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[Image 1: North
Vietnamese Army
Photo. North
Vietnamese Army
soldiers build the Truong Son highway in western South Vietnam.
Vietnamese Marines reported the activity in
1973, but RVN
troops couldn 't stop it.]

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North Vietnam's objective was still the conquest of South Vietnam, and the planned
lull in fighting allowed it to refit and reinforce its units, reconstruct
its lines of communication, and replenish its supplies in the south. During
the early stages of this marshalling period, the NVA continued to maintain
a military presence in South Vietnam and to apply pressure to the Army of
the Republic of Vietnam through localized small unit actions. While the North
Vietnamese participated in these disruptive activities, the American public
remained largely uninformed; Vietnam was no longer front-page news.

By May of 1974, U.S. analysts agreed that Hanoi planned to continue its buildup in the south, and, in a matter of a few months, would have enough troops to conduct a major offensive. At year's end, the strength increase of the North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam was so dramatic that some experts predicted an imminent attack.19

Although aware of the North Vietnamese Army's preparations and its size, American analysts still believed that if any large-scale attack occurred, it would fail. By basing their forecast on the command and control inflexibility displayed by the North Vietnamese in both the 1968 Tet Offensive and the 1972 Easter Offensive and the expectation of effective air support, the analysts erred. Lieutenant Colonel George E. "Jody" Strickland, who served in Saigon at the DAO as the Chief, Vietnamese Marine Corps Logistic Support Branch, Navy Division (Chief, VNMC LSB), from June 1973 until June 1974, offered his candid recollection of this evaluation: "The dichotomous assessment of an imminent NVA attack on one hand and the forecast of its failure on the other had obvious detrimental influences." Lieutenant Colonel Strickland related that despite the prediction of failure most Americans and South Vietnamese still vigorously prepared for the anticipated enemy offensive, including the Vietnamese Marine Corps (VNMC) which reacted by ". . . building up supplies, hardening defenses, and expanding reconnaissance and offensive operations in MR l."20 Yet others refused even to consider the possible consequences of an NVA success. The American Embassy,

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