256. Editorial Note

On December 16, 1968, Vice Admiral Rufus Taylor, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, sent Rostow a copy of the CIA Saigon Station’s field assessment of the Phoenix program, the effort to challenge the Viet Cong infrastructure. The Phoenix program was run by an inter-agency group in conjunction with South Vietnamese programs. The summary of the report reads:

“A. The attack on the Viet Cong infrastructure (VCI) has made encouraging progress, but has not yet produced a significant reduction of the Communists’ ability to carry out essential activities. VCI operations have been disrupted in several geographic areas; an increasing Chieu Hoi rate points to morale problems—at least among lower ranking personnel; and a noticeable attrition has resulted from a combination of losses in combat and from anti-infrastructure activities.

“B. VCI attempts to revitalize and strengthen their organizations in the major cities often have been disrupted by aggressive police work. But government intelligence on the VCI and targeted operations against their activities diminish significantly as one gets further from the secure urban areas. What losses the VCI has suffered apparently have not unduly hampered its functioning. Recent moves have been made to streamline the infrastructure by reclassifying cadres according to their effectiveness and by transferring numbers of low level or inefficient cadres into military units. It seems that VCI personnel losses are not approaching the critical stage, nor do they appear likely to do so in the near future.”

The report concludes:

“Are there, then, steps which can be taken to improve our combined effort to destroy or neutralize the VCI. The answer is ‘yes,’ and of course some of these already are under way.

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  • “1. We must continue the present strategy of combined, coordinated action to destroy or drive back VC/NVA Main Forces, to extend and consolidate territorial security and pacification, and to destroy or neutralize the VCI. These actions are interdependent.
  • “2. We need still further GVN command emphasis on Phung Hoang operations, particularly to insure the assignment and allocation of top-flight personnel and reaction forces to exploit intelligence against selected targets.
  • “3. Concurrently with increased emphasis on targeted operations (as opposed to programming, organization and facilities), the GVN must, with our assistance, provide stepped-up training and indoctrination of personnel earmarked for Phung Hoang roles.
  • “4. Concurrently, we must somehow see to it that both civilian and military U.S. personnel designated as Phoenix advisors are qualified intelligence officers with backgrounds in counterintelligence, positive intelligence collection, or police intelligence investigation operations. A maximum number of these individuals should be trained in the Vietnamese language. The absence of language ability, particularly at the DIOCC level, is the greatest single bar to effectiveness.
  • “5. We must give greater heed to providing necessary, flexible support to operations at district and province level, in terms of temporary or short-term detention facilities adjacent to DIOCCs or district police offices; of intelligence and support contingency funds; of assignment of additional intelligence NCOs in priority areas of heaviest operational activity; and of additional helicopter support for sustained operations.
  • “6. We must take and are taking urgent measures to instruct and orient Vietnamese, U.S. and other free world personnel in the identification and modus operandi of the VCI, and in the roles which our various forces and agencies can best play, and in the techniques found by current experience to be most productive in VCI neutralizations.
  • “7. Finally, and possibly most important, the lessons learned by all GVN agencies participating in the Phung Hoang program now may serve as the glue to hold them together when they are forced to fight the political machinations of the VCI in the post hostilities period.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80-R01580R, Executive Registry Subject Files, Vietnam)

An assessment of the potential impact of the Phoenix program on the Paris peace negotiations is in a memorandum by Carver prepared for Helms, January 10, 1969. (Ibid., Job 80-R01720R, George Carver Files, GAC Chrono., December 1968-February 1969, #2)