Created: 1/1/1970

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How io obtain North Vietnamese soldiers for intelligence in Laos


Robert A. Petchell

Through the early years of the fighting in Laos, technology wu the primary source of intelligence about tbe enemy, and it left something lo be desired. The jungle canopy frustrated photography, sensors which counted trucks or marching units could not determine what they were carrying, and the enemy order of battle derived from communications intelligence was less than complete.

Human sources were needed to fill the gaps. Friendly sources wereand did yeoman service on such missions as road watch teams andA more useful human source, however, would be the NorthArmy (NVA) soldier.o sources were of minimalhad little access to N'VA activities or plans, and were not sufficiently interested in NVA unit designations to provide adequate order of battle intelligence.

Five years into the war in Laos, NVA defectors or prisoners of war were few and far between.

What was needed was an aggressive program to provoke defection or to snatch NVA soldiers bodily from their environment And for success in any snatch program, it would first be necessary to overcome the conviction of the avcragn government soldier that all North Vietnamese were ogreseet tall.

For assets, there wore the Paramilitary Teamittle-known companion program to the highly publicized Meo irregular battalions of General Vang Pao. The majority of these irregular guerrilla intelligence collection teams came from the area of Saiavane Province and the Boktvens Plateau region, where NVA troop* were more vulnerable than they were along the main routes of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.onsiderable distance from their supply bases, their hold on the territory not consolidated, they bivouacked their troops in or near villages, and they sought supplies from the villagers. NVA support and service soldiers began to move through the area in small groups or alone, as couriers or foragers, or on reconnaissance, letter on,1eserters began leaving NVA units in combat, trying to make their way home to North Vietnam or find asylum in the villages.

These villages,contrast to the Ho Chi Minh Trail area where mosi of tho villagers hadout to be the friendly "sea" in which the "fish" of the irregular guerrilla intelligence teams could swim.

Each of these teams normallyeameputy,orse operator, along with enough team members far an average total strength of eight men. At times, there were as many as twelve, or as few as two- Sometimes they wore uniform, sometimes native dress, and theyariety of weapons, fromarbines tos and hand grenades. They used VHF portable voice radios and IVlco CW radios

The teams were encouraged to remain in the field for at leastays per mission, and often extended torays with light rcsupply drops. Mem-


On Delivery

bersegular0ontheam membereamadditional mission pay ofor each day spent on assignment in the field.

The real incentive under this system was the mission pay; salary could in effect be doubled simply byunfortunately, bymodicum of assigned work in the field. But where was there enough incentive to persuade the irregulars to lay one offoot NVA ogres by the heels?

The mission pay was intended to be payment for results, but It bad the weakness, first, that it allowed for no differentiation to recognize either quality or quantity of results, and second, most of the missions were ofature that it was difficult for the headquarters to verify the results claimed.

The Bounty System

Out of these difficulties, the case officer handling Paramilitary Team Operatious in Military Region IV of southern Laos came up0imple solution to bring rational cupidity to bear on primitive fear. He told selected guerrilla teams that they would receive no daily mission pay, but Instead could0 for each live NVA officer delivered to the0 for each NCO,0 for each NVAOn Delivery.

It worked. The first reliable guerrilla teams who were offered this scheme declined, preferring to remain on regular assignment and daily mission pay, but pressure was maintained to cajole them into trying an abduction in return for the premium. The first successful effort, in fact, was byeam on another mission which found the premium overpowering their fears when they spotted an opportunity to bring in an NVA sergeant. After several such successes by reliable teams, the case officer began calling in the more marginal teams and putting them on abduction missions without anywithout mission pay. If they failed, they would be terminated; if they succeeded, they would earn the bounty and be allowed to return to regular missions at mission pay.

