Latest read – War of Numbers

War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir was published after the death of Sam Adams. He spent his career working in CIA intelligence during the Vietnam War. He leaves behind a memory of dedication to country and an unbending legacy speaking truth to power.
War of NumbersSam graduated from Harvard and began a CIA intelligence career in the Congo. Adams won high praise for accurately predicting changes to the Congolese government in 1966.

His initial Vietnam war research focused on the moral of Viet Cong troops in 1967. He wrote a larger Viet Cong order of battle. This began a long clash with CIA, MACV, the Joint Chiefs and the White House over the size of VC forces before the Tet Offensive.

His initial reports never made it out of the CIA. His experiences in chapter 4 “Bulletin 689” changed everything. Adams was able to discover errors in the MACV order of battle. Insights from CIA interrogations allowed Sam to separate deserters vs. defectors regarding guerrilla troops at the hamlet, village and district levels. His order of battle data revealed MACV underestimating VC guerrillas by 120,000 by 1967.
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Pentagon Papers Part IV-C7a

Air War in the North: 1965 – 1968 Its interesting to read Pentagon Papers Volume IV-C7 to learn how global politics was playing out against China for a majority of the war. To be frank it’s all stated at the beginning of the volume on the US air war in the north:

1 Jul 65
Under Secretary of State George Ball memo to the President.
Ball argues for “cutting our losses” in Vietnam and negotiating an end to the war. A massive US intervention would likely require complete achievement of our objectives or humiliation, both at terrible costs.

Pentagon PapersBall was the Director of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey in London during the war which measured the impact of bombing Nazi Germany.  Before Johnson, Ball served President Kennedy and was the only one in the President’s inner circle who opposed escalating the war in Vietnam.

He told President Kennedy “within five years we’ll have 300,000 men in the paddies and jungles and never find them again.” In response to this prediction, “JFK is reported to have laughed and replied, “Well, George, you’re supposed to be one of the smartest guys in town, but you’re crazier than hell. That will never happen.” Further in this Volume George Ball wrote a telling statement before Kennedy’s assassination:

Politically, South Viet-Nam is a lost cause. The country is bled white from twenty years of war and the people are sick of it. The Viet Cong — as is shown by the Rand Corporation Motivation and Morale Study — are deeply committed. Hanoi has a Government and a purpose and a discipline. The “government” in Saigon is a travesty. In a very real sense, South Viet-Nam is a country with an army and no government. In my view, a deep commitment of United States forces in a land ‘war in South Viet-Nam would be a catastrophic error. If ever there was an occasion for a tactical withdrawal, this is it.

If only President Kennedy had listened to his advice. Maybe he did but did not live long enough to see it through.
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Pentagon Papers Part IV-C6c

Pentagon PapersVolume IV-C6c reveals a number of interesting items. The CIA’s contributions to prepping Westmoreland and a memorandum immediately following Tet had the following expanded topics of recommendation:

4. Drive on the Viet Cong Infrastructure
In our concern over the behavior of our allies, we must not neglect our enemies and the present opportunity to compound and exacerbate communist problems. Operation Phoenix which is targeted against the Viet Cong must be pursued more vigorously in closer liaison with the US. Vietnamese armed forces should be devoted to anti-infrastructure activities on a priority basis. The Tet offensive surfaced a good deal of the infrastructure and the opportunity to damage it has never been better. This would force the VC on the defensive and head off the establishment of local VC administrative organizations and VC attempts to set up provisional governmental committees.

7. The Prime Minister
We should solicit Ambassador Bunker’s views on the desirability of replacing the Prime Minister. If he is to be replaced we should agree on his successor beforehand, in consultation with Thieu and Ky.

The dreaded Phoenix Program.  For the first time Phoenix was mentioned in the Pentagon Papers.  CIA was always commenting on how effective this counter-terror program was in weakening the Viet Cong during an ‘unconventional war’ in the South following Tet.

For the first time in the Pentagon Papers this volume displays the full text of American journalists articles critical of the US command.  The first was written (Part IV-C6c – Page 65) by Neil Sheehan and Hedrick Smith:
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Pentagon Papers Part IV-C6c

I feel that the opening pages of Volume III: 1965–1967 US Ground Strategy and Force Deployments is a telling example of why we lost Vietnam.  One cannot help notice that we were way off the mark regarding the enemy in this volume.

Pentagon PapersWe relied upon technology to fight when behind the scenes we knew the political structure of the South Vietnamese government would never succeed, their desertion rate was rising and constant turnover of leaders weakened their moral. Yet we continued to support the South because of the risk (at the time) attributed to the domino effect regarding communism in Asia and the Cold War relationship with the Soviet Union:

The friendly picture gives rise to optimism for increased successes in 1968. In 1967, our logistics base and force structure permitted us to assume a fully offensive posture…A greatly improved intelligence system frequently enabled us to concentrate our superior military assets in preempting enemy military initiatives leading us to decisive accomplishments in conventional engagements. Materiel and tactical innovations have been further developed and employed: Long range reconnaissance patrols, aerial reconnaissance sensors, new observation aircraft, air-mobile operations and the Mobile Riverine Force (MRF), to name a few.

The MRF has been significantly successful in depriving the enemy of freedom and initiative in the population and resources rich Delta areas. The helicopter has established itself as perhaps the single most important tool in our arsenal — and we will welcome more.

While the helicopter may have won the day in the Ia Drang Valley at LZ X-Ray bad command decisions to not to use helicopters led to an ambush for those remaining troops walking from LZ X-Ray to LZ Albany, about 4 kilometers to the north-northeast. I’m no longer convinced about the accuracy of the report are concerning Tet:

The enemy’s TET offensive, which began with the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon on 31 January 1968, although it had been predicted, took the U.S. command and the U.S. public by surprise, and its strength, length, and intensity prolonged this shock.

Predicted? The Pentagon Paper’s acknowledge the Tet offensive had been predicted.


Its safe to assume IV-C6c will reveal more problems with Clark Clifford as the newly installed Secretary of Defense.

Latest read: The Cell

I finished reading The Cell: Inside The 9/11 Plot, and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It and was a bit disappointed. Not due to the writing, but rather I also read Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI–and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him just a couple of months ago and felt it was much more in depth.

the cell

Triple Cross critiques issues addressed as errors in the reporting by the authors John Miller and Michael Stone.  Miller is a noted former investigative journalist with ABC News.
There was much attention drawn to The Cell for two reasons: The ABC movie The Path to 9/11 which was America’s first network movie behind the attack on 9/11 was based upon the book.  Second, it was Miller’s famous 1998 interview with Osama bin Laden.

At that interview Miller learned bin Laden was well on his way to leading al-Qaeda‘s war on America.  The only problem was it was too early for most law enforcement agencies to act upon.

The interview was interesting enough to see how Al was protecting bin Laden and Miller’s recollection of how 15 years old boys were shooting AK-47s next to his ears (as a way to intimidate him) repeatedly as bin Laden arrived for his interview.

Miller shared how he even initially met with bin Laden’s right hand man Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.  It was quite an interview for Miller and helped establish him as a strong source on terrorism for ABC even before the 9/11 attack.

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