Intelligence Production

Collection efforts result in information. Until that information has been processed and converted into usable intelligence, it is of little value to a commander. When I arrived in Vietnam the weekly briefing being presented each Saturday morning to General Westmoreland was basically a current situation report which did not provide the intelligence he needed in order to employ effectively the combat power rapidly being developed in the Republic of Vietnam. The briefing was revised. We prepared an estimate emphasizing enemy capabilities and vulnerabilities. Our briefing normally culminated with J-2 recommendations for tactical operations to exploit enemy weaknesses or to spoil enemy plans. At the conclusion of the first revised briefing General Westmoreland gave his firm approval of this approach. He changed the purpose of the briefing to that of a strategy conference and limited attendance to his component commanders and key staff officers. Such a briefing took only fifteen to twenty minutes to present; but it took an extensive data base, a combined intelligence system, and the full time of a team of highly qualified estimators to produce. Colonel Loi and his staff also produced a weekly estimate, and our staffs compared our estimates. If any major differences surfaced I always included Colonel Loi's conclusions and reasons for the consideration of General Westmoreland. Such differences seldom occurred. Those weekly intelligence estimate updates were timely, accurate, adequate, and usable.

This example demonstrates the raison d'etre of intelligence-providing the commander with knowledge he needs. Converting raw information into meaningful intelligence is a complex procedure for trained analysts. Most Military Assistance Command intelligence analysts were young lieutenant graduates of the U.S. Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, Maryland. They were intelligent, educated, and energetic. They needed guidance but they learned fast. A few experienced officers at the Combined Intelligence Center gave them the guidance needed. They performed


the vast amount of collation, evaluation, and production of enemy capabilities and vulnerabilities. They produced such studies in response to requirements originated by my estimators. They had to prove to the estimator the validity of every statement they wrote. Whenever I approved an estimate there was a vast amount of intelligence available to support every statement.

The Intelligence Division of J-2, Military Assistance Command, was responsible for intelligence production. The Combined Intelligence Center was under the supervision of this division. Four important branches within the Intelligence Division merit special attention.

The Current Intelligence and Indications Branch provided the MACV commander and his staff with significant current intelligence from all sources through daily briefings. In addition, the branch published the J-2 Intelligence Summary and the Weekly Watch Report. By virtue of access to intelligence from all sources, the Current Intelligence and Indications Branch was charged with producing studies and reports that could not be produced at the Combined Intelligence Center because certain sensitive information could not be released to other nationalities.

While most order of battle production was accomplished at the Combined Intelligence Center, the Order of Battle Branch of the Intelligence Division functioned as the primary point of contact within Military Assistance Command headquarters on all matters regarding ground forces order of battle. In this capacity the Order of Battle Branch had primary staff responsibility for developing command policy and preparing guidance concerning order of battle. With emphasis on composition, strength, identification, and disposition, the branch co-ordinated order of battle reporting and holdings with the Military Assistance Command staff, the Combined Intelligence Center, and the Vietnamese intelligence staff. By refining the product from the Combined Intelligence Center and incorporating other data available within Military Assistance Command headquarters, the Order of Battle Branch synthesized information from many sources and provided good, timely intelligence about the enemy.

Our order of battle reporting was reviewed by all members of the national intelligence community. Military Assistance Command statistics and holdings concerning the enemy forces often were questioned. Several factors contributed to this problem. Separate reporting channels existed between component commands and government agencies and their headquarters back in the United States. Everyone was forwarding order of battle information


to his superiors in Washington without approval from the MACV commander.

A strong position concerning order of battle intelligence was necessary. We developed definitive criteria that governed Military Assistance Command order of battle reporting. These criteria had to be met before our holdings were altered. For example, we would not accept statistics concerning enemy troops killed by air strikes unless confirmed by ground reconnaissance, a prisoner, or a captured document.

