Tuesday, February 20, 1968
SUBJECT: Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Tactics and Strategy for the Tet
General Offensive
The following information was received from interrogation of a
Viet Cong prisoner
General Nguyen Chi Thanh was recalled
to Hanoi because of the failure of his strategy in South Vietnam. General
Vo Nguyen Giap revised the new strategy, which was to be carried out
in three phases, with the ultimate aim of forcing the Government of
Vietnam to accept a coalition government with the National Liberation
Front. Phase 1 called for a general offensive against the cities. If
this failed, Viet Cong troops during Phase 2 would besiege the cities and,
at the same time, lure U.S. troops into the Khe Sanh area. Phase 3,
which was expected to coincide with the establishment of a coalition
government, would involve a decisive battle in the Kontum-Pleiku or
Saigon area. In support of this new strategy, the North Vietnamese/Viet
Cong planned to increase activities in southern Laos to permit the
infiltration into South Vietnam of most Regular North Vietnamese Army
units. The latter would try to avoid pitched battles with U.S. troops and,
instead, to confine them in their bases. End Summary.
During 1967, the Viet Cong acted as though they were weakening
in order to mislead the Government of Vietnam and its allies. In reality,
men and weapons were moved in South Vietnam in considerable quantity.
The Viet Cong anticipated that the U.S. would increase its strength in
South Vietnam during the summer of 1968 and they wanted to increase
their own strength first. The Viet Cong also planned to put the greatest
possible pressure on the U.S. during 1968, the year of the U.S.
Presidential elections.

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General Nguyen Chi Thanh had been recalled to North Vietnam because of
the failure of his strategy, quoted General Vo Nguyen Giap as having.
said that the South Vietnamese battlefield had to be reconsidered because
Thanh had made a mistake in applying the strategy of occupying rural areas,
establishing organization in those areas and trying to hold on to them.
This had resulted in Viet Cong troops being eliminated by Government of
Vietnam troops and B-52 bombers. delegations
from Communist China, North Korea and Cuba had visited the South
Vietnamese battlefields and, upon returning to North Vietnam, had
reported unfavorably on the situation in South Vietnam.
Giap had also said there had to be
an acid test prior to negotiations.
the following factors were taken into consideration
in planning the new strategy for South Vietnam.
A. Coordination between Allied and Government of Vietnam troops
was loose and Allied troops only tried to protect their own bases.
B. Government of Vietnam troops were widely scattered because
of their use in the rural reconstruction program and could, therefore, easily
be separated and destroyed. The U.S. would support Government of Vietnam
troops only with air and artillery, not with infantry troops.
On the basis of these factors and the failure of Thanh's strategy.
the following new three-phase strategy was formulated:
A. Phase 1: Attacks on, and protection of, rural areas would
be limited. At an opportune time, a general offensive against South
Vietnamese cities would be launched. Except in important cities like
Saigon and Hue, only one half of available forces, namely, the local combat

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experienced units, would be committed. This general offensive would
cause the Government of Vietnam troops to pull back to protect the
cities, leaving the rural areas to the Viet Cong. Thus the Viet Cong
would achieve a complete victory in the rural areas without the necessity
of fighting there.
E. Phase 2: If the general offensive should fail, Viet Cong troops
would retreat and surround the cities and villages to crease an intense
and serious situation and to exhaust the economy. At the same time,
the Viet Cong would use decoy tactics to lure as many U.S. troops as
possible into the Khe Sanh area, thus reducing U.S. strength in other
C. Phase 3: Because of the pressures generated by Phase 2,
the Government of Vietnam would probably agree to accept a coalition
government with the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam.
Simultaneously with the demand for a coalition government, North Vietnam
would launch a decisive battle with a view to providing political support
to the Front element in such a Government. This battle would occur in
either the Kontum-Plaiku area or the area around Saigon.
was positive about these two locations because during
lectures given in November-December 1967,
said that the Saigon battle area (i.e., Binh Long, Phuoc Long, Phuoc Tuy,
Bian Hoa. Tay Ninh and Gia Dinh provinces) would be an important battlefield
because of the proximity of the supply route from Cambodia.
went on to say that if the B3 Front were chosen, the Viet
Cong would fight only in Kontum and Pleiku provinces because of the strong
U.S./Government of Vietnam forces in those areas and because the North
Vietnamese High Command could easily support that area across the
Laotian/Vietnamese border.)
in order to carry out the new strategy, it was planned
that all activities in the southern part of Laos would be increased so that
most regular North Vietnamese Army units other than coastal defense
units, anti-aircraft units and units guarding important installations, could
infiltrate into South Vietnam. All forces would be used to attack U.S.
troops and to lure them to the Khe Sanh area and away from the decisive
battle areas. although in the past, Viet Cong/North
Vietnamese Army troops had fought against U.S. troops, the new surprise
strategy required them to avoid such combat and to try only to besiege and
hold U.S. troops in defensive positions at their bases.

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told him during December 1967 that
the U.S. Government had requested the Government of Vietnam
to accept a coalition government with the National Front for the Liberation
of South Vietnam but that the Government of Vietnam had refused.
The U.S., said, wants to bring the war to an honorable end in
1968. It also wants to resolve the problem of the almost 1,000 pilots
captured by North Vietnam. Both the U.S. and North Vietnam,
continued, realize that neither side can win the war and they, therefore,
both want a coalition government as a means of ending the conflict.