Saturday, April 29, 1972
Say Rain To Limit Red Push
Officials point out that the monsoon weather with its heavy rains will become an important factor by the end of May or early June. The North Vietnamese drive in its first month of development has not gone as fast as Hanoi may have hoped and could not be considered an overwhelming success at this point.
The territory North Vietnam has gained control of so far contains only two per cent of the population, but the 10 North Vietnamese regular army divisions committed to South Vietnam and the additional two divisions in Laos are moving and trying to obtain more real estate before the supply lines are choked by torrential rains.
The North Vietnamese are believed anxious to restore control over the countryside, including collection of taxes and a population to help move supplies, the officials said. This type of control was lost after the decimation of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces in the bloody 1968 Tet offensive.
It is believed here that the North Vietnamese have tried to open the second phase of their attack. This involves numerous small and isolated attacks in the Delta region and in Binh Dinh Province in the north. The Phase 2 attacks involve concentrating sizable forces to overrun local defenses, invade villages and execute local leaders who serve as the symbols of the Saigon government.
The North Vietnamese claim that their 1972 drive will be decisive, but they do not say that victory will be won this year. To have a decisive outcome, the North Vietnamese forces must continue fighting and they must register more conspicuous successes than they have been able to show thus far, according to estimates here.
American officials are expecting that despite the weather, the North Vietnamese will stay longer and fight harder than they did in 1968 to make their battle plan effective.
If the Phase 2 program fails because of threats to the Communist supply lines, it is expected that there will be an easing off in the fighting and a movement toward political negotiations. On the battlefield there will be a return to a longer plan of attack, rather than the all-out, conventional type of warfare now being employed.
According to officials closely studying Hanoi's actions, North Vietnamese leaders appear to be in a wait-and-see attitude as their strategy unfolds. One of their objectives, it is believed here, is to see if their spring offensive can help bring about the defeat of President Nixon in November.
The aging Hanoi leadership is said to feel impatient, particularly due to some difficulties they are encountering in finding young people with the same revolutionary fervor they have had.
It is also believed the Nixon trips to Peking and Moscow have made Hanoi uncomfortable.
The next few weeks could turn out very well from the U.S. standpoint or backfire badly, depending on how well the South Vietnamese, supported by U.S. air and naval power, can resist the North. There are an estimated 3,000 Communist trucks and an unspecified number of tanks numbering in the hundreds operating in the South. So now the North is bound to highways and fuel supplies to keep its armor effective.
"Say Rain to Limit Red Push", by (AP), published in the Pacific Stars and Strips on Saturday, April 29, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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