343. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)1
MAC J00 9294. Eyes only for Admiral Felt and General Taylor. A. JCS 3799 DTG 022148Z.2 Following keyed to paras of Ref A.
- Concur. It is view of Gen Don it will be another month before organizational turmoil subsides and modification basic plans effected. I am inclined to agree.
- Concur. VC are expending every effort to capitalize on turmoil resultant from coup. They have been effective in attaining this objective however definite reduction in their activity can be noted in the last week. VC incidents this week dropped to 518 from 666 and attacks dropped to 84 from 106.
- Concur in part. VC have demonstrated capability at least for brief period of making intensified effort. Intensity of operations has resulted in some gains in some areas of the country side. Reports from corps area yesterday indicate no strat hamlet occupied or attacked by VC during post coup. Intensified opns continue under VC control in I, II and IV Corps. In III Corps 8 strat hamlets in Kien Tuong Prov recently occupied by VC remain under their control. Consider also that possibly all of anti GVN activity may not properly be attributed to VC. At least some of past activity may be result of activity of dissident elements. Concur VC have improved skill in counter-airborne operations basically because of more targets, better weapons, and intensified training.
- Share your concern that infiltration of materiel has increased. This is not situation which can be classified as post coup as indicators this regard have been apparent for some time. Have hard proof of increase in this area and while it not overly alarming as to intensity it is significant. Agree that it has effect not only on military tactics but [Page 660] also on our over-all SE Asia strategy. Recent study prepared this subject and submitted to Ambassador for transmittal to Sec State.3 Copies being provided JCS and CINCPAC.
- To date little has been accomplished toward increasing the intensity of GVN offensive activity to the statistical 20 day per month level. The drop in intensity which occurred in immediate post coup period has been substantially restored; however, anticipated increase in intensity has not as yet been realized. Believe note should be taken here that statistical level of operational intensity is not necessarily the best indicator of operational effectiveness. The development and execution of comprehensive opnl plans and the freeing of elements tied to static defensive positions has commanded the principal attention of the senior comdrs. Avowed aims of MRC are qualitative improvement and intensification of opns. Believe prospects are good for ultimate realization these objectives; however, as indicated in para 1.a. above Gen Don holds view that another month will be required before MRC has weathered reorganization. RVN revision of basic plan nearing completion.
- In the 7th, 9th and 21st Division areas the following steps have
been accomplished or are planned to improve para-military forces:
- The elimination of small outposts and watchtowers is proceeding apace under leadership of Gen Co, and until yesterday Col Dong of 7th. Co’s basic plan is to move the SDC from outposts into hamlets depriving VC of lucrative targets and providing interim defense of hamlets without militia. CG freed from outposts will be formed into mobile units.
- Senior comdrs in Delta realize that CG and SDC units which have been on static defense missions must be retrained. Facilities for such retraining exist and it is being programmed.
- Very little training and arming of hamlet militia has been accomplished since 1 Nov due reevaluation entire program and wholesale changes in province chiefs. Prospects for progress in the positioning of effective defenders for hamlets is good.
- JGS is ready to inaugurate an eight week training course for militia squad leaders. Program to start soon as criteria for selection of the leaders is agreed upon.
- As reported separately4 GVN is conducting negotiations with Hoa Hao who extend through central Delta. GVN hope is that Hoa Hao will extend ranks of the CG, SDC, border surveillance units and contribute more effective hamlet militia. Gen Minh feels that Hoa Hao SF units can be utilized in Camau Peninsula.
- MRC also entertain hopes of rallying Catholics and Cao Dai in Kien Hoa, many of whom live beyond trace of strategic hamlets. Concept is to arm those who are willing to defend their communities against VC.
- While there is no doubt in my mind that the junta as a group are keeping their eyes on Gen Dinh to insure that he does not get out of line, I do not subscribe to the rumor or supposition that they are unable to control him. Report you cite that he blocked the proposed corps command shift while fairly widely quoted has to my knowledge no valid basis and at this point can only be classified as supposition. Do not believe we should interpose at this time to encourage junta to take action against Dinh. Do feel that his dual responsibilities as III Corps Comdr and Minister of Security are too much for one man and have and will continue to suggest that he be relieved of his responsibilities as III Corps Comdr so that his full efforts may be devoted to his ministerial responsibilities.
- In-country efforts toward giving a clearer and more substantial picture of the infiltration situation encompass better utilization and control of border surveillance, mountain scout, strike force and other elements. Believe progress in this area underway incident to consolidation of former CAS supported elements under MACV and delegation by JGS of control all such elements to corps comdrs.
Significant requirement this regard is lifting of current restrictions on cross border aerial photo recce either by in-country or other aircraft to include Cambodia, Laos, and DRV. Lifting of restrictions on use of US personnel in cross border collection operations would help. More direct access to US collection resources SEA would provide for concentration of effort. Proposal for use of attaches this area in preparation. Steps already taken to obtain CAS assistance.