On several occasions we were called upon to defend my order of battle criteria. First, a representative from the Office of the Secretary of Defense came to Saigon to examine and analyze our policies, criteria, procedures, and holdings. During his entrance interview he informed me that he had authority to order changes in my criteria and holdings. I told him that he would have full access to my entire organization and my full support, but that as long as I was Military Assistance Command J-2, those decisions would remain mine. Upon completion of his investigation, he strongly supported our methodology. No changes were recommended or made. Next, a team commissioned by the joint Chiefs of Staff came to Vietnam to determine the validity of our statistics on enemy attacks contained in the J-2, Military Assistance Command, periodic intelligence report that did not coincide with statistics assembled in Washington. The team reviewed our order of battle files and traced the origin of the questioned statistics. Their findings supported our report. We reported finished intelligence; in Washington they had been using daily and weekly operational reports. Finally, in an effort to resolve once and for all the order of battle controversy, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed that a conference be held in Hawaii to standardize the methods for developing and presenting statistics on order of battle and infiltration trends. Just before this conference I had published a Military Assistance Command order of battle manual on developing enemy strength. This manual contained all criteria, terminology, and definitions we had been using in developing order of battle holdings. This was the first of a series of order of battle manuals to be published. The conference convened on 6 February 1967 with representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Pacific Command, Military Assistance Command, and the component commands. Our order of battle manual was reviewed and readily accepted by all the conferees, thus vindicating our criteria and means of developing


order of battle intelligence that had been in use since November of 1965. The Commander in Chief, Pacific, reproduced the manual and gave it wide distribution.

The most important part of the Intelligence Division was the Estimates Branch. This small, highly specialized group was created in late 1965. 1 worked very closely with my estimators and helped prepare all estimates. The questions they were asked to answer equated to: What is the enemy capacity to affect adversely the accomplishment of our mission? What are his vulnerabilities, and what is his will to persevere? Emphasis was placed on the quantity and quality of his available manpower.

The Estimates Branch became the focal point within the J-2 staff for all information regarding the enemy, and it enabled me to provide General Westmoreland with a continually updated estimate reflecting enemy losses, gains, trends in force buildup, combat effectiveness, capabilities, vulnerabilities, strengths, logistics, leadership, training, and morale.

Another branch of the Intelligence Division that played a key role in the Military Assistance Command intelligence effort was the Strategic Resources Branch. Focusing on domestic events and activities in the Republic of Vietnam, the Strategic Resources Branch kept the Military Assistance Command staff apprised of the political situation and related developments within South Vietnam. In the early days when governmental instability threatened the country, it was imperative that the MACV commanders and staff be kept abreast of fast-breaking developments during political crises. Such a situation evolved in March 1966 when the "Buddhist Struggle Movement" spread throughout the country and caused a virtual standstill in South Vietnamese military operations. The Strategic Resources Branch monitored the situation and dispatched daily situation reports as well as presented briefings as required. Also, the Strategic Resources Branch provided the point of contact for J-2 with the Military Assistance Command Office of Information, the Political Section of the U.S. Embassy, and the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office.

Development and Publication of the Military Assistance Command Order of Battle Summary

The first issue of the Military Assistance Command J-2 Order of Battle Summary was published on 21 January 1966 and encompassed the period 15 December 1965-15 January 1966. It contained thirteen pages organized into a two-part format. Part I was a list of enemy units identified as main forces or local forces


and as Viet Cong or North Vietnamese. Units were categorized according to the established Military Assistance Command and Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces acceptance criteria of confirmed, probable, and possible. Part 11 provided a recapitulation of enemy forces and total enemy personnel strength located in each corps tactical zone. In this first summary the total enemy strength was 79,500 in a force structure consisting of 29 regiments and 129 battalions. Of the 129 battalions, 77 were regimental and 52 were subordinate to provinces and military regions. In the ensuing months, the size of the order of battle summary increased proportionately with the increase in enemy strength and our knowledge of the enemy. Accepted enemy units in the first order of battle summary were listed on 8 pages. The list in 1967 required 40 pages to depict 9 divisions, 36 regiments, and 196 battalions.

After the publication of the first order of battle summary, additional sections were added. The section "Enemy Organizational Structure" showed the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese chain of command as it existed in South Vietnam. The maps showed the enemy forces located in each corps tactical zone as well as the boundaries of Viet Cong military and political organization. The section "Identification of Newly Reported Units in the RVN" provided a listing of all newly reported units and served as a watch list in focusing the attention of collectors on suspected units. Data on infiltration and retroactive strength were added to show the actual growth of the enemy force in South Vietnam. These data provided a true measure of the enemy's escalation of his war effort against South Vietnam. The section "Validity of Holdings for Enemy Battalions in RVN" provided a ready reference on the validity of each unit's acceptance in order of battle and "red flagged" those units which had disappeared from sight. Continuing effort was made to reconfirm the existence of units. Units which could not be reconfirmed were dropped if the total information on the unit and its area of operations left doubt of its existence. The section "NVA/VC Unit AKAs and Cover Designations" was one of the most useful and important sections of the summary. (AKA is an abbreviation for also known as.) The enemy's practice of redesignating units and using cover designations to deceive the allied forces was not successful. This listing provided users with reference material to relate an enemy unit's cover and alternate designations to accepted designations.

