Valor vs. Vicious Vicissitudinary Verisimilitude, Part II
What I have demonstrated so far is that American forces were authorized at the top levels of Lyndon Johnson's government to go into Cambodia, and that the Cambodian government allowed this soon after the authorization was issued. This Unit Citation confirms these operations:
.... Incorporating volunteers from all branches of the Armed Forces, and especially, U.S. Army Special Forces, Special Operations Group’s ground, air and sea units fought officially denied actions which contributed immeasurably to the American war effort in Vietnam. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Special Operations Group reconnaissance teams composed of Special Forces soldiers and indigenous personnel penetrated the enemy’s most dangerous redoubts in the jungled Laotian wilderness and the sanctuaries of eastern Cambodia ....
[Signed By] Thomas E. White, Secretary of the Army [TAPC-PDO-PA]
Let's take a closer look at the units which conducted these secret operations.
Arrived Vietnam: November 1967 Departed Vietnam., March 1971
Location: Ban Me Thuot
Command and Control South (CCS) was a new field command created by MACV-SOG when permission was granted to conduct cross-border missions into Cambodia. Commanded by a Major, and later a LtCol., CCS was the smallest of the MACV-SOG field commands and was engaged in classified special unconventional warfare missions inside VC-dominated South Vietnam and throughout Cambodia. Its organization was similar to that of CCC. It contained Spike recon teams (RT), Hatchet forces, and four SLAM companies.
Cross-border operations had been conducted into northeastern Cambodia since May 1967 under Project DANIEL BOONE, later known as SALEM HOUSE. In 1971 the name was changed to THOT NOT. CCS folded in March 1971 when MACV-SOG created Task Force I Advisory Element at Da Nang.
CCC was formed by MACV-SOG in late 1967, located in Kontum and operated in the Tri-border junction of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The primary mission of CCC (like the other Command and Control Centers) was strategic reconnaissance gathering.
Cross border (over the fence) operations were invariably code named in the interests of secrecy. Missions into Cambodia were also given code names and were initially known as "DANIEL BOONE" and later in the war as "SALEM HOUSE".
The combat elements associated with CCC were used to reinforce and assist in the recon mission. The first MACV-SOG recon teams were initially called "SPIKE TEAMS", each team (depending on what book you read!) consisting of 3 US SF personnel and 9 indigenous personnel. CCC fielded approximately 30 recon teams which were named after US States.
Recon teams that got into difficulty (stepped in shit!) could call for assistance from US led reaction forces known as "HATCHET FORCES", these were of platoon size and consisted of 5 US SF and about 30 indigenous personnel. "HATCHET FORCES" could also be used for ambushes as well as reinforcing recon teams when needed. Two or more "HATCHET FORCES" combined were termed as a "HAVOC" or "HORNET" force. Full SOG companies were called "SLAM" companies, Search, Location, Annihilation, Monitor (or Mission). Of these CCC had 4, A,B,C, and D, and used US paid indigenous personnel recruited and paid for by MACV-SOG.
The recon teams focused their energies on specific areas of the trail in order to obtain current up to date information on construction, troop movements, supplies, etc. This information was often gained at great risk to the recon teams and transmitted to OP-34 ground studies branch at SOG HQ for inclusion into the daily SITREP reports. Relatively lightly armed the recon teams were not designed to slug it out in a pitched battle with the enemy. Instead they relied on moving without being detected, If in the event they were compromised (detected) then the ability to break contact quickly and evade the enemy was of paramount importance.
CCC was deactivated in March 1971, but in reality was altered in name only to TFAE2. A year later in March 1972 the whole organization was supposedly terminated but covert missions involving SF troops continued, and actually increased. The US forces probably wearing black baseball caps and non-related SF insignia on their uniforms. Many of the SF personnel lost after the official withdrawal date are among the POW/MIA discrepancy cases.
Green Berets at war. S.Stanton.
Vn Order of Battle. S.Stanton
SF of the United States Army 52-82. LTC. I.Sutherland.
