MURDOCH'S HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
These notes are not for dissemination, publication or attribution. Brackets [ ] mark comments or reference citations by R.A. Murdoch. Published works cited are obviously available for reference, however the draft notes below have not been checked for transcription accuracy.
October 4, 1999
By R. Angus Murdoch
“This need for small, fast versatile, strongly armed vessels
does not wane.
[as quoted in Victor A. Meyer, U.S.N.R., “Patrol Boats to the
Robert Manning, ed., The Vietnam Experience; War in the Shadows: Covert Operations in Vietnam, Boston Publishing Company, 1988.
“Long before American combat troops arrived in Southeast Asia, the CIA was conducting covert operations and programs to bolster the South Vietnamese government.” [Douglas Pike, WIS, p. 34]
[Following the Cuban Bay of Pigs debacle] “The Central Intelligence Agency helped restore its standing by embracing the vital interest John Kennedy had in counterinsurgency....In February 1961, after less than two weeks in office, President Kennedy ordered a government-wide effort on ‘counterguerrilla warfare.’” [Pike, WIS p.34]
“President Kennedy set his policy in the National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) he signed on May 11 . The directive, NSAM-52, had several elements affecting intelligence in Vietnam. It approved psychological warfare actions, the use of American air crews plus other nationalities as necessary, and covert flights over North Vietnam. The CIA and military were to cooperate in sponsoring forays by parties of Vietnamese into southern Laos and emplacing spy networks in North Vietnam, to create ‘covert bases and teams for sabotage and light harassment.’ The U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Vietnam received instructions to build a capability for raids on the North within the South Vietnamese Ranger force.” [Pike, WIS p, 36}
[In fall 1961 Kennedy sent Gen. Maxwell Taylor, Walt Rostow of the National Security Council and Edward Lansdale to Vietnam to evaluate situation.] “The Taylor-Rostow recommendations on covert operations were assigned to a new NSC unit, the Special Group Counterinsurgency (CI). The interagency committee focused on the implementation of NSC Vietnam decisions. Those Special Group (CI) programs carrying the code name Gold bore the highest priority within the U.S. government. The NSAM-52 initiatives were all Gold programs. The intelligence war was clearly heating up.” [Pike, WIS p. 36]
“Rapid growth in military intelligence personnel followed the approval of NSAM-52.By December 1961 the 1,209 people working on classified projects exceeded MAAG’s official strength of 1,062.Classified projects personnel included the first of 400 Special Forces approved by Kennedy, 78 communications intelligence specialists, 230 serving with Vietnamese intelligence units, and about 350 in the recently arrived, secret air-support unit code named Farmgate, otherwise known as Detachment 2 of the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron or ‘Jungle Jim.’ While the CIA also increased the strength of its Saigon station, the military easily matched and overmatched the agency’s additions. The MAAG was a jealous custodian of its military prerogatives....” [Prados, WIS, p. 39]
“At one of his first NSC meetings John Kennedy asked about the possibility of mounting guerilla operations inside North Vietnam. The CIA director told him the agency had trained four teams of eight agents but that funds were limited.... JFK pursued the matter on March 9, 1961, requesting reports on ‘guerrilla operations on Viet Minh territory.’ The CIA responded on March 25 and a few days later, in preference to mounting actions of its own, the Pentagon stated its support for the CIA program.Kennedy approved the establishment of covert bases and harassment inside North Vietnam, authorizing Americans and third-country nationals to fly the necessary air missions.” [Prados. WIS p. 46]
“In Saigon the CIA’s Combined Studies Group (CSG) managed this program from a facility separated from the U.S. Embassy. Colonel Gilbert Layton, CGS chief, procured aircraft and boats for missions to the North.The CIA got its own hard stand for planes at Tan Son Nhut and opened a forward boat base at Da Nang. It also employed a paramilitary force of tribal Nung, eventually the equivalent of two small battalions (later passed on to Special Forces).” [Prados, WIS pp. 47-48]
“CSG also conducted boat operations using Swifts, very fast armed boats that could creep in to shore and land parties of agents. Layton delegated control of the boat base to Tucker Gougelman [sic], a colorful CIA paramilitary specialist who had served as a Marine in the Pacific, lost a foot in Korea, and run agency missions into Eastern Europe. U.S. Navy craft called Nasties later augmented the CIA boats.” [Prados, WIS p.48]