Besides the addition of these sections, formats were changed and revised continually for improvement. As a result of recommendations from Military Assistance Command J-2, the enemy force


structure was recategorized as maneuver, combat support, administrative service, irregular, and political.

The summary's timeliness was insured by electrical dissemination of changes in the enemy's order of battle as soon as these changes were detected. A weekly summary cable, also dispatched electrically, recapitulated all information on current strength status as affected by changes which took place during the week.

Distribution of the order of battle summary increased steadily from 72 copies among 38 addressees to 425 copies among 75 addressees. This growth was indicative of the increased interest in Military Assistance Command order of battle throughout the U.S. intelligence community.

Development and Publication of Infiltration Statistics

The data base for the development of Military Assistance Command statistics on the infiltration of North Vietnamese soldiers into South Vietnam was maintained by the Combined Intelligence Center, Vietnam.

Captured documents, interrogation reports, agent reports, and tactical unit intelligence summaries were screened for information pertaining to infiltration into South Vietnam. This information was evaluated and used to compile statistics in accordance with the criteria of accepted, confirmed, probable, possible, or reported infiltration. Those North Vietnamese Army personnel, groups, and units which had entered South Vietnam and were carried either in the confirmed or probable categories were considered accepted. A confirmed infiltration unit or group was one which was accepted as in South Vietnam on the basis of information provided by a minimum of two prisoners of war or returnees from the unit or group, by two captured documents from the unit, or by a combination of personnel and documents. A probable infiltration unit or group was one which was accepted as in South Vietnam on the basis of information provided by one prisoner of war or returnee from the unit or group or by a captured document supported by information from other sources which could be evaluated as probably true. A possible infiltration unit or group was one which might be in South Vietnam on the basis of information which could be evaluated as possibly true even though no prisoner of war, returnee, or document verified the reports. Other units or groups which were mentioned in agent reports, captured documents, interrogation reports, or sightings by friendly forces were classified under reported infiltration; however, such information


was insufficient to warrant inclusion into one of the other categories.

Infiltration statistics were discussed in detail at the intelligence conference held at Commander in Chief, Pacific, headquarters on 6-12 February 1967. It was concluded that infiltration statistics as then developed were based upon valid criteria and that Military Assistance Command would be the single source of infiltration data. To preclude confusion it was agreed that infiltration data would be cut off on the last day of each month and transmitted throughout the intelligence community on the first day of the following month. It was recommended that all agencies use these infiltration data in all reports, briefings, and releases until the next monthly report was received.

The conference further recommended that the Military Assistance Command monthly infiltration average be computed on a base beginning with October 1965. This beginning was decided upon as the most valid since it coincided with a period of substantial increase in infiltration and provided a sufficient data base on which to establish the average figure. Two averages were computed each month, one for accepted infiltration which included confirmed and probable, and one for the accepted and possible categories.

Enemy infiltration was such that it was difficult to detect many groups until after they had been in South Vietnam for as long as six months or even longer. This problem was compounded in 1967 because the enemy was forced to infiltrate greater numbers of replacements for his main force units. It was much more difficult to discover an infiltration group consisting only of replacements, which quickly blended into the existing force structure and lost their identity, than it was to discover a newly infiltrated battalion or regiment. For these reasons infiltration statistics were subject to continuing re-evaluation with the receipt of updating information.

Publication of Enemy Tactics Studies

In order to provide our combat units in Vietnam with information about enemy tactics I asked my staff to prepare a series of studies to assist the field commanders in developing measures to fix and destroy the enemy.

Our intelligence analysts reviewed and analyzed the existing information on Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army tactical doctrine and past performance as reflected in captured documents,


prisoner interrogations, and after action reports. In addition, they interviewed unit commanders, advisers, and troops in the field who had recently engaged in combat to draw on their experience. Eight analysts traveled to the field and interviewed small unit leaders and unit intelligence officers. These interviews were particularly valuable in that they provided us with recent firsthand experiences to include in the studies. Other significant information was obtained from translations of captured lesson plans and notebooks of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese cadres. These notebooks included information on the conduct of an ambush, the use of antiaircraft machine guns, and the employment of supporting arms. In addition, knowledgeable captives and returnees at the military interrogation center were interrogated. The former Assistant Chief of Staff Plans CT 5 VC Division was particularly informative in this regard. Information derived from other knowledgeable returnees, captives, and documents after the studies had been published were used to update existing information.

