The phoenix program - səhifə 33
i. The CIA's unilateral Vietnamese asset PVT was in charge of PRU and Phoenix operations in Da Nang.
ii. The PRU and Special Forces Mike Forces were trusted because they were under CIA control, with no official Vietnamese involvement.
iii. Bishop noted that the American sergeant in charge of PIC administration sold food and clothing on the black market and had to be relieved. The Da Nang City IOCC and the three district IOCCs had their own interrogation and detention facilities.
CHAPTER 26: Revisions
By 1971, as the war subsided and the emphasis shifted to police operations, it was finally understood, as General Clay had said in August 1969, "that the objective of neutralizations of the infrastructure is equal in priority to the objective of tactical operations." 
Brighter than ever, the spotlight shone on the Phoenix Directorate, which boasted in its 1970 End of Year Report: "The degree of success of the RVN counter-insurgency effort is directly related to the success in accomplishing this neutralization objective." Noting that "This concept [author's emphasis] will receive even more emphasis in 1971" and that "The Phung Hoang program has been given the highest priority in the GVN's pacification effort," the report says: "Full participation of all agencies will be maintained until VCI strength is greatly reduced; then it will be feasible to transfer complete responsibility for VCI neutralizations to the Special Police." 
Despite the optimism, there were problems. The pending cease-fire, aka the stab in the back, meant that just as the coup de grace was about to be delivered to the VCI, Washington politicians were preparing to grant it legal status, a development which would enable its agents, the directorate warned, "to increase their activity in controlled and contested areas and, with their anonymity, be free to proselytize, terrorize and propagandize in the GVN controlled rural and urban areas." Citing captured documents that revealed plans for Communist subversion after the truce, the directorate said, "It is imperative that the Phung Hoang or a similar anti VCI effort be continued, particularly during an in-place ceasefire. " Moreover, because the politicians were hastening to withdraw American troops, the directorate suggested "[c]areful and studied consideration ... to ensure that the Phung Hoang Program is not adversely affected by the premature withdrawal of advisory personnel." 
Apart from the cease-fire and the drawdown, what the directorate feared most was the inability of the Vietnamese to manage the attack on the VCI. The pressure began to mount on December 3, 1970, when The New York Times quoted Robert Thompson as saying that captured documents indicated that hundreds of South Vietnamese policemen were Vietcong agents, that there were as many as thirty thousand Communist agents in the GVN, and that Phoenix was not doing the job and was itself infiltrated by Communists. Thompson's charge was substantiated when, in 1970, a CIA counterintelligence investigation revealed that Da Nang's PIC chief was a Communist double agent who had killed his captured comrades during the Tet offensive in order to maintain his cover.
As a result of these problems, it was suggested that further revisions in the Phoenix program be made. One of the first steps was to hire two private companies-Southeast Asia Computer Associates (managed by CIA officer Jim Smith) and the Computer Science Corporation (under CIA officer Joe Langbien) -- to advise the two hundred-odd Vietnamese technicians who were scheduled to take over the MACV and CORDS computers. The Vietnamese were folded into Big Mack, and the Phung Hoang Management Information System (PHMIS) was joined with the National Police Criminal Information System, which tracked the VCI members from their identification through their capture, legal processing, detention, and (when it happened), release.
Personnel changes designed to strengthen National Police Command support of Phoenix began at the top with the promotion of Colonel Hai to brigadier general in September 1970. [i] Five months later twenty-five thousand ARVN officers and enlisted men and ten thousand RD Cadre were transferred to the National Police. Three policemen were sent to each village having at least five hundred residents, and in urban areas two cops were assigned for each thousand people. Field Police platoons were sent to the districts, and twenty-six hundred additional special policemen were hired into the force. 
As a way of addressing what General Clay called "the critical shortage of qualified Special Police case officers, " the directorate focused greater attention on the case officer training courses and seminars at the regional Phung Hoang schools, emphasizing the use of target folders.
Regarding American personnel, Phoenix inspection teams were given the authority to remove unsatisfactory Vietnamese, and more than two hundred senior enlisted men scheduled to return to the United States as part of the drawdown were transferred instead to Phoenix as deputy DIOCC advisers, mostly in the Delta. Because these men could speak Vietnamese and were counterintelligence experts, Jack called this a windfall. These counterintelligence specialists maintained target folders, reviewed agent reports, PIC reports, and Chieu Hoi debriefings, and liaisoned among PICs, PIOCCs, and Chieu Hoi centers.