“The air and sea programs brought little success in 1961-1962, only frustration for CSG. The few teams that were inserted into the North were quickly captured. ” [Prados, WIS p. 48]
“The CIA submitted a reinvigorated covert action plan to Kennedy in January 1963. McGeorge Bundy told JFK it was worth approving, although ‘there is every reason to think that the execution of this plan will encounter all the difficulties of an operation in a denied area.’ Kennedy agreed, but again the results were sparse. Eleven months later NSC staffer Mike Forrestal reported to a new president that, despite considerable effort, ‘very little has come of these operations, partly because of the tight police control in the North and partly because of their very small size.’ ” [Prados, WIS p. 48]
“In May 1963 the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) directed the Pacific commander to prepare for nonattributable raids against the North using U.S. materiel, training, and advisory assistance. At a November conference in Honolulu, CIA’s Colby, together with MACV, received orders to prepare a plan for a twelve-month, three-phase covert offensive against the North.Secretary McNamara reviewed the completed plan in December, and President Johnson approved it for implementation beginning on January 16, 1964. Drawing heavily on the Pacific commander’s OPLAN 34-64, the new plan became OPLAN 34-A.” [Prados, WIS, p. 48]
“On January 16, 1964, MACV activated the Studies and Observations Group, with staff section Op 31 to control maritime operations (MAROPS). The CIA relinquished its responsibility for the boat effort, and the Swift force, augmented by eight heavily armed assault boats (Nasties) from the Navy, came under Op 31 control for missions. The Navy assumed control of Da Nang base, adding a boat support unit, SEAL Team 1, and a maintenance detachment with 100 tons of spare parts.” [Prados, WIS p. 48]
John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars; CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1986.
“Soon after the Diem coup [Nov. 1, 1963], Bill Colby went out to Saigon to pick up the pieces. He had Jocko [John] Richardson [CIA station chief Vietnam until recalled at the insistence of Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge on October 5, 1963] to dinner the evening before he left Washington. The top priority was to replace the station chief; Colby called in Peer de Silva, recently sent to Hong Kong after a long tour as CIA chief in Korea, where he too had seen a coup close up. De Silva had a strong background in espionage against ‘denied areas,’ particularly the Soviet Union, and had been the officer in charge of security for the atomic-bomb project. In Vietnam he was called on to preside over a significant escalation in paramilitary activities.” [Prados p. 247]
“Escalation was mandated by President Lyndon Baines Johnson....If anything, LBJ was even more receptive than had been Kennedy to arguments favoring ‘graduated’ military force....Within four days of assuming office, LBJ approved NSAM-273, which called for studies of different levels of increased activity, including statements of the resulting damage to the north and the plausibility of denial. The directive also called for plans to conduct military operations up to fifty kilometers into Laos and other measures to help the South Vietnamese. In response, Pentagon planners came up with OPLAN 34-A, which Johnson approved in January 1964.” [Prados. p. 247-248]
Steve Edwards, “Stalking The Enemy’s Coast”, Naval Institute Proceedings, February 1992.This is the best published account and evidently part of the author’s larger work in progress on U.S. Navy special warfare. Chronology [from Edwards and other sources as noted]:
“Beginning in 1961 U.S. trained South Vietnamese naval commandos carried out increasingly ambitious and daring covert maritime actions, including delivery of agents and supplies once a month or more to points in North Vietnam from South Vietnamese motorized junks.” [Edwards p. 56]
“On January 1962, a Special Group (counterinsurgency) composed of senior White House, State Department, Defense Department, and representatives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA lent support to covert operations in North Vietnam.” [Edwards p. 56]
“...SEAL Team 1 dispatched operatives Chief Robert “Sully” Sullivan and Chief Charles Raymond in January 1962 to make initial surveys and prepare to train indigenous South Vietnamese to be maritime commandos.” [Edwards p. 56, there were no known mission successes with the initial operations, using Nungs and fishing vessels.]
