Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hail to 'Our Chief' - Lansdale in Vietnam

12 May 1961 meeting of LBJ and Nhu
While [Ngô Đình] Nhu seems to have dealt with the Corsicans personally, the intelligence missions to Laos were managed by the head of his secret police apparatus, Dr. Tran Kim Tuyen. Although most accounts have portrayed Nhu as the Diem regime's Machiavelli, many insiders feel that it was the diminutive ex-seminary student, Dr. Tuyen, who had the real lust and capacity for intrigue. 

As head of the secret police, euphemistically titled Office of Social and Political Study, Dr. Tuyen commanded a vast intelligence network that included the CIA-financed special forces, the Military Security Service, and most importantly, the clandestine Can Lao party. (Fn: The Can Lao was a clandestine organization formed by Ngo Dinh Nhu shortly after President Diem took office. Party members were recruited from every branch of the military and civil bureaucracy, but were usually conservative Catholics. The party functioned as a government within the government, and through it Nhu was able to exercise direct control over every aspect of the government. Its membership list was kept secret to enable party cadres to spy more effectively on their coworkers.)... 

With profits from the opium trade and other officially sanctioned corruption, the Office of Social and Political Study was able to hire thousands of cyclo-drivers, dance hall girls ("taxi dancers"), and street vendors as part-time spies for an intelligence network that soon covered every block of Saigon-Cholon. Instead of maintaining surveillance on a suspect by having him followed, Tuyen simply passed the word to his "door-to-door" intelligence net and got back precise, detailed reports on the subject's movements, meetings, and conversations. Some observers think that Tuyen may have had as many as a hundred thousand full- and part-time agents operating in South Vietnam. (Interview with an exiled Can Lao party official, Paris, France, April 1 1971).

Since [Dr. Tran Kim] Tuyen was responsible for much of the Diem regime's foreign intelligence work, he was able to disguise his narcotics dealings in Laos under the cover of ordinary intelligence work. Vietnamese undercover operations in Laos were primarily directed at North Vietnam and were related to a CIA program started in 1954. Under the direction of Col. Edward Lansdale and his team of CIA men, two small groups of North Vietnamese had been recruited as agents, smuggled out of Haiphong, trained in Saigon, and then sent back to North Vietnam in 1954-1955. During this same period Civil Air Transport (now Air America) smuggled over eight tons of arms and equipment into Haiphong in the regular refugee shipments authorized by the Geneva Accords for the eventual use of these teams. (The New York Times, The Pentagon Papers, p. 19)
Lansdale would necessarily met the Ngo brothers when he first took over the covert operations in Vietnam from the French. The brothers are describe in the article below:
More on the family Ngo appeared in the press in 1964 under the byline of ANDREW TULLY and MILTON BRITTEN in a series called "Where Did Your Money Go? The Foreign Aid Story," serialized in the Denton Record-Chronicle:

President Ngo Dinh Diem
Stated bluntly, the United States had for seven years been propping up a largely unloved authoritarian regime. While we were helping Diem's troops win over Communist guerrillas in the jungles and rice paddies, Diem in Saigon was losing the battle for the minds and hearts of his people. In this losing battle Diem also had help—an aristocratic and ambitious family enterprise of which Diem had lost effective control. It was a militantly Catholic family in a predominantly Buddhist country. Diem's oldest brother, Ngo Dinh Thuc, Roman Catholic archbishop of Hue, controlled large amounts of church property and placed favorites in Diem's cabinet.

Ngo Dinh Can ran the city of Hue. Ngo Dinh Luyen had served as South Vietnam's ambassador to Great Britain and several European countries.
Ngo family of Pres. Diem
 Most Sinister Influence
But the most sinister influence was brother Ngo Dinh Nhu and Nhu's beautiful, wasp-waisted, acid-tongued, domineering wife. Nhu was Diem's political counselor, head of both the secret police and a 700,000-member Revolutionary Labor Party. Madame Nhu bossed not only her presidential brother-in-law but everyone else, high or low, military or civilian, within earshot. Converted to Catholicism with her marriage, she became a puritanical feminist and a national scold. Elected to the National Assembly in 1956, she rammed through legislation to outlaw prostitution, abortion, contraceptives, organized animal fights and taxi dancing.
Informed sources in Saigon agreed that the Nhus were behind the incident which the New York Times described as having undercut both American prestige and the cause of anti-Communism. It was a brutal crackdown on the Buddhists. Repression of the Buddhist majority by the Catholic Diem regime had long been a source of popular resentment.
It also embarrassed the United States and the Vatican. The Buddhist priest class had become the repository of all Vietnamese dissatisfaction with Diem and his autocratic, suspicious and ruthless family. When these dissatisfactions were dramatized by a Buddhist monk, Quang Due, who burned himself to death in gasoline-soaked robes, Madame Nhu shrilled that the Buddhists had
"barbecued one of their own monks, whom they intoxicated. And even that burning was not done with self-sufficient means, because they used imported gasoline."
Read more about the Ngo family by downloading a free book, The CIA and the House of Ngo.
 The Pentagon Papers  
Document 95, pp. 573-83.

The Saigon Military Mission (SMM) was born in a Washington policy meeting early in 1954, when Dien Bien Phu was still holding out against the encircling Vietminh. The SMM was to enter into Vietnam quietly and assist the Vietnamese, rather than the French, in unconventional warfare. The French were to be kept as friendly allies in the process, as far as possible. The broad mission for the team was to undertake paramilitary operations against the enemy and to wage political-psychological warfare. Later, after Geneva, the mission was modified to prepare the means for undertaking paramilitary operations in Communist areas rather than to wage unconventional warfare....

a. Early Days
The Saigon Military Mission (SMM) started on 1 June 1954, when its Chief, Colonel Edward G. Lansdale, USAF, arrived in Saigon with a small box of files and clothes and a borrowed typewriter, courtesy of an SA-16 flight set up for him by the 13th Air Force at Clark AFB. Lt-General John O'Daniel and Embassy Charge Rob McClintock had arranged for his appointment as Assistant Air Attache, since it was improper for U.S. officers at MAAG at that time to have advisory conferences with Vietnamese officers. Ambassador Heath had concurred already. There was no desk space for an office, no vehicle, no safe for files. He roomed with General O'Daniel, later moved to a small house rented by MAAG. Secret communications with Washington were provided through the Saigon station of CIA.

There was deepening gloom in Vietnam. Dien Bien Phu had fallen. The French were capitulating to the Vietminh at Geneva. The first night in Saigon, Vietminh saboteurs blew up large ammunition dumps at the airport, rocking Saigon throughout the night. General O'Daniel and Charge McClintock agreed that it was time to start taking positive action. O'Daniel paved the way for a quick first-hand survey of the situation throughout the country. McClintock paved the way for contacts with Vietnamese political leaders. Our Chief's reputation from the Philippines had preceded him. Hundreds of Vietnamese acquaintanceships were made quickly.

Working in close cooperation with George Hellyer, USIS Chief, a new psychological warfare campaign was devised for the Vietnamese Army and for the government in Hanoi. Shortly after, a refresher course in combat psywar was constructed and Vietnamese Army personnel were rushed through it. A similar course was initiated for the Ministry of Information. Rumor campaigns were added to the tactics and tried out in Hanoi. It was almost too late.

The first rumor campaign was to be a carefully planted story of a Chinese Communist regiment in Tonkin taking reprisals against a Vietminh village whose girls the Chinese had raped, recalling Chinese Nationalist troop behavior in 1945 and confirming Vietnamese fears of Chinese occupation under Vietminh rule; the story was to be planted by soldiers of the Vietnamese Armed Psywar Company in Hanoi dressed in civilian clothes. The troops received their instructions silently, dressed in civilian clothes, went on the mission, and failed to return. They had deserted to the Vietminh. Weeks later, Tonkinese told an excited story of the misbehavior of the Chinese Divisions in Vietminh territory. Investigated, it turned out to be the old rumor campaign, with Vietnamese embellishments.

There was political chaos. Prince Buu Loc no longer headed the government. Government ministries all but closed. The more volatile leaders of political groups were proposing a revolution, which included armed attacks on the French. Col. Jean Carbonel of the French Army proposed establishing a regime with Vietnamese (Nungs and others) known to him close to the Chinese border and asked for our backing. Our reply was that this was a policy decision to be made between the FEC top command and U.S. authorities.
Oscar Arellano, Junior Chamber International vice-president for Southeast Asia, stopped by for a visit with our Chief; an idea in this visit later grew into "Operation Brotherhood."

On 1 July, Major Lucien Conein arrived, as the second member of the team. He is a paramilitary specialist, well-known to the French for his help with French-operated maquis in Tonkin against the Japanese in 1945, the one American guerrilla fighter who had not been a member of the Patti Mission. He was assigned to MAAG for cover purposes. Arranged by Lt-Col William Rosson, a meeting was held with Col Carbonel, Col Nguyen Van Vy, and the two SMM officers; Vy had seen his first combat in 1945 under Conein. Carbonel proposed establishing a maquis, to be kept as a secret between the four officers. SMM refused, learned later that Carbonel had kept the FEC Deuxieme Bureau informed. Shortly afterwards, at a Defense conference with General O'Daniel, our Chief had a chance to suggest Vy for a command in the North, making him a general. Secretary of State for Defense Le Ngoc Chan did so, Vy was grateful and remained so.

Ngo Dinh Diem arrived on 7 July, and within hours was in despair as the French forces withdrew from the Catholic provinces of Phat Diem and Narn Dinh in Tonkin. Catholic militia streamed north to Hanoi and Haiphong, their hearts filled with anger at French abandonment. The two SMM officers stopped a planned grenade attack by militia girls against French troops guarding a warehouse; the girls stated they had not eaten for three days; arrangements were made for Chinese merchants in Haiphong to feed them. Other militia attacks were stopped, including one against a withdrawing French artillery unit; the militia wanted the guns to stand and fight the Vietminh. The Tonkinese had hopes of American friendship and listened to the advice given them. Governor [name illegible] died, reportedly by poison. Tonkin's government changed as despair grew. On 21 July, the Geneva Agreement was signed. Tonkin was given to the Communists. Anti-Communists turned to SMM for help in establishing a resistance movement and several tentative initial arrangements were made.

Diem himself had reached a nadir of frustration, as his country disintegrated after the conference of foreigners. With the approval of Ambassador Heath and General O'Daniel, our Chief drew up a plan of overall governmental action and presented it to Diem, with Hellyer as interpreter. It called for fast constructive action and dynamic leadership. Although the plan was not adopted, it laid the foundation for a friendship which has lasted.

Oscar Arellano visited Saigon again. Major Charles T. R. Bohanan, a former team-mate in Philippine days, was in town. At an SMM conference with these two, "Operation Brotherhood" was born: volunteer medical teams of Free Asians to aid the Free Vietnamese who have few doctors of their own. Washington responded warmly to the idea. President Diem was visited; he issued an appeal to the Free World for help. The Junior Chamber International adopted the idea. SMM would monitor the operation quietly in the background.

President Diem had organized a Committee of Cabinet Ministers to handle the problem of refugees from the Communist North. The Committee system was a failure. No real plans had been made by the French or the Americans. After conferences with USOM (FOA) officials and with General O'Daniel, our Chief suggested to Ambassador Heath that he call a U.S. meeting to plan a single Vietnamese agency, under a Commissioner of Refugees to be appointed by President Diem, to run the Vietnamese refugee program and to provide a channel through which help could be given by the U.S., France, and other free nations. The meeting was called and the plan adopted, with MAAG under General O'Daniel in the coordinating role. Diem adopted the plan. The French pitched in enthusiastically to help. CAT asked SMM for help in obtaining a French contract for the refugee airlift, and got it. In return, CAT provided SMM with the means for secret air travel between the North and Saigon....

b. August 1954
An agreement had been reached that the personnel ceiling of U.S. military personnel with MAAG would be frozen at the number present in Vietnam on the date of the cease-fire, under the terms of the Geneva Agreement. In South Vietnam this deadline was to be 11 August. It meant that SMM might have only two members present, unless action were taken. General O'Daniel agreed to the addition of ten SMM men under MAAG cover, plus any others in the Defense pipeline who arrived before the deadline. A call for help went out. Ten officers in Korea, Japan, and Okinawa were selected and were rushed to Vietnam.

SMM had one small MAAG house. Negotiations were started for other housing, but the new members of the team arrived before housing was ready and were crammed three and four to a hotel room for the first days. Meetings were held to assess the new members' abilities. None had had political-psychological warfare experience. Most were experienced in paramilitary and clandestine intelligence operations. Plans were made quickly, for time was running out in the north; already the Vietminh had started taking over secret control of Hanoi and other areas of Tonkin still held by French forces.

Major Conein was given responsibility for developing a paramilitary organization in the north, to be in position when the Vietminh took over. . . . [His] team was moved north immediately as part of the MAAG staff working on the refugee problem. The team had headquarters in Hanoi, with a branch in Haiphong. Among cover duties, this team supervised the refugee flow for the Hanoi airlift organized by the French. One day, as a CAT C-46 finished loading, they saw a small child standing on the ground below the loading door. They shouted for the pilot to wait, picked the child up and shoved him into the aircraft, which then promptly taxied out for its takeoff in the constant air shuttle. A Vietnamese man and woman ran up to the team, asking what they had done with their small boy, whom they'd brought out to say goodbye to relatives. The chagrined team explained, finally talked the parents into going south to Free Vietnam, put them in the next aircraft to catch up with their son in Saigon....

A second paramilitary team was formed to explore possibilities of organizing resistance against the Vietminh from bases in the south. This team consisted of Army Lt-Col Raymond Wittmayer, Army Major Fred Allen, and Army Lt Edward Williams. The latter was our only experienced counter-espionage officer and undertook double duties, including working with revolutionary political groups. Major Allen eventually was able to mount a Vietnamese paramilitary effort in Tonkin from the south, barely beating the Vietminh shutdown in Haiphong as his teams went in, trained and equipped for their assigned missions.

Navy Lt Edward Bain and Marine Captain Richard Smith were assigned as the support group for SMM. Actually, support for an effort such as SMM is a major operation in itself, running the gamut from the usual administrative and personnel functions to the intricate business of clandestine air, maritime, and land supply of paramilitary materiel. In effect, they became our official smugglers as well as paymasters, housing officers, transportation officers, warehousemen, file clerks, and mess officers. The work load was such that other team members frequently pitched in and helped.

c. September 1954
Highly-placed officials from Washington visited Saigon and, in private conversations, indicated that current estimates led to the conclusion that Vietnam probably would have to be written off as a loss. We admitted that prospects were gloomy, but were positive that there was still a fighting chance.

On 8 September, SMM officers visited Secretary of State for Defense Chan and walked into a tense situation in his office. Chan had just arrested Lt-Col Lan (G-6 of the Vietnamese Army) and Capt Giai (G-5 of the Army). Armed guards filled the room. We were told what had happened and assured that everything was all right by all three principals. Later, we discovered that Chan was alone and that the guards were Lt-Col Lan's commandos. Lan was charged with political terrorism (by his "action" squads) and Giai with anti-Diem propaganda (using G-5 leaflet, rumor, and broadcast facilities).