The product of this research was a series of hard-copy studies published in January 1967 to meet the immediate requirements of field commanders. Included were studies on the following:

Ambush tactics
Attack on fixed installations
Antiairborne and antiairmobile operations
Antiheliborne and antiairmobile operations Antiaircraft defense by ground troops
Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army night operations Employment of snipers
Command and control of field units
Employment of guerrillas with local forces and main forces units
Night operations
Defense against armor Reconnaissance tactics River mine warfare
Crossing water obstacles Command and control
Supply and resupply in combat
Employment of supporting weapons in attack and defense
Employment of guerrillas with local forces and main forces units
Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army fire discipline
Enemy antiaircraft techniques, tactics, and employment
Viet Cong withdrawal tactics


Viet Cong evacuation of battlefield casualties
Viet Cong retrieval of weapons from battlefields
Viet Cong tactical use of inland waterways in South Vietnam
Viet Cong structures and field fortifications

Emphasis in the publication of these studies was placed on timeliness and accuracy of the material presented rather than on details of format and composition. Between eight and twelve hundred copies of each study were printed and disseminated to field commanders, the intelligence community, and U.S. service schools. Approximately ten thousand copies of tactics studies have been distributed since the program began.

Aerial Rice Survey of IV Corps Tactical Zone

An unusual project begun in December 1966 and completed in March 1967 was entitled "Aerial Rice Survey of IV Corps Tactical Tone." It was initiated and coordinated by the Strategic Resources Branch of the Production Division and was prepared by the IV Corps imagery interpretation team of the Combined Intelligence Center.

This study was initiated to determine the number of hectares of rice under cultivation within each province of IV Corps during the main 1966-1967 harvest period. This information was then compared with the November 1966 pacification area within each province by the Revolutionary Development Support Directorate so that a determination could be made of the number of hectares in areas controlled or contested by the Viet Cong. A determination was also made of the total number of hectares of row crops and orchards under cultivation within each province.

Because of the use of aerial photography, the results obtained were considered to reflect the true situation and provide a firm base on which to estimate rice production for the Mekong Delta region.

High altitude photography at a scale of 1:22,500 and 1:37,000 provided the basic coverage used in this study. Supplementary missions were flown to fill gaps in the basic photo coverage. The photography was accurately plotted on 1:250,000-scale maps and the rice-cultivated areas delineated on overlays of the same scale. The Itek rear viewer projectors and light tables with magnifying stereoscopes were used to select and define the ground areas under cultivation. Next the AR-85 Viewer-Computer was used to measure the cultivated areas on the photography. The areas under rice cultivation were delineated on the 1:250,000 overlays and were then


transferred, using a Map-O-Graph, to a 1:500,000-scale map to present graphically the rice cultivation in IV Corps.

This study did not define those hectares on which two crops were grown annually. However, somewhat less than 5 percent of the total yearly production in IV Corps fell into this category. When using the estimate provided by this study, the double-crop areas had to be taken into consideration to provide a true production estimate.

Caution had to be exercised when comparing the imagery interpretation statistics for the 1965-1966 harvest season with those for the 1966-1967 season because of the variance in coverage available. The coverage available to the Combined Intelligence Center for the 1966-1967 harvest was 98.7 percent; that available for the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion, which interpreted the 1965-1966 harvest, was 97.1 percent.

No attempt was made to determine production statistics for the provinces. These computations were dependent upon accurate yield estimates, various types of crop damage estimates, and a determination of the area which had been double cropped. Such estimates fell within the expertise of agricultural specialists and were not in the scope of this study.

During 1966-1967, 1,543,007 hectares were under rice cultivation. This was 40,923 hectares less than the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture had estimated for the 1965-1966 harvest period. Of these 1,543,007 hectares, 579,045 fell within Viet Cong controlled areas and 415, 069 hectares were in contested areas. This left 548,893 hectares in areas secure to the government of South Vietnam. A total of 18,305 hectares was found to be under row crop cultivation, and 2,276 hectares were orchard areas.

