MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD
SUBJECT: Discussion with General Hieu Concerning Dong Tien Operations
2. At the outset I outlined our proposed concept for continuing Dong Tien operations against SR-1. This would involve a shift of ARVN units generally toward the center of the Trapezoid (e.g., operating out of Fire Support Base Gola and Lorraine) so that our 3rd Brigade commander could resume working with the 8th ARVN Regiment commander in conducting Dong Tien operations in the Trapezoid. General Hieu found no difficulty in accepting this concept, but he stressed that he favors moving units around so that they are targeted on enemy forces. He said that it does not matter to him whether his senior commanders may have to coordinate with additional commanders, and indicated that this is now the case in several parts of the 5th ARVN Division AO (Areas of Operations); he added that it would be desirable, wherever possible, to reduce the number of commanders/units with whom to deal on coordination of operations.
3. I then discussed the Phu Hoa area, citing initial problems of coordination with the district, indicating that there was now good cooperation all around, and that daily coordination meetings take place at Fire Support Base Mortain involving the US and ARVN battalion commanders and District Chief and Senior Advisor. In addition, I stated that it was being planned that a battalion of the 3rd Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, would soon become OPCON to the 1st Infantry Division and would work in the Iron Triangle in coordination with the effort now underway in the Phu Hoa area, with the objective to clean out the enemy within the next thirty days. General Hieu concurred with the concept.
4. I turned the discussion toward our objective of increasing pressure against the Dong Nai Regiment, outlining a concept involving two US battalions and one ARVN battalion operating in the lower Song Be Corridor and the area to the north of Tam Uyen. General Hieu agreed with the concept and acknowledged that this was in accordance with General Tri's recent guidance during a visit to the 7th ARVN Regiment.
5. General Hieu then spoke about pacification. He commented that military operations are relatively straightforward and easy for a military man to comprehend. Pacification, on the other hand, is complex. Citing General Tri's recent guidance, he said that the 5th Division should move away from the pacified areas, leaving these to RF/PF forces to secure. He drew an analogy of thrusting one's fist into a fish bowl; the fish move away, and stay away as long as the arm is in the fish bowl; however, as soon as the fist is withdrawn, the fish return to that spot. He said that the same thing can happen with regard to VC in populated areas, i.e., when ARVN and US forces move away, the VC tend to return. He has spoken to all of the district chiefs in his AO, as well as to many village chiefs, and many are uneasy at the prospect of ARVN and US forces moving away from the populated areas. In his view, Binh Duong Province has sufficient RF/PF forces, but these forces require further improvement in combat effectiveness, and need the reassurance of support from nearby US and ARVN forces in order to keep out the VC and maintain security for the populace. Therefore, he indicated that he feels an obligation to over watch these territorial forces and to assist and support them as much as possible. I assured him that we shared this view. However, he considers this a most difficult problem, particularly in light of General Tri's guidance.
6. In a digression, he spoke about the generally narrow views which many district chiefs hold. Their concern, he said, is primarily about their pacification statistics, and they look at military activities only insofar as these will assist their statistical picture. General Hieu stressed, however, the desirability of battalion commanders (ARVN and US) coordinating daily operations with the chiefs of the districts in which their forces are operating -- as I pointed out is now being done in the Phu Hoa District.
7. General Hieu then talked about how to improve the coordination of both the military and political effort against the enemy. He commented that the regimental/brigade commanders are the ones who have sufficiently broad focus and the resources to plan, coordinate, and carry out major operations. Similarly, he regards the previous chiefs and sector commanders as having sufficiently broad responsibilities to view the situation beyond narrow district limits. Therefore, he announced that he is instructing his regimental commanders to meet daily with the provincial sector commanders in their area, as well as with the US brigade commanders for the purpose of planning and supervising the execution of military operations against the enemy, as well as those in support of pacification. In addition, he intends to suggest to the Bind Duong Province Chief that he conduct weekly coordination conferences aimed at the problems of military support for pacification. He envisions that his regimental commanders and the US brigade commanders who operate in Binh Duong Province, as well as the appropriate district chiefs and battalion commanders, would participate in the weekly provincial meetings. He hopes that such conferences would stress (among other things) the support and assistance required for RF/PF forces. I assured General Hieu that this concept of coordination was completely in accord with ours, and that we would cooperate completely.
8. General Hieu then spoke on what he considers to be the major problem confronting his regimental commanders who are involved in Dong Tien operations. Citing the 7th Regimental Commander as an example, he said that this regimental commander looks toward Phu Hoa and sees one of his battalions operating with a US battalion in that area, and feels that he has no control over that battalion; then he sees another of his battalions, the 4/7th Battalion, operating with a US battalion in the Tam Uyen area and, again, feels that he has no control over the battalion. Therefore, when General Tri directed that the 7th Regiment concentrate his efforts against the Dong Nai Regiment, the regimental commander's reaction was that he had but one battalion which he could devote to this mission, and that battalion, the 2/7th Battalion, was involved in RD mission to the south (the 1/7th Battalion is at Song Be). General Hieu stated that his regimental commander's concept is wrong; nevertheless, his regimental commanders do have the feeling that they give up some control over their battalions engaged in Dong Tien operations. At this point, I commented that there was no intention in the Dong Tien concept to deprive the commanders involved of control over their own forces; rather, the intent was to facilitate combined planning against a common enemy in a specific area, to facilitate coordination of such matters as fire support, air lift, logistics, and local security. To date, the Dong Tien operations have enabled a more thorough and more effective effort against enemy forces in the AO of the combined allied units. There should be, I added, no restraint on how the commanders involved employ their forces, except insofar as the necessary coordination of maneuver, fire support, and other support activities within their common area. I noted that even the AO boundaries can be readily modified (by AO extensions) depending upon the enemy situation. I cited a recent example of the CO, 9th Regiment, exploiting certain intelligence he had received through ARVN channels, after coordination of his plans with our brigade commander. General Hieu agreed with my comments, but he indicated that he would have to undertake an educational process with his regimental commanders on this subject. I said that I would discuss this matter with the Commanding General and with the other senior commanders of the 1st Infantry Division.
9. General Hieu stated, in the course of the discussion, that division AO's should correspond with political boundaries -- he noted some divergences in the present boundaries of both the 5th ARVN Division and the 1st Infantry Division. Moreover, he commented that he would like to see the 3rd Brigade, 82d Airborne Division given responsibility for an area encompassing the Catchers Mitt and part of War Zone "0".