Intelligence in Vietnam After the Cease-Fire
By Col. William E. LeGro, U.S. Army Retired
Complete defeat and capitulation will come by the first of June. The Republic cannot hold out beyond then. Saigon would be isolated by a ring of North Vietnamese divisions and be forced to surrender.
It was this estimate that I took to Ambassador Graham Martin on the 10th of April, 1975. It was not my usual practice to show him my Monthly Intelligence Summaries and Threat Analyses (MISTA) before putting them on the wire to Washington, D.C. In fact, I had never done it before. This time was an exception because in our discussions at the American Embassy in Saigon the day before, I told him time was rapidly running out for our Vietnamese ally and this report would be seen by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others in Washington the following day.
Ambassador Martin asked to see the MISTA before I sent it and to append a dissenting paragraph. He believed the Hungarians would appeal to their Marxist comrades in Hanoi and receive a pledge of forbearance. The Hungarians were one of four countries, two Communist and two "neutral," on the International Commission for Control and Supervision. The Commission was instituted at the 1973 Cease-fire to supervise the "peace." The Hungarians had told their senior U.S. intelligence official in Vietnam the North Vietnamese would probably not continue the attack into Saigon, but rather would agree to a negotiated end to the war.
I had no faith in this scenario at all and told him that the only delays we could expect in the relentless Communist offensive would be imposed by Southern resistance and Communist logistical and operational limitations.
Ambassador Martin slowly and carefully read the MISTA. He said something to the effect that he had always respected my judgment and I may be right again, but he wanted to add his own words. He called in his personal secretary, Eva Kim, and dictated a rebuttal, stating the Communists would not enter Saigon until a negotiated settlement had been reached with the South.
I returned to my office at Defense Attaché Office headquarters at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. We occupied the large two-story building vacated by Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. I told my chief of current intelligence, Lt. Col. Wally Moore, to add Ambassador Martins paragraph at the end of the MISTA message and send it. It was routine handling for all of our intelligence reporting.
I was never compelled to get the approval of my boss, (first Maj. Gen. John E. Murray and then Maj. Gen. Homer Smith) or of the other headquarters up the line (U.S. Support Activities Group and the Pacific Command) before sending messages. The messages were sent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, White House (Henry Kissinger), the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The MISTA was a "best seller." We published a code-word edition as well as a sanitized one and the list of addressees kept growing until it occupied half a page. We even received a message from Gen. Alexander Haig at NATO asking to be put on distribution. (Gen. Haig was one of the G3s of the 1st Division with whom I had served while G2 of the Big Red One.)
How did we arrive at this tragic situation, passive observers to the death-agonies of an ally with whom we had shared blood-spilling for so many years? Ill try to contribute to understanding of this and, in the process, describe how we were organized to collect and process intelligence after Gen. Fred Weyand, a truly great American soldier and the last Commander, U.S.. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, folded his flag and said farewell.
Return to Vietnam
In September 1972, the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces were still engaged in ferocious, costly counterattacks to regain territory lost during the Communists "Easter Offensive." I was the G3, U.S. Army, Alaska, when the colonels branch at DA offered me a return to Vietnam as chief of training in the Army Advisory Group. I asked only, "When do I leave?"
"Peace is at hand," was the word from the Paris Peace Talks, so my departure was delayed until it became certain that peace was not at hand. I eventually landed at Tan Son Nhut on Dec. 2, 1972, and began a two-year tour as counterpart to Lt. Gen. Chinh, the director of training, Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
I was responsible for all the U.S. Armys advisors at the schools and training centers. This duty took me all over Vietnam, from the Ca Mau in the south to the Demilitarized Zone in Quang Tri, but did not last. The Communists caved to the "Christmas bombing," returned to the table in Paris, and signed the "Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam."
At Army Advisory Group, and all other elements of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, orders were to begin shutting down and to preparing to have almost everybody out of Vietnam in 60 days. A few would be chosen to stay and organize the tiny (by comparison) successor to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Called the Defense Attaché Office, Saigon, it would continue to provide military assistanceminus advice and supportto the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. Secretary Kissinger agreed to limit the Defense Attaché Offices uniformed component to 50 and its American civilians to 1,200.
