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ESTIMATES GOING FORWARD MACV’s estimate for total enemy military forces grew from 214,135 in June 1968 to 251,455 in October.1 Perhaps Commander Meacham’s statements about the dishonesty of strength reporting over the preceding months, presented to the head of CICV both orally and in writing in early July,2 had a greater impact than could reasonably have been expected. Perhaps Daniel Graham’s departure from Vietnam in August made it easier to increase the MACV estimates. Perhaps the experience of months of heavy combat against enemy forces that were stronger than the estimates said they were had taught MACV a lesson about underestimating enemy strength. And perhaps the fact that the strength estimates were no longer being briefed to the press on a regular basis allowed them to become more realistic. But these estimates were still below the real level of enemy strength, and in the overall American intelligence community, MACV’sˆ˜yÕi˜ViÊÜ>ÃÊà Àˆ˜Žˆ˜}Ê>˜`ÊÌ iÊ ½ÃÊÜ>ÃÊ}ÀœÜˆ˜}°Ê/ iÊ ]ʈ˜Ê«>À̈VÕlar , stopped endorsing MACV figures in which its analysts did not believe. In November 1968, the DIA and CIA agreed that the number of PAVN troops in South Vietnam was far higher than MACV figures showed.3 When a new SNIE was written in 1969, MACV’s figures were simply ignored. The MACV OB Summary for March 1969 gave total enemy strength as 228,975. The new SNIE said that in that month the Communists had had 285,000 to 375,000 personnel in the categories covered by the MACV OB Summary plus 80,000 to 120,000 Self-Defense forces and 10,000 to 20,000 Assault Youth. The biggest difference was in PAVN chapter ten 10 AFTERMATH, LESSONS, AND QUESTIONS 208 CHAPTER TEN Administrative Services units, listed at 4,350 in the OB Summary and 25,000 to 30,000 in the SNIE.4 As noted in Chapter 4, MACV probably would not have suffered serious political repercussions if its claims about enemy weakness had been only a few months ahead of reality. But its claims were premature by very wide margins. MACV claimed in January 1968 to have reduced Communist force strength to a level that, according to its own retroactive figures, was not actually reached until 1971. It would be foolish to place complete trust in MACV’s retroactive figures for enemy strength. But the retroactive figures compiled in mid-1972, just before the shortage of personnel in the OB Branch (caused by the overall withdrawal of US military personnel from Vietnam) became so acute as to cause carelessness in its reports, are the most reliable strength figures MACV ever published. For January 1968, when the contemporary MACV estimate of enemy military strength in South Vietnam had been 225,346, the retroactive MACV estimates show a strength of 287,465. From this point, the retroactive figures declined gradually, reaching a low of 250,895 for December 1968 but then bouncing back to 263,975 for March 1969. At that point, the decline resumed, and the figure went down to 238,167 for December 1969 and 225,743 for December 1970. For February 1971, the figure was 224,264, for the first time dipping below the level of the contemporary estimate for January 1968. It reached a low of 209,836 in February 1972 but then began to grow again as Hanoi sent new PAVN units southward in preparation for the Easter Offensive.5 The last estimate that the OB Branch issued before it was disbanded late in 1972 stated that as of September 30, 1972, the Communist military forces in South Vietnam had a total strength of 227,664. Of these, 100,964 were in PAVN units and 126,700 were in Viet Cong units, but 19,000 to 21,000 of the members of Viet Cong units were believed actually to be North Vietnamese. The Combat units were estimated at 140,166, of whom 89,834 were in PAVN units and 50,332 were in Viet Cong units.6 Intelligence estimates for enemy strength in January 1973, published by Colonel William E. Le Gro, show a slightly lower proportion: 148,000 regular combat troops, of whom 25,000, or 17 percent, were southerners.7 Neither set of figures fits the claims that southerners were not significant participants in the Communist war effort after 1968. The MACV retroactive figures for the Communists’ regular combat AFTERMATH, LESSONS, AND QUESTIONS 209 ÃÌÀi˜}Ì Ê­*6 Ê>˜`Ê6ˆiÌÊ œ˜}ÊVœ“Lˆ˜i`®Êà œÜÊ>“>∘}ÞʏˆÌ̏iÊyÕVÌÕ>tion , indeed so...


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MARC Record
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