September 1970 also marked the creation of the Phoenix Career Program and the Military Assistance Security Advisory (MASA) course at Fort Bragg, climaxing a process begun in 1950, when the U.S. Army had established its Psywar Division at Fort Riley. Requirements for MASA training included an "outstanding" record and Vietnamese-language "ability and aptitude." Prior service in Vietnam was "desirable," and military intelligence officers were given top priority .Field-grade officers were promised entry into the Command and General Staff College. Other ranks were promised, among other things, preference of next assignment; civil schooling upon completion of the tour; an invitation to join the Army's Foreign Area Specialist program; and, while in Vietnam, five vacations and a special thirty-day leave, including a round-trip ticket anywhere in the free world.
"The only bad side to that," said Doug Dillard, "is that it didn't work. When I came from the War College to take over as chief of Military Intelligence Branch, we were getting a lot of complaints from the youngsters saying, 'You're not living up to your promise. I wanted to go to Fort Bragg and you're sending me to Fort Lewis.' It was part of the turmoil of the drawdown, that all these jobs were not going to exist when these kids started coming out of Vietnam. I immediately did everything I could to change that program and not make any commitment to those youngsters." 
In July 1970 the Phoenix Coordinators' Orientation Course was renamed the Phung Hoang Advisory School and moved from Seminary Camp to the Driftwood Service Club on the Vung Tau Air Base. Classes began in August and were taught by CIA instructors and a team of intelligence officers assigned to Lieutenant Colonel C. J. Fulford. As the National Police assumed greater responsibility for Phoenix, more Public Safety advisers began to receive Phung Hoang training and were folded into the program as PIC and Phoenix task force advisers.
Another development in 1970 was the proliferation of Phoenix task forces. For example, in September 1970 in Quang Tin Province, a Phoenix task force composed of 180 field policemen, 60 PRU, and 30 armed propagandists was organized and used as a private army by the Phoenix coordinator in Tam Ky. Called Hiep Dong, the force was broken down into platoons that operated independently and in combined operations with U.S. or ARVN forces. The Quang Tin province chief wrote Hiep Dong's operational orders, which were cosigned by the local U.S. and ARVN commanders. In one Hiep Dong operation, 24 Regional Force companies, 99 Popular Force platoons, and the entire 196th and 5th ARVN regiments were committed. Of the operation's 132 objectives, 116 were VCI targets, 99 of which were neutralized.
In addition, the Territorial Forces and People's Self-Defense Forces provided "intelligence and reconnaissance units" to the force. "In my hamlet," said a resident of Quang Tin Province quoted in Hostages of War, "the Phoenix men come at night and rap on our doors. They are dressed in the black pajamas of the Liberation soldiers and tell people they are with the Liberation army. But they are really the secret police. If the people welcome them with joy, these policemen kill them or take them away as Viet Cong. But if they are VC soldiers and we say anything good about the Saigon government, we are taken off as rice bearers or soldiers for the Front." 
All in all, 8,191 VCI were killed in 1970-more than any year before or after; 7,745 VCI rallied and 6,405 were jailed, for a total of 22,341 VCI neutralized, all class A and B. Approximately 40 percent of all VCI kills were credited to Territorial Forces. The Field Police were still "underemployed," according to the 1970 End of Year Report, and "Coordination of the PRU with the DIOCCs was somewhat less than ideal in some areas. The PRU, in some cases justifiably critical of the security in the DIOCCs and PIOCCs, generally did not contribute intelligence regularly to the DIOCC but instead reacted to intelligence they had gathered on their own." PRU matters, however, were not within the directorate's bailiwick but were "addressed by the advisory elements at the Saigon level." 
In A Systems Analysis View of the Vietnam War, Thomas Thayer reports that the PRU in 1970 were "per man ... at least ten times as effective as any other anti-VCI action force."8 He also writes: "The PRU are being incorporated into the Special Branch" and that "Hopefully [sic] they will serve as a nucleus around which an improved police force may be built."  However, in March 1972 William Grieves told General Abrams, "To date ... not a single application has been received from a member of the PR U for enrollment in the National Police." 
Thayer is far more critical of Phoenix than the revisionist directorate. According to Thayer, "Results through April 1971 indicate that Phoenix is still a fragmented effort, lacking central direction, control and priority. Most neutralizations still involve low level, relatively unimportant workers gained as a side benefit from military operations .... Only 2% of all VCI neutralized were specifically targeted and killed by Phoenix forces, and there have been very few reports of such assassinations from the field." He faults the judicial system for being unable to "process the 2500 or so suspected VCI captured each month," and citing a "constant backlog" of detainees, he observes: "Significant numbers of alleged VCI wait 6 months before going to trial." 
