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378. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs' Special Assistant (Jorden) to the Under Secretary (Harriman)1

SUBJECT

  • Viet Cong Infiltration into South Viet Nam

Background.

This memorandum is based on an investigation of available evidence of continuing support in the form of men and materiel for the Viet Cong from sources outside South Viet Nam. A report on this subject dated November 28, 1963,2 and prepared by MACV was considered. Interrogation reports of VC prisoners were studied. I also talked with American and Vietnamese officials, military and civilian, concerned with this problem during a visit to Saigon December 12-20.

Current Situation.

There is no doubt that the elaborate program of control and support of the Viet Cong by the Communist regime in North Viet Nam is continuing. The support ranges from words to weapons. Radio Hanoi and official publications in North Viet Nam boast openly of their “positive support” for the so-called Liberation Front in the South. Unfortunately, some of the evidence that points most clearly to Hanoi's connection with the Viet Cong cannot be used publicly for reasons of security.

The flow of military personnel from North Viet Nam into the South through Laos and Cambodia is continuing. The rate, however, appears below that of 1962 which in turn was less than 1961. Also, statistical indicators on the flow of infiltration must be taken with a grain of salt. In most cases they are derived from single sources and should be regarded as only rough approximations. On the other hand, we must assume that for every infiltration group exposed by the testimony of a defector or prisoner, there are other groups never exposed.

On the basis of prisoner reports, MACV estimates that more than 7,600 men have entered South Viet Nam from the North since January 1961. Of these, approximately 1,000 are believed to have entered this year. For the most part, recent entrants appear to have been political cadres, small unit leaders and specialists in armor, transport and antiaircraft.

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Espionage agents continue to come from the North. Four from a seaborne operation were captured earlier this year.

The flow of weapons and ammunition of Communist bloc origin appears to have increased. Russian-made carbines have been picked up in increasing numbers. Heavier weapons, mortars and recoilless rifles and the like have been seized. In one raid on a VC supply depot this month, the GVN claims to have captured a large stock of weapons, ammunition and other equipment, much of it of bloc origin. For example, the haul included 160,000 rounds of carbine ammo and 100,000 rounds of Chinese heavy machine-gun ammo.

Chemicals for production of explosives have been seized in large quantities. Much of this apparently comes from Cambodia. Imports of such chemicals into Cambodia in the last year or so have greatly exceeded domestic requirements. In the raid cited above, more than two tons of potassium nitrate were found and destroyed. Other shipments have been captured on the waterways of the Delta region.

Other materiel of clearly non-Vietnamese manufacture—medical supplies, radios, communications equipment, etc.—have been found.

In summary, infiltration of men and materiel from outside South Viet Nam in support of the Viet Cong is continuing. However, this is but one factor among many in the situation. To regard it as the decisive element in explaining Viet Cong successes over the past year would be an error.

It is quite clear that the primary source of the VC manpower is the South Vietnamese population itself. It is also clear from the weapons loss ratio (2 to 1 in favor of the VC in recent months) that external supply of arms is not a critical matter.

Nonetheless, infiltration serves several important purposes from the VC point of view—in providing a supply of and/or replacement for key cadre personnel; in supplying heavy weapons for use against armored vehicles, reinforced defensive positions and aircraft; as a morale factor for the VC by providing constant reminders of external support; and as a source of supply of equipment and material not readily obtainable through military action.

Conclusions.

Infiltration from the outside in support of the Viet Cong continues. There is sufficient evidence in hand to make a convincing case in the eyes of much of world opinion. We can demonstrate that the program of external support outlined in our earlier report (“A Threat to the Peace”)3 goes on.

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We should not undertake such an effort at exposure in isolation, however. It is far more important to take steps to halt or slow infiltration than to merely complain about it. Further, unless accompanied by positive actions to deter the process, elaborate treatment of the extensive Viet Cong effort and of the support it enjoys from outside would produce negative psychological reactions among the South Vietnamese and probably improve VC morale.

An amorphous world public opinion that is not going to respond in any case to the situation is less important than opinion among the South Vietnamese and the Viet Cong.

Exposure of the infiltration program makes sense only if it is associated with carefully conceived actions for which such exposure would provide part of the political and psychological base. In short, any public diagnosis of this particular disease should be accompanied by a prescription for cure or at least amelioration.

If, after considering all factors, we decide that exposure of infiltration is in our interest, we can accomplish it in several ways:

1)
a fairly full treatment of the kind we did in December 1961 in “A Threat to the Peace”;
2)
a major speech on the subject by a leading figure in the Government;
3)
a full-dress statement by Ambassador Stevenson at the UN;
4)
detailed discussion in a Secretarial news conference or in a background session with the press;

We might also consider:

1)
presentation of a detailed case in an appeal for action by the GVN to the International Control Commission
2)
producing four or five VC infiltrators for questioning by the press in Saigon or at the UN.

The decision whether to use this material in public and, if so, in what manner depends on our purpose. What we say—and where and how—should be determined by what we propose to do about the problem.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, Vietnam 1963. Confidential.
  2. Not found.
  3. A Threat to Peace: North Viet-Nam's Effort To Conquer South Viet-Nam. (Department of State Publication 7308, December 1961)