152. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
467. Deptel 374.2 Answers to questions raised reftel can be only extremely rough estimates at best in view paucity confirmed information available:
1, 2, and 3: While armed activity has always been controlled and cadred from the DRV, until summer 1961 perhaps between 70 and 95 percent of Viet Cong forces consisted of local indigenous personnel who had never been in DRV for training or indoctrination. Proportion local indigenous personnel always much higher in southern delta area and considerably lower in highlands bordering Laos, where population thinner and infiltration from DRV easier. Local indigenous personnel consist of (a) Commies and Commie sympathizers left in place by Viet Minh in 1954-55 when they were supposed to pull their armed forces out of South Viet-Nam for regroupment to North Viet-Nam under terms Geneva Accords; (b) Persons recruited by coercion through pressure and terrorist tactics since VC guerrilla campaign began to be stepped up two years ago; and (c) Those recruited by persuasion during same period. Line between latter two categories undoubtedly often hard to draw with respect to villagers and peasants who make up bulk of VC forces.
Infiltrators up to few months ago largely consisted of VC leaders and cadres. In southern areas infiltrators probably mostly regrouped southerners sent back from North Viet-Nam to South Viet-Nam since we have seen relatively few reports of VC with Northern Vietnamese accents. In central highlands area infiltrators included both Vietnamese and Montagnards, and these personnel placed into much lower levels of VC organization than political and military cadres which infiltrated into southern areas. Difficult to know to what extent these were persons trained in place in South Vietnam, persons regrouped to north in 1954 and sent back, or persons taken out of Viet-Nam more recently and trained probably in southern Laos prior to their return; several reports indicate last group greatly augmented since first of year.
In any case, little doubt that great bulk of infiltrators have come by land rather than by sea. Infiltration of personnel by sea probably restricted to couriers and individual agents.[Page 334]
During past three months or so picture given above has altered in certain important respects. Greatly stepped-up infiltration into central highlands and VC resistance zone delta northeast of Saigon has taken place. While in southern area infiltrators are still believed to be primarily individuals or small guerrilla groups rather than complete regular units in manner of execution and extent of coordinated attacks north of Kontum early Sept indicates these probably conducted by regular VC forces from nearby Laos and that large-scale infiltration of possibly up to battalion-size units now being carried out this area.
Conclusion about sizeable increase in infiltration is based more on deductions from number, size, and nature of VC attacks in central Viet-Nam and zone delta area in Sept than on actual specific evidence. We are making every effort as requested Dept’s 3443 to come up with concrete evidence, but such evidence has been hard to come by to date. One example is… statement of captured infiltrator that he was accompanied by about 250 VC who descended from North Viet-Nam via Laos into zone delta in July. Despite series of recent large-scale VC actions in central Vietnam, no prisoner interrogation reports of similar nature re infiltration into central Viet-Nam have come to our attention so far. Evidence is likewise scarce to confirm our continued belief that prisoners captured and interviewed during successful ARVN operations in delta in July-August claimed without exception to be local indigenous personnel.
Under these circumstances we believe it impossible come up with any very meaningful figure on number infiltrators. Feel best we can provide is above qualitative analysis. Even ARVN sources unable at present give reasonable estimate, though they are now reportedly working on this problem.
4. VC forces relied mainly until few months ago on captured weapons and material from GVN forces and crudely made arms fabricated in VC-controlled areas in South Vietnam. There were some reports, credible, of arms shipments from north by sea. Similarly VC depended largely upon area in which they found themselves for food supplies. We believe this is still true for southern Vietnam. In central highlands, however, there seems little doubt that weapons and ammunition are now coming in via Laos but it is impossible provide any estimate re quantity since arms continue to be of American or West European origin captured during Indo-China War rather than of Communist bloc manufacture. In view limited food availability in highlands area we assume VC also bringing in some food supplies from Laos to support greatly increased number of personnel.[Page 335]
Infiltration of arms as well as personnel by sea continues to be relatively small as far as available information indicates.
5. As one ARVN source said, trying to locate crossing points SVN/Laos border like trying to tell which hole in a sieve water comes out of. Actually, entire Laotian border open to infiltration and VC able use all existing roads and trails not under direct and continuing GVN or RLG control (latter are few indeed). Use of DMZ, reportedly heavy several months ago, probably discontinued, since route through Laos now wide open and not so liable political repercussions.