View Full Version : News Unfit To Print

05-21-2007, 08:33 AM
From Jules Crittenden on his Forward Movement blog - News Unfit To Print (http://www.julescrittenden.com/2007/05/21/news-unfit-to-print/).

More than a week of intensive operations, up to 6,000 troops, often on foot, presenting themselves as targets everywhere, and only two Americans reported killed in the search area as of last night, out of two dozen Americans killed in Iraq in that time. Thatís remarkable.

So much heat on al-Qaeda in the Triangle of Death they canít get a jihadi video out. Hundreds questioned and/or arrested, several large weapons caches seized, a number of suspected insurgents killed in firefights. But mostly, it would appear, al-Qaeda gone to ground Ö after demanding that the searching stop.

So is anyone on the ground looking seriously at whether, absent as yet the safe return of the abducted soldiers, there is a payoff to this intensive search, something e that might be applied elsewhere...

In any case, Iíd like to know if there is a dividend and perhaps some lessons about the pros and cons of rapidly launched, intensive sweeps to be learned at a time when there is a high demand for fast results. All-out, brigade-plus sweeps are draining but can they be effective? If the press wonít look at it, I hope the military does. What happens if this is tried in Diyala, for example, where Gen. Mixon was calling for more troops. Particularly if designed as hammer-and-anvil operations, or perhaps more more to the point beater-and-net, to catch them as they run...

Mark O'Neill
05-21-2007, 11:54 AM
From Jules Crittenden on his Forward Movement blog - News Unfit To Print (http://www.julescrittenden.com/2007/05/21/news-unfit-to-print/).

I am convinced that this guy has never heard of South Vietnam. If he did he would know how many similar successful sweeps and and 'hammer and anvil' operations contributed to that sterling COIN result.

Tom Odom
05-21-2007, 12:29 PM

Thanks for that. My sentiments exactly.


05-21-2007, 02:09 PM
Never mind our creed to "Never leave a fallen comrade behind". Tough for a civilian to understand just how important that is to all those centurions out there right now.

Merv Benson
05-21-2007, 03:43 PM
The operation to recover the missing troops is not like the "hammer and anvil" operations in Vietnam. It is more of a flooding of the zone and staying until something is uncovered. It has resulted in some intelligence and some arrest and it has had the effect of making it impossible for al Qaeda to move. If nothing else it demonstrates what can be done if we have enough troops to dominate an area.

We should also avoid overselling the "insurgency" in Vietnam. The insurgency there failed in the early sixties and was destroyed in the Tet offensive. It evolved into North Vietnamese large units maneuvering in a raiding strategy that was also not successful at defeating the South Vietnamese until the communist opted for combat persisting mechanized attacks in the mid 70's.

BTW, Crittenden's account as an embed in Operation Iraqi Freedom gives an excellent report of the operations of the unit he was with.

05-21-2007, 06:25 PM
I think the payoff is temporary. Flood the area with troops, and the enemy goes to ground and waits for when the troops leave. The enemy advances, we retreat and all that.

Mark O'Neill
05-21-2007, 11:20 PM

We should also avoid overselling the "insurgency" in Vietnam. The insurgency there failed in the early sixties and was destroyed in the Tet offensive. It evolved into North Vietnamese large units maneuvering in a raiding strategy that was also not successful at defeating the South Vietnamese until the communist opted for combat persisting mechanized attacks in the mid 70's.


Warning: Possible thread hijacking post.

That is an interesting, albeit erroneous, take on history.

Someone obviously forgot to tell the Vietcong operating against the 1st Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy Province that the insurgency was over after the Tet Offensive. The province was not really 'pacified' (such as it was) until the early '70s, and that was not for the want of trying. The casualty statistics for both sides speak for themselves. As for NVA action - the defeat of an NVA Regiment at the Battle of Long Tan a few years earlier would appear to have curbed their enthusiasm for 'conventional' operations in the Province. The records available here in Australia (particularly from the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam [AATTV] which operated over the entire country) suggest that the insurgency remained equally as virulent in other provinces, long after Tet .

I would also note that there were quite a few years (including the period of American withdrawal) between Tet and the North's adoption of 'conventional' mech warfare to defeat the south. It is both glib and inaccurate to present Tet and the later defeat of the south as a natural, linear progression.

I suspect that part of the problem for US forces in Vietnam was the fiction that the insurgency was over post Tet, thus justifying the 'real' war that many US Commanders really were actually inclined and mentally equipped to fight.

My concluding point. Lets be very careful about generalisations. There are more than enough of them being generated about the current war by oped columnists, polemical writers and 'expert' reporters and bloggers. Ultimately they have the effect of providing intellectual obscuration rather than insight.

Mike in Hilo
05-22-2007, 02:56 AM
But wouldn't you agree, Mark, that the main player on the enemy side in Phuoc Tuy was the 274th Regiment of the 5th VC Division--and that by 1970 the troop strength of the 274th was composed of NVA fillers instead of VC, the result of attrition of southern-born combatants in two years of very heavy fighting that began with Tet 68? I suspect that is Merv's point.


Mark O'Neill
05-22-2007, 05:11 AM

The 274 NVA regiment, as I understand it, operated over three provinces - Bien Hoa, Long Khanh and Phuoc Tuy. I do not know for sure, but given the casualty figures the enemy sustained at Long Tan in 1966 I suspect that a fair percentage of them were sustained by the NVA (If the casualties were solely VC local force units they would have virtually ceased to exist as functioning units thereafter).