“In reviewing the operation’s failure, high level planners decided that the root of the problem was the type of craft being used [junks]. In late August, Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam ...proposed the use of U.S. motor torpedo boats (PTs), supported by a naval logistics unit in Da Nang, for the runs to the north. On 27 September 1962, the administration’s Special Group (5412) formally suggested the use of PTs, as well as SEALs, in covert operations against North Vietnam.” [Edwards p. 57]
“In an October 1962 memo to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Paul Nitze, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara called for procurement of Norwegian Nasty fast boats. With this directive came a CIA initiative to recruit former Norwegian maritime commandos and mercenaries–who were already familiar with U.S. underwater demolition and SEAL techniques–to operate the boats in North Vietnamese waters.” [Edwards, caption p. 58]
[In January 1964 the CIA turned over “most” covert operations in the North to MACV].“ Established on 24 January 1964 under General Paul D. Harkin’s command, the Special Operations Group (later Studies and Observation Group), or MACSOG, exercised operational control from Saigon of SOG 34 activities, including maritime operations code-named 34 Alpha....The actual supervisor of the group was the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (SACSA) on the Joint Staff.” [Edwards p. 57]
“The first Nastys, designated PTF-3 and PTF-4, arrived at the Pacific Fleet’s amphibious base in Coronado, California, along with their Norwegian crews. The special Operations Group would eventually operate 14 Nastys. Along with the two [experimental aluminum PT boats].” [Edwards p. 57]
“The structure of the Special Operations Group 34 operation in Da Nang was supervised by the U.S. Naval Advisory Detachment (NAD) and initially commanded by Commander Albert Thomas....Subordinate to the advisory detachment was the mobile support team, a boat-training team–with two U.S. officers and ten men for each boat crew–and the SEAL training team (two officers and ten men) preparing South Vietnamese Lien Doc Nguoi Nhia (LDNN), literally “soldiers who fight under the sea,” for their hazardous missions. The advisory detachment was rounded out by the Marine reconnaissance team (one officer and three men), and three Swift boats–designated fast patrol craft–with the Nastys and the “gassers.” ” [Edwards p. 58, The Swifts had been procured earlier by the CIA and never appear on U.S. Navy lists, Friedman]
“On 27 May 1964 the maritime operation scored its first significant success in capturing a North Vietnamese junk and its six passengers The detainees were taken to a special facility on Lao Cham Island off Da Nang, the site of a top-secret CIA-run resistance training center, where they were subjected to intense interrogation.” [this brings in the subject of the Sacred Sword Patriots League and the black propaganda/misinformation operation that goes back to the early 1960's and Tucker Gougleman’s team. The CIA team used the Swift boats and several authors, e.g. Karnow confused the aluminum Swifts with the PTFs.]
[Edwards gives a detailed and convincing summary of the relationship between the PTF operations against North Vietnam and the operations of the U.S.S. Maddox and U.S.S. Turner Joy that led to the Tonkin Resolution and an escalation of U.S. involvement in the war. His thesis is that the Desoto Patrols were missioned to support increasingly effective SOG 34 Alpha missions of the PTFs. There does seem to be more information coming out in support of the PTF’s accomplishments, aside from the totally unknown and probably unmeasurable impact of the Sacred Sword black operations.]
