296. Telegram From the Commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (Abrams) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer)1

MAC 6774. Subject: COSVN Headquarters. Reference: CINCPAC msg 170312Z May 70.2

Reference requested views on problem of precisely locating COSVN, the feasibility of targeting or capturing elements of COSVN, and the results which might be anticipated.

Highest priorty ARDF and special emphasis ground collection efforts on all terminals associated with COSVN headquarters have been employed during the planning phase and continually since the initiation of U.S. operations into Cambodia. The problem in precisely locating COSVN is dependent on the length of time he remains in an area before relocation and the time required to obtain ARDF fixes.

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Relocation, coupled with the use of multiple transmitters, requires time to redevelop the disposition of COSVN’s facilities for targeting. Essentially, the problem is a trade-off between waiting to acquire targeting data versus the probability he will move if we wait.

Of the five major elements of COSVN (political headquarters, military intelligence bureau, strategic intelligence bureau, ministry of public security, and headquarters South Vietnam) the three most lucrative targets are the political headquarters, headquarters South Vietnam, and the Strategic Intelligence Bureau. Neutralization of the political headquarters, including the capture of documents and medium-level personnel, probably would provide invaluable information for targeting the VC infrastructure and disrupting its activities over the next one to two years. Capture of headquarters South Vietnam would result in short-term disruptions of centrally coordinated military activity in the area it controls, with substantial recovery expected within thirty days. The capture of personnel and documents of the strategic intelligence bureau, which controls strategic espionage operations in RVN, could seriously affect espionage and penetration operations at the highest levels.
With regard to feasibility of targeting or capturing elements of COSVN, targeting of transmitters of different elements is feasible but constrained as indicated in paragraph 2 above. In addition to problems associated with achieving precise locations of targeting for B–52 strikes, target location may require further modification to avoid known civilian habitation.
35 sorties on 11 May and 11 sorties on 17 May were targeted against suspected terminal locations of COSVN elements. Documents captured in area of 11 May strike indicate that the finance-economy section and the education-training section were among COSVN elements in the area. Hoi Chanh who rallied as result of 11 May strike was mail clerk for COSVN signal element and stated “heavy” casualties were taken in raid in addition to damage of bunker complexes and equipment.
As a consequence of U.S. operations, some results have been achieved against COSVN elements. There has been some disruption of communications from COSVN elements after B–52 strikes and various types and amounts of material have been captured during ground follow-up.
Best available information, as of 180111Z May, indicates that major COSVN elements are dispersed over approximately 110 square kilometers of jungle. As of this time indications are that transmitters of COSVN political headquarters are on the move. Although any opportunity of capturing COSVN will be exploited, the feasibility of capturing major elements appears remote at this time.
All major elements of COSVN are now near or beyond 30 kilometers of RVN border. Should intelligence develop which would give us reasonable assurance of striking effectively at these headquarters I will urgently request authority to take action beyond the 30 kilometer constraint.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 509, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. V, 8 May 1970–22 May 1970. Top Secret; Eyes Only; Immediate; Spoke.
  2. This CINCPAC message to COMUSMACV, May 17, is summarized in MAC 6774.