ASSESSMENT OF THE CURRENT MILITARY SITUATION IN VIETNAM

Created: 8/9/1974

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

Assessment of the Current Military Situation in Vietnam

(This Memorandum wot drafted by the Oefunse Intelligence Agency and fully coordinated with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the Department of State.)

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94

August 9, 4

ASSESSMENT OF THE CURRENT MILITARY SITUATION IN VIETNAM

KEY POINTS

The Cotmounists have increased the level of their military action in South Vietnam and are likely to increase it further in the near future.

We do not believe, however,oordinated, countrywide offensive similar to that2 is in the offing for the remainder

But whatever Hanoi's present plans, it must be recognized that developments throughout South Vietnam over the past few months have placed South Vietnamore vulnerable position.

If the North Vietnamese perceive that the battlefield situation ia turning in their favor and/or that the US is no longer willing to come to Saigon's defense, they might be tempted to undertake even heavier action and take greater risks to make major gains in South Vietnam. It would take several weeks from time of decision for the North Vietnamese to preparearge-scale offensive, and we would obtain advanceof their preparations during this period.

1. Over the past month there hasairly high level of Communist military activity in South Vietnam, particularly in the northernmost miHtary regionore recently, there have been several indicators pointing toward increased action. The most important of these are:

a.

th Division may be deploying from MR 1'a Quang Tri Province to the Quang Nam battlefield. For his part, the South Vietnameseommander is calling back, the 1st Airborne Brigade from Saigon tond has directed that the 3rd Airborne Brigade move from Hue to the Da Nang area.

In theighlands, theronthas

moved from the South vietnamese-LaotTari-Camoodian border areaosition between the cities of Kontum and Pleiku. The headquarters of the two major NVA logistic units in the area have also moved eastward from the border area in recent weeks. Moves of this nature usually have indicated major increases in fighting.

Inorth and northwest of Saigon, another major Communiat military headquarters

"[suggesting

tnat tneae units may increase sm.xcaxy activity in the near future.

There are other developments over the past nine months which could relateecision by Hanoi to step-up itB military activity at some point. For examplei

NVA corps headquarters have been formed ascomponents of the NVA. The 1st Corpslocated in central North Vietnam,strategic reserve divisions and majorand engineer elements. The 2nd Corpsin earlyontrols Communist

main force units in South Vietnam's two northern provinces. These tactical headquarters could facilitate the deployment of NVA divisions to reinforce current Communist military operations ins well as toarge force structure in any future major offensive.

HIGs are currently deployed at two basesNorth Vietnamese panhandle, and additional deploy-

] Several radar com-

piexes in the panhandle provide ground control intercept coverage ofiles into South Vietnam.

c. The Communists have moved supplies into South Vietnam at an unprecedented rate. This push has continued and may actually have increased during the past several months. For example, during May, June, and early July, heavy ordnance shipments were noted moving to Viet Cong (VC)n South Vietnam central coast. In addition, in

early July

campaign was undertaken to move large quantities of supplies inays to all areas of South Vietnam.

3. After thorough examination, we believe that theseare insufficient to conclude that the Communists haveecision toajor offensive on the scale of their2 effort. Several other indicators that would, in our judgment be involvedand which we believe would likely be detectedare lacking. These would be:

A now aurge of heavy personnel infiltration from North Vietnam.

Movement of NVA divisions in North Vietnam.

Communist directives and propagandatep-up in military activity of the scope and magnitude that could be regardedstyle majoroffensive.

Moreover, first hand observers of the military situation ineport that, despite initial Communist successes, the South Viet-mese performance thus far has been good.

We believe, however, that the type of fighting we have seen recently inill increase and spread to other areas of the country. The upsurge inegan in mid-July when NVA/VC forces seised several outposts in the Due Due area of Quang Nam Province. Since then. Due Due District Town has been under heavy pressure and nearby Thuong Due District Town was captured by the Consaunists. Casualties have been heavy on both sides. NVA units have not been able, however, to make significant moves into the coastal lowlands. Although the South Vietnamese Armed Forces (RVNAF) can control the situation in Quang Nam Province, the increased NVA activity has forced the South Vietnamese to weaken their position in other areas ofnd to deploy their reserve brigade from the Saigon area.

The available evidence indicates that the Conmunists in the next few months will be placing greater reliance on military action tor

Government of Vietnam (GVN) pacificationoperations in contested orparticularly in tbe vicinity of lines

areas lost to RVNAF since the ceasefire;

the amount of territory and populationcontrol;

the GVN economic Weaken GVN administrative control;

f. Teat, attrite, and demoralize the RVNAF.

recent COSVN assessment of the Communist dryfrom April to4 states that: the GVN

has suffered severe setbacks; he military balance is shifting in the Communists' favor; ilitary operations are necessary through the summer and fall;uch activity could lead to strikingecisive blow in5 dry season." The same assessment admitted Communist weaknesses in both city and district-level political structures and held that little could be gained at the bargaining table. It ia not clear how much of this assessment is propaganda or exhortation.

Conclusion

Communists have been rebuilding their militaryboth North and South Vietnam since the Vietnamof They clearly are preparing tolarge-scale warfare at some point in the future as we statedlast National Intelligence Estimate on Vietnam. (SeeThe Likelihoodajor North VietnameseSouth Vietnam Beforeublished May They now have the capability ofajor oroffensive on relatively shorteveral weeks

or so. We do not believe, however, that the current evidence portends an overall strategy change, and we do not expect the North Vietnamese to attempt an all-out countrywide offensive through the end of the year.

B. Whatever Hanoi's present plans, it must be recognized that developments throughout South Vietnam over the past few months have placed South Vietnamore vulnerable position. If the North Vietnamese perceived that the battlefield situation had turned in their favor and/or that the US was no longer willing to come to Saigon's defense because of domestic political constraints, they might be tempted to undertake heavier military actions and take greater risks to make major gains in South Vietnam.

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