Maj. Gen. John McGiffert, then an assistant J3 of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, was planning the transition from his command to the Defense Attaché Office. We had been in the Big Red One together when he commanded the divisions general support artillery battalion. He asked me to stay and organize the intelligence branch of Defense Attaché Office. I agreed because I wanted to complete my two year tour any way I could and I had worked three previous intelligence staff assignments.
So I returned to my steamy office in the old yellow stucco French barracks in the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Joint General Staff compound, turned off the fan and 60-watt bulb over a beat-up desk, paid a farewell call on Lt. Gen. Chinh, and moved to the air-conditioned splendor of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam building, "Pentagon East" as it was called. I read a stack of messages from the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff which detailed the manning plan of intelligence branch and began studying the situation. I flew to Hawaii for a face-to-face with the J2 staff at the Pacific Command to solve interpretation problems and returned to Saigon with firm ideas on how to proceed. About then the J2, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, told me he was leaving and so for a week or two, I became the J2, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. At the end of March 1973, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam hauled down its colors for the last time,
Intelligence Branch, Defense Attaché Office, Saigon
The Intelligence Branch filled rapidly to its full strength of 12 officers and soldiers and 100 civilians. It was the largest component of the Operations Division, Defense Attaché Office. The Defense Intelligence Agency recruited many of the civilians for us from its ranks of first-class analysts in Washington, D.C. Most of the people hired for collections and administrative positions were found in Vietnam. These professionals had years of intelligence and operational experience. Our Special Security Office included two lieutenant colonels (one for current intelligence and one for collections); the Special Security office had a major, a captain, and six enlisted soldiers.
About a year after our activation, Gen. Murray found his logistics branches, those responsible for continuing the flow of military assistance, were critically short of experienced officers. Consequently, we asked for and received authority to civilianize the Special Security Office and Gen. Murray gained eight spaces for officers in logistics. The Department of the Army insisted a commissioned officer hold the position of Special Security Officer, and I was appointed.
We got off to a rocky start. Our immediate headquarters was the U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force. It was commanded by a four-star Air Force general, whose principal mission was to prepare for the reintroduction of U. S. air power against the North should they seriously violate the cease-fire. I tried to get the ball rolling with a message to the Defense Intelligence Agency, "info" U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force and the Pacific Command, stating our "intelligence area of influence" was South Vietnam; our "intelligence area of interest" was all of Indochina and the adjacent provinces of China. My intent was simple enough: I wanted to be on distribution for all intelligence traffic which affected us, and to be able to task appropriate collection activities.
This message struck an exposed nerve at the U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force (but not at the Pacific Command or Defense Intelligence Agency). The Groups J2, an Air Force major general, sent a blistering nasty-gram to Gen. Murray accusing me of outrageously overstepping my authority. Gen. Murray, a genuine gentleman with a fine Irish temper, called me in and asked, "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?" My explanation gained his confidence on intelligence matters and we didnt lose any sleep over the sensitivities of the U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force. The command relationships in the area were complex in the extreme, but Gen. Murray enjoyed a direct line to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Essentially, he kept U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force in Thailand, the Pacific Command in Hawaii, and the Ambassador in downtown Saigon informed...when he chose to do so.
Our next troubling confrontation involved the interim ambassador and one of his consuls-general. Ambassador Charlie Whitehouse had been Ambassador Bunkers deputy, until he left. Whitehouse became the ambassador until Graham Martin arrived in the spring of 1973. While the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, had had a general officer assigned as its military representative and senior adviser in each of the four military regions, the American Embassy established a consul-general in each region as the senior U.S. representative and reporting officer. They were, from north to south, in Danang (MR-1), Nha Trang (MR-2), Bien Hoa (MR-3) and Can Tho (MR-4). The Defense Intelligence Agencys plan for my intelligence branch required posting one reporting officer and two assistants in each military region, to be housed in the consul-generals compounds and to report on military activity to my chief of collections.
It sounded straight forward and simple enough, but not to Charlie Whitehouse. In a heated meeting in Gen. Murrays office, I had to explain the concept and mission of my "regional observers" to Ambassador Whitehouse, relying heavily on the fact it was mandated by the Defense Intelligence Agency, and hence by the chairman. He grudgingly backed down from his refusal to allow the dispatch of observers to the field, but the support these dedicated professionals initially received from the consuls ranged from poor to abysmal.
