194. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1

3624. Subject: Highlights of NVA Offensive—Summary for Period Ending Noon March 27.

1. General.

The situation in and around Danang has deteriorated considerably in the past 24 hours. NVA attacks began the morning of March 27 on GVN defensive positions south of the city, and one RVNAF unit has already been forced from its position. Within Danang, public order is deteriorating rapidly, and roads to the airport and Marble Mountain Pier are jammed with people. In MR 2, the 41st and 42d Regts, along with 420 of the defenders of An Tuc district, have broken through NVA forces which had them cut off and are presumably making their way to Qui Nhon. About 1200 of the Rangers in the Pleiku/Kontum convoy have arrived in Nha Trang, but the fate of those covering the rear of the column is not clear and it is feared they may have been destroyed by the NVA. In MR 3, Tay Ninh is quiet following the heavy NVA shelling in that province yesterday. The NVA/VC have mounted a new assault supported by tanks at Chon Thanh. Activity in the Delta remains widely scattered and has declined.

2. MR 1.

The situation in MR 1 has deteriorated rapidly in the past 24 hours. On the morning of March 27, tank-supported NVA troops launched an attack on elements of the 3rd Division in Trang Binh district (Quang [Page 700]Tin) and Que Son district (Quang Nam), both of which are part of the southern defense line of Danang. The troops in Trang Binh have fallen back. GVN forces at Fire Support Base Baldy came under attack as well, and they doubt they can hold their position.

2,500 members of the 146th Marine Brigade have been successfully evacuated by sea to Danang, and are presently being deployed to defend the city. 7,100 members of the 2nd Division and territorials at Chu Lai have been evacuated to Danang and are currently being reorganized. The 1st Division is continuing to work its way overland to Danang from Hue, and Marine rear elements are covering its withdrawal.

In Danang, police desertions are contributing to paralysis in the city. There is no traffic control, and roads to the airport and the Marble Mountain Pier are jammed. Gunshots are common in the city, and were fired during a confrontation around the World Airways 727 evacuating refugees from the airport. Subsequently, discipline was restored at the airport and a later 727 flight was loaded and took off in an orderly fashion.

Some battalion and regimental commanders from the 3rd Division (the only viable ARVN Division in Quang Nam and critical to the defense of Danang) are in Danang making arrangements for the exfiltration of their families and themselves.

3. MR 2

In MR 2, Binh Dinh is the focus of military activity. The 41st and 42d Regts, which had been cut off in Binh Khe by the NVA, managed to break through and, while further word is not yet available, are presumably on their way to Qui Nhon. 420 of the 1,600 defenders, who were cut off when An Tuc district fell, were located, airlifted to the position of the 41st and 42d Regts, and are probably with the two regiments.

About 1,200 Rangers from the Pleiku/Kontum convoy have made it to Nha Trang. The primary problem facing the MR 2 command is finding sufficient equipment to refit the returning troops. Some of the troops entering Nha Trang are relatively disciplined, but others, including at least one group of armed Rangers, are not responding to command control.

The fate of the military units covering the rear of the convoy, which include elements of the 6th, 22d, and 25th Ranger groups, is not clear. It is feared that they may have been destroyed by NVA forces.

4. MR 3.

The NVA have launched a new attack, supported by tanks, on the GVN forces at Chon Thanh. No other details are available at this time. The situation is quiet in Tay Ninh following yesterday’s widespread shelling. The district capital of Binh Khanh in eastern Long Khanh has apparently been overrun. Radio contact was lost on March 26, and seventy [Page 701]of the defenders have arrived at a nearby outpost. About 750 of the 1,400 RF/PF from the Hoai Duc area have returned to government lines. They came upon a large NVA/VC rear base during their return, and destroyed four trucks, six tons of assorted ammo, 100 AK–47s and a 75 mm recoilless rifle.

5. MR–4.

Activity in the Delta declined slightly and remains widely scattered.

6. ICCS.

All but two ICCS personnel have withdrawn from the ICCS Region II HQ at Danang. The remaining two plan to depart March 28.2

Warning Notice: Sensitive intelligence sources and method involved. No foreign dissemination.

Lehmann
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Secret; Immediate; Noforn; Exdis. Repeated to SecDef, Bangkok, USDel JEC Paris, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, CINCPAC, USSAG NKP Thailand, Bien Hoa, Can Tho, and Nha Trang.
  2. During a March 27 meeting the with the President, 9:30–10:32 a.m., Kissinger told Ford: “On Vietnam, I think we are on the wrong wicket. They seem to have lost four divisions, except for the people themselves, who are now a rabble. They have lost massive amounts of matériel. Talking $300 million in these circumstances is nonsense. A three-year program is nonsense—three years to what? Subject to Weyand’s views, it looks like they have lost virtually everything and North Vietnam has suffered very little. You may wind up with this option: to pour in massive amounts of equipment, or to go for a one-year appropriation and see what happens. I say this with a bleeding heart—but maybe you must put Vietnam behind you and not tear the country apart again. The Vietnam agreements were based on two things: our threat of military support and the continuation of aid. In July ‘73 we stopped our support, and we also cut the aid below the minimum they needed. Now we are faced with a desperate situation. I think—I defended a three-year program—but I think it is beyond that.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 10, 3/27/1975)