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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOLLOWING
Q: I was wondering a couple of things. One, the general impression now is this, that the operations now closing and the withdrawal will be complete, and the implication is that they will be reequipped and refitted and might go back into. Without getting into future operations, is there any sort of restrictions as to just what phase? Are we in the last stage of the operation?
A: The most that you can say about this is that this is in the withdrawal phase and I think that ought to be about as far as we go. It has no date in my mind and I don't believe any date in General Vien's mind when this phase will be concluded. I might say about that, when the planning was originally done for this particular operation, it was divided then into phases and this is one of them. We talked at great length, the senior officers on the U. S. side and the senior officers on the Vietnamese side, as to what kind of timing we would come down to. The unknowns in here, in the planning part, were such that we selt írom the outset that we were going to have to do this sort of week by week depending largely on the judgment of General Lam and General Sutherland as for the timing for shifting from one phase to another. That's pretty much the way we've gone at it and that's why I wouldn't go beyond right now, saying that we are in the withdrawal stage and just leave it at that.
Q: As far as timing is concerned here, has this gone along pretty much the way as we envisioned it? In other words, to what degree in generalmams have you had to 'step up the timetable, if at all, as a result of what transpired and the unexpected?
A: Again, the only thing I'll say about that is we knew that this had to be concluded in all its phases by the arrival of the rainy season, you can't do these things in the rainy season. I am sure you know that even it's a little risky to come to a prescribed moment in the rain, that's something that is variable and that's something that you just don't have a good tight hold on. You can take on a 40-year average, that no year that I have been here, has that been worth much, because in a specific year it just doesn't come out that way. When you want to talk about the monsoons there is a technical definition of the monsoons among the weather experts and technicians. When they decide that it has shifted you can now make the statement that it's shifted; they are prepared to say that about two weeks after it occurs. But, it also mcans their technical definition of the monsoon doesn't really have much application in the tactical environment. Once you get all the way into the monsoon and everybody can see it even a nonweather guy can see it, that means that's something you can count on, but it's in a transitional stage. Now, this operation as it was discussed in the planning part, the total number of days jointly discussed by us, varied in wide limits, and I think I can say that we didn't have an agreed timetable, not timetable, but period, that was as long as the time they have been in there now, if you are talking about total time for the opcration.
Q: So what you are saying, sir, is that as far as the general characteristics, the timing does not in any way contradict what you envisioned?
Q: In the course of this operation, the ARVN has held on to certain areas and have been driven off certain hills; we have had several instances where ARVN troops have been killed by air, we have some conflict in communications. What have we learned from this operation that we can apply in the future in terms of Vietnamization; in terms of improving the ARVN, and interms of taking care of this thing if it might arise in the future?
A: The use of communications, I'm not only talking about just radios, but the ability to communicate intelligently with Facs and supporting aircraft and then the techniques involved in there in directing them to where you want them to hit, through the use of smoke, there is a variety of techniques. Greater stress is going to have to be put on that in the future in their training programs, and more skill developed, more practice with it. As you probably also know there are some of these units with the l'st Division that are pretty good at it. So it's a mixed bag, but it's an area that is going to require more. In the planning part, we tried to overcome this by just about all of thc FACS that work for the ARVN units up there, have a VNAF who speaks English riding in the FAC aircraft. It's not true in every case, but that was the aim, and sometimes in the daily shuffle of things it didn't work out that way, that would overcome the language problem and that sort of thing. I think another thing that has come out of this is that you just got to have a central point forward, where all the authorities are there for the committment of resources of all kinds TAC air, B-52 targetting, gunships, medevac, lift, artillery, the whole works. So, that in an operation like this there has to be someone at that point, first of all that has all of General Lam's authority on this, and all of General Sutherland's, and then there's got to be the people in there, like you; you probably know, General Berry, General Myer, and General Jackson, and that group that know how to pull these'things together,
Q: Sir, were you implying by that last statement perhaps that there has not been a central point?
A: I think we got it in about the 13th, 14th of February. It was fully operational with those people in the Communications area.
A: They had a set up like that but it wasn't together, they were all there; they had a central authority for helicopters; they had a central authority for artillery, and so on. My point is that the people that can do that have all got to be at a point where General Lam's authority and General Sutherland's authority is physically located, present and operating. When Lam wasn't there then Colonel Vinh, his deputy, he had it and they've got to be in the same installation. · They can't be in different bunkers in that geography of Khe Sanh.
Q: What did you find out about VNAF ability to support the ARVN ground forces in operation?
A: In the Lamson operation it's been fairly limited, although in Cambodia it's been very extensive. I think what it means is that when they take their total assets, of course, and they do an awful lot in the Delta, which is also going; but what they can do with VNAF if the Scope can be focused in a couple of important projects, I think they got the stuff to do it and do it well. They haven't got the capacity to do all of these things that we've got going now simultaneously, there just are not that many aircraft.
Q: Can you give us a handle on how many ARVN maneuver battalions are not now combat effective and how long it might take to get them back?