Matters improved immensely when Ambassador Graham Martin arrived. Relations with the consuls-general, particularly in MR-1 and MR-2, became cordial, enabling some excellent reporting.
Ambassador Martins arrival was a boon to the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces and to the besieged Cambodians as well. Gen. Cao Van Vien, the Chief of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces JGS, asked Gen. Murray to request U.S. B-52 strikes against the North Vietnamese forces and base areas in the border regions of MR-3 and MR-4 that were launching attacks against Army of the Republic of Vietnam forces and villages. Gen. Murray agreed and asked for Ambassador Martins support, which was essential in order to get State Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff approval. Ambassador Martin gave his enthusiastic endorsement and my intelligence branch worked with the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces J2s Combined Intelligence Center to draw the B-52 target boxes. I took these targets to Ambassador Martin for his approval before transmitting them to U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force for execution. The B-52s were effective in reducing the border threat and clearing the banks of the Mekong for the passage of ammunition convoys up the river to Phnom Penh.
Intelligence Branch Production
Our troubles with U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force were not quite over. We decided to follow the J2 Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, practice of publishing a monthly estimate of the situation. The first edition caused an eruption at Nakhon Phanom (the Mekong River village and air base where U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force was located.) The J2 informed us we were not authorized to publish an estimate. So Wally Moore, Jim Wink (deputy chief of current intelligence, on loan from the Defense Intelligence Agency) and I renamed our monthly product the "MISTA." (We liked the name because we could say, "play MISTA for me.") We heard no complaints from Nakhon Phanom about it. In fact, when Col. Norm Tadisch, U.S. Army, signed on as deputy J2 and Maj. Gen. Ira Hunt, U.S. Army, became deputy commanding general, U.S. Support Activities Group, our relationship with that headquarters became pleasant, professional and mutually helpful until the end.
In addition to special reports and essays from time to time, intelligence branch published a daily and weekly intelligence summary, following the practice of the J2, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. The Defense Attaché Office also issued a quarterly activities report which included chapters on all aspects of the situation in Vietnam and the activities of all branches and divisions of the Defense Attaché Office Saigon. Our office contributed a comprehensive chapter discussing enemy activity and order of battle in each military region, and an overall assessment (avoiding that dirty word, "estimate." )
Internally, and for our friends at the American Embassy, we had additional means to disseminate our product: we conducted a formal briefing of each MISTA in the "tank" each month. Attendance was by invitation (appropriate clearances required) and all seats were invariably occupied. Frequent guests included the commanding general of the U.S. Support Activities Group, the commander-in-chief of the Pacific Command, the ambassador and selected analysts and staff officers from the U.S. Support Activities Group and the embassy. Each morning at 0800, the current intelligence analysts would stand by their 1:50,000-scale map boards, which covered the walls from floor to ceiling, and brief the military activity which occurred during the past 24 hours. A senior analyst and the ambassadors political-military counselor, and most of the cleared staff of Defense Attaché Office, including the general, would take this "board-walk" every morning. There was always a good deal of give-and-take and lively discussion during this informal briefing.
Collection and Sources
Collecting information about the enemy, analyzing the information and turning it into finished intelligence on which leaders could make decisionsthat was our principal mission.
Our mission was made more complex because of the keen interest U.S. leaders had in maintaining the painfully negotiated cease-fire. Consequently, we also had to observe Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces activities and report instances of cease-fire "violations" initiated by our erstwhile comrades-in-arms. Ostensibly, the United States would apply whatever political or economic pressure available to compel compliance by the South. (It could do nothing about the North. In reality, the North had a sizable army in the South when the cease-fire took effect, and soon afterward began a steady flow of reinforcements in preparation for a decisive political/military offensive.) The best the South could do was try to conduct a nation-wide defense which included some local, tactical offensive operations. We nevertheless reported all "violations."