Meanwhile, the issues of incentives and internal security were dominating Phoenix planning. Regarding internal security, General Frank Clay, the deputy director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, blamed the CIA for the "critical shortage of qualified Special Police case officers."!2 Colby, mean- while, in a December 12, 1970, presentation to Defense Secretary Melvin Laird (titled "Internal Security in South Vietnam-Phoenix"), complained about the "continuing predominance of military leadership in the program." Colby then made twenty-seven recommendations for "improving GVN internal security in general and Phung Hoang in particular." Chief among his recommendations were that an FBI officer be sent to Saigon and that an incentive program be implemented.
The request for FBI assistance was initially made by General Abrams in the summer of 1970 "for the specific purpose of providing recommendations for the neutralization of important national level members of the [VCI]."  It fell to Colby to get the ball rolling. He assigned Jack, the assistant for concepts and strategy on the Vietnam Task Force, as action officer on the matter. "People in Washington, D.C., wanted Colby's scalp," Jack explained. "Things weren't moving, Phoenix being one. What there was was tension between the CIA and the Pentagon. And so the FBI was called in."
On February 4, 1970, through General Fritz Kramer, Jack met with FBI Internal Security Division chief William C. Sullivan, who told him "that any request for FBI assistance would have to come from the White House as a directive signed by Kissinger." Sullivan said he would call Kissinger "on a quiet" basis and apprise him of the request. The problem, said Jack, was that "Senior people were very sensitive about the FBI screwing around in the embassy" and that AID Assistant Director Robert Nooter thought that the task being assigned to the FBI was a police function rightly belonging to AID.
To clear the way for the FBI, Colby back-channeled instructions to his friend and CIA colleague Byron Engel, the chief of Public Safety. Engel passed those instructions along to his Vietnam desk officer, John Manopoli. When Jack met with Manopoli on February 8, the latter said that AID had changed its mind and had no objections to the FBI visit. That day Jack drafted a "talking paper" for General Karhohs, which the Vietnam Task Force chief used to brief Defense Secretary Laird the next day. Jack called Sullivan "to clear the action," and on February 12 Warren Nutter signed the necessary letter of transmittal, which Laird sent to the White House for approval. On February 23, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover received the directive, signed by National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger.
On March 30 Jack received a copy of a White House memo directing the FBI to send two people TDY to Vietnam. Hoover approved it and sent Harold Child, the FBI's legal adviser at the Tokyo Embassy, to Saigon for four or five days on a "diagnostic" basis, to see if an investigation was warranted. "It was a perfunctory execution of a White House directive." Jack chuckled. "There was not enough time to do a thorough review."
Harold Child writes:
Early one morning I received a telephone call from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. [He] wanted me to go immediately to Saigon to talk with all the people concerned to help him reach a conclusion as to whether there was anything that the FBI could constructively do in South Vietnam .... John Mason turned out to be the individual in Saigon who was designated to assist me in my contacts and provide information and background that I required.
Until I landed in Saigon, I had no idea whatever as to what the Phoenix program was. In fact, even after the first two or three days, what they were doing and what they had accomplished were very confusing to me. Upon return to Tokyo, I furnished a detailed report to Mr. Hoover ... [and] my recommendations were in summary: 1) No information had been presented to me to demonstrate that operations of the Phoenix Program had any direct relation to FBI internal security responsibilities; 2) There was much confusion and inconsistency inherent in the program, which had developed over a considerable period of time, making it impractical for the FBI to come in at this late stage; and 3) I recommended against the FBI becoming .involved in insurgency problems or other local problems in Vietnam. 
John Mason's military deputy, Colonel Chester McCoid, has a different recollection. According to McCoid, in an interview with the author, Child was there to obtain information on Vietnamese supporters of American antiwar groups; the FBI wanted current intelligence, but the CIA would not share what it had. Mason presented "the CIA's perspective, not the CORDS perspective," McCoid claimed.  Citing the separate charters of the CIA and FBI, "Mason lectured Child on cognizance, arguing that overseas intelligence is the CIA's job.
"Phoenix was a creature of the embassy," McCoid said. "The footwork was done by uniforms, but the tone was set by the CIA -- by Ted Shackley and John Mason." [ii]
Colby denied any shenanigans. "I just wanted FBI ideas on how to improve Phoenix," he said to me.  Yet while seeming to advance the process, Colby actually blunted it. On April 30, 1971, Hoover reported to Colby that FBI services were not required in Saigon. Jack terminated the action on May 24. "Colby sent a letter killing it," he said. Instead of the FBI's advising the directorate, the Internal Security Bureau of the National Police was expanded from forty to six hundred personnel.
