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The result was two VCI captured. One was the district party chief; the other was the chief of the local NLF farmers' association. Both were sent to the interrogation center in Da Nang. Eight other targeted VCI were killed or escaped. Two fifty-nine-member Revolutionary Development teams stayed behind to assert the GVN's presence, but within a month they were driven out of town and Thuong Xa reverted to Vietcong control. As Milberg observes, "Even with this unusual amount of coordination, the fact that the village reverted to communist control and known members of the VCI escaped strongly suggests that the operation failed as a future model for counterinsurgency operations." [7]

Perhaps the inhabitants of Thuong Xa resisted the intrusion into their village because they feared Vietcong reprisals. Or maybe they really did support the Vietcong. In either case, the point is the same.

Even under ideal conditions Phoenix operations failed where the Vietnamese were determined to resist. Where ideal conditions did not exist -- where Vietnamese officials were included in the planning of operations and where U.S. military officers replaced CIA officers as Phoenix coordinators -- the program failed to an even greater degree.

***

In early 1968 each of the CIA's region officers in charge was assigned a military intelligence officer, either a major or a lieutenant colonel, to serve as his Phoenix coordinator. In IV Corps the job was given to Lieutenant Colonel Doug Dillard, an easygoing Georgian who, at sixteen, lied about his age, enlisted in the Eighty-second Airborne Brigade, and fought in World War II. After the war Dillard became a commissioned officer, and in Korea he served in the Combined Command for Reconnaissance Activity, which, under CIA auspices, coordinated special operations behind enemy lines. Dillard gained further espionage experience in the late 1950's as a case officer in Germany running agent operations in conjunction with the Army's attaché office and the CIA. After a stint teaching airborne and amphibious "offensive" counterintelligence operations at Fort Holabird, Dillard was made deputy chief of intelligence at the Continental Army Command, where he trained and deployed "practically every army intelligence unit that went to Vietnam." [8]

Speaking in a drawl, Dillard told me, "I went over to Vietnam in February 1968 as the Phoenix coordinator for Four Corps, reporting to the CIA's region officer in charge. Branch called me and said, 'We have what we consider a critical requirement. We can't discuss it over the phone -- it's classified -- but you'll find out what it is when you get there.'

"So," Dillard continued, "when I arrived in Saigon, I immediately contacted several of my friends. One, Colonel Russ Conger,

the senior adviser in Phong Dinh Province, gave me some tips on getting different agencies to cooperate and on overcoming the terrorist psychology in the villages and hamlets

. He also informed me that there were many people around who felt Phoenix was a threat to them -- to their power base. " In other words, military officers commanding units in the field "considered Phoenix, on occasion, as getting in their way and inhibiting resources they could otherwise use for their own operations."

Right away Dillard understood that his job would be to bridge the gap, so that conventional military forces could be made available for unconventional Phoenix operations planned by the CIA. But he also sensed another problem festering beneath the surface. "It's kind of in conflict to our culture and experience over the years," he explained, "to take a U.S. Army element -- whatever it may be -- and direct it not only toward the military and paramilitary enemy forces but also toward the civilians that cooperate with them."

General Bruce Palmer, commander of the U.S. Ninth Infantry Division in 1968, put it more bluntly. "My objection to the program," he wrote in a letter to the author, "was the involuntary assignment of U.S. Army officers to the program. I don't believe that people in uniform, who are pledged to abide by the Geneva Conventions, should be put in the position of having to break those laws of warfare." [9]

Most military officers, however, resented Phoenix on other than legal grounds. The notion of attacking an elusive and illusionary civilian infrastructure was anathema to conventional warriors looking for spectacular main force battles. For an ambitious officer assigned to Phoenix, "the headlines would not be very impressive in terms of body counts, weapons captured, or some other measure of success," as Warren Milberg notes. In addition, Phoenix coordinators were merely advisers to their counterparts, not commanders in the field.