My counterpart was the J2, Joint General Staff. It is impossible to overstate the professional, intellectual, and character attributes of Col. Hoang Ngoc Lung. He had begun his Army career in the North as an infantry lieutenant in the short-lived National Army and had come South in the great migration of 1954. He had known the enemy for 20 years. I relied heavily on his counsel. We met weekly (more often during periods of crisis) to exchange information and ideas, and to share resources. He provided his analyses of prisoner of war and enemy deserter interrogations, captured document interpretations, and reports from his clandestine sources.
I shared with him critical items from our special intelligence analyses. Communications intelligence (intercepts and direction-finding) was our single most important source for order-of-battle information. The Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces had a limited communications intelligence capability because of limited obsolete equipment and acute shortages of spare parts. Flying in one of their rickety RC-47s one day, I watched a soldier hanging his head out the side door, his leg tethered to a stanchion, yelling position locations to the analysts plotting intercepts at their desks inside. The Doppler navigation gear which performed this function was broken and parts were not available.
In addition to the information personally collected from Col. Lung, my chief of collections placed liaison officers at the Army of the Republic of Vietnam prisoner of war and document exploitation centers. The centers had been "combined" during the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam era, and these officers reports were important to the intelligence picture. Our regional observers reports were equally valuable. Without question, the most valuable insights I gained were through the frequent trips to the field with Col. Lung. I supplied the transportation and we flew to remote command posts to confer with corps, division and regimental commanders and their "2s;" usually during or immediately following major engagements.
Detachment K, 500th MI Group, U.S. Army, was based in Bangkok and maintained liaison with Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces human intelligence activities. We received all of their agent reports. The detachment commander, Col. Al Weidhas, and I had worked the Vietnam problem ten years earlier on the Army Staff. He was assigned to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence and I worked in the International Plans and Policy Directorate, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. He provided invaluable counsel and also supplied a liaison officer who became indispensable during the final days of April, 1975. Capt. Andy Gembara had transferred to military intelligence following recuperation from severe wounds received as an infantryman. He was a willing and able resource when I needed special tasks performed during those tumultuous days.
I remember very little about the combat intelligence course I attended in Oberamergau, then West Germany, in 1950 but one thing sticks in my mind: the displacement of artillery into forward positions is an indication the enemy plans to attack. Well, the compelling indicator of an impending offensive in the Vietnam War was a surge in infiltration. In this war the term, "infiltration" meant the movement of groups of replacementsand sometimes new unitsdown the Ho Chi Minh trail network from North Vietnam to the battlefields of the South. The groups were of uniform size and numbered serially. Sources picked up almost all of them as they left Vinh, North Vietnam, and followed them down the trail. (The serially numbered units made it easy to fill-in blanks.) Our infiltration expert was Mike Hardin, a most talented and dedicated analyst. I checked with Hardin the first thing every morning. He would pull out his stack of 5"x 8" cards (we had no computers) and give me his latest analysis of trends and enemy strength. I could not have survived without Mike Harden.
No discussion of intelligence collection during these final months in Vietnam would be complete without prominent mention of Buffalo Hunter. This was the code name for the tactical aerial photography drones flown by the 7th Air Force from Nakhon Phanon. The U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force responded with remarkable speed and effectiveness to requests for coverage and produced a valuable photo intelligence product. They showed us hundred-truck convoys motoring down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the fuel pipeline as it snaked its way into the Central Highlands, the surface-to-air missile sites under construction south of the demilitarized zone, and the acres of supplies in open storage in North Vietnam Army base areas.
Assessments, Predictions, and the Road to Ruin
How well did we accomplish our mission? If the validity of our assessments and the accuracy of our predictions are measures of successful accomplishment, I think we did quite well. We published our first MISTA on April 27, 1973. In it, we predicted enemy military operations will be designed to support the political campaign and to improve its military posture and control over "liberated" areas. The enemy will continue to infiltrate men and materiel but it has not yet brought in enough infantry replacements to sustain a major offensive. The enemy will not launch a sustained, countrywide offensive now but will maintain an aggressive defense and use military force selectively to support political operations. The key indicators of intent to resume full-scale operations will be a surge of infantry replacements and recommitment to the battlefield of the 304th, 308th and 312th North Vietnam Army Divisions. To date, the arrival of armor, artillery and supplies represent preparations to pursue the military option, but not a decision to do so.
