Intelligence Study Prepared by Headquarters, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam /1/, "Infiltration Study, Viet Cong Forces, Republic of Vietnam," 31 October 1964

/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Files. Confidential. A covering memorandum, dated October 31; a table of contents; and Sections II-VII, which give specifics on statistics, infiltration groups, sources, personalities, designations, and a map of the infiltration routes are not printed.

Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume I, Vietnam (Washington, DC), Document No. 392)

October 31, 1964


Section I--General

1. Purpose

This study has been prepared to allow assessment of the extent of infiltration of personnel into the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and to provide reference data for further research into the development of Viet Cong (VC) order of battle. It replaces the USMACV Infiltration Study, published on 20 Apr 64 /2/ which may be destroyed.

/2/Not found

2. Scope

a. The data presented here were extracted, in the main, from interrogation of prisoner of war (IPW) reports of 187 VC who were captured or who defected in the RVN during the past five years. Of these 187 prisoners, 164 are actual infiltrators and have provided information on their own, and in many cases, several other infiltration groups. Prisoner information is considered to be generally valid and it constitutes the primary definitive source material upon which to base an assessment of VC infiltration. Captured documents have provided a limited amount of information concerning infiltration. Exceptionally, a large group of documents captured in the vicinity of Ca Lu, Quang Tri Province, in June 1960, provided the first substantial evidence of infiltration. These documents consisted of records of rations issued over an eight-month period to VC personnel infiltrating their way further South.

b. This study is comprised primarily of identifier data. These are:

(1) Designations of infiltration groups, designations of the units to which the infiltration groups were assigned, designations of the units of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) which provided the personnel for infiltration. Researchers are advised that the PAVN unit(s) listed may not have been the only contributor(s) for a specific infiltration group. The PW, in some cases, knows only the unit in which he previously served. Further, reported PAVN units are listed whether or not they agree with current PAVN order of battle holdings.

(2) Time and place of pre-infiltration training.

(3) Time of infiltration.

(4) Infiltration route.

(5) Subsequent moves and assignments in the RVN.

(6) Key personalities.

(7) Source of information.

3. Background

a. In 1955, following the Geneva Agreements of 1954 which ended the French Indo-China War, Vietnam was partitioned at the 17th parallel. In accordance with those agreements, the opposing sides were required to relocate their military forces--to return them, so to speak, to their own side of the imaginary fence.

b. Although, according to French sources, the DRV did relocate some 100,000 persons, including some 40,000 military personnel of ethnic South and Central Vietnamese and Montagnard origin, it later become evident that, even while signing the agreements, the representatives and the government of the DRV had at no time considered abiding by the agreements. Several thousand political agitators and activists and at least three experienced rifle battalions were left in the south with orders to remain dormant.

c. In 1956, the US-backed president of the RVN--Ngo Dinh Diem--blocked the referendum called for by the Geneva Agreements which was to decide the form of government that would rule over a reunited Vietnam.

d. The Communists, who saw their hopes for a legal takeover of the whole country vanish by this maneuver, ordered their dormant "stay behinds" to commence propaganda activities to put pressure on the new and inexperienced government of the RVN. It is possible that the DRV even hoped to overthrow the government without having to resort to military activity.

e. In 1957, the renascent Communist propaganda teams started to back up their arguments with weapons and instituted a program of proselytizing RVN armed forces officers and men to the VC cause. During this same period the standard Communist tactic of infiltrating and subverting legal political parties in the RVN was undoubtedly going on.

f. In 1958 and 1959, the now "armed mission teams", having achieved a degree of popular support in the rural areas through pressure, argument, terror and subversion, began, here and there, to organize guerrilla groups drawing on the local populace for personnel and instructing them in the manufacture and use of primitive weapons. The guerrilla teams, in turn, expanded the local campaigns of propaganda, terrorism and harassment to lend weight to the VC argument for national unity. The guerrilla teams were also tasked with the mission of reestablishing the former Viet Kinh (now called Viet Cong) secret bases located in almost inaccessible mountainous and jungle-covered areas in the RVN.

g. In 1959, several units were sent from the DRV into Laos to clear areas in Southern Laos, contiguous to the Vietnamese border, of various Laotian military elements. This was followed by the sending of elements of the 70th Transportation Group, PAVN, to establish relay stations connecting Southern DRV with the northern area of the RVN. To date this unit, directly subordinate to Hanoi, remains in control of the infiltration of both men and material from the DRV, through Laos, to the tri-border area of Laos, Thua Thien and Quang Nam Provinces in the RVN. Starting with some 400 men in 1959, it presently consists of some 2,000 men and porters responsible for about 20 "Communication/Liaison/Transport" stations along what the VC call the Main Corridor.