Inao guerrilla intelligence teams were able to induce the defectionVA sergeant, the first time in the Lao war that KLG soldiers were able toVA soldier under their control by means other than his voluntary walk into an HLC position or bis captureazed or wounded condition on the battlefield. It was the first successful aggressive operation specifically designed toVA soldier out of the NVAIt began like this:

Team Cranberry operated in an area five kilometers south of thecapital of Saravane during September and Octoberadvised the team leader during their last

meeting prior to the team's knAdrawal that it was possible to capture aTeam Lime, ledreliable and authenticated team leader,

was briefed and sent into theto collect intelligence and triedwithD' brief every

informant that TeJnr?Lime was interested in capturing NVA soldiers. This simple step paid an immediate dividend.

A former RLG soldier, living about three kilometers south of Saravane and serving as an informant of Team Lime, knew of an NVA soldier who was livingocal Lao girl whose father was ethnic Vietnamese. The informant, Went to see the father and enlisted his aid in convincing the NVA

Cash On Delivery

to lead' NVA SergeantT

whence he was taken by nenoopter to the

Unknownthe fart that <iat I

... wi umys

proposed defection, operation, and was replaced

he targirl, but had desertcdSmunitLC Air Force

bombing attackew days before

'ho decided to recontact

that if Team Lime could impressed

Team Lime thus concluded the

by Team Cranberry, ledd goVA soiaier. Me was co doTf, he could, too. It might be added that by0 that Team Lime received to

w uiviue among six men forays'

work. For team members, this was more than three times theay mission incentive pay.

The First Abduction

sites' decideeron a

jihlrwas onen

used by NVA soldiers traveling alone. After three days oi waiting inthis trail Team Cranberry got luckyicycle approached the team which was hidden in higheach side of the trail. One team member andstationed in plain

view, tried to bail the soldier. When it did not seem that nrrVas going to stop, the tram member charged the bicycle and bowled over the NVA soldier. He was immediately joined by the rest of the team, who hauled the struggling soldier into the grass, trussed him up, and while one team member removed the bicycle from tbc scene, moved off to the Team Cranberry command post for successful delivery by helicopter. The captured soldier was Corporal

iivUiuirr was corporal

f the defection ofnd the capture ofanalysts in Laos received the first reliable human source order ot battle Information onth NVAommand unit for military operations in Southern laos. In addition, Sgtj Reportedajor effort would be made to capture all of the Bolovens Plateau including the key city of Paksong. The NVA did mount such an effort

Meanwhile. Team Cranberry decided to remain in tho field and try again. They had successfully pulled the first abductionVA soldier in enemy-held territory, and their case officer was anxious to keep them working. The team was expanded from the eight men who had snatchedmen team, dividedive-man command post and three five-man snatch units. Each snatch unit was augmented by from three to five rnfonnants, who WON to spot vulnerable NVA soldiers and then participate in the abduction. The snatch units fanned out in three directions and by1 had accomplished their second abduction.

assigned to workupply depot withther

allowed in Khanchom, but the informants knew thai PtcJ

NVA in^nnncrrom village, three kilometers northwest of Saravane. TwoCranberry's informants lived in Khantbalat village, one kilometerKhanchom, and were acquainted withvillagers were not

T>ften traveled


On Delivery

alone from Khanchora and always returned through Khanthalat whereto visit his Lao friends. While six team membersewaway in the forest, the two informants went to await

the trail from Khanthalat to Khanchom.

Aseroerged from the village he spied the two andit and told| jthey wanted to walk with him toask for rice.greed and they all continued along the trail.third team member joined them and said he too was going to seek riceAtrecarne suspicious, since it was very unusual forvillager to try to beg riceVA depot, let alone three ofone time. The third team member,suspiciousness, gavesign in their tribal dialect, and all three pounced on him. Pfc.|fought, biting one Lao on the thumb, but was subdued, tied by theelbows with parachute suspension line and taken to headquarters bytogetherriumphant Team Cranberry.

There was little of intelligence interestbut his

abduction was of great service operationally: it buttressed the argument that NVA soldiers were vulnerable to abduction or defectionesourceful Laotian guerrilla team.

