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

406. Task Force VN. Deptel 334.2VC attack near Banmethuot not yet mentioned in local press. ARVN commander in area told me following Sept 25 when I was visiting Banmethuot: 3 land development centers attacked Sept 18 and held for several days. Took supplies, burned schoolhouses and administration buildings, and terrorized people. GVN armed forces column sent in by foot, supporting air drop prevented by weather. VC withdrew into mountain redoubt before GVN troops arrived. Only GVN action against VC was bombing of line of retreat.

Additional details furnished by International Voluntary Service employee stationed Banmethuot as follows: Purpose of VC action, reportedly involving up to two regular VC battalions accompanied by several hundred additional local guerrillas, said to be capture of rice and supplies from Vietnamese settlements 20 miles southeast Banmethuot at Ban Ti Srenh, Ban Yang Bong, and Ban Kron Kmar (BP 18). VC overwhelmed Civil Guard post at Ban Mgha [sic] (BP 3481) Sept 18 on way to settlement villages. Villagers said to be forewarned and managed to hide most of rice from VC; badly outnumbered local SDC members also hid guns and uniforms upon approach of VC.

Full details results and casualty figures not yet known.

Comment: Failure local press to mention this operation probably indicates some GVN reluctance admit such large VC concentrations able operate this area without effective countermeasures by GVN, particularly after well-publicized Sept 17/18 setback at Phuoc Thanh (Embtel 385).3 Also, information this action still sketchy possibly because rough terrain makes communications particularly difficult.

Significant that VC not only able operate regular units this size but also reportedly can assemble local guerrilla forces in sizeable numbers when needed for local operations. While former contain many Vietnamese, latter said to be predominantly Montagnards, [Page 310] another indication continued VC success in influencing mountain peoples.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/9-2661. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC for PolAd, Bangkok, Vientiane, and Phnom Penh. The Department of State was also asked to pass a copy to ACSI.
  2. Telegram 334, September 22, noted that the Department of State was receiving press queries about a recent Viet Cong attack 20 miles south of Banmethuot and asked the Embassy for comments and press guidance (Ibid., 751K.00/9-2261)
  3. Document 135.