h. By February 1960 the Communists' preliminary steps for a "War of Liberation" had been achieved and the stage was set for the infiltration of retrained veterans of the French Indo-China War and for increasing the ranks of the "stay behind" political activists--group 1, consisting of 400 men, departed the Xuan Mai Training Center near Hanoi on 20 Feb 60, destined for the newly established VC base area called Do Xa in the jungle covered fastness of Western Quang Ngai Province. This group eventually become the 70th Battalion which today continues to operate in Quang Tin Province. Group 1 was but the first of many similar groups that have followed the same jungle paths to the south to form or be integrated into various military, political, economic or agricultural units which comprise the covert apparatus--what the French termed the "parallel hierarchy"--which aims to gain control of the RVN.

i. In September 1960, the 3rd Congress of the Lao Dong (Workers' or Communist) Party of the DRV openly announced the objective of "Liberating South Vietnam through a peoples revolutionary struggle."

j. In late 1960, the DRV announced the formation of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NFLSVN), an organ accurately described by its title of front--ostensibly to group all national, professional, political, student, and other groups to lead them toward the new era of liberty and freedom--Communist style. DRV Defense Minister Vo Nguyen Giap called for the "building of revolutionary armed forces" in the RVN to implement the policy of "people's war--people's army".

k. Early in 1961, Hanoi announced the creation of the National Army for South Vietnam. Over 4,500 men already had been infiltrated into the RVN to form the nucleus of this army.

1. In 1961, the Viet Cong activated the Central Office, South Vietnam (COSVN) in Tay Ninh Province, RVN. COSVN is the supreme organ of the Lao Dong Party in the RVN and directs all VC activities in the RVN.

m. To date the DRV has continued to infiltrate military, political, propaganda, security, proselytizing, economic, financial and educational specialists into the RVN. Probably having exhausted the pool of veterans of the French Indo-China War, in 1964 the DRV started sending in young draftees of ethnic North Vietnamese origin. Information derived from IPW reports and documents indicate that over 34,000 men have thus far been infiltrated into the RVN. It is undoubtable that not all information concerning all infiltration groups and total numbers of men involved has or ever will become available to intelligence agencies. Depending on the year involved available information is estimated to be anywhere from 10% to 66% incomplete and averages about 30% for the period under consideration. Therefore the total could be as much as 45,000 for the period 1959 to date.

4. Formation and Training of Infiltration Groups

a. Through 1963, all the known military infiltrators consisted of veterans of the French Indo-China War who had served in the area now governed by the RVN. Many of these men, upon "regrouping" to the DRV, were conditionally discharged to work on various communal farm sites and in industry. Others were retained in active military units.

b. When the DRV infiltration program got into full swing in 1961, two major pre-infiltration centers were established near Hanoi--Xuan Mai and Son Tay, the home stations of the 338th and 330th Divisions (Brigades) respectively. Other centers were established at Gia Lam, Ha Dong, Vinh, Nghi Van, Hoa Binh, Vinh Linh, Xuan Than and in Hanoi. Other elements were responsible for conducting pre-infiltration training--such as the 304th, 325th, 350th and 380th Divisions and the 120th Independent Regiment.

c. A typical pre-1964 military infiltration group consists of men drawn from active duty units and/or re-called to active duty from the farms and work sites. They were directed to one of the training centers and formed into training groups. Toward the end of the normal three-month training cycle (shorter for political, economic and administrative specialists, longer for weapons specialists), the men were grouped into packets or units consisting primarily of former comrades in arms or of men from the same region in the RVN. The training cycle normally ends with a celebration attended by high ranking DRV military and civilian officials.

d. Normally, no furlough is permitted following pre-infiltration training and the infiltrators are forbidden to divulge the fact that they are destined to the RVN.

e. The group entrucks at its training center and travels via Route 1 to the vicinity to the Demilitarized Zone at the 17th parallel. Thence, in the majority of cases, further movement is by foot via Laos and the Main Corridor to the south.

f. Frequently, PWs report being members of the element conducting their pre-infiltration training. In some cases, this is true; in many cases, the man may have been a member of the unit during the French Indo-China War; but in the majority of cases, the man has had no active military duty for a number of years and has "adopted" the training unit's designation as his own. This is particularly true of the draftees infiltrated in 1964, inasmuch as their only connection with PAVN has been as a training unit which, in their ignorance, they mistake for a regular army unit.

g. To date, there is no evidence that regular PAVN units have infiltrated the RVN. In all cases, men from a number of units are mixed with recalled veterans to form packets or draftees are formed into unit or replacement packets which will be cadred by veterans of the French Indo-China War either before infiltration or after arrival in the RVN.

