191. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

No. 1684/66



The Communist military drive in South Vietnam has been stymied and the prospects for victory as viewed from Hanoi are almost certainly dimmer than at any time in the past five years. Nevertheless, Hanoi probably feels that the moment for a basic decision on whether or not to end the conflict is still well over the horizon. As the Vietnamese Communists see it, the allied will to persist in the war has not yet been adequately tested. Also still to be fully measured, in their view, is the ability of the US combat force in Vietnam to sustain its effectiveness, particularly in rolling back the Communists from the substantial ground position they still hold or in uprooting their political infrastructure.
It is clear that the Vietnamese Communists believe Washington will soon be forced by the demands of the conflict to put the US on an extensive wartime footing. They hope that such measures, combined with the effect of sustained and increasing US casualties, will fan additional domestic American opposition to continuing the war. In their view, these developments may well inhibit substantially greater US ground escalation of the conflict and may, in the long run, force major concessions in Washingtonʼs policy which could offer a realization of some Communist objectives in the South. Hanoi probably still believes that Washingtonʼs determination to pursue the war will crack before curtailed Communist capabilities make it necessary for Hanoi to completely rethink its strategy. They realize that the domestic position of the Republic of Vietnam is stronger now than at any time in the past three years, but they also judge[Page 531]that Saigonʼs programs to win the populace over have a long way to go before they reduce significantly the insurgent hold on the South.
In sum, the policy makers in Hanoi see little choice but to continue to support and prosecute the war generally along the present lines, at least until their prospects worsen decidedly. It is probable that they view the coming winter as at least the earliest point at which the long-term outlook for the conflict may come into sharper focus. In their view, the Vietnamese Communists have the ability to continue the fighting through this period, and probably well beyond. Despite the bombing of the North, sufficient supplies of men and materiel are still moving south and the will and ability of the domestic population to support the war remains adequate. The main force Communist units in the South still hold a powerful hand, and the Communist grip on a substantial segment of the populace in the South is still strong enough to ensure most of the indigenous logistic backing needed for the war effort.

[Here follows the body of the 9-page memorandum.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, vol. LVI. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; Background Use Only. Issued by the Directorate of Intelligence. Helms forwarded a copy of the memorandum to Moyers on July 25 under cover of a memorandum stating that “After your call to me last week indicating that we had ‘a hard mandate’ from Higher Authority to collect information on North Vietnam, I thought it would be advisable to get together for you what up-to-date information we now have on the subject.” (Ibid.) In a July 20 memorandum to the Deputy Director for Plans, Helms indicated that, according to Moyers, the President was particularly interested in the intentions of North Vietnamʼs “leadership with respect to waging the war, the American prisoners, etc.” (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80–B01285A, Chrono, Jul-Dec 1966)
  2. Produced by the Directorate of Intelligence and coordinated with ONE and SAVA. [Footnote in the source text.]