A: We feel as of the last report we had that there were about four that had got to a point in terms of requiring the replacement, the fittings, that we could consider questionably combat effective. I sight the 39th Rangers as an example of one of these. You have heard the story about what the 39th Rangers did. I might add that a week and a half ago the 39th Rangers had been refitted, rehab and were back in that particular operation again (inaudible). The other three to four battalions (inaudible) are in process now of being refitted.
how many are committed there so
Q: You have four battalions out of we can get some sort of picture?
A: Twenty-two across border,
Q: Are you disappointed in the performance of the ARVN ?
A: No, I'm not, I think this probably has been one of the biggest and toughest battles since I've been here, as a single battle. Tet in '68 was worse, but it ran from one end of the country to the other, and everybody was in it. If you take the one ati Dak To or even the cross border operations last May and June, this is certainly the toughest and I think the biggest and I'm quite satisfied with the way they've performed.
Q: The reports you hear about the retreat, being routed, what is your reply to that?
A: It's true that this has happened to certainly the airborne battalion up there at 30, which we say, our feelings and I believe also the Vietnamese, that it's a weak battalion; it turns out that it was weak when it started, and it still is. The battalion commander left it apparently, in the course of the battle; in the military lexicon an unforgiveable sin, but that's not, you can't say that. In my opinion it would be a mistake to extrapolate that into the 1st ARVN Airborne Division, or the Marines. They're going to come out of this with a higher
confidence. They know as they looked at it that they faced the best and the toughest the enemy's got under the most critical circumstances and they've done the job. I think that's the way they're going to be next month, the month after and so on. So I think that's the way it'll turnout,
The 1st Battalion of the 3rd, they're still up around Khe Sanh and they took a lot of losses, I think they at the moment have something like 110 - 140 defectives. They haven't had their replacements for them either and he thinks their morale is higher than any unit that he knows of in the operation. In a thing like this it's not so much the fact, it's what they believe. They believe that they defeated single handed a regiment and I don't know whether they did or not. But that's the way those people in that battalion' are going to feel forever. When they get some replacements, a little rest, a chance to do a little training together, it'll be back and it'll be strong.
Q: What does the enemy believe about this operation? What do they think they did?
A: I don't know. All I have to go by is what he is putting out on Radio Hanoi.
A: Condition of Route 9 was a surprise. Some of those things we thought
Q: Did the enemy show any strength, exceptional strength, or exceptional weaknesses (inaudible)?
A: I think I should say the SAMS, the degree with which he's moved SAMS down there is certainly more than I expected. I personally was surprised to see him move T-54 tanks in there.
Q: Did you get everything done in there or are there things that you
would like to have done if you were able ?
A: With the forces that it was possible to make available for this operation, I think you would have to say that I was satisfied with this.
Q: What do you think the enemy's doing now?
A: He's making every effort and he's guarding his units to every effort, to interfere with this withdrawal. He knows this withdrawal is going on. His whole focus now is to interfere with getting that done.
Q: How long do you think the effects of this operation are going to be felt? Could you put it in Cambodian context, is it going to be six months, eight months?
A: I sure would love to do that but I got a bad record up-to-date,
Gentlemen: This is another one of our background briefings of which we've held a few recently. The ground rules for this one will be as they have been in the past, that is backgrounder attributed only to military sources, and please no embellishment of that. In other words, not intelligence sources, or anything beyond military sources. Q: No, U.S., A: Military sources, correct.
The presentation this afternoon will be in three parts. It will be led off by the J-2 briefer, who will give an update from the J-2 point of view. He will be followed by Assistant Deputy J-3, giving a more complete view of the Lamson operation. Following this there will be some opportunities for questions and answers, Are there any questions on the ground rules?
J-2 Briefer: Gentlemen, the purpose of this briefing is to provide you with an update on the progress of Operation Lamson 719 and Operation Thoan Thang 0171, and a summary of enemy reactions to date. According to all indications, Operation Lamson 719 has succeeded in disrupting vital portions of the enemy's logistical system, capturing or destroying significant quantities of supplies and inflicting considerable damage on enemy units within the area of operation.
At the beginning of February, the enemy was prima rily concerned with maintaining the flow of supplies through the Lao Panhandle. Enemy endeavors were particularly concentrated on moving goods through Tschepone Ban Dong and southward on Route 92. Despite the se attempts, enemy input of supplies to Laos in early February, were substantially behind last years record, and throughput into the RVN and Cambodia was minimal.
This condition can be attributed to allied air interdiction, harrassments of LOCS and increased consumption by enemy administrative units and screening forces of the Lao Panhandle.
To prevent loss of the vital link in his only remaining line of communication, the enemy reacted strongly in an attempt to counter Operation Lamson 719. The enemy significantly increased the strength of combat forces in the Lamson 719 area of operations. The current force comprises elements of Il regiments. The reported enemy losses during the operation to date are over 1,000 killed. When compared to friendly losses, the ratio is.at least 10 to 1 in favor of the friendly forces. In terms of units, it is estimated that at least 8 regiments have suffered ca sualties equivalent to one or more of these battalions. The enemy has lost the equivalent of 13 of the 33 maneuver battalions organic to the 11 regiments committed.
The ongoing operation has compounded the enemy's already considerable logistical problem through loss of supplies and disruption of the logistical system in the Law Panhandle. The following list of supplies are examples of those captured or destroyed during Lamson 719, and highlight the impact of the enemy losses to date: