US State Dept WaPo on Viet Nam, 1965 (and now?)

Actual figures from the Pentagon which contradicted State Dept claims

(As the Democrat wing of the anti-Trump "movement" careens around, blathering on about Russian aggression in US elections, brandishing a "report" agreed to by all 17 "intelligence" agencies of the US Government, a "report" which even those agencies that "agreed" to it won't endorse as factual, I came across this article from the old IF Stone Weekly from 50+years ago. It's instructive to read now because it perhaps demonstrates why USG leaders no longer supply any evidence for their accusations against official enemies. Stone towered above his journalistic peers, because he didn't accept the word of the talking heads at face value—he checked. And in this case, when he checked the "evidence" the State Department were foolish enough to include with their "White Paper," it all fell apart. But, to be sure, the talking heads then had "high confidence" in their WaPo (BS) as well.

Most journalists didn't notice, of course—they were in bars, having met their deadlines, while Stone was still checking. Enjoy.)

A Reply to the White Paper - I.F. Stone

That North Vietnam supports the guerrillas in South Vietnam is no more a secret than that the United States supports the South Vietnamese government against them. The striking thing about the State Department’s new White Paper is how little support it can prove.

“Incontrovertible evidence of Hanoi’s elaborate program to supply its forces in the South with weapons, ammunition and other supplies,” the White Paper says, “has accumulated over the years.” A detailed presentation of this evidence is in Appendix D; unfortunately few will see the appendices since even the New York Times did not reprint them, though these are more revealing than the report. Appendix D provides a list of weapons, ammunition and other supplies of Chinese Communist, Soviet, Czech and North Vietnamese manufacture, with the dates and place of capture from the Viet Cong guerrillas, over the eighteen-month period from June, 1962, to January 29 last year, when it was presented to the International Control Commission. The commission was set up by the Geneva agreement of 1954. This list provides a good point at which to begin an analysis of the White Paper.

To put the figures in perspective, we called the Pentagon press office and obtained some figures the White Paper does not supply—the number of weapons captured from the guerrillas and the number lost to them in recent years:

(See at top of page)

In three years, the guerrillas captured from our side 12,300 more weapons than they lost to us.

What interests us at the moment is not this favorable balance but the number of guerrilla weapons our side captured during the past three years. The grand total was 15,100. If Hanoi has indeed engaged in an “elaborate program” to supply the Viet Cong, one would expect a substantial number of enemy-produced weapons to turn up. Here is the sum total of enemy-produced weapons and supplies in that eighteen-month tally to the Control Commission-


  • 72 rifles (46 Soviet, 26 Czech)

  • 64 submachine guns (40 Czech, 24 French but “modified” in North Vietnam)

  • 15 carbines (Soviet)

  • 8 machine guns (6 Chinese, 2 North Vietnamese)

  • 5 pistols (4 Soviet, 1 Czech)

  • 4 mortars (Chinese)

  • 3 recoilless 75 mm. rifles (Chinese)

  • 3 recoilless 57 mm. guns (Chinese)

  • 2 bazookas (1 Chinese, 1 Czech)

  • 2 rocket launchers (Chinese)

  • 1 grenade launcher (Czech)

  • for

  • 179 total

This is not a very impressive total. According to the Pentagon figures, we captured on the average 7,500 weapons each eighteen months in the past three years. If only 179 communist-made weapons turned up in eighteen months, that is less than 2½ per cent of the total. Judging by these White Paper figures, our military are wrong in estimating, as they have in recent months, that 80 per cent of the weapons used by the guerrillas are captured from us. It looks as if the proportion is considerably higher. The material of North Vietnamese origin included only those twenty-four French sub-machine guns “modified” in North Vietnam, two machine guns made in North Vietnam, sixteen helmets, a uniform and an undisclosed number of mess kits, belts, sweaters and socks. Judging by this tally, the main retaliatory blow should be at North Vietnam’s clothing factories.

There is another way to judge this tally of captured communist weapons. A communist battalion has about 450 men. It needs 500 rifles, four 80 mm. mortars, eight 60 mm. mortars and at least four recoilless rifles. The weapons of communist origin captured in eighteen months would not adequately outfit one battalion. The figures in the appendix on ammunition captured provides another index. We captured 183 (Chinese) shells for a 60 mm. mortar. This fires about twenty shells a minute, so that was hardly enough ammunition for ten minutes of firing. There were 100,000 (Chinese) cartridges for 7.26 mm. machine guns. That looks impressive until one discovers on checking with knowledgeable military sources that these machine guns fire 600 rounds a minute. A machine gun platoon normally has four machine guns. This was enough ammunition for about forty minutes of firing by one platoon. Indeed, if the ratio of communist-made weapons captured is the same for weapons used, then only twelve and a half days of those eighteen months were fought by the guerrillas on the basis of communist-made supplies.

