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge had asked for the relief of John Richardson, the CIA Station Chief, who disagreeddge over the way to handle the Diem crisis. Richardson departed Saigon inust before the coup against Diem, and ihe new Station Chief, Peer de Silva, did not arrive untilhortly after the coup. In4 General Maxwell D. Taylor, US Army-Retired, succeeded Lodge, who returned to the United States for the presidentialeorge W.eteran intelligence officer with Army, DIA, and CIA experience in Southeast Asia, became Saigon Station's senior intelligence analyst In'

Inelievingritical period of the war was near, Allenaigon Station assessment of the situation. Its thrust wasactivity was intensifying while ARVN combat effectiveness was deteriorating, and government control of the countryside was steadily eroding while the military regime In Saigon showed continued disunity and instability. The assessment concluded that unless the South Vietnamese were soon bolstered by external military forces, an ARVN defeat in the near future was likely lo take place. The cable was sent to CIA Headquarters as the view of the station; It was not coordinated with other elements of Ihe US mission in Saigon.'

The Office of National Estimates was pessimistic, butesser degree lhan Allen at this time. One of the Board's last estimates on the subject. "The Situation in Southointed out that the situation continued lo deteriorate, politically and militarily, and was unlikely to improve. It concluded that "we do not believe that the Vie! Cong will make any early effort to seize power by force of arms; indeed, we doubt that they have the capability forThe accelerating infiltration of NVA troops into South Vietnam's border areas and into South Vietnam itself had not been confirmed at the time of this estimate.)

Early5 Washington asked Saigonoordinated US mission intelligence assessment of the situation. Saigon station and MACV agreed on an assessment, similar to but somewhat toned down from the4

Saigon Station message, but Ambassador Taylor approved it in5 only after deleting conclusions that forecast discouraging trends (ARVN's diminishing effectiveness and North Vietnam's increasingaigon Station nevertheless sent the undiluted assessment to CIAAllen learned later that CIA analysts used the assessment in working on ongoing national estimates.)

By5 It was abundantly clear that Hanoi was dispatching not just individual soldiers, but complete, trained, and ready NVA battalions,and even divisions to South Vietnam. Moreover, these were new divisions, formed in the North from cadres of old NVA divisions, and the overall force structure and strength of the NVA were steadily growing. This knowledge triggered another special assessment from the US mission in Saigon in5 with an outcome similar to that of theaylor deleted the worst news from the outgoing cable. Nevertheless, the omitted text wjjs again transmitted from Saigon Station to CIA headquarters."

Commitment of US Ground Combat Troops

The presence in Vietnam of US combat aircraft manned by Americans led to the commitment of the first US ground combat troops in5arine Hawk battalion and two Marine infantry battalions were deployed to protect the US Marine air base in the Da Nang area. In5d Airborne Brigade. US Army, was moved to Bien Hoa to secure tbe US Air Force base there.

The US debate over the commitment of major American ground combat formations In Vietnamifferent turn from the air power debate. Proponents of air power had hoped that the US bombing would discourage Hanoi from sending more forces south and thereby escalating the war. but Ibis had not happened. After the start of the bombing inhe number of NVA soldiers infiltrating south for the remainder5 almost tripled (computed on an annualizednd for the first time regimental-size NVA units were sent down the Ho Chi Minh trail, their destination being South Vietnam and base sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia along South Vietnam'sronically, US air attacks against North Vietnam seemed to have hastened the American Intervention on the ground.

In the spring5 the strong consensus in the US Department of Defense was that American ground force intervention was necessary If South Vietnam was to be saved. ARVN was demoralized by repeated defeats in the field while enemy attacks on the civilian population, public facilities, lines of communications, and government installations were accelerating. It seemed evident that it wasatter of time before the Saigon regime wouldBut the debate in government councils was more over the size and nature of the US commitment, to include the role of US ground combat forces, than over the question of whether American troops should be committed. Whether South Vietnam was important enough to warrant the ultimate US commitment of ground forces, and whether South Vietnamiable nation internally strong enough toustifiable risk for the Unitedquestions were not debated to any extent.

The JCS in5 recommended sending two US divisions to Vietnam, leaving the matter of how they were to be employed in the hands of tho US commander. General William. C. Westmoreland, who had succeeded General Harfeins in the springmbassador Taylor opposed the introduction of major combat units and wanted to limit US troops to the defense of American enclaves and base areas. But Westmoreland had different ideas and persuaded Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamararucial meeting in Saigon in5 to agreeS troop level equivalent of about three and one-half divisionsen) to be reached by the endhis precipitated an intense but short debate in Washington, the only thorough examination of US objectives and strategy until after the enemy8 offensive. President Johnsons advisers were divided on the issue. The DCI

reportedly opposed ihe introduction of large numbers of US groundut on5 the PresidentS troop levelnd granted Westmoreland freedom to maneuver these forces as he sawhe die was cast and the United States was committedhowdown on South Vietnamese soil. The US objective was to defeat the enemy in South Vietnam, and to do it primarily with American forces.

National Intelligence5

ONE issued an estimate,. "Short Term Prospects in Southhich addressed solely the political picture in South Vietnam and concluded that prospects for any improvement during the spring and summer5 were dim. The estimate did not address the overall situation or the military aspects of the North-South struggle. On the same date, however, ONE addressed North Vietnamese military capabilities and intentions (near term only) in, "Communist Military Capabilities and Near Term Intentions in Laos and South Vietnam."

The other twelve SNIEs concerning Vietnam produced5 {there were no NIEs) were generally limited to assessing Communist (North Vietnamese, Chinese, and Soviet) reactions to specific postulated US courses of action related to Vietnam For example,. "Communist and Free World Reactionsossible US Course ofated5 postulated, among other things, that US forces in South Vietnam would be increased to5 (the same number approved by President Johnson onnd that the United States would mobilize its armed forcesertain rate. Theajor conclusions were;

Hanoi was still confident of early success in South Vietnam and the assumed US actions would not basically alter this expectation;

extending US air attacks to military targets in the Hanoi-HaiplionE area would not significantly hurt the Communist war effort (Air Force intelligence disagreed with this conclusion)-.

further extending US air attacks to Include sustained interdiction efforts against land lines of communications leading from South China would make the delivery of Soviet and Chinese aid more difficult and costly, but would notritical effect on the Communists' determination to persevere;

if extended US air attacks included effective strikes against North Vietnamese POL stocks and If escalating hostilities required the commitment of more and more NVA troops to South Vietnam, the accumulated strainsrolonged war might lead Hanoi to consider negotiations (State/INR and Army intelligence dissented on tbe basis that demonstrated Communist resourcefulness in maintaining lines of communications would offset the effects of such escalation);

ihe Chinese would not react to the assumed US ground force actions hy overt intervention wilh combat forces; but


the chances ol Chinese air intervention would increase if US air strikes were extended to the Ha noi-Haiphong area, and could be high if these air strikes were extended to land routes from South China, particularly if large numbers of US aircraft operated close to Chinese frontiers (DIA. Army, Navy, and Air Force intelligence, and NSA disagreed with this judgment, believing It unlikely that Chinese aircraft would deliberately engage US aircraft over North Vietnam from bases withinnd

the Soviet Union would continue to support Hanoi and expand its military aid, and would probably respond to US mobilization with an overt increase in its own military expenditures.

One of tlie more perceptive assessments of South Vietnam at the end5 wasesearch memorandum, "The Balance Sheet in Southatedhe caper concluded that although the introduction of US air and ground forces had shattered enemy hopes ofuick military victory. Communist determination to pursue the war had not been affected, and the South Vietnamese government and armed forces stillong way to go to turn the situation around.


CIA assessments during this. were almost exclusively in the economic area and were produced by ORR (and one of its successors,conomic interdiction was one category, assessing North Vietnam's vulnerability to sea blockade of its ports, as well as to the interdiction of the railroads leading to North Vietnam from China. As earlyRR had concluded that North Vietnam was not significantly vulnerable to sea blockade, judging that even if all sea and rail access to North Vietnam were denied, the economic impact would be limited. It was estimated, moreover, that while combined sea and rail interdiction would have the greatest effect, interdiction of the three major rail lines from China would produce results of almost equal magnitude. ORR consistently held to these views throughout theINCPAC supported by the JCS and the DIA, on the other hand, took an optimistic view of the effectivenessS mining program against North Vietnamese ports and judged that it would reduce Hanoi's capability to support military action In Southudgment with which CIA disagreed. Apparently the CIA view prevailed for many years because US sea interdiction of North Vietnam was not attempted until

Another category of CIA/ORR assessments concerned targeting intelli-

gence on North Vietnam.


the nrst bombing operations against NorTn

Then when the US air offensive, "Rollingegan InRR studies of economic and military targets in North Vietnam intensified in scope and frequency, and not long thereafter ORR acquired the additional task of bomb damage assessments.tudy of the Hanoi-Haiphong electric power networks inRR inetailed target study of key industrial plants, principal railroad and


highway bridges, POL storage areas, airfields, and naval bases, and Haiphong port installations. The study, made at the request of ONE (George Carver),any notion that bombing of such "strategic" targets couldecisive effect on North Vietnam. The study also examined the possibility of flooding the Red River Delta by breaching the levees with the objective of destroying the rice crop. ORR judged the dikes to be extremely difficult to breach by conventional bombing and concluded that, even if bombing was successful, the damage to the rice crop would probably not be critical because North Vietnam could readily replace its rice losses by imports from China and South Asia, and would not have to resort to rationing"

In developing the data base for the foregoing assessments. ORR examined in detail not only North Vietnam's transportation system but also its land line connections with China, as well as North Vietnam's extended transportation/ infiltration system through the panhandle of Laos that eventually was to become Hanoi's logistic springboard lor the subjugation of South Vietnam and ihe remaiodcr of Indochina-


RR analysts had developed atimited grasp of the principal supply and infiltration routes used and their estimated capacities, as well as rough judgments about their actual use by the North Vietnamese."

In4 ORR also initiated detailed research and studies on the Viet Cong economy in South Vietnam. One of the early questions examined was tbe extent to which the Viet Cong war effort was sustained by local indigenous sources in South Vietnam (capture of ARVN weapons and ammunition, seizure of non-military supplies, materials grown or produced by the Viet Cong themselves) as opposed to the extent to which the Viet Cong were dependent on supplies infiltrated into South Vietnam overland and by sea.

The dependence of NVA iroops operating in South Vietnam on infiltrated supplies was also examined. BecauselA-DlA disagreement on these questions, an ONE study was undertaken inhe results agreed with ORB's earlier judgment that most of the enemy's supplies needed in South Vietnam were being obtained locally although there was someon external sources for arms, ammunition, and medical supplies. The Laotian corridor was considered to be the main route of supplies, the sea route and land and water routes from Cambodia handling significantly less tonnage. The Cambodian route later was toajor bone of contention within the intelligence community.1*

The economic viability of South Vietnam also became the object of heightened ORR study, particularly in the latter part5 when the presence of US forces and the growing scale of US economic and militarymade it apparent that severe inflationary pressures were to be expected. At the request of the NSC staff (Robert 'W.eekly ORR report on economic conditions in South Vietnam was inaugurated in6 and continued well"

Developments Within


The magnitude of ORRorkload relating to the Vietnam, ultimately leading to the establishment on6eparate!


Then7 ORR was dissolvedre combined with the]

analysis eemenHUI Toew Office of Strategic Researchriented primarily on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe,

P'TOCI continued to Carry

out its current intelligence responsibilities with respect to the Vietnam War for the duration.)

Concurrently7 the remainder of ORR became the Office of Economic Research (OER) under William N.ho had been the Director of ORRorell saw the intelligence problem as primarily geographic and secondarily functional.

OSR. despite its military research orientation, did not become involved in Vietnam War military reporting and analysis. OEH and OCi thus carried out CIA's basic analytical responsibilities pertaining to the war, including strategic assessments and comparative political-military-economic evaluations ol North and South Vietnam that amounted to net assessments. Bruce Clark, Director of tbe newly created OSR, wanted lo focus on Soviet affairs and considered Vietnam toistraction even though the war consumed the energies and attention of the US government for most ofnd much of. Indeed CIA's internal handling of the Vietnam War seems toomewhat ambivalent perception of the Agency's role in wartime.

Inhe Office of the Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs (SAVA) had been established within the Office of the DCI. Its function was lo help Ihe DCI keep track of burgeoning Vietnam War-related efforts within the Agency and the intelligence community, and to ensure coordinated and, where appropriate, integrated. Agency responses to specific requests from other government agencies. SAVA was to continue woll after the3 cease-fire in Vietnam and finally went out of existence shortly after the fall of Saigon oneer de Silva was SAVA's first head and was succeeded in the summer6 by Georgeenior intelligence official in the Office of National Estimates, who served as SAVA's chief for the remainder of its existence.

Under Carver SAVA oversaw all Agencyandto Vietnam and coordinated these activities with other Washington departments. As the designated point of contact within CIA on Vietnamese matters. Carver represented the Agency in most interagency efforts and played an Important policy support role during thearver insisted on timely responses to policy issues and generally allowed all sidesontroversial matter to be presentedAVA paper.

Development of MACV Intelligence

As pointed out in the Prologue, the DIA and the US Army during theailed toound, sustained intelligence capability to deal with the military situation in Southeast Asia,people's war" on the ground. MACV was established int was more than three years before an experienced, trained US Army intelligence officer was assigned toACV job. The. Major General Joseph A. McChristian. arrived in Saigon in lateaving comewo-year lour asf US Headquarters Army Pacificocated in Hawaii.

McChristianomewhat disjointed, floundering staff of several hundred people. But he had the strong support of Secretary of Defense McNamara and ihe Director of DIA. Lieutenant General Joseph Carroll, who were well aware of the woefully inadequate state of MACV intelligence. When McChristian left Vietnam inwo years later, he hadarge military intelligence organization (several thousand strong) for collecting and analyzing great quantities of data, as well as for advising Southintelligence. Although lacking In sophistication in much of its


analytical and estimative work, and hampered by the inherently cumbersome characteristicsame bureaucracy. MACV intelligence did takeore professional look and steadily improved in the exploitation of prisoners of war and captured documents (in both American and South Vietnameses well as in the systematic analysis of all sources of information in producing intelligence to support combat operations."

On the other hand, many US field commanders in Vietnam, the author included, were of the opinion that the MACV intelligence organization was loo highly centralized and concentrated al MACV headquarters level al the expense of the intelligence capabilities at lower command echelons (This was not entirely MACV's doing, however, because electronic data collected in Southeast Asia generally had lo be processed in the United Stales before It could be transmitted to intelligence echelons in thehesealso believed thatACV relied too heavily on information gathered by electronic means, which sometimes was less useful for tactical purposes, and thatACV failed to develop adequate human intelligence sources. Nevertheless, MACV did succeed inespected intelligence capability Unfortunately this was achieved years later than it should have been.

Assessments of US Air Attacks Againsi North

Almost as soon as "Rolling Thunder"nd "Barrel Roll"egan, senior officials of ihe Johnson Administration were calling for assessments of ihe effects of these air strikes. Secretary of Defense McNamara. aided and abetted by his chief systems analyst and program evaluator. Dr. Alain Enthovcn. was unwilling to rely solely on assessments prepared by DIA or military authorities In the summer5 McNamara requested CIA to ioin with DIA inonthly report on ihe effects of "Rollinghis monthly series continued after McNamara's resignation8 and President Johnson's partial bombing halt effective onS. The reports then became known as the "Clifford Reports" submitted lo Clark Clifford. McNamara'$ successor, and continued up to the cessation of all bombing against North Vietnam onnfortunately, theseIA monthly reports were not asand unvarnished as the independent CIA assessments made during the period.*'

Another specific request made to CIA by (he Secretary of Defense resulted in comprehensive rjeriodic reporting on the effect of air attacks on malor railroad and highway bridges in Vietnam. After discovering that DIA "bridge-kill" estimates were based on pilot claims, CIA, with the assistance of DIA, developed more reliable estimates based on aerial photography as the main source of information. Subsequently the first comprehensive estimate, completed inevealed thatridges had been destroyed duung ihe first years of the bombing campaign against North Vietnam as comparedlaimed In DIA's most conservative assessment for the same period. The figure based on hard evidence roseighestroyed bridges by the time of the complete bombing halt onut the must significant finding of these studies was that the North Vietnamese

became very adept at building multiple bypasses (alternate routes) at every bridge site, thus increasing the probability that at least one crossingite remained serviceable. The Paul Doumer Bridge over the Red River al Hanoi, for example, at one lime was supported by twenty bypasses Moreover it took

as much ordnance loypass as lo take out the original bridge; thus ihe cost ofater crossing increased much faster lhan (he cost ofitheap local materials- More important. US aircraft were

subjected lo the same risks when attacking bypasses as when attacking the


Still other requests came from the NSC staff McCeorge Bundy in5 asked for an independent CIA assessment of tho level of civilian casualties resulting Irom US bombing in North Vietnam. And at about the same. Rostov* requested an analysis of Ihc probable political and social effectostulated escalation of the US air offensive CIA's somber reply was (hat even an escalation against all'major economic targets in North Vietnam would not substantially affect Hanoi's ability to supply its forces in South Vietnam, nor would it be likely to persuade (he Hanoi regime to negotiate" Similar Judgments were to be repeated consistently by CIA for the next several years

A resume of three important CIA assessments produced during this period is illustrative of the accuracy and consistency of CIA judgments on the effectiveness of US air attacks against North Vietnam.

Intelligence Report. "An Evaluation of Allied (US and CVN) Air Attacks Against Northhis report exomined (he effects of (he first eight months of "Rollingegun5 against selected military and economic targets in carefully delineated areas of North Vietnam, ll concluded that there was no evidence lo date that air attacks had been successful in diminishing the willingness of Hanoi to support Communist forces in South Vietnam and Laos.


Intelligence Memorandum, "The Effectiveness of the AirAgainst North0"his analysis covered "Rolling Thunder"during the first nine monthseriod of greatly intensified and broadened operations compared with thoset concluded (ha( despite the increased weight of air attack, North Vietnam continued lo increase its support of the Insurgency in South Vietnamhreefold increase in personnel infiltrating from North to South occurredhat strains placed on the enemy's logistic system had been within acceptable limits; that the North Vietnameseo support the war effort had improved overall during the period (Soviet and Chinese aid received in the period amounted, invalue, lo about five times the damage caused by air attacks' and that there was no evidence of any reduction in Hanoi'sto continue the war or of any loss in public support of theThe report stated, however, that if "Rolling Thunder" were to be terminated without concessions, (he United States would lose one major form of specific leverage against Hanoi.

CIA Intelligence Memorandum, "An Assessment of the Rolling Thunder Program Through" datedhe memorandum covered7ustained and intensive attack against almost every significant military and economic target in North Vietnam. The activity level was well above that ol* any previous year, the physical damage7 exceeding that achieved56 combined. The campaign effectively neutralized most of North Vietnam's modern industry, and severely disruptedtrade, and transportation. The study concluded, however, that tbe total bombing results had not significantly weakened North Vietnam's military capabilities, the resolution of the regime to carry on the war, or the popular support of the regime. The memorandum also pointed out that the increasingly effective and aggressive North Vietnamese air defenses, as well as the large number of US attacks against heavily defended industrial and military targets in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas, had resulted in increasingly heavy losses of US aircraft and crewsmerican aircraft were lost over North Vietnam, an increase ofercent over tossesoreover, the ratio of US air losses to the number of sorties, which had been decliningeversed direction and increased during the last nine months)

One of the most significant aspects of the foregoing examination was the factartime Secretary of Defense asked CIA for independent evaluations of the effectiveness of US air strikes against North Vietnam. McNamara specifically stated that he wanted CIA's views and did not want the studies to be coordinated with DIA. the US Air Force, the JCS, or any other part of the Department oforeover. McNamara's requests went far beyond bomb damagewanted CIA to review the objectives of "Rolling Thunder" and to make judgments as to the current and potential likelihood of attaining those objectives through the employment of US air power. CIA respondedimely, professional, and objective fashion throughouteriod. Significantly the last report, briefly described above, came in8 at about the time McNamara was succeeded as Secretary of Defense by Clark Clifford and.hort time before President Johnson decidedartial halt of US bombing effective

Tactical Air Support) in South Vietnam

The employment of US air power In direct support of friendly forces in South Vietnam was accepted and supported by all concerned as an effective means of inflicting casualties on enemy troops, supporting the maneuvers of friendly troops or protecting them in defensive positions, and saving the lives of friendly forces. There were times, however, when US forces were criticized if air support caused undue civilian casualties or material damage under circumstances when ground commanders did not exercise sufficient care in authorizing and directing such air support, particularly in built-up or densely populated areas. Moreover, there were other times when friendly ground

forces were fuullcd for becoming too dependent on inch external firepower and for not relying enough on their own capabilities of fire and maneuvers.

There was little eontrosersy over the employment of US air power to interdict the movement of enemy forces and supplies through the Laotian corridor, through tbend along lines of communications inside North Vietnam leading lo Laos or the DMZ. (Interdiction of enemy lines of communications through Cambodia and the bombing of enemy base areas in Cambodiaifferent story, and will be discussed later in thishe overall effectiveness of US interdiction efforts, however, was another question. Generally il was concluded that although these operations caused considerable enemy casualties, loss of supplies, materiel damage, and disruption of the infiltration system, they were not decisive and did not impair Hanoi's ability to carry on Ihe war aguinst Southajor reason for that lackecisive effect on tlie war was that there was no parallel, sustained ground effort in Laos to block the enemy's supply routes North Vietnam had the manpower torolonged conflict and Its materiel losses were replaced by ihe Soviet Union and China.

Inecretary of Defense McNamara decided lo. normally employedtrategic role, to the US tactical air arsenal in Southeast Asia.2 strikes (identified as Arc Light) were limited to targets inside South Vietnam, but they were extended to targets in Laos in6 and later to targets in the remote northwestern region of North Vietnam. They were not directed against defended areas of North Vietnam at this time because of the risk of2 lo enemy air defenses and the attendant psychological, political, and military repercussions.egan the so-called "secret bombing" of enemy bases In Cambodia int continued until the allied incursion into Cambodia in2 operations in later phases of the war will be discussed in subsequent sections.)

Because of their enormousere not employed in so-called "close air support'was just too risky lo friendly troops. For the same reason,were usually employed only in more remote, sparsely populated areas2 weapons system was accurate and reliable. Thereew tragic occasions2 strikes hit the wrong target and caused severe civilian casualties, but these were the result of human errors in processing target data.

Targets selected2 strikes normally were major headquarters, major supply facilities, base areas, and combat troop concentrations, all more or less stationary targets, and often located in remote enemy sanctuaries. Bombing0 feet (as opposed0 feel by other tacticalsually achieved surprise and devastating psychological impact Because of ihe heavy foliage covering most targets, imagery interpretation of bomb damage was usually limited. Likewise ground observers rarely get into the remote areas involved Thus conclusive evidence2 bombing effects was often lacking, especially in the earlyver time, however, an accumulation of evidence Irom POW interrogations, captured documents, and the like clearly showed that2osily, but very potent was probably ihc US weapon that the enemy tnosl feared.


