350. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Coordination, Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Truehart) to the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes)1

SUBJECT

  • Developments in Operations Against Viet-Nam2

Maritime Operations

Although slowed down somewhat by bad weather recently, maritime operations against North Vietnam have averaged between 10 and 15 completed missions per month since mid-summer. Eight to ten junks have been destroyed and from 20 to 25 captives taken south for interrogation monthly.

Missions involving putting teams ashore to take prisoners for interrogation, to collect operational intelligence, or to harass the enemy have been scheduled more frequently recently. While several have been completed successfully, their intelligence value is low. Now scheduled are over-the-beach missions against Tiger Island to see if US airmen are held prisoner there and against the Dong Hoi area to assess the effectiveness of Mark 36 destructor mines sown there by air.

New enemy defensive tactics against the PTF3 missions have recently come to light through prisoner interrogation and through observation during missions. A “suicide” junk with TNT charges in its stern was blown up by its crew when a PTF came alongside. Fortunately, a crewman put aboard the junk by the PTF survived and the PTF itself was undamaged. The junk was destroyed along with most of its crew. Interrogation of captives from other junks has revealed that [Page 874]several junks have been equipped for suicide missions, although there has been difficulty persuading fishermen to volunteer as crewmen.

Sampans are now serving in several areas as range markers for enemy coastal batteries. When PTF’s come within a certain distance, these craft drop their sails and bombardment of the PTF’s begins. These tactics, while unsuccessful in causing PTF casualties, are nonetheless effective in driving PTF’s farther out to sea.

Many enemy craft, at the approach of PTF’s, head for shallow water in which the PTF’s cannot maneuver. To counter this tactic, the PTF’s will soon begin to carry Boston whalers equipped with outboard motors. The whalers will be launched in shallow water to allow the pursuit of sampans which run for the coast.

PTF’s are now given air cap on their infrequent missions north of 20¡, while carrier task force picket stations conduct air searches before all missions. Over-the-beach missions are coordinated with the carrier task force to ensure that there will be no coincidental illumination of the PTF operational area by flare ships.

In-place Teams

There are now six in-place teams and three singleton agents in North Vietnam. During September two of the singletons were parachuted into enemy territory and one team was dropped from the list after confirmation (through Hanoi radio) of its capture by the enemy. One of the six teams [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] still carried as active is suspected of being “doubled” and it is planned to parachute another team into the same vicinity under cover of a resupply drop to ascertain the status of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. The captain of the team to be infiltrated is acquainted by sight with all members of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] was instructed to walk out to Laos last March for helicopter pickup but has found a number of reasons for delay. The present plan takes the place of a proposal, happily rejected, which would have assembled the members of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for a resupply drop, incapacitated them with a chemical agent, and picked them up by helicopter for return to South Vietnam. If anything went wrong, gunships were to go into action.

Of the three singleton agents now in place, one has been reporting for upwards of six years. One was recruited from the many prisoners taken from junks in the Gulf of Tonkin. An additional agent is now awaiting favorable weather for a drop into North Vietnam.

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Teams

One of the dozen or so trained [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] teams has recently been infiltrated into the area just north of [Page 875]the DMZ and along one of the routes leading into Laos. It will remain for about 20 days, reporting on road traffic and spotting convoys for air attack by the Seventh Air Force.

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] teams are landed in Laos by helicopter and walk into North Vietnam. At the end of their missions they are to walk out for pickup in Laos.

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified]

One [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] team was parachuted into North Vietnam along the Lao Kay-Hanoi rail line near the Chinese border in mid-September. It has not been heard from.

Radio Operations

Three black transmitters and one grey transmitter are now in operation providing respectively two, six, one, and twelve hours of programming daily. One of the black transmitters is airborne over the Gulf of Tonkin and either “ghosts” Hanoi broadcasts or repeats programs of the other transmitters. “Morale” messages from their families to in-place team members are frequently aired on one of the programs made up of messages from SVN civilians to relatives in the north.

In an average month over 30 million leaflets are dropped over North Vietnam by Op 34 aircraft. During the same period five hundred to a thousand gift kits (suited to the closest holiday) and several hundred radios would normally be distributed. Recent kits have had the fall festival as a theme and have included rice bowls.

From three to five hundred letters to individuals in North Vietnam are posted in third countries monthly.

The distribution of leaflets in North Vietnam by balloon is now being studied by the Special Operations Group. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] has made two experts available for the development and testing of suitable techniques. It is now contemplated that the balloons will be released from US Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, EAP Files, Far East Weekly Meetings. Top Secret.
  2. On September 1 Helms sent Rostow a memorandum entitled “U.S. Foreign Intelligence and Related Activities in Selected Areas of Southeast Asia and the Far East.” An attachment to the memorandum detailed intelligence collection activities over the past 6 months against North Vietnam by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. The methods employed included [text not declassified], extraction of information from North Vietnamese diplomats abroad, interrogations of captured prisoners inside South Vietnam, and the use of insertion teams. A general increase in the quality of intelligence on North Vietnam and its intentions was noted, with the most important result being improved assessment of the damage inflicted upon North Vietnam by U.S. bombing. (Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Subject Files, Job 80–R01580R, PFIAB #14)
  3. Fast “PT” (patrol) boats.