On June 5, we observed preparations for the renewal of combat continue, and realized that by summer they would have the capability for major operations in MR-1. The construction of a new supply corridor will provide a partial all-weather route from the demilitarized zone through the "B3 Front" (MR-1) but the lack of replacements will preclude major operations at least until fall. The enemy will continue to infiltrate men and materiel to support political activity and to prepare for the offensive. These conclusions held through June, but on August 4, we declared current stockpiles and resupply capabilities were now sufficient to eliminate logistics as a limitation in a future offensive.
At the end of August, 1973, we reported the enemy now has the capability to launch and sustain a six-month offensive, but there are no indications that it will do so in the near future. A high-level rallier (communist deserter) said the political struggle is a temporary phase preparing for main-force warfare. The Communists harbor no illusions the South Vietnamese will agree to a political solution advantageous to the Communists; they are preparing to resume hostilities not later than March, 1974. In South Vietnam, the Communists are rapidly developing their strongest position in the history of the war. In September, we said they had now reached that point. Their objective remains the complete takeover of South Vietnam!
We thought our September MISTA was a landmark. Eight months into the cease-fire, we surveyed the politico-military landscape and found the following: The enemy has three courses of action to achieve his objective.
1. Create a recognized government within South Vietnam capable of competing with the Government of Vietnam in economic and political struggles.
2. Launch a limited military offensive: a phased offensive to create a military, economic and political situation beyond the capability of the Government of Vietnam to handle.
3. Conduct a major military offensivethe objective being to cause the immediate collapse of the government and the armed forces.
The political-economic course will support either military course of action, and a phased offensive could develop into a major, decisive offensive. Among the factors that will affect any decision are the level and extent of U.S. economic and military support to South Vietnam.
We offered the following conclusion: Hanoi has all the armor, artillery and logistics in South Vietnam to pursue any of the three courses of action. The enemy is preparing to raise combat force levels to permit initiation of either military option. Its most likely course of action is a phased military offensive, supported by the political and economic offensive, keeping open its option to attack with concentrated force to seize the decisive objective. When? We have no evidence this decision has been made, although we have seen several reports it will begin early next year.
By the end of October, we saw our prediction validated. Infiltration continued at a high rate and we reported that the phased offensive had probably already begun. We said the offensive would have four phases:
1. Elimination of Army of the Republic of Vietnam outposts.
2. Attacks on main Army of the Republic of Vietnam lines of communications.
3. Attacks on major province capitals.
4. A major attack in MR-3. (Saigon)
On Dec. 6, we reported the phased offensive was a reality. We saw the North Vietnam Army attack in the remote mountain province of Quang Duc as a prototype of outpost attacks to come. (The determined, skillful Army of the Republic of Vietnam counterattack drove the enemy out of Quang Duc. The decline in American military assistance and the inability of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam to constitute a reserve combined to deny to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam the capability to replicate the rapid, extensive deployments which brought victory in Quang Duc.)
Through the first months of 1974, we reported the continuing increase in enemy strength, the continuation of the phased offensive, but concluded we saw no signs of an early decision to begin a decisive offensive. This situation persisted into summer, when Gen. Murray retired. His final appeals in Washington for continued adequate levels of American support to South Vietnam were ignored. He was replaced in Saigon by Maj. Gen. Homer Smith. Brig. Gen. Baughn (an Air Force pilot) replaced the deputy attaché, Brig. Gen. Ralph Maglione. He saw his primary mission as supervising the support of the Vietnamese Air Force, delegating his secondary duty to me: chief of operations, plans and training division, of which my intelligence branch was a part. By lengthening my duty day, I could maintain the level of my attention to intelligence concerns.
We published another landmark MISTA in July 1974. The following is a condensed excerpt:
It is apparent the Communists have relegated the political struggle a secondary role, with a concurrent resort to primarily military means.... The actions in the Ben Cat [20 miles north of Saigon] and Duc Duc (Quang Nam Province, MR-1) areas appear to serve the purpose of gradually eroding the effectiveness of the Government of Vietnam military apparatus. The current attacks in Quang Nam may well be complimented by future attacks in MRTTH [Hue,Thua Thien Province, MR-1. In MR-2, the enemy has over-run a series of outposts and maintained continuous pressure in the primary threat areas of Kontum, Pleiku, and Binh Dinh Provinces. Hanoi may well have judged the political situation in the United States (highlighted by Congressional resistance to continued aid to South Vietnam) and the impeachment proceedings, substantially reduced the probability of U.S. intervention on behalf of the Government of Vietnam. Hanoi, at the same time, continues to receive large amounts of material support from Moscow and Peking.