5. Control of Infiltration

a. An agency known as the Unification Commissariat in the DRV, subordinate to the Central Committee of the Lao Dong Party, is reported by PWs to be directing the infiltration effort. A specific interest, supervision, and participation by the PAVN Joint General Staff and the Ministry of Defense is apparent.

b. The link between the DRV and northern RVN appears to remain under DRV control. A number of PWs have stated that this control extends from Quang Binh Province (DRV), through Laos to the tri-border area of Laos/Thua Thien and Quang Nam Provinces in the RVN. This stretch of the Main Corridor is organized and operated by the 70th Transportation Group, mentioned above. It is probable that none of the relay stations are located within RVN territory until the route reaches Southern Thua Thien or Northern Quang Nam Provinces.

c. From Quang Nam Province to the south, responsibility for the infiltration corridor comes under the jurisdiction of COSVN, with Headquarters Military Region 5 (MR 5) exercising primary control in the northern half of the country through its Transportation/Communication/Liaison Section. The functions of this section are as follows:

(1) To maintain operational control of the infiltration of both personnel and supplies via the Main Corridor which generally follows the international border of the RVN with Laos and Cambodia and via the so-called Ho Chi Minh Trail which parallels the Main Corridor some 100 kilometers to the east and runs along a series of ridges to the vicinity of War Zone D in Phnoc Thanh Province.

(2) To study measures and prepare plans for the control of communications (travel) in accordance with the situation existing in each province.

(3) To establish new routes and/or close old routes in accordance with the tactical situation and the terrain.

(4) To develop procedures for issuing movement papers, to include a system of code signs, so as to minimize the chance of their being counterfeited.

(5) To keep abreast of the status of personnel and supplies that are due in from the north.

(6) To be familiar with passwords and cover designations of agencies and provinces of other Military Regions so as to avoid mistakes in the shipment of materials.

d. This control by MR 5 concerns only the Main Corridor and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the two major North-South routes leading from the DRV. Other North-South routes and East-West feeder routes are the responsibility of the various provinces; however, the systems of control and relay stations are similar if not duplicated.

6. Organization of the Main Corridor

a. Since the beginning of 1963 the Main Corridor has been used exclusively by all infiltration groups and it is conceivable that the Ho Chi Minh Trail has been abandoned in whole or in part.

b. The Main Corridor handles two different types of movements--personnel and material (including correspondence), and is organized to handle each by different methods.

c. Infiltration of Personnel.

(1) The system to handle personnel requires relatively few men. In essence, the system comprises a series of liaison or relay stations each manned by three to seven men. The stations are a day's march apart, anywhere from 6 or 7 to 20 to 22 kilometers depending on the terrain and tactical situation.

(2) The major duties of these stations are to guide the infiltration groups from north to south. To maximize security, the guides are kept ignorant of the location of the two adjacent stations. The guides meet the incoming group about half-way between stations around mid-day. They verify the credentials of the group and then lead it to the vicinity of their station.

(3) Current security regulations stipulate that:

(a) The infiltration group will bivouac no nearer than 300 meters to the relay station and preferably 1000 meters away.

(b) Only the leader of the group, if anyone, is allowed to enter the station area proper. There the credentials are checked again and the rations (rice) are drawn for the group.

(c) The members of the group are allowed to move about within a limited area to obtain firewood and drinking water.

(d) No noise is permitted and cooking fires are allowed only after sunset.

(e) During movement members will not make noise, contact local inhabitants, or walk in disorderly groups.

(f) Passive anti-aircraft defense calls for infiltrators to "freeze" if low-flying aircraft fly over head.

(4) Road crossings are conducted by special teams.

(a) The group stops about 100 meters from the road--no smoking or talking is permitted.

(b) The members cross the road on special cloths rayed on the road to prevent foot prints.

(c) The group re-assembles 100 meters beyond the road and continues movement.

(5) River and bridge crossings are similar to road crossings.

(6) The guide conducts the group about half-way to the next station where a new guide will be waiting.

d. Infiltration of material (including correspondence).

(1) The system to handle the movement of material requires a relatively large number of personnel, particularly coolies--about 400 to 600 men for every ten stations.

(2) The number of transport stations is approximately double that of the relay stations and they are located about one half-day's march apart. This allows the coolies to haul the material to the next station and return to their home station within a working day.

(3) Material and correspondence is picked up or delivered at main stations along the Main Corridor by coolies under the control of the province within whose boundaries is located the recipient or sender. The Main Corridor teams are then responsible for movement between Main Stations.

f. [sic] Identified Transport Units (Military Region 5).

(1) The 72nd Transport Group infiltrated to the Quang Nam/Quang Tin area in Jan 63 to augment a previously existing but unsuspected transport organization operating in that area.

