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OPERATION IMPACT ON NORTH VIETNAM CAPABILITY

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Senator HRUSKA. I have two questions, Mr. Secretary and Admiral Moorer. One is what impact would all of this operation have upon the capability of the enemy to mount a major offensive at the beginning of the coming dry season?

Secretary LAIRD. I think it will have an effect upon the enemy as far as his capabilities, not only in the rest of this year, but also next year. I hate to make a projection or a forecast. We could better tell about this in September or October. But there is no question in my mind that it has disrupted the logistic supplies for Cambodian sanctuary areas and for III and IV Corps areas, and it diminishes the capability of the enemy to carry out large-scale offensive actions in the populated areas of South Vietnam.

Also the losses that the enemy has taken in this operation will have a very significant impact on their capabilities, I feel, beginning in the new dry season period. I would like Admiral Moorer to comment on that question as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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BETTER TROOP LOSSES AND AMMUNITION AND SUPPLIES EXPENDITURES

Senator HRuska. Are the losses that were inflicted among the better troops of the enemy?

Admiral MOORER. Yes, sir; the very best that they have. They are tactical forces. They are crack forces. As Secretary Laird was saying, they have expended at a very high rate ammunition and supplies in this operation, at a level we have not seen since Tet of 1968. Consequently, this expenditure will have, in my view, a significant impact on their ability to operate in the future.

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Senator Hruska. Of course, they have two problems, don't they, in regard to an offensive at the beginning of the coming dry season. They must have sufficient forces there to sustain them until that time and to enable them to then make a forward movement.

SOUTH VIETNAM TROOP DEPLOYMENTS FOR OPERATIONS IN

LAOS AND CAMBODIA

Secretary LAIRD. That is the problem they have. I would like to remind the committee that as far as the South Vietnamese forces engaged in this operation are concerned, it was less than 2 percent, well below 2 percent, of their regular forces that were committed to the operation in Laos.

The situation is somewhat different as far as the North Vietnamese are concerned. I think we should keep that in mind when we look at the overall operations. The South Vietnamese have about 1,100,000 in their regular forces. The maximum number committed in Laos at any one time was 17,000.

The commitment in the Cambodian area at the present time is a significant commitment as far as South Vietnamese forces are con

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cerned, but that Cambodian incursion at the present time is also less than 2 percent of their regular forces. These operations will be judged on their long-term effects. I believe they have been successful in disrupting the supply routes and making logistics resupply more difficult indeed, but the long-term effect will have to be judged in September and October

WASHINGTON POST REPORT OF REFUSAL OF TWO U.S. ARMORED CAVALRYMEN

PLATOONS TO SECURE DAMAGED EQUIPMENT FROM BATTLE ZONE

Senator HRUSKA. Mr. Chairman, my second question has to do with the dispatch this morning in the local press describing the activities along the border where the American troops were called upon to prevent a border crossing by the enemy.

I read: Two platoons of American armored cavalrymen today refused orders to advance along Highway 9 near the Laotian border, and their commanding officer * * * was relieved of duty, U.S. military spokesmen reported.

They said the platoons, with fewer than 100 men, were ordered to secure damaged equipment from the battle zone between Langvei and the Laotian border about five miles to the west.

The men refused, the spokesmen said, and their unit was pulled out and replaced by another that carried out the assignment.

There was no immediate indication whether disciplinary action would be taken against the cavalrymen, whose unit has suffered several men killed in the past few days.

I bring up the matter for this reason: It will undoubtedly be pointed to by those critical of the entire operation as one of the extreme examples, dramatic examples, of the toughness of things there, to show that even our own men have lost their morale.

Secondly, the critics will seize any other opportunities to capitalize upon it, and no doubt will interrogate you about it.

May we beat them to it and get a practice run from you as to any comments you might have?

Secretary LAIRD. Senator Hruska, I am not fully prepared to comment on the particular incident involved. There have been reports from time to time of Americans that have been ordered into combat that have raised questions. It is a very small minority at all times. I am not prepared to address the problem of that particular unit.

Perhaps Admiral Moorer is, but I do not have the details on that particular cavalry unit.

Admiral MOORER. No, sir. We are inquiring about it. We have no official report at all.

Senator HRUSKA. Then the question is premature, but I have an idea it will be pursued by others. I don't say it in an unkindly spirit, but only in the way of anticipation.

Secretary LAIRD. We are asking for information on it at the present time, Senator Hruska, but I hate to comment on it until I have a full report from the commander in the field. I read the same news reports.