After being informally briefed by his friends, Dillard reported to the Phoenix Directorate, which "represented the program at the national level, ensuring that we got the kind of personnel and logistical support we felt we needed." However, because of the staff's "very narrow administrative type of intelligence background," it did not "understand how the program was going to develop. As the ICEX program," Dillard explained, "it was run directly at the province level, principally by the agency. But Parker's staff didn't grasp that when MACV took over and fleshed out Phoenix with hundreds of military officers and money, it really was a joint operation -- that CIA was a supporter and partial sponsor, but really MACV had to account for it. This is how it evolved."

While the Saigon staff was content to view Phoenix as a CIA subsidiary, Dillard set about asserting MACV's presence in Phoenix operations in the Delta -- a task made easier by the relative absence of regular military units and by Dillard's engaging personality and wide experience in command, staff, and operational positions. Ultimately, though, Dillard's leverage was logistics.

"As a matter of protocol between itself and the CIA," Dillard explained, "MACV assumed half of the agency's operational expenses in support of Phoenix. For example, every time the agency's aircraft were used to support a Phoenix activity, technically it should have been charged against the fund allocation MACV had given to the Phoenix program. So when I found out about that, I contacted the Air America operations people in Four Corps and said, 'Just to keep everybody honest, I want a record of what you're charging for aircraft support against the Phoenix program.' And thereafter I tried to get air support from U.S. Army region headquarters at Can Tho, so I didn't have to squander MACV operational funds reimbursing the agency for use of its aircraft."

By protecting MACV's financial interests, Dillard won the support of IV Corps commander, General George Eckhardt. "Most of my work with the MACV staff was either with General Eckhardt directly, or with the intelligence chief, Colonel Ted Greyman," Dillard recalled. "Ted and I worked hand in hand coordinating the activity, and it paid off .... General Eckhardt and Colonel Greyman set aside for me a light gun platoon and six helicopter gunships to run Phoenix operations throughout the region." This contingent became "a regional reaction force to haul troops and provide fire support." With it, Dillard was able to provide the PRU with air mobility and thus get access to CIA intelligence in exchange.

Jim Ward spoke highly of Doug Dillard, saying, "He was assigned to me because they wanted the best man they could get down in the Delta." [10] The admiration was mutual. About Ward and his deputy, Andy Rogers, Dillard said, "They were great guys to work with. There was an immediate acceptance of my credentials." That was not always the case. But Dillard and Ward agreed on what constituted a legitimate Phoenix operation -- be it an ambush dreamed up at a DIOCC or a multiprovince operation concocted by the CIA -- and together they would push Phoenix beyond the narrow rifle shot parameters advocated by Robert Komer.

Dillard's liberal interpretation of Phoenix is partially the result of his perception of the "terrorist psychology" in Vietnam. "I arrived in Can Tho on a Friday afternoon," he recalled. "The two army sergeants that had come in to be my administrative assistants met me at the airport and took me over to the compound and settled me in the CIA's regional house, which was also being used by the local Phong Dinh Province CIA personnel. There was a vacant room, so I took it, and the next morning I reported in to Andy Rogers. I was given a little office with the two enlisted men [who] handled reports and requests from the field. I was also assigned a deputy, Major Keith Ogden.

"Anyway, I found out there was a helicopter going up to Chau Doc Province on the Cambodian border on Sunday morning, so I went up there. It was my first introduction to the real war .... It was right after Tet, and there was still a lot of activity. The young sergeant there, Drew Dix, had been in a little village early that morning .... The VC had come in and got a couple out that were accused of collaborating with the government, and they'd shot them in the ears. Their bodies were lying out on a cart. We drove out there, and I looked at that ... and I had my first awareness of what those natives were up against. Because during the night, the damn VC team would come in, gather all those villagers together, warn them about cooperating, and present an example of what happened to collaborators. They shot them in the ears on the spot.

"So I knew what my job was. I realized there was a tremendous psychological problem to overcome in getting that specific group of villagers to cooperate in the program. Because to me the Phoenix program was one requiring adequate, timely, and detailed information so we could intercept, make to defect, kill, maim, or capture the Vietcong guerrilla forces operating in our area. Or put a strike on them. If either through intercepting messages or capturing VCI, you could get information on some of the main force guerrilla battalion activity, you could put a B-fifty-two strike on them, which we did in Four Corps."