The arrest of Lan and Giai, who simply refused to consider themselves arrested, and of Lt Minh, officer in charge of the Army radio station which was guarded by Army troops, brought into the open a plot by the Army Chief of Staff, General Hinh, to overthrow the government. Hinh had hinted at such a plot to his American friends, using a silver cigarette box given him by Egypt's Naguib to carry the hint. SMM became thoroughly involved in the tense controversy which followed, due to our Chief's closeness to both President Diem and General Hinh. He had met the latter in the Philippines in 1952, was a friend of both Hinh's wife and favorite mistress. (The mistress was a pupil in a small English class conducted for mistresses of important personages, at their request....

While various U.S. officials including General O'Daniel and Foreign Service Officer Frank [name illegible] participated in U.S. attempts to heal the split between the President and his Army, Ambassador Heath asked us to make a major effort to end the controversy. This effort strained relations with Diem and never was successful, but did dampen Army enthusiasm for the plot. At one moment, when there was likelihood of an attack by armored vehicles on the Presidential Palace, SMM told Hinh bluntly that U.S. support most probably would stop in such an event. At the same time a group from the Presidential Guards asked for tactical advice on how to stop armored vehicles with the only weapons available to the Guards: carbines, rifles, and hand grenades. The advice, on tank traps and destruction with improvised weapons, must have sounded grim. The following morning, when the attack was to take place, we visited the Palace; not a guard was left on the grounds; President Diem was alone upstairs, calmly getting his work done.

As a result of the Hinh trouble, Diem started looking around for troops upon whom he could count. Some Tonkinese militia, refugees from the north, were assembled in Saigon close to the Palace. But they were insufficient for what he needed. Diem made an agreement with General Trinh Minh The, leader of some 3,000 Cao Dai dissidents in the vicinity of Tayninh, to give General The some needed financial support; The was to give armed support to the government if necessary and to provide a safe haven for the government if it had to flee. The's guerrillas, known as the Lien Minh, were strongly nationalist and were still fighting the Vietminh and the French. At Ambassador Heath's request, the U.S. secretly furnished Diem with funds for The, through the SMM. Shortly afterwards, an invitation came from The to visit him. Ambassador Heath approved the visit....

The northern SMM team under Conein had organized a paramilitary group, (which we will disguise by the Vietnamese name of Binh) through the Northern Dai Viets, a political party with loyalties to Bao Dai. The group was to be trained and supported by the U.S. as patriotic Vietnamese, to come eventually under government control when the government was ready for such activities. Thirteen Binhs were quietly exfiltrated through the port of Haiphong, under the direction of Lt Andrews, and taken on the first stage of the journey to their training area by a U.S. Navy ship. This was the first of a series of helpful actions by Task Force 98, commanded by Admiral [Lorenzo S. ] Sabin.

Another paramilitary group for Tonkin operations was being developed in Saigon through General Nguyen Van Vy. In September this group started shaping up fast, and the project was given to Major Allen. (We will give this group the Vietnamese name of Hao)....

Towards the end of the month, it was learned that the largest printing establishment in the north intended to remain in Hanoi and do business with the Vietminh. An attempt was made by SMM to destroy the modern presses, but Vietminh security agents already had moved into the plant and frustrated the attempt. This operation was under a Vietnamese patriot whom we shall call Trieu; his case officer was Capt Arundel. Earlier in the month they had engineered a black psywar strike in Hanoi: leaflets signed by the Vietminh instructing Tonkinese on how to behave for the Vietminh takeover of the Hanoi region in early October, including items about property, money reform, and a three-day holiday of workers upon takeover. The day following the distribution of these leaflets, refugee registration tripled. Two days later Vietminh currency was worth half the value prior to the leaflets. The Vietminh took to the radio to denounce the leaflets; the leaflets were so authentic in appearance that even most of the rank and file Vietminh were sure that the radio denunciations were a French trick.

The Hanoi psywar strike had other consequences. Binh had enlisted a high police official of Hanoi as part of his team, to effect the release from jail of any team members if arrested. The official at the last moment decided to assist in the leaflet distribution personally. Police officers spotted him, chased his vehicle through the empty Hanoi streets of early morning, finally opened fire on him and caught him. He was the only member of the group caught. He was held in prison as a Vietminh agent.

d. October 1954
Hanoi was evacuated on 9 October. The northern SMM team left with the last French troops, disturbed by what they had seen of the grim efficiency of the Vietminh in their takeover, the contrast between the silent march of the victorious Vietminh troops in their tennis shoes and the clanking armor of the well-equipped French whose western tactics and equipment had failed against the Communist military-political-economic campaign.

The northern team had spent the last days of Hanoi in contaminating the oil supply of the bus company for a gradual wreckage of engines in the buses, in taking the first actions for delayed sabotage of the railroad (which required teamwork with a CIA special technical team in Japan who performed their part brilliantly), and in writing detailed notes of potential targets for future paramilitary operations (U.S. adherence to the Geneva Agreement prevented SMM from carrying out the active sabotage it desired to do against the power plant, water facilities, harbor, and bridge). The team had a bad moment when contaminating the oil. They had to work quickly at night, in an enclosed storage room. Fumes from the contaminant came close to knocking them out. Dizzy and weak-kneed, they masked their faces with handkerchiefs and completed the job.

