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In any event, Phoenix advisers found themselves caught in the middle of intrigues beyond their comprehension. Woefully unprepared, they stood between their Vietnamese army and police counterparts; their CIA and U.S. Army superiors; and the GVN and the sect or opposition political party in their area of operation. Everything was expected of them, but in reality, very little was possible.

Shedding light on the problems of Phoenix advisers is Ed Brady, a slender Army officer who served his first tour in Vietnam in 1965 as an adviser to the Twenty-second Ranger Battalion in Pleiku. After that, Brady volunteered for another tour and was assigned as a Regional and Popular Forces adviser in Da Lat, where he learned about the connection between politics and the black market in Vietnam.

"Both the VC and the ARVN tried to avoid military operations in Da Lat," Brady told me, adding that as part of the modus vivendi, it was "a neutral city where you could have meetings and where financial transactions could take place, legal and illegal. It was a place where the VC could raise and wash and change money. It was sort of what Geneva was like in World War Two.

There were many businesses in the province, like woodcutting, rubber and tea plantations, and the ngoc mom [fish sauce] industry. All were sources of money for the VC and the GVN." [7]

In Da Lat Brady worked with CIA Province Officer Peter Scove, who introduced him to Ted Serong, who at the time was handing over control of the Field Police to Pappy Grieves. "I was learning a lot," Brady said. "I learned Vietnamese from the officer I was working with ... the words that dealt with money and corruption. Then Serong asked me if I would be willing to go on loan to his team. They had a new kind of platoon ... that they wanted to train in small-unit tactics. More like guerrilla warfare than what the police did. And would I be willing to train this platoon because he didn't think that the Australian warrant officers he had there were the right people?"

Brady agreed and spent the next few months at the Field Police center, training what turned out to be "the first experimental PRU team in Tuyen Duc Province ... recruited by the CIA to be the action arm of the province officer."

The platoon had four squads, two composed of Nungs and two of Montagnards. "They couldn't speak to each other." There were also squad leaders and a platoon commander, all of whom were South Vietnamese Special Forces officers, none of whom could speak Montagnard or Nung or English either.

"It was really the strangest thing you ever saw," Brady said. "And I taught them small-unit tactics."

As was generally the case, Brady's association with the CIA spelled trouble for his military career. "I had a lot of problems with my sector boss over these activities," he told me. "He thought I should eat in the sector house with the rest of the team, not with the Aussies and CIA people. I also spent most of my off time with Vietnamese officers in their homes, in bars, doing the things they did. I rented a house on my own, lived off the economy, learned how you buy your jobs, and met a lot of general officers' mistresses who liked to come to Da Lat for the weather. The American colonel I worked for thought this was atrocious, and I got a zero on my performance report."

Having been suborned by the CIA, enticed by the Vietnamese, and excommunicated by the Army, Brady -- whose family was connected to a powerful U.S. senator and the III Corps commander -- was reassigned to the Vietnamese Joint General Staff (JGS), "in their command center. We were a division of the MACV Combat Operations Center. The main purpose of this group was to collect data on Vietnamese operations and feed it to the MACV so it could be reported to Washington."

"General Cao Van Vien was commander of the Joint Staff," Brady continued, "and these guys were his operations staff. They traveled to every major Vietnamese battle to find out what happened -- they placed no reliance on any official message -- and I went on every one of those trips. I met all the key commanders. Plus which I was moving in Vietnamese social circles."

Brady became friends with General Vien's executive officer and with the JGS operations chief, Major General Tran Tran Phong. "And for some reason," he added, "a number of the ranger officers and people I knew in Da Lat had moved into key positions in Thieu's administration. They had sort of been in exile when I met them -- you didn't get assigned to a ranger outfit because you were in good graces with the administration ... -- but later they showed up in Saigon. And I had a great bond with them. I'd been in combat and brothels with them. But they were now full colonels. And I met many of their bosses, who were generals in powerful positions."

