General Hieu's View on Tri Tam Battle

After talking to General Hieu, Richard Peters sent the following top secret cablegram to the US Embassy in Saigon.

P 120445Z MAR 75

SUBJECT: TRI TAM BATTLE AND SITUATION IN TAY NINH CITY

REF: BIEN HOA 142

1. THE MR3 COMMANDER AND HIS 2 DEPUTIES WERE TRAVELLING MOST OF THE DAY MAR 11 AND REFTEL WAS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM LOWER LEVEL SOURCES AT MR3 HQ. DEPT CMDR, MG HIEU, AFTER RETURNING FROM EASTERN TAY NINH AT THE END OF THE DAY, REVIEWED THE TRI TAM AND TAY NINH PROVINCE SITUATION WITH ME OVER COFFEE AT 2100 HOURS MAR 11. HE GAVE A CONSIDERABLY MORE FAVORABLE ACCOUNT OF THE SITUATION THAN THAT SET FORTH REFTEL.

2. ACCORDING TO HIEU, THE NVA/VC BROKE OFF THE ATTACK AT TRI TAM AT THE END OF THE DAY AFTER THE ATTACKING 272ND NVA REGT HAD FAILED TO BREACH THE DEFENSES AND SAPPERS WHO HAD PENETRATED TO THE MARKET (HE SAID TANKS NEVER REACHED THE MARKET AREA) WERE THROWN BACK. THE SITUATION WAS QUIET AT 2030 HOURS. MOST OF THE ARVN THIRD ARMORED BRIGADE WAS DEPLOYED FROM BINH DUONG PROVINCE DURING THE DAY AND BY LATE AFTERNOON WAS IN PLACE ON ROUTE 26 IN EASTERN TAY NINH PROVINCE AROUND AND NORTH OF KHIEM HANH. ITS MISSION IS BOTH TO PUSH TO THE RELIEF OF TRI TAM AND TO COUNTER ANY HEAVY NVA/VC THRUST IN WESTERN TAY NINH PROVINCE. THE 3RD ARMORED COMMANDER, BG KHOI, HAS NOW BEEN GIVEN OPCON OF FORCES IN EASTERN TAY NINH AND TRI TAM. MR3 HAS ESTABLISHED A FORWARD CP AT GO DAU HA.

3. ON ROUTE 22, MEANWHILE, THE NVA/VC HAD BEEN PUSHED OUT OF 2 OF THE 3 POINTS OF INTERDICTION WITH SOME PROSPECT FOR RE-OPENING THE ROAD WITHIN A DAY OR TWO. AT THE SAME TIME, ACCORDING TO HIEU, MR3 HQ SEES NO SIGN OF ANY NEW MOVEMENT OF MAJOR NVA/VC FORCES IN A MENACING WAY NORTH OR WEST OF TAY NINH CITY.

4. HIEU SAID THE 3RD ARMORED BRIGADE HAD BEEN MOVED TO EASTERN TAY NINH IN THE BELIEF THAT THE TRI TAM ATTACK SIGNALLED AN INTENT ON THE PART OF THE OTHER SIDE TO HIT THAT AREA THEN SQUEEZE TAY NINH CITY RATHER THAN ASSAULT THE CITY DIRECTLY. HE SAID GEN TOAN HOPES HE HAS NOT OVERREACTED BY BRINGING MORE FORCES TO BEAR IN THAT AREA THEN ARE REQUIRED. TOAN RECOGNIZES THE POSSIBILITY THAT CURRENT ATTACKS IN THE TAY NINH AREA MAY ONLY BE LIGHT AND DIVERSIONARY TO SUPPORT THE HEAVY ACTION IN MR II, WITH HEAVIER ATTACKS IN MR III TO COME LATER. HIEU THOUGHT THAT ROCKETING OF BIEN HOA WOULD BE ONE IMPORTANT CLUE. FURTHER HEAVY ROCKET ATTACKS NOW WOULD SHOW AN INTENT TO NEUTRALIZE VNAF FOR IMMEDIATE NVA/VC ATTACKS WHILE A BREAK, OR SPORADIC LIGHT ATTACKS, WOULD INDICATE POSTPONEMENT OF HEAVY ATTACKS IN MR III.

5. LATEST WORD REGARDING TRI TAM AT 0730 HOURS MAR 12 FROM G-3 SOURCES AT MR3 HQ IS THAT THE NVA/VC RENEWED THE ATTACK WITH INFANTRY AND ARMOR AT 0200 HOURS AND FIGHTING CONTINUES.

6. MG HIEU SHOULD NOT CITED AS SOURCE IN ANY DISCUSSION OF THIS MESSAGE'S CONTENTS WITH GVN OFFICIALS.

PETERS

This document was declassified/released by the State Department on July 05, 2006.

Comment: This cablegram reveals that there were:

- indications that General Hieu and Richard Peters often met in private at the US General Consul's residence in Bien Hoa after office hours (re paragraph 1).

- and indications of disagreement on tactics between General Hieu and General Toan (re paragraph 4). When announcing General Hieu's death, reporters noted that the event occurred subsequent to a heat argument on tactics between General Hieu and his immediate superior.

Nguyen Van Tin
01 October 2008

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