Meanwhile, Polish and Russian ships had arrived in the south to transport southern Vietminh to Tonkin under the Geneva Agreement. This offered the opportunity for another black psywar strike. A leaflet was developed by Binh with the help of Capt Arundel, attributed to the Vietminh Resistance Committee. Among other items, it reassured the Vietminh they would be kept safe below decks from imperialist air and submarine attacks, and requested that warm clothing be brought; the warm clothing item would be coupled with a verbal rumor campaign that Vietminh were being sent into China as railroad laborers.

SMM had been busily developing G-5 of the Vietnamese Army for such psywar efforts. Under Arundel's direction, the First Armed Propaganda Company printed the leaflets and distributed them, by soldiers in civilian clothes who penetrated into southern Vietminh zones on foot. (Distribution in Carnau was made while columnist Joseph Alsop was on his visit there which led to his sensational, gloomy articles later; our soldier "Vietrninh" failed in an attempt to get the leaflet into Alsop's hands in Camau; Alsop was never told this story). Intelligence reports and other later reports revealed that village and delegation committees complained about "deportation" to the north, after distribution of the leaflet. . .

Contention between Diem and Hinh had become murderous. . . . Finally, we learned that Hinh was close to action; he had selected 26 October as the morning for an attack on the Presidential Palace. Hinh was counting heavily on Lt-Col Lan's special forces and on Captain Giai who was running Hinh's secret headquarters at Hinh's home. We invited these two officers to visit the Philippines, on the pretext that we were making an official trip, could take them along and open the way for them to see some inner workings of the fight against Filipino Communists which they probably would never see otherwise. Hinh reluctantly turned down his own invitation; he had had a memorable time of it on his last visit to Manila in 1952. Lt-Col Lan was a French agent and the temptation to see behind-the-scenes was too much. He and Giai accompanied SMM officers on the MAAG C-47 which General O'Daniel instantly made available for the operation. 26 October was spent in the Philippines. The attack on the palace didn't come off.

e. November 1954
General Lawton Collins arrived as Ambassador on 8 November....Collins, in his first press conference, made it plain that the U.S. was supporting President Diem. The new Ambassador applied pressure on General Hinh and on 29 November Hinh left for Paris. His other key conspirators followed.

Part of the SMM team became involved in staff work to back up the energetic campaign to save Vietnam which Collins pushed forward. Some SMM members were scattered around the Pacific, accompanying Vietnamese for secret training, obtaining and shipping supplies to be smuggled into north Vietnam and hidden there. In the Philippines, more support was being constructed to help SMM, in expediting the flow of supplies, and in creating Freedom Company, a non-profit Philippines corporation backed by President Magsaysay, which would supply Filipinos experienced in fighting the Communist Huks to help in Vietnam (or elsewhere)....

On 23 November, twenty-one selected Vietnamese agents and two cooks of our Hao paramilitary group were put aboard a Navy ship in the Saigon River, in daylight. They appeared as coolies, joined the coolie and refugee throng moving on and off ship, and disappeared one by one. It was brilliantly planned and executed, agents being picked up from unobtrusive assembly points throughout the metropolis. Lt Andrews made the plans and carried out the movement under the supervision of Major Allen. The ship took the Hao agents, in compartmented groups, to an overseas point, the first stage in a movement to a secret training area.

f. December 1954
...discussions between the U.S., Vietnamese and French had reached a point where it appeared that a military training mission using U.S. officers was in the immediate offing. General O'Daniel had a U.S.-French planning group working on the problem, under Col Rosson. One paper they were developing was a plan for pacification of Vietminh and dissident areas; this paper was passed to SMM for its assistance with the drafting. SMM wrote much of the paper, changing the concept from the old rigid police controls of all areas to some of our concepts of winning over the population and instituting a classification of areas by the amount of trouble in each, the amount of control required, and fixing responsibilities between civil and military authorities. With a few changes, this was issued by President Diem on 31 December as the National Security Action (Pacification) Directive....

There was still much disquiet in Vietnam, particularly among anti-Communist political groups who were not included in the government. SMM officers were contacted by a number of such groups who felt that they "would have to commit suicide in 1956" (the 1956 plebiscite promised in the 1954 Geneva agreement), when the Vietminh would surely take over against so weak a government. One group of farmers and militia in the south was talked out of migrating to Madagascar by SMM and staying on their farms. A number of these groups asked SMM for help in training personnel for eventual guerrilla warfare if the Vietminh won. Persons such as the then Minister of Defense and Trinh Minh The were among those loyal to the government who also requested such help. It was decided that a more basic guerrilla training program might be undertaken for such groups than was available at the secret training site to which we had sent the Binh and Hao groups. Plans were made with Major Bohanan and Mr. John C. Wachtel in the Philippines for a solution of this problem; the United States backed the development, through them, of a small Freedom Company training camp in a hidden valley on the Clark AFB reservation.

