The intelligence challenge in Vietnam was more than finding the enemy. The challenge was providing timely, accurate, adequate, and usable intelligence in support of decision makers from the Military Assistance Command commander and his battlefield commanders to the Commander in Chief in Washington. An organization designed to meet that challenge was created. It established for the first time in history a combined military intelligence system. It took longer to establish that system than it should have because, once again, we were not prepared.
A few of the many lessons I learned, some for the umpteenth time, follow.
Unity of Command. One of the long-accepted principles of war-unity of command-was violated in Vietnam because of the nature of the insurgency. In this conflict, all U.S. intelligence organizations were not centralized under the MACV commander.
Combined Intelligence. Contingency plans should include draft agreements; standing operating procedures; organizational, functional, and manning concepts; and logistical support plans to establish a combined intelligence system, preferably including all military and civilian agencies.
Combat-Ready Intelligence Force Structure. The force structure of the services must include the combat-ready intelligence structure to support contingency plans. Such forces should be engaged in collection and production activities during peacetime as well as wartime. They should be capable of deployment on very short notice and should arrive in the area of operations with all equipment and facilities required. Time is precious.
Order of Battle. Order of battle is the foundation of combat intelligence. Order of battle training in the U.S. Army has been deplorable for many years. Military intelligence officers should have been trained on enemy units, weapons, and tactics, as well as on the Viet Cong infrastructure.
Human Intelligence. Among the best sources of combat intelligence are knowledgeable informants and captured docu-
ments. The drastic cutback in resources and training devoted to human intelligence since World War II has seriously reduced our capacity in this field. Officers slated for key command and staff positions should be educated on the advantages and limitations of this aspect of military intelligence.
Tactical Training. Our forces must know the tactics of the enemy on the battlefield where he will be fought. We did not have that knowledge when we were committed. Our combat units were not properly trained to maintain contact with the enemy once it was made. Consequently, we did not fix the enemy so that he could be destroyed on the ground.
Reconnaissance. Reconnaissance provides eyes and ears for the commander. The intelligence officer should have staff supervision over all reconnaissance, including ground reconnaissance.
Communications. Intelligence requires the timely movement of extremely large volumes of words and pictures. Dedicated communications in support of intelligence are a necessity. Automated systems designed to display elements of intelligence in a format are good if capable of reflecting the human analysis essential to valid intelligence. The human needs a data base. The data base requires communications.
Initiative. Intelligence officers should be imbued with the necessity to provide intelligence and appropriate recommendations upon which plans and actions are initiated rather than just to respond to requests for intelligence.
"Scouts Out." When I enlisted in the Army I was trained as a scout of a rifle squad. When the command "Scouts Out" was given I ran forward with my rifle at port arms to an area from which I supposedly could observe the enemy. When I saw the enemy I faced my leader and signaled information on the enemy. I believe that whenever a contingency plan is approved that identifies a potential enemy our senior military authority should issue the order "Scouts Out," implying that a few military intelligence "scouts" be dispatched to or near the future potential area of operations to observe, report, and plan for our next war, hoping that such scouts will be listened to and actions will be taken to avoid another case of too little too late and inadequate training. I know from experience that such an effort will be opposed strongly. I also know from experience that such can and must be done.
Brigadier General Philip B. Davidson, Jr., a West Point classmate and my successor as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, U.S. Army, Pacific, also succeeded me in Saigon. I had
recommended him to General Westmoreland as the finest officer available. I said my goodbyes and wrote the following letter to each member of the team; they were the ones who developed the organization and conducted the role of intelligence in Vietnam:
Upon my departure from this command I take pride in expressing my admiration for your unexcelled performance of duty. You have earned for military intelligence a reputation of excellence second to none. You consistently have provided timely and accurate intelligence upon which the direction and support of this war have been based. You collectively constitute the finest military intelligence team to ever support our armed forces in combat. Your past performance is magnificent history. Your future holds greater challenges and opportunities. Your capabilities are extensive. I have full confidence that you, your officers, noncommissioned officers, enlisted personnel and civilians will continue to keep intelligence out front where it belongs. It has been a great honor serving with you as a member of the First Team. Please convey my appreciation to all concerned.
page created 8 January 2003
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