Washington, May 17, 1965.
Over-all Appraisal of Air Strikes Against North Vietnam, 7 February
1965 through 30 April 1965
1. Between 7 February and 30 April 1965, US/RVN
forces attacked sixty specific JCS-designated targets in North
Vietnam. Of these, 43 targets were struck by US aircraft and 17
by VNAF aircraft. In addition, 86 armed reconnaissance missions
were flown against lines of communication, targets of opportunity,
and coastal ships.
2. The only two occasions when enemy aircraft
interfered with our strikes were on 3 April when a MIG damaged
a US aircraft, and on 4 April when two North Vietnamese MIGs shot
down two US planes. In addition, one US aircraft on air patrol
over the Gulf of Tonkin on 9 April was lost during an intercept
with Hainan Island-based MIGs. Otherwise, enemy reaction has been
limited to antiaircraft fire from weapons up to 57mm in size.
The South Vietnamese have lost six planes and four pilots killed,
missing and captured. US losses have been 30 planes and 17 personnel
killed, missing and
3. Our air strikes have not reduced in any major
way the capability of the DRV armed forces to perform their mission
of defense of the homeland, to train their own and infiltration
forces for South Vietnam and Laos, and to provide logistic support
at present levels of activity. The interdiction of lines of communication,
however, has magnified DRV problems in providing logistic support
to the southern portion of North Vietnam. Moreover, although supplies
sufficient for their current military needs can still reach the
area near the 17th Parallel, reduction of route capacities has
degraded DRV ability
to support any major offensive beyond its own borders into Laos
or South Vietnam.
4. Although over-all economic effects are considered
to be minor, the accumulating damage being inflicted on rolling
stock and fixed facilities is forcing the DRV to expend greater
effort to maintain distribution of essential supplies in the southern
region of North Vietnam. The destruction of the Thanh Hoa electric
power plant has reduced electric power available to the Thanh
Hoa area by 60 per cent. The operation of phosphate and superphosphate
plants and rice processing plants are the industries which will
be most affected by the power shortage. Additionally, defense
preparations both north
and south of the 20th Parallel are believed to have diverted considerable
resources from normal economic activities--a diversion the regime
can ill-afford in view of its bare subsistence level economy.
5. Assessment of the impact of our air strikes
on the attitudes of the North Vietnamese Government and people
must continue to be deduced from the relatively small number of
reports received by Free World sources and from statements made
by DRV officials and citizens. Analysis of available evidence
leads to the following conclusions:
a. The local population in North Vietnam is becoming
increasingly aware of our air strikes and a sense of uncertainty
has been generated among the populace. Western observers, however,
see no signs that the people are pressing the regime for a settlement
of the conflict. Rather, the popular reaction to the strikes seems
to be that of "grim determination to continue the fight."
In general, the populace appears to be responding favorably to
the increased political and military controls imposed by the regime.
b. Early in April, Western diplomatic observers
described the atmosphere in Hanoi as "fairly relaxed,"
although a suggestion of greater anxiety in official statements
and in the press was noted. North Vietnam's propaganda output
vigorously stresses the theme that the "army and the people"
are stirred to profound hatred and are responding positively "to
defeat the US aggressors." The tone of statements emanating
from Hanoi gives no inkling that the DRV has weakened in its determination
to continue supporting the Viet Cong while persevering in their
resistance to US air actions against North Vietnam. Emphasis in
DRV public statements, however, on the growing opposition within
the US to the "aggressive war" being waged by the US
may be an indication that the regime's leaders are hoping that
the appearance of grim determination on their part and flagging
resolve on our part will still permit them to achieve their objectives
in South Vietnam.
6. In summary, our air strikes to date, while
magnifying DRV logistic support problems in southern North Vietnam
and reducing their current ability to support overt aggression
outside their borders, have not reduced their over-all military
capabilities in any major sense. Neither have we seriously hurt
the North Vietnamese economy. The North Vietnamese regime, with
no apparent opposition from its populace, gives every impression
of being determined to continue on its present course.
7. At Tabs A through E are more detailed discussions
of specific aspects. (2)
Earle G. Wheeler