When Brady's tour at the JGS ended, the CIA station asked him to capitalize on his well-placed connections and report on what he learned about GVN plans and strategies. Brady agreed, and was assigned to the Phoenix Directorate as a cover for his espionage activities. "Somebody called me up one day and said, 'We're starting a new organization, and we'd like you to consider joining it.' This was ICEX. So I went over there ... and spent a couple hours talking to Evan Parker. He said,

'We're interested in targeted operations against the civilian part of the Communist party. The main force war doesn't address the real problem ... the shadow government.'

And I was ready for that -- psychologically and emotionally. Everything I knew said, 'That's exactly right.'

"ICEX was to work with the Special Branch," Brady continued, "which set up a separate building in the National Police compound to be the Phung Hoang Central Office. They detailed mostly Special Branch policemen to work there, but there were a few military officers and a few National Police officers to round out the staff. Their office was only two months old when I arrived. There were a couple of CIA advisers down there to be the people who worked with them. Joe Sartiano was the senior CIA guy down in the Phung Hoang Central Office. And me and Bob Inman were down there from the Phoenix operations section."

The Phoenix assignment put Brady in close contact with Dang Van Minh, Duong Than Huu, and Lieutenant Colonel Loi Nguyen Tan. About his relationship with Tan, Brady said, "Since Colonel Tan was a military officer, we knew people in common, so there was an immediate rapport. Tan was very friendly, very easy to talk to. But he was not, from an American point of view, demanding. We would go out on inspection teams together, to operations centers, and he'd have a discussion with the chief.

Meanwhile, his Vietnamese subordinate and I pored through the dossiers, looked at their procedures and what operations they had run recently. And a lot of it was a sham -- a facade that they were meeting the letter of the law. So they had a hundred dossiers. Big deal! Seventy-five had nothing in them. Fifteen of the other twenty-five had a couple of newspaper clippings from the local newspaper about the VC district chief. But they had no real intelligence, no real targeted operations that they were setting up or running.

And Tan would never crack down on them or lean on them in some way that was acceptable to us from the West.

"Now in Vietnamese he would make a few remarks to them: 'You really ought to try to do better.' And when he got back, he'd file a report that this place was not in very good shape. But he didn't say, 'Damn it, I'm going to be back here in three weeks and you'd better have something going by then!' That's why it's difficult to say if he was effective."

Brady, who has deep affection for the Vietnamese, explained why their approach to Phoenix was at odds with the one pressed by Evan Parker: "If you really want to get down to cases, no Vietnamese of any significance in the military or in the police didn't know who the truly high-level people were -- the district chiefs and the province chiefs. Let me give you an example. Colonel Tan and Mr. Huu and I were eating in a market stall up near the border in Three Corps. The place was a hotbed of VCI support for NVA units.

There was lots of money flowing there, donated by French rubber plantation owners without much coercion. They didn't like the GVN.

Anyway, this woman comes in. She's got three or four kids, the youngest is maybe two, the oldest about seven. And Tan says to me, 'You see this woman?' We're there eating soup and drinking Vietnamese coffee. She's there feeding her kids at a nearby table in the market stall.

"I say, 'Yeah.'

"He says, 'You know who she is? She's the province chief's wife.'

"I looked around and said, 'I don't see the province chief. You're telling me there's an honest province chief, and his wife doesn't own a jeep and go around collecting money all day?'

"No, no," he says. "The VC province chief."

"So, being young and naive, I say, 'Well, look at how many young kids she has. She either goes to see him, or he comes to see her. Or she's got a lover.'

"He says, 'Right.' But they are his kids. They even look like him.

"So I say, 'Well, he must come in to see her, then, or she goes to see him.' I'm really excited. I say, 'This is something we can really work with.'

"He says, 'You don't understand. You don't live the way we live. You don't have any family here. You're going to go home when this operation is over with. You don't think like you're going to live here forever. But I have a home and a family and kids that go to school. I have a wife that has to go to market .... And you want me to go kill his wife? You want me to set a trap for him and kill him when he comes in to see his wife? If we do that, what are they going to do to our wives?'

