165. Memorandum From the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (Graham) to Secretary of Defense Schlesinger 1


  • Adequacy of External Military Support to North and South Vietnam (U)
(U) As you know, both North and South Vietnam depend in great part on outside powers for their military supplies and equipment. Many people, therefore, are prone to compare the aid that Hanoi and Saigon receive and to develop a notion that the side receiving more should be militarily stronger. Since DIA must frequently supply estimative data on communist military aid to North Vietnam, I want to insure that this agency does not unwittingly propagate that kind of reasoning. Thus, in replying to requests for such information, we stress the points contained in the following paragraphs.
(S) Intelligence can identify broad trends in communist military aid to North Vietnam. We cannot speak precisely to the issue, however, because of gaps in our knowledge relating to:
  • —The exact quantities of military supplies and equipment the USSR, PRC, and Eastern European countries send to North Vietnam;
  • —The real cost of individual items;
  • —The real cost or extent of such supplemental programs as training, transportation, advisory services, installations, and maintenance; and
  • —How much economic aid (e.g., food, fuel, and vehicles) is diverted into military channels.
(C) Nonetheless, it is possible to draw a meaningful military aid comparison—though not in quantitative terms—by looking at the trends in the military situation in the South. In summary:
  • —The January 1973 cease-fire found communist forces in South Vietnam badly battered—their force structure eroded and their stockpiles depleted. Conversely, the South Vietnamese military were in reasonably good shape. The large stocks of supplies and equipment we delivered prior to the cease-fire enabled Saigon to more than hold its own militarily for about a year and a half.
  • —About mid-1974, Hanoi’s policy of rebuilding its capabilities in the South, while simultaneously causing an erosion of GVN military [Page 611]resources, began to bear fruit. This happened because Hanoi’s suppliers met its military needs while the U.S. could not do the same thing for South Vietnam. As a result, Hanoi became increasingly bold on the battlefield; Saigon, more and more reactive in an effort to conserve supplies and equipment.
(C) The shift in the military balance that began about mid-1974 has already reached the point where the South Vietnamese military have had no choice but to move into an increasingly defensive posture. This means abandoning many positions in contested territory in order to concentrate on the defense of vital population and rice-growing regions, and clamping rigorous constraints on the use of such critical items as ammunition and fuel. In essence, the strategic and tactical advantage has passed to the communists in South Vietnam. In addition, the size of their in-country stockpiles is such that not even a North Vietnamese decision to launch an all-out offensive would be constrained by logistic considerations.
(C) We thus know empirically that Soviet and Chinese military aid to North Vietnam is adequate to allow Hanoi to carry out military action in South Vietnam at about whatever scope and intensity it desires. On the other hand, we see that South Vietnam receives inadequate US military aid to counter the type of threat that it faces. At current levels of outside military support for both parties, we can only expect the communist logistic advantage to grow larger.
Daniel O. Graham

Lieutenant General, USA
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–78–0058, Viet 091.3, 1975. Secret.