For Jim Ward, "intelligence was the most important part of Phoenix." Handling that task for Ward was "a regular staffer with the agency who worked full time on intelligence -- the real sensitive, important operations" -- meaning unilateral penetrations into the VCI and GVN. The staffer "had military people assigned to him," working as liaison officers in the provinces, as well as CIA, State Department, and USIS officers and policemen from the United States. His job was "making sure they were properly supervised." Of course, the station's special unit could abscond with any penetrations that had national significance.

At the other end of the spectrum, "the first and most important purpose of the DIOCC," according to Ward, "the one that got General Thanh behind Phoenix," was getting tactical military intelligence. When managed by a military officer, as they usually were, DIOCCs focused on this area, while the PIOCCs, where the CIA exerted greater influence, focused on the VCI.

According to Ward, when information generally obtained from interrogation centers or hamlet informants indicated that a person was a VCI, the CIA's liaison officer started a three-by-five card file on that person at the Province Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center, which was often located in the embassy house. When a second piece of information came in -- from the provincial reconnaissance units or the Regional and Popular Forces -- a folder was opened. After a third source had incriminated the suspect, he or she was targeted for penetration, defection, or capture and interrogation at the PIC, then turned over to the Province Security Committee with evidence for sentencing.

This was the rifle shot approach. But where large concentrations of people or security teams surrounded the targeted VCI, Jim Ward favored a variation on the cordon and search method employed by Brewer and Milberg in Quang Tri, "where you move in at three A.M., surround the entire area, and block everybody off." However, because Ward lacked the "troop density" enjoyed in I Corps, in his Phoenix operations he used light observation helicopters "to buzz the paddy fields to keep people from running off. You don't have enough men to cordon off an entire village when you have only a hundred PRU and two Americans," he said, the two Americans being the PRU adviser and the Phoenix coordinator.

Using this approach, which relied on surprise, Ward would conduct five operations in a day. "They would go in on one side of the village. The first outfit would jump off a helicopter with one adviser and set up a block. Then another helicopter would land a hundred yards further down. Then a third and a fourth, with the other U.S. adviser. These guys would branch out in a skirmish line and start moving into town. They would catch everybody with rifles stacked, unprepared. When a helicopter is coming in low," Ward explained, "you don't even hear it coming in your direction. All of a sudden there's a tremendous roar, and they see people landing in different places.

"The PRU knew exactly what to do," Ward continued. "They'd get all these people [VCI suspects] out in a larger helicopter and take them back to where the province chief could put them in a special stockade. Then they'd get Special Branch people going through identifying each one. Meanwhile, the PRU would reequip with more ammo and go to the next drop."

Ward's method closely resembled the hunter-killer technique developed in 1962 and detailed by Elton Manzione. Omitted from Ward's sanitized account, however, was what happened before the arrival of the killer team, when the hunter team "snatches and/or snuffs" the cadre. Ward also neglected to describe the conduct of the PRU.

"Sometimes we'd go out with a whole pack of mercenaries," recalled Mike Beamon. "They were very good going in, but once we got there and made our target, they would completely pillage the place .... It was a complete carnival ...." [11]

***


In balancing MACV's and the CIA's interests in Phoenix, Colonel Doug Dillard was destined to rain on somebody's parade. In IV Corps the man who got soaked was the regional Public Safety adviser, Del Spiers.

Dillard as the regional Phoenix coordinator had the job of bringing police resources to bear against the VCI. The idea was to prevent region officers in charge like Jim Ward and Bob Wall from using PRU as blocking forces during Phoenix operations, so the PRU would be available to conduct rifle shot operations. "Our concept," Dillard said, "was to put the Field Police in a location as a blocking force and let the PRUs do the dirty work."

