273. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1
Herewith a CIA paper I asked to be prepared on North Vietnamese losses during infiltration.
They calculate that:
- —losses increased from 1965 to 1966;
- —losses averaged 20% in 1966;
- —although sickness and defection were the major direct causes, bombing had a big indirect effect by lengthening routes, increasing time en route, etc.
- —in my notes on Senator Mansfield I said: “Several prisoners report that bombing results in the loss of more than half those whom they try to infiltrate.”
Although I would now use the average CIA figure, here are some of the reports which underlay that sentence:
- North Vietnamese soldier detained on June 16, 1967, stated that of group of 300 men infiltrating, there were only 30 on arrival.
- Desertion rate of North Vietnamese coming into Laos mounting daily, had reached 40% as compared to 5% in past years; but figure as high as 80% for Montagnards recruited into North Vietnamese forces.
- A member of the 324th Division reported that 15 men out of his 170-man group deserted; another soldier reported that 26 out of his 52-man group deserted.
Without bombing of infiltration trails—with all their direct and indirect effects—these desertions, disease rates, etc., would not be occurring.
Moreover, if we weren’t bombing, the total level of attempted infiltration would be much, much higher than it is.
With the greatest possible respect, I don’t back away from my difference with Bob McNamara on this.