Re: Pleime-Chupong-Iadrang Campaign
Sunday 29 August
*We then discussed the National Campaign Plan developed by General Thang and General DePuy, the two J-3’s. We both agreed the plan was a good one, but I pointed out that it no doubt would have to be modified depending upon the exigencies of the situation. I urged he make the plan known to a minimum number of personnel. He stated it would be known only to himself and the J-3, he would not even include his Chief of Staff. This is important because VC agents have so penetrated the government that compromise can be assumed if more than a few people are aware of the plan.
*I discussed the B-52 strike program with General Co and specifically insured that he was aware of the strike scheduled for 2 September on Ho Bo Woods and the ground follow-up by an element of the 5th division
Saturday 18 September
*We had hoped to have a B-52 strike on the morning of 17 September to support an operation of the 173d Brigade but at 11 p.m. the evening before it was cancelled. The strike was requested based on some excellent intelligence and I took a personal interest to insure that a nearby village would not endangered. We were under the impression that strike had been approved and had planned accordingly until we heard that the State Department had disallowed it. The Chief of Staff and the J-3 were up most of the night trying to lay on a substitute tactical air strike. The weather did not permit the tactical air strike to go on the 17th so it was postponed until the 18th. I took the occasion of this inhibition of military plans to send a special message to the Chairman of the JCS giving him the facts, pointing out this interference with a well-considered military operation, and suggested that the B-52 strikes be decentralized [SSO Msg. MAC 4679, 181315Z September, (S)]. I don’t expect approval of this because higher echelons have assumed the flavor of my replies.
*General DePuy is as fine a staff officer as I have ever served with.
Sunday 17 October
*I was concerned about reports that General Vinh Loc of II Corps was proceeding on his own without coordinating with American forces. I particularly wanted to have the benefit of Colonel Mataxis’ observations prior to a meeting the next day with General Vinh Loc and General Co at Qui Nhon.
Sunday 18 October
*On Monday I accompanied General Co and General Vien to Qui Nhon to confer with General Vinh Loc, General Larsen, and Colonel Mataxis. I took the acting J-3, General Collins with me. (…)
During the discussion that ensued, General Vien relayed to me General Vinh Loc’s concern. General Vinh Loc considered Colonel Mataxis his counterpart. But, Colonel Mataxis reported to General Larsen of Field Force, Vietnam, which thereby put General Vinh Loc at a lower level than General Larsen. This was embarrassing to him and his subordinates since it implied that the ARVN Corps Commander was subordinate to an American headquarters. I explained that such was not the case and, in order to clarify the matter, I would cut orders immediately making General Larsen the senior advisor with Mataxis as his deputy. I mentioned that this was the pattern in I Corps where General Walt and General Thi had such a relationship. I further stated that I had not initially done this in II Corps since General Larsen was not in residence in Pleiku, but I had been considering a change and would make it immediately. This seemed to satisfy all concerned and will hopefully solve the matter that bothered Vinh Loc. The Vietnamese are sensitive in this regard and I do not want to discourage such sensitivities because it is our job to build up their pride and self-confidence so that hopefully some day they will stand on their own two feet,. Problem like this must be cheerfully accepted.
Tuesday 19 October
*I received a briefing from officers of the 1st Cavalry Division on their recent operations.
Thursday 28 October
*On Thursday I flew up to Pleiku and thence out to the command post of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. The Brigade commanded by Lt Colonel Harlow Clark seemed to be in good morale and was attempting to locate VC in the environs of the Plei Mei Camp. Although working hard, they had not achieved much success. I urged them in several days to move to an area west toward the Cambodian border in the vicinity of Du Co Camp. My estimate was that the VC would in due time infiltrate back toward their base areas along the Cambodian border and the Brigade might achieve some success in picking them up.
*Before the Joint GVN/US Council Meeting, Prime Minister Ky asked me if I would come to see him, which I did at 1500 hours. He wanted to talk to me about my appraisal of General Vinh Loc of II Corps since he had heard that I did not think General Vinh Loc competent to do his job. I discussed frankly my views of General Vinh Loc with Ky who agreed to consider making some new assignments, but asked me to give him a little time. I told him I thoroughly understood the political problem involved and he could be assured that I would not disclose any discussion I had with him or General Co on the matter. I had discussed the matter of the II Corps Commander with General Co two days before and he had apparently mentioned my lack of confidence in Vinh Loc to Generals Ky, Thieu, and others after the dedication ceremony at Pleiku on Wednesday.
Sunday 31 October
*On Sunday morning, the 31st of October, I departed early for Nha Trang to confer with General Larsen on the operation of the 1st Cavalry Division. I urged him to keep the 1st Cavalry division in Pleiku and shift their area of operation toward the Cambodian border on the theory that the VC who were engaged in Plei Mei would pull westward to their base areas near Cambodia.
Saturday 6 November
*During the course of the day I had a chance to talk to General Larsen, Colonel Mataxis and General Kinnard. I congratulated General Kinnard on the successes being achieved by elements of his division in Pleiku and made the passing observation that they were apparently getting over their prima dona complex.
