LBJ LIBRARY Mandatory Review
DIRECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCE
The Reaction of the North Vietnamese to the Stepped Up Air Attacks
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence7
The Reactiop of the North Vietnamese to the Stepped-up Air Attacks
The determination and steadfastness of the people in North Vietnam affected by the step-up io bombing Is still strong, despite the fact that their physical livelihood has become more difficult. Evacuation from the Hanoi-Haiphong area has been spurred by the bombings, thus increasing theof families and the inadequacy of housing. Food is also more scarce, although still adequate. Almost all the recent reports from eyewitnessnonetheless, state that morale is still sound, and the people purposeful and obedient to the regime.
The government and the party show no sign of undue concern over morale, although propagandistic efforts to maintain popular resolutionegular and important facet of Coimmunist There is every sign of continued strongamong the North Vietnamese leaders themselves. Their statements, both in public and in private, exude confidence. They appear fully willing to sustain an even heavier level ofand casualties in order to prolong the war.
The resiliency displayed by the average North Vietnamese in the face of the air attacks stems both from his traditions and his psychological makeup. He is fiercely proud of an ancientof successful resistance against all invaders of the Vietnamese homeland. The evidencethat much of the populace believe the raidsew invasion of their country. Thus,
they see themselves defending their homes andagainst anattitude most likely to bring out the greatest degree of courage and.
Psychologically, the North Vietnamese populace is very tough. It is used to hunger, to an absence of personal amenities, and toally fact of life in peace and war. Since it is an "insulated" group, it tends to react literally to developments. The appearance ofplanes over North Vietnam, therefore, allows the people clearly to discern and define the enemyin Communist propaganda. Hostility over the bomb damage is turned toward the attacker and not toward the authorities.
Physical Effects of the Stepped-Up Bombing
Life ln the Hanoi and Haiphong areas has clearly become increasingly grim over the pastmonthsesult of the stepped-up US air strikes. The destruction of North Vietnam's few textile plants has limited the availability ofmaterial and observers have recently noted that the clothes worn by the people of Hanoi are now more patched and worn looking. Rice is strictlyand the prices of certain supplementary foods have risen markedly.
Food, however, appears to be adequate, with substitutes available for the staple diet of rice.
Jin Hanoi reported on
7 that lower level government cadre and people with no official status receivedercent of the May rice ration in flour. Even so,C
report stated, Hanoi appears to be better off than the provinces.
The atepped-up air strikes have also made travel within North Vietnam very difficult. Letters written to relatives abroad by people who haveurban centers note the difficulty in traveling between themany stillthe relocation centers, where their children have been settled. Nevertheless, traffic continuos to move and the people appear to take great pride ln their ability to offset the effects of tho bombing by such innovations as pontoon bridges.
The air strikes have also limited the amount of, gasoline available for civilian use.
reported on several occasions that
there is no gasoline at the civilian depot. Hie citizens of North Vietnam have managed, however, to get along with only limited amounts of gasoline. They travel mostly by foot or bicycle. ecent visitor to Hanoi noted that the DRV Foreign Minister commutes to work each day by bicycle.
of the major effects of thethe people of the Hanoi-Haiphong area hasIncrease evacuation to the countryside. Prior
to the latest round of air strikes in the Hanoi area beginning in late April, it was estimated that aboutercent of the population of that city had boon evacuated. An additionalercent is now slated for dispersal to the outlying areas. Evacuation has caused considerable difficulties for the peoplethe regime seems to have dono little tothe relocation centers. The people were left on their own to build shelters at their new homes, food distribution reportedly was poor, at least at first, and local officials were provided inadequate direction from Hanoi on how to handle the sudden influx.
example of the difficultiesthe evacuees was provided by the wife of aofficial who wrote Beveral lettershusband in
"Yestorday,ent to the countryay and did labor for the children. helter trench for them. orked00 hours Just carrying dirt."
"It is now really miserable in the country. Thoro is no rain water and the river has dried up. esult, it is necessary to bathe and wash clothes with pond water which is really filthy."
of these people, howover, appearto their situation. The woman quotedexample, later wrote her husband saying: came back from the country and theall fine. Tho shelter is now completed andare on vacation from school." Thetaken by those who do not adjust tois to drift back into Hanoi, in many casesto be the result of their inability towork in the countryside. There is nothese people offer any active opposition to
the regime. The government does not punish people
returning to the city, but, by strictly ra-
tioning rice and honoring ration cards only inspecified areas, it encourages people to stay in the relocation centers.
The Attitude of the People
8. Constant readings are taken by thecommunity in Hanoi on the attitude of thearound them, and every visitor who passes through makes an effort to sound out not only the officials but the people on the streets. Theconsensus of these sources is that morale, stated in terms of discipline, confidence, andto endure hardship, remains good.
}in Hanoionsensus reading of the
fiABUDJocts including the effect of the bombingmorale. The consensus was that the people
of Hanoi were adequately fed, reasonablyshowed no evidence of suffering excessive
delivered medicine and drugs to North Vietnam inound the morale of the peoplehose he met, he said, openly declared their resolve to endure.
reports of other observers from Hanoi in mid-March stated that thesoldiers on the streets of Hanoi appearedand purposeful."
who visited Hanoi in late April reports tut COnal-tlons in that city were austere but "morale was high among the population." He stated that he"no sign of softness or desire to give in."
cumulative effect of the airthe Hanoi area, however, may have producedweariness on the part of the population.
states that there wereeparate
air raids in the vicinity of Hanoi during his eight days there. ember of the
Hanoi said ln early May that the
air attacks were making it difficult for the air raid wardens to control the people.