These units were set up under the command of General William Westmoreland, who was replaced after the debacle of the Tet Offensive in early 1968:
Why is this important?
The Tet Offensive, though a fiasco for the enemy, demonstrated that the old approach, championed by General William Westmoreland, was not working. It led Westmoreland’s successor Creighton Abrams to reevaluate how the war was being fought and re-center the American role around three principles: providing security for the countryside (with "clear and hold" superseding "search and destroy"), improving the quality, size and equipment of the South Vietnam’s forces, and cutting off enemy supply lines through Cambodia and Laos.
Abrams was only taking advantage of the actions that had already been approved by the highest authorities over a year before. The reasons for this authorization, and Abrams interest in taking action based on that authorization, are outlined here:
Gen. Creighton Abrams had been a long time advocate of taking the war to the NVA in Cambodia and had directed the 1st Cav operations to clear III Corps of NVA/VC strongholds. The importance of the Cambodia sanctuary was well known in November 1965 during the bloody battle in the Ia Drang valley at LZs X-Ray and Albany.
From my prospective, prior to the U.S. "Invasion" of Cambodia in May 1970, A Troop and other elements of the 3/17th Air Cavalry Squadron were doing limited recon work across the fence [over the border - ed.]
Then LTC (now Lt. Gen. Ret.) 'Hal' Moore who led the 1/7th into LZ X-Ray writes in his book, We Were Soldiers Once... And Young:
"We knew for a fact that the three North Vietnamese regiments that we had fought in the Ia Drang had withdrawn into Cambodia. We wanted to follow them in hot pursuit, on the ground and in the air, but could not do so under the rules of engagement. Washington had just answered one very important question in the minds of Hanoi's leaders.
"General Kinnard [1st Cav Division Commander] says: 'I was always taught as an officer that in a pursuit situation you continue to pursue until you either kill the enemy or he surrenders. I saw the Ia Drang as a definite pursuit situation and I wanted to keep after them. Not to follow them into Cambodia violated every principle of warfare. I was supported in this by both the military and civilian leaders in Saigon. But the decision was made back there, at the White House, that we would not be permitted to pursue into Cambodia. It became perfectly clear to the North Vietnamese that they then had sanctuary; they could come when they were ready to fight and leave when they were ready to quit.'
"William Bundy was then assistant secretary of state. Of that period and that decision, he says, 'I suppose from a strictly military point of view, going into Cambodia would have been a net plus. But there was a good deal more at stake. We were trying to preserve a facade of Cambodia [and Lao] neutrality.' " [End of quote]
Other Political Concerns
The Salem House operations were also subject to constraints due to the Department of State and Cambodia’s Prince Sihanouk’s desire to avoid incidents that might risk Cambodian lives. Although Sihanouk had severed diplomatic relations with the United States in 1965, informal contacts with the Cambodian leader continued. In 1968, Sihanouk told U.S. Presidential Emissary Chester Bowles: "...We are not opposed to hot pursuit in uninhabited areas. I want you to force the Viet Cong to leave Cambodia...." [Henry Kissinger, White House Years (Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown & Company, 1979), pages 250-252. See also BDM, The Strategic Lessons, Volume 6, page 4-43.]
Even with Sihanouk’s tacit approval for hot pursuit, combat operations in Cambodia were also governed by a concern that public exposure of these activities would bring international protest and strengthen the anti-war movement in the United States.
[See also NOTE: at end of Part III - ed.]
Between 1964 and 1972, the SOG’s OPS-35 was said to have had a strength of 2,000-2,500 U.S. personnel and 7,000 to 8,000 indigenous troops, most of whom came from South Vietnam’s Montagnard, Cambodian (Khmer Krom), and Nung ethnic minorities. Although OPS-35’s primarily concerns were with strategic reconnaissance, on special occasions its teams would conduct raids, prisoner apprehension missions, or seek-locate-annihilate-and-monitor (SLAM) missions. [Stanton, Vietnam, Order of Battle, page 251. Sutton, Horace, "The Ghostly War of the Green Berets," Saturday Review, 18 October 1969, page 25. See also Westmoreland, William C., A Soldier Reports (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1976), page 107. Maitland, Terrence, Weiss, Stephen (Editors), The Vietnam Experience, Raising the Stakes (Boston, Massachusetts: Boston Publishing Company, 1982), pages 144-145.]
