50. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Plans, Central Intelligence Agency (Helms), to the Secretary of State1

Tide of insurgency in all four corps areas appears to be going against GVN. In many provinces team finds VC-controlled areas to comprise better than 50 or 60 per cent of total area. Some provinces [Page 85] (Phaoc Thanh, Binh Duong and An Xuyen) report VC-controlled areas as high as 80 per cent. In Tay Ninh Province American and Vietnamese officials agree VC can attack and enter any village of their choosing, including provincial capital.
National level direction of all programs appears to be weak to non-existent. This includes ARVN operations, strategic hamlet program. Chieu Hoi program, civic action program, national police program, hamlet militia program, etc. What ARVN operations are being conducted appear to be corps-controlled and corps concepts of action appear to vary even to the point that different divisions with the same corps have a different approach to problems.
Until 1 Nov coup, strategic hamlet program, while full of faults weaknesses, etc., had certain momentum and full national direction. Since coup, program has been viewed more realistically and many of illusions held jointly by US and Vietnamese have been shattered. Program at present at virtual standstill, as provincial officials, lacking direction at national level, grope for local and varying new approaches to pacification problem. Illustrative of results of current re-evaluation of strategic hamlet program is case of Hau Nghia, where province chief states that of 52 hamlets previously reported as completed, only eight are now considered viable. Province chief estimates that 75 per cent of Hau Nghia VC-controlled.
There is no evidence of any particular GVN appeal to youth or students and as matter of fact GVN propaganda mechanism in toto is largely moribund. Dissemination and production of propaganda appear to be centered entirely in Saigon and is so poorly operative in many provincial areas that VC were first to inform populace of 30 January coup. There are no newspapers produced outside of Saigon although VC by contrast do produce some regular periodicals which appear to be well read by local populace. (CAS working with GVN in this entire field.)
Several province chiefs encountered proved to be of high caliber. However, due to frequent personnel changes, present incumbents apprehensive over their tenure and reluctant to exercise initiative. Particularly in newly created provinces, there is lack of qualified subordinate personnel.
Hamlet militia appear effective mainly in non-critical areas. In critical areas as a rule hamlet militia have been disarmed by province chiefs, overrun by VC, or members have on their own initiative fumed in their arms and resigned. Therefore, in these areas hamlet militia not significant factor in war, brunt of which being increasingly borne by self-defense corps.
Quality and quantity of VC arms appear to be rapidly increasing. Presence of Russian-designed carbines, Czech sub machine guns, Chinese SKZ recoilless weapons and 7.92 heavy machine guns and increased use of heavy mortars by VC elements have been noted in all corps areas. These better weapons being distributed down to VC guerrilla units and presence of homemade and French weapons in hands of VC decreasing. In one recent case VC left behind in an overrun district headquarters in Quang Tri French weapons which they had brought with them. Progress in rearming VC units probably uneven, but in IV Corps it believed process virtually complete. In number of areas in IV Corps both American and Vietnamese sources assert that friendly forces now both outgunned and outmanned by enemy. (This info has been scattered in various MAC/V statistical reports, but to our knowledge has never been brought home in a clear, explicit, qualitative statement.)
Presence of improved weapons in hands of VC suggests significant degree of infiltration of new equipment into South Vietnam.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV, Memos and Misc. Secret. Signed by Colby for Helms. Also sent to McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Taylor, Hilsman, Forrestal, Anthis, Sullivan, Carroll, and others. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1974, 246D. Bundy wrote the following note on the source text: “President read Feb. 18 and so called meeting of Feb. 20 on SVN. McGB.” For the results of the meeting, see Document 54.

    According to a covering note, this was the third report of a group of CIA officers who went to Vietnam to cross-check covertly intelligence information provided by the Vietnamese. The first report, February 14, concluded that while the Vietnamese had been reporting honestly to their American counterparts since November 1, 1963, failings in quantity, quality, and training of Vietnamese personnel and lack of professionalism among Vietnamese sources made their intelligence product difficult to evaluate. A general impression gained by the CIA group was that the momentum of the strategic hamlet program had slowed practically to a halt. Commenting specifically on Binh Long and Phuoc Thanh Provinces, the report concluded that security had badly deteriorated there. The second report, February 14, concentrated on I Corps and concluded that optimism regarding the security of the area was mistaken and based on superficial developments. (Both in Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV, Memos and Misc.) The accord report is published in Declassified Documents, 1975, 246C.