62. Report Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

SC No. 12197/70



Since 1965 the Intelligence Community has been concerned with the role of Cambodia as a source of supplies for the Communist forces in South Vietnam.2 Throughout the time period, 1965 through mid-1970, there have been constant attempts at improving the collection and analysis of information so that the Sihanoukville/Cambodia problem could be resolved.

Over the years the differences in viewpoints between the Washington Intelligence Community and the field have centered on the volume of military supplies arriving in Cambodia, especially from Communist China, the share of these supplies consigned over the years to the VC/NVA forces as opposed to the Cambodian armed forces, and the importance of the overland route in also supplying Communist forces in the southern half of South Vietnam.

In the summer of 1970, CIA acquired from a high-ranking Cambodian officer an extensive and detailed set of documents providing a full accounting of the elaborate system established to move military supplies through Cambodia.3 These documents show that both the field [Page 154] and Washington, particularly the latter, seriously underestimated the volume of military supplies delivered to Sihanoukville for VC/NVA forces. The documents also made it absolutely clear that the so-called Sihanoukville route accounted for the bulk of supplies used by enemy forces in Southern II, III, and IV corps.

This memorandum presents the results of a post-mortem requested by the Director of Central Intelligence. The post-mortem considered the following questions:

What went wrong in the analysis of the reporting that was available that resulted in the incorrect judgments about the volume of arms shipments to Sihanoukville and the importance of these shipments in meeting Communist requirements in Southern II, III, and IV Corps?
What was the quality of the reporting that was available? With the advantage of hindsight, could the available reporting have supported different conclusions at earlier points in time? Did OER, which was producing most of the finished intelligence on the subject within CIA, move too slowly in changing its position over time?
Was the importance of the subject given sufficient recognition by the intelligence community and were the resources committed to collection and production adequate?

The post-mortem is largely the work of the Office of Economic Research. No effort was made to solicit contributions from DIA and State, whose views on the role of Cambodia were essentially the same as those of CIA. The Clandestine Services prepared at the request of OER a brief statement on the Agency’s collection effort on the problem (Tab VI).4 NSA was asked to prepare a contribution on the steps it took to improve COMINT coverage on Cambodia (Tab VIII).5

Within OER, about 10 analysts were engaged in preparing contributions to the post-mortem. To the greatest extent possible the analysts who prepared the contributions were those who had actually worked on the problem. Where analyst files were no longer adequate to reassess the reporting of the previous years, files were recalled from record centers or machine runs made to obtain the older information.

[Omitted here is the body of the report.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 88, Vietnam Subject Files, CIA Report, November 1970, Post Mortem: The Role of Cambodia in Supplying VC/NVA Forces in South Vietnam. Secret; SPOKE.
  2. See Tab IX for a chronological summary of important developments in the Sihanoukville/Cambodia problem, 1965 through mid-1970. [Footnote in the original. The tabs are not printed.]
  3. The documents were obtained from Lt. Col. Les Kosem who was co-chairman of the Special Transport Committee that was responsible for the movement of supplies to VC/NVA base areas in Cambodia. [Footnote in the original.]
  4. Attached, but not printed.
  5. Attached, but not printed.