Latest read: None So Blind

Regarded as one of the CIA’s premiere Vietnam intelligence experts George W. Allen wrote a 2001 memoir None So Blind: A personal account of the intelligence failure in Vietnam that remains an alarming insight of intelligence failures that forecasted both France and America’s defeat in Vietnam. Allen’s contributions set the stage regrettably for the Pentagon and White House to also follow France’s misplaced goals for the next twenty-five years.
None So Blind: A personal account of the intelligence failure in VietnamMy interest in Allen’s memoir developed from reading a series of confidential reports by the US military and CIA from the 1950s.

Declassified in the late 1990s the documents address the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu.

Many of those documents point to Allen’s intelligence reports and analysis. Naturally this peaked my wish to better understand the American intelligence analysis of the French defeat.

Allen holds a unique, deep understanding of the Indochina Wars (France 1945-1950) and the coming failure of America’s intervention on behalf of South Vietnam 1960-1974. The lessons in his book leave deep, haunting impressions today on the White House and Pentagon leaders who ignored our intelligence community.
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Operation Rolling Thunder Part 1 of 3

For over two months I have been reading and re-reading two volumes of the Pentagon Papers surrounding Operation Rolling Thunder that have really shed a light (for me) regarding the war in Vietnam.  Battles in a long war are very difficult to read because so much pain and suffering surrounds our fallen countrymen. These pages teach hard lessons as today we live in a time of war.

The Pentagon Papers

The Pentagon Papers Volumes IV-C-7-a and IV-C-7-b focus solely on the bombing campaign in North Vietnam from 1961 to 1968. I found this heartbreaking to read since the level of analysis is simply beyond the air campaign known as Operation Rolling Thunder.

These two volumes — after several re-reads actually drove me to paste multiple segments of the reports into this post.  I outlined this content across 38 pages in Microsoft Word and pasted more powerful segments below. These two volumes tell more of a complete story to the war than most of the volumes of the Pentagon Papers that I have read so far.

These two specific volumes, of the forty-eight total document clearly why America lost in Vietnam. Military and RAND analysts repeatedly presented, clear data that was simply ignored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, White House senior policy advisors and President Johnson.

Today these two volumes rip apart any notion of a winning strategy. Operation Rolling Thunder accomplished none of the campaign’s objectives over a four-year period.
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Operation Rolling Thunder Part 2 of 3

The second of three posts relating to the extensive reports of the total failure of Operation Rolling Thunder as detailed in the Pentagon Papers.

Page 113

None of the increased ‘far activity over North Vietnam which these decisions authorized, however, would be able to prevent the enemy’s massive offensive the following January. The fact that the President had acceded to the wishes of the military and the political pressures from Congress on this vital issue at this point when all the evidence available to McNamara suggested the continuing ineffectiveness of the bombing must have been an important issue not determining factor in the Secretary’s decision in November to retire. For the moment, however, the escalation continued.

Page 114

In early December Defense spokesmen announced that the U.S. bombing in North and South Vietnam together had just topped the total of 1,544,463 tons dropped by U.S. forces in the entire European Theater during World War II. Of the 1,630,500 tons dropped, some 864,000 tons were dropped on NVN, already more than the 635,000 tons dropped during the Korean War or the 503,000 tons dropped in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Page 115

While this public identification of the inconsistency of the positions taken by various members of the Administration, was embarrassing, a more serious problem was the massive anti-war demonstration organized in Washington on October 21. The leaders of the “New Left” assembled some 50,000 anti-war protestors in the Capitol on this October Saturday and staged a massive march on the Pentagon. While the “politics of confrontation” may be distasteful to the majority of Americans, the sight of thousands of peaceful demonstrators being con- fronted by troops in battle gear cannot have been reassuring to the country as a whole nor to the President in particular. And as if to add insult to injury, an impudent and dovish Senator McCarthy announced in November that he would be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President. He stated his intention of running in all the primaries and of taking the Vietnam war to the American people in a direct challenge to an incumbent President and the leader of his own party.

To counter these assaults on his war policy from the left, the President dramatically called home Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland (the latter to discuss troop levels and requests as well) in November and sent them out to publicly defend the conduct of the war and the progress that had been achieved. Bunker spoke to the Overseas Press Club in New York on November 17 and stressed the progress that the South Vietnamese were making in their efforts to achieve democratic self- government and to assume a larger burden of the war. General Westmoreland addressed the National Press Club in Washington on November 21 and out- lined his OIVD four-phase plan for the defeat of the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese sponsors. He too dwelled on the progress achieved to date and the increasing effectiveness of the South Vietnamese forces. Neither discussed the air war in the North in any serious way, however, and that was the issue that was clearly troubling the American public the most.

