73. Intelligence Memorandum1

ER IM 68–23



A review of field reporting since the start of the current Communist offensive indicates that approximately 58,000 Communist main and local forces were committed in attacks on urban areas and military installations through 13 February. (For detailed data on forces available and engaged in the Tet offensive, see Appendixes A and B.)2 Of this total, about 37 percent were North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops and another 29 percent were Viet Cong (VC) main force troops. The remaining 34 percent consisted of VC local forces which had been reinforced for the attacks by the upgrading of local guerrillas. On the basis of MACV’s latest order of battle of 115,000 men, the Communists would appear to have committed about 50 percent of their regular forces to the attacks.

If the reported losses of 32,500 killed in action and 5,500 detained applied solely to the VC/NVA regular forces, the Communists would have lost more than 65 percent of the forces committed to the Tet offensive. [Page 205] This would have been a devastating blow. However, there are a number of pieces of evidence which suggest that such an interpretation would overstate the Communist manpower drain.

First of all, VC/NVA forces participating in the offensive were augmented by numbers of guerrillas operating in independent units or integrated into local force units. Second, there was extensive VC activity to raise new recruits. Third, casualties included laborers conscripted to move VC supplies, as well as a number of civilians in densely populated areas taken under attack. Almost certainly the rate of casualties among new and relatively untrained forces was higher than among hard-core troops.

In summary, a number of factors suggest that the VC/NVA losses, although high, are not as serious as first believed. Most recently, the enemy has been taking advantage of his greater control of the countryside to accelerate recruiting among the rural population. All of these developments make it difficult to assess the current enemy manpower situation with any accuracy.3

[Omitted here is the body of the paper.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, O/DDI Files, Job 78–T02095R, SNIE 14.3–1–67, Viet Cong Recruitment and Morale Problems. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. A notation on the first page reads: “This memorandum was produced by CIA. It was prepared by the Office of Economic Research with assistance of the Vietnamese Affairs Staff and coordinated with the Office of Current Intelligence. It analyzes developments reported through 13 February 1968.”
  2. Neither printed.
  3. In a CIA memorandum entitled “The Communists’ Ability To Recoup Their Tet Military Losses,” March 1, the Office of Current Intelligence and the Office of Economic Research speculated that it would take the NVA/VC 6 months to recover from their Tet losses, but added the following caveat: “It is entirely possible, however, that they might be able to accomplish full recovery in a much shorter time and that within six months their troop strength would be substantially greater than it was prior to Tet. Everything hinges on the real extent of their Tet losses and on their ability to recruit and impress personnel in the countryside.” (Ibid.)