Till and Peg Durdin of the N.Y. Times, Hank Lieberman of the N.Y. Times, Homer Bigart of the N.Y. Herald-Tribune, John Mecklin of Life-Time, and John Roderick of Associated Press, have been warm friends of SMM and worked hard to penetrate the fabric of French propaganda and give the U.S. an objective account of events in Vietnam. The group met with us at times to analyze objectives and motives of propaganda known to them, meeting at their own request as U.S. citizens. These mature and responsible news correspondents performed a valuable service for their country....

g. January 1955
The Vietminh long ago had adopted the Chinese Communist thought that the people are the water and the army is the fish. Vietminh relations with the mass of the population during the fighting had been exemplary, with a few exceptions; in contrast, the Vietnamese National Army had been like too many Asian armies, adept at cowing a population into feeding them, providing them with girls. SMM had been working on this problem from the beginning. Since the National Army was the only unit of government with a strong organization throughout the country and with good communications, it was the key to stabilizing the situation quickly on a nation-wide basis. If Army and people could be brought together into a team, the first strong weapon against Communism could be forged.

The Vietminh were aware of this. We later learned that months before the signing of the Geneva Agreement they had been planning for action in the post-Geneva period; the National Army was to be the primary target for subversion efforts, it was given top priority by the Central Committee for operations against its enemy, and about 100 superior cadres were retrained for the operations and placed in the [words illegible] organization for the work, which commenced even before the agreement was signed. We didn't know it at the time, but this was SMM's major opponent, in a secret struggle for the National Army....

General O'Daniel was anticipating the culmination of long negotiations to permit U.S. training of the Vietnamese Armed Forces, against some resistance on the part of French groups. In January, negotiations were proceeding so well that General O'Daniel informally organized a combined U.S.-French training mission which eventually became known as the Training Relations and Instruction Mission (TRIM) under his command, but under the overall command of the top French commander, General Paul Ely.

The French had asked for top command of half the divisions in the TRIM staff. Their first priority was for command of the division supervising National Security Action by the Vietnamese, which could be developed into a continuation of strong French control of key elements of both Army and population. In conferences with Ambassador Collins and General O'Daniel, it was decided to transfer Colonel Lansdale from the Ambassador's staff to TRIM, to head the National Security division. Colonel Lansdale requested authority to coordinate all U.S. civil and military efforts in this National Security work. On 11 January, Ambassador Collins announced the change to the country team, and gave him authority to coordinate this work among all U.S. agencies in Vietnam....

President Diem had continued requesting SMM help with the guard battalion for the Presidential Palace. We made arrangements with President Magsaysay in the Philippines and borrowed his senior aide and military advisor, Col. Napoleon Valeriano, who had a fine combat record against the Communist Huks and also had reorganized the Presidential Guard Battalion for Magsaysay. Valeriano, with three junior officers, arrived in January and went to work on Diem's guard battalion. Later, selected Vietnamese officers were trained with the Presidential Guards in Manila. An efficient unit gradually emerged. Diem was warmly grateful for this help by Filipinos who also continuously taught our concept of loyalty and freedom.

Benito Valeriano - was a general in the Philippine army.  His son – Napoleon D. Valeriano – was a major in the U.S. Army when the Philippines fell during World War II.  Major Valeriano was a part of the Bataan Death March from which he escaped into the jungle. After escaping, Major Valeriano helped to organize an insurgency network to fight the Japanese occupiers of the Philippines. Major Valeriano was there when General MacArthur returned to the Philippines and was with him as much of the Philippines was liberated. Major Valeriano was later a noted speaker on the subject of counter-insurgency, including a number of seminars at West Point. 
The patriot we've named Trieu Dinh had been working on an almanac for popular sale, particularly in the northern cities and towns we could still reach. Noted Vietnamese astrologers were hired to write predictions about coming disasters to certain Vietminh leaders and undertakings, and to predict unity in the south. The work was carried out under the direction of Lt Phillips, based on our concept of the use of astrology for psywar in Southeast Asia. Copies of the almanac were shipped by air to Haiphong and then smuggled into Vietminh territory.

Dinh also had produced a Thomas Paine type series of essays on Vietnamese patriotism against the Communist Vietminh, under the guidance of Capt. Arundel. These essays were circulated among influential groups in Vietnam, earned front-page editorials in the leading daily newspaper in Saigon. Circulation increased with the publication of these essays. The publisher is known to SMM as The Dragon Lady and is a fine Vietnamese girl who has been the mistress of an anti-American French civilian. Despite anti-American remarks by her boy friend, we had helped her keep her paper from being closed by the government....and she found it profitable to heed our advice on the editorial content of her paper.

Arms and equipment for the Binh paramilitary team were being cached in the north in areas still free from the Vietminh. Personnel movements were covered by the flow of refugees. Haiphong was reminiscent of our own pioneer days as it was swamped with people whom it couldn't shelter. Living space and food were at a premium, nervous tension grew. It was a wild time for our northern team.

First supplies for the Hao paramilitary group started to arrive in Saigon. These shipments and the earlier ones for the Binh group were part of an efficient and effective air smuggling effort by the 58 1st [word illegible] Wing, U.S. Air Force, to support SMM, with help by CIA and Air Force personnel in both Okinawa and the Philippines. SMM officers frequently did coolie labor in manhandling tons of cargo, at times working throughout the night. . . . All....officers pitched in to help, as part of our "blood, sweat and tears."....

By 31 January, all operational equipment of the Binh paramilitary group had been trans-shipped to Haiphong from Saigon, mostly with the help of CAT, and the northern SMM team had it cached in operational sites. Security measures were tightened at the Haiphong airport and plans for bringing in the Hao equipment were changed from the air route to sea. Task Force 98, now 98.7 under command of Captain Frank, again was asked to give a helping hand and did so....

