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Mekong River supply link became even more important, representing Cambodia's best chance for survival. North Vietnam, recognizing the strategic value of this border area, already had begun offensive operations to harass the civilian population and disrupt daily activities. The U.S. Navy in its segment of an April 1973 Defense Attache Office report described the effects of the Communists' ceasefire violations in this region of South Vietnam:


In [he area of [he Tan Chau Naval Base there are now no civilians. Because of the daily artillery attacks of the North Vietnamese communists the civilian populace has relocated to Chau Doc and Long Xuyen. . . . Since the beginning of the recent attacks (approx. l month) over one hundred civilians have been killed and hundreds wounded. ICCS inspection teams have visited the sites of the atrocities, but for fear of being rocketed themselves disappear after a short visit.10


In the face of diplomatic agreements to the contrary, including a second ceasefire signed by the United States and North Vietnam on 13 June 1973, the war between North and South Vietnam continued. The North Vietnamese shifted the emphasis from battlefield engagements to logistics. Pan of North Vietnam's plan was to deprive the South Vietnamese and Cambodian forces of their supplies while at the same time reinforcing its positions and, when able, stockpiling supplies for future actions.


Military and political control of the countryside in western South Vietnam and eastern Cambodia made it possible for North Vietnam to modify its warfight-ing methods while still continuing to develop its long-range strategy. In prophetic testament to the changing tides of war and the shift in North Vietnam's peacetime battlefield tactics the authors of the U.S. Navy's portion of the April 1973 DAO Report wrote:


"The decision of the enemy to control the "Blue Water" Mekong River as well as establish Hong Ngu as an entry point to Vietnam makes for a determined enemy."11


There was no "peace" in sight as conditions in South Vietnam seemed to indicate that no one really wanted the Parts Accords to work. Despite the uncertain combat conditions and the numerous ceasefire violations, the Marine Corps adhered to the terms of the Accords. It terminated the Vietnamese Marine Corps Advisors Program, thereby reducing its presence to a handful of officers in the reorganized Defense Attache Office, Saigon, and a Marine Security Guard company. A Commander Naval Force Vietnam message, 13 March 1973, said in pan: "The Marine Advisory Unit, NAVADVGRP, MACV will be disestablished effective 29 Mar 73 .... With the disestablishment of the Marine Advisory Unit, follow-on technical and material support to the Vietnamese Marine Corps will be coordinated by the VNMC Logistics Support Branch, Navy Division, Defense Attache Office, Saigon."12


The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) appointed Major General John E. Murray, USA, an expert logistician, to head the DAO and serve in the capacity of defense attache. An Army officer who had begun his career as a private in July 1941, Major General Murray quickly discovered that defense attache duty in Saigon in 1973 would differ significantly from the norm. As the senior American military officer in South Vietnam, he would work with the Ambassador, but report to the Secretary of Defense. The Ambassador only had direct authority over the defense attache in the area of public affairs and media matters. A briefing on his mission responsibilities provided him with his clearest indication of the drastic changes underway in Vietnam: "One of the things I was told my assignment entailed was not to lose any more American lives. And number two, I was told to get the hell out of there in one year."13 America was leaving South Vietnam and Major General Murray had been chosen to complete Vietnamization with a staff of 50 military men. Of the 50 assigned to the DAO, only four were Marines. In fact, within two months of DAO's founding, the entire American military complement in South Vietnam totalled less than 250 men, a far cry from the peak total of 543,400 in April 1969.14


With such a minimal presence in Vietnam, the United States had difficulty influencing events. This situation most affected the enforcement of Article 8. More than any other part of the Paris Accords, Article 8 (MIA Accountability) depended on good faith and cooperation.15 Mutual trust and confidence, already in short supply, became even scarcer when discussion focused on the accountability of personnel missing in action. An international point of humanitarian concern, MIA accountability, quickly became the most serious Peace Accords issue. The Communists not only failed to cooperate in resolving the status of Americans and others missing in action, but also actively obstructed United States and South Vietnamese efforts to do so. On 15 December 1973, in a rice paddy 15 miles southwest of Saigon, the Communists ambushed an American-South Vietnamese team searching (as








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