342. Memorandum From the Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency (Carver) to Director of Central Intelligence Helms1


  • A Vietnam Hunch
I have a strong visceral hunch, unsupported by evidence, that our friends in Hanoi are contemplating some major move—either military, political or both—within the next few days.

There are two small straws in the wind which precipitated this feeling. One is the quadrille currently being danced in Oslo in conjunction with the Ohio exercise. As you may recall, on 2 July the Norwegian Charge in Peking was sought out by the North Vietnamese Ambassador (Loan) who used the pretext of delivering a memo on the Geneva Accords but was obviously fishing for an invitation to Oslo, ostensibly because Hanoi was dissatisfied with Paris and interested in opening other channels.2 This overture has gone through various permutations, the net result of which is that the DRV Ambassador in East Germany is supposed to go to Oslo to talk to the Norwegian Foreign Minister and the Norwegians have arranged (through Harriman and the Department) for a U.S. briefing officer (Dan Davidson) to be taking a vacation in Oslo at the time of the North Vietnamese Ambassador’s visit. The most interesting feature of this exercise has been the scheduling, which was on the verge of being set about three weeks ago when the North Vietnamese suddenly pushed it back to mid-September. It is now set for 20 September.3

A scheduled meeting between Chan and the Norwegians for August 15 was cancelled. Loan notified them that Chan could come to Norway no sooner than sometime in the next month, and a meeting was scheduled for September 20. (Telegrams 5997 from Oslo and 218915 to Paris, both August 10; telegram 220574 to Paris, August 14; telegram 221207 to Oslo, Paris, and Saigon, August 14; telegram 221310 to Oslo, Paris, and Norway, August 15; telegram 6141 from Oslo, August 20; telegram 224140 to Paris, August 20; telegram 224590 to Oslo, Paris, Saigon, and Moscow, August 20; and telegram 6222 from Oslo, August 26; all ibid., Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET OHIO)

The other straw in the wind is Thuy’s comment to Harriman and Vance at the 28 August tea break. Harriman and Vance said they hoped [Page 983] Thuy and Le Duc Tho could soon get together with them informally over dinner. Harriman’s house was offered as the locale. Thuy answered that September 2 was the DRV National Day and they would be very busy until then. After September 2 the North Vietnamese would give an answer to the invitation.4
This is all pretty tenuous but the date juggling in Oslo and Paris hits me as more than coincidental. I am possibly hyper-sensitized by what happened just before Tet in the Buttercup operation. As you will remember, Buttercup/1 suddenly became unavailable and was not even able to attend the courier’s briefing because of the press of other business.5 Had we read these tea leaves right, we would have been alerted to the fact that something was in the wind. I have that same sort of hunch now. The North Vietnamese may be planning nothing more than an attempt against Saigon, for which numerous warning signs are already up. They may simply hope that this time enough confusion will be caused and popular demonstrations mounted to alter the political atmospherics and, hence, not wish to engage in much serious discussion anywhere until they have made their try.
If my hypothesis has any validity, something along these lines (i.e., a Saigon attack) is the most logical explanation. There is always the possibility, however, of something more dramatic such as an NLF call (sufficiently endorsed by Hanoi) for an immediate, unpoliced, in-place cease fire. In any event, I intend to ensure that my colleagues remain particularly alert and watchful during the next few days.
George A. Carver, Jr.
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, SAVA (Carver) Files, Job 80–R1720R, GAC Chrono, June 1968–August 1968. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 291.
  3. The delegation in Paris became involved after Harriman and Vance encouraged the contact. (Telegram 18302/Delto 487 from Paris, July 22; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET OHIO) Ngo Minh Loan, DRV Ambassador to China, indicated his wish to have a DRV diplomat, first himself and then Ambassador to the Soviet Union Nguyen Chan, meet with Norwegian officials in Oslo at the same time an American representative would be there. (Telegram 216977 to Oslo, Paris, and Saigon, August 7; telegram 19233/Delto 576 from Paris, August 8; telegram 216977 to Paris, August 8; telegram 217164 to Paris, August 8; telegram 5992 from Oslo, August 9; telegram 218776 to Oslo and Paris, August 9; telegram 218055 to Paris, August 9; and telegram 218821 to Paris, Oslo, Saigon, Moscow, and Kathmandu, August 9; all ibid.; and telegram CAP 81918 from Smith to the President, August 9; Johnson Library, President’s Appointment File—Diary Backup, August 1968) Harriman suggested and the Department agreed to send Davidson to Oslo in order to receive a briefing from the Norwegian Government on the talks with Chan. (Telegram 18825/Delto 537 from Paris, July 31; telegram 212498 to Paris, July 31; and telegram 18855 from Paris, August 1; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET OHIO) During the course of the Ohio contact, Loan stated that the DRV was not satisfied with the course of the Paris talks and desired to establish contacts in other venues such as Norway. INR noted that the DRV likely pursued this initiative to pre-empt retaliation resulting from their third offensive. (Memorandum from Hughes to Rusk, September 6; ibid.) Further documentation on the contact is ibid., S-AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, OHIO (DID).
  4. Reports by the delegation on the 19th formal session were transmitted in telegrams 20029/Delto 653 and 20036/Delto 657 from Paris, both August 28. (Ibid., A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-August 1968)
  5. See Document 6.