See: Edwin E. Moise, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War, Univ. of NC Press, Chapel Hill, 1996, pp. 4-21
PTF actions as reported in various articles/books:
February 16, 1964 - “The first 34-A boat mission occurred on February 16, soon after arrival of the first Nasties. Vietnamese frogmen tried to sabotage a ferry and some North Vietnamese patrol boats at Quang Khe. This MAROP was a failure, as were several further missions. Concerned at the early losses, Ambassaor Lodge protested on April 5, ‘I do not believe any of these missions can be justified except as part of a well thought out diplomatic maneuver.’ Later Lodge dismissed the MAROPs as good training perhaps, but having no impact on Hanoi Pacific commander Admiral U.S.G. Sharp blamed inadequate intelligence and an increased state of North Vietnamese alert, making sabotage targets ‘more difficult to reach than was visualized at the time.’ ” [Prados WIS, p. 48]
May 27, 1964 - “The first of a new series of operations directed against North Vietnamese fishing boats was carried out May 27.At least one PTF and at least one Swift boat captured a fishing vessel twenty to thirty miles north of the DMZ. The fishing boat and its crew of six were taken back to Lao Cham Island, off Danang. The crew was interrogated and indoctrinated for a few days, then released to the North, with their boat, on June 2. Three fishing boats were seized on July 7, and two more on July 20.” [Moise p. 21]
June 1964 - storage facility destroyed and Route 1 bridge near Hao Mon Dong. [Edwards p. 58]
June 26-27 seven-man demolition team supported by 24 Marines destroyed a bridge along Route 1, Thanh Hoa province. “They killed two bridge guards and four other DRV personnel, without losing any of their own men. [Moise p. 20]
June 30-July 1 - “...group of either twenty-three or thirty-one men that used 57-mm recoilless rifles to attack a reservoir pump house near the mouth of the Kien River...on the night of June 30-July 1, accomplished its mission but suffered some casualties.PTF-5 and PTF-6 landed the attack team by rubber boat shortly after midnight. The team destroyed the target but came into heavy combat with DRV [Democratic Republic Vietnam] forces. The PTFs closed and shelled the attacking troops with 20-mm and 40-mm guns, which helped the landing force to escape and apparently to bring out two local militiamen as prisoners, but the landing force lost two of its own men.” [Moise p. 20]
July 15 - “...another commando group landed on the coast north of Ron and suffered casualties in an encounter with local defense forces. By the end of July and the beginning of August, what had formerly been landing parties were simply firing at their targets directly from the PTFs that carried them north.” [Moise p. 21]
July 1964 - “interception of North Vietnamese Group 125 assets....” [Edwards p. 58]
30 July 1964 - PTF-3 and PTF-6 attack Hon Me. Swatow attacked PTF-6 wounding four S. Vietnamese. PTF’s shelled with 40mm, 20mm and 57 mm recoilless-rifle, reported destroying a number of buildings and at least one gun emplacement. [P.59 Edwards]. [This is the attack in which Elton Manzione claims to have been a participant. See Douglas Valentine’s account in The Phoenix Program, New York: William Morrow, 1990.]
July 30 - “On the night of July 30-31, an OPLAN 34A force made up of PTFs 2,3,5, and 6...attacked radar and military installations on the islands of Hon Ngu (a.k.a. Hon Nieu, less than four kilometers from the coast of Nghe An province, near the city of Vinh) and Hon Me (twelve kilometers from the coast of Thanh Hoa province). They used 57-mm recoilless rifles–light infantry cannon, less accurate than their normal armament but firing larger shells. On their way back to base on the morning of July 31, the four boats passed within sight of the Maddox, which was just entering the Gulf of Tonkin.” [Moise p. 56]
31 July 1964 - PTF-5 and PTF-2 shelled communications tower on Hon Nieu. [p. 59 Edwards]
Edward J. Marolda and Oscar P. Fitzgerald, The United States Navy and the Vietnam Conflict, vol. II From Military Assistance to Combat 1959-1965, Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, Washington, D.C. 1986. [this is the official U.S. Navy history of the period. Dr. Marolda wrote me that much has been declassified since this work was completed].