The Wa. in South, and US Intelligence

Whereat in the spring5 Hanoi had good reason to be optimistic about prospectselatively early military and political victory in South Vietnam, theew months later was forced to reevaluate the situation when the United States intervened on the ground in strength The massive infusion of US ground troops, nearly two hundred thousandertainly set back North Vietnamese hopes and probably saved South Vietnam from defeat. Moreover, in the first ma)or engagement between American and North Vietnamese Army troops in the jungle-covered La Drang Valley west of Plelku in the Central Highlands, the American 1st Cavalry Division had soundly defeated three NVA regiments Hanoi, impressed with the firepower and mobility of US forces, no doubt realized at this time that the war would be lone and costly, that it could not be won by Viet Cong forces and guerrillas in South Vietnam alone, and that tbe North Vietnamese Army would have to carry the great burden of the fighting. The result was continued escalation by both North Vietnam and the United States6

In South Vietnam the ability ol tbe Viet Cong to expand its forces, replace its combat losses, and furnish replacements to NVA units fighting in the South began to declines the war ground on, the NVA took over more und more of the action, not only through the continuing deployment of fresh NVA units from the North bul also through the increasing infusion of Viet Cong units with NVA personnel.

Secretary of Defense McNamaratrong supporter of tbe US commitment initially, but in6 his resolve was shaken by evidence of Hanoi's willingness and ability to accelerate the infiltration of NVA troops through Laos and on into South Vietnam, and toairly favorable strength ratio in step with the US troop buildup. In May6 McNamara asked CIA for an assessment of the North Vietnamese will and ability to continue the war. He wanted an analysis of the strength and morale of VC/NVA forces in South Vietnam; of the effect of Hanoi's commitments in South Vietnam and Laos on North Vietnamese manpower; of the effect of the US bombing offensive in North Vietnam; of the nature and extent of Soviet and Chinese aid to North Vietnam; of how Hanoi's leaders viewed their prospects of winning tbe war. and of the strengths and weaknesses of thein South Vietnam, its armed forces, and its pacification program. The DI (mainly ORB and OCI) and ONE were responsible for what amountedery comprehensive and complex estimate (Among other things the CIA effort led to the development of expertise within ORR/OER with respect to enemy manpower estimates concerning not only military forces in South Vietnam bul also all aspects of the North Vietnamese manpower situation. Ultimately OER would get deeply involved in detailed order of battle intelligence, normally reserved to the military intelligence components.)"


One reason why McNamara turned to CIA for the above assessment was that the national estimate on Vietnam produced during theeriod, when US power was being committed, reflected constantly shifting and often sharply differing views on Hanoi's will to persist and the Northcapabilities and intentions to wageascinating analysis of the

Ihinkiitii within the community during this period wai published by ONE in0 (ONE Staff Memorandum,NIEs on the Vietnam War Since

The response toequest was CIA Memorandum. "The Vietnamese Communists' Will loatedIt was also referred to within CIA as "McNamarandhrough VII, Ihe last of the series of assessments requested by the Secretary of Defense, all concerned the US bombing offensive) "McNamara II" was an extraordinary document thaieep impression on McNamara and no doubt had much to do wiih changing his views about the war. The study

judged that Hanoi had ihe manpower resources torolonged and

expanding war. and thai the US air offensive was not likely to diminish Hanoi's continued ability to provide materiel support to the war. It concluded

lhai currently planned US efforts were not likely to deter the North Vietnamese or slow their effort Disseminated onlyery few senior policy

officers in Washington besides McNamara, the study was well received.**

According to the DDI at ihe. Smith. CIA's study. "The Vietnamese Communists* Will loas commended by President Johnson, who directed it be briefed lo three keyFulbright. and Russell DCI Helms reported In6 lhat the briefing had been carried out bul had not changed ihe views held by each senator on the Vietnam War Mansfield thought the study was "thorough andut remained noncommittal; Fulbright loudly maintained that the strugglecivilnd Russell said lhat be shared the study's conclusions **

Numerous other high quality intelligence memoranda were published by CIAmong the more impressive ones were:

"North Vietnamese Intentions and Altitudes Toward the5roduced by DI and coordinated with ONE and SAVA. This study concluded thai Hanoi's determination to continue ihe war in South Vietnam had not abated; and thai although Hanoi felt secure In the rnilitary. economic, and political support it expected lo receive from tbe Soviei Union and China, the regime would not permit either power to gain control of North Vietnamese war policies.

"The South Vietnamese Army2roduced by DDI (OCI and OER) and coordinated with ONE and SAVA. Thisealistic and accurate assessment of ARVN's performance during the) and of its capabilities. It concluded that ARVN's ability to cope alone with the Viet Cong was questionable und that ARVN was incapable by itself of handling NVA forces thai had infiltrated into South Vietnam.

ONE published seven estimates (three NIE's and four SNIE's) pertaining to Vietnamhe most pertinent were:

North Vietnamese Military Potential for Fighting in Southhistraightforward estimate of the strength of NVA and VC forces in South Vietnam, ihe number of trained soldiers and units thai North Vietnam could infiltrate into

South Vietnam, and the number of men that the Viet Cone could recruit and train in the South. The estimate's timeframe ran roughly from6ts findings were compatible with CIAs broader assessment, "The Vietnamese Communists' Will to Persist"iscussed above. This was the last time that the intelligence community was in agreement with the estimated strengths and capabilities of various categories of the enemy's forces laid out in this estimate. (The followingajorover enemy strengths was to break out within the intelligence community.)

. "Problems of Political Developments in South Vietnam Over the Next Year or5his was an optimistic, and later demonstrated to be accurate, estimate. Among its principal judgments wereespite numerous South Vietnamese political weaknesses, the Constituent Assembly would succeed inonstitution;he chances were better than even that national elections (scheduled for the latter partould be conducted successfully.

InIA (DI) produced another comprehensive study entitled, "The Vietnam Situation: An Analysis andt covered both North and South Vietnam as well as international aspects of the war. Overall the study pointed out that although the Allies had seen some gains in the South, the strategic balance between North and South Vietnam had not been altered significantly. Some of its major judgmentsanoi's determination to pursue the war had not beenhe North Vietnamese had managed to keep pace with tbe US troop buildupynd to improve their logisticS air attacks on North Vietnam appeared to have strengthened Hanoi's determination not to negotiateosition of weakness;orth Vietnamese leaders apparently could see no prospect of formal negotiations on terms acceptable to them. The study also noted the "remarkable stability" of the political situation in South Vietnam, although it expressed some concern about the rivalry between General Thieu and Air Marshal Ky.

ONE produced eight estimates duringNIE and seven SNEs. The most notable was, "Capabilities of the Vietnamesefor Fighting in South3egun early in the year, this SNIE took many months to complete and generated controversy within the intelligence community that continues to have repercussions even today.

The origins of this controversy over enemy strength estimates stem basically from the nature of the war, more political and psychological than military, andunning mixture of conventional and unconventional warfare. The lack of major decisive battles, of identifiable "frontnd of other characteristics of conventional warfare frustrated US civilian and military leaders, and forced US policymakers to seek other measures of progress.

One result was that the Vietnam War became the most "statistical" in American history while officials like Secretary McNamara became almost


obsessively eager lo quantify even- aspect of ihe hostilities Econometric techniques were applied to various problems and statislies were produced regularly on pacification, battalion attacks, weapons captured and lost, ammunition expenditures, terrorist incidents, and so on in an endless litany. Computers massaged and manipulated such statistics in every conceivable way that imaginative analysts could devise. Some of ihese statistical seriesvaluable insight on how the war was going. For example, the series on the infiltration or NVA personnel into South Vielnam wasaluable indication of enemy intentions. But this could not be said of all such series and analysts soon came to realize lhat significant biases, some unfathomable, existed in many instances. Most of the statistical measures developed were dependent on human Judgments, or based on small samples, or derived from questionable methodologies. And so analysts found thai many statistical exercises were of dubious value, particularly when attempts were made to integrateeriesarger parameter M

A major clement in the US effort totatistical measurement of the progress of the war was the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES1 It was developed by CIA analysis in6 at the request of Secretary McNamara. and then tested in Vietnam jointly with MACV Inollowing which the US Mission Council in Saigon approved it for implementation Thus was set inrogram that would continue for many yean and consume many thousands of manyears of work byeneration of American officers (mostly US Army) on advisory duty in South Vietnam. Unfortunately, high-level policymakers in Washington wereprincipallyingle highlv aggregated pacificationor the whole country, not seeming to realize thatifferent pacification factors0 hamlets were involved Thus major inroads by enemy activity In one hundred or so hamlets in one part of South Vietnam could be offset statistically and masked by marginal improvements in several thousand other hamlets."

Walt Bestow, President Johnson's National Security Advisor, became so intrigued wiih the monthly HES scores, which measured only the status of pacification and population control, lhat in7 he asked CIA lo explore the feasibility ofethodology thai would weigh all the relevant factors and integrate themingle, overall index that would show thetrend of the war. much as the Dow Jones index indicates trends in the stockmarket. The interagency group that worked on the project concludedingle "war index" would be meaningless andingle HES score svould conceal the effect of numerous significant (actors bearing on tbe course of the war. The true meaning of such hidden factors might be overlooked because the overall single index would not register imperceptible, but important shifts. In the end the group reported thai the task was impossibIe.M

Estimates of Enemy Forces andOrder of Battle Problem,

Disagreement between Washington-based intelligence analysisCIA) and Saigon-based analysts (MACV primarily with some support from US Embassy officials) over enemy strength figures began in theources of the problem, as already indicaled above, were numerous and


complex. There were conceptual and philosophic differences with respect to the nature of the war. Interpretations varied widely as to the meaning of equivocal evidence pertaining to units, their capabilities, and their numerical strengths. There were various descriptions and depictions of the enemy's organizational structure, military and political, as well as differing views as to what categories of enemy personnel belonged in the order ofeep-seated mindset existed among analysts in both Saigon and Washington, neither group willing to accept the strength figures or categories of the other party.

The tight political control that Washington exercised over the conduct of the war in Vietnam and Secretaryost-effective, statistical approach to tbe war were unhelpful as far as MACV and the American Embassy were concerned. Great pressure was placed on the top-levelechelon in Saigon to produce data that reflected clear progress somehow commensurate with the effort expended. Since the United States had decided toround war of attrition confinedefense of South Vietnam,conceded the advantages of the strategic offensive to Hanoi, evidence was needed to show that the enemy forces were being alt riled in South Vietnam if progress was to be claimed. Indeed MACV made claims in the latter part7cross-over" point had been reached;orth Vietnamese forces were losing more -personnel than they were gaining, and were therefore declining in strength. These claims, however, were based on very soft figures both with regard to losses and gains, and MACV's claims did not attain muchFor example, MACV's attrition model focused primarily, if not exclusively, on regular enemy combat units and then applied one hundred percent of enemy casualties reported against that category rather than distributing these casualties among all categories of the enemy organization.)

MACV and the Embassy alsoerious credibility problem with the American press corps in Saigon. The press took an adversarial position, keeping detailed "score" on all MACV statements, and disputing them at every opportunity. Understandably MACV officials became quite reluctant to recognize publicly that previous "numbers" might have been overtaken by new evidence and thus were caughtredibility trap. As the US national electioname nearer, the political pressure on MACV and the Embassy Increased. Indeed. President Johnson in7 ordered both Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland to return to the United States and to make upbeat speeches about the war. Both men tried to avoid the summons but to no avail.

Meanwhile the disagreement within the Intelligence community overardened and seemed to be irreconcilable byhe split centered on the strength of forces other than regular units (main and localith MACV holding much lower numbers for non-regular personnel and not wanting to list some of the non-regular categories. Unwilling to presentide-open split. Director Helms sent his Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairseorge Carver, to Saigon to seek an agreement. (President Johnson, Secretary of Defense McNamara. and General Wheeler. Chairman, JCS. were all aware of the issue and supported Helms' efforts to achieve an agreement.)

Carver and Westmoreland agreedompromise that listed agreed figures on regular, organized forces {NVA and VC in South Vietnam) in the

strength tables of the estimate. Those components of the enemy structure where there were no agreed figures were not shown in any tables, but only described in thelthough, according to Carver's argument, the total North Vietnamese structure approaching the half million mark in strength is described in thehe fact remains that the summary of the estimate (all that would probably be read by most busy senior policymakers) citedtrength figureor NVA and VC regular units in South Vietnam and an0 guerrillas in the Southotal ofthan one-half of the sum of strength figures for the various elements of the enemy structure In the South described in the discussion part of the estimate.

According to the DDI,. Smith, the late publication ofn7 marked only the endot the end of the "war" between CIA and the US military over strength estimates of the enemy structure in South Vietnam. But the controversy did propel CIA into the detailed ground order of battle business, normally the preserve of the Pentagon, and thereafter CIA (DI)ery active role in this particular intelligence field. After the enemy Tet offensivehen new evidence indicated that MACV. pre-Tet strength estimates had been low, the original disagreement eruptedajor issue and the debate went on8ajor differences between CIA and MACV estimates in the critical category of combat forces, however, mostly disappeared by the end9 and in0 the DDI/CIA reported to the DCI that tbe intelligence community was at long last in agreement on the enemy order of battle inActually, however, some differences, for example with respect to the strengths of so-called "administrativeontinued onthe varying guerrilla estimates were never fully reconciled, but with the decline in the overall guerrilla force level In South Vietnam as the war continued, the differences largely lost their importance.

This bruising bureaucratic battle at times tookisagreeable and unsavory flavor, and when viewed in the overall scheme of things, the issue attracted far more public attention (and expenditure of costly nianhours of work) than its importance warranted. Much of this can be attributed to the efforts of an aggressive, energetic CIA analyst. Sam Adams, whose exhaustive analytic work was largely the basis for CIA estimates on non-regular forces. Adams' zeal became so obsessive that be sought to refute not only the entire enemy order of battle for Vietnam but also for Cambodia. Eventually Adams, despite innumerable opportunities to present his case within the entire CIA chain of command, left CIA and took his cause to the public media, charging Director Helms and other intelligence officials with deliberate malfeasance."

Adams reopened the issue again when he testified before the House Select Committee on Intelligence (Pike Committee) in5 and alleged that the intelligence community was guilty of "corruption" of its reportseliberately underestimating enemy strengths for domestic political reasons; he contended that this in turn led to an underestimate of enemy military capabilities before the Tet offensive8 and ultimatelyto US casualties during that offensive. The Pike Committee hearings were open and Adams' allegations made national headlines. Still later Adams played

ae in ihe TV production. CBS Reports, "The UncoupledVietnamired in the (allhat repealed basically the same allegations. Thisibel suit against CBS brought by General Westmoreland. Commander.

In retrospect it should be noted how easy it is to overdramatize tbe causes and relevance of the differences between MACV and CIA. The manpower data on the Vietnam War have always been subjectairly wide range of interpretations, few of which can be categorically dismissed as being devoid of any claim on validity. Furthermore it is too simplistic to concludothat one methodology appears to have given the best answers and was therefore manifestly the best available at tbe time Nevertheless it seems clear that al least in certain respects the CIA approach appears to have been the better one. In the kind of mixed conventional-unconventional warfare that went on in Vietnam, CIA's concept of an insurgency base, much broader and deeper than the enemy's main and local forces, that nurtured and supported the entire political-rnilitary-economic spectrum of the enemy's war effort,ound one. In the author's opinion, MACV was wrong in resisting such afor so long aod in insisting that only regular, organized forces possessed any measurable military capabilities. But ail things considered, the testing and probing, as well as the debate, that went on in theithin thecommunity probably did far more good than harm in furthering the art of intelligence.

The allegation lhat the intelligence community deliberately conspired to deceive the President and the American people as to the enemy's strengthifferent matter. Although President Johnson was well aware of the split within the community and urged the principals to reconcile their differences, -he also brought heavy pressure to bear on Saigon to produce evidence of progress in the war. One could argue, therefore, that thereertain amount of self-deception on the part of the White House, as well as MACV. and the US Embassy in Saigon, lo emphasize good news and discount bad. The author is not aware of any specific evidence to support the charge of deliberately manipulating strength estimates and believes that it would be next to impossible to prove such an allegationuipicion of slanting the evidence persists today and it is doubtful whether this perception will ever completely disappear.

S and US Intelligence

During tbe dry monsoonrior toS troops carried the fight to the enemy, seeking to destroy enemy bases In South Vietnam, to weaken enemy regular forces, and to drive them back to their base sanctuaries across the border in Cambodia and Laos, or back across the DMZ. MACV hoped that this wouldlimate thai would allow ARVN and the South Vietnamese paramilitary forces, the so-called Regional Forces and Popular Forces, to accelerate progress in pacifying the countryside-Following the wet monsoon,ACV planned to continue offensive action In South Vietnam along these lines while US air power interdicted theupply lines through Laos and the DMZ to the South. Both sides continued the escalationmerican troop strength


y the year's end. while North Vietnam continued to send new NVA units down the Ho Chi Minh Trail and reinforced Us troops in the DMZ area. Thus awar of attrition was in full swing. (Secretary of Defense McNamara, however, had already become concerned about the seemingly endless open-ended nature of the US ground force commitment, and by7 had persuaded President Johnson toroop ceiling on US forces in Vietnam, not to be reached untilhat ceiling did, more or less, set the limits of US commitment which peaked atn

In the fallhe enemy took the offensiveeries of major assaults against Allied border positions extending from Con Thfenorps Tactical Zone (CTZ) to Loc Ninh and Song Be In III CTZ in September and October, the heaviest one of all being in7 in the Dak To mountain region north of Pleiku in HI CTZ. The Mekong Delta, IV CTZ, on the other hand, appeared to be quiet. Enemy losses were extremely high in the7 period, the largest lo date in the war. and seemed to vindicate MACV's concept of keeping Ihe "big war" in the hinterlands away from the heavily populated coastal area and away from the rities. Then inarge concentration of NVA forcesTZ began to converge on the Kbo Sanh area and MACV.ove by Hanoi lo seize part of the northernmost province of South Vietnam, decided lo reinforce Khe Sanh and hold It at all costs. Thus the stage was set for the enemy offensive of

The DDI. CIA during this period had its own analytical intelligence element based innique arrangement lhat had no counterpart

US and South Vietnamese intelligence in Saigon knew that something big wasthan anything tohad all kinds of fragmentary evidence that the enemy wasajor offensive around the time of Tet. The Allies also knew that enemy units, especiallyTZ but extending south into the Deltaere being upgraded in terms of greater, more modern firepoweretter command and control capability to coordinate operations between regular and guerrilla forces, as well as between widely

anywhere else in the world Establishedt was assigned to the Station Chief for administrative purposes, but reported independently and directly to the DDI in Washington. Robert E. Layton, who was the DDI representative in Saigon at the time ofs early as7 warnedable to CIA47 to the Director) that cumulative evidence indicated that the "decisive phase" of the war was near. This was followed up in7 with detailed studies pertaining to the enemy's overall strategy and specifically to the Vietorth Vietnam winter-spring. Although these papers pointed out the apparent lack of realism in setting unattainable goals for this campaign, they nevertheless warned that the enemy wassupreme effort" to inflict unacceptable military and political losses on the Allies regardless of their own casualties. The studies concluded that the war was probablyurning point and that the outcome ofinter-spring campaign would in all likelihood determine the future direction of the war (an uncannily accuratenfortunately, George Carver, SAVA/ CIA, in forwarding these studies to Walt W, Rostow, President Johnson's National Security Adviser (memorandum, datedubject: "Papers on Viet Conghrew cold water on the studies, pointing out that "othernot identified

led CIA to r< lien wuirwrraioinenmr conclusions m

ifvr't dm nor Duy the thesis that the coming enemy offensive would be an all-out affair of great portent. This memorandum to the While House no doubt contributed to the unprepared state of mind in Washington when8 hit as will be discussed below.

In any event the Allies judged that the enemy would probably attack after Tet. and accordingly the South Vietnamese governmentarge proportion of government troops to go on holiday leave. US forces, on the other hand, were at strength and were on ihe alert. Although Hanoi had apparently decided toountrywide offensive just at Tet onanuary, some attacks started on4 hours early Many observers believe that there wasisunderstanding as to the exact time of the attack Others believe senior enemy commanders knew that some local attack plans had come Into the possession of US leaders in Da Nangui Nhon (IInd Pleiku (II CTZ) before Tet and that these enemy commanders therefore ordered the attack early in those areas lo achieve some measure of surprise. Despitehour warning. South Vietnamese units in III and IV CTZs were no better prepared on8 than their compatriots had been in the more northern regions onnd so although North Vietnam did not achieve strategic surprise, it definitely achieved major tactical surprise. US and South Vietnamese officials could not believe that the enemy would risk the total condemnation of the people byal Tet. and, of course, this is precisely why North Vietnam chose Tet for the effort, which was advertised togeneralulminatinggeneral uprising" by the people lodecisive*

The other elements of surprise achieved by the enemy were the nature of theat cities, towns, and other urban areas and targeted againsi the command and control facilities of the civilian, politicalcountrywide coordination of major assaults, and the all-out intensity



ol those attacks. Indeed the enemy launched nearly simultaneous attacks on most o( South Vietnam's cities, over three-fourths of its principal capitals, nearly seventy district towns, nearly all South Vietnamese military bases, and most US bases. During the last two weeks before Tet, there was evidenceery large enemy buildup in tbe DMZ as well as concentrations of enemy troops near the largest citiesnd II CTZs, near some principal capitals in III and IV CTZs, and in the III CTZ provinces north of Saigon. (The Alliesunilaterallyhour cease fire beginning onowever, shortly before the enemy attacks began in the North, the cease fire was canceledhe Allies also learned of enemy references toay" although its precise timing was unclear. Thus there was considerable evidence of an impending enemy offensive involving coordinated operations in at least I. II, and IIIs for IV CTZ, the Delta, there were two views in Saigon. One was that the enemy had broken up Into small groups and was too weak to cause any major trouble. The other view was that the enemy was simply lying low. getting ready for the main event.

In hindsight it seems clear that the Allies were deceived by tbe Urge border fights in II and III CTZs and the large buildupTZ. especially around Khe Sanh, In the fallnd thatonsequence, Hanoi successfully diverted American and South Vietnamese attention away from the populated areas. Almost one week before Tet, MACV did order II FFV (the US corps headquarters in III CTZ. counterpart to the ARVN HI Corps) to move some US battalions from the border to areas closer to major cities in III CTZ and toew American combat units into the outskirts of Saigon (these latter moves turned out to beut the fact remains lhat when the enemy-struck onlightly more than half of the American battalions in III CTZ assigned to II FFV were still in the border areas-It likewise seems clear in retrospect that MACV underestimated enemy capabilities In South Vietnam. As an example of such underestimation, evidence accumulated right after8 indicated that MACV's pre-Tetstimate of NVA and VC regular forces only was probably at0 men low, of which roughly half were in NVA combat units identified in South Vietnam immediately after Tet. This amounts tone-thirdACV intelligence flatly did not believe that the enemy had either the strength or the command and control capability toationwide coordinated offensive.

It seems also apparent that tbe US Intelligence community, not Just MACV, rejected any notion that the enemy mighto-for-broke general offensive aimed at the cities and towns, thus risking not only his regular forces and his best guerrilla forces, but also his political cadres, his underground administrative infrastructure, and even his local militia. The enemy had made grandiose attack plans before but these had not materialized. In short bothand Washingtonindset that dismissed the possibilityassive enemy offensive against population centers to seteneral uprising among the people.

