34. Telegram From the Commander of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Forces (Sharp) and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler)1
MAC 01438. The events of the past 18 hours have been replete with enemy attacks against certain of our key installations in the I and II CTZs. The heaviest attacks were launched against Danang, Kontum, Pleiku, Nha Trang, Ban Me Thuot, and Tan Canh in the Dak To area. Lesser attacks were made on Qui Nhon and Tuy Hoa. Although enemy activity in III and IV CTZs was comparatively light during this period, we are alert to attempts by the enemy to attack significant targets in these areas. Repeated attempts can also be expected in the I and II CTZs. While our operations reports to your headquarters have covered these attacks in some detail, I felt it would be helpful to give you a wrap-up on the situation as it stands now.
It is significant that in I CTZ none of these attacks were directed against our installations north of the Ai Van Pass, perhaps because of the thickening of US forces in that area. Danang was the prime target and was attacked beginning at 20 minutes past midnight. The facilities at Marble Mountain and the Danang air base were mortared and rocketed with a number of aircraft receiving damage, to include five jet aircraft [Page 76] destroyed. The rocket site was immediately located and brought under fire with unknown results at this time. Simultaneously, the ARVN Corps Headquarters came under enemy mortar and ground attack by an estimated reinforced enemy company. An attempt was made against the Danang bridge by underwater swimmers. It was thwarted with three enemy KIA and one captured. Timely warning of the attacks plus rapid reaction by US/ARVN/ROK forces has brought the situation in the Danang area under control at this time. Casualties so far list 89 enemy KIA and 7 friendly KIA. Noteworthy among the counteractions launched in the early morning hours was that of the ROK Marines, who, in response to an enemy ground attack in the Hoi An area, inserted a force by helicopter, engaged the enemy, killing 21 with no friendly casualties.
The II CTZ received the bulk and intensity of the enemy attacks. In the Kontum area, in excess of 500 enemy attacked from the north in the vicinity of the airfield, and were engaged by elements of the 4th U.S. Division and assorted Vietnamese units. The area is now under control with artillery and air strikes being employed against an estimated two enemy battalions. Seven U.S. were killed in this action, with 165 NVA KIA. Vietnamese casualties are unknown. In Tan Canh of Kontum Province, contact is sporadic with elements of the 3/42 ARVN regiment opposing an unknown size enemy force. Four friendly have been killed and five NVA. In Pleiku, contact continues with an enemy of unknown size in the city, with friendly forces attempting to cut off the enemy forces trying to escape. The 4th Inf Div captured 220 enemy in the vicinity of Pleiku. Of these, 20 had North Vietnamese money on their person. The vast majority are Montagnards believed to be pressed into service. Average age appears to be 18 to 30. 58 claim to be Hoi Chanhs. ARVN forces are in the city (Pleiku). Seven friendly have been killed as against 103 enemy. In Nha Trang, sporadic fighting continues in the city. Friendly lost 21 KIA; enemy 60 KIA. Fighting continues against the enemy attempting to withdraw. City fighting continues in Ban Me Thuot with enemy still in the vicinity. Casualties are reported to be 7 friendly KIA and 131 enemy KIA. In addition, 36 enemy have been killed in the Tuy Hoa area and 11 NVA KIA in the Ninh Hoa area. In Qui Nhon, the enemy holds the radio station and the maintenance area but has lost 50 KIA. The ROKs have the radio station surrounded but have not attacked, since the enemy is holding three hostages.
In III CTZ in Binh Dinh Duong Province, southwest of Ben Cat, units of the 25th U.S. Division made a significant contact with an enemy force, resulting in 66 enemy killed, with eight friendly killed and 14 wounded. IV CTZ had one significant encounter in the Vinh Long area, where gunships and tactical support aircraft engaged a cleared target of sampans in a canal area, killing 80 enemy, destroying 124 sampans, with three secondary explosions.[Page 77]
During the course of the day we had a maximum air effort, which was reported to be extremely effective.
The current outlook depicts a situation similar to my foregoing account.
In summary, the enemy has displayed what appears to be desperation tactics, using NVA troops to terrorize populated areas. He attempted to achieve surprise by attacking during the truce period. The reaction of Vietnamese, US and free world forces to the situation has been generally good. Since the enemy has exposed himself, he has suffered many casualties. As of now, they add up to almost 700. When the dust settles, there will probably be more. All my subordinate commanders report the situation well in hand.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC History of the March 31st Speech, Vol. 2, Tabs A–Z and AA–AA. Secret; Eyes Only. Notations on the telegram indicate that Wheeler forwarded it to Rusk, Helms, and McCafferty of the White House staff.↩