“On 30 July , the day PTF-2, PTF-3, PTF-5, and PTF-6 departed Danang for their missions against Hon Me and Hon Nieu targets, General Westmoreland issued his plan of action for the August 34A program based on the ‘assumption that off-shore bombardment will be approved.’ The new schedule provided for an increased in operations, most of which included shore bombardment or sabotage.... [M&F p. 409]
“The 30 July foray north by the South Vietnamese-manned PTFs proceeded as scheduled [note that the authors do not mention mercenary crew component or that the U.S. forces were in total control of operations]. By 2315H the four boats reached a point southeast of Hon Me at 19N 106 19'E. Here, they parted company, with PTF-3 and PTF-6 heading for Hon Me and PTF-5 and PTF-2 for Hon Nieu.” [M&F p. 409]
“The first two boats arrived off the southern end of their island at 0021H on 31 July. During the approach run to the target, a water tower and associate military structures, the boats spotted one North Vietnamese craft. About the same time, the enemy opened fire with 30 and 50-caliber machine guns, wounding four South Vietnamese on board PTF-6.That the North Vietnamese were not surprised came as no revelation to the maritime force. Both boat groups received intelligence beforehand that the enemy would be aware of their presence. With a landing to set demolition charges now out of the question, the South Vietnamese commander ordered the targets hit from offshore. Aided by moonlight and illumination rounds, the PTFs poured in 40-millimeter, 20-millimeter, and 57-millimeter recoilless rifle fire. In this attack, the first standoff bombardment conducted during the 34A campaign, the two boats destroyed a gun emplacement and a number of buildings. They retired from the area at 0048H. Although unaware of its presence, the boat force was pursued by a North Vietnamese Swatow motor gunboat, T-142. Later, the commander of T-142 reported his inability to catch up with the departing South Vietnamese units.” [M&F p. 409]
“The other boat section, consisting of PTF-2 and PTF-5, reached a point 800 yards northeast of their target, a communications station on Hon Nieu, at 0037H on 31 July. As at Hon Me, the South Vietnamese mission commander decided against landing a sabotage team. With the target in sight, both boats shelled the area, scoring hits on a communication tower. Fire then was shifted to other targets on the island, which generated ineffective enemy counterfire. At 0113H both craft withdrew from the area, having accomplished their task.” [M&F p. 410]
“The Hon Me Nastys returned on a direct rout to Danang, arriving there at 0955H and 1055H on 31 July.PTF-2 and PTF-5 left the vicinity of Hon Nieu and retraced the rout followed when they entered North Vietnamese waters the previous evening.PTF-5 reached Danang at 1045H and PTF-2 closed the South Vietnamese port at 1120H after being delayed nearby with engine trouble.” [M&F p. 410]
3 August 1964 - PTF-1 and PTF-5 open fire on Vinh Son radar facility. PTF-6 attacked security post at Ron River. [p. 61 Edwards]
