128. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 53/14.3–1–74



A major Communist offensive in South Vietnam is unlikely during 1974. The picture for the first half of 1975, however, is less clear, and there obviously is a substantial risk that Hanoi will opt for a major offensive during this period. But our best judgment now is that Hanoi will not do so.2

If unforeseen and dramatic new developments occurred, the Communists could easily shift course to take advantage of them.

  • —They have the capability to launch an offensive with little warning.
  • —We expect the North Vietnamese to reassess their situation this summer or fall.
  • —Changes both in South Vietnam and in the international situation, particularly in the US, will weigh heavily in their calculations.
  • —The North Vietnamese would also consider the views of the Soviet Union and China, but the influence of Moscow and Peking on any reassessment in Hanoi would not be decisive.

Should a major offensive occur, the Communists could retake Quang Tri City, and perhaps capture Hue in MR 1, Kontum and Pleiku cities in MR 2 and Tay Ninh City in MR 3. If the Communists persisted in their offensive, this initial situation would probably be followed by a period of inconclusive fighting and, over time, further GVN losses. ARVN might be unable to regain the initiative, and it [Page 528]would be questionable whether the GVN would be able to survive without combat participation by US Air Force and Navy units. At a minimum, large-scale US logistic support would be required to stop the Communist drive.

Even if there is not a major offensive during the next year, current Communist strategy does call for some increase in the tempo of the conflict.

Furthermore, it is clear that at some point Hanoi will shift back to major warfare.

[Omitted here is the discussion section.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 79–R01012A, Box 469, National Intelligence Estimates, Folder 3, NIE 53/14.3–1–74. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem. The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury and the National Security Agency participated in the preparation of this estimate. The Director of Central Intelligence submitted the estimate with the concurrence of all members of the USIB except the FBI representative, who abstained on the ground that it was outside FBI jurisdiction. For the full text of the estimate, see National Intelligence Council, Estimative Products on Vietnam, 1948–1975 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005), pp. 619–630.
  2. The Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, believes that the “best judgment” expressed in this paragraph is unduly optimistic. He believes that the chances are at least even that North Vietnam will undertake a major offensive during the first half of 1975. For his reasoning see the footnote to paragraph 15 on page 8. The Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, and the Assistant General Manager for National Security, Atomic Energy Commission, share this view. [Footnote in the original.]