....Major Conein had briefed the members of the Binh paramilitary team and started them infiltrating into the north as individuals. The infiltration was carried out in careful stages over a 30 day period, a successful operation. The Binhs became normal citizens, carrying out every day civil pursuits, on the surface. We had smuggled into Vietnam about eight and a half tons of supplies for the Hao paramilitary group. They included fourteen agent radios, 300 carbines, 90, 000 rounds of carbine ammunition, 50 pistols, 10,000 rounds of pistol ammunition, and 300 pounds of explosives. Two and a half tons were delivered to the
Hao agents in Tonkin, while the remainder was cached along the Red River by SMM, with the help of the Navy....

The CIA used the Mafia's allies, the Union Corse, to take Marseille away from the independent and communist unions, leaving the Corsican hoods in control of the most important port in France. The geopolitical rationale for this, from both the French and the American perspective, wasn't only the threat the leftists posed to control of France, but to the Indochina war. The Vietminh had considerable support among French leftists in 1947.
In an attempt to force the French government to negotiate with the Vietminh, the communist dock worker unions, which were full of former Maquis fighters, refused to load American arms destined for Vietnam. The only outfits with enough muscle to challenge the communist unions for control of the docks were the union-busting Corsican hoods and their puppet-union goon squads. The 1947 street war for control of Marseille's docks, financed and coordinated by American military intelligence, was nasty, brutish and short.

The French secret services, also financed by American military intelligence, had been using Corsican opium dealers throughout Indochina to finance their operation against the Vietminh. Thus they had a system in place for the collection and distribution of opium and morphine base from all over the Golden Triangle of Laos, Burma and Thailand.

Morphine base is easily manufactured in makeshift jungle labs. Opium's major alklaoid is precipitated out of the raw sap by boiling it in water with lime. The white morphine floats to the top. That is drawn off and boiled with ammonia, filtered, boiled again, and then sun-dried. The resultant clay-like brown paste is morphine base.

That's where the Corsicans came in. Heroin is diacetylmorphine, morphine in combination with acetic acid, the naturally-occurring acid found in citrus fruits and vinegar. Heroin is preferred by addicts because the acetic acid renders it highly soluble in blood, therefore quicker acting and more potent than unrefined morphine.

The combination process requires, firstly, the skillful use of acetic anhydride, chloroform, sodium carbonate and alcohol. Then the last step, purification in the fourth stage, requires heating with ether and hydrochloric acid. Since the volatile ether has a habit of exploding, the Union Corse had to advertise for a few good chemists.

With huge protected surpluses of morphine base available, the Corsicans built a network of labs to refine not only the Indochinese, but also the Persian and Turkish product, shipping the finished snow white #4 heroin out of a Marseille they now controlled. The Union Corse heroin was often shipped on the order of their Mafia partners, who controlled the great American retail market.

With that much leverage, the Corsican hoods became major CIA "assets" throughout the fifties. Anslinger's star international agents in the 50's, George White, Charles Siragusa and Sal Vizzini, actually brag in their memoirs about their operational CIA/Deuxieme Bureau connections. That is, as they themselves obliquely admit, their mission was essentially political, with the occassional cosmetic bust thrown in for credibility, or to destroy a competing "asset." White is the man who protended that Burmese-KMT heroin came from the Reds.

The U.S. had initially supported the Vietminh in Vietnam, and then shifted its support to the French, who proceeded to lose anyway. In 1954, as the French were collapsing, President Eisenhower addressed these remarkable words to the National Security Council: "The key to winning this war is to get the Vietnamese to fight. There is just no sense in even talking about United States forces replacing the French in Indochina. If we did so, the Vietnamese could be expected to transfer their hatred of the French to us. I cannot tell you how bitterly opposed I am to such a course of action. This war in Indochina would absorb our troops by divisions!"

The Dulles brothers ignored Eisenhower, sending their most dangerous operative, the CIA's Col. Edward Lansdale. Lansdale had just finished stomping the Filippine campesinos into submission. In the process, he replaced President Quirino with our chosen commercial puppet, Ramon Magsaysay. This was done using the old Reichstag Fire trick. The threat posed by the largely mythical HUK rebels was wildly exaggerated by staged incidents which were splashed all over the media. Then Magsaysay, the young Lone Ranger Congressman, rode to the rescue, in the media.

Lansdale, a former advertising executive, was the lead unconventional warfare officer attached to the Saigon Military Mission. His 12-man team was in place by July 1954, less than 2 months after the French defeat at Dienbienphu. They found that the well-organized Binh Xuyen street gang, which was in effect an arm of the Deuxieme Bureau, directly controlled Saigon's police force. Lansdale used the mountain of American money and matériel at his disposal to buy the defeated French Vietnamese army, the ARVN. When it was ready, in April of 1955, the ARVN, in a savage 6-day battle that left 500 dead, took Saigon back from the Binh Xuyen.