7 August 1964 Tonkin Gulf Resolution passed House and Senate.
“The Gulf of Tonkin incident [Maddox and Turner Joy] became an important milestone on the American road to war in Vietnam. MAROPs contributed to the initiation of the incident. The SOG-Op 31 planners recognized as much at the time–the Swifts and Nasties moved farther south to shelter at Cam Ranh Bay, returning after five days to Da Nang base. MACV temporarily suspended MAROPs; a few days later President Johnson ordered a halt to all 34-A operations.” [Prados WIS p. 49]
“In September LBJ approved resumption of MAROPs and another DeSoto patrol. Nasties patrolled off Vinh Son in the first week of October, and three returned on the twenty-seventh to bombard it. There were other missions too, including the final bombardment on December 8, when four Nasties hit the Mach Nuoc radar installation.” [Prados WIS p. 49]
“With reference to 34-A, [the covert SOG naval operations] two questions have always arisen: were the 34-A missions effective, and did U.S. Navy SEALs ever go north on these missions? The official answer to those questions have always been “no.” We do now know, however, that specifically targeted high-ranking North Vietnamese naval officers were kidnapped and–under interrogation–provided information about, among other things, the Gulf of Tonkin incident. We also now know that U.S. Navy SEALs did go up north. In a June 1980 interview with the U.S. Naval Institute, Captain Phil H. Bucklew, an almost legendary figure in naval special warfare, addressed the 34-A missions specifically ‘Our SEAL contingents would train Vietnamese SEALs and supervise. They were not allowed to go north of the demarcation line, though they did at times...’.” [Edwards p. 62]
Re: Tucker Gougleman:
[in discussing the National Interrogation Center, a major intelligence-gathering center built by the CIA on the Saigon River, Doug Valentine quotes CIA officer John Muldoon who became chief of the Provisional Interrogation Centers (PICs) that were built in every province after 1965 (April 1965). Re:chief of Special Branch and field operations Tucker Gougleman]: “John Muldoon spoke affectionately about Tucker Gougleman. ‘Tucker was loud and foulmouthed, and he had a terrible temper; but it was all a big front. He was very easy to get to know...a likable guy. Always in short-sleeved shirt and sneakers. He was married three times, divorced three times. He had adopted a girl in Korea, and in Vietnam he had what he called his family. He was back in Saigon trying to get them out when he was picked up. When the evacuation was over, he was still there, staying in the hotel. One day he came down, got off the elevator, walked into the lobby, and they were waiting for him. They took him out, threw him in a car, and took him to the National Police Interrogation Center. A French newspaper guy saw it happen. The North Vietnamese denied they had him, but they returned his body about a year later.’
‘It’s funny, but me and Tucker used to talk about the PICs. He said something like “John, if we lose this war one day, we could end up in these goddammed things if we get caught.”
‘Well,” I asked, “What would you do if you were in there?”
‘He said he thought he’s kill himself rather than go through interrogation. But he didn’t. The report I heard was that when his body got to the graves registration people in Okinawa, the broken bones had yet to heal. So obviously they had tortured him right up until the time he died. And I’d be willing to bet he didn’t say a damn thing to help them. I can see him spitting in their faces.’
“Muldoon laughed. ‘Tucker wanted to turn the PICs into whorehouses. The interrogation rooms had two-way mirrors. ’ ”
‘Tucker was a hero in the Marine Corps in World War Two,’ Muldoon added. ‘He joined the agency right after and worked with [station chief] John Hart in Korea, running operations behind the lines. He was in Afghanistan and worked in training too. He got to Vietnam in 1962 and was base chief in Da Nang running everything that had to do with intelligence and paramilitary operations....He was no longer the Da Nang base chief when I arrived in Saigon....He was in Saigon trying to set up the Province Intelligence Coordination Committee with Jack Barlow, a British guy from MI Six.Barlow had been in Africa and Malaya with Robert Thompson, and they were the experts.’ ”[Valentine, pp 78-79]
“During the last week in April  a retired CIA officer named Tucker Gougelmann [sic], who had previously worked in Saigon, returned to look for Vietnamese friends, somehow missed the final helo-lift, and was later captured by the North Vietnamese. Interrogated by the Soviet KGB and other intelligence organizations, he died in captivity a year later. What he disclosed under questioning has not been determined. His knowledge of CIA operations and personnel both in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia was considerable.” [p. 567 Frank Snepp, Decent Interval, Random House, ]