"How many wives were ever killed?" Brady asked rhetorically. "Zero -- unless they happened to drive over a land mine, and then it was a random death. The VC didn't run targeted operations against them either.

There were set rules that you played by. If you went out and conducted a military operation and you chased them down fair and square in the jungle and you had a fight, that was okay. If they ambushed you on the way back from a military operation, that was fair. But to conduct these clandestine police operations and really get at the heart of things, that was kind of immoral to them. That was not cricket. And the Vietnamese were very, very leery of upsetting that."

Likewise, as Tran Van Truong notes in A Vietcong Memoir: "Thieu's chief of psywar hid in his own house a sister-in-law who was the Vietcong cadre in charge of the Hue People's Uprising Committee. Neither had any particular love for their enemies, but family loyalty they considered sacrosanct." [8]

"Atrocities happened," Brady said. "Those things happened by individual province officers or people who worked for them and the PRUs .... It happened in the U.S. units.

My Lai happened. No matter what anybody says about 'it didn't happen,' it did happen. I've watched people torch Montagnard villages for no real reason except they were frustrated by not being able to catch the VC.

And the Montagnards must have known about the VC, which I believe they did. But we didn't have to burn their houses."

When asked if Phoenix encouraged atrocities, Brady answered that it depended on whether or not the PRU and the PICs were defined as part of Phoenix. "If you want to say that all the intelligence activities that were supposed to be coordinated by Phoenix are a part of Phoenix, then yes," Brady said. "But if you want to say, 'Did Phoenix go do these things?,' then my answer is no. Because Phoenix was too inactive, too incompetent, and too passive. Now, Phoenix should have been doing many more things directly, and if it had, then my belief is that Phoenix would have perpetrated some atrocities, because they would have been in the position these other people were in, where they were frustrated, they were angry, and they would have done some things.

"Furthermore," Brady added, "you can make the case that Phoenix was helping to repress the loyal opposition political parties and prevented a neutral Vietnam from occurring. The Vietnamese said that, because the Special Branch guy who planned the operation to nullify their political operations was also running Phoenix operations .... So it depends on how you want to interpret the data and how you want to say things were connected together .... I'd say either of those interpretations are valid.

"I think the director of Phoenix never planned such things," Brady concluded in defense of Evan Parker and American policy in general. But he also said,

"Yes, people assigned to Phoenix did such things."

CHAPTER 17: Accelerated Pacification

The election of Richard Nixon in November 1968 signaled a shift in U.S. policy in Vietnam. Reflecting the desire of most Americans, in the wake of Tet, for an honorable withdrawal,

the policy balanced negotiations with the bombing of North Vietnam. Called the Nixon Doctrine, the policy had as its premise that the United States has a moral obligation to support foreign governments fighting Communist insurgents, on the condition that those governments supply their own cannon fodder.

Shortly after taking office, Nixon instructed his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, to start negotiating with the North Vietnamese in Paris. On the assumptions that Tet had dealt the VCI a deathblow and that the Thieu regime was firmly in control of the country, Nixon began planning for troop reductions. Following in the footsteps of the French, U.S. forces began a gradual retreat to coastal enclaves. And

MACV, under General William Westmoreland's replacement, General Creighton Abrams, prepared to fight a sanctuary war based on CIA estimates that forty thousand NVA soldiers hunkered down in Cambodia constituted the major outside threat to the Thieu regime. The bombing of these potential invaders began in February 1969, with the consent of Cambodia's Prince Norodom Sihanouk, whose agents provided the Special Operations Group (SOG) with information on the location of enemy forces, many of which were located in densely populated areas. Conducted in secret, the illegal raids into Cambodia were revealed in May 1969 and resulted in increased opposition to U.S. government conduct in Southeast Asia.