At the request of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFlAB)made inhe intelligence community conducted a


"post-mortem" of Hanoi's8. Smith, DDI, CIA chaired an investigative interagency group which included Major General Robert Class. US Army, from DIA and representatives from the JCS. State/INR. and NSA. In6 the group sent Richard Lehman, Deputy Director, OCI/CIA and Glass to Vietnam where they consulted numerous US and South Vietnamese military and civilian officials. The report of the group,as straightforward and low key. Smith and Lehman believing that MACV already had more than enough problems fighting the war andensational indictment would be very unhelpful for all concerned. The DCI. Richard Helms, felt the same way."

The post-mortem noted that numerous "pieces of the jigsaw puzzle" existed prior to Tet and could have been put together, but that inadequacies in the collection process as well as "analytic inadequacies, both in Saigon and in Washington" caused the intelligence community to "miss not only the enemy's overall plan and his precise timetable,'but also his general capabilities andn addition, the report noted that the urgency felt in Saigon before the offensive was not felt in Washington where finished intelligence did not reflect "the sense of immediacy and intensity which was present in Saigon."/ ]

The post-mortem also noted that "MACV's method of bookkeeping on enemy strength, unfortunately, had been designed more to maximize tbe appearance of progress than toomplete picture of total enemyThis, of course, alluded to the basic enemy order of battlen short as the post-mortem group put. few people in Saigon or Washington, even if they had been warnedell-placed agent withto the entire plan, would have credited the enemy with the capabilityeriousmong the group's recommendations were that "an all-source central indications center" be established in the US Embassy in Saigon and that US order of battle "methodology and techniques for computing and analyzing enemy strengths" be reviewed to ensure that the intelligence community possesses the fullest possible picture of total enemy capabilities. (For the record, an all-source indications center was never established in Saigon. Order of battle methodologyigorous examination for several years after8 but disagreements within the intelligence community were never fullyverall the post-mortem took the line that although the program is not perfect, "the US civilian and military intelligence effort in Vietnam is very good and has rendered invaluable support to US military*

In hindsight, one can logically conclude that MACV had been lulledalse sense of security by its own estimates of enemy strength and capabilities MACV's widely briefed claims of having reached the "cross-over point" in the fall7 in its efforts to wear down enemy strength in Vietnam no doubt added to the general perception of the enemy's capabilities


just prior lohus the author concludes that the principalfor the community's "missing the intelligence boat" must be attributed lo MACV. On the other hand, the Washington-based community apparently did no! communicate any sense of urgency to the policymakers. Although one can rationalize this with the judgment that Washington could have done little lo affect the situation in Vietnam, the fact remains that Washingtonwas surprised by the Tet offensive and was not prepared lo deal with its political and psychological consequences.

Although the Communist leaders in South Vietnam were no doubt appalled by the results of theirere defeated tactically at every turn and had suffered terrible losses, and the people had notVietnamese leaders in Hanoi probably judged the offensivetrategic success. George Allen, deputy SAVA in CIA at the time, holds these views about the significance of

"They (the North Vietnamese leaders) accomplished what Itheir basicoving the principal arena offrom the battlefield to the peace table,egotiated settlement on theirheywant to face the prospectontinuing US military.hey calculated that they could not win militarily inin the face of the American military power thenhey preferred not toar of attrition onheir top leaders were prepared totheir peoples' war doctrine had been proven false,might well be limitations to the effectiveness ofstruggles' if the United States were willing tolarge enough to make ihem too costly. But ihey coulddefeat; there was the alternative of forcinglo at least halt the American buildup, and perhaps to winnegotiating table what they could not win on theat an unacceptable cost. They were aware of thewith the war In the United States and theythey could exploit"

It would be difficult to disagree with the assessment thai8 was psychologically decisive in its effect on American public opinion. The image of near success in Vietnam cultivated by the Johnson Administration in the fall7 was shattered by the drama of8 on US television. The administration had lost lis credibility. The furor caused in the United States was not lost on the South Vietnamese, many of whom now feared that the Americans would give up the struggle. Moreover, many South Vietnamese suffered from an inferiority complex with respect to the "northerners" and felt deep down that they could not defeat them without continuing substantial US help.

Aftermath of the8 Offensive

The enemy's offensive in8 badly damaged South Vietnam's pacification program In many parts of the country, lowered the morale of South Vietnamese armed forces, especially the ARVN. and sent many South

Vietnamese officialstate of shock. Several weeks went by before government forces regained full control ol all the towns and cities attacked by the enemy HueTZ was not retaken until8 after abattle that destroyed much of the ancient capital. It took vigorous American efforts by civilian and military ofhciab alike, starting withEllsworth Bunker (who took over in Saigon.nd General Westmoreland, lo get the South Vietnamese governoving again.

On the plus side large segments of the South Vietnamese population, especially in HI and IV CTZs, were outraged by the enemy violation of Tet and started lending more active support to the government. President Thieu, after he had sliaken off the initial sliock, felt confident enough of public support to order general mobilization and many young men volunteered to serve in the armed forces. Thieu also launched the formationarge, countrywide people's self-defense force that had moresychological than practical effect because there was little in tbe way of modern arms and ammunition available for such an organization

The enemy was considerably more badly hurt than South Vietnamese or US forces. High casualties were particularly destructive for many VC units and VC political cadres that surfaced prematurely and were practically wiped out. In retrospect some observers believe that this was deliberately planned by the top North Vietnamese leaders who had no intentions of giving any southern communists leading roleseunified Vietnam and concealed their true plans from the southerners (Indeed there is much evidence of this northern domination in the southern parts of Vietnamt also appears to many observers, the author included, that Hanoi concludedesult of the8 offensivepeople's war" waged by the South Vietnamese populace could nol be won and that thereafter North Vietnam would have to rely primarily un the NVA to conquer South Vietnam.

The enemy made two more offensive efforts,nin May and one in August. Again these enemy "high points" ended in military failure and only magnified enemy losses Nevertheless, CIA in8 estimated that even if enemy losses were sustained at their present high levels. North Vietnam could maintain, albeit with great difficulty, its forces in South Vietnam well9 and could even, at leastignificantly increase main force strength levels in the South by increasing infiltration or deploying additional new NVA units.14

. 'The Vietnamoncluded that Hanoi would conduct intensified, coordinated military and political operations in South Vietnam designed to weaken the South Vietnamese government, to intensify pressure for peace within the United States, and to bring about major concessions in the Paris talks that had begun in8 The estimate also judged that enemy forces would be able toigh level of military pressures during the summerut that ARVN's righting effectiveness would not be seriously weakened and that the Saigon government would probably retain the capability to cope wilh the problems of the war. With respeel to the pacification effort in South Vietnam,, datedudged that although the South Vietnamese government was expanding its presence into the countryside, the effort was still vulnerable to

adverse military and security developments. The estimate concludedarge part of the countryside was still contested and that the consolidation of government gains was likely to be slow and uncertain.

Aok al the War by Ihe Johnson Administration

In Washington the effect of the8 offensive on President Johnson and his administration was profound. Secretary of Defense McNamara had advised the President late7 that to continue the warigh level of intensity was not in the best interests of the United States and had(he reduction of US air and ground operations in Vietnam. Johnson had not accepted McNamara's views and instead decided to replace him as Secretary of Defense,ith Clark Clifford, one of the closest and most influential presidential advisers. The Presiden( asked Clifford tohole new look at the war and the options open to the United States. The report of the Clifford group, which included Rusk, McNamara, Helms, and General Taylor, was submittedt was pessimistic in tone and in effectecommendation for US disengagement. Later In March, another group of advisers, nicknamed "the wisehich included Dean Acheson, George Ball, Henry Cabot Lodge, and General Matthew Rfdgeway, reinforced the Clifford group's views with similar thoughts.

These advisory reports plus his low ratings in US public opinion polls no doubt had mucho with the President's speech to the nation on8 announcing his withdrawal from the presidential raceemporary halt lo the bombing of North Vietnam. Johnson specifiedh parallel, which was approximately the dividing line between the panhandle of North Vietnam and its heartland, as the boundary of the bombing, bulh parallel became the operational cutoff line. (No major military targets were located between the two parallels.)

The Question of the political, military, and economic consequencesombing halt had been debated for many months prior toenerally MACV. CINCPAC, and the JCS took the hard line that bombing North Vietnam was ihe only offensive military weapon available to the United States and that it should not be abandoned without major concessions from Hanoi Some American civilian officials, on the other hand, believed that Hanoi did not consider the bombings toecisive element of the war and that Hanoi would continue the struggle whether the bombing was halted or not. This group believed, therefore, that stopping the bombing would, on balance, gain significant diplomatic, political, and psychological advantages internationally for the United States, as well as domestic political advantages for ihe administration. CIA (DI) in an Intelligence Memorandum, "The Consequencesall in the Bombardment of Northoncluded that in the eventS bombing halt (no time limitI) Hanoi would probably be willing lo enter into direct exploratory "talks" (as distinguished from formalanoi wouldessation of bombingeciprocal action by North Vietnamign of weakening US wiihanoi would press harder for significant USsocking to prolong theo bring greater polillcal pressure in the United States, and lo improve its military capabilities. The paper judged

that Hanoi would restore transportation and industry in the North, expand its logistic routes to tlie South, and make itself much less vulnerable to any further


The partial bombing halt no doubt did contribute to the beginning of direct informal talks between American and North Vietnameseon8 in Paris. Two weeks later after five sessions, the talks were substantively deadlocked over the issues of mutual troop withdrawals and President Thieu's future. In8 separate South Vietnamese representatives were included in the talks.

In terms of the military and economic effects of the halt, CIA (OER -OCI) noted in an Intelligence Memorandum, datedEvaluation of the Rolling Thunder Campaign as PresenUyhat:

Port activity continuedigher level in Haiphong with turnaround time decreasing significantly,.probablyirect result of the bombing halt.

Restoration of the damaged North Vietnamese electric power system continued

Tbe North Vietnamese were taking full advantage of the bombing restrictions to restore key rail and highway bridges In the Hanoi and

Haiphong areas.

Even though more US attack sorties were being flown against targets south ofh parallel In the North Vietnameseubstantially heavier movement of enemy material was taking place. An increase in the number of enemy AAA systems in the panhandle was also noted, but no deployment southward of enemy SAM units or jet aircraft was observed.

The8 Complete Bombing Halt

How US policy on Vietnam was affected by social and politicalwithin the United States during the election year8 is beyond the scope of this paper. In any event, by early fall there was an awakening of the dormant talks in Paris where the North Vietnamese offered to broaden the talks to include both the Saigon government and Viet Cong representatives if, in exchange, the US air strikes against North Vietnam were immediately stopped. Subsequently President Johnson, on8elevised address to the nation,omplete termination of the bombing in North Viernam.',


The weeks proceeding the8 bombing halt saw numerous, almost frenzied efforts by President Johnson to find some negotiatedwith Hanoi that could deescalate the war before the US national elections in November. It is no wonder that the US agreement to cease bombing onctober was made on the shaky basis of informal, unwritten "understandings" between American and North Vietnamese negotiators, which Hanoi neither accepted nor rejected at the time of the cessation, but later ignored. Hanoi, for example, henceforth was to refrain from indiscrimi-nate rocket attacks against South Vietnamese towns and cities, and would not

allack US reconnaissance flights over North Vietnam in the DMZ area as far north as approximatelyh parallel.

While stopping all air strikes against North Vietnam, the US increased the weight of air strikes in Laos, seeking to disrupt enemy movements and to destroy enemy trucks and supplies. There was no evidence, however, that this improved the overall effectiveness of the US interdiction effort in Laos.

The President went all out lo get the support of his cabinet, the JCS. close advisers, and congressional leaders for the bombing halt. He did get the support of his own cabinet and advisers, but several senior leaders in the Congress, Senator Richard Russell in particular, thought that he waserious mistake. Although General Wheeler, Chairman JCS. supported the move, the service chiefs were unequivocally against it. pointing out the uncertainty of the "understandings" and the lack of any real concessions on the part of the North Vietnamese.

Summary of Part II

Inovering US intelligence and Southeast Asia during the Johnson0, we have seen how US power was committed in Vietnam inpower against the North and combat troops in the ground war in thehow the war wasrge measure Americanized during the. Overall, US intelligence continued to performompetent and highly professional manner.

Although ONE in5 believed that extended US air attacks against North Vietnam, coupled with continuing escalation of the ground war in South Vietnam, might produce strainsrolonged conflict that would lead Hanoi toegotiated settlement, CIA consistently held the view that US air attacks against North Vietnam and US air interdiction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail were not decisive in themselves, and that North Vietnam was not vulnerable to US interdiction efforts against ports and/or rail lines leading to North Vietnam from China. CIA, moreover, was consistent and accurate in Its views about the long haul; namely, that North Vietnam had the manpower and material resources (the latter coming predominantly from the USSR and China) toar of attrition indefinitely and that its leaders clearly demonstrated their will to persist.

One of the most telling aspects of this period was that Secretary of Defense McNamara stated openly that he was unwilling to rely solely on intelligence assessments concerning the war provided by the Department of Defense and that he wanted independent evaluations from CIA. Indeed it was evident that McNamara.5 to the end of his tenureooked primarily to CIA for intelligence support with respect to Southeast Asia.

In the US intelligence world, the period also saw the decline of ONE and national estimates in terms of their influence on US policymakers, and the accompanying rise in influence of CIA Intelligence Memoranda (IM) in governmental circles. During this time CIA produced numerous high quality IM'sroad range of subjects pertaining to North Vietnam and its supporters in South Vietnam, as well as the political, military, and

econotnic viability of South Vietnam, and the strategic balance between the North and the South,

CIA's internal organization for and approach to the Vietnam War evolved during this period and continued essentially unchanged for the duration. An ambivalent perception of its wartime role seems to have surfaced within CIA during the period that may prove troublesome in the future. On the military side, the Department of Defense took entirely too long to develop an effective, professional intelligence capability In Vietnam to support MACV.

The establishment of SAVA (Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs) in the Office of the DCI in5 and the assignment of George Carver to the post in the summer6 were important milestones in the role of USduring the Vietnam war. SAVA's charter was all-encompassing with respect to Vietnamese matters and under the politically sensitive and policy-oriented Carver. SAVAey-policy support role for the rest of the war.

During the period the ground order of battle controversy over estimates of enemy strengths and capabilities erupted within the US intelligence community. The issueundamental one because it dealt with the very nature of the war: the differences were deep; and major disagreements persisted into, lasting for almost the duration of the war. This situation compelled CIA to go deeply into the order of battleield normally reserved to the military intelligence agencies. Although theunfortunately generated unfavorable national, publicity, on balance it did more good than harm to the intelligence community because it uncovered conceptual, philosophic, and methodological differences that needed to be thoroughly aired and debated. All things considered, the author concludes that CIA was probably closer to the "ground truth" than any other element of the intelligence community and that MACV consistently underestimated total enemy capabilities. The author uncovered no persuasive evidence to support the charge that strength estimates were deliberately manipulated within the community for political purposes.

The enemy offensive of8 proved to be the turning point in the fortunes of war. US intelligence was surprised by the timing, the nature, the countrywide scope, and the unprecedented intensity of the Tetost-mortem conducted by the intelligence community (basically CIA and DIA) concluded that inadequacies, both in Saigon and Washington, caused the community to "miss not only the enemy's overall plan and his precise timetable, but also his general capabilities andhe author agrees with this judgment and feels strongly that the community's "missing the boat" must be laid primarily at MACV's door. MACV had been deceived by its own estimates of enemy strengths and capabilities, and in the fall7 had declared that the Allies had reached the "cross-over" point In (heir efforts to wear down enemy forces in Vietnam. On the other hand, the Washington-based intelligence community was unable to communicate the sense of urgency present in Saigon on the eve of Tet with the result that Washington was not preparedeal wiih the severe political and psychologicalof the offensive.

Il is likewise manifest lhat no one in Saigon or Washington, intelligence officials or policy makers, foresaw the ultimate snroificance of the enemy offensive and its effect on the United States, in particular on the Johnson Administration, with respect lo the conduct of the war and the outcome of the US presidential electionresident Johnson withdrew from ihe race onndotal bombing halt onhus selling ihc Vietnamese slaae for the succeeding administration of Itichard M. Nixon.,

Coffin, Development of Economic Intelligence: Office of Peteatch andl.

rmlh, tod M. Atkins. "Rolling Thunder and Bomb Da moat ioiurflwumber a.9 (Washington. DC: ClAX.

Coffin. Development of Economic Intelligence: Office of Rciearch andolume..

. J. Smithf

SeeCICV) Special Heport, "Effects2C1CV) Special RepoH. "Effect*27IA Intelligence Summary (Supplement* "EReel.venew20nd DIA Intelligence Summary. "Eflcet.vewu20bo Allen, "The Indochina.

Coffin. Development of Economic Intelligence, Office of Research andolume..

llen. The Indochina.


Coffin. Development Ol Economic Intelligence. Office of Economic Research, Volume..

Allen. "The Indochina.




a* ,M-; Allen. The Indochina; Co Bin. Develop-ment of Economic Intelligence. Office of Economic Research. Volume.



ost of this paragraph is based on the authors personal knowledge gained from having served In Vietnam at tho time of8 as Deputy CC. US Army Vietnam Those Statements are alto confirmed by other sources.

Memorandum.8 (norepared In SAVA for George Carver the bod of SAVA.

Memorandum lor DC! from George Carver. SAVA,ubject: The Order of Bank Problem.

Discussion with Richard Lehman, retired senior CIA official, at Headquarters OA onl the time of8 Lehman was Deputy Director, Office ol Current Intelligence. CIA.

Memorandum, datedrepared for the DCI apparently by SAVA Subject "PFIABesponding to the PFIAB's request for an examination of 'civilianand military intelligencen support of US intlitAry op^ottiocu in Vietnam" material pertaining to the intelligenceost-mortem and to the PFIAB's evaluation of US intelligence bearing on the Tet offensive examined by the author in the PFIAB's offices, old Executive Building, Washington. DC, on

"The Indochinap

tanley Karnow,liforv, New York: The Viking


Pan HI

The Nixon and Ford Administrations to the Fall of Saigon, 30



The first Nixon Administration included Melvin R. Laird as Secretary of Defense and William P. Rogers as Secretary of State. Laird, with long experience working on defense matters in the US Congress,trong, competent secretary who commanded wide respect in the government. By pre-agreement Laird served for only four years, voluntarily leaving Defense in3 when he was succeeded by Elliot L. Richardson. Rogers, lacking the kind of government background possessed by Laird, found himself frequently upstaged by Henry Kissinger, the new National Security Adviser to the President, who eventually succeeded Rogers in3 during Nixon's second term.

Laird's relations with the White House were often adversarial in nature when Laird questioned White House initiatives that did not seem compatible with his concept of US disengagement and Vietnamization of the war. Laird's problems with the White House coincided with the rapid growth of influence with the President exercised by Kissinger and his assistant Alexander M. Halg, who came to the job as an Army lieutenant colonel and left four years laterour-star general, all without benefit of any commensurate militaryor responsibility.

General Wheeler continued as the Chairman, JCS in thehen he was succeeded by Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, who moved up from the position of Chief of Naval Operations and served untiloorer hadifferent background, primarily naval with little joint military service, or staff experience In the bureaucratic jungles of Washington, in contrast to Wheeler who knew his way around town. One result was that the Joint Chiefs were not as well informed about the inner thinking of senior US policymakers as they had been In the past. Moreover, as the Kissinger-Haig axis gained power and stature, the Joint Chiefs found themselves caught between operational requirements generated by the White House and the constraints on defense resources imposed by Laird with congressional support.


In Saigon Ambassador Bunker, who continued to serve In that capacity until after the3 cease-fire, and Genera) Creighton W. Abrams, who had succeeded Westmoreland as the MACV commander inore much of the brunt of this Washington in-fighting. It was particularly difficult for Abrams, who might receive instructions directly from the White House, or directly from Laird, as well as through the normal JCS channels from Washington. Abrams served as the MACV commander until2 when he returned to the United States to become the Army Chief of Staff. General Frederick C. Weyand. deputy MACV commander, replaced Abrams.

In8 another significant change in kev US officials in Vietnam had taken place when William E. Colby succeeded Robert Komur as ihe MACV Deputy for CORDS (Civilian Operations and Revolutionary Development} and took charge of the pacification program that thereafter was to receive priority attentionenior CIA official with experience going back to the days of association with Vietnam, having been the Saigon Station Chiefnd Chief. Far Eastern Division. DP during the. before temporarily leaving CIA in8 lor assignment in Vietnam as an AID official. Under Colby an accelerated pacification program progressed very well duringeriod. Colby alsooncerted effort, called Phoenix, against the Viet Cong infrastructure in South Vietnam (Colby left Vietnam innd returned to CIA in Washington )

Richard Helms continued to serve as the IX il in the new administration but his close relations with other senior officials and access to the White House were eroded One of the major reasons for this decline was Kissinger's modus operandi in his National Security Adviser role by means of which he could control and constrain intelligence input into policymaking. Another principal reason was the general climatehite House that sought to politicize CIA and intelligence production, encouraged by senior members of thelike Secretary of Defense Laird who were acutely attuned to partisanhird major factor in this change in climate was the Vietnam War and the deep divisions and uncertainty about national purposes it created within Americanontributory factor was Helms' diffidence toward, if not lack of interest in, intelligence analysis and production.

Several significant developments of major import to the intelligence community, in particular the CIA. stemmed from this changing atmosphere. National estimates, which had flourished during the Eisenhower. Kennedy, and Johnson Administrations, and hadespected place in national policymaking because of their objectivity, lost favor in the NixonIndeed there were times when national estimates were challenged as being slanted for political purposes and great pressure was put on the DCI to change intelligence judgments that Nixon, Kissinger, and/or Laird did not like. One inevitable result was that CIA was demoted from its traditional position as the primary White House source of objective reporting and analysis, and relegated to being just another contender for the attention of policymakers. In effect Kissinger and his NSC staff used their powerful position to take over the role Helms had previously played when, with theof the Board of Estimates and CIA. he provided tbe President and the NSC the essential judgments pertainingarticular Issue that had been snythesizedide body ofpecific casualty of Kissinger's secretive ways, which tended to compartmentiie the intelligence community and play one agency against another, was the departure of Ray S. Cline from the position of Director, INR/State.ormer CIA official and astuteanalyst, described Kissinger's approach as "policy without intelligence."

A specially sensitive question, namely the role of the port of Sihanoukville and Cambodia in the support of enemy forces in South Vietnam, came to a


head in (he spring0 when new evidence showed that CIAs previous estimates had been wrong. I( was an embarrassing moment for the DCI and not only hurt Helms personally, hut alsoasting stigma upon the quality of CIA analysis in the minds of the Nixon policymaking group. (This matter will be covered in more detailater2 the President decided that heew DCI and shortly after his reelection inixon so informed Helms.'

James R. Schlesinger succeeded Helms3 but was destined to serve as the DCI for only Ove months because of the politicalgrowing out of the congressional hearings on Watergate that began in (he summerhen3 William E. Colby took over as the DCI, serving for the remainder of Nixon's tenure and continuing with Gerald R. Ford, who became President when Nixon resigned in

A New Look at Ihc Vietnam War

Early9 the new administrationhorough review of how senior US policymakers saw the war. Results wereand military leaders in ihe Pacific and the JCS in Washington wereatisfactory ending while civilian leaders in Washington leaned more to the pessimistic side.