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Operation Rolling Thunder Part 3 of 3

The last of three posts relating to the extensive reports of the total failure of Operation Rolling Thunder as detailed in the Pentagon Papers.

Page 178

The bombing of North Vietnam was undertaken to limit and/or make more difficult the infiltration of men and supplies in the South, to show them they would have to pay a price for their continued aggression and to raise the morale in South Vietnam. The last two purposes obviously have been achieved.

It has become abundantly clear that no level of bombing can prevent the North Vietnamese from supplying the necessary forces and materiel necessary to maintain their military operations in the South. The recent Tet offensive has shown that the bombing cannot even prevent a significant increase in these military operations, at least on an intermittent basis.

The shrinking of the circles around Hanoi and Haiphong will add to North Vietnam’s costs and difficulty in supplying the NVA/VC forces. It will not destroy their capability to support their present level of military activity. Greater concentration on the infiltration routes in Laos and in the area immediately North of the DMZ might prove effective from the standpoint of interdiction.

Strikes within 10 miles of the center of Hanoi and within four miles of the center of Haiphong have required initial approval from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretaries of State and Defense, and, finally, the President. This requirement has enabled the highest level of government to maintain some control over the attacks against targets located in the populous and most politically sensitive areas of North Vietnam. Other than the Haiphong Port, no single target within these areas has any appreciable significance for North Vietnam’s ability to supply men and material to the South. If these areas of control were reduced to circles ‘having a radii of 3 miles from the center of Hanoi and 1-1/2 miles of the center of Haiphong, some minor fixed targets not previously authorized would be released for strike. More significant is the fact that the lines of communication lying within the area previously requiring Washington approval would be open for attack by shrinking the control areas around Hanoi and Haiphong. The question would simply be whether it is worth the increase in airplane and pilot losses to attack these lines of communication in the most heavily defended part of North Vietnam where our airplane loss ratio is highest.

The remaining issue on interdiction of supplies has to do with the closing of the Port of Haiphong. Although this is the route by which some 80% of North Vietnamese imports come into the country, it is not the point of entry for most of the military supplies and ammunition. These materials predominantly enter via the rail routes from China.

Moreover, if the Port of Haiphong were to be closed effectively, the supplies that now enter Haiphong could, albeit with considerable difficulty, arrive either over the land routes or by light rail, which has been so successful in the continued POL supply. Under these circumstances, the closing of Haiphong Fort would not prevent the continued supply of sufficient materials to maintain North Vietnamese military operations in the South.

Accordingly, the only purpose of intensification of the bombing campaign in the North and the addition of further targets would be to endeavor to break the will of the North Vietnamese leaders. CIA forecasts indicate little if any chance that this would result even from a protracted bombing campaign directed at population centers.

A change in our bombing policy to include deliberate strikes on population centers and attacks on the agricultural population through the destruction of dikes would further alienate domestic and foreign sentiment and might well lose us the support of those European countries which now support our effort in Vietnam. It could cost us Australian and New Zealand participation in the fighting.

Although the North Vietnamese do not mark the camps where American prisoners are kept or reveal their locations, we know from intelligence sources that most of these facilities are located in or near Hanoi. Our intelligence also indicates that many more than the approximately 200 pilots officially classified by us as prisoners of war may, in fact, be held by North Vietnam in these camps. On the basis of the debriefing of the three pilots recently released by Hanoi, we were able to identify over 40 additional American prisoners despite the fact that they were kept in relative isolation. Heavy and indiscriminate attacks in the Hanoi area would jeopardize the lives of these prisoners and alarm their wives and parents into vocal opposition. Reprisals could be taken against them and the idea of war crimes trials would find considerable acceptance in countries outside the Communist bloc.

Finally, the steady and accelerating bombing of the North has not brought North Vietnam closer to any real move toward peace. Apprehensions about bombing attacks that would destroy Hanoi and Haiphong bay at sometime help move them toward productive negotiations. Actual destruction of these areas would eliminate a threat t hat could influence them to seek a political settlement on terms acceptable to us.

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