The most significant difference found between the 1965-1966 and 1966-1967 harvest periods was the shift in rice hectares under cultivation from the provinces along the major waterways to provinces which have relatively minor waterways and which were predominantly under Viet Cong control. This change was believed to be a result of increased Viet Cong effort to raise production in areas under their control. Provinces predominantly under Viet Cong control in which production increased were An Xuyen, an increase of 8,935 hectares; Ba Xuyen, an increase of 23,577 hectares; and Bac Lieu, an increase of 44,630 hectares. Major decreases took place in those provinces which border the major rivers, specifically the Hau Giang, Co Chien, Ham Luong, My Tho, Mekong, and Cai Long and their tributaries. Provinces with the greatest decreases were An Giang, Chuong Thien, Dinh Tuong, Co Cong,


Kien Hoa, and Phong Dinh. The greatest part of the decrease could be attributed to the flood damage sustained in the fall of 1966.

Subsequent studies, using the graphics included in this study, would tell whether or not there was a change in the number of hectares under cultivation and where these changes took place.

In a telegram dated 29 April 1967 from the Secretary of State to the American Embassy, Saigon, this survey was cited by Ğr. Rusk as being a most useful effort that provided sound bench marks to compare to future acreage estimates.

The Combined Intelligence Center Imagery Interpretation Photo Study Program

In December of 1966 the III Corps Tactical Zone imagery interpretation team was tasked with making a photo study of the Lo Go area in Tay Ninh Province. The purpose of the study was to furnish photo intelligence on areas in which elements of the Central Office of South Vietnam had reportedly been operating. To accomplish this it was decided that, first, a detailed analysis of the photography would be made and all items of military significance identified and annotated on the photographs. Then, in order to establish the pattern of defenses, trail configurations, and proximity of collateral data to the items of military significance gleaned from the photography, a mosaic of the photos would be compiled. In the mosaic form the information extracted from each individual photograph began to form a pattern, particularly in the lines of communication and perimeter defenses. That is to say, instead of a trail simply spanning a single photograph, it could be followed from one photo to another and the entire defense system in an area identified.

Because the study consisted of twenty mosaics, an indexing system had to be devised that would allow the user to locate a particular mosaic without going through all of them to find the one of interest. To do this the mosaics were plotted on a 1:50,000 map and numbered. To show what intelligence items would be found on the mosaic, an overlay was prepared at a scale of 1:50,000 which reflected all lines of communication and defenses taken from the photography. The complete photo study package consisted of defense and lines of communication overlays, a 1:50,000 index to the mosaics, and annotated mosaics.

After briefing the field units on the photo study, it became apparent that its full value would not be realized unless it could be reproduced in sufficient quantity and appropriate format size to be distributed to each unit operating in the area covered by the


study. The original size of a complete study was 30 by 40 inches, a size too large for field use. Arrangements were made at the 13th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron to reproduce the studies at a 50 percent reduction of the original size and in sufficient quantity to satisfy all requesters.

The reduced format was 15 by 20 inches and the mosaics were at a scale of 1:10,000 while the map and overlays were at 1:100,000. There was no appreciable loss of information in the reduction, and the smaller size was ideally suited for field use. The popularity and success of the Photo Study Program in III Corps led to its adoption as a product for all of the corps tactical zones in the Combined Intelligence Center, and in 1967 sixty-four such studies had been produced by the Combined Intelligence Center.

This type of study had a variety of uses. Special Forces units used the studies for setting up the security of their camps and hamlets. Advisory units used them in briefing and debriefing their counterparts and troops. Counterintelligence agents used them in the briefing and interrogation of indigenous agents. They were of immeasurable value in the planning and conduct of U.S. and Free World forces ground operations. In many cases the individual mosaics were removed from the studies and distributed down to platoon level for photo intelligence coverage of a platoon tactical area of responsibility. In addition to field uses, the photo studies were used by the Targeting and Strike Objectives Teams of the Combined Intelligence Center in determining targets for B-52 strikes and tactical unit objectives. In many instances the studies were used as a base for comparative cover from which ground activity was easily noted.

Starting from the receipt of the photography it took approximately fourteen days to complete and reproduce a study. Because of the great demand for the photo studies, it was decided that all original mosaics and the negatives made in the reproduction process would be held in a Combined Intelligence Center repository. These mosaics and negatives were on file in the corps team. Both the mosaics and the negatives were indexed and filed for easy retrieval. If a requirement existed for any single mosaic it could be retrieved and reproduced in a matter of hours.

The combined military intelligence system provided extensive and responsive collection and production. The estimator had the support he needed, and his support improved every day. The entire system existed to provide timely, accurate, adequate, and usable military intelligence to support sound decisions concerning conduct of the war.


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