A more formal vehicle for policy review, the National Security Study Memorandumas inillated by the new NSC adviser, Henry Xissin-ger. NSSM Number1oncerning Vietnam, posedey questions and required separate answers from the Departments of State, Defense, the CIA, the JCS, Ambassador Bunker, and General Abramsndeed the respondents were enjoined by Kissinger not to discuss or coordinate their replies with other government officials. The questions covered every important aspect of the conflict and generally cut lo the heart of the matter. Significantly, however, ihey were asked in the context of ihe on-going strategy adopted by the Uniteda passive defensive strategy confined to the boundaries of South Vietnam. The questionossible change in US strategy was not raised in the paper. In all they were thoughtful and pointed questions, indicating considerable depth of knowledge on Vietnam on the part of the drafters. Three questions concerned DRV foreign policy objectives and (he degree of influence exerted by Moscow and Peking on Hanoi; one pertained to the probable reactions within Southeast Asia to various outcomes of the war; two pertained lo Hanoi's curreni political-military tactics and DRV military capabilities in the short term; twoenemy manpower capabilities, prospects for attriting enemy forces, and the enemy order of battle issue; one concerned how enemy forces in South Vietnam were supplied; four pertained to South Vietnamese armedprospects for improvement, capabilities againsi the VC. NVA forces, or both, with various degrees of US support, and the estimated time element in developing better RVNAF capabilities: eight concerned various aspects of pacification to include the damage done to civilians and (he effect of misconduct on the part of GVN forces; one concerned the attitudes of South Vietnamese elites, civilians, and military; two pertained to possible US policy changes designed lo improve GVN performance; two concerned US military

deployments, tactics and fore* level* related to combat capabilities; and three concerned the effects on the war of US airpower.2 strikes, interdiction in Laos, and strikes against North Vietnam Most of theuestions" were multiple in nature, many involving different assumptions as points of departure. Tbe question askers. moreover, were aware of differing views on various issues and at times called for an ex plana lion, after asking for srsecific evidence to support the view taken by the responding agency.

CIA by memorandum9 responded in some detail tof the questions. On two questions pertaining to military deployments, tactics, and organization, the Agency deferred to DOD. In the author's view, CIA responses (mostly the work of OCI and OER) wore straightforward and realistic, pulling noood example can be found in CIA's response to the critical matters posed In questionsndertaining to RVNAF capabilities with varying degrees of US support versus various combinations of enemy forces:

CIA was cautiously optimistic that RVNAF alone (that is. without US troops) could hold its own against the VC augmented only by NVA(not units) and supported logistically by North Vietnam. provided that at least some US tactical air and artillery support remained. Further, CIA's iudgment was that without US support the situation over time could seriously deteriorate in South Vietnam.

CIA was pessimistic about RVNAF's present capacity to handle the situation alone (that is. without US troops) against the combined NVA/VC forces currently committed to the war in South Vietnam even with US air and artillery support.

CIA judged that the RVNAF alone could in time handle the VC augmented only by NVA replacements provided that RVNAF's own tactical air and artillery support were developedevel comparable to that now provided by the United States. It was estimated that It would take several years lo develop such capabilities within the RVNAF.

CIA deemed it unlikely lhat RVNAF could be expanded in size and improved in effectiveness

(oveneriod of several years during which US forces remained in South Vietnam) wiih more andtactical air, artillery, and helicopter support, as well as other upgraded weapons and equipment, lo the point that it could handle NVA/VC forces at their present strength without continued direct US support

An important factor in the South Vietnamese military equation, not specifically mentioned by CIA. was the US advisory element American advisers were the backbonearge portion of ARVN and frequently acted as Ihe de facto leaden of ARVN units in battle. The loss of this Americanwould be difficult to overcome, particularly when time began to run out

As history has recorded, the above judgments by CIA about thecapabilities of the South Vietnamese armed forces proved to beaccurate.

CIA's responses tolso brought out the continuing differences between CIA and the military commands with respect to enemy strength estimates (previously discussed in Part II) and reaffirmed CIA's judgments about the effects of US air strikes against North Vietnam.

But the review directed byas only the beginning; thereafter the demands on CIA and on the intelligence community were frequent and heavy for the rest of the Vietnam War. Dr. Kissinger chaired numerous high-level special committees, some nearly identical in composition and many including the DCI. Among these were the Washington Special Action Grouphe NSC Senior Heview Croup, and theommittee, which often called for reports on the progress of the war. estimates of the likely results of various courses of action, and intelligence judgmentside range of Vielnam-relatcd problems. New kinds of questions constantly arose that demanded more sophisticated and intensive analysis in order to provide the more detailed and balanced assessments-'of the overall political-military situation in Indochina needed by Kissinger and the NSC staff.'

One of the principal vehicles for producing such intelligence inputs was the Vietnam Special Studies Group (VSSG) created by the President in9 and made up of senior members of the various intelligence agencies. VSSG was heavily involved in supportinghichong series of studies pertaining to future allied diplomatic, military, and economic actions in Southeast Asia.fegun early0 before the allied invasion of Cambodia, required an overall assessment of the situation in Cambodia and judgment* as to the probable consequences of various strategy options involving allied operations. Phase II, begun in1 before the South Vietnamese advance into Laos, required similar assessments and judgments involving allied initiatives with respect to Laos. Moreover, Phase II required intelligence judgments with respect to the effects of the actual Laotian operation,, on future North Vietnamese military capabilities. According to David CoffinIA received special plaudits from the White House for the accuracy and high quality of its intelligence reports in support of

A New US Approach to the War

The Nixon Administration lost no time in adopting Its own strategy of "Vietnamfzation" of the war concurrentS disengagement. Although President Johnson had likewise wanted to Vietnamize the fighting, heesidual allied force in Vietnam and hoped toettlement with Hanoi before withdrawing any American forces. President Nixon's negotiating strategy was quite different Heteady buildup and improvement of South Vietnamese forces and institutions, at the same time bringing military pressure on the enemy to buy time for bringing aboul improvements in South Vietnamese forces, while slowly but steadilyUS troops. Nixon counted on the success of Vietnamizatlon, hoping that both Moscow and Peking would begin to cool about supporting the war, and wanted to strengthen the US-GVN position before negotiating seriously at the bargaining table. This hard-nosed strategy lay behind the presidential decisions to order the bombing of enemy sanctuaries ins well as the invasion of) and of



Few people, however, realized how toon South Vietnamese forces andprocess would be put to the test Even before thecombal units wore withdrawn, the enemyhigh point" but one of short duration) insurge in allied casualties, and hit Saigon in9 with anrocket attack. The President responded by directing bombing attacksbase sanctuaries inside Cambodia along the unpopulated border,strike onhe beginning of the so-called "secret"Cambodia. MACV, the US Embassy in Saigon, and the JCS hadsuch bombing (but notovert basis) but civilian leaderspreviously had not been supportive for fear of widening theacquiescedHanoi chose not to

react for reasons of its own

Tho White House decision to conceal the bombing from publicwas taken partly to preserve the"'myth of Cambodian neutrality (long since fractured by the presence of NVA troops, unofficially sanctioned by the Sihanouk regime) and partly to avoid domestic repercussions in the United States. The White House staff devised an elaborate scheme to cover the operation. Secret records were kept separately from regular reports, which covered up the nature of the operations, and great pains were taken lo conceal such tell-tale things as the expenditures of munitions Knowledge of the bombing was limited toandful of principals, even in theredictably, word of the bombing was bound lo leak sooner or later, and ultimately stories began to appear in theronically CIA analyst* by9 had considerable photographic evidence2 strikeslthough mosl US officials did not learn about the operations until much later. In any event, the bombing went on "secretly" until the allied incursion into Cambodia in0 after which US air strikes were conducted more or less openly although not officially acknowledged' (In ihe author's view the decision lo conceal these air strikesery unwise move. It placed the US military in an impossible position, having literally to lie publiclyegitimate wartime operation. It alsoockery of any congressional oversight becauseandful of members of Congress were informed and they had no realistic appreciation of ihe extent or of the implications of the bombing. The secret bombing no doubt aggravated the adversary-type relations between the Secretary of Defense and the Nixon White House. Laird pushed for faster and larger US troop withdrawals and lower draft calls, pointing out the budgetary and other constraints on operations in Southeast Asia as ihe war went on and congressional support weakened.)

After the strength of American forces In Vietnam had peaked in9 at. US troop withdrawals began inn accordance with ihc new strategy, and by year's end about one fourth of the Army's and one-half of the Marines' combat units had returned home. By the endll Marine and roughly one-half of Army combat forces had departed. The withdrawal was accelerated1 and by the summer2 all US ground combat units were gone leavingmall American logistic force in Vietnam. Concurrently wiih these troop withdrawals, US tactical air operations,2 strikes, were also reduced substantially.

In thr meantime. General Abrams in9 had been ordered to keep offensive operations by American around combat troopsinimum This meant that US air strikes, especially, even though reduced in weight, thereafter became in reality Abrams' only usable strategic reserve-National

Only two national estimates pertaining to Vietnam were publishedoth SNIE's. The first, issued inoncerning the allied pacification effort in South Vietnam, hus previously been discussed in Part II. Tha other was. "Capabilities of the Vietnamese Communists for Fighting in Southatedhe estimate's major conclusiom

Although enemy military capabilities in the field declined over the past year. Hanoi nevertheless retained the capability, both in terms of manpower and logistics, lo pursue military operations in South Vietnam0 at substantially the same levels as pertained over the past year.

Hanoi was unlikely cither to escalate military pressures or to scale them back, but was more likely to undertake military operations at about the same levels as last year. At the same time, Hanoi would probably intensify actions on the political front both within South Vietnam and internationally. The estimate noted that there was some evidence of discouragement and war-weariness in North Vietnam, particularly after the heavy casualties durine and after8 Tet offensive with no clear prospect of success, but significantly added that "we certainly See nohichny early collapse of the Communist warNot long after this estimate was published Ho Chi Minh diedlthough therereat emotional outburst in North Vietnam over the loss ofational hero, Ho's mantle was passed to other senior leaders, such as Le Duan'and Pham Van Dong, who had been fighting forfor most of their adult lives and who steadfastly had refused to compromise for anything less than capitulation on the part of South Vietnam. Thus the prospects that tbe will of the new leadership would sag seemed remote.)

* Five estimates about Southeast Alia, all SNIEs. were producednly one. discussed above, spcciricalty concerned Vietnam; the other four pertained to China. Laos, and Cambodia

SNIEThe Outlook fromontinued much in the same vein as the9 estimate. The new SNIE stated that alt hough Hanoi was apprehensive over Viet namizat ion and plainly realized that its position in the South had declined, the regime still considered that it had the will and strength of resources to prevail. The estimate concluded that Hanoi would most likely not risk any all-out military effort, at least in the short term; that the regime probably saw more risk than advantages in any serious negotiations to speed the US withdrawal, and that Hanoi's likeliest course0 would be torolonged war. seeking to set back Vietnamizalion and pacification, impose casualties on American troops, and keep pressure on South Vietnamese forces."

CIA also published an Intelligence Memorandum, "Hanoi's Short Termatedhat supported the foregoing line. The IM staled lhat Hanoi's fundamental Wows had not changed, that Northleaders believed the struggle would be long and painful, but that they believed they had more staying power than their opponents, the United States and South Vietnam.

Somewhat earlier, however, onn InteragencyMemorandumSouth Vietnam inas quite optimistic about the longer term prospects. It pointed out thatwas going well and would continue to improve, thus allowing ARVN troops to scale down their involvement in pacification missions and to become more available for main force missions as US forces continued to withdraw. The paper also mentioned that the South Vietnamese economy was doing well. Curiously, the memorandum did not address the crucial question of the longer term military balance between North and South Vietnam. Viewed inthe IIM seemed somewhat naive.

Role of Cambodia

The role of Cambodia with respect to the fighting in South Vietnamontroversial one within the intelligence community almost from tbeof the escalation of the war when the United States intervened with air and ground forcesyhe community generally agreed that the enemy used Cambodiaanctuary for both NVA and VC troops operating against South Vietnam and as an extension of North Vietnam's infiltration routes through Laos.ajor issue developed over the extent to which Cambodia servedogistic baseource of supply for enemy troops; and more specifically over the extent to which Hanoi used sea routes and the port of Sihanoukville to support its forces in South Vietnam, particularly in central and southern SVN (III and IV CTZs and the southern part of IIhe issue was given undue importance by the belief in some civilian and military quarters that if the Slharioukvillc route were closed. North Vietnam would not be able toufficient volume of supplies through Laos to sustain its effort in the South at desired levels. This view was supported generally by air power proponents, particularly in tbe Air Force, at DIA. and at CINCPAC (To the best of the author's knowledge. MACV and tbe Army did not agree with thisater it was shown that after the Cambodia route was closed, adequate enemy supplies managed to get through to the South despite intensified air strikes against the overland routes through Laos.*

Nevertheless. MACV. the US Embassy in Saigon, and CINCPAC felt that there was sufficient evidence to support the view that the water route to Sihanoukvilleajor enemy supply line. The Washington intelligenceState, andthe view, holding that the overland route through Laos was by far the more important route and that the Cambodian supply role, if any, washis disagreement lasted5 until its resolution Infter the allied incursion into Cambodia turned up documentary evidence establishing the magnitude of Cambodia's role and the details of the supply routes used.


after the enemy's Tet offensive8 revealed the extensive new weaponry, together with an abundant supply of ammunition, in the hands of enemy forcesnd IV CTZs. CIA along with State/INB and DIA downgraded the importance of the Sihanoukvllle route although CIAthat Cambodiaignificant source of arms for theoint CIA-State-DIA team visited Vietnam in8 to study the matter but still concluded that the overland route through Laos was the basic channel for supplies not only to enemy forcesnd II CTZs but also in III CTZ. CIA dug Itself in deeper in its9 response to the question on the subject posed byhen it stated among other things that "tbe preponderance of theupports the estimate that the basic channel for III Corps is the overland route frommplied that military deliveries


lo Cambodia from China and (he Soviet Union were for the Cambodian armed lorces; and expressed doubt thai Hanoi wouldogistic system under foreign (Cambodian) controlrimary supplynd as late as0 CIA stated that "wenable to establish what percentage of total military supplies flow through either the Laotian or Cambodian

The true story ol the importance of the Sihanoukville route and the Cambodian role finally came to Unlit0esult of the allied attacks into Cambodia. Information (rom thousands of pages of documents and voluminous statements from Cambodian officials made clear that starting in6 an elaborate enemy logistic system had been developed based on Chinese shipments unloaded at Sihanoukville and delivered to NVA/VC base areas in Cambodia. (As of0 the evidence indicated that0 tons of military supplies, far higher than the tonnage cited in any previous estimates, plus other amounts.of food, clothes, and medicine had been delivered lo enemy forces between6 and

Inost-mortem conducted by CIA for theoreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB)etailed review and assessment ol the "Sihanoukville question" examining the collection effort, analytic performance, and other matters relevant to the matter. Its major conclusions were:

With respect to the Sihanoukville route, there was no lackhorough collection effort, bul thereearth of hard evidence prior to

The capability of the overland trail complex through Laos to handle all the logistic requirements of NVA/VCouth Vietnam was well documented.

The fact that Hanoi could service all its needs via the overland route did not necessarily mean that the resume would actually rely solely on the overland route. (It was also obvious that the water route through Sihanoukville was less difficult than the overland route.)

The low estimate on Sihanoukville port, coupled with the valid capability estimate on the overland route, resultedind-set that led CIA astray in its judgments as to what North Vietnam was actually


There were also other factors that contributed to the faulty estimate. The Washington intelligence community misjudged Prince Sihanouk's relations with China and the DHV. believing that lie would genuinely try to maintain Cambodian neutrality and that Hanoi would be unwilling to dependipyly ro-jTc subjectilunouk's whims." Moreover.

must have known better, ntsmetiCambodia was nol actively supportingrth Vietnamese ir, this manner

Tbe Sihanoukville matter was one of the very few times that CIA (as well as the Washington intelligence community)ajor misrudgment with respect to the Vietnam War. Paul Walsh. Deputy Director of Economic Research during the periodajor player with respect to Vietnam War

intelligence, described (he diseoveiv ol the ttue situation ins not only the low point in his own career, but also probably the most difficultfor Director Helms during his tenure under the Nixonhe incident badly hurt the Agency In the eyes of the administration and more or less permanently soured relations between CIA and the Nixon White House.

Invasion of Cambodiand Its Aftermath

Until Prince Sihanouk'* overthrow in0 Cambodia was "off limits" for major allied operations Sihanouk had allowed the North(despite historic animosity between Cambodians and Vietnamese) to use Cambodiaorward base, but had continued to proclaim his country's neutrality. Mistreatment of Cambodians in the border area by NVAaltering economy, and notorious corruption in the royal family led toownfall While he was vacationing in Paris, Premier Loo Nol took over the country in0 and promptly invited the NVA and the VC to leave

Hanoi reacted swiftly and forcefully because the lossooperative Cambodia meant that the North Vietnamese would have to defend their string of bases along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border and rely entirely on the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos to supply their forces in the South. And so the NVA and the Khmer ftouge, the Communist insurgents in Cambodia,ave of attacks totrip of Cambodian territory ten tokilometers widcvirtually along the entire South Vietnamese frontier. The intelligence community's Judgment at the time was that the the small, inexperienced Cambodian army (FANK) could contain the Khmer Rouge threat, but was helpless against the vastly superior NVA troops, who were about to take over control of Cambodia east of the Mekong River and wereosition lo cut off all access to Phnom Penh. At this juncture Lon Nol called for help.'

Fearollapse of the Cambodian government wouldisastrous blow to South Vietnam's prospects for survival, coupled with the need to gain time for Vietnamization and an orderly withdrawal of American forces, which was now well underway, led to tbe presidential decision toajor allied oBensive against NVA bases in Cambodia. The intent was to occupy Cambodian territoryimited period with the objective of inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, destroying NVA base areas and supplies, and setting back NVA offensive plans until the next dry seasonhe President's decision to send forces into Cambodia was taken late in0eek of intensiveoth Secretaries Rogers and Laird generally opposed ihe operations if US troops were to be employed. Ambassador Bunker and General Abrams in Saigon agreed on the need to take offensive action, employing both South Vietnamese and American forces. Although the ICS concurred, ihey were lukewarm in their support. The JCS

* Lon Nol appears to have deposed Sihanouk without the knowledge or help of the United Slates The author's research revealed no indication that ClA was involved In any way. Or.In his book. White Home lean, states that Lon Nol was on hit own at does Stanley Kar-now In hb book.utoro.

role wis minimal in the Cambodian operation which was conceived in tho White House (NSC staff) and planned in the theater of operation. It seems apparent that few, if any. US officials at the time anticipated the sharp reaction among the American people

Al theirection, knowledge of tbe planned operation was limitedery few. US policymakers in Washington relied for intelligence input on earlier national estimates (predatingverthrow) and on current reporting. Moreoser. DCI Helms, although aware of the planning, was instructed by the While House not lo inform any intelligence analysts, including the Chairman of the Board of National Estimates or any analyst working in ihe Indochina area. Apparently Inhibited by this restriction. Helms decided not to forward to tbe White House an ONE memorandum,Stocktaking in Indochina: Longer Term Prospects" that briefly addressed the fragile situation in Cambodia and the Question of possible USThe draft memorandum iudged lhat to deny the use of sanctuary base areas in Cambodia wouldrge number of US and/or South Vietnamese troops, as well as sustained US air attacks; and that although such an expanded allied effort would seriously handicap Hanoi in prosecuting the war, it probably would not prevent the North Vietnamese from continuing the struggle Helms received ihe ONE memorandum aboul two weeks before the incursion Inlo Cambodia was scheduled to start and then on the day before ll began, decided not to send the paper to the White House. Years laterhen queried by the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities (chaired by Senator Frank Church) as to why be did not forward the paper. Helms stated that it was almost impossible to reconstruct all the relevant circumstances lhat went into his decision and lhai hb memory was too hazy to describe his reasoning accurately. One member (unidentified) of the Board of National Estimates recalled for the Senate Select Committee that Helms would have judged it "most counter'productive" to sendegative assessment to the While House. George Carver, SAVA at the time of Ihe Cambodian affair, on the other hand, objected to this opinion and told the committee rather that Helms judged It would be inappropriate toaper drafted bv analysts who did not know about the planned operation.

The Church Committee in ihe above died report also took Helms lo task for deciding not loater draft SNIE on North Vietnamese intentions thaiection on tbe impact of ihe US incursion in Cambodia. Completed just as the incursion was terminated. the estimate contained numerous caveats concerning the difficulties of making judgmentsapidly moving situation involving many unknown factors, and concluded that although an analysis of enemy losses (casualties, materiel, and supplies) suggested lhat the enemy situation was by no means critical, It was necessary "toood deal of caution in judging the lasting impact of the Cambodian affair on the Communist position in

In llie author's opinion, the Church Committee was not justified In faulting Director Helms on either of the above described counts. With respect lo the first one. there was no useful purpose served in forwardingblind" analysis written by analysts with inadequate knowledge of US

intentions, and moreover, thereood chanceeak thai would have been most unhelpful to all concerned As to the second count, the conclusion of the draft paper is so hedged as lo make it of little value to anyone The author would have faulted Helms if he had forwarded the paper. Moreover, ihe US policvmakers involved were under no illusion that the Cambodian incursion would have any lasting impact on the war. They were well aware of the risks involved in widening the war during the critical period of US troop withdrawal and their main purpose was to buy time for the Vjetnamization process. Bui as will be brought out below, the ultimate net result of the Cambodian affair wasinus ratherlus.

In Vietnam ihe order lo invade Cambodia hit US and South Vietnamese field commanders with little warning and irisufficient time lo plan properly or to acquire and evaluate the latest tactical intelligence. Tbe initial and main attack, involving both American and South Vietnamese forces, was bunched0 from HI CTZecondary effort launched by ARVN troops alone from IVomewhat later and smaller attack from II CTZ was launched by ARVN troop* followedS effort lhat was delayed because the American troops involved had to be returned to the Highlands from the coastal area where they were preparing lo return to the United States. The performance of ARVN troops in III Corps was especially encouraging, but the weak South Vietnamese leadership and poorof ARVN troops evidenced in II CTZ boded ill for the future. The allied advance went no further than ten lo fifteen kilometers inside Cambodia although hundreds of square kilometers in the border region were searched. Allied forces also cleared both banks of the Mekong all the way to Phnom Penh, aboul slaty kilometers by river. By then the advent of the wet monsoon and the domestic outcry in the United States made it prudent to terminateand0 all allied forces were back in South Vietnam.

The immediate operational results of the Cambodian action wereEnemy forces were surprised and badly scattered, their casualties were heavy compared to friendly losses, large quantities of their arms, ammunition, and food were captured, and many of their primary base areas were destroyed. The top enemy headquarters (COSVN) was completely disrupted and forced to moveafer location, and numerous documents and records of high intelligence value were captured. These documentsajor factor in bringing about general agreement between CIA and DIA inith respect to NVA and VC main force combat and support units and iheir strength. The resolution of this part of the order of battle disagreement Indicated that the generally higher numbers held by CIA were more nearly correct lhan MACV's strength estimates-1*

For ihe United States and its allies, the initial consequences were favorable. Overall enemy offensive plans were set back; indeed, ihe enemy delayed mounting any major operationsnd IV CTZs for almost two years. Phnom Penh and the Lon Noi regime appeared to be secure for the present and the port of Sihanoukvilie was closed to Hanoi.