(2) The Binh Son Group consists of approximately 1000 men responsible for 10 transport stations in Quang Nam.

(3) The Nam Son Group consists of approximately 700 men responsible for 9 transport stations in Quang Tin.

(4) The Tay Son Group consists of a probable, but unconfirmed 1000-1200 men responsible for an unknown number of transport stations in Kontum.

(5) Four elements identified as CO 2, CO 7, CO 8 and CO 9 are responsible for transportation in Pleiku Province.

7. Transport Elements South of Military Region 5

a. A 270th Company, which possibly is a transport security unit, is confirmed in the Quang Duc/Phnoc Long area.

b. A 280th Company, which also possibly is a transport security unit, is confirmed in the Phuoc Long/Phuoc Thanh area.

8. Summary of Infiltration

a. During the period 1959-1960 some 4500 infiltrators have been reported coming into the RVN. Available information fails to reveal the destination of the majority or the type of personnel involved. The first infiltrated major military unit (Group t) came in during early 1960 and is still active as a unit under the designation 70th Battalion subordinate to the Quang Tin Provincial Commissariat in Military Region 5. Commencing in 1959 and through 1960 the 70th Transportation Group organized and established the Main Corridor in Laos linking the DRV with the RVN. Probably the bulk of the infiltrators were destined to augment the nucleus of administrative, propaganda and logistical elements who had remained in the RVN after the French Indo-China War.

b. During 1961, some 5400 men are reported as having come in to the RVN. The bulk of these (5300) were retrained military personnel of South Vietnamese origin and were destined primarily for the northern half of the RVN (Military Regions 5, 6 and 7). Most of these groups went into the formation of main force battalions and regimental support companies.

c. During 1962, some 13,000 men are reported as having infiltrated. As in 1961, the overwhelming majority of these men were retrained veterans of the French Indo-China War of South Vietnamese origin. Almost 9,000 of these men were equally divided between Military Regions 5 and 7; almost 2,000 were sent to Military Region 8; over 1,000 went to Military Region 6. As in 1961, most of these men were used to form main force battalions and a few companies.

d. During 1963, the numbers of infiltrators dropped substantially--to about 6,200 as compared to 1962. Of these, almost 4,600 went to Military Region 5 and were used primarily to form combat support elements for existing rifle battalions--both main force and local. Of the total, some 580 were reported in civilian groups which included various specialists to augment the VC financial and economic effort following the cessation of such support by the DRV in June 1963. It became evident that the DRV was reaching the end of its available pool of veterans of the French Indo-China War--many of the PWs were, and reported other infiltrators to be, in their late 30s and early 40s.

e. During 1964, to date, about 75% of reported Infiltrators have consisted of young draftees of native North Vietnamese origin. As in previous years, of the 4,700 men reported to have infiltrated by August, over 400 have been destined to Military Region 5 to form new main force battalions to replace experienced main force battalions which have been transferred to local (provincial) control.

f. Over the period 1959 to date, reported infiltrators number slightly over 34,000 men. Of these, some 31,500 have been military personnel. Almost 50% of these (16,000) were destined for Military Region 5; approximately 20% (6,100) for Military Region 7; and the remainder were assigned to Military Regions 6, 8 and 9 in that order. The destination and assignment of over 7,000 men remains unknown.

9. Estimate of Transport/Communications/Liaison System

a. Although only portions of the system have been reliably reported and identified, the systems of relay and transport stations can be fairly well visualized as far South as Tay Ninh Province to consist of over 100 stations employing up to 6,000 men for the transport and protection of goods and the guiding of infiltration groups.

b. South of Tay Ninh Province, available information permits only a guess that the system extends as far as the tip of the Ca Mau Peninsula and the U Minh War Zone. If such is the case, the total system could well number in the vicinity of 10,000 men.

10. Conclusions

a. The indicated infiltration of over 34,000 men since 1959 demonstrates the existence of a well-planned and coordinated effort on the part of the DRV to subject the RVN to covert military invasion.

b. The existence of a well organized and functioning transport/infiltration system, the full extent of which is only beginning to be realized, will lead to a new estimate of VC logistical capabilities.

c. Although the amount of material being infiltrated remains an unknown factor, the system is limited only by the amount of goods available and the men to carry them. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu demonstrated that the VC are capable of man packing even heavy artillery pieces through unprepared jungle-covered mountainous terrain. This permits the estimate that the present organized system is well-capable of logistically supporting the VC main and local forces in heavy weapons and in ammunition.

d. It is estimated that the DRV will continue to support the VC through the infiltration of cadre, political and financial specialists and in surplus man power.

e. There is no evidence to date to indicate that regular PAVN units have infiltrated into the RVN.

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