345. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1

DTG 050500Z. Situation in RVN. A. COMUSMACV DTG 040300Z.2

[Page 664]
1.
I have reviewed ref A and am in general agreement. In certain areas, and para 1 a is a prime example, it is impossible to make an expert judgment at this time.
2.
I believe Viet Cong has focus on GVN’s state of organizational turmoil and will strive to utmost to exploit the circumstance to its advantage. First, Viet Cong is likely to maintain a high level of armed attacks so as to militarily discredit GVN. Second, there could be attempts by VC, using its own as well as “front elements,” to provoke mass agitation. VC goal would be to generate agitation beyond manageable proportions by present government, thus forcing it to take repressive measures to restore order. Politically VC can be expected to try to create situations which will thrust serious challenges before new government while at the same time putting military pressure on it.
3.
Militarily, VC antiaircraft firepower is growing.
4.
A major problem before GVN is to reduce flow of VC materiel coming in from out of country sources. Assets listed in para 2d of ref A have had limited success in North but have been ineffectual in South. More strict control of Mekong and other waterways should be a priority objective. In view of present difficulties with Cambodia, there is no prospect of achieving control through political means and Cambodian/RVN cooperation. VC materiel infiltration by SEA into Cau Mau Peninsula deserves further attention.
5.
In respect to border surveillance command and control consolidation under corps commands, two considerations apply:
a.
Where there are ARVN units operating with CIDG units in an area on a regular basis, control should rest with the corps commander.
b.
Where ARVN units are not operating with CIDG on a regular basis, following should be considered:
(1)
Central operational control by special operational group (MACV, JGS, CAS) from Saigon.
(2)
Provision for lateral liaison by CIDG/USAF (P)V at corps level for emergency assistance, logistics support, or coordinated operations to include relief operations and air strikes.
c.
In both a and b situations provision should be made for rapid transmission of CIDG intelligence to corps commanders to enable them to take rapid action against VC whenever possible.
6.
CAS reports on the Laos/RVN cross border patrols have not contained much info on locations of VC crossing points or any evidence of DRV support sites in Laos. I would attribute most of this failure to secure results to a lack of aggressiveness on the part of the patrol leaders. US advisors should be permitted to accompany the patrols for a certain distance into Laos and without continuous referral for approval to higher headquarters. Cross border patrols can only carry so much weight through the difficult terrain. If they are to make penetrations to adequate depths and to remain on site for observation [Page 665] purposes, they need to be resupplied by air. Walking around that part of the world takes time and observation can be extremely limited. We need tactical air recce to locate the most likely areas of VC activity that can then be thoroughly checked out and interdicted by ground units. Cold Tale photography of DRV and Laos are being run regularly. This photography and Able Mable photos of Laos give acceptable coverage of static installations and LOCs and are usable for planning operations. Wash DC restrictions prevent current use of US A/C for low-level time-sensitive tactical photography. Requirements for coverage of Cambodia can be included in Cold Tale missions.
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 71-A-6489, Viet Sensitive. Top Secret; Routine. Repeated for information to the White House eyes only for Bundy; to the Department of State eyes only for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman; and to the CIA for McCone and Helms. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET, and Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vietnam Cables) Also published in Declassified Documents, 1976, 250D.
  2. Document 343.