VOLUME VIII, VIETNAM, JANUARY–OCTOBER 1972, DOCUMENT 1
Message From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Abrams) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (McCain)
1. (TS) The purpose of this message is to describe in the clearest possible manner the impending enemy offensive against RVN; the impact of ongoing operations on the Commando Hunt interdiction campaign and the additional authorities that will be needed for the conduct of an effective defense in the coming period.
2. (TS) As pointed out in my assessment of the enemy situation submitted in Ref A and B, along with additional intelligence in para 3 below, the enemy is preparing and positioning his forces for a major offensive. It is apparent that the high level decisions and planning for such an effort have already been made by the enemy. Although we cannot be sure at this time of his precise plan of attack it is apparent that he is going to attempt to face us with the most difficult situations of which he is capable.3 There is no doubt that this is to be a major campaign. We estimate that the main effort will be against the B3 front in RVN MR 2 and northern RVN MR 1, but this will be accompanied by a general increase in enemy activity in other areas of RVN. The enemy will use MiG’s, SAM’s and AAA to complicate our operations. We expect his recently intensified MiG activity to continue and to be directed against our air operations. He is expected to position SAM’s and AAA just north of the DMZ and has already moved these weapons into the Laotian panhandle to counter our operations in these areas. These measures will accompany intensive armor and artillery supported ground operations against which we must be able to concentrate U.S. and VNAF air power regardless of the hostile air environment. The enemy will undoubtedly continue operations in Laos or Cambodia against sensitive targets for the purpose of diverting U.S. air power to areas of secondary strategic importance. Difficult strategic decisions will be required on our part to prevent the fragmentation of our air effort. We foresee a hard battle involving sophisticated weaponry and as much ground combat power as the enemy can generate.
3. (S) Since the dispatch of our intelligence assessments of Southeast Asia in References A and B, the enemy has continued to provide clear and positive evidence of his intentions during the next six months.
A. In NVN on 18 December 1971, General Giap, in an official address to high level civilian and military authorities, emphasized that all young men must fight. The theme of Giap’s address stressed “we must fight with determination to win.” The official party organ Nhan Dan, has announced that all youths must go into military service to defend the homeland regardless of past exemptions. Additionally, Hanoi daily newspapers have published photographs of soldiers in combat uniforms and equipment with the caption “Following in the footsteps of their fathers, units on the way to fight in the South.”
B. The southward movement, or preparation for movement, of major tactical units continues. The headquarters of the 320th Division and its three regiments continue their movement toward the VC B–3 front, with the Division headquarters most recently located southeast of Sarvane. The headquarters and one subordinate regiment of the 308th Division have moved over 100 miles south and intelligence indicates that major organic elements of this division are making preparations for deployment. The 304th Division and two of its regiments have relocated significantly south with divisional reconnaisance units reported to be operating west of Khe Sanh. Additonal intelligence reveals that the Division headquarters and regimental elements of the 324B Division are also preparing for deployment. These indicators show a willingness by Hanoi to commit four of the five reserve divisions held in NVN, a commitment which has previously occurred…