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defense plans, and functioning of local governments- showed similar,
if less dramatic, improvement. According to Marine Corps criteria, 55
percent of the population in I Corps in December lived in secure areas,
ranging from a high of 80 percent in the Phu Bai sectors to a low of
34 percent at Duc Pho. The Marines credited several factors for this
upsurge, not the least of which was the insertion of Army units in southern
I Corps to take up the slack left by the departure of the Marines for
the northern battle sector. Yet III MAF believed that its innovative
pacification techniques accounted for much of the progress.71

With the coming of the Christmas and New Year season, the war continued
on its ambivalent course. The holiday truce periods symbolized the cross-currents
of the conflict. Giving vague hints of peace, the Communists agreed
to a 24-hour truce over Christmas and a slightly longer, 36 hours, respite
over the New Year's celebration. Taking advantage of the cease-fires
and the halt in U.S. air operations, the North Vietnamese moved supplies
to their forward units. Over Christmas, American air observers spotted
some 600-800 vehicles and boats hauling and landing military provisions
and equipment in southern North Vietnam. MACV reported 118 enemy violations-40
of them major-over Christmas, and 170-63 major-during the New Year's
truce period. The New Year's violations resulted in 29 allied soldiers
dead and 128 wounded, with two South Vietnamese troops listed as missing
in action. In turn, the allies killed 117 of the enemy. The American
command called both standdowns a "hoax" and recommended that any cease-fire
for the Vietnamese Tet or lunar new year be as short as possible.72*

U.S. leaders worried over the Communist intentions for the new year.
In a departure from the optimistic public rhetoric of his administration
about the war, President Johnson privately warned the Australian Cabinet
in late December of "dark days ahead."73 Much evidence indicated
that the enemy was on the move. American intelligence reported two North
Vietnamese divisions near Khe Sanh and a third along the eastern DMZ.
Further south, prisoner interrogations revealed the possible presence
of a new enemy regiment in Thua Thien Province. American commanders
believed Hue was a major enemy objective although the 1st ARVN Division
could not "credit the enemy with 'the intent' nor the 'capability' to
launch a division-size attack" against the city.74 At Da Nang, III MAF
received information that the 2d NVA Division was shifting its area
of operations to Quang Nam Province.75 Captured enemy documents spoke
of major offensives throughout South Vietnam. One in particular observed
"that the opportunity for a general offensive and general uprising is
within reach . . . ," and directed the coordination of military attacks
"with the uprisings of the local population to take over towns and cities."76

By January 1968, a sense of foreboding and uncertainty dominated much
American thinking about the situation in Vietnam and the course of the
war.77 According to all allied reports, Communist forces had taken horrendous
casualties during the past few months, causing one senior U.S. Army
general to wonder if the North Vietnamese military command was aware
of these losses.78 Yet, all the signs pointed to a major enemy offensive
in the very near future. Although captured enemy documents spoke of
assaults on the cities and towns, General Westmoreland believed the
enemy's more logical targets to be the DMZ and Khe Sanh, while staging
diversionary attacks elsewhere. He thought the Communist objectives
to be the seizure of the two northern provinces of South Vietnam and
to make Khe Sanh the American Dien Bien Phu.79**

While planning their own offensive moves, MACV and III MAF prepared
for a NVA push in the north. General Cushman reinforced Khe Sanh and
in Operation Checkers began to deploy his forces toward the northern
border.


* Major Gary E. Todd, who served as an intelligence officer on the
3d Marine Division staff, commented that the "the last shot fired before
the 'cease fire' took effect was like a starter's pistol to the North
Vietnamese, crouched down and tensed to explode into a sprint" to resupply
their forces in the south. Todd Comments.

**Army Lieutenant General Philip B. Davidson, the MACV intelligence
officer, commented that General Westmoreland stated his expectation
of the coming enemy offensive "in broad terms as a result of series
of war games conducted by and at MACV headquarters. It was considered
as nothing more than a 'probable course of enemy action' . . . . " Davidson
contends that the MACV commander was open "to consideration of other
possible forms of the enemy offensive right up to the initiation of
the Tet offensive." Davidson observed also that General Cushman "concurred"
with the MACV expectations. LtGen Philip B. Davidson, Jr. (USA), Comments
on draft chapter, dtd 25Oct68 (Vietnam Comment File).




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