In 1968, however, most province chiefs were still feeling the aftershocks of Tet and preferred to use the Field Police as bodyguards in the province capital. "Unless you had an effective Regional and Popular Forces organization at the district level," Dillard explained, "the only thing you had ... was the Field Police, and hell, he was guarding the province chief's house, not out trying to run operations in support of your activity."

Compounding the problem were the Public Safety advisers themselves, whom Dillard described as "principally responsible for getting new jeeps and radios and supplies and funds for the National Police. And that was about it. Their proclivity was to support the Field Police, as opposed to trying to see that force engaged in operations.

"As I began to get out in the provinces," Dillard continued, "it seemed the Public Safety adviser was never there. He was either en route to Saigon or coming back from Saigon. When I talked to the U.S. people in the province, they would say, 'Well, this guy is either drunk or shacked up with his girl friend.' ... Many of them were former policemen or policemen on leave," Dillard grumbled, "or they came from some law enforcement activity and were plunged into that environment ... [and] based on my experience, there was almost a total incompetence."

Nor was the problem alleviated when "after Tet, they brought in a group of enlisted men out of the Military Police. They were going to be advisers to the Field Police, but many of them were inept, too. I know from talking to them that they had never been in combat, and their experience was analogous to Shore Patrol," Dillard said. "They were principally experienced as physical security guards, and many of them had drinking problems.

"Anyway, we just wrote the Field Police off. When it came to trying to get their resources on the ground, to put them in helicopters and move them around, we began to find that the province chief had one problem after another: Either the Field Police weren't available, or the Public Safety advisers weren't aware of the nature of Phoenix operations, or [the operations weren't] cleared with the province chief. And the Public Safety adviser would be running against the grain if he took the province chief's resources or even tried to influence him to free up the Field Police to run our operations.

"So the senior CORDS advisor, 'Coal Bin' Willie Wilson, came down to Four Corps, and he called me over and asked, 'What can we do to improve the Phoenix program?' And I complained about the lack of use of Field Police. I said I wanted to use it as a light infantry strike force, which would give us, if you added in the PRU, about a four- thousand-man strike force in the Delta. 'We know the PRU are damn good,' I said, 'but we can't get them all killed trying to do everybody's job.'

"What I proposed is that there be some kind of central control set up that would give us the capability to use police in the Delta to support Phoenix I operations. I added that with the kind of people there were out advising in the provinces, 'that ain't ever gonna get done.'"

When confronted by Coal Bin Willie, Doug Dillard recalled, Del Spiers said, "I can't fire the province senior adviser. I have to put up with the people he assigns to me. It's not like the military," where an officer can transfer an unsatisfactory subordinate.

Said Dillard: "Well, I am a military man, and I have a job to get done." And from that day on the Field Police and their Public Safety advisers were the Phoenix program's scapegoats in the Delta. At their expense Dillard achieved peace between the CIA and MACV in the Delta. He convinced the CIA that by sharing its information, military resources could be used against the VCI.

In exchange for supporting the CIA's attack on the VCI, the military benefited from CIA intelligence on the location of main force enemy units. That translated into higher body counts and brighter careers.

"I could do what I wanted within the guidelines of the Phoenix program," Doug Dillard said with satisfaction, "which to me was the overall coordination of the units that existed in the Delta to destroy the infrastructure." With his regional reaction force ready and raring to go, Dillard mounted regional Phoenix operations on the Ward mini-cordon and search technique.

"At the province level we had almost daily involvement with the CIA's province adviser and SEAL team PRU adviser," Dillard explained. "This was either trying to help them get resources or going over the potential for operations. A good example is the time we got good intelligence on the VC staff on sampans in the U Minh Forest. The idea was to work in coordination with the U.S. Ninth Infantry Division in Chuong Thien Province. It was good timing because they had troops and could expand their artillery fire into An Xuyen, where the U Minh Forest was. We decided to use the PRU team from Kien Giang, with their SEAL adviser, and Major Leroy Suddath [the Phong Dinh paramilitary adviser, who as a major general in 1986 commanded the First Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg]."