On the negotiating front, the generally successful operation raised President Nixon's confidence in Saigon enough to propose with President Thicu'sstand-slill cease-fire" inssentially the

formula reached in" The significant (and fateful) implication, of course, was that NVA forces would remain in South Vietnam if allied forces were unable to expel them and keep them out. In effect itery important concession on the part of the United States and South Vietnam.

The longer term consequences of the Cambodia operation, however, were very adverse. As duringhe domestic repercussions in the United States resultedajor political and psychological setback for theMassive anti-war sentiment and civil disorders were triggered,in the tragedy at Kent Stateambodia also marked the beginningcries of congressional actions that were to limit severely the executive power of tbe American president Congress forbade the use of American advisers in Cambodia, limited US military aid to Cambodia, and by the end0egal prohibition on the expenditure of funds for any American ground troops operating outside Vietnam. Still other results of Cambodia were the speedup of US troop withdrawals, lowered draft calls, and congressional cuts in the defense budget. Overall, Cambodia not onlya downward spiral of public and congressional support for US operations in Southeast Asia, but also resulted eventuallyrastic diminution in the US military advisory effort and military aid for South Vietnam.

In Southeast Asia, the loss of Cambodian cooperation forced Hanoi to rely solely on the overland routes from the North to maintain its forces in the South.onsequence, Hanoi expanded and improved its initially primitive routeside network (eventually running along both sides of the Vietnamese border) of all-weather roads and way stations that could handle tanks and heavy artillery, and greatly reduced the time It took to move NVA forces from North Vietnam into South Vietnam. The widening of the war inoreover, led to the weakening of the Cambodian regime since Hanoi, initially unfriendly to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, threw in with them because the North Vietnamese badly needed reinforcements- Thereafter the Lon Noi government struggled for five years against its North Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge enemies with only token US assistance. Finally, when South Vietnamese defenses crumbled in the springon Noi gave up thecontest and Phnom Penh fell to Pol Pot onpril, two weeks before the fall of Saigon.

US Raid on the Son Tay POW Camp,0

In the fall0 it became increasingly clear that domestic pressures in the United States wouldaster withdrawal of US troops and that the dry seasonOctober to May) would be the last time when substantial US forces would be present in Vietnam Hanoi was also trying to recover from the setback caused by the Cambodian invasion. Intelligence indicated that the North Vietnamese dry-season supply effort through Laos to the South was now running at twice the rate of the previous year. Moreover, although substantive secret negotiations between Kissinger and Le Due Tho had been underway sincehe North Vietnamese continued to be intransigent. And so there were compelling reasons for the United States to continue to apply military pressure on North Vietnam. These factorsarge part of the rationale for the US raid against the Son Tay POW camp In

Unclassified 1

0 and the US-supported South Vietnamese incursion into Laos in

The initiative (or the raid on Sonamp housing American POWs about twenty miles from Hanoi came from the JCS who hopeduccessful operation, in addition to rescuing prisoners, would greatly boost American morale at home and raise the spirits of our POWs held in North Vietnam. After months of meticulous planning and thorough rehearsing (conducted in the United States) and obtaining the President's approval, the raid was carried out onhe raid proper was conducted by tho US Air Force (providing the helicopter lift, air cover, and close air support) and commandos from the US Army's Special Forces while the US Navy and



Marine Corps made heavy diversionary air strikes against enemy supply installations in North Vietnam.

Operationally tlie raiduccess, but it nonetheless failed because the camp was empty of prisoners, ft had been closed (as was determined later) inhe DOD had assumed complete responsibility for the operation, including the intelligence aspects, and the CIA was not directly involved. Before the raid, the JCS recognized that DIA could not guarantee the presence of American POWs at Son Tay, but strongly favored going ahead with the operation because it was no doubt the last opportunity to makeaid, particularly oneigh probability of achieving surprise and freeing our POWs withery low risk of friendly casualties. At the last minute, DIA informed the Chairman JCS, Admiral Moorer. and Secretary Laird that new evidence indicated that most, if not all. of the POWs had been moved from Son Tay. (The other Chiefs were not informed at the time, nor apparently was Presidentevertheless, the decision was to give the green light for the operation.

Although much unhappiness over the failure of tbe raid was expressed in Washington, the operation didositive effect because the morale of our POWs in the North was raised and their treatment by their captors noticeably improved after the raid. Moreover, there were Indications that the Chinese were quite dissatisfied with the North Vietnamese failure to defendaid so close to their capital city and even threatened to reduce the level of military aid."

South Vietnamese Incursion into Laos,1) and Its Result

MACV commanders and tbe American Ambassador In Saigon had for years favored major allied ground operations into Laos to cut the numerous trails, roads, and waterways comprising the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and several detailed plans were developed forross-border mission. MACV. however, never secured authority for conducting anything more than small, harrassing-type raids into Laos and Cambodia. Small cross-border raids employing US and South Vietnamese commando-type troops were made frequently, but the results were only of marginal value.

Thus the only sustained ground efforts against the North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao in the Laotian panhandle were CIA-supported and directed operations (not acknowledged by the Unitedso-called "secret" war in Laos) utilizing Meo and other tribesmen from the region. These gallant peoplesong, remarkable campaign against great odds and at limes caused serious difficulties for the enemy, but in the end they became expendable.

The origins of the allied Incursion into Laos illustrate how the White House at this time dominated the overall control and conduct of both the war and the closely interrelated negotiations to end the war. Thisroper role for President Nixon, who had the authority and bore the responsibility, but what was different was the dominant role of Nixon's National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, who at times functioned as the de facto chairman of the JCS. poached on the territory of the Secretary of Defense, and usurped the responsibilities of the Secretary of State."

Serious consultations and planning for the Laotian operation began inhite House thinking originally considered an amphibious thrust into North Vietnam aimed at Vinh, but then settledroposal for another thrust into Cambodia. Ambassador Bunker and General Abrams, with President Thieu's agreement, counteredar bolder and riskierattack into Laos. (General Wcyand. Abrams' deputy at the time, was extremely dubious about thefter weeks of skillful maneuvering, the President and his NSC advisers managed to get all USBogers, Helms, andagree on an attack into Laos in early February

ust south of the DMZ. Another operation would beIII CTZ into Cambodia toajor enemy base in theplantation. Souvanna Phouma's agreement was obtainedC. Mem. Codley in Vientiane.**

Objectives of the Laotian operation, designatedy the South Vietnamese, were to seize the logistic complex in the Tchepone area, locatedtrategic junction of supply routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail about fifty kilometers by air from the border of South Vietnam; and thenthe remainder of the dry season, to disrupt movement along the Trail and destroy the logistic facilities in the area. It was hopeduccessful campaign might buy as much as two years' time for the allies, assuming that the North Vietnamese would need about one year to rebuild their logistic system in order to support an offensive in the following dry season (October



As was the case with (he Cambodian operation during (he previous year, knowledge of the planned operation wasery close hold basis in Washington andandful of people in DOD. State, and CIA were aware of it. Detailed planning was done in Vietnam where need-to-know was also strictly limited. Commanders, staff, and forces involved hadare minimum of time for preparations and in some instances lacked sufficient time for proper planning. For example, there was not enough time to disseminate some of the latest tactical intelligence to the ground and aviation units making the assault.

Senior officials in Washington and Saigon were well aware of (he high risks of such an operation. Ever since the closing of Sthanoukville port and the Cambodian supply routes in the springanoi had anticipated that US and ARVN forces sooner or later wouldajor ground action intootian panhandle. Hanoi was clearly concerned about the security of its remaining supply route to the South andesult was expanding its logistic commands in the panhandle and beefing up its combat forces in southernIA study, coordinated with DIA, NSA, andR. published on0 indicated that strong NVA Infantry, armor, and artillery formations were in southern Laos, and that the largest concentration of these newly arrived forces was in the vicinity of Tchepone. It was also known that formidable air defenses were deployed along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and were particularly dense in Ihe Tchepone area. Moreover, the mountainous, jungle-covered terrain was an added liability. Natural clearings for helicopter landing zones were scarce and likely to be heavily defended. Finally, the weather in the area was notoriously(hough it was the "dry" season, sudden, unexpected heavy rains could occur.

In1 prior to the beginning of. CIA was asked by Dr. Kissinger to preparelose hold basis an estimate of probable Communist reactions, particularly by Hanoi,arge-scale ARVN raid into the Tchepone areaos backed by US air support (including helicopters) but without US ground participation (in obvious reference toX CIA's response of1 (followed upebruary study of the enemy's reinforcement capability) was remarkably accurate with respect to (he nature, pattern, and all-out intensity of the NVA reactions

In addition to the above assessments, CIA submitted daily special operations situation reports to the White House, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman. JCS fromanuaryhe day the attack into Laos was to begin. The clear thrust of these reports was that the NVA was readying itself for battle, intended to put up the fiercest possible resistance, and was especially serious about maximizing antiaircraft defenses against allied troop landings by helicopter and against air support of ARVN ground operations.**

Beforeegan, the US Congressegal prohibition in0 on the expenditure of funds for any US ground forces operating outside of Vietnam. This meant that the ground incursion into Laos would have to be conducted solely by South Vietnamese troops; moreover, no American advisers were to be permitted to accompany ARVN units into Laos.

US forces, however, were allowed to supportith tactical air, helicopters, and long-range artillery operating from South Vietnamese bases. The prohibitionow and potentially critical obstacle to coordinated operations because South Vietnamese commanders were accustomed toon their American counterparts to arrange for US air, assault helicopter, heavy artillery, and logistic support. Moreover, the language problemeffective close air support by US fighter-bombers and attack helicopters.

fnvolved the movement of US forces into theareaTZ just south of the DMZ to securenside of Vietnam and to complete preparations for the support of Phase II. the Southattack into to begin on1 and Phase II.ome of the best South Vietnamese troops, including most of their strategic reserves, were designated for the1st ARVN Division. 1st ARVN Armored Brigade, and most of the elite Airborne Division and Marine Division. In concept, the lsf ARVN Division, reinforced with the 1st ARVN Armored Brigade, was to make the main effort into Laos along the axis ofgenerally windingungle-covered river valley) to seize the Tchepone area in the heart of the enemy's Base. The flanks of the main effort were Io be protected on the north by ARVN airborne and ranger troops, and on tbe south by the Marines Movements were aof overland advances and helicopter air assaults. The plan visualized that the objective area (Tchepone) would be reached in about five days and that South Vietnamese forces would remain in the area until the onset of heavy rains in May, disrupting the enemy's supply lines.

The attack into Laos went off on schedule1 but things quickly turned sour. Bad weather limited tactical air support on the first day and heavy rains the next day turneduagmire. Foul weather continued and not only delayed planned operations, but also greatly hindered resupply efforts and the evacuation of badly wounded men. Byebruary the attack had almost stalled, only about half way to the objective area, while the enemy (who had initially hesitated) was now reacting violently and in great strength, using heavy artillery and In some instances main battle tanks.arch, after days of heavy fighting during which the now outnumbered South Vietnamese were mostly on the defensive, tbe enemy gained control of the high ground north of Routendaunted, South Vietnamese troops established new fire support bases further west on the northern flankarch andarch ARVN battalions had been flown onto several key positions just north and south of Tchepone. But these positions were quite isolated from the main South Vietnamese forces and their situations were precarious.

At this juncture. General Abrams urged President Thieu to reinforce his beleaguered troops In Laos and to continue the fight. Abrams believed that the NVA was being badly hurl, particularly by2 bomb strikes which seemed relatively Impervious to bad weather. (MACV estimatedlone were inflicting losses that were the equivalent of about one combat-cffcctivc NVA regiment perouth Vietnamese forces were talcing casualties, too, but far less than the NVA. and Abtams wanted to inflict maximum damage before breaking off the engagement. Thieu and his

commanders, however, fell lhat the risk* were loo great and did noi wani lo accept any more casualties, especially in iheir best fighting units Abrams privately was of the opinion thai Thieu lost his nerve, but Thieu's decision was understandable and probably prudent in the longer run He strongly believedr heaviest offensive from the North was yet to come, earlyndrolonged campaign in Laos might leave ARVN exhausted

Thieu in mid-March decided to withdraw his forces, now under pressure from the major assault elements of four NVA divisions operating in the area. As the withdrawal began the encmv made every effort to cut off and destroy ihe South Vietnamese forces but did not succeed. US air support and assault helicopter operations were instrumental In allowing the South Vietnamese to leave Laos In some semblance of good order. Press accounts created the false impression in the United States lhat the operationailure endingrecipitousexaggerated assessment.

l-ater allegations appeared in the US media claiming certain "intelligence failures" in connection withome accounts alleged lhat senior American officials had not been fully apprised of available intelligence on enemy capabilities, white others stated that US intelligence underestimated the enemy, and still others said that American and South Vietnamese commanders in (he field lacked adequate Intelligence. These allegations as they concern the intelligence provided lo senior US officials in Washington, as well as that furnished to senior Americans and South Vietnamese officials in Saigon, were clearly notow much of tbe availablereached commanders in the field is another matter.

As evaluated by the US intelligence community, the military results ofere mixed. The NVA suffered heavy casualties0 killed) and lost large amounts of weapons, tanks, vehicles, and supplies. South Vietnamese losses were also severe but much fewer than theouth Vielnamese (ronp performance was spotty, serious weaknesses in command and control capabilities were apparent, and the degradation of effectiveness caused by the absence of American advisers was conspicuous. The ARVN, moreover, demonstrated thai il did not know how to conduct large scale conventional operations Even more serious was the heavy South Vietnamese dependence on US air and other fire support. The South Vietnamese could not match such support within their own means Finally, it was also apparent thai South Vietnam not only lacked sufficient strategic reserves but also could not shift forces rapidly within South Vietnam. The implications of thesedid not bode well for the future of South Vietnam.

On the other hand, both CIA and State/INR pointed out that the NVA had the advantagesavorable force ratio and close familiarity with extremely difficult terrain in an area where ARVN had not previously operated. Hanoi, therefore, had to recognize (hat under the circumstances, the South Vietnamese had not done badly."


ider context, the impact ofn enemy pToapects was less than the allies had hoped. Although ihe operation did temporarily disrupt the enemy's supply line to the South, the NVA had been able to confine the ARVN advanceelatively narrow penetration, thus enabling enemy supplies to continue down routes furtherhe west. US intelligence estimated that even at (he height of the fighting. Hanoi was able toufficient

flow of supplies to support its forces in the South. While public morale in South Vietnam was raisedrief period, the North Vietnamese gotarger psychological boost from the fact lhat the NVA was able to drive ARVN forces back into South Vietnam despite massive US air. artillery, and logisticeasure of South Vietnamese progress In Vietnamization of the war.n balance was athaky draw and in reality adefeat for the ARVN.

Nevertheless, the operation had demonstrated the vulnerability of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Henceforth, the intelligence community concluded, Hanoi would have to devote more resources to improving the security of its supply route to thepecial CfA/OER report to Secretary Laird and Dr. Kissinger, datedoncluded that large-scale enemy military operations in South Vietnam for the remainder1 were probably impossible and that Hanoi would have toajor resupply campaign before any offensive could be launched"

Overallo doubtajor factor in delaying the next major North Vietnamese offensiveear later in the springut other factors contributed to that delay, such as the need to correct NVA deficiencies in conducting offensive operations and to decrease the NVA's vulnerability to US air attacks.

In the United States domestic reaction to the Laotian venture was not as strong as in0 during the Cambodian incursion. But there were major demonstrations in Washington during April and1 against American involvement in the war, with more congressional efforts and pressure from the media to limit the President's power to conduct military operations.

US Intelligence and theeriod,2

The earliest attempt to gauge the longer term consequences ofppearederceptive CIA memorandum (prepared for the DCI to be sent to the President) written while the South Vietnamese were completing their withdrawal from Laos and datedhe paper judged that Hanoi would make some strenuous efforts over the next six to eight months in both South Vietnam and Cambodia to demonstrate that its capacity to fight had not been damaged and to discredit President Thieu in hb bid for re-election in the falL (In fact, the enemy did step up the tempo of its military activities In April and1 inTZ. in the highlands ofTZ, and in the border areas of IIIhe CIA paper, moreover, took the line that Hanoi was notosition in the short term to alter significantly the situation on the ground in South Vietnam (and probably not innd that the therefore, would not make any all-out efforts during the next few months, but very likely would plan its next major offensive for1 orhe paper hedged on the question of South Vietnamese public attitudes andolitical prospects, saying that "the jury on that issue will render its verdict in October" when national elections were scheduled to be held.

onth later.. datedSouth Vietnam: Problems and Prospects" (the only NIE produced on Vietnamstimated that the outlook in South Vietnam for the remainder1 was

"reasonably good" and thai the odds in the presidential election of1 appeared tohieu victory. As2 the NIE stated that prospects were "lessointing out that the OS election inoupled with the continued withdrawal of US combat troops, "make it probable" that Hanoi would step up its military activity bylthough not to the degree that would duplicate the scale or intensity of8 Tet offensive. As for South Vietnam, the estimate judged that its armed forces would "probably require substantial US support for many years" to cope with the threat; and that although the South Vietnamese will to survive presently showed some signs of durability', there was "no way to determine how tenacious theyeople andation) willew years hence when the United States is much further along the road tohe NIE concluded that "the longer term survival of the GVN is by no means assured."

Thisemarkably accurate estimate with onethat North Vietnam's offensive2 would not approach the scale and intensity of8 Tet offensive. US intelligence continued to hold this view until as late as2 when it was flatly stated: "One thing Hanoi cannot do in the remaining months of this dry season; it cannotationwide military offensive on anything approaching the scale ofs will be brought out later, this judgment was based at least in part on estimates of NVA troop infiltration and resupply activities beginning in1 that proved to be quitehis underestimate of infiltration probably stemmed from severaldegradation of US detection systems; North Vietnamese measures to hide the extent ofand the North Vietnamese practice of infiltrating large numbers directly through the DMZ, thus bypassing the normal NVA infiltration system running though Laos."

atter of interest, it should be noted that the above cited NIE of1 was the last NiE, or SNIE, to be pubUshed on Vietnam for almost two and one-half years. Only one estimate was produced on Vietnamonend the first one appearing3 came onctober. According to John Huizenga, deputy chairman of the Board of National Estimates at tho time, numerous important developments in other parts of the world absorbed the attention of ONE during this period. Another major reason for this hiatus, however, was the fact that the office of SAVA in CIA had become the focal point for national estimates rather than ONE.

0nemy main force units were generally absent from South Vietnam while they concentrated on reconstituting battle-damaged units, and rebuilding, expanding, and securing their lines of supply and base areas in Cambodia and Laos. This allowed the South Vietnamese to make considerable progress in pacification during the local force struggle for control of the countryside.esult, by the end1 the South Vietnamese enjoyedavorable local balance of power in most regions of South Vietnam while North Vietnam became extremely concerned over the deterioration of its position in the South. Indeed, many senior US veterans of the war, men like Ellsworth Bunker. Robert Komer. and William Colby, believe to this day that this side of the war was definitely won. Even so, the


conlinuallon o( this favorable local balance required an effective shield of ground and air forces lo keep main force units, in particular NVA troops, from upsetting that balance. Without that shield, simplesize and shape of Southtoo much for South Vietnam's forces alone to defend against the NVA. Moreover, while South Vietnamese forces had reached the practical limits of what they could sustain and what the United Stales was willing to support, the NVA continued to grow in numbers and to acquire all the prerequisitesodern, mobile, heavily armed force.

InS intelligence modified lis line with respect to Hanoi's capabilities and intentions in the short term when CIA. OCI2 published an Intelligence Memorandum. "The Communist Winter-Spring Offensive in South Vietnam.'* It declared that "the nest major enemy campaign will soon erupt in SouthPresident Thieu had been saying for some time that an all-out enemy push would come in2 while President Nixon, also expecting the heaviest offensive of the war to come at lhat lime, ordered the reinforcement of US air power in the western Pacific--carrier andmerican political moves, designed partly to put more pressure on Hanoi, were also in the offing. Nixon's trip to Peking to reopen Chinese-American relations, scheduled in late February,S-Soviet Union summit meeting in Moscow (ostensibly to pursue strategic arms limitationcheduled for May. were beginning to make Hanoi very nervous. These developments, coupled with the realization2S election year, were major factors in the CIA conclusion (in the IM cited above) thai Hanoi wouldajor effort to undercut American plans

The above CIA IM stressed the enemy buildup of over three NVA divisions in the northern provincesTZ where there were no longer any US troops (thest Airborne Division andarine Division had beennd only the 1st ARVN Divisionew. unlestedRVN Division were located in the area. The paper also broughtossibly even more dangerous enemy buildup of roughly three NVA divisions in the central highlands ol II CTZ, where again there were no American forces (the US 4th Division had long been withdrawn in. Tlie IM particularly stressed the belief that Hanoi was well aware thai (he bulk of US ground forces had departed (the last combat troops would depart innd saw the timeolden opportunity toevastating blow that would shake the confidence of South Vietnamese forces. The paper concludedajor round of attacks would begin either sometime around Tet inr during Nixon's visit lo China in late February; and lhai heavy fighling mighl well last through May and then taper off at the onset of the wet monsoon

Easiernd lis Results

The long expected enemy offensive arrived considerably laler than US intelligence had predicted it would. Under coverrizzle and fog which hugged the ground, the enemy launched an all-out assault on2 across theampaign lhat was to become known us (he Easter offensive. Why It was delayed is not quite clear but it does seem apparent (ha( Hanoi was simply not ready to go before (he end of March. Even then the

offensive did not begin simultaneously (or near simultaneously as was the ol, coming somewhat later in other parts of the country. Although the Easier offensive was not an unexpected, sudden turn of events as alleged by some war correspondents, the direction of the attack in the north, straight though the DMZ. did comeajor surprise because the invasion was expected to come from the direction of Laos. Apparently the consensus of allied commanders and intelligence officers was that the enemy would not even consider violating the DMZ for fear of giving the Unitedood reason for resuming the sustained bombing of Northevertheless, the author faults the allied military commanders, American and South Vietnamese, as well as their intelligence officers, for accepting the above judgment. For some time it had been known that the enemy was developing modern, mobile forces, including armor and heavy artillery, and the logical axis of an attack by such forces was directly through tbe DMZ because this route offered the shortest and best developed lines of communication. The DMZ area, moreover, was tied into the North Vietnamese POL pipeline system and could therefore provide the large quantities of fuel required by modern conventional forces.

The enemy assault through the DMZ included hundreds of medium tanks and armored personnel carriers, supported by heavy artillery, rockets, and modern, mobile air defense weapons. The main effort struck not only in the area where the greenRVN Division was deployed, but also just as some of its units were being rotated at forward fire bases. One regiment located north of Dong Ha in the cast was quickly driven back while part of another regiment to the west at Camp Carroll surrendered without muchight. (In this connection, it was primarily the sheer weight of heavy accurate artillery fire, rather than dose contact on the ground, that drove ARVN troops off their forward positions.)

pril the enemy openedecond front in III CTZ, surrounding Loc Ninh and An Loc near the Cambodian border andorce that was to total three NVA divisions. President Nixon at thb point responded by ordering the resumption of US bombing of North Vietnam up tohThen onpril the NVA invaded Kontum Province in the highlands of II CTZwo-division force.