For a view of Phoenix in the field, we turn to a December 1970 report by the III Corps DEPCORDS, Richard Funkhouser. At the time, according to Funkhouser, the VCI were lying low, concentrating on recruiting new cadres, penetrating the GVN , and bumping off the occasional GVN official. The III Corps commander, General Do Cao Tri, had approved "a combined U.S.-GVN Phung Hoang Task Force" to inspect IOCCs and "get the horses galloping in the same direction." General Tri (who was killed when his helicopter was shot down on February 23, 1971) had approved the task force as part of a "crash VCI program" that "Thieu kicked off ... himself at a special secret meeting at Vung Tau on 31 October." Funkhouser reported that PIOCCs were being integrated into police operation centers, that the VCI was stronger in urban than rural areas, and that "the leadership of the police traces itself back to the Ministry of Interior which reportedly makes assignments after the proper payoff is made." He deemed quotas "redundant, difficult to attain and in fact not susceptible to accurate measurement," the problem being that neutralization figures were inflated to meet goals. He said that most Vietnamese police officers were too busy to devote time to Phoenix but that targeting of the VCI had improved with the assignment of senior noncommissioned officers as deputy DIOCC advisers in thirty-five of III Corps's fifty-three districts. "Coordination with PICs ranges from good to fair," he reported, "but advisors often conducted supplementary interrogations." To be successful, Funkhouser noted, anti-VCI operations required "the sensitive and instant use of informers and total secrecy."
"We stayed on our own side of the fence," said the III Corps senior Public Safety adviser Walt Burmester. "And the Vietnamese felt the same way .... People didn't come to the police for help, because the only places attacked by the VC were government installations." Burmester added that the National Police merely supplied Phoenix with equipment and that Phoenix itself acted more as a resource center than an action agency. 
In fact, the attack against the VCI in the early 1970's was carried out primarily by the CIA through the PRU. As reported by Funkhouser, "The increase in PRU effectiveness throughout the region has been spectacular, and is due primarily to the strong leadership of the Region PRU commander and his U.S. adviser." That PRU adviser was Rudy Enders.
In 1965, with only nine cadres (one of whom was PVT), Rudy Enders had formed III Corps's original counterterror team in Tan Uyen. In 1970 he returned to Bien Hoa, at Ted Shackley's request, to manage the region's paramilitary forces. "Our main job was to keep rockets from raining on Saigon," Enders said to me, although he also managed the attack on the VCI.21 However, he added, "There were simply too many party committee structures. To unscramble this, we centralized in Bien Hoa. We got access to high-level guys in the Chieu Hoi center, the PIC, or the hospital -- anyone we could get our hands on. We'd take him around, watch him for two weeks, and try to win him over.
"Sam Adams was making a case that the commander of VC military subsection twenty-two, Tu Thanh, had recruited four hundred fifty penetrations in Hau Nghia," Enders said, then told how he proved Adams wrong. The process began when "Our Long An officer and a defector from COSVN were going past the market one day." Quite by accident, the defector spotted Tu Thanh's secretary. She was grabbed and taken to the embassy house, where, during interrogation, it was learned that she was in love with Tu Thanh's son and that Tu Thanh's family had established legal residence under aliases in Hau Nghia after the Cambodian invasion. However, because Tu Thanh had forbidden his son to see his secretary , the woman decided to defect. Blessed with a photographic memory and eager to exact revenge, she supplied the CIA with Tu Thanh's identification number, along with the real names and addresses of another two hundred VCI in Tu Thanh's network.
Having managed the Vietnam desk in 1962 and 1963, III Corps CIA region officer in charge Donald Gregg understood the importance of the secretary's information. He immediately focused everyone in the region on Tu Thanh's network, which was diagrammed on a wall map to show where his deputies and family members lived. Enders and Gregg then dispatched Special Branch surveillance teams to take pictures of the suspects; meanwhile, they tried to place a penetration agent inside the apparatus.
"We tried to recruit a district cadre from Hau Nghia," Enders recalled. "Tu Thanh's secretary knew he had a girl friend, so we got her to narrate on a tape cassette a plea for him to work with us. The girl friend brought the tape to the cemetery where her mother was buried, and they exchanged it there. Next we sent a three-man PRU team from Hau Nghia to make a pitch, to get the guy to defect. But they came back empty-handed. Then we got wind that the next night the VC had come in for the tape recorder, so we ran a counterintelligence operation on the PRU and found out that the .PRU commander was a VC penetration agent. So we changed commanders; Mr. Nha became the PRU commander."
