A Review of “Intelligence Aspects of Pleime/Chupong Campaign”
1. The after action report does not carry a date. It is known only the US Army War College Library received its copy on August 22, 1966. One can only surmise it was drafted sometime between after November 1965 and before August 22, 1966.
2. The report was drafted by J2/MACV and bore Brigadier General J.A. McChristian’s signature.
3. It talks about the intelligence aspect Pleime/Chupong campaign from 20 October to 20 November 1965, which means it only deals with phase I and phase II of the entire Pleime campaign that comprises three Pleime/Chuprong/Iadrang phases, from 20 October to 26 November 1965.
4. Section 07. Conduct of Operations, mainly records daily operations summary and intelligence summary, from 24 October to 20 November, identical to section 07. Execution of Operations, from 24 October to 20 November of Pleiku Campaign drafted by 1st Air Cavalry Division Command. J2/MACV only adds an operations summary and an intelligence summary for 20-23 October 1965.
However, General McChristian did edit the text of Pleiku Campaign in erasing all section 4. Activities Statistics as well as in deleting some sentences, for instances.:
- In Nov 8 - Intelligence Summary: "By this time Field Force Vietnam had asked the division to consider moving this operations east of Pleime if it appeared that was no further contact imminent in the west";
- In Nov 10 - Intelligence Summary: "The movement and shift in emphasis from west to east was to further stimulate a forthcoming decision from the NVA division headquarters";
- In Nov 11 - Intelligence Summary: "With American units seemingly withdrawing to the east of Pleime, the decision was to attempt to regain its early advantage with an attack. The target once again was the Pleime CIDG Camp. The division headquarters set the date for attack at 16 November, and issued orders to its three regiments".
5. Furthermore, section Concept of Operations , and section Lessons Learned of the two J2/MACV and 1st ACDC reports are also identical. Besides, section Conclusions of J2/MACV report is a cut-and-paste taken out from section Foreward of 1st ACDC report.
6. Because the 1stACDC report is finished and submitted for General Kinnard’s signature on 4 March 1966 while the J2/MACV report does not indicate when it was drafted and when it was submitted for General McChristian’s signature, it is difficult to determine who copies whom.
There is a document that might shed some light on this fuzzy issue. Why Pleime mentions an intelligence report dated 24 November 1965, drafted by G2/1st ACDC as a reference document: “27. Intelligence Report, Hqs, 1st Air Cav Div, Office of the G-2, Dated 24 Nov 65, Subject: Ia Drang Valley (Silver Bayonet 1) YA 9104 14-19 Nov 65.” This leads to the assumption it is more likely the section describing the operations from 20 October to 20 November was written by 1st ACDC and copied by J2/MACV rather than vice-versa.
7. However, based on General McChristian’s words:
one can assume the structure of the daily operations reports which comprise two summaries of operations and of intelligence, with the intention of demonstrating the causality relationship between the intelligence aspect and the operational aspect, was General McChristian’s initiative.
8. It is worthwhile noticing that the J2/MACV report is more reticent than the 1stACDC report in the listing of intelligence methods – SLAR, IR, aerial photography and interrogation of prisoners – leaving out the radio research (RR) method of radio waved communication intercepts: “The DTOC received direct SLAR and infra-red (I-R) reports from the aerial surveillance and target acquisition platoon (OV-1 Mohawk) and USAF sources, plus reports and the Radio Research Unit.” ( Pleiku Campaign, page 128).
Only this latest intelligence gathering method allowed to obtain real-time information of B3 Field Front Command’s intentions, planning, discussions as they occurred at B3 Field Front headquarters. Such as:
The other intelligence sources – SLAR, IR, aerial photography, interrogation of prisoners – were only able to provide enemy unit positions, and could not possibly reveal what had been discussed within the cadres at B3 Field Front Command.
9. Another detail reported by the J2/MACV text (page 67) is the VC’s relative ignorance of the specific main intelligence source used by the American side: These collection methods are particularly valuable in the sense that they are reliable and very timely and their activity is relatively unknown to the enemy,” and believed there were spies in their midst:
(Pleiku Campaign, 11/1/65, page 46)
10. The J2/MACV report reveals a particular information not known in other documents (page 5: narrative description of situation prior to operation) that the destruction of Chu Prong sanctuary using B-52 airstrikes had been studied since September 1965, prior to the starting of Plâyme campaign on October 19, 1965:
This information shows that the VC Plâyme campaign created an opportunity for ARVN II Corps to coordinate with J3/MACV which was responsible for the B-52 Airstrike Operational Center to implement the planning to destroy Chupong/Iadrang complex simultaneously with the annihilation of the entire B3 Field Front forces of three regiments with B-52 airstrikes.
11. The fact that J2/MACV issued a report regarding the Pleime-Chupong Campaign is an indication that this campaign was conducted with the involvement at Corps level with J3/MACV coordinating with ARVN II Corps in the planning since September 1965 and in the execution of B-52 airstrikes at Chupong from November 15 to 20. This fact is illustrated by the difference in the two maps depicting the same operational day of November 18, the one of J2/MACV showing B-52 strike and the other of 1st Air Cav Pleku Campaign without B-52 strike:
Nguyen Van Tin