By late AprilTZ the enemy overran Quang Tri Province and laid siege to its capital. Quang Tri City, seriously threatening the ancient city of Hue further south. But after President Thieu shook up the ARVN high commandTZ, and with the help of massive US air support, the South Vietnamese stiffened anduccessful defense of Hue. Later in August the South Vietnamese retook Quang Tri City.

Bitter fighting likewise took place in both II and III CTZs. ARVN held Kontum Cityarge NVA force which finally quit the fight and withdrew onay. The defense of An Loc went on even longer until the enemy withdrew across the borderuno.

By late summer, it was clear that Hanoi's countrywide offensive had failed even though the North Vietnamese were playing for keeps, trying toecisive victory on the battlefield prior to the US election. Having beenajor "headline grabbing victory" since8 (with the


possible exception o)n Laos in. Hanoi badlylear-cut decision over the Southow much North Vietnam had thrown into this campaign was not Fully known to the allies at theIA/OEM analysis of the North Vietnamese manpowerIn the Easter offensive was published in2 (CIAMemorandum, "NVA Infiltration and Unit Deploymentshis study showed that the manpower commitment over the period2 was the largest ever sent south from North Vietnam, surpassingeriod associated with the8 offensive (an estimated totalen compared to the former highroops sent down inimeframe) Moreover, the number of men in deploying units (as opposed to individuals) was greater ins compared0; these numbers are included in the total figures givenhe result was the largest NVA/VC force structure seen thus lar in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Finally, Hanoi continued to send large numbers south even after the wet season was in full swing, another unprecedented move. In short, Hanoi had abandoned any protracted warfare strategy in favor of large-scale, large-unit, conventional worfare in its unceasing drive to achieve its ultimatearmed conquest of not only South Vietnam but all of Indochina.

Although the South Vietnamese had finally stopped the enemy offensive, they had not been able to regain control of all their territory.TZ, the enemy remained in strength north of the Cua Viet River, in effect moving the boundary between North and South Vietnam alilometers south of the DMZ Indeed the enemy "owned" much of the western partTZ and likewise in II CTZ remained in control of much of Kontum and Pletku Provinces in ihe central highlands. And in III CTZ the enemy effectively controlled Highwayrom the Cambodian border to Lai Khi, almost half way to Saigon. South Vietnam's territory remained intact only in the Delta, IV CTZ. (The constant encroachmenl of the border area by the enemy was to continue until the endouth Vietnam had in effectontinuous, wide expanse of territory extending along the border from the DMZ lo Ihe northern Delta, an area which North Vietnam referred to as the "Thirdut the Easter offensive had been costly lo tlie NVA; its personnel losses for the2 period were conservatively estimated atilled. NVA material losses were the highest yet in (he war. CIA estimated in2 that as many asercent of tlie NVA infantry regiments committed to the campaign were at best marginally effective, if not temporarily combat ineffective.1"

Thereajor difference in the impact of the offensive on the countryside, however, as compared to thenemy caused far less damage to tbe government's hold os-er (he population and to government tecurity forces in the countryside The principal reasons for this were thai invading NVA regular troops constituted the enemy's striking forces, with relatively hide participation by local Viet Cong forces, and much of (he fighting was in (he border region well away from the populated areas.10

Nevertheless, despite enormous casualties and heavy materiel losses.

Hanoi's capacity and willrosecute the war remained unimpaired. The North Vietnamese had the raw manpower needed lo compensate for their

losses (although the loss in quality in terms of experience in practically all ranks was undoubtedly an increasingly serious problem) and they could count on the Soviet Union and China, at least for the present, to provide their material needs. This was CIA's judgment at theuite consistent with the views that the Agency had long held.

Changing Balance of Military Power In the

While the war ground on in South Vietnam, the Americancontinued without interruption, the withdrawal taking place across the spectrum of the US presence. Bylmost two-thirds of US combat troops had departed Vietnam and by the end1 there was less than an American division equivalent in the northern half of tbe country. Many of the so-called Free World forces had also returned home, although the government of South Korea agreed to retain its two-division force in It CTZ until the endROK troops, however, by their government's orders were operationally kept under wraps.)

In addition to the withdrawal of American combat units, the senior American militaryUSARV. 7th Air Force, and IIIalso sharply reduced in size. The large US headquarters In each CTZ that had controlled US ground operations were eliminated, and most of the extensive, complex American military intelligence, communications, and logistic structures in Vietnam were dismantled. Virtually all US-built bases were turned over to the South Vietnamese, who lacked the means to secure and maintain them, and the facilities consequently rapidly deteriorated.

The US advisory structure was also reduced during this period. Bymerican advisers were assigned only at ARVN corps, division, and provincerastic cutback. But the remaining advisory commitment was given the highest priority for qualitytatus it had not always enjoyed in the past.

Concurrently, South Vietnamese regular and paramilitary forces were expandedpecial effort was made to build greater capabilities in air, naval, artillery, armor, and logistic support forces. Ambitious trainingwere instituted and large quantities of US aircraft, naval ships, armored vehicles, and artillery pieces were turned over to the South Vietnamese. But it was very late in the day and there was simply not enough time for the South Vietnamese to develop the long-term skills needed to absorb this equipment, maintain it properly, and operate it effectively. There are no easy short cuts to the development ofodem forces.

Periodically the Joint Staff of the US JCS assessed the progress of Vietnamization andeport to tbe Secretary of Defense and the Chiefs. The report of1 was enlightening and pulled few punches, bringing out serious shortcomings In the South Vietnamese Army, Air Force. Navy, and Marines as US redcplcymenU accelerated. It stated that the ARVN could not handle anotherithout an extensive US presence; that the Vietnamese Air Force was incapable of continuing an air war on the scale of US air operations ineriod, especially with respect lo interdiction operations in Laos, tactical airlift, and maritime air

patrol; and lhal the removal ol the2 capability was an "irreplaceableunderstatement. The report judged that the South Vietnamese could not operate an effective communications system without permanent US contractor support; that with respect to intelligence matters, the South Vietnamese could not handle SIGINT or COMSEC systems; and thatAmerican military assistance would be required to keep the South Vietnamese logistic system going. In the critical area of leadership, the report found the South Vietnamese improving but still marginal in most respects. Overall, the Joint Staff report concluded that the South Vietnamese position was drastically weakened by the US withdrawal and that loss of control of some South Vietnamese territory and population was inevitable. Written in the fallhis assessmentobering, realistic statement of South Vietnamese military prospects.

A year later with the winding down of the enemy's Easter offensive and the departure of the last US ground combat units in the summert was apparent that the balance of military power in South Vietnam depended on the performance of the ARVN and the availability of US air power. It seemed clear, too, that thereractical limit to the overall size of the South Vietnamese ground forces and this had been reached. Most of their principal strategic reserves, consisting of one ARVN airborne division and one Marine division (each expanded to fourad now been permanently committedTZ and the remaining reserve consistingew battalions was woefully inadequate. Furthermore, the tactical air lift to move reserves quickly was inadequate. Finally and perhaps most significantly, the South Vietnamese Air Force could not make up the difference on the ground. Thus the only strategic reserve that could spell tbe difference between defeat and survival was US air power, in particular- With dwindling public and congressional support in the United States, the implications of the above conclusions were ominous.

Renewed Air and Naval Campaign Against North Vietnam,2

The resumption of sustained air attacks against North Vietnam north ofh parallel began in mid-April and for the first time included virtually unlimited strikes against military-industrial targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong area. Called the Linebacker series, the offensive later focused on specific systems such as POL distribution and electric power generation. Air attacks were followed by the mining of North Vietnamese harbors in the Haiphong area. These activitiesemand on CIA/OER for numerous logistic assessments concerning the effects of these attacks on Hanoi's war-making capacity. Predictably there were differences of opinion within the intelligence community on these effects, particularly between CIA and DIA and military intelligence in the field (CINCPAC)."

As previously brought out, CIA had long held the view that although aboutercent of North Vietnam's imports, including foodstuffs and petroleum, arrived by sea, this traffic could be diverted to overland routes from China. Moreover, CIA was convinced that combat materiel (weaponry, ammunition, air defense systems, and military aircraft, for example) was


moving overland rather than bv sea. although military support items such as trucks were shipped by sea. Indeed CIA had stated that North Vietnam was noi vulnerableea blockade, estimating that all war-essential imports could be moved over railroads and roads from China; that air interdiction could reduce the overland flow but could not stop it because damage could be repaired so quickly; and that cargo from oceangoing ships anchored outside the mined major harbor areas could be taken ashore on smaller vessels through shallow waters. Finally CIA had said as far back as9 that the diversion of North Vietnam's seaborne import traffic was well within the capabilities of the overland transport system of China, the Soviet Union, and North Vietnam, and that the disruption causedining program should not exceed two or three months"

Assessments subsequent to the new US bombing and mining program pretty well bore out CIA's earlier Judgments. In2 CIA estimated that although the total level of imports into North Vietnam had been reduced, it was more than enough to meet minimum economic needs and provide sufficient supplies for its forces in theIA also stated that Hanoi had to divert large numbers of people to repair bomb damage and keep its transportation system operational, but that North Vietnam had sufficient manpower to maintain essential activities and its military manpower pool had not been materially affected. CIA lecognlzed that North Vietnam's fledgling modern industry, rebuilt sinceombing campaign, once again had been destroyed, but that nevertheless Hanoi was not yet faced witheconomic and sociological difficulties. Indeed Hanoi seemed optimistic about its overland import prospects from China, especially of foodstuffs and petroleum. With respect to the latter, Hanoi reacted very quickly and by late June hadew pipeline that connected its POL pipeline complex at Hai Duong east of HanoiOL storage area located inside China near the border.

One year after the above CIA IM had been published. DIA published an intelligence appraisal. "Effectiveness of US Mining in North Vietnam," datedhe study enumerated the delays and disruptions caused by the operation, such as the drop in sea imports and exports, and by the necessity to divert supply movements overland. It also brought out that US air strikes had severely damaged North Vietnamese rail lines, thusreater burden on highway transport (most of the major inland waterways had also beenut nowhere did the study assess the impact of these delays and disruptions cm tbe ability of Hanoi to continue the war. On the other hand, the DIA concluded,hred of supporting data or analysts, that mining of the ports In conjunction with the earlier US alrould have shortened the war significantly.

On the more purely military side. CIA in Its2 paper also fudged that enemy combat losses in South Vietnam and the pounding taken by the NVA on the ground and from the air would be more important than the logistic situation in determining the fighting effectiveness of the NVA. Overall, the CIA assessment held out little hope that the US military actions in

* CtA Intelligence Memorandum, 'The Overall Impact of US Bomtnns and Mining Program on Northated


the North would have decisive results during the rest2 and throughIA did hedge somewhat by statingombination of heavy pressures brought to bear by other factors (forajor agricultural failure, severerastic loss in support from China or the Soviet Union) in addition to the US interdiction effort might compel Hanoi to alter its present policy of unrelenting pursuit of its war aims

Judging from the strident North Vietnamese propaganda campaign against2 US bombing offensive, American air strikes undoubtedlyource of great concern to Hanoi In2 Hanoi repeatedly accused the United States of deliberately bombing the elaborate dike system of water control in North Vietnam and tried to convince foreign observers that the American effort was aimed at killing civilians. At the request of the Department of State. CIA/OER analyzed Hanoi's claims, thoroughly studying all available photography The results showed conclusively that there had been no concerted, intentional bombing of No'rth Vietnam's vital dike system,ew stray hits had caused minor damage. The study, moreover, brought out that the dike system was resilient and that It would be extremely difficult to cause any major damageasting nature by conventional bomb attacks."

Achievementegotiated Cease-fire,3

During the long, painful period of intermittent secret negotiations between Kissinger and Le Due Tho, which had been underwayt had been apparent that Hanoi had little to negotiate about other than to get the United States out of Vietnam. One of the principal stumbling blocks had been the North Vietnamese insistence that President Thieu be removed from officerecondition.2 the pace of these negotiations in Paris measurably picked up, no doubt stirred up by President Nixon's trip to Peking in February and bis summit meeting in Moscow in May, and heavily influenced by the approach of the US election in November. After the blunting of the North Vietnamese Easter offensive and the resumption of heavy US air action against North Vietnam, indications began to appear inhat Hanoi might be willing toolitical accommodation. The so-called "break through" occurred2 when Hanoi dropped its demands that Thieu be replaced by an interim ctwlitioa The price had been high, for the United States had made important concessions, the most significant being to drop the condition of mutual troop withdrawals, thus opening the way for NVA troops to remain in the South while US forces had to be withdrawn. President Thieu, moreover, was not aware of the state of play in the negotiations and most certainly would not haveease-fire agreement thatolitical accommodation with communistor left NVA troops in Southudgment which the intelligence community completely shared. Predictably Thieu in his mid-October meeting with Kissinger in Saigon resected the entire Degotiating package as written. This led to President Nixon's decision to pull back from any agreement with Hanoi until after the elections.

Even after Nixon's strong victory at the polls, an agreement continued to be elusive. Kissinger, forenefit, sought numerous changes in the draft agreement that would be more favorable for South Vietnam, but got nowhere

withue Tho, who suspected trickery and askedemporary adjournment of the lalks. Meanwhile Nixonassive military aid lift for South Vietnam and assured Thieuetter that if Hanoi failed to abide by the agreement, he (Nixon) would take swift, retaliatory action. (President Nixon repeated this assurance to President Thieu in3 and in addition told Thieu that Saigon could count on military aid at aboulear as well as economic aid in the eight-hundred million dollar range annually.)

But after US-North Vietnamese talks resumed in Paris in early December and it became apparent lhat the North Vietnamese were dragging their feet, using our POWs in North Vietnamrump card to get more concessions out of the United States. President Niton ran out of patience.hourto Hanoi expired, he ordered the resumption of bombing (which had been suspended in late October) and onecember.he so-called "Christmas bombing" began It was around-the-clock, the heaviest air offensive of the war, and included the few additional targets in tbe Hanoi-Haiphong area lhat heretofore had been off limits. For the first time in ihetruck near Hanoi, operating at night Other US bombers attacked during daylight Twelve days later the North Vietnamese calledalt, promising to resume "serious negotiations" at once.

President Thieu continued to balk, however, and it took enormous American pressure and the threat toeparate agreement with Hanoi before Thieu finally caved In on3 and agreed to aOnanuary the formal signing ceremonies took place in Paris.

In the last few weeks before ihe cense-fire went into effect, all parties tried to improve their position, the North Vietnamese sending large numbers of men and amounts of supplies southward, while the United Statesarge airlift of military equipment for South Vietnam. And in South Vietnam both sides maneuvered to expand the territory each would claim lo be under its control at the time of the cease-fire

Under the terms of the cease-fire agreement, ihe United Slates and all other third countries agreed to remove their remaining forces from South Vietnam within sixty days In addition, the United States agreed lhat it would "stop all its military activities against the territory of the Democratic Republic ofince the agreement was silent on the presence of North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. Hanoi in effect was permitted to keep its forces there supported from safe bases in Laos and North Vietnam. South Vietnamese bases and lines of communications, on ihe other hand, were exposed to attack. Neither side was to permit the introduction of troops, military advisers, armor, or even material into South Vietnam. Destroyed, damaged, or worn out equipment could be replacedne-for-one basis of like items These restrictions, however, did not apply to military assistance flowing into North Vietnam from the Soviei Union and China. Thus, if it is assumed that the respective lienefactors of North and South Vietnam would continue to support their clients, the asymmetries of the military aspects of the agreement greatly favored Hanoi

Although US air forces remained in Thailand and the Philippines, and US naval forces continued to operate in the South China Sea, the United States


was inhibited from attacking North Vietnam or supporting South Vietnam not only by the proscriptions of the cease-fire agreement, but also by the virtual disappearance of domestic support for such moves. As time passed Hanoi grew even bolder in moving against South Vietnam as the likelihood of US reprisal diminished.

To replace MACV and to carry out the traditional functions of aattache for South Vietnam, as well as to monitor cease-fire activities,military headquarters called the Defense Attache Office (DAO).established earlyhe DAO was located in the formerfacility at Tan Son Nhut Air Base and had small field officescities in each military region

Kieneral Frederick C

Weyand. ihe last MAUV commander, departed saiSon in the late spring of

to become the Vice Chief of Staff, US Army. (Weyand replaced General Alexander M. Haig, Dr. Kissinger's deputylin the White House, who had been ordered back to the White House to be President Nixon's Chief of Staff when Congress began its Investigation of the Watergateajor Genera! John E. Murray, US Army, took over as the head of the DAO and as the senior US military officer in Vietnam. Murray was replaced In August

by Major General Homer D. Smith, US Army, who served as DAO chief until the fall of Saigon.

Ellsworth Bunker remained as the US Ambassador to Saigon untilan of extraordinary capacity. Bunker had served as ambassador for over six years. He was succeeded by Grahaman possessing rare talents and an extremely complex personality, who was destined to preside over tho dissolution of the. US presence in Vietnam. His senior intelligence adviser was Thomas Polgar, who had taken over as Chief of Station. Saigon, in the early falleplacing Theodore Shackley. the Station Chief in thend.

After the cease-fire the United States alsoeadquarters known as the US Support Activities Group and Seventh Air Force (USSAG/7th AF> located at Nakhom Phanom in northeast Thailand. This headquarters planned for the employment of air and naval power In Southeast Asia in the event that the United States decided to take such action. USSAG tookSAF operational control site that previously had controlled and monitored all 7th Air Force combat and reconnaissance missions in Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam. US bombing attacks against NVA and Khmer Rouge troops in Cambodia continued until the Congress In3 prohibited any further air operations in that country. This marked the end of2 and fighter-bomber operations in Southeast Asia.


US air reconnaissance operations continued over Laos until4 when thev were terminated because of domestic political pressures in the United States. Thereafter much of the timely and factual evidence of the Bow of enemy personnel, arms, and equipment into the South was permanently lost to both American and South Vietnamese intelligence.

In Washington important changes were made in the councils of the government. Henry Kissinger became Secretary of State inn addition retaining the NSC adviser job untillliot L.

Richardson succeeded Laird as Secretary of Defense onervingew months before becoming tbe Attorney General. James R. Schlcsingcr succeeded Richardson in Defense3 and served untilorking for both Presidents Nixon and Ford. Admiral Moorer retired on4 and was followed by General George S. Brown, who moved to the Chairman JCS position from his post as Chief of Staff, US Air Force.

First Year of the Cease-Fire,4

In the springhe NVA had anroops inside South Vietnam and approximatelyegular forces in Laos and Cambodia.'* These forces were only in fair shape (almostercent of NVA combat regiments iudged to be only marginally operational)esult of the2 enemy offensive, which had gone on for almost six months. South Vietnamese forces had also suffered heavy, if lesser, casualtiesut were for the most part intact and still controlled the great bulk of theareas of South Vietnam. The NVA, however, controlled large parts ofI, and III CTZs along the border with Laos and Cambodia.

During the3 period. Hanoi, unhindered by US air strikes, moved large numbers of tanks and artillery pieces, and large quantities of supplies into or near Southtonnages far exceeding the requirements of the enemy forces in these areas. In addition. Hanoi committed an unprecedented number of AAA guns and SAMs to South Vietnam, particularlyTZ. To expedite this Bow of materiel and supplies, the enemy built or improved aniles of roads leading directly to and inside South Vietnam. One resultwo-thirds reduction in infiltration travel time from North to South.**

Assessing the overall military balance at this time. CIA pointed out that although South Vietnam combat troop strength overall was greater than the NVA's in South Vietnam, the numbers were about evenTZ where ihe NVA nowefinite advantage in firepower. (Even to stay even, however, the South Vietnamese had permanently movedTZ the bulk of the ARVN Airborne Division and the Marine Division, leavingew battalions in strategic reserve in III CTZ. Moreover, without direct US support. Saigon lacked the helicopter and troop carrier lift to move its reserves quickly from one CTZ toIA Judged thai although there were noof such an intent at the time. Hanoi already had the capability In place toajor offensive throughout South Vietnam and to sustain itonsiderable period."

As time went by it seemed evidenl lhat Hanoi did not intend to abide by the cease-fire agreements, explicit, implicit, or informally understood, and the North Vietnamese proceeded to violate the agreements repeatedly. South Vietnam also sought opportunities to gain an advantage and likewise violated some of the terms of the3 cease-fire but not lo the same extent as North Vietnam. The United States, on the other hand, closely abided by the cease-fire terms.

Although the NVA was "supposed to" withdraw from Laos and to stop using Laos and Cambodia as an infiltration corridor, the opposite occurred.


Ihe oddsaior offensive this current drv season outweighed the odds favorinn suchretty safe bet

During this periodhe Board of National Estimates went out of existence. National estimates as an art form had been slowly going downhill during the Nixon Kissinger regime, and the prestige of the Board had likewise declined. Moreover, neither Helms nor Schlesinger had shown much interest in ONE. When William Colby became the DCI in3 one of his first acts was to dissolve the Board and in its place to organise the National Intelligence Officer (NIO) system Helms had established in effect an NIO for Vietnam (SAVA) for some time and Schlesinger had felt the needimilar officer for tho Middle East. And so Colhy extended the concept to the whole range of intelligence matters, looking to his NIOs to carry the intelligence ball in their assigned areas of(and expertise) and to develop interagency assessments, to include national estimates. The last chairman of the Board of Estimates, John Huizenga, was strongly opposed to the change,oss of independence of the national estimative process, and retired rather than accept the change.

Another maior factor in the eventual demise of ONE was the creation of SAVA in5 Under George Carver (formerly of ONE, who took over SAVA in the summer. SAVAense usurped the Vietnam intelligence role ofrocess which was accelerated during the Kissinger regime as National Security Adviser to the. ONE, however, often contributed to SAVA-coordinated studies, many of which, like the McNamara series, were in effect national estimates, but not labeled as such.

of Power Shifts to North Vietnam

ClA-State/lNH-DIA published an interagency memorandum, "Southet Militaryhis assessment statrd that North Vietnamese forces deployed in South Vietnam (currently twelve infantry divisions) lacked the capability to make lasting gains against South Vietnam and that South Vietnamese forces likewise could not make maior gains against their enemies. However, the paper stated, the situation would change rapidly if Hanoi committed its reconstituted strategic reserves (now six combat infantry divisions)aior offensive In that event it was doubtful whether South Vietnam could stop the offensive and regain the initiative without large-scale US logistic assistance and possibly US air and naval support.

Thb assessment was followed by an NIE, datedThe Likelihoodajor North Vietnamese Offensive Against South Vietnam before" The NIE judgedajor offensive was unlikely4 and stated wilh respect to the first halfhat the picture was less clear but that "our best judgment now" was that Hanoi would not optajor offensive. (DIA footnoted this judgment wilh the view that tbe odds were at least even that Hanoi wouldajor offensive in the first half) The NIE pointed out that NVA lorces were considerably stronger than they were at the time of the cease-fire, and estimated thatajor offensive occur "it would be questionable" whether South Vietnam

could survive without US air and naval support, and thatinimum, large-scale US logistic support would be required to stop the enemy drive. (Written in ihe springhe NIE, in ihfs respect, was remarkablyhe NIE also brought out that Hanoi would probably reassess the situation in the summer or fallnd flatly concluded that it was clear that al some time Hanoi would shift to major warfare.

