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gence, infrared aerial photo reconnaissance, and a relatively new
device formally known as the XM-3 airborne personnel detector (APD),
but popularly called the "People Sniffer." The XM-3 was the
size of a suitcase, able to be mounted in a Huey helicopter, and designed
to measure "ammonia emanations from the skin." While no one
technique was sufficient in itself, in tandem, they provided the U.S.
command sufficient evidence that the enemy was in the Khe Sanh sector
in strength.27* For the Marines at Khe Sanh, increased patrol
contact indicated an enemy counter-reconnaissance screen in action.

The Decision to Hold

On 6 January, General Westmoreland initiated Operation Niagara, a
two-part plan to find enemy units around Khe Sanh and to eliminate them
with superior firepower. The first part of the operation, Niagara I,
called for intelligence officers to mount a "comprehensive intelligence
collection effort" to locate and identify enemy units. In Niagara
II, aircraft, including Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses of the 4133d Bomb
Wing in Guam and the 4258th Strategic Wing in Thailand, were to saturate
target areas with bombs.28 Major General George Keegan, Seventh
Air Force G-2, moved quickly to establish an integrated intelligence
collection and analysis effort that would compile and record information
from all sources. He went so far as to bring eight French generals,
some ot whom were survivors of Dien Bien Phu, to Vietnam as experts
on Communist siege tactics.29**

Photo C8543-7 from LBJ Library


The situation at Khe San has intense high level interest
as President Lyndan B. Johnson, right, is seen here studying a map of
Khe Sanh with Presidential Assistant Walt W. Rostow, left, and CIA Director
Richard Helms.

In the U.S. capital, the Johnson administration focused almost obsessively
on the Khe Sanh situation with the President himself poring over detailed
maps of the area. On 11 January, General Earle G. Wheeler, USA, Chairman
of the Joint Chiers of Staff, sent General Westmoreland a message in
which he noted that there had been "discussion around town in very
high non-military quarters" concerning the enemy's intentions at
Khe Sanh. He outlined the two divergent views which were food for thought
among the highly placed, but unnamed, individuals who were concerned
about the coming battle. One view held that Khe Sanh must be defended
because it afforded an opportunity to draw large enemy forces to battle,
then to destroy them with a combination of superior firepower and a
counterthrust into Laos. The other view strongly counseled abandoning
Khe Sanh because "the enemy [was] building toward a Dien Bien Phu."30

On a superficial level, the situation at Khe Sanh began to have a certain
resemblance to Dien Bien Phu, 14 years earlier.*** Both were remote
outposts organized

*Chaplain Stubbe recalled that the "People Sniffers" were bringing
back hundreds ot contacts. He remembered in the 26th Marines command post,
"the map with the little red dots on the plastic overlay, and everyone
wondering if this might not be an error-the detections of the ammonia
from the urine of packs of monkeys." Stubbe also observed that the
Marines also realized that radio pattern analysis could err when the NVA
put out false transmitters, "broadcasting as though they were a Hq
thus drawing airstrikes on a lone transmitter in the hills rather than
a NVA Hq ... ." Notwithstanding these flaws, Stubbe contended eventually
"together and coordinated, the intelligence was of great significance."
Stubbe Comments.

**Accomplished without the knowledge of the American Ambassador, this
allegedly agitated the Director of the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office,
Saigon. See W. Scott Thompson and Col Donald D. Frizzell, USAF, eds.,
The Lessons of Vietnam (New York: Crane, Russak, and Co., 1977),
p. 183.

*** In November 1953, the French occupied and fortified the village
of Dien Bien Phu in northwest Tonkin. The Viet Minh besieged the outpost.
capturing it in May 1954 after a dramatic battle involving great loss
of life on both sides. The fall of Dien Bien Phu was the final straw
which broke the back of French colonialism in Indochina, leading to
the 1954 Geneva Accords and the partitioning of the Associated States
of French Indochina into autonomous countries. In both his comments
and his book, Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, who was CGFMFPac
in 1968, took strong exception to the Dien Bien Phu analogy. He observed
that militarily the differences far outweighed the similarities. He
emphasized the vast advantages in both fire and the overall tactical
situation that the Americans possessed at Khe Sanh over the French at
Dien Bien Phu. LtGen Victor H. Krulak, Comments on draft chapter, dtd
31Octl994 and First to Fight, pp. 215-16.

Page 65 (1968: The Defining Year)