I have asked for a detailed report. I will see that it is made available to this committee and to you.

report from the commander in the field. I read the same news reports

NEWSPAPER REPORT OF STATEMENT OF 19-YEAR-OLD SOLDIER

IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING COMBAT EXPERIENCE

cerned, but that Cambodian incursion at the present time is also less than 2 percent of their regular forces. These operations will be judged on their long-term effects. I believe they have been successful in disrupt. ing the supply routes and making logistics resupply more diffeult indeed, but the long-term effect will have to be judged in September and October

WASHINGTON POST REPORT OF REFUSAL OF TWO U.S. ARMORED CAVALRYHEN

PLATOONS TO SECURE DAMAGED EQUIPMENT FROM BATTLE ZONE

Senator Hruska. Mr. Chairman, my second question has to do with the dispatch this morning in the local press describing the activities along the border where the American troops were called upon to prevent a border crossing by the enemy.

I read:

Two platoons of American armored cavalrymen today refused orders to advance along Highway 9 near the Laotian border, and their commanding

was relieved of duty, U.S. military spokesmen reported, They said the platoons, with fewer than 100 men, were ordered to secure damaged equipment from the battle zone between Langvei and the Laotian border about five miles to the west.

The men refused, the spokesmen said, and their unit was pulled out and replaced by another that carried out the assignment.

There was no immediate indication whether disciplinary action would be taken against the cavalrymen, whose unit has suffered several men killed in the past

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Senator Hruska. We were told of an instance that was reported in the paper probably a week or so ago, where the young man had the microphone 'held to his face by a reporter. He reported, as a member of the helicopter crew, that it was absolutely the worst situation. It was perfect hell out there.

It was the worst in the war. We were further told that he had been in Vietnam 2 weeks and was 19 years of age and had just come in from battle

. Would that illustrate the feeling and the background? Secretary LAIRD. We will have to check that out. It is very difficult to draw any kind of general conclusions from one interview like that

. I don't mean to minimize the difficulty of the rugged terrain, and the tough combat that is involved here. It is not an easy situation, Senator Hruska. But I would like to have a little more time to check on the incident which you addressed so that I can give you the full details of that. I will do that. Senator Hruska. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. (The information follows:) On 20 March 1971, Troop B, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry, under the operational control of the 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, a subordinate unit of the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mech), was involved in a road clearing operation along Route 9 between Lang Vei and the Laotian border in western Quang Tri Province, I Corps Tactical Zone, South Vietnam. Encountering enemy resistance, the troop commander employed preparatory fires and moved to sweep the enemy location. Further resistance was encountered and the troop commander decided to pull back to allow additional preparatory fires to be placed on the area. During the second sweep of the area, resistance was again encountered and the troop commander again ordered his unit to pull back. During the execution of this maneuver, the troop commander's vehicle became disabled after hitting a mine and the withdrawal became disorganized. However, the troop did proceed to the destination prescribed by the troop commander leaving him and his party with the disabled vehicle. L’nder the direction of the deputy brigade commander, the troop was reorganized, refueled, rearmed and attached to a rifle company to continue tactical oper ations

. Subsequently, the troop commander and his party, which included one wounded man, were rescued by elements of Troop B. At this time, the task force commander (CO, 1/11 Infantry) received orders to retrieve the abandoned troop commander's vehicle and to secure a downed aircraft in the vicinity of the vehicle. During this phase, 53 enlisted men of Troop B refused orders to execute the mission. Due to the demands of the tactical situation at the time, a new task force was moved into the area to open the road and secure abandoned equipment; this was accomplished. The commander of Troop B was relieved for losing control of his unit and Troop B was assigned to another task force. These corrective actions have produced good results. Troop B is combat effective. Morale and discipline have been restored and the unit has performed well in subsequent engagements with the enemy. Chairman ELLENDER, Senator Allott.

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few days.

I bring up the matter for this reason: It will undoubtedly be pointed to by those critical of the entire operation as one of the extreme eramples, dramatic examples, of the toughness of things there, to shor that even our own men have lost their morale.

Secondly, the critics will seize any other opportunities to capitalize upon it, and no doubt will interrogate you about it.

May we beat them to it and get a practice run from you as to any comments you might have!

Secretary LAIRD. Senator Hruska, I am not fully prepared to comment on the particular incident involved. There have been reports from time to time of Americans that have been ordered into combat that have raised questions. It is a very small minority at all times I am not prepared to address the problem of that particular unit

Perhaps Admiral Moorer is, but I do not have the details on that

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t'.s. AIR ATTACKS ON NORTH VIETNAM SAM SITES : PROTECTIVE REACTION

RAIDS

Senator Alzott. According to the morning news U.S. aircraft carried out heavy attacks on North Vietnam's SÂM sites. It was stated

particular cavalry unit.

Admiral MOORER. No, sir. We are inquiring about it. We have no official report at all.