The Nixon Doctrine as applied in Vietnam was called Vietnamization, and the man upon whom the mantle of Vietnamization fell was William Colby

, godfather of the Covert Action program that had set the stage for American intervention ten years earlier. In November 1968 Colby was appointed DEPCORDS, replacing Democratic party loyalist Robert Komer, whom President Johnson had named U.S. ambassador to Turkey. Colby reported to Henry Kissinger, who supported Colby's ambitious pacification program, geared to facilitate Vietnamization.

Colby subdivided his pacification plan into three main categories, beginning with military security, which he called "the first step in the pacification and development process" -- in other words, borrowed from Nelson Brickham, "shielding the population from the Communist main forces," a job which "is the task of the Vietnamese regular forces." [1]

Often generated by Phoenix intelligence, the resulting air raids, artillery barrages, and search and destroy operations were an integral part of pacification, insofar as they created defectors, prevented guerrillas from assembling in large concentrations, and, by creating refugees, separated the fish from the water.

Part II of Colby's strategy was territorial security, the 1969 manifestation of Revolutionary Development, in which the Regional and Popular Forces -- thereafter called Territorial Security Forces -- were advised by U.S. Army mobile advisory teams (MATs) under the auspices of CORDS. In combating C guerrilla units and the VCI, Territorial Security Forces were assisted by the People's Self-Defense Forces.

In a Defense Department report titled A Systems Analysis of the Vietnam War 1965-1972, Thomas Thayer says that as of 1968,

"The Revolutionary Development program had significant problems in recruiting and retaining high quality personnel." The RD Cadre desertion rate was over 20 percent, "higher than for any GVN military force, perhaps because they have a 30% better chance of being killed than the military forces."

Thayer notes that in response, the RD ministry had directed its cadre "to concentrate on building hamlet security and to defer, at least temporarily, the hamlet development projects which formerly constituted six of the teams' eleven RD tasks." [2]

Under these revised guidelines, providing intelligence to Phoenix replaced "nation building" as the RD program's top priority.

Reflecting this change, the RD Cadre program was incorporated within the CORDS Pacification Security Coordination Division

in November 1968, at which point MACV officers and USAID employees moved in to manage the program, bringing about, according to Robert Peartt and Jim Ward, a decline in performance and morale.

In line with Lou Lapham's redirection of the station away from paramilitary operations back toward classic intelligence functions, the CIA's role in RD diminished, although it continued to skim off whatever strategic intelligence was produced. As Peartt noted, the station was "interested in going after region people, and would get involved at that point in RDC/O operations." [3] To a lesser degree, the CIA's PRU program was also affected.

"The agency made a decision," John Wilbur said, "to get their ass out of Vietnam as fast as they could, for all the reasons Kinloch Bull foretold. It was losing control ... diluting its cadre ... being misdirected. It had become the sponsoring agency for a hodgepodge thing, and Phoenix was going to be the mechanism by which it was going to withdraw its control and sponsorship ... and transition it over to the military. And that ... meant that the PRU were no longer going to be the CIA's exclusive boys, which foretold a real human crisis in the units." [4] Their "elan and morale had been carefully nurtured," Wilbur explained. "We protected them from the dilution of control ... from the province chiefs and battalion commanders. We insulated them from being used for whatever multiple good and bad reasons other people wanted to use them for. We would pay them a little better, we would take care of their dependents, and we would provide them with the best military support there was." That, according to Wilbur, motivated them to "go out and do the things they did."

But, he added, "they had incurred a lot of resentment by the Vietnamese to whom they had previously been untouchable .... The leadership levels were marked men among many Vietnamese political forces."

And as soon as the Vietnamese got control in the summer of 1968, "everybody started messing with them." The PRU began to be used as bagmen.

"I was hurt in the last attack on Can Tho," Wilbur continued, "and when I got back [from the hospital], my replacement had already arrived ... and I spent most of the next six weeks introducing Chuck [Lieutenant Commander Charles Lemoyne] to the provinces, to all the hundreds of people he would have to deal with." At that point Wilbur went home, where he remained until May 1968, when the CIA asked him to return to Vietnam to help Bill Redel "develop a national PRU unit which was targeted to recover American POWs in South Vietnam. It was the only thing that seemed worth fighting for," Wilbur said, so he accepted the job. He was transferred to a naval security group, assigned to MACV, given an office (formerly occupied by Joe Vacarro) on the second floor of USAID II, and went to work for Redel.