“The maritime project [of OPLAN 34A] had to be organized from scratch. American purchasing agents acquired a small fleet of Norwegian-built patrol boats-aluminum craft dubbed Swifts and Nasties, armed with automatic weapons and light cannon, and capable of speeds exceeding fifty knots. Their South Vietnamese crews were trained at Danang by U.S. naval teams: Seals. The principle advisor engaged in the operation was a tough CIA soldier of fortune, Tucker Gougelmann [sic]. A former Marine officer, severely wounded in the Pacific campaign during World War II, he had conducted covert missions in Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, and Korea before moving to Vietnam. There he adopted the children of his Vietnamese mistress, and his attachment to them was to cost him his life. In the spring of 1975, shortly after Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, he secretly went back into Vietnam from Bangkok in an attempt to rescue the family. The communists arrested him, and he died in captivity. His remains, returned to the United States two years later, were buried in Arlington National Cemetery.” [p. 365 Stanley Karnow, Vietnam, A History, NY, 1983]
Gougleman was transferred to New Delhi in 1966. [Valentine p. 103]
[Gougleman reappears in S.E. Asia in 1975] “Knowing the country (S. Vietnam) was doomed, Tucker Gougleman wrote a letter to a friend on April 13 , spelling out his plans to rescue his family. Posted from Bangkok, where he managed Associated Consultants Limited, Gougleman’s letter told how he planned his ‘extraction from Phu Quoc Island to Trat near Chantaburi on the southernmost part of the Thai east coast.’Gougleman commented on the ‘totally undependable ARVN and its ‘cruel perpetrations on civilian refugees....’ He closed the letter with ‘C’est la fucking vie.’ ” [Valentine pp. 417-418]
Re: The PTF’s: see, Norman Friedman, U.S. Small Combatants, Naval Institute Press
PTFs 3-16 Norwegian NASTYs by Boatservice, Ltd A/S, Mandel, Norway.Same as “Tjeld” class boats.
PTF 3 and 4 delivered to U.S. December 1962.
PTFs 17-22 by John Trumpy & Sons, Annapolis (1967-68).
PTFs 22-26 by Stewart Seacraft, Louisiana
Re: Psychological Warfare:
“Before McNamara’s order the CIA had begun work on psychological operations....In March 1963, Special Forces soldiers under the CIA reopened a rudimentary camp in Long Thanh, twenty kilometers east of Saigon, to continue training Vietnamese to infiltrate into North Vietnam.
Training concentrated on Special Forces skills, especially night airborne jumping for men embarking on northern infiltrations. Beginning in September 1963, they also trained two companies of Vietnamese troops destined for Operation 34-Alpha, a campaign of border control and maritime harassment, including shellings, commando landings, and sabotage of North Vietnamese coastal communities that would commence in 1964.But the CIA also added an element of psychological warfare to the training. Infiltrations into the North had failed dismally, and the CIA and its military advisors recognized that the South Vietnamese lacked patriotic motivation. No rigid loyalty, like that of the North Vietnamese for Ho Chi Minh, existed, and the repressive, anti-Communist regime of Ngo Dinh Diem provided little inspiration.
In an effort to develop team loyalty, the CIA reached back to an old Vietnamese legend* to create the Sacred Sword Patriots League. This patriotic ‘front’ emulated the National Liberation Front’s methods with daily courses of political indoctrination against communism and sessions of self-criticism. ‘We were trying to generate confidence for them to operate in a hostile environment. We oriented them on the beginning of a new era in North and South Vietnam,’ said one American. ‘We hoped we could develop an esprit, a devotion to a cause, a loyalty. Trainees at Long Thanh were inducted into the league with great ceremony. But disappointment again followed. For all the Sacred Sword flourishes, infiltrations into the North produced no dramatic successes. The Sacred Sword Patriots League nonetheless remained in the psyops arsenal. It would later be used in an attempt to rally a North Vietnamese-based resistance movement against the Hanoi government’ ” [Terrence Maitland chapter, “Covert Action, Hidden War,” in Raising the Stakes, Robert Manning (editor), Boston Publishing Company, 1982, pp.132-133]
See John L. Plaster, Sog, the Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1997. [photo copy of pp. 116-119 attached. This is potboiler of a book, but Plaster gives one of the first published views of the fantasy island activities going on in the CIA Sacred Sword League camp on Lao Cham island, off Da Nang.