CIA Directorate of Operations
Date: 3 January 1975
Subject: Comments of GVN MR3 Commanding General Dong on the military situation and ARVN deployments in MR3
Source: An American observer from GVN Military Region 3 - Commander Lieutenant General Du Quoc Dong, who was aware that his remarks would reach U.S. officials.
Summary: GVN MR3 Commanding General Du Quoc Dong said on 2 January 1975 that he was depressed by the impending loss of the Phuoc Long Province Capital of Song Be which he felt could not hold out much longer. On 1 January, 65 air sorties were directed against VC/NVA attackers at Song Be, and more sorties were scheduled for 2 January. ARVN forces held Song Be City during the night of 2-3 January, and two companies of the 81st Ranger Group are scheduled to be airlifted on 3 January into an area east of the city and will then attempt to fight their way into the city. General Dong is hopeful that Hoai Duc District Town in Binh Tuy Province, which is currently defended by a battalion of the 43rd Regiment, 18th ARVN Division, and a RF battalion, can be held. The 48th Regiment, 18th ARVN Division, and 7th Rangers were unsuccessful in reaching Hoai Duc from Gia Ray in Long Khanh Province along Route 333. General Dong said that the RF and 49th Regiment, 25th ARVN Division, performed well in defeating recent VC/NVA attacks in Tay Ninh Province. Describing ARVN defensive positions in the approaches to Saigon, General Dong said that east of the Thi Tinh River in Binh Duong Province, the 9th Regiment, 5th ARVN Division and one RF battaion are deployed along Route 7 from Rach Bap outpost to An Dien. An ARVN clearing operation was scheduled to begin on 3 January in the Boi Loi Woods in southeastern Tay Ninh. General Dong said that the 18th ARVN Division has become ineffective since the illness of its Commander. But the 5th and 25th Division Commanders have performed satisfactorily. End summary.
1. On 2 January 1975, Lieutenant General Du Quoc Dong, GVN MR3 Commander, said that he was very depressed because of the impending loss of Phuoc Long Province which could not hold out much longer. General Dong said that if he had transferred a Vietnamese Army (ARVN) regiment or even two regiments to Phuoc Long Province, they would have been lost. On 1 January, 65 air sorties were directed against the force attacking Song Be (YU175105) and more were scheduled for 2 January, which he hoped would inflict heavy casualties on the Communist attacking force. He claimed that elements of both the 141st and 169th Regiments, 7th NVA Division and of the 271st Independent NVA Regiment are involved in the attacks against the Province Capital. Extra air sorites were flown by A-37 fighter-bomber planes located in MR2 and MR4 because the Bien Hoa airfield was closed part of the time due to the rocket attack on 1 January. General Dong claimed that the rocket attack was made for the specific purpose of denying the use of the airfield during the attack on the Phuoc Long Province Capital.
2. (Field comment: information available to Bien Hoa Consulate General sources as of the morning of 3 January indicates that ARVN forces held Song Be City during the night of 2-3 January. Attacking forces control the southern half of the lake on the city's outskirts. Communist forces are attacking from the south . The only avenue for ARVN reinforcements is from the east. Two companies of the 81st Ranger Group are scheduled to be airlifted on 3 January into the area about two kilometers east of the city and will attempt to fight their way into the city from the east across a bridge which is still under ARVN control. The Joint General Staff wants an all-out effort to save Song Be and has promised air support of 60 sorties per day from MR2, 3, and 4 for the defense of Song Be, VC/NVA forces are taking heavy casualties from air attack: a total of 11 VC/NVA tanks have been destroyed thus far, three from the air, and eight from ground fire. All ARVN artillery defending the city has been lost as a result of the intensive communist fire into the city from the recently seized BA Ra Mountain.)
3. Turning to the situation in Binh Tuy Province, General Dong said that he is hopeful that Hoai Duc District Town can be held. Currently a battalion of the 43rd Regiment, 18th ARVN Division, plus a RF battalion are deployed to defend the town. The RF battalion was recently airlifted from its location along Route 333 several kilometers north of Gia Ray in southeastern Long Khank Province to Hoai Duc Town. The balance of the 43rd Regiment is located along Route 333 at the border of Long Khanh and Binh Tuy Provinces. Its mission is to supply artillery support to the Hoai Duc defenders, assist them if required and also to be prepared to furnish security along Route 20 and defend Dinh Quan District Town (YT567377) in Long Khanh Province. The 43rd Regiment is reinforced with one M-113 armored personnel carrier troop and one M-41 light tank company.