"We were going to set up a unit that would go around the provinces and try to collate whatever extant information there was, and in the event there was something that indicated [a POW camp] was there, we would try to put an in-place person, or try to develop ... somebody to deal with an agent in place, and then gather the intelligence sufficiently to mount some sort of rescue operation."

But the rescue program was scuttled, and Wilbur instead got the job of transferring management of the PRU to the Vietnamese. He was introduced to Special Forces Mayor Nguyen Van Lang, [i] the first PRU national commander, and they began traveling around the country together. " And it became very apparent when I showed up with a Vietnamese colonel ... what was going to happen. It meant the military, and that meant that the leadership elements of the PRU were in jeopardy of maintaining allegiance -- they weren't colonels and majors and captains."

Wilbur sighed and said forlornly, "The fact that there was no national overlay allowed the CIA to maintain autonomy over the PRU program longer than they would have otherwise." But by the summer of 1968 "The official word had to go out that the PRU was becoming part of the Phoenix program: 'We're going to lose control. Get ready for the transition.'

"It was the dissolution of American protection of the units that was mandated in our withdrawal," Wilbur explained, "that corrupted the quality of control, which in turn allowed the PRU to be turned into a department store. And I became an agent of that. I was going to try to convince people to give up control of the PRU, after I had spent all this time arguing for its insulation and control and independence."


To effect territorial security, Colby intended "to get weapons into the hands of the Vietnamese villagers, so they could participate in their own defense" and to provide "funds to the elected village leaders to carry out local development programs."

[5] The mechanism for this was Ralph Johnson's village chief program at Vung Tau, about which Professor Huy writes: "[A]fter 1968, when Thieu succeeded to restore security in the countryside, several province and district chiefs used fraud and threats to put their men in the village and hamlet councils. These men were often the children of rich people living in cities. They needed the title of 'elected representatives of the population' to enjoy a temporary exemption from military service, and their parents were ready to pay a high price for their selection as village councilors. Thus, even the fiercely anti-Communist groups became bitter and resentful against Thieu." [6]

That brings us to Part III of Colby's plan, internal security, otherwise known as Phoenix, the two-track CIA program to destroy the VCI and ensure the political stability of the Thieu regime by insulating him from the backlash of his repressive policies.

As it was in the beginning, the pacification purpose of Phoenix was to weaken the link between the "people" and the VCI, while the political-level Phoenix was designed to exploit that link.

To implement his plan, Colby forged ahead with a three-month stand-up program dubbed the accelerated pacification campaign (APC).

Begun in November 1968, APC was designed to bolster Kissinger's negotiating position in Paris by boosting the GVN presence in the hamlets, and was expected to show its effect by Tet [of 1969].

The goal was to add twelve hundred hamlets to the five thousand already classified under the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) as "relatively secure." Afterward APC was to be followed by an annual "full year pacification and development program." To facilitate this process, Colby created the Central Pacification and Development Council as his personal staff and private conduit to Tran Thien Khiem, who replaced Tran Van Huong as prime minister in August 1969.

Said Evan Parker about his patron William Colby: "The interesting thing was his relationship with Khiem ... they would travel around the countryside in the same plane, each sitting there with his briefcase and a stack of working papers, writing like mad, answering memoranda, writing memoranda, passing memorandum back and forth .... There's your coordination on this stuff -- one of them or both would use his authority to support what I was asking the Vietnamese to do."

To assist him on the council, Colby hired Clayton McManaway as program manager; Tony Allito for HES reports; Harry "Buzz" Johnson for territorial security; and Ev Bumgartner and Frank Scotton for political liaison. With his personal staff in tow, Colby spent two days each week canvassing the provinces, bringing pressure to bear on people in the field, and promoting the accelerated pacification campaign.

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