135. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

385. Task Force VN. Separate unclassified telegram2 gives text GVN communiqué re Sept 17/18 VC attack Phuoc Thanh. Aside from supplement information reported through MAAG channels, Thuan told me Sept 19 estimated three battalions had participated in attack. He said initial estimates of GVN casualties were about 20, but subsequent information indicates they considerably higher than this.

Contrary to impression given in official communiqué, VC succeeded in capturing Phuoc Thanh and holding it several hours, during which they reportedly staged “people’s trial” and executed [Page 306] province chief and chief assistant in market place.3 While ARVN forces are pursuing contact with VC broken off.

Phuoc Thanh is first provincial capital temporarily captured by VC. Earlier attempt take over capital of Kien Hoa in April was frustrated by local authorities. However, province chief, said by Diem to be one of best, is second killed past 18 months, other being in Vinh Long last year.

Phuoc Thanh, which I recently visited with President, is new province. Provincial capital is small town on edge thickly forested Zone D (which has long been VC base). It was garrisoned primarily by CG with some ARVN support. Attack followed pattern recent incident North Kontum, and thick jungle around Phuoc Thanh provided VC with excellent cover for assault, although two Ranger companies in area at time.

This most recent incident, a considerable VC success, is most regrettable, but should be balanced against recent ARVN victories. It demonstrates that tide has not yet turned. Additional VC attacks in strength, perhaps even closer to Saigon, to be expected as infiltration through Laos continues and local recruitment maintained at high level. Civil Guard will probably remain preferred target until its capabilities improve.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K 00/9-2061. Confidential. Repeated to CINCPAC for PolAd, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Vientiane, London, and Paris. The Department was asked to pass a copy to ACSI.
  2. Telegram 384 from Saigon, September 20. (Ibid.)
  3. Nolting recalled that he visited the province chief and his family the week before and was impressed by him as a vigorous and well-motivated official. Nolting had often wondered whether there was any connection between his visit and the Viet Cong overrunning of that village. (Department of State, Office of the Historian, Viet-Nam Interviews, Frederick E. Nolting, Jr., May 25, 1984)