Meanwhile very latehile the Watergate hearings were underway in Congress, military aid funds for South Vietnam were drastically cut. following which ammunition, fuel, and other critical supplies in the pipeline from the United States began to dry up in the first partassistance levels were never restored to even austere levels. (US military aid was funded2 billion fors compared3 billion innd for0 million was maderaconian measures were applied in South Vietnam where the number of dead-lined tanks, armored personnel carriers, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft rose steadily; and battles were lost because of inadequate air and artillery support, or insufficient air lift lo bring in reinforcements, all arising out of shortages of ammunition, spare parts, and fuel, Medical supplies were cut to the bone, and vehicles and combat aircraft were cannibalized or grounded. In the South Vietnamese Air Force ten combat squadrons were disbanded and both the riverine and blue water elements of the South Vietnamese Navy were sharply reduced in size for lack of operational aircraft and ships. The morale of South Vietnam's armed forces was badly hurt by these shortages, the reasons for which ihey could not fully comprehend."

The US Congress also enacted in3 the War Powers Act which was to inhibit severely the executive powers of the presidency. Such congressional actions, coupled with the traumatic effects of the Watergate affair, served virtually to paralyze the presidency during ihe last months of the short life of the Republic of Vietnam.

Having recouped their personnel and material lossessing most3 lo accomplish this, the North Vietnamese stepped up the pressure against South Vietnam4 in what amountederies of strong "strategic raids" in key localities countrywide. (Later it was learned thatt Plenum of the Central Committee of the Lao Dong Party meeting in3 hadstrategic offensive" against South Vietnam and that in4 the Central Military Party Committee met in Hanoi toa strategic plan to implement the order. The Committee directed offensive actions during the4 period to uncover major South Vietnamese weaknesses that might be exploited in the projected strategic

Heavy fighting erupted in III CTZ in early spring and in the highlands of II CTZ in June, and spreadTZ inkillful and daring counterattacks by ihe ARVN inowever, thwarted enemy efforts to isolate Saigon from the Delta, and in III CTZ the ARVN generally held its own, although in the northeastern sector the NVA gained several base positions closer lo Saigon.

But the situation was grim in the northern half of the country, In the highlands of II CTZ and inTZ. ihe NVA force overran several

important ARVN positions and moved closer to the more populated coastal lowlands. By the end of the year, the ARVN held only the major cities In the central highlands with but tenuous lines of communications to the coastal area of II CTZ.TZ, (here simply were not enough friendly forces to protect the Oa Nang-Chu Lai-Quang Ngai coastal areas south of Hai Van Pass and the important Hue-Phu Bai area north of the pass. By year's end, the 1st ARVN Division was low in strength, theRVN Division was exhausted, theRVN Division was almost ineffective, and many ranger and airborne battalions, as well as marine units were in poor condition. It was clear, at least to the fighting troops, that the worst was yet to come."

The unceasing effects of having all the fighting on South Vietnamese soil was also beginning to tell. While the NVA received trained, freshand ample resupplyecure homelandafe, all-weather logistic structure immune from attack. ARVN's replacement and supply system was subject to almost constant enemy disruption, and the South Vietnamese people and their homeland were never safe from sudden attack. Understandably morale in South Vietnam was constantly eroding.

President Nixon's Watergate-forced resignation in4 and the swearing inon-elected president. Gerald R. Ford, cameeavy blow for South Vietnamreat boon for North Vietnam. By the fall4 as the cuts in US aid wereevastating effect on the South Vietnamese armed forces and while the South Vietnamese economy faltered, it seemed clear that South Vietnamese morale was sinking lower. American visitors to Saigon at the time were dismayed and reported that President Thieu felt betrayed andet Saigon Station, CIA. reported on4 that morale in South Vietnam was still solid and that the will of the South Vietnamese government and its armed forces had not been adversely affected-US intelligence assessments published in the last part4 only partiallythe situation in South Vietnam described above. An Interagency Intelligence Memorandum,Factors Influencing the Course of Events in the Republic of Vietnam Over the Next Five Years" (written in response lo National Security Study) highlighted the following points:

intelligence community generally agreed that Hanoi would probably nottype offensive In the current dry season (that is between4 andlthough some escalation of enemy activity was likely.imited campaign would force the South Vietnamese armed forces to draw down further on their military stock and would put themore vulnerable position, but would not leadritical military situation during this dry season. DIA and the Army and Air Force intelligencehowever, believedampaign of even limited scope would significantly erode South Vietnamese capabilities to withstand future enemy military pressures, while CIA and State/INR did not believe that it would significantly change the present military balance.


the current dry season it was prudent to assume that Hanoi might launch an all-out offensive within the next few years, although CIA/OCI believed that "certain emerging factors" (basicallycould restrain the North Vietnamese.

If there was an all-out enemy offensive, one in which Hanoi's strategic reserve (now estimated to be seven combat infantry divisons) was committed, the whole intelligence community believed that South Vietnam would suffer heavy reverses; and thatinimum massive US logistic support would be required toecisive South Vietnamese defeat; and atsymbolic use" of US air power would probably also be required.

Finally, if there was no all-out offensive, most of the intelligence community believed that the process of decline in the effectiveness of South Vietnamese forces would accelerate unless thereajor increase in US military aid. ClA/OCi and the NIO/SEA, however, believed that South Vietnam could hold its owntrategic sense so long as military aid to both sides remained In the same relative balance as at

At about this timeoth Saigon Station CIA, and the DAO,reported that COSVN. the enemy's high command in the South, in interpreting the party directives emanating out of Hanoi, had issued its own directive for the coming dry' season offensive, beginning in4 and lasting untilhat called for an intense, countrywide campaign aimed at defeating pacification and destroying one-third to one-half of South Vietnam's regular and paramilitaryhe intelligence community was also aware of the existence of an enemy two-year campaign plan for the liberation of the South and of the very broad aspects of the military strategy) it was learned that, according to Ceneral Van Tien Dung, commander of the NVA's final offensive in the springe Duan made the crucial judgment in4 that the United States was permanently out of the war and that Hanoi was free to acteneral Dung also wrote6eeting of Politburo leaders in Hanoi with party leaders from South Vietnam,eld to assess the results of the NVA "high point" offensive in Phuoc Long Province,5 (seehe Politburo decreed at the meeting lhat while the basic plan was to achieve final victoryVA forces should remain flexible to seize opportunities that could gain final victoryM Apparently the Intelligence community did not become specifically aware of this decision until Saigon Station5 reported lhat in5 the Communist leadership believedilitary victory was now possible and that the NVA should be prepared to driveuickhis was aboul one monlh before the final offensive began in early5 in the Central Highlands.

The last national estimateatedShort Term Prospects forame closer lo the mark than the previously described interagency paper ofhe NIElhat there wouldarked increase in enemy military actions between the presentndnd that Hanoi would commit part of its strategic reserve to exploit major vulnerabilities in the South Vietnamese position. The estimate stressed the importance of US military assistance, stating that without an immediate increase in such aid. Saigon's situation would become parlous, and thai at current levels of US aid. the extent

of combat anticipated in the next six months would place Hanoiosition of significant advantage in subsequent fighting The NIE also discussed theresponseajorHanoi might undertake an all-out offensive by committing all or most of its strategic reserves The"best judgment" at the present, however, was that Hanoi wouldourse. Although it missed the mark in judging the weakened condition of South Vietnamese armed forces, it wasobering estimate. US policymakers clearly should have been forewarned at the end1 that the prospects for South Vietnam were not good.

While the above estimate was being prepared the last enemy offensive4 was underway in Phuoc Long Province in northeastern III CTZ about sixty kilometers (by air) north of Saigon. Various ARVN positions In the province were attacked beginning in4 andong, gallant fight the outnumbered garrison defending the province capital. Song Be. fell with heavy losseslthough the State Departmenttrong protest on5 denouncing the flagrant violation of the3 cease-fire. President Ford in his State of the Union message to the Congress on5 made no mention of Vietnam, andressn5 staled that he could foresee no circumstances in which the United Stales would reenter thehe message was not lost on Hanoi.

1 MarchSituation in Vietnam on the Eve of the Final Offensive

As of the end ofVA combat forces in South Vietnam numbereden totaling seventeen infantry divisions (ninend II CTZs and eight in III and IVwo of these divisions, deployed south from Hanoi's strategic reserve, had slipped into South Vietnam undetected between late Januaryne more NVA infantry division was on its way south, leaving four divisions in strategic reserve in North Vietnam. The NVA now hadedium tanks In South Vietnam, roughly twice as many as the ARVN possessed. The ARVN. however, haddvantage in the number of artillery pieces although the NVA hadedium artillery cannon that gave it the edge in range South Vietnam's Air Force, although greatly reduced in capabilitiesesult of the shortage of US military aid. was offense-orient rd and still intact. North Vietnam's Air Force, on the other hand, was basically oriented to air defense of the homeland, and the NVA had deployed massive air defenses of its own into South Vietnam."

Infiltration figures for the period since the3 cease-fire were especially revealing:


The above numbers, particularly the accelerated rate of infiltration for the first two monthshowed that Hanoi was gettingosture that couldustained major offensive

Il wa* now clear that Hanoi had deployed to South Vietnam the strongest military force yet in the history of the wur. Allied intelligence considered this force to he belter trained and equipped than it was at the time of2 Easter offensive.4 the NVA undertook intensive combined-arms training, stressing infantry-lank coordination, to correct deficiencies evident2 logistically ihe NVA continued to receive adequate military assistance from the Soviet Union and China lhat allowed not only the replacement of materiel battle losses butuildup in the NVA's weapons, ammunition, and equipment inventories. Moreover. Hanoi could resupply and reinforce its forces in ihe South faster lhan ever. Finally the NVA had greally increased Its command and control capability to conduct large-scale operationsountrywide basis. Three new NVA corps headquarters had been identified in South Vietnam sinceTZ and one in IIIa fourth was located in the panhandle of North Vietnam.*'

To face this formidable threat. South Vietnam had combat forces numberingo ARVN and Marine divisionsn Regional Force battalions (under province and district chiefhese forces, however, had lo defend the people and government facilities, and thus many were tied down to more sialic defense missions.

South Vietnam's thirteen divisions (twelve ARVN and one Marine) were deployed as(including most of the Airborne Division and mosl of the Marine Division, formerly held In III CTZ in strategic reserve)TZ; two in II CTZ (one mostly in the highlands, and one generally in the coastal arcs', and three each in III and IV CTZs. Since the most dangerous enemy threats were posed against I. II. and III CTZselatively much lesser threat againsi IV CTZ, it was obvious that some South Vietnamese forces should be shifted from the southern half to tbe northern half of the country. It was also evident that the strategic reserve (particularly in ihe absence of heavy US air power) was woefully inadequate Unfortunately for the South. ARVNerritorial based armyyslem where divisions were located in areas that the troops called home. Moreover, the families of ARVN soldiers lived close to their bases and were dependent (housing for example) on support from the ARVN or the government. (Families of the Airborne and Marine Divisions lived near bases in the vicinity ofnd so the NVA hadenormous advantage over thewas unencumbered byand could move quickly without any worry about their safety or well-being. This would prove toatal weakness for the ARVNnd II CTZs.

President Thieu. and Ceneral Cao Van Vien, Chairman JCS, were fully aware of the maldeployment of ihe nation's forces, and early5 seriously considered llie possibilities of shifting troops or giving up territory and thereby reducing the area that had to be defeivded,ombination of both. Some US adviser* and some Vietnamese officials hadruncaled-Vietnamback from the highlands of II CTZ and fromTZ, for example. Bui Thieu could not bring himself to any drastic change in his defense policy, fearing notevastating psychological blow to the South Vietnamese people and iheir armed forces, but also the effect on American altitudes toward South Vietnam And so the only change made was toivision from IVhort distance north into the upper delta just south of Saigon in III CTZ. In addition, ihe commanderTZ was warned

to be prepared to release the Airborne DivisionTZ to the strategic reserve, while the commander of II CTZ was warned that he could not expect any reinforcement (II Corps with the largest zone to defend had the smallest force of any ARVN Corps) and would have to fight with what he had.41

The stage was set for the last act.


The final NVA offensive began early in5 in II CTZ with diversionary attacks in the Kontum and Plelku City areas, as well as along Highwayeading from the Central Highlands to the coast. These attacks were designed to conceal the mainhree-division assault against Ban Me Thuot, the traditional capital of the Montagnard country. Elements ofRVN Division and local forces fought hard but were overrun, and the city was captured onarch.

In mid-February. JCS, and the ARVN IIad insisted that Ban Mc Thuot was the enemy's principal objective, but Lieutenant General Phan Van Phu. the commander of II Corps, had not agreed. Believing instead that Pleiku City was the main NVA objective. Phu planned his moves accordingly. (InIA memorandum (typescript) stated that recent NVA movements, involving at least one division southward from Pleiku, suggested that Ban Me Thuot was at least an alternative NVA objective to Pleikuhe overall commander of the final offensive. Senior General Van Tien Dung, revealed6 that the decision lo begin5 offensive (Hanoi initially not expecting total victory that year) in the Central Highlands with Ban Me Thuot as the main objective was taken5 at the Politburo meeting previouslyeneral Dung also wrote an article with General Vo Nguyen Giap. which first appeared in the official communist paper, Nhan Dan (Hanoi) in the summerntitled "Great Victory of the5 General Offensive andhat among other things stressed the key nature of two decisions; where to make the mainMewhen to time the attack.**

For years South Vietnamese leaders and American advisers serving in Vietnam had recognized the strategic importance of the Central Highlands because from this fulcrum hostile forces wereosition to drive eastward and cut South Vietnam in two. Pleiku and Kontum had been considered the most important part of tbe highlands, while Ban Me Thuot was also considered important because it was the center of the politically sensitive Montagnard region. And so the ARVN II Corps commander. Lieutenant General Phu, immediately after the fall of the city started counterattack plans in motion to retake Ban Me Thuot.

Shortly thereafter, however, onarch. Phu met with President Thieu at Cam Ranh where Thieu revealed his willingness to give up Kontum and Pleiku cities in order to recover Ban Me Thuot. Since Highwayeading to the coast from Pleiku and Highwayonnecting Pleiku and Ban Me Thuot to the south were both cut by enemy forces, only route 7b. an unimprovedtrail, was available for the extrication of the ARVN forces in the Kontum-Plciku region. Thieu and Phu agreed that these forces would be withdrawn along this route, in effect abandoning the northern part of the Central


Highlands, and then assembled on ihe coastounterattack to the west along Highwayo recapture Ban Me Thuot. Phu then flew back to his headquarters atI Corps headquarters had long been located at this forward position so that the government could keep its eye on the Monta-gnards. Thisajor factor in the resulting confusion during the withdrawal because communications between the corps commander and his subordinate units became almost impossible as soon as the movement began.

Phu issued the withdrawal orders hastily, hoping that his troops could reach Tuy Hoa on the coast before the enemy could discover and react to the movement. Accordinglyew commanders and staff officers were told of the plan in advance and the province chiefs affected learned of the plan only when Ihey saw the ARVN units on the move. As soon as the populace discovered what was goingass civilian exodus began. No Americans wereeven theartin was on leave in the United States at the time, having left Vietnam in the latter part of February.

The net result was disaster as troops, their families, and civilian refugees moved along Route 7b. harassed, ambushed, and pursued by the enemy until finally reaching Tuy Hoa onarch. To the northRVN Division, which for over three weeks had valiantly blocked the advance of two NVAalongas forced back with heavy casualties to Qui Nhon on the coast. Shortly thereafter,pril the division and other forces in the area were evacuated by sea lo Ving Tau in III CTZ and Qui Nhon fell to the enemy.

rigade of ARVN paratroopers, which earlier had been shiftedTZ. defended the approaches along Highwayo Ninh Hoa on tbe coast, allowing remnants of tbeRVN Division to escape. By the end of March the paratroopers and regional forces In the area had been forced back, losing many men in heavy fighting andain defense of Nha Trang in early April, and had to be rescued by sea. By mid-April organized South Vietnamese resistance had ceased in II CTZ.*'

In the meantime, in early March, the NVA launched another multi-divisional offensiveTZ. advancing on key positions protecting Hue and further south. Da Nang. President Thieu chose this time to order the Airborne Division to be moved from the Da Nang area to III CTZ for the defense of(Later one brigade of the division was diverted to help in the defense of southern II CTZ as previouslyo replace the airborne troops. Lieutenant General Ngo Quang Truong,orps commander, shifted most of the Marine division from Quang Tri City in the extreme north lo the Da Nang area, leaving the 1st ARVN Division and one Marine brigade to cover Hue.ivilian flight from Quang Tri City. Truong directedorps staff to assist the refugee movement but it soonlood heading south. At this moment. President Thieu intervened again in the tactical operationsTZ. Having Initially told Truong that the Da Nang area was the most important part and that the restTZ could be sacrificed ifThieu one week later changed signals and directed that both Hue and Da Nang be held at all costs. But the exodus south had already started and nowpeople from Hue while Da Nang was already massively swollen with refugees When territorial forces defending north of Hue withdrew without


orders because ihey feared for their families in (he Hueeneral rout developed. Truong, realizing that Hue could no longer be defended, ordered the troops in die area to withdraw on foot along the beach toward Hai Van Pass and Da Nang. Tanks, guns, trucks, and other military gear had to bein place"

In the southern partTZ, theRVN Division and other forces in Ouang Nhai Province were being concentrated for the defense of Chu Lai. Once more, however, Saigon intervened and Truong was ordered to give up Chu Lai, to release the Marine Division for movement to Saigon, and to employ theRVN Division in the final defense of Da Nang Thereafter it was all downhill for the South Vietnamese. Tbe 1st andRVN Divisions and the Marine Division tried to reach the Da Nang area but enemy troops already controlled the main coastal road. Highwayorth and south of the city. Soldiers of theRVN Division; originally responsible for the defense of Da Nang, now became more and more concerned for their families in the area, which had come under heavy enemy artillery and rocket attack, and began to melt away. Truong had no choice but to try to save what troops that he could and managed to ship all organized forces, mostly Marines, out of Da Nang for movement to III CTZ. Bya Nang belonged to the NVA. (The rescuing Qeet included South Vietnamese craft of everyAmerican warships were also in Da Nang waters, but outside the three-mile limit, having been committed by President Ford to support the South Vietnamese

The NVA offensive struck in III CTZ at about the same time (early March) as it did in the northern CTZs. Onarch. NVA divisions launched multi-pronged attacks toward Saigon from the north, northwest, and west, while local main force battalions attacked from the south alongoward Saigon. But the main front opened in mid-March when another three NVA divisions struckh ARVN Division at Xuan Loc east of Saigon. ARVN troops fought, well and generally held their own during the month of March except in the area along Highwayorth of Saigon."

By this time the extent of the disastrous chain of events in South Vietnam had finally penetrated to the highest levels In Washington.7he last US national estimate published on Vietnam, was both pessimistic and prophetic. It stated that the lossnd II CTZs was probably permanent and that South Vietnam would probably be left in control over little more than Saigon, surrounding populated areas, and the Delta. The SNIE estimated lhat remaining South Vietnamese forces might be able to hold In the south, at least through the beginning of the wet monsoon inut lhat in any case ihe end result was likely to be defeat byt about the time of this estimate. President Ford decided to send General Weyand, the last MACV commander and now the Army's Chief of Staff, to Saigonersonal assessment. Weyand was also toersonal message from President Ford to President Thieu lhat although ihc US government would support South Vietnam to the best of its ability, the United States would not fight again in Vietnam. Ambassador Martin, who had been In the United States for several weeksost critical time for South Vietnam, accompanied Weyand to Saigon on

General Weyand very quickly learned the true extent of the disaster in the north and the bleak situation in the south. South Vietnam had three ARVN Divisions in the Delta (IV CTZ) in fairly good shape, but for the defense ofhad only six understrength ARVN divisions in III CTZ, and these had been fight ins for weeks against large NVA forces. Sixteen NVA divisions were now deployed either in or very close to IIIhalf of these divisions had also been fighting for weeks, the other half were up to strength and fresh. The DAO. Saigon estimated that the enemy would not give the Southhance to recover but would go all out to seize Saigon (ignoring the Delta) and end the war. The DAO concluded thatenewed US commitment of aid and an emergency air resupply would help, it was extremely doubtful that the South Vietnamese could hold without,inimum. US airpower directed at NVA troops, supply lines, and bases in South Vietnam. (The South Vietnamese Air Force had tried to bomb NVA troop concentrations and to give friendly ground forces close air support but had been generally ineffective because of the intense enemy AAA firetloomy, realistic, and as history records, an accurate estimate.

An informal memorandum for the record,. prepared by the East Asian Division, DDOrief rundown of the successive disasters in South Vietnam andimilar judgment, noting lhat Saigon could fallatter of weeks. Saigon Station although agreeing with the DAO assessment insofar as the military situation was concerned, as late5 reported that Thieu was finished as head of state, that replacing him would hasten ihe end of the Saigon regime, and that Hanoi would therefore probably settleolitical solution rather thaninal military assault on Saigon. Likewise interagency assessments made by CIA, DIA, apd Slale/INR5 and published in the National In-telligence Daily, concluded that Saigon's fate was scaled, lhat it wasailer of months if not weeks, that Hanoi could take either the military or political route but would probably opt for the less costly political course of action.

Weyand agreed with the assessment that ihe situation could not be retrieved without direct US intervention and so reported to President Ford upon returning lo Washington in early April. Weyand also recommended massive military aid even though he recognized thai itorlornIA-DIA Intelligence Memorandumatedto support General Weyand's testimony in Congress with respect to the situation, reached essentially the same conclusions that Weyand had reached during his visit to South Vietnam. The IM stated lhat ARVN units were still fighting in the southern part of South Vietnam and acquitting themselves well, but that the NVA nowecisive military superiority in the south, having commiltcd the bulk of its strategic reserves, andonth would beosition to achieve "total victory"5 as called for in recent COSVN instructions The probable outcome, the paper indicated, was that remaining ARVN forces defending Saigon would be overwhelmed before the South Vietnamese could rebuild additional effective units from the troops evacuated from the north.

Vietnamese had depattcd Saigon (or good. Estimates o( the number of South Vietnamese evacuated vary from0"

Much criticism has been leveled against Martin and Polgar for dragging their feet with respect to the evacuation. But criticism in hindsight is easy and cheap, particularly by those who were not there and bore no responsibility. These men faced an exquisite dilemma because they knew all too wellremature "bug-out" would not only create panic, but also would destroy any chance of Saigon's survival, and yet they also recognized that many lives were at stake. The author concludes that the evacuation was well planned and reasonably well executed under the mosl difficult imaginable circumstances, and that the US Embassy. CIA, and DAO people involved deserve commendation.

On the morning ofpril President Minh surrendered the country to the NVA. When "Big" Minh told theiri to lay down their arms. South Vietnamese troops were still defending their positions within the inner ring of defenses around Saigon while almost all of the main district towns and provincial capitals in the Delta were still in friendly hands."