If these figures were being presented in a court of law, they would run up against a further difficulty: one would have to prove the arms actually came from the communist side. There is a worldwide market in second-hand weapons. One can buy Soviet, Czech and Chinese Communist weapons of all kinds only two miles or so from the Pentagon at Interarmco, Ltd., 7 Prince Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Interarmco, one of the world’s foremost dealers, can provide more communist weapons than we picked up in eighteen months on Vietnamese battlefields. Interarmco’s East European Communist weapons come in large part from the huge stocks of Soviet and Czech arms captured by the Israelis in the Suez campaign. It has Chinese Communist weapons captured by our side in the Korean war. It also has, of course, a wide selection of our own military surplus. This has turned up in strange places.

For example, a book on the Algerian war, Les Algeriens en guerre, by Dominique Darbois and Phillippe Vingneau, was published in Milan in 1960 by Feltrinelli. It shows pictures of FLN (National Liberation Front) Algerian rebels wearing U.S. Marine Corps uniforms from which the “USM” and the eagle and globe insignia have not even been removed. It shows Algerians carry U.S. 80 mm. mortars and U.S. .50 calibre machine guns. Such photos could have been used by France to accuse the U.S. of supplying the Algerian rebels.

The State Department’s White Paper says “dramatic new proof was exposed just as this report was being completed” in the discovery of a suspected Viet Cong arms cargo ship on February 16. The New York Times commented astringently on this in an editorial February 28—


Apparently, the major new evidence of a need for escalating the war, with all the hazard that this entails, was provided by the sinking in a South Vietnamese cove earlier this month of a loo-ton cargo ship loaded with Communist-made small arms and ammunition. A ship of that size is not much above the Oriental junk class. The standard Liberty or Victory ship of World War II had a capacity of 7,150 to 7,650 tons.

The affair of the cargo ship is curious. Until now there has been little evidence of arms coming in by ship. A huge fleet of small vessels patrols the coast and there have been glowing stories in the past of its efficiency. “About 12,000 vessels,” the AP reported from Saigon (New York Times, February 22), “are searched each month by the South Vietnamese coastal junk patrol force but arrests are rare and no significant amounts of incriminating goods or weapons ever have been found.” This lone case of a whole shipload of arms is puzzling.

The White Paper’s story on the influx of men from the North also deserves a closer analysis than the newspapers have given it. Appendix C provides an elaborate table from 1959-60 to 1964 inclusive, showing the number of “confirmed” military infiltrees per year from the North. The total is given as 19,550. One way to measure this number is against that of the military we have assigned to South Vietnam in the same years. These now total 23,500, or 25 per cent more, and 1,000 are to be added in the near future. The number of North Vietnamese infiltrees is “based on information ... from at least two independent sources.” Nowhere are we told how many men who infiltrated from the North have actually been captured. There is reason to wonder whether the count of infiltrees may be as bloated as the count of Viet Cong dead; in both cases the numbers used are estimates rather than actual bodies.

The White Paper calls the war an invasion and claims “that as many as 75 per cent of the more than 4400 Viet Cong who are known to have entered the South in the first eight months of 1964 were natives of North Vietnam.” But a careful reading of the text and the appendices turns up the names of only six North Vietnamese infiltrees. In Part I of the White Paper, Section B gives “individual case histories of North Vietnamese soldiers” sent South by Hanoi but all nine of these are of South Vietnamese origin. The next Section, C, is headed “Infiltration of Native North Vietnamese.” It names five infiltrees but one of these is also from the South. That leaves four North Vietnamese natives. Then, in Appendix C, we are given the case histories and photographs of nine other Viet Cong sent South by Hanoi. The report does not explain which ones were originally from the South but it does give the names of the provinces in which they were born. When these are checked, it turns out that only two of the nine were born in North Vietnam. This gives us a total of six Northern infiltrees. It is strange that after five years of fighting, the White Paper can cite so few.