Hanoi conneniea on
l Hay that the population obeys air raid wnrnings, but that during the latest raids the peopleto their one-man shelters and did not get into them. He speculated that the hot weather was responsible for this development. He also noted that there seemed to havelight slackening of response on the part of the people to the alerts. This may be due ln part to weariness, but it may also be attributedrowing confidence on the part of the people ln their own ability to judge when it is necessary to take cover and when it is safe to remain in the open.
Morale of the Leadership
12. Those few members of the North Vietnamese leadership who regularly make themselves available to visitors aro maintaining an air of confidence and resolution. The leading spokesman for the Hanoi regime is Premier Pliam Van Dong. His recentindicate that he remains firmly convinced that the Communists will outlast the US. Onpril,
told Premier Dong of
Ambassador Lodge's comment to the effect that Hanoi would have beenetter bargaining position six months ago than it was now and that it could beorse position six months from now. The DRVreplied that, on the contrary, the Communists would betronger position in six months. in North Vlotnam, he stated, arebetter now, despite the bombings, than they were during the war against the French. rs
13. Pham Van Dongimilar statementunisian visitor ln early April, declaring that after another six months of Intensive fighting,which North Vietnam is prepared to accept its losses, the US Government will become discouraged and will give ln to mounting antiwar sentiment in the US. It la doubtful, however, that the North Vietnamese leaders believe that the US Government
war after another six months.
visited Hanoi,stated that the North Vietnamese leadersealistic view of the effect of the antiwar sentiment in the DS and do not place too much stock ln its short-term results. There is little doubt, however, that the North Vietnamese believe that sooner or later antiwar feeling in the US willrastic modification ln US
n the meantime, the DRV leadersto absorb an even heavier level ofcasualties in order to prolong the war.Dong toldthe "US
policy of escalation" will notdeclared that his people would "fight to the end" and that he himself would "takeifle" to fight the US.
13. Ho Chi Hinh and his top lieutenants are battle-hardened revolutionaries who fought and do-feated the French. They are convinced that thoir success was due in large measure to the fact that they correctly Interpreted and properly appliedIdeology to the situation in Vietnam. their determinationtrong spirit of nationalism, which finds its expression in bitter anti-Americanism. Ho and his aides are thoroughly convinced that the US deliberately set out4 Geneva agreements and the provision therein for national elections In Vietnam in The hierarchy of the Vietnam Workers Party remains convinced that, had those elections been held, Vietnam today would be united under aheaded by Ho Chi Minh and the Vlotnam Workers Party.
16. They believe that they wero fully justified during the mid-fifties in turning to the use of force ln order to overthrow Diem and unify theafter Diem repeatedly rebuffed North Vietnamese offers to hold meetings preparatory to national They do not see themselves as aggressorsto seize controleighbor nation but rather as tho logitimate authoritiesational government denied control over half their countryoreign invader. The initiation of US air strikes against North Vietnam in5 and the Introduction of US combat forces into South
Vietnam5 further inflamod tho Hanoi leaders' feelings and reinforced their view that the US was bent on denying them their rightful place at the headnified Vietnam.
Factors Underlying the Popular Will
resiliency displayed by theVietnamese resident in the face of the airstems both from his traditions and frommakeup. The North Vietnamese,the Tonkinese or people of the Bed Riverfiercely proud of their ancient traditionresisting and overcoming all theof their homeland. Much of their folklore
is devoted to tales of the deeds of their ancestors in driving out the Chinese who held Vietnam fromh throughh centuries, or inthe forays of the brutal Mongol armies inh century.
Communist regime has assiduouslythe idea that the defeat of the French inthe culminationentury of steadyan external aggressor. It is clearCommunist authorities fully recognize thethe North Vietnamese traditions of resistance
to the outsider and play on them constantly in their extensive propaganda efforts to maintain morale.
all practical purposes, the viewavorago Vietnamese toward tho current wardominated by the Hanoi authorities. Aof the evidonce indicates that thethe air attacks are the prelude toand effort to occupy thotells them. The populace thus seeshome and family against anmost likely to spur the greatest amount
of courage and endurance.
a whole, moreover, tho populace isvulnerable to the argument thatis boing punished for its support of theSouth Vietnam, since it generally believesline that the people of the South are also
] tiif-igh-ting for independence against the sane enemy.
21. Psychologically, the North Vietnameseough people. Personal hardship hasaily fact of life for them in peace and war. They are used to hunger, to an absence of personalto separation from family, and to wearisome regimentation. Most of the populace over the age ofs almost certainly inured to the sights and sounds of military conflict around them, since they were on the scene, or participated in the war against Prance, which ranged widely over North Vietnam. Moreover, the air attacks against much of North Vietnam have now been under way for over two years, and thus have become,ense, airritant.
many individuals are more callous toward,rs
raids now than they were two years ago.
North Vietnamese are anin the terminology of theare largely without the experience offreedom in the Western tradition. Massprovides security for them and permits themof inner freedom. It does not evokethey interpret it as an indication of theof the authorities for their welfare. This
has several important effects with respect to the air raids. In the first place, the military and civil activities of the authorities in reaction to the attack are especially well received, even if they involve trying, dangerous, and tiringon the part of the individual.
since the populace is angroup, it tends to react literally toaround it. Regime propaganda,attempts to stir up hatred, hostility,against the attackers is effectivelyby the actual appearance of theover North Vietnam. Hostility over theis turned toward the attacker, and notregime. The ability of the people clearlyand define the enemy described inprobably tends to cause an upsurge