Although the wearing down of South Vietnamese forces by NVA offensive actions4 and the decline of American support were among the most crucial factors in the collapse of South Vietnam, the proximate causeilitary sense was the South Vietnamese decision to withdraw from the Central Highlands in5 and the ensuing debacle in II CTZ. An ill-fated corps commander, Lieutenant General Phu, was directly responsible for the calamity, but President Thieu and General Vien, Chairman, JGS must also share the blame. Because his JGS role was primarily advisory to Thieu, General Vien In his book. The Final Collapse, points the finger at Thieu. but Vien and the JGS nevertheless should not have left the planning and execution ofritical movement entirely up to the corps commander.ostscript. General Phu. after arranging for the evacuation of his family in late April, committed suicide in the JGS compound at Tan Son Nhut air

Anyone in retrospect can criticize Thieu and his advisers on the late decision to withdraw from the Central Highlands, pointing out that had it been made earlier before the final NVA offensive began, the ending might have been very different. But one must not overlook the enormous difficulty of abandoning land and people that South Vietnam had fought sotwentyso hard to defend-In the final analysis, South Vietnam simply lacked the means to defend the entire country against an aggressive, relentless enemy who would not give up its goal of conquest. Specifically South Vietnam did not have sufficient ground forces and tactical mobility tolawed defensive strategy which had been inherited from the United States. Nor did the South Vietnamese have the air power needed to make up the difference on the ground. Their air force was not capable of carrying out an offensive or interdiction role against North Vietnam, and in fact only rarely could provide effective close air support for their own troops because of the tremendous increase in the AAA defenses of the NVA. Admittedly the above makes no mention of the numerous, serious nonmilitary shortcomings of South

sociological, economic, and institutional But it does get to the nitty-gritty bottom line of military power.

Creat credit is due the North Vietnamese. Theyowerful, modern, mechanized force, which trained carefully and extensively, steadily improvlng after everyhey supported the NVAtreamlined efficient logistic pipeline that extended from North Vietnam into Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam. And theyrilliant strategic concept and sound supporting tactical plans that were executed in an excellent manner.

In this connection the role of tbe Soviets in the final offensive is an interesting subject on which to speculate. While Kissinger up until the fall of Saigon apparently believed that the Soviets were trying toonstructive role, other evidence points to the contrary The Chief of Staff of the Soviet Army. General Georiyevich Kultkov, visited Hanoi in4 and could have been involved in. or at least gained knowledge of. the5 offensive The timing of Kulikov's7uring the period when the Politburo session blessed the operational proposals of tlie NVA highives credence lo this thesis If the Soviets did indeed help the North Vietnamese in their strategic planning atritical time, it further tipped the scale in Hanoi's preference for the Soviets over the Chinese."

In brooding about the relative suddenness of the final collapse in the South and the surprise and disappointment it caused among many Americans, officials and private citizens alike, the author has often been struck by thequestion,he judgment of the intelligence community had long been that the South Vietnamese would not be able to cope alone with the North Vietnamese and that the key was American support. US military leaders, tbe author included, shared that judgment. Aware of this feeling, the Nixon Administration tried to give South Vietnam time tosociologically, economically, andthe while steadily withdrawing US troops andegotiated settlement with Hanoi. This took four years to achieve with the cease-fire inut overall, there had not been enough time totrong, stable nation. General Cao Van Vien has stated that it would haveeneration to clean upweed out incompetence, and develop able leadership in South Vietnam.

After the cease-fire and the withdrawal of not only all US forces bul also all military1ost American military men. the author Included, felt that Ihe odds for South Vietnam's survival fell. The3 passed relatively quickly as the opposing forces in South Vietnam jockeyed for position, but then4 Hanoi in reality opened its final offensive By the end of the year South Vietnamese forces were tired, dispirited, and under-strength, while still facing the prospect of endless combat against fresh, well-armed, and well-equipped NVA troops. But in addition. South Vietnamation was demoralized, in particular affected by the events in the United States and ihe drastic reduction in US aid.5 began, the realization that the United Stales was prepared to cut South Vietnam loose finally sank home. The calamities ol5 in the northern half of the country served only

lo accelerate this process ol >lemorali7ation. but looking at it cold-bloodedly, total collapse sooner or later would probably liave occurred in any event.

The seemine surprise in Washington over the sudden turn ol events in the spring5 is another question. It can be argued that US intelligence assessments and reports did not loudly sound the alarm until late inut the bald facts of life with respect to South Vietnam were there all the time. In the author's view the simple truth was that tbe United States4 and5 was heavily preoccupied with domestic problems, in particular. Watergate, the disgraceerving president, and his replacementon-clcctcdombination of factors that paralyzed the presidency. It was not so much that the American people were uninterested as it was that they would supporteengagement of US power nor ancommitment to provide military aid to South Vietnam. The war had gone on too long and there was no convincing evidence to show (hat continued American support would not be throwing good money after bad.

Summary of Part III

In Part III, pertaining to the Nixon and Ford Administrations until the collapse of South Vietnam one have seenew approach to the war was taken with its de- Americanization duringeriod andegotiated cease-fire was achieved ine have traced the process of Vietnamization and have seen how Southforces fared in increasingly severeaosnd the Easter offensivehe renewed US air war against North Vietnam and the mining of Haiphong2 have been examined.after3 cease-fire have been reviewed and we have seen how the balance of power shifted to North Vietnaminally, we have seen the ensuing sudden denouement in the spring5 culminating in the fall of Saigon. Throughout this period,0IA and the US intelligence community continued to perform in anmanner exceptew relatively minor aberrations.

The Agency was embarrassed by the revelations resulting from the Cambodian incursion of0 that clearly demonstrated the importance of the sea route from North Vietnam to Sihanoukville as the major supply route for enemy forces in the southern half of South Vietnam. Although this episode badly hurt CIA in the eyes of the Nixon Administration, it did notaffect allied fortunes in Southeast Asia and was blown out of proportion by critics of the intelligence community. On the other hand, intelligence gained from the Cambodian affair generally confirmed CIAs position with respect to the order of battle controversy that for so long plagued the intelligence community.

The Pentagon was also embarrassed by the dry hole encountered In the US raid on the Son Tay POW Camp inhis result, naturally, obscured the spectacularly successful operational performance of theforces involved, but the raid did result in some favorable consequences.

Some critics tried to blame the lack of complete success in the South Vietnamese Laotian venture in1 on inadequatebut the facts of the matter do not support such allegations. The

incursionumble and the US civilian and military officials involved in the operation, both in Vietnam and in the United States, knew it

'Ihe mining of Haiphong in2 largely confirmed CIA's long held (and not especially popular) view with respect to North Vietnam'sto sea and overland interdiction. The consequences of the operation bore out the accuracy of tbe Agency's assessment thai Hanoi's war efforts would not be decisively affected by such actions.

Puring the period covered by Part III. CIA's role and stature within US government councils were somewhat damaged by the latent hostility of President Nixon and the power plays of his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, who in effect preempted the Agency's proper role But tbe record is also clear that Kissinger, as he himself documents in his book Years of Upheaval (Boston: Little, Brown, and. was also veryof CIA's analytical and operational resources David Coffin, in Volumef his history of OERlso chronicles frequent commendations from the White House/NSC Staff, as well as from OSD. for high quality CIA/OER studies and assessments on important subjectsofficials were especially commendatory with respect to Agency net assessments of the.balance of military forces in South Vietnam, both before and after the3 cease-fire.

The period oflso saw the further decline of ONE and the ultimate demise of the Board of National Estimates in the fallhere was no apparent decline, however, In the quality of Agency and interagency assessments and estimates after that date.

Part Hi closes with tbe final chapter in the history of South Vietnam The author has attempted an explanation of sorts of "whatut itecognized lhat Vietnam is an immensely complex and subtle puzzle that will probably be debated for decades to come.

Part III References

I Smith.


Coffin. 'Development ol Economic Intelligence. OER. Volume.


Kissinger, White Haute Yean.: theown personal experience as the Army Vice Chief of Staff at the

CIA (DDI) Memorandum.Additional Evidence2 Strikes In Cambodian Territory."

8 Karnow,utofu..

offin. 'Development of Economic Intelligence. OEB., lor esample.,Significance of Cambodia to Ihe Vietnamese Community War Effort-"

CIA (OER) Intelligence Memorandum.Cambodia's Bole in the Movement of Arms and Ammunition to the Vietnamese Communists "

evelopment of Economic Intelligence, OER. Volume.

CIA /OER typescript (in responseuery from OSDL "Logistic Flows to the Enemy in Southated

offin. "Development of Economic InteJbgcnec, OER. Volume; CIA/OEB Intelligence Memorandum. "Military Deliveries to Cambodia." dated

Memorandum from the DCI (Richard Helms) to the Chairman, PFIAB. datedPost Mortem on tbe Role of Cambodia in Supplying VC/NVA Forces in South Vietnam."

Coffin, "Development of Economic Intelligence. OER. Volume.

Author's conversations with Paul Walsh,t CIA Headquarters. (Author at the timeember ol CIA's Senior Review Panel.)

Report on the Foreign and Military Intelligence Actlotttet of the United States. Book I. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, CPO,6.

ibid.. (The Church Committee's Final Report appears to be in error with respect tohich cites "Draft. previously discussed in thb paper, published0 dale, about thiee months before the Cambodian incursion, made no mention of Cambodia. The committee report may be referring lo. "Tlie Outlook for0 after the allied Incursion had ended.)

IA/OER Intelligence Memorandum.Revbed Estimates ol VC/NVA Forces in Soulh Vietnam."

Kissinger. White House Yean.

tbid.: tee also Beriiamin F. Schemmer's The Paid (New York: Harper and


bid,issinger,hite House Yean (New York; Little. (Covering the period8 tohis book often detailed documentation of Kissinger's unique policymaking role dorlng the Vietnam War]

he most eloquent and detailed documentation of KUainger'i unique political-militaiyng the Vietnam War appear, in hi. monumental hook0 pages! Whlu llotue teen, coyermg the petrad from the9 election* through3

ronger. Whue Hew Yean,

A memorandumlr>ob.Ue React .oca of VenousPart.esossible Allied Action in SouthCIA asemceandumDtspmition and Strength of Communist Combat Units In SouthNorth Vietnam, and South VietnamMilnai, Region 1"

26 Memorandum for the DCI from SAVA.



IA Memorandum for the PreslnVnr.

e lommunlit Reiuonse to.

IA Mcmorandun.

rjjStatc/INR .ne^.iniimiinnr nesportse to LAMMJIS". 5



Coffin.velopment of Economic InieJluence. OER, Volume.

CIA Memorandum.


CIA IntrlHaenee Memorandum. "Emmy Slratefy and In Indochina Through-

OA InteJhgence MenvorarmW. "North VietnamCapabilicn to Continue to Waa*1

S Intelligence Board MeeoorandumDetection of North Vietnamese PersonnelCIA/DDI Intelligence Memorandum.VA Infiltration andlovment Since"

ieutenant General Hitman Dieklmon, US Army-Retired,was the senior adviser to the In ARVN Divisionolonel) al the lime of the Eaiter oflensve, confirmed iheae statements to the author hiACV Intelligence, according to Dickinson,2 as Ihe beginning dale, only one day off. Dickinson said that rust prior to Ihe attack, element) of the ltt ARVN Dlvitlnn had been in the Ashau Valley InTZ near ihe border, where Ihey had captured several Soviet heavy artillery pieces and found much evidence that convinced Ihe ARVN commanded that the main attack would come from Laos Dickinson also said lhat not until after tbe offensive haddid he learn ol Intelligence that Indicated the enemy plan to come through then ccdleni discussion of Hanoi's equities In the Eaater offensive and the regime's project, at the time it was going on appearedIA memorandum,Communist InteMions in the Current Campaign In South Vietnam "

OA InteJugenee Memorandum. 'The Effect of the Past Month's Eventsorth Vietnamese Military1

OA/DDI InceCigrnce Memorandum. "Pactfiratioo in Southamage52

OA ImelhCence Memorandum. "Net Asstaament ol North Vietnamese and South Vietnam-ese0lA iMcmccnc* Memorandum. The Impact of the Past Month's Events on North Vietnam's Military

Coffin. "Development of Economic Intelligence OER. Volume-





What the record reflected in these pages makes clear is that immediately after World War II and in the early years of American involvement in SoutheastS pohcymakers neither understood the ret ion nor had available In the intelligence community tbe information they needed to permit that understanding to develop. This situation goes far to explain American ambivalence about the region in ihose years. Il raises doubts as lo whether llie United States acted wisely in displacing (he French from Indochina following ihe conclusion of ihe Geneva Accords. With all the advantages of hindsight we can see now that our anti-colonial credentials as Americans, our recognition of the long-term Communist threat both to US interests in the region and to the well-being of the peoples of Southeast Asia, and ihc massive economic and military power of ihe United States were simply not enough lo ensure our success Nor could our policymakers, given iheir ignorance of the history, culture and politics of the region, define US aims so thai ihey made sense domestically and internationally. And withoutefinition we were unable lo devise an effective course of action and sustain II until we prevailed.

As the United States became more directly involved in Indochina, the US intelligence community likewise began lo focus attention on the region The performance was mixed, but generally creditable during the fourteen or so years spanning the Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedyuring this formative period, while US policy toward Southeast Asia was evolving, the record shows that American intelligence officersuch better grasp of the complex and difficult problems confronting the United Stales than the great majority of American policymakers and leaden. During these yeais, ihe heyday of ONE and ihe Board of National Estimates. ONE maintained basically consistent views of key questions pertaining lo Vietnam and Laos, despite the dearth of solid Information about these countries

Overall,the JohnsonS intelligence in general and CIA In particular performedompetent and highly professional manner Although the influence of national estimates in the intelligence and policymaking worlds began to decline In thisise occurred in theof othertimely, and high quality intelligence memorandaroad range of political, military, and economic subjects pertaining lo Vietnam

The commitment of US power in Southeast Asia ineriod and the escalation of the Vietnam War resultedajor involvement of CIA in every aspect of the conflict. Within CIA, ORR and its successor, OER, responded lo Ihe challenge and for the duration of hostilities demonstrated commendable initiative, ingenuity, and professional analytical skills wiih respect to Vietnam. With the reorganization of CIA inIA's decision to let OER (as well as OCI) continue to carry out ihe Agency's basic analytical responsibilities pertaining lo llie war served toragmatic one because these offices were already in the business The exclusion of the newly

created OSR from Vietnam affairs, nevertheless,urious one because OSR was oriented primarily on military research. Indeed, as one senior CIA official commented. "Ittrange division ofhether this reflects an ambivalent perception on the part of CIA with respect to its wartime role is not entirely clear, but it behooves the Agency to reflect further on tbe question.

CIAs Increasingly close involvement with Vietnamese matters was accelerated by requests beginning5 from Secretary of Defensefor independent CIA evaluationsroad range of subjects pertaining to both North and South Vietnam.5 to the end ofcNamara looked primarily to CIA for intelligence support with respect to Vietnam.

CIA's record was demonstrably noteworthy with regard to its longer term assessments of North Vietnam. Throughout the war tbe Agency consistently held the view thai US air attacks against North Vietnam and US air interdiction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail were not decisive in themselves, and that North Vietnam was not vulnerable to sea blockade of Us ports and/or Interdiction of its overland links wiih China. CIA was likewise consistent and accurate in its judgments lhat North Vietnam had the manpower and could obtain sufficient materiel from the Soviet Union and China loar of attrition indefinitely, and lhat its leaders possessed tbe will to persist.

The ground order of battle controversy over estimates of enemy strengths and capabilities lhai erupted within the US intelligence community in thend persisted into, In ihe authors opinion, was inevitable because it involved fundamentalnature of the war and how it was being fought by both sides. The controversy was exacerbated by ihc obsession ol US policymakers in Washington withaspects and statistics lhat would conclusively demonstrate US progress or lack thereof in the war. Deep and wide disagreements opened on ihe question of whether the enemy In the South was getting stronger, weaker, or holding his own. Essentially the disagreements were between CIA in Washington and MACV in Saigon. This situation compelled CIA to get deeply into the order of battleield normally reserved for the military intelligence agencies. Although ihe controversy generated unfortunate national publicity, on balance it probably did more good than harm because it uncovered conceptual, philosophic, and mettiodological differences within the intelligencethat needed to be thoroughly aired and debated. All things considered, CIA was probably closer lo the "ground truth" than any other agency in the community, while MACV consistently underestlmaied total enemyNo persuasive evidence has been uncovered to support the charge that strength estimates were deliberately manipulated within the community for political

An "extenuating drcurnstance" lhat al least partially contributed to MACV shortcomings in the intelligence field is Ihe inordinate lime it took the Department of Defense toredible, competent intelligencein Vietnam.AAC was established in Saigon in0 and MACV came into existence inrganization capable of handling the ground warfare aspects of the war was

not developed untilhis isatisfactory performance. Moreover, the United States never achieved unity of the intelligence effort in Southegrettable failure considering the central importance of intelligence as the basis for an effective counterinsurgency program. Reasons for this lack of unity are well known and transcend the intelligence community. In fact the problem is probably not susceptible lo an ideal solution. Nevertheless, the United Slates can and must do better in this regard in future conflicts that may arise.

The enemy offensive ofertainly one of the turning points of the war, surprised US intelligence with respect to its timing, nature,scope, and unprecedented intensity. US intelligence in Saigon, both MACV and Saigon Station, had ample strategic warningajor attack and indeed the DDI/CIA representative in Saigon sent an uncannily accurate forecast of the offensive to CIA Headquarters inut the sense of urgency felt in Saigon did not penetrate tp US policymakers in Washington. (George Carver, SAVA.lear opportunity in7 to alert the White House but threw cold water on the studies coming from the DDI/CIA representative inhe net result wasurprised Washington was not prepared to deal with the political and psychological consequences of the Tetost-mortem conducted by thecommunity for the Presidents Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFlAB) concluded in8 that inadequacies both in Saigon and Washington caused the community to "miss not only the enemy's overall plan and his precise timetable, but also his general capabilities and intent" The author agrees with this judgment and believes that MACV must accept much of the responsibility for "missing theecause of an Inflexible mindset within therganization, MACV had been deceived byirs own estimates of enemy capabilities and consequently had not sufficiently warned Washington of the potential for an unprecedented level of enemy actions at the time ofinally, it is likewise manifest that no one in Saigon or Washington foresaw the ultimate significance of the enemy offensive and its effect on the United States, especially the Johnson Administration.

Throughout the Nixon and Ford years from9 to the fall of Saigon onIA and the US intelligence community performed in an outstanding manner exceptew relatively minor aberrations.

The Agency was embarrassed by the Sihanoukville issue when the Cambodian incursion of0 clearly demonstrated the importance of the sea route from North Vietnam in supplying enemy forces in the southern half of South Vietnam. The episode hurt CIA In the eyes of the Nixonbut did not appreciably affect the allied war effort On the other hand, the allied actions in Cambodia uncovered valuable intelligence that generally supported CIA's views with respect to the order of battle controversy that for so long plagued the intelligence community.

The Department of Defense was likewise embarrassed by the dry hole encountered in the US raid on the Son Tay POW camp in North Vietnam inOD officials were criticized for proceeding with the raid despite last minute intelligence indicating that the American POWs could have been removed from Son Tay, but the overall consequence of the raid, in the author's opinion, justified the operation.


The intelligence community was unfairly accused of an inadequate intelligence performance in connectiun with the South Vietnamese operation) in Februarys well as with the enemy's Easter offensivehe facts of the matter do not support such allegations in either case. To the contrary, CIA and the community did an excellent job before, during, and after these operations

The mining of Haiphong in2 largely confirmed CIA's long held (and frequently challenged) view that North Vietnam was not vulnerable to sea blockade or interdiction of lb overland links with China. Theof the US mining operations essentially bore out the accuracy of tbe Agency's judgment that Hanoi's war elfort would not be decisively affected.

During the, the influence of ONE declined further and in the fall3 tbe Board of National Estimates went out of existence SAVA continued its dominance of the national intelligence scene pertaining to Vietnam.

CIA's overall performance record in retrospect looks particularly good in connection with its longei term assessments of South Vietnam's political, economic, and military prospects For example. CIA's estimates of South Vietnam's military capabilities under various combinations of enemy forces and US support made in9 at the beginning of the Nixon Administration proved to be remarkably accurate. The CIA and thewere likewise close to Ihe mark In their long term assessments of South Vietnam's military prospects under the3 cease-fire agreements, but the WashinRton community definitely missed the mark, not seeming to realize the state of near exhaustion in the ARVN and the serious demoralization that occurred In South Vietnam4 among its people, armed forces, and leadersagging economy. Nor did the Washington community seem to appreciate fully the marked increase in North Vietnamese military capability during the same period. Consequently Washington was badly surprised by the ARVN collapse In the northern half of South Vietnam in the spring5 not long after Hanoi's final offensive began. The fatal implications of the situation were quickly gauged, however, and theassessments of South Vietnam's prospects as well as the current reporting of the situation were outstanding through the last days of the American presence.

Presidential relations with ihe DCI had iheir ups and downs during ihe American involvement in Vietnam Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy appear to have been quite content with their respective choices for DCI, Allen Dulles and John McCone. but were not facedajor "hot" war during their tenures in office. On the other hand, President Johnson, who committed the United Slates lo major hostilities, had two DCIs (John McCone and William Raborn) before settling on Richard Helms inhite House-CIA relations reached their zenith during the Johnson-Helms period and then went downhill when Nixon became President The basic problem appeared to have been Nixon's distrust of the whole Washington bureaucracy, not iuit of CIA. During this period. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger did not add to ihe image and status of CIA although eventually he came lo value


highlvxtraordinary capabilities existing wttliin the Agency. Nixon, after replacing Helms with lames Schlesinger at the beginning of his second term,ew months later appointed William Colby as DCI inhange occurring during the Nixon cabinet shakcup brought on by the congressional Watergate hearings Colby survived Nixon's resignation in4 and served under President Ford for the rest of the Vietnam War. Looking back, the author is struck by the fact that CIA remainedelatively stable keel and steady courseecades-long period of great international and domestic turbulence.

The foregoing raises the question of why the President and senior US policymakers seemingly did not pay more attention to CIA views and known disagreements within the intelligence community during tbe Vietnam War Secretary of Defense McNamara did value CIA Judgments and beginning3 relied more and more on CIA until President Johnson replaced him inut McNamara seemed lo have been the exception. The answer probably lies very much with the President and his basic attitudes which conditioned his decisions regarding the war. As committed in wartime as Johnson waso President could afford toack of will, at least publicly, in the pursuit of the war, regardless of differing views within hisand the intelligence community pertaining to the conduct of the war Moreover, the DCIormidable array of senior policymakers who usually have strong personalities and do not hesitate to exercise the clout ol their respective departments. In such an environment, it seems unreasonable to expect the DCI to wield much influence unless he is personally close to the President and has his confidence. Nevertheless, our Vietnam experience should tell us that in wartime it is more important than ever that the DO serve the President directly and that his central role in intelligence not be diminished in any way To do otherwise is to court disaster.

One astute observer has said that the American involvement in Vietnam can lie briefly describedfailure in intellect" in the beginning that endedfailure int may be naive to believe that CIA realistically canajor influence in those major policy areas involving the premises upon which the President and other political leaders (both in the executive branch and the Congress) came to office in the Bret place- But CIA must try to do its best, regardless of the odds, to conduct serious, objective analysis in the hope of assisting political leaders to reexamine their premises, even if not expecting them to change their minds.

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