The passage of time seems to have eroded any previously perceived restraints on Hanois option of taking over South Vietnam by military force. The likelihood of large-scale U.S. intervention is probably judged by Hanoi to have become a much more distant possibility than could have been expected in the year following the cease-fire. In conclusion . . . we expect, therefore, a high level of military activity against vulnerable Government of Vietnam-controlled areas. The current level of activity, the infiltration of 156,000 replacements since cease-fire, and the unprecedented magnitude of logistic support lead us to conclude major attacks are in the offing. This is not a blitzkrieg; it is a measured campaign of limited objective attacks. Significant local successes could, on very short notice, be followed by major exploitation; that is, a "general offensive" of great force and violence could grow quite suddenly out of this campaign. We see all of the indicators in South Vietnam now except the deployment of the reserves from North Vietnam.
(By the end of 1974, because of the drastic reduction in intelligence resources, we were rarely aware of the deployment of these crucial reserves until they were committed in battle.)
And so it went for the rest of the year. Our somber report in November tabulated Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces casualties from 1968 (the year of the famous Tet Offensive ) to 1974. We estimated that, if the trend continues, 28,000 Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces soldiers would be killed in action in 1974: this would be the most since the beginning of the war except for 1972 (39,195) which featured the great Easter Offensive.
We knew the end was in sight when Phuoc Long fell after Christmas. Congressional visitors in January and February offered no hope of help for our suffering, besieged comrades. To avoid a last minute scramble to destroy classified documents and to preserve the record of our labors, I asked the G2, U.S. Army, Pacific, to lend me a microfilm machine and a soldier to operate it. He obliged and we sneaked his man into the country, since we were prohibited from exceeding the 50-person limit on uniformed personnel. As soon as a roll of film was filled, we shredded the paper and mailed the film to Hawaii for safe-keeping.
After the loss of Ban Me Thuot, Danang and Nha Trang, the gallant stand of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, 18th Division at Xuan Loc bought a little time, but not enough. The potent power of the 7th Air Force, the U.S. Navy carriers off shore, and the waiting B-52s in Guam and Thailand, remained unused. Panic reigned in Saigon. We devoted much of our final efforts to gathering our loyal Vietnamese comrades and employees and sending them out to safety.
During the final days, Detachment K did yeoman work assembling its far-flung agent nets and Vietnamese counterparts for the exodus. I was concerned with sanitizing the Special Security Office and reducing the intelligence and operations staff in an orderly progression, retaining only a handful for essential functions. I kept one secure telephone for communications to the commander-in-chief, Pacific Command, U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force and the White House. Ambassador Martin used it for his final call to Brent Scrowcroft that last morning. After the last of my Special Security Office staff left with all that was sensitive of their equipment, I returned to their room and smashed what I could with a sledge. Col. Lung and Brig. Gen. Tho, the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces J3, joined me in the command post on April 29 and assisted communications with the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces units still conducting the defense around Saigon. I put them on helicopters to fly to the fleet that same afternoon. We spent the rest of the afternoon shredding what was left of operations branch documents. That night, about 2000 hours, Gen. Smith and I, and the last of Defense Attaché Office Saigon, sadly climbed aboard a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter headed for the darkened deck of the carrier Midway. Never was a defeat more bitter and undeserved, or a departure more heart-breaking.
Col. LeGro entered the Army as an infantryman in 1943, ending his active enlisted service as a reconnaissance sergeant in the occupation of Hiroshima. He reentered the active Army as a second lieutenant of Infantry in 1949, serving continuously until his retirement in 1976. His book, Vietnam from Cease-Fire to Capitulation, (Center of Military History, 1981) is considered an authoritative account of the last years of the war.
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Last Updated: May 29, 1997