following is an estimate of the political-military situation in
South Vietnam as of 5 June 1965, drafted by the mission Intelligence
Committee and concurred in by Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Johnson
and General Westmoreland. Suggest it be passed eyes only to Secretary
McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Admiral Raborn and Admiral Sharp.
After a two-month
relative lull, evidently spent in regrouping, re-equipping and
training, the Viet Cong have quickened the tempo of the fighting.
Since early May, main force units have returned to the battlefield
in increasing numbers, engaging in a number of attacks and ambushes
with forces up to regimental size. While the months of March and
April were relatively favorable for the government forces in terms
of casualty and weapons loss ratios, the trend in May became less
favorable as Viet Cong pressure mounted.
indicate the Viet Cong have embarked on a new military campaign
which will probably extend through the summer. Both Hanoi and
Liberation Front broadcasts have heralded this new campaign as
a demonstration of the Communists' will and determination to continue
to press the war despite increased U.S. involvement in both North
and South Vietnam. The apparent aims of this campaign are to alter
the balance of military forces in favor of the Viet Cong by inflicting
maximum attrition on the government forces, including specifically
the piecemeal destruction of regular ARVN ground combat units
where possible, and to extend Viet Cong control in rural areas
by constricting GVN forces to the principal towns and cities.
The pattern of Viet Cong operations to date indicates the campaign
will be pressed vigorously in all military regions, the major
attacks and ambushes will be accompanied by intensified, small-scale
guerrilla activity, particularly sabotage and harassment of lines
of communication, and that the Viet Cong intend to consolidate
their rural gains through intensified subversion and political
action. Increased terrorist attacks against U.S. personnel and
installations in urban areas are also likely.
So far, the
enemy has not employed his full capabilities in this campaign.
Only two of the nine Viet Cong regiments have been heavily engaged
(one in Phuoc Long and one in Quang Ngai), and probably only a
similar proportion of their separate battalions has been committed.
In most engagements, their main force units have displayed improved
training and discipline, heavier firepower, and a willingness
to take heavy losses if necessary to achieve their objectives.
Their healthy respect for the effectiveness of U.S. and GVN tactical
air support is reflected, however, in their reliance on ambush
tactics instead of open assaults.
their campaign, the Viet Cong are capable of mounting regimental-size
operations in all four ARVN Corps areas, and at least battalion-sized
attacks in virtually any province. The larger attacks can be supported
by a limited number of 70-mm or 75-mm artillery pieces. Known
dispositions indicate major actions are likely in the near future
in the Binh Duong-Phuoc Thanh-Phuoc Long area north of Saigon,
in the Quang Ngai-Quang Tin area in central Vietnam, and in Kontum
Province. Major attacks could occur also in other areas, since
the Viet Cong have shown that they are capable of concentrating
in regimental strength without giving significant warning.
Viet Cong remain numerically inferior in over-all strength, they
can achieve temporary local superiority at times and places of
their selection. Their ability to do this is facilitated by the
commitment of a large portion of the RVNAF infantry-type battalions
to relatively static missions, while the Viet Cong main force
and local battalions are employed only in an offensive role. During
periods of intensive activity, the Viet Cong thus enjoy the initiative
in that they can choose the time, conditions, and place of engagement;
significant contacts rarely occur, even when RVNAF units are engaged
in aggressive operations, unless the Viet Cong elect to engage.
By posing simultaneous or successive threats in widely separated
areas, the Viet Cong have demonstrated an ability to offset [to]
some extent ARVN's superior transportation resources.
losses on occasion, Viet Cong forces have shown a remarkable recuperative
ability. This has been facilitated by a systematic recruiting
effort and an evidently effective replacement system, supplemented
by the infiltration of northern draftees who have been integrated
into Viet Cong units in the northern provinces. Access for recruiting
purposes to the major portion of the population has enabled the
Viet Cong not only to replace their losses but to continue to
form new units. In addition to elements of the PAVN 325th Division
already identified in the South, other units of this division
and the PAVN 304th Division may already have entered or are stationed
in the Laos border area. These elements represent a significant
reinforcement capability for Viet Cong units in the I and II Corps
forces generally have responded well to the increased Viet Cong
pressure, there have been several disturbing instances of poor
performance in critical situations. Some units have broken under
pressure and fled from the battlefield. These manifestations,
coupled with the continuing high desertion rate in many units,
reflect a generally marginal state of morale. The morale and confidence
of the Officer Corps were buoyed up by the more direct involvement
of U.S. forces since February. This improved spirit was enhanced
by the period of relative inactivity of the Viet Cong main force
units. The growing realization, however, that the increased U.S.
commitment would not produce an immediate end to the war, together
with ARVN's apparent inability to cope decisively as yet with
the renewed Viet Cong offensive, apparently has caused morale
to sag again. Unless the anticipated Viet Cong major attacks are
effectively countered, morale will deteriorate further. Indeed,
the cumulative psychological impact of a series of significant
ARVN defeats could lead to a collapse in ARVN's will to continue
to fight, despite the presence in South Vietnam of U.S. forces.
To ward against the possibility of such a collapse, it will probably
be necessary to commit US ground forces to action.
1. The Communist
leadership in Hanoi has not yet been shaken in its determination
to continue the war. It apparently has elected to respond to the
growing commitment of U.S. military resources in Vietnam by employing
their principal weapon--the Viet Cong ground force reinforced
by PAVN--in intensified operations in the South.
resumed major offensive actions in South Vietnam, the enemy is
capable of continuing the recent pace of attacks and ambushes
over the next several months, although there will probably be
local cyclical fluctuations in the level activity. While the Viet
Cong have suffered heavy losses, they have generally achieved
their objectives in actions to date.
3. RVNAF general
reserves have been barely adequate to deal with any one major
thrust and are inadequate to counter simultaneous or successive
thrusts in widely separated areas. Taking advantage of terrain
and weather conditions, the Viet Cong appear likely to achieve
further successes. To meet the shortage of ARVN reserves, it will
probably be necessary to commit U.S. ground forces to action.
military reverses, coupled with the economic disruption caused
by the harassment and blocking of lines of communication, will
have a serious adverse impact on popular confidence and morale,
exacerbating political instability in Saigon.
5. The political
situation remains essentially unstable. Although the constitutional
impasse appears to have been resolved, the Quat government continues
to be faced with the difficult task of reaching an accommodation
with strong opposition groups seeking its ouster and its life
line is of uncertain length. The military and political situations
are closely interrelated, and reverses in either area will have
an adverse reaction in the other.