Lansdale worked in tandem with Lucien Conein, who, during the war, led OSS paramilitary operations in North Vietnam, fighting in the Tonkin jungle with French guerrillas. He was instrumental in rescuing the French population in Hanoi from Vietminh retribution on their 1945 takeover. In this effort he worked with Gen. Phillip Gallagher and Maj. Archimedes Patti, OSS liaison to the Vietminh. Having worked with the French throughout their Indochina war, Conein knew North Vietnam well enough to operate there for Landale in 1955. His intimate knowledge of French forces, and his skillful use of troops, helped Lansdale take Saigon.

After all that effort, of course, it would have been a shame to lose "South Vietnam," an American fiction, to Ho Chi Minh in the 1956 all-Vietnam elections guaranteed by the Geneva Accords of 1954. The Accords had simply divided Vietnam into French- or Vietminh-controlled electoral districts. But France lost control of its district. "South Vietnam," with its American-controlled ARVN, refused to participate, despite French insistence that the Accords, formally recognized by the U.S., were internationally binding.

Instead, Lansdale rigged a fake election, installing our puppet, the French puppet Bao Dai's former prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem, as President of the previously non-existent South Vietnam in October of 1955. There is no doubt that Ho's victory in a southern election would have been a landslide, though, unlike the North, other parties had strength. France was set to formally recognize one Vietnam under the Vietminh.

In 1950, U.S. military intelligence told Douglas MacArthur, then in charge of our troops in Korea, that 80% of the Vietnamese people supported Ho Chi Minh, and that for the overwhelming majority this support had nothing to do with Ho's politics, but his nationalism. This, of course, was not news to MacArthur. He told Kennedy in the White House in 1961 that Viet Nam's only Vietnamese-led army was synonymous with nationalism. He emphasized that the Vietminh was a genuine national liberation front so popular that, if put under attack, it could mobilize virtually the entire population, giving it a numerical superiority that would enable it to absorb high losses indefinitely and still inflict unacceptable damage on any invader.

Eisenhower knew this too, of course, and so bitterly opposed American ground troops in Vietnam. The Dulles brothers were not swayed.  The mission of the Saigon Military Mission was the destabilization of southern Vietnam. By artificially creating anarchy, banditry and guerrilla war, where none existed before, the situation was militarized. The Red Menace would then require Diem's military police state. The puppet regime would then become a reliable source of huge defense contracts. That's advertising.

The Geneva Accords had split the country into two roughly equal electoral districts at the 17th parallel. They also provided that Vietnamese were free to move from one district to another. The Saigon Military Mission used this loophole to foment hysteria among Catholics in the North. This terror was entirely the work of Lansdale's northern "psy-ops" teams, led by Conein.  It had nothing to do with, and was not the policy of the Vietminh. But when Catholic peasants are machine-gunned by people who say they are Vietminh, and who look like them, well, psyops really do work.

The departing French helped to herd the terrorized Catholic peasants into Haiphong harbor, where they were loaded onto U.S. Navy transports. The CIA's Civil Air Transport also pitched in, and many just walked across the border. By 1956, more than one million Vietnamese, mostly impoverished Catholic Tonkinese, were dropped, with no social support, among the traditional villages of the southern Cochinese in the Mekong Delta. These populations had never mixed before and despised one another. The homeless Tonkinese Catholics were outnumbered by the native Cochinese Buddhists 12:1.

Diem then did his job. He proceeded to confiscate traditional village lands and hand them to homeless northern Catholic bandit groups. Since "South Vietnam" had never existed before, it had no governmental structure - no tax system, military, police, legislature, civil service - nothing. Diem filled these slots with his pet Catholics. He then abolished all municipal elections and filled those slots with Catholics as well. Diem was creating a mirror of the French administration. His army commander, Gen. Tran Van Don, had been born and educated in France, and fought both WW II and the French Indochina War with the French.
Diem then did something truly diabolical. He destroyed the traditional Mekong Delta barter economy by expelling all ethnic French and Chinese. The rural economy - the grain and commodity markets run for centuries by the mercantile Chinese, collapsed. Commodities as basic as dry-season drinking water became unavailable as the harvests rotted for lack of buyers. Dung-soaked rice-paddy water is undrinkable. The situation did indeed militarize.
Until Lansdale and Conein's psy-ops, one of which was Diem himself, southern Vietnam had been introverted, tribal, peaceful and wealthy - and for the most part completely unaware of the Vietminh. But in the face of starvation, uncontrolled banditry by homeless northern invaders, the systematic destruction of their economy and property rights, and enslavement at gunpoint in "strategic hamlets" - most southern Vietnamese accepted the discipline of the only Vietnamese-led army in Vietnam, the Vietminh.

Since the urbane, Catholic, French-speaking Diem, below center, lacked the popular support of the Vietminh, in rural, Buddhist, Vietnamese-speaking Vietnam, he was forced to rely for his financing on his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, a world-class opium and heroin dealer tied to the Corsicans. Lansdale, below left center, pitched in with a coordinated effort to repeat the French Operation X, which organized the Hmong of highland Laos to operate against the popular Pathet Lao and Vietminh. Lucien Conein had helped the French run Operation X, and so had a relationship with Nhu's Corsicans. Since the only cash crop of the Hmong was opium, that put CAT-Air America, which tied together their disparate mountain villages, firmly in the opium-for-arms business. The proceeds were used to finance both the Hmong army, led by the former French-serving Vang Pao, and Diem's nepotistic regime.

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