2. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) and the Commander in Chief, Pacific Forces (Sharp)1
Saigon, January 2, 1967, 1238Z.
MACJ00 00160. Personal for Admiral Sharp and General Wheeler from General Westmoreland. Subject: Year-end assessment of enemy situation and enemy strategy (U).
- (U) As the year ends, it occurs to me that you may find useful a current summary of the enemy’s situation; his objectives, tactics and strategy; and my evaluation thereof.
- (S) Summary of the enemy situation:
Forces currently available to the enemy in SVN as identified in MACV order of Battle are nine division headquarters, 34
regimental headquarters, 152 combat battalions, 34 combat support
battalions, 196 separate companies, and 70 separate platoons
totaling some 128,600, plus at least 112,800 militia and at least
39,175 political cadre. The principal threats posed are in the
DMZ area, the Chu-Pong region,
and the Tay-Ning/Phuoc Long area of Northern III CTZ. Although enemy forces in these
areas have been punished in operations during 1966, they have not
been destroyed and are continuing efforts to reinforce, resupply,
and plan for resumption of operations in a winter-spring campaign.
Enemy capabilities throughout SVN are summarized in the following
- Attack. The enemy can attack at any time selected targets
in I, II, and III CTZ in up
to division strength and in IV CTZ in up to regimental [Page 5]strength, supported by local force and
guerrillas. Simultaneously, he can continue harassing
attacks throughout SVN.
- In I CTZ, he can attack objectives in the DMZ area (Quang Tri Province) with elements of the 324B and 341st NVA Divisions supported by one separate regiment. Additionally, he can attack objectives in Quang Tin or Quang Ngai Provinces with the 2d NVA Division and two regiments of the 3d NVA Division. In Thua Tien and Quang Nam Provinces he can attack in up to regimental strength.
- In II CTZ, he has the capability to attack in Western Pleiku, Southern Kontum, or Northern Darlac Provinces with elements of the 1st and 10th NVA Divisions, in Northern Binh Dinh Province with one regiment of the 3d NVA Division, and in Pho Yen and Northern Khanh Hoa Provinces with elements of the two regiments of the 5th NVA division.
- In III CTZ, he can attack with the 9th VC and possibly the 7th NVA Divisions in Tay Ninh, Binh Long, Binh Duong, or Phuoc Long Provinces, and in Phuoc Tuy and Southern Long Khanh Provinces with elements of the two regiments of the 5th VC Division. He also can sabotage GVN and FW shipping transiting the Rung Sat special zone with a sapper battalion; harass installations and LOC’s in Gia Ding Province with elements of the 165A VC Regiment. He has the capability of continuing his terror campaign in Saigon/Cholon.
- In IV CTZ, he can attack in up to regimental strength in Chuong Thien and Dinh Tuong Provinces, and in up to reinforced battalion strength throughout the rest of the CTZ. Militia and guerrilla forces predominate, and emphasis is on harassing attacks and local action to consolidate and extend his control.
- Political attack. The enemy is expected to continue efforts to: destroy the effectiveness of hamlet, village, district, provincial, and national governments by elimination, intimidation, and subversion of GVN officials; discredit and erode GVN political authority at all levels by conducting propaganda attacks against elected and appointed GVN officials and against GVN programs.2
- Economic attack. We expect the enemy to intensify efforts to impose an economic blockade against the GVN by denying the latter access to its own resources; conduct overt and covert operations throughout SVN against targets of vital economic significance to the maintenance and growth of the GVN economy; stimulate inflation by diverting commodities destined for SVN markets and by denying commodities [Page 6]from markets through interdiction and harassment of LOC’s; and undermine the people’s confidence in SVN currency by propaganda and possible counterfeiting.
- Reinforce. The enemy has the demonstrated capability to
reinforce in SVN by
infiltrating personnel and units from NVN at a rate of about 8,400
men per month and by in-country recruitment of about 3,500
per month in VC main and
local forces. In the tactical sense, his dependence on foot
movement normally precludes major reinforcement on the
battlefield beyond attack forces initially committed.
Defensively, he normally conducts holding actions to enable
extrication of the main body rather than reinforcing.
- In I CTZ, he can reinforce his attack or defense through the DMZ and from Laos within three to ten days after commencing movement with three divisions, three infantry regiments, and eight infantry battalions. He can reinforce his attack or defense with one infantry division from Binh Dinh Province in II CTZ and one infantry regiment from Kontum Province in II CTZ in twelve days after commencing movement. Many of these units are presently understrength.
- In II CTZ, he can reinforce his attack or defense in northern II CTZ within ten days by elements of one infantry division from southern I CTZ and in southern II CTZ within five to ten days after commencing movement by up to two regiments from III CTZ.
- In III CTZ, he can reinforce his attack or defense in the northern portion with three separate battalions from II CTZ and with one regiment from IV CTZ within three to ten days after commencing movement.