My critique was of the previous assertion that the 'insurgency' was wiped out iduring Tet. Evidence suggests that the NVA suffered pretty badly as well.

For example, during the 'mini -Tet' at the battles for FSB Coral and Balmoral (1st and 3rd Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment), conducted outside of Phuoc Tuy, relatively more damage was inflicted on NVA main force units - namely the 141 and 165 NVA Regiments, than on local force units.

Evidence suggests that the 274 were somewhat 'itinerant' and came in and out of the Phuoc Tuy as operational circumstance (and pressure) dictated. By contrast, local force units D440 (relatively small ) and D445 Battalions, and several local force companies (such as C23, C25 and C41)(yes, reinforced as required from time to time by NV personnel ) lived, worked and fought a 'classic' rural peasant based insurgency in the province - 24/7, including post Tet.

Further rasing doubts about the bold claim that 'conventional' ops dominated post Tet, Phuoc Tuy never again saw massed attacks (from NVA or anyone) of the like planned for Nui Dat in 1966 post the defeat at Long Tan.



Mike in Hilo
05-22-2007, 07:27 AM
The 274th "itinerant." A good way to put it. Fast forward to 1973. I came to learn about these guys when I was covering Bien Hoa late that year and into 1974, and a battalion of the 274th would appear in Long Thanh District of that province--cause unease, briefly cut Highway 15 (to Vung Tau) once in a while. Re: VC fillers in local force, as well as in main force units....Also my impression. In fact, units manned largely by NVA, but engaging in guerilla tactics. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

Also, how does this sound?: Strikes me the nature of the physical terrain in Phuoc Tuy was as much responsible as anything for the continuous presence and ability to operate of large enemy units. I mean, the sea in which they swam was the forested hills, underlain in places by the inevitable bunker/tunnel complexes. Which is not to say they didn't get food from villagers--that linkage was never successfully severed. But it is hard for villagers not to be influenced by a main force unit like the 274th composed of guys who have demonstrated they mean business, looming over them in the woods up the slope behind the hamlet. In such an atmosphere, a mere handful of VCI within the hamlet, perhaps family of VC combatants, would exert coersive influence far greater than their numbers might suggest. Phuoc Tuy was never my AO, but I describe the situation as I found it elsewhere. At the expense of remaining off topic for this thread, I'd value your thoughts as to whether my understanding is on track or whether I'm off base.


Mark O'Neill
05-22-2007, 10:10 AM

Some of your questions are getting away from my very limited knowledge of the subject!

Your description of how the presencce of the 274 Regt, either permanently or periodically, just 'up the hill' could reinforce the influence of the Local Force units (particularly once the locals knew what they were capable of) seems to ring true.

From my, albeit limited , study of the terrain, your summation of its ability to hide troops seems right.

The Australian Task Force spent a lot of time over a number of years doing extended , lengthy dismounted patrolling in some gnarly terrain seeking the enemy (Hat Dich (near the intersection of Bien Hoa / Long Khanh and Phuoc Tuy) , Long Hai Hills etc) is testament to this.


Mike in Hilo
05-22-2007, 04:14 PM
Mark---Appreciate the thoughts---Mike.

05-22-2007, 05:08 PM
I have been to the "metro-Mahmudhiya/Youseffia" area a few times, and I am with Merv on this.

Steve Blair
05-22-2007, 05:14 PM
Continuing with possible thread hijack....

It's difficult to say with any certainty that the insurgency in Vietnam was "dead" after Tet. Starting in about 1966-67, many VC regiments were being filled with NVN cadre and troops, so by 1969 there were many VC regiments that were VC in name only. As Mike points out, it also took very few hard-core cadre to exert a fairly high level of population control.

What Tet managed to do (IMO) was draw out much of the native (as in SVN) leadership elements and destroy them, allowing the NVN cadre to assert their control over the remaining VCI elements. In some areas (but not all) this weakening made the COIN process easier.

It's also important to remember that many of the LF units were units in name only. By that I mean there was a command element (often very small) and a number of cadre or sympathizers who could be called on to gather intel or carry out limited operational tasks. If you didn't crack that command cadre, you never really touched the LF unit.

Maybe we should move this discussion to the History forum....;)

Merv Benson
05-22-2007, 09:03 PM
I think Mike and Steve may have stated my point better than I did. It should be noted that by 1965 the NVA was already operating in division size units in south Vietnam. When I say they were using a raiding strategy, that should also include in some cases pretensions of an insurgency. It was important from a propaganda basis for them the pretend that they were part of a "civil war" in the south. However, in northern I Corps where I operated in 1968, they did not have any pretensions of an insurgency. They wore their NVA uniforms and maneuvered in battalion size and larger units. It should also be noted that the siege at Khe Sanh was all NVA all the time including their heavy field artillery situated in Laos. After Tet most of the VC units were no longer combat effective and the NVA had to fill in most of the holes. As I have noted before the Diem regime did a pretty good job of controlling the insurgency until 1963 when the communist infiltrated the Buddhist movement and severely weakened the government with the help of our state department. Moyar in his Triumph Forsaken points out that the communist forces were reduced to around 6,000 total by 1959. It was at about that time the North realized they would have to send their troops down in large number and that they would have to do it through Laos, because the direct route into the south had been cut off by the ARVN.