From Informant to Team Leader

Team Cranberry's departurehoping to continue

sharing bounties with any team as willing to use his information as Lime and Cranberry had been. He was disappointed, however, because for the next three months the teams were unable to make contact with him. He then spent the ensuing three months on the run, seeking the safety of anrea. The North Vietnamese had learned of his informant role.

He finally reached Pakse, where he walked into Guerrilla Teamheadquarters to volunteeream member. Recognizing his valueoperations, the case officer accepteda team leader,

and trained himadio operator in the modus operandi of thenow operating as "Teament back into the

field innd byeptember had succeeded in capturing Sgt

NVA 9tn Res-nient

ad been in combat at Paksong against RLG forces whento-aesert and return to North Vietnam. Heading north, heilometers when he stopped to rest for the night in the villagePhoukhoug. The villageeam Pomelo informant, made histhe team hideout andan NVA soldier was going to spend

tho night at his house.his radio operator returned to the village

with the chief, bringing with them an ample supply of lao-lao. the localThey proceeded to get the tired and emotionally distraught NVA sergeant thoroughly drunk by the time their supply ran out, and invited him to another house to find more lao-lao.

As they left the chiefshis radio operator draped their

arms aroundas it to support the staggering sergeant, but

halfway down tie Steps lie friendly arms tightened into vise-like grips on his head and shoulders- They subdued him and delivered himelicopterzone. At headquarters, Sgt.1 "provided Important order of battle infor-

On Delivery

as an Instant hero, albeit markedogue anda man wao woWd have lo be carefully handled. The case officerpaypay for his failed roadwatch mission, which

he had the nerve to ask for. but did agree to pay the monthly salary hefrom February toe was told, however, that the onlycould continue to workuerrilla team leader was capturing NVAa COD. basis.and wheedled but could do no

better and accepted. It was on Lis second mission that he achieved one of the more imaginative abductions.

Team Tomato was operatingillage about eight kilo of informants who were seeking1 an informant reportedfour

NVA soldiers had arrived in (heir village to huy buffaloes. Two soldiers had gone out of the village on the buying mission, while two soldiers were staying in the village chief's house. Tho informants reported that these two were lax in their personal security and could be taken. The two NVA soldiers were Pfc.

the Production and the Ixigistic

ii>iinE Tramajor lotisticalf the Ho Chi Miofa Trail complex.

A Bridal Party

five team members, six informants, and

the daughter ot one of the informants, rounded up pigs, chickens, andheaded for the village to announce

wanted to be married. Itao custom that weddings be conducted atchiefs house and that thereeast and drinking before andwedding,was to pack the village chiefs house

with his men and then jump we two NVA soldiers. The ruse worked.the prc-wedding festivities,the two soldiers

to join tin- party.

One soldier. Pfc] Ispoke Lao and was happy to join in, while Pfc jvho spoke no Lao sat warily by.ifle across his lap, not partici-

pating. Theyre-arranged signal that ifwhiskey

for the soldiers three times, the third pouring would be" the signal to grabAs the team leader poured the third drink for Pfc.heleader slammedto the ground and kicked il away while

"jseizedJjP'*he two prisoners, cautioned" the bewildered village chief to maintain silence over what happened, and left the hut, the bride, and the village.

Unfortunatelyhis propensity for thievery did him in.

He had kept for himself aof0 he received for the four prisoners, and paid his informant* piddling amounts for their help- They were so dissatisfied that when he appeared near their village for his third try, the informants turned him in to the NVA authorities. He was last seen being led eastward toward an NVA prison camp.

Cosh On Delivery

The Cash on Delivery program, from the first successful defectionhroughrovided nine NVA prisoners or defectors. During thismonth period another case officer, encouraged by theorganized his own similar program and contributedoreuccessor case officer subsequently obtained eight more NVA soldiers through guerrilla Intelligence teams.

Teams Lime and Cranberry had indeedseful program fora continuing supply of NVA human intelligence resources.

Original document.

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