Senator HRUSKA. Then the question is premature, but I have a idea it will be pursued by others. I don't say it in an unkindly spirit, but only in the way of anticipation. Secretary LAIRD

. We are asking for information on it at the present time, Senator Hruska, but I hate to comment on it until I have a full I have asked for a detailed report. I will see that it is made avail this committee and to you.00

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that some of these attacks were as far north as the 19th parallel. Do you have any information on that?

Secretary LAIRD. That is generally correct. They were authorized to carry out protective reaction strikes during the last 48-hour period to destroy the SAM missile-firing sites and supply associated activities in connection with those SAM sites. These are protective reaction raids that were made. They will terminate this noon. They have been successful.

During the past 30 days the North Vietnamese have increased their firing at American aircraft operating in Laos. On the 25th day of February and again on the 1st of March, and on several other occasions they have carried out firing of SAM missiles over and across the DMZ.

This is the first time that this has occurred since the bombing halt to the north. The American Air Force as well as the Navy were authorized to carry on these strikes. They were carried on up to approximately 30 kilometers above the 18th parallel, 30 kilometers into North Vietnam from the Lao border.

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT

Let me give you a damage assessment of those strikes. (Classified information was separately furnished to the Committee.)

Secretary LAIRD. We are confident that the SAM missile-firing sites were severely damaged and many have been taken out of action. I believe as long as we ask Americans to fly in this particular area, and when they are being interfered with in this way, we should authorize this kind of protective reaction strike.

DISCONTINUANCE IN ABSENCE OF LATER ASSESSMENT

They were authorized. They have terminated, and they will not continue to go forward unless at some future time we make another assessment. If the environment and SAM firings and other activities in this area warrant such a mission, I would not, as Secretary of Defense, shy away from recommending further strikes along this line.

I do want the committee to understand that the strikes will terminate at 12 o'clock this noon. There will be no further strikes after that.

DEROGATORY ATTITUDES REFLECTED BY NEWSPAPERS AND TELEVISION PRESS

Senator Allort. I have just one further question, Mr. Secretary: Unfortunately, the news that many people are exposed to consists of stories such as those that appear in the New York Times and the Washington Post every morning, and two of the major networks, at least, in which the efforts of the United States and our allies are cast in a derogatory light. This lack of objectivity hinders rational analysis of our war efforts.

UNITED STATES AND SOUTH VIETNAM BENEFITS DESIRED FROM LAOTIAN

OPERATION

Looking at this entire picture of the Laotian incursion, what is your succinct assessment of the benefits we have received from this?

Secretary LAIRD. Yes, it has been worth the effort, Senator Allott. The important thing that I think it has permitted is to insure the continued withdrawal of American forces in South Vietnam. We will be able to go forward with our withdrawal program. We will be able to make better assessments in September or October, in that period of time, as to the total overall effect, as to whether we can increase our withdrawal rates.

But I think this is important. I believe that the South Vietnamese have performed well under these circumstances. They had to face up to the best that the North Vietnamese had to offer. They stood there and carried out the fight. Since I have been Secretary of Defense, we have stayed away from public body count figures because I just think that that is a losing proposition either way, when you get into this business of the number killed on one side compared with the number killed on the other.

DAMAGE SUFFERED BY AND TROOP DEPLOYMENTS OF NORTH VIETNAM

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But by any measurement that you use, the South Vietnamese have come out of this in very good shape. They have disrupted the enemy's supply lines to the point where I am confident the North Vietnamese will be unable to carry out major sustained offensive activity in the III Corps and IV Corps areas during this next year.

I would like Admiral Moorer to comment on this, on his military assessment.

Admiral MOORER. Yes, sir, Senator Allott. The North Vietnamese have had between one-third and one-half of their 33 maneuver battalions they had in the area rendered ineffective. They have lost, we think now, over 12,000. They have expended large quantities of ammunition and military materiel that, would have been otherwise used in the South. They have lost very large numbers of tanks which they chose to bring down and operate in that area for the first time.

I think they have been denied the capability to make a main force or major military attack against the South Vietnamese.

As I said earlier, I think this operation must be viewed in the context of everything the North Vietnamese are trying to do. They have two divisions up in northern Laos fighting in the Plaine des Jarres area. They have these 11 regiments plus artillery and armored forces in this pårticular Laotian operation, in the panhandle. They have additional forces to the south. They have forces in South Vietnam, of course, and they have three divisions in Cambodia between the Mekong River and the South Vietnamese border which are engaged by about 17.000 South Vietnamese.

They have units west of the Mekong that are conducting limited harassment against the Cambodians. The point is that you have to look at this in the overall context of what it is doing to them and will do to their capability in due time.

I would think it would have a very significant impact on their capability for the future. We are concerned about the next crisis, what they can do in the later months as well as what is taking place right at this moment. As a matter of fact, we are more concerned about the out-months because, as U.S. forces withdraw, we want the South Vietnamese strength to continue to rise.

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