Frequently the teams were sent into Laos to the home villages of ethnic minority team members to induce the villagers to aid in establishing "in country" bases for future operations. On other occasions, their task was to tap North Vietnamese Army (NVA) telephone lines or to plant acoustic and
seismic sensors along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The Montagnards of Vietnam’s Central Highlands were especially helpful in the cross-border operations since their tribal affiliations crossed international boundaries. This factor was particularly useful when the OPS-35 teams conducted patrols in Laos and northern Cambodia, both countries having sizable Montagnard populations along the South Vietnamese border. To a lesser degree, Cambodians born in South Vietnam (called Khmer Krom) fulfilled the same purposes when SOG conducted operations in certain regions of Cambodia. At one SOG site (Hobarge Tours), an entire reaction company of Khmer Krom was never to participate in an operation in Cambodia according to official policy. Official policy notwithstanding, Khmer Krom troops may have engaged in OPS-35’s cross-border operations just as they did in other unconventional activities.
To provide the SOG and the United States some form of plausible denial (albeit weak) for personnel who might be captured, the SOG units frequently had maps printed with distorted international boundary lines. In a further effort to conceal the nature of its operations, it was SOG’s policy to report its casualties as having occurred in South Vietnam.
This could in part explain why a crewman of Kerry's, Steve Gardner, claims he will never forget those days in late December when he was wounded on PCF 44, not in Cambodia, but many miles away in Vietnam - he was under orders to do so. More on these orders later.
Everything I have presented so far has been about the activities of the Special Forces on the ground. What was the Navy doing during this time?
According to Kerry's detractors:
During Christmas 1968, Kerry was stationed at Coastal Division 13 in Cat Lo. Coastal Division 13’s patrol areas extended to Sa Dec, about fifty-five miles from the Cambodian border. Areas closer than fifty-five miles to the Cambodian border in the area of the Mekong River were patrolled by PBRs, a small river patrol craft, and not by Swift Boats. Tom Anderson, Commander of River Division 531, who was in charge of the PBRs, confirmed that there were no Swifts anywhere in the area and that they would have been stopped had they appeared.
A large sign at the border prohibited entry. Preventing border crossings was considered so important at the time that an LCU (a large, mechanized landing craft) and several PBRs were stationed to ensure that no one could cross the border.
If an LCU was at the Cambodian border, why not something much smaller, like Swift boats? We already know that an operation considered very important and secret was underway in that area, so why would the command hold back any asset? We could ask them ...
All the living commanders in Kerry’s chain of command — Joe Streuhli (Commander of CosDiv 13), George Elliott (Commander of CosDiv 11), Adrian Lonsdale (Captain, USCG and Commander, Coastal Surveillance Center at An Thoi), Rear Admiral Roy Hoffmann (Commander, Coastal Surveillance Force Vietnam, CTF 115), and Rear Admiral Art Price (Commander of River Patrol Force, CTF 116) — deny that Kerry was ever ordered to Cambodia. They indicate that Kerry would have been seriously disciplined or court-martialed had he gone there.
Much like Kerry’s many other lies relating to supposed "war crimes" committed by the U.S. military in Vietnam, the lie about the illegal Cambodian incursion painted his superiors up the chain of command — men such as Commander Streuhli, Commander Elliott, Admiral Hoffmann, and Admiral Zumwalt, all distinguished Naval heroes and men of integrity — as villains faced down by John Kerry, a solitary hero in grave and exotic danger and forced illegally and against his will into harm’s way.
Admiral Zumwalt, huh? Let's take a look at the good Admiral and his honesty!
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