4. General Dong continued that the 48th Regiment, 18th ARVN Division, reinforced with the 7th Ranger Group, attempted unsuccessfully to reach Hoai duc District Town from Gia Ray by advancing along the axis of Route 333. The 7th rangers performed poorly because they have been in continuous combat for several months and had suffered considerable casualties. The unit has been withdrawn and given an area of operations in southern Binh Duong Province in a reserve blocking status. The 48th Reigment currently located in the vicinity of Gia Ray will remain in the area with the mission of being prepared to provide security along Route 1 in Long Khanh Province. The 33rd NVA Regiment has been opposing the 48th Regiment in the area north of Gia Ray along Route 333. The 274th NVA Regiment is in the vicinity of Hoai Duc District Town. Contact has been lost with the 812th NVA Regiment which overran and captured the Tanh Linh District Town.
5. General Dong said that the RF and 49th Regiment, 25th ARVN Division, performed well in defeating the VC/NVA attack in Tay Ninh Province that began on 6 December. He anticipates renewed attacks by the 205th and 101st Independent VC/NVA Regiments. In the vicinity of Tay Ninh City there are four ARVN battalions, i.e., the entire 49th Regiment plus one battalion of the 46th Regiment. General Dong, although highly concerned and apprehensive, said that he believes the Communist attacks in Tay Ninh will be repulsed. He expressed confidence in the 25th Division Commander, Brigadier General Ly Tong Ba.
6. General Dong described the ARVN defensive actions being taken in the approaches to Saigon. In the Saigon corridor east of Thi Tinh River in Binh Duong Province, the 9th Regiment, 5th ARVN Division, plus one RF battalion are deployed generally along Route 7 extending from Rach Bap outpost (XT673304) to An Dien with the mission of preventing the 9th VNA Division from retaking the outposts at Rach Bap, Base 82 (XT700313), and An Dien and blocking the 9th Division from moving to the south. To the south of Route 7 and west of Route 13 in the Iron Tirangle, a RF battalion is deployed in a blocking position based on the defense of Hill 38. To the west of the Saigon River south of th Ho Bo Woods, Phu Hoa District, clearing operations currently are being conducted by two battalions of the 50th Regiment while a third battalion is providing flank protection in the west. On 2 January a clearing operation has scheduled to begin in the Boi Loi Woods in the eastern part of Khiem Hanh District, Tay Ninh Province. To cover the approach to Saigon from the northeast, a task force consisting of the 3rd Armored Brigade reinforced by the 52nd Regiment, 18th ARVN Division, is deployed in the vicinity of the Bien Hoa Binh Duong Province boundary in Phu Giao and Tan Uyen Districts with the mission of blocking VC/NVA approaches along the axis of Route 1A and 16 toward Phu Cuong City and Bien Hoa City. The task force has taken up blocking positions generally along the Tan Uyen District northern boundary extending to Route 1A in Phu Giao District. General Dong noted that in Binh Long Province, An Loc continues to be defended by one Ranger Group of three battalions plus two RF battalions; Chon Thanh is defended by two Ranger battalions plus one RF battalion. General Dong noted that the 4th ARVN Ranger Group has been transferred from Kontum Province to Long Binh for rest and refitting. He expressed the hope that after refitting the 4th Ranger Group would replace the 7th Ranger Group, which also is in need of refitting.
7. In discussions the merits of the ARVN divisions, General Dong said that 18th Division Commander Brigadier General Le Minh Dao has serious eye problems and requested leave to obtain treatment. He noted that the 18th Division has become ineffective since Dao's illness. The 5th and 25th Division Commanders have been performing satisfactorily. He complained, however, that all three divisions are poor in comparison to his former command, the Airborne Division, and that they are slow in carrying out orders and lack aggressiveness. As to VC/NVA units, he said that the VC/NVA are standardizing all infantry battalions including those of the 7th and 9th NVA Divisions with a combat strength of about 200 men. He noted that the Communists have formed an NVA 3rd Division controlling the 204th and 101st Regiments and an "Eastern" Division controlling the 33rd and 274th Regiments. (Source comments: also on 2 January, MR3 Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence Colonel Le Dat Cong, in a separate conversation, agreed that NVA battalion located in MR3 have an average strength of 200 men and as a result, the 7th and 9th Divisions are not as strong as earlier in 1974.)
8. (Source comment: General Dong was severely depressed and apprehensive, tired and appeared nervous. However, he had a good grasp of the situation and provides a clear rundown of the military situation. He seemed to be in control but anxious to receive assurance that he was making the proper decisions.)
Courtesy of Jay Veith