Thursday 18 November
*On Thursday, General Vien and I flew up to Pleiku to visit the 1st of the 7th Cavalry commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore. In the presence of his staff, Moore briefed me on the operation that had taken place earlier in the week and I was tremendously impressed with the professional job done by Moore, his staff, supporting elements, and the general professionalism that was evident. Moore had the highest praise for his men and asked me if I would talk to them. After I visited several of the companies that had been badly hurt by the action, he assembled the battalion and I addressed them for about ten minutes at which time I told them they were being recommended for a Presidential Unit Citation. There is no question that this battalion is deserving as they distinguished themselves in perhaps the most difficult combat thus far encountered in the war.
I then flew down and visited the brigade commanded by Colonel Tim Brown. He gave me a briefing and we flew over the operation area. I had a session with General Vinh Loc, General Larsen and Colonel Timothy and we agreed on plans in line with those I had discussed the previous day with General Vien.
I then flew down to Qui Nhon where I visited the men in hospital. They were mostly personnel of the 1st Cavalry who had been wounded in the recent operation in Pleiku. While talking to them I began to sense I had not been given the full information when I had visited the 2d Brigade CP. Several of the men stated they had been involved in what they referred to as an ambush. Most of the men were from the 2d of the 7th Cavalry. While at the hospital I went into two operating rooms and was amazed at the complex surgery that was being performed. This hospital is manned by highly professional people who have saved many lives during the past several weeks. It is an inspirational thing to me what they have done in patching up men who have been severely wounded.
*One other thing happened in the afternoon. After returning to my office from a trip to Pleiku, Colonel Legare came in and informed me that a story had been filed that was highly critical of the 1st Air Cavalry. This came as no great surprise to me since I had suspected it after talking to the men in the hospital. I then called General Larsen and told him to get the facts. It was ultimately revealed that nobody, to include the brigade commander, had knowledge of what actually happened. The next day, however, we got the matter sorted out and determined that the 2d of the 7th got heavily involved with a PAVN outfit in their bivouac area and there was considerable close-in fighting. The PAVN unit got the worst of it and withdrew. The 2d of the 7th policed up the dead and wounded from the battlefield. Some of our men were left on the battlefield during the course of the evening, because of high elephant grass, which made it very difficult to find the bodies. Also the grass provided cover for the PAVN unit, permitting them to achieve some surprise although they were apparently considerably surprised themselves. I told Colonel Legare to send a planeload of press up the next morning in order to get a briefing on exactly what had happened. This was done and apparently served the purpose. In the meanwhile some unfortunate stories hit the headlines in the Washington papers, which we hear about the next day.
Friday 19 November
*On Friday I called upon Ambassador Lodge and briefed him on the Pleiku battle and our information that PAVN troops were in Cambodia just I had sent him to look into the situation there.
*General DePuy returned from Pleiku where I sent him because of my concern that the 1st Air Cavalry and the airborne task force might get involved in more than they could handle, and a bloody nose for the ARVAN general reserve would be adverse to government morale. Further, I feared that intense sustained combat would wear down the Cavalry Division to the point that it might not be capable of performing its mission during the next several weeks. I asked DePuy to look into all those factors and give me report. After talking to all of the commanders and advisors concerned, he recommended that the new phase of the operation be confined north of the river since the river is unfordable and thus would reduce the risk of unsuccessful operations, particularly for the ARVN airborne.
Saturday 20 November
*On Saturday morning after the intelligence briefing, I told the J-2 and J-3 to get together to develop a more responsive arrangement with SAC in striking targets picked up intelligence. We have made real progress with the 3d Air Division and SAC in recent weeks and I want to keep the pressure on them and gain further improvements. I would like to be able to bring a B-52 strike down within seven hours after acquiring suitable intelligence.
*At 1000 hours I had my monthly background session with the press. I started off by covering certain trends in the war, mentioned civic action briefly, passed out a handout, mentioned my desire to play up the ARVN military victories in balance with those of US troops, and then went to the map and gave them my concept of VC strategy. I discussed the battle at Pleiku starting with the attack on Plei Mei Camp and going through the subsequent phases [Notes on Plei Mei Battle, attached]. I read a wire I received from SecDef quoting headlines from the Washington Post and Star implying the retreat and withdrawal of the 1st Cavalry Division. I then explained to them I had a great respect for the press and handed out a copy of remarks that I had made at the recent meeting of Information Officers [copy attached]. I reminded them that I had resisted censorship of the press and was on record to that effect. I further pointed out I had been cooperative with the press because I appreciated their role but I did not intend to cooperate to the point that it would jeopardize our efforts. I stated that stories such as those in the Washington newspapers were having the following effect:
*General McChristian and I again played tennis with the British Ambassador and his advisor to the Vietnamese National Police.
Thursday 25 November
*I visited the Airborne Task Force at Duc Co as well as the 2d Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division and a Special Forces Detachment. General Dong of the Airborne Brigade was present and very pleased with the support he had been getting from the 1st Air Cavalry. It appears that their operations had been well planned and had been conducted in close coordination between the headquarters involved.
*At An Khe General Kinnard met me and I visited the 2d Battalion of the 7th Regiment that had been heavily involved in the recent fight and suffered many casualties.
Friday 26 November
*On Friday we had our regular Joint US/GVN Council Meeting which featured a military status report by General Vien. I was asked to comment following the briefing by a member of Vien’s staff which I did to the effect that thought it was an excellent analysis and stressed one of the reasons for the success was the close coordination and cooperation between US forces and advisors and the Vietnamese. I pointed out among other things that I thought this excellent working relationship was unique in the annals of military history.