- Preponderance of militia and local forces in IV Corps and the reliance upon encroachment through local and harassing action makes large unit reinforcement unlikely in IV CTZ.
- Politically and economically, the enemy will seek to reinforce his effort by increased assistance from other Communist countries, principally Communist China and the USSR, and there is no indication that current levels of aid will decrease. In SVN, he will reinforce by infiltrating additional political and economic cadre from NVN, and by training additional cadre in country.
- Withdraw. He has the capability to withdraw or break down his main force units and attempt to achieve his objectives by guerrilla and small unit operations. Furthermore, he can stop his political warfare and withdraw elements of the infrastructure from disputed and/or GVN controlled areas. While he has these capabilities, there is no evidence that he is fragmenting his forces, reverting to exclusively guerrilla type operations, or downgrading his political and economic effort.
- (S) Enemy strategy: The conclusion
to be drawn from the enemy’s strength increase of some 42,000 during
1966 is that despite [Page 7]known
losses, he has been able to maintain a proportional counter-buildup
to the growth of US/FWMA forces.
Sources of this increase are in-country conscription and foot
infiltration down the trails from NVN through the DMZ,
but principally through Laos and the Cambodian extension. To
understand what the enemy is doing and is likely to do in the coming
year, it is essential to understand his objectives, strategy, and
major tactics, all of which derive from the principles of insurgency
warfare (or “wars of national liberation”) which essentially are
political in nature and which have been described by Mao Tse Tung,
Vo Nguyen Giap, and
others such as Che Guevara with clarity and conviction. To aid in
conveying this picture I have summarized in the succeeding sub
paragraphs my estimate of his overall strategy and its probable
- Objectives: The enemy’s objectives in SVN may be expressed under two dual headings: to extend his control over the population of SVN and to prevent the GVN from controlling that population; to reduce the will to resist of the US/FWMAE and their governments and correspondingly to strengthen his own posture and will.
- Strategy: The enemy’s favored doctrine of “strategic
mobility” has been the subject of debate in NVN. Politburo member Nguyen Chi Thanh has held
that the proper application is to initiate mobile warfare
with simultaneous attacks throughout SVN. Defense Minister Vo Nguyen Giap, whose view
has prevailed as seen by our experience, favors a
“defensive/offensive” version of strategic mobility
consisting of these factors:
- Developing strong, multi-division forces in dispersed regions accessible to supplies and security.
- enticing US/FWMA forces into prepared positions where dug-in Communist forces may inflict heavy casualties upon them.
- Conducting concurrent, intensified guerrilla and harassment pressure country-wide to tie down our forces, destroy small units, attack morale, and extend his control.
- (S) Evaluation:
- Present enemy dispositions, logistics, and level of combat indicate a continued adherence to the doctrine of strategic mobility implemented by Giap’s “defensive/offensive” major tactics. Our intelligence does not indicate a change in enemy strategy, tactics, or weapons now or in the coming year, although this possibility remains under continuous scrutiny. Specifically, we have no evidence of an intent to fragment his main forces and revert exclusively to guerrilla-type operations.
- The enemy was hurt during 1966 in many areas, and his principal concentrations near sanctuaries at the DMZ, in the Chu Pong region, and in the Tay Ninh/Binh Long areas, have been contained by our preemptive operations as a result of which he has suffered heavy losses. He is avoiding major contact by fighting defensively when [Page 8]forced to do so, and attempting to rebuild and reinforce for winter-spring campaign operations. It would be premature to assume that an apparent decrease in activity in December just prior to holiday standdowns is indicative of a change in trend. Further, it would be erroneous to conclude that VC main force and NVA formations are no longer dangerous, that their unit integrity has been destroyed, or that their logistical capability has fallen below that needed to sustain his war of conquest by attrition.
- On level of battalion [garble—combat?] the enemy has maintained throughout 1966 is about 1 day in 30. This level is consistent with his strategy of conserving his forces while attriting US/FWMA forces, and is within his capability to support logistically. If forced to a higher level such as 1 day in 15, he will encounter difficulty.
- It is probable that the enemy during the coming year will attempt to infiltrate men and supplies into SVN by sea, through Laos and Cambodia, and across the DMZ to: counter-balance the US/FWMAF build-up; maintain a credible threat posture; attrit friendly forces and determination by inflicting casualties and prolonging the conflict; maintain and promote expansion of the insurgency base (infra-structure and militia); and continue his protracted war to control the people of SVN.3
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIII, Cables. Secret; Immediate; Exclusive.↩
- The enemy also scored propaganda points by declaring on January 1 a Tet cease-fire for the period February 8–15. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, p. 818.↩
- In a memorandum requested by Secretary of Defense McNamara, the CIA also concluded that “the present force level can be sustained if Hanoi chooses.” (Memorandum from Kent to Helms, January 9; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIII, Cables)↩