None of this is discussed frankly in the White Paper. To do so would be to bring the war into focus as a rebellion in the South, which may owe some men and materiel to the North but is largely dependent on popular indigenous support for its manpower, as it is on captured U.S. weapons for its supply. The White Paper withholds all evidence which points to a civil war. It also fails to tell the full story of the July 1962 Special Report by the International Control Commission. Appendix A quotes that portion in which the commission 2-to-l (Poland dissenting) declared that the North had in specific instances sent men and material south in violation of the Geneva accords. But nowhere does the State Department mention that the same report also condemned South Vietnam and the U.S., declaring
that they had entered into a military alliance in violation of the Geneva agreements. The U.S. was criticized because it then had about 5,000 military advisers in South Vietnam. The Geneva accords limited the U.S. military mission to the 684 in Vietnam at the time of the 1954 cease-fire. The U.S. and South Vietnam were also criticized by the ICC for hamstringing the commission’s efforts to check on imports of arms in violation of the Geneva accords.

The reader would never guess from the White Paper that the Geneva accords promised that elections would be held in 1956 to reunify the country. The 1961 Blue Book at least mentioned the elections, though somehow managing to make them seem a plot. “It was the Communists’ calculation,” the Blue Book put it, “that nationwide elections scheduled in the accords for 1956 would turn all of South Vietnam over to them.... The authorities in South Vietnam refused to fall into this well-laid trap.” The White Paper omits mention of the elections altogether and says, “South Vietnam’s refusal to fall in with Hanoi’s scheme for peaceful takeover came as a heavy blow to the Communists.” This is not the most candid and objective presentation. From the Vietminh point of view, the failure to hold the elections promised them when they laid down their arms was the second broken promise of the West. The earlier one was in 1946 when they made an agreement to accept limited autonomy within the French union, and welcomed the returning French troops as comrades of the liberation. Most of the French military did not want to recognize even this limited form of independence, and chose instead the road which led after eight years of war to Dienbienphu.[1]

The most disingenuous part of the White Paper is that in which it discusses the origins of the present war. It pictures the war as an attack from the North, launched in desperation because the “economic miracle” in the South under Diem had destroyed communist hopes of a peaceful takeover from within. Even the strategic hamlets are described as “designed to improve the peasant’s livelihood” and we are asked to believe that for the first time in history a guerrilla war spread not because the people were discontented but because their lot was improving!

The true story is a story of lost opportunities. The communist countries acquiesced in the failure to hold elections. Diem had a chance to make his part of the country a democratic show-case. The year 1956 was a bad one in the North. There was a peasant uprising and widespread resentment among the intellectuals over the Communist Party’s heavy-handed thought control. But Diem on the other side of the 17th Parallel was busy erecting a dictatorship of his own. In 1956 he abolished elections even for village councils. In 1957 his mobs smashed the press of the one legal opposition party, the Democratic Bloc, when it dared criticize the government. That was the beginning of a campaign to wipe out every form of opposition. It was this campaign and the oppressive exactions imposed on the peasantry, the fake land reform and the concentration camps Diem set up for political opponents of all kinds, which stirred ever wider rebellion from 1958 onward in the grass roots before North Vietnam gave support.[2] It was this which drove oppositionists of all kinds into alliance with the communists in the National Liberation Front.

Long before the North was accused of interference, its government was complaining to the Control Commission of “border and air-space violations by the south and infringements of the Geneva agreement by the introduction of arms and U.S. servicemen.” [3] For four years after Geneva, both North Vietnam and China followed the “peaceful co-existence” policy while the U.S. turned South Vietnam into a military base and a military dictatorship. It is in this story the White Paper does not tell, and the popular discontent it does not mention, that the rebellion and the aid from the North had their origins.

March 8, 1965

[1] See Jean Sainteny’s Histoire d’une paix manquee (Paris, 1953) and Ellen Hammer’s The Struggle for Indochina (Stanford, 1954).

[2] Philippe Devillers in the China Quarterly, January-March 1962.

[3] Survey of International Affairs 1956-58, by Geoffrey Barraclough, a publication of Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs, p. 420.

-30-

(Photo below: Gen Wm Westmoreland, in 1967, reports on the progress of the "Vietnam War," in a press conference at the White House, then-President Johnson at his side. Victory was "near at hand," he said, as he always said. Reportedly, journalists present were "friendly" and "appreciative." See here. )

Gen Wm Westmoreland, with Pres Johnson at White House press conference

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