Page 007

[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of LtCol
George E. Strickland,
USMC (Ret) LtCol
George E. "Jody" Strickland,
chief of the
DAO VNMC Logistics
Support Branch
which helped
supply the Vietnamese
Marine Corps,
poses in MR l
with the commander
of 4th Battalion,
147 Brigade,
VNMC, LtCol Tran
Ngoc Toan, shown
here as a major.]

Page 7(The Bitter End)

permitted by the agreements) for the bodies of missing Americans* Fatalities included one U.S. Army officer, Captain Richard Morgan Rees, of Kent, Ohio, and one South Vietnamese pilot.16 In addition to the several injured South Vietnamese, the ambush wounded four American servicemen including Army First Lieutenant Ben C. Elfrink. The seemingly mild, official U.S. reaction to this unwarranted killing of one of its military officers (unarmed) on aJMC-sanctioncd, MIA recovery mission reflected the American public's growing detachment from Southeast Asian affairs. Americans had begun to view Indochinese events as South Vietnam's problems. Besides registering a protest with the ICCS and North Vietnam, the United States did little else. A few days later, a Des Moines Tribune editorial, entitled "Murder in Vietnam," captured the relationship between the "non-action" and the subtle changes underway in America: ". . . giving up searching for American servicemen would be sad but not as sad as running the risk of more incidents which might give some U.S. military men a reason to take 'necessary measures.' Surely the military establishment, the administration, and Congress have learned not to walk into that mess again."17

In Vietnam, the DAO had already begun its analysis of the ambush in an attempt to discern the Communists' purpose and intent. In a "back channel" message to the Pentagon, Major General Murray offered his conclusions: "The enemy's hostility toward JCRC operations has been clearly demonstrated in the ambush .... All search operations arc subject to enemy intervention ... we see no definite change in the enemy's attitude. . . ." The only change that did occur was for the worse. In June 1974, the North Vietnamese and the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) broke off all negotiations on MIAs by refusing to meet with the United States and South Vietnamese representatives.18

The PRG, having already (May 1974) stopped negotiating with the South Vietnamese on matters mandated by the Paris Accords, merely concluded the masquerade by supporting the North Vietnamese on the MIA issue and jointly they ended all negotiations. Ceasefire meant "less fire," but little else without consultation, cooperation, and some form of negotiations.

The NVA Marshals in the South

Immediately after the signing of the Accords, at the beginning of the ceasefire, there was a noticeable decline in the level of combat activity throughout South Vietnam.** This was cause for considerable optimism in Washington and elsewhere. Yet, the abatement in violence was merely a sign that the NVA had subscribed to new methods. Even though the Communists' tactics had changed, their strategy had not.

*Licuicnant Colonel Edward A. "Tony" Grimm, Plans Officer, USSAG, Thailand, from April 1974 until April 1975, remembered that "The lasting impact of the enemy ambush . . . was that Ambassador Graham Martin ordered a halt to any future JCRC operations in RVN. From then on the JCRC had to rely on ... broadcasts and leaflets encouraging Vietnamese villagers to free their hamlets from the spirits of dead Americans." LtCol Edward A. Grimm, Comments on draft ms, 28Nov88 (Comment File, MCHC).

"U.S. Congressional records reveal that ARVN soldiers killed dropped from 28,000 in 1972 to 13,500 in 1973. On the last day of December 1974, when the statisticians compiled the totals for the year, a new trend became readily apparent, war had again supplanted peace. ARVN troops killed in action in 1974 were 30,000. Senate Report Vietnam, p. l, and House Report Vietnam, p. 45.

Page 7(The Bitter End)