As in the Milberg-Brewer operation in Quang Tri, the Vietnamese were cut out of the planning. "We decided we should lift out without a lot of notice," Dillard said. "So the SEAL adviser put his PRU on alert. But we didn't want to spook them, so they were told they were going on an operation in their province .... We took the PRU team out of Kien Giang with Leroy in the lead, and with the Ninth Division helicopters and artillery support to cover our infiltration and exfiltration. This way we could put the PRU on the canal, capture those people, and get in and out during daylight.

"We went over to Cbuong Thien and loaded out of there. I flew out of there in the command and control helicopter. We went up to Kien Giang, and Leroy had the PRU team ready .... We loaded up early that morning, flew down, and inserted the team on the canal. Then the chopper went back to Chuong Thien; I stayed over there with the radio and talked to Leroy to get a progress report. Leroy went in with the PRU-SEAL team. There were two Americans, and the rest were Vietnamese. They scarfed up twelve people almost immediately but couldn't find the sampan they were looking for. We think the damn operation got leaked, and they got spooked."

As in the Thuong Xa operation, despite elaborate planning and security precautions, a large-scale Phoenix operation failed to accomplish its mission.

However, by showing that military assets could be used in support of Province Reconnaissance Units and that CIA intelligence could generate a sizable operation, the U Minh Forest operation did prove to MACV that Phoenix was a viable coordinating mechanism.

***


"In working with Ted Greyman in the Can Tho Advisory Group," Dillard said, "we were trying to piece together patterns of the main force guerrilla battalions, which constituted the single greatest danger to a district or even a province. Ted very closely coordinated with us in our Phoenix activities, plotting information where VC attacks had occurred, in what force, when, and so forth. When these facts came together, he would coordinate a B-fifty-two strike in that area."

In particular, Dillard was concerned with the movements of the Muoi Tu Battalion, which periodically emerged from its sanctuary in Cambodia and conducted operations in Chau Doc, Kien Phong, and Kien Tuong provinces. "Annually they'd come down and cut a wide swath through these three provinces, then go back into Cambodia," Dillard explained. "That's where Ted Greyman and I began to work very closely to try to plot every piece of information that we could get on the Muoi Tu Battalion."

The job of finding the Muoi Tu in Cambodia belonged to the Special Operations Group and its Vietnamese assets, which ran agent nets and reconnaissance missions into Cambodia. But, explained Dillard, "Quite often there was a lot of clumsy, heavy-handed type of activity, and I don't think [Special Forces] were appreciative of the nuances of being supercautious in collecting and evaluating intelligence before running operations. I think it was in Kien Phong on the border; the sun rose one morning, and they went into position there, and every man on the line had been shot through the back of the head. This was the Vietnamese Special Forces. They were infiltrated constantly by the VC."

Dispersed along South Vietnam's borders since 1962, the Fifth Special Forces A teams, augmented by the 403d Special Operations Detachment and an unnumbered intelligence group, routinely fed intelligence to MACV and the CIA. "The sophistication of the intelligence apparatus," General McChristian writes, "allowed for operations against the infrastructure." [12]

However, by September 1967 it was clear, as Doug Dillard noted, that the Vietnamese Special Forces were too heavily infiltrated to be trusted. So concurrent with the creation of ICEX and the reorganization of SOG, the CIA commissioned Project Gamma. Also known as Detachment B-57, Gamma was charged with the mission of organizing cross-border counter-intelligence operations to find out who within the Cambodian government was helping the NVA and VC infiltrate and attack Special Forces A camps, recon teams, and agent nets. While posing as medical and agricultural specialists in a "dummy" civil affairs unit, Gamma personnel coordinated intelligence from A teams, identifying the key VCI cadres that were mounting penetration operations against them.

Detachment B-57 coordinated its activities with SOG and the various Special Forces projects, including Delta, Sigma, Omega, and Blackjack out of Tay Ninh. In defense of its A camps, Special Forces mounted its own attack on the VCI through a combination of agent nets, "specialized patrolling," mobile strike forces, and a "kill on sight" rewards program. In this way, SOG and Phoenix were united.

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