It was as a result of this failure that Gregg gave up on penetrations. "Shackley was interested in penetrations," he recalled, "and the vehicle for doing that was the Special Branch working closely with PIC advisers." Gregg added emphatically, "This is not Phoenix." As for the nature of Phoenix operations in III Corps, he said, "The PIOCCs and DIOCCs had a guy asleep at the desk." 
As Gregg explained it, "Because Three Corps had hard-core VC units in heavily mined areas, I decided I couldn't penetrate. So I wound up trying to take apart the remaining elements of the VCI by putting together a chart of it from ralliers, prisoners, et cetera. I told ARVN I'd take all the POWs they couldn't handle. We'd get battered people and treat them well. In return we'd get information on caches, supply dumps, river crossings, et cetera. We'd get them to point out the location on the map. Then Felix Rodriguez would take them up in a light observation helicopter to point out the hiding places on the ground. A PRU team would follow with the First Air Cav and [Phoenix Region Coordinator] Johnny Johnson. Felix would locate the bunker by drawing fire; then he'd mark it with smoke. The First Air Cav would provide two or three Hueys for fire support and two more with the PRU. Then they'd go in." When bigger operations were mounted, the First Air Cavalry provided troops.
"So we went after Tu Thanh during Tet of 1971," Rudy Enders went on. "We missed him by a step but found his hiding place and brought twenty-three people hiding there to the PIC. The PIC chief in Region Three, Colonel Sinh, did the interrogations. We brought guys in from Con Son to flesh out the reports, and we had guys analyzing reports, marking photographs, putting the pictures together on the wall, and then photographing that. As a result, we learned the names of ninety-six people in the organization, only two of whom had access to ARVN or the police. One was the province chief's valet; the other was in the Hau Nghia police. But instead of four hundred fifty, like Adams said, it was only two.
"In the process of going after this organization," Enders continued, "we got all of [III Corps Commander] General Hollingsworth's assets, and together we took photos of the houses where they lived ... then took the photos . back to the helicopter where we had the twenty-three people plus the woman from Long An. The twenty-three people were hooded, and they circled the faces of the VCI. Felix Rodriguez was the guy doing this. Felix also got the choppers from Hollingsworth."
Like Gregg, Enders claimed this was not a Phoenix operation. "Phoenix was just a record-keeping thing," Enders said. "No organization is going to share intelligence because you didn't know who was a double." In other words, by 1971 the CIA was carrying the attack against the VCI, while Phoenix was merely keeping score.
Phoenix as defined in official reporting also differed from Phoenix in fact. While the directorate was promoting Phung Hoang as a Vietnamese program, the commander in chief, Pacific, was saying, "The GVN has not been able to secure the cooperation of officials at hamlet, village and district level that is required for a successful Phung Hoang-Phoenix program."  Likewise, Pacification Attitude Analysis System results revealed that Phoenix was penetrated by the VCI and that most Vietnamese considered Phoenix a U.S. program, preferred a modus vivendi, and had "a grudging admiration for the VCI struggle." 
"I reported to this guy in the station, who I only knew by the name George," Ed Brady said to me. "I told him, 'Your flow of information is through guys like Joe Sartiano and Dave West. But what does Minh Van Dang tell Dave West?' I said, 'They know he's there for you; they tell him what you want to hear. How would you like something in context? Something that wasn't told to an American official?' And I had a good record of doing that, so I was reassigned to become special assistant to the director, John Mason."
Unfortunately, Brady's reports did not show success and were roundly ignored. As he explained it, "I had a view that was different from the official reports. But this put the CIA in the position of having to decide, Is he right or not? Sometimes they'd go with me, but more often not. They frequently didn't want to use material I generated -- they didn't want to report it to Washington -- because it made them look bad."
For another inside view of Phoenix in 1971, we turn to Colonel Chester McCoid, who in February 1971 replaced Colonel James Newman as deputy to John Mason. A veteran of four years and ten separate assignments in Vietnam, McCoid chronicled the program's major developments in letters to his wife, Dorothy. On February 18 he writes:
Yesterday afternoon ... with two other Americans ... from the Saigon City Advisory Group, I drove first to 6th Police Precinct Office and then on to the 7th. Our purpose was to inspect the work in progress to eliminate the enemy agents and shadow government apparatus in these critical areas.
The net result was an acute sense of distress! This was due directly to the inadequate job the American advisers were doing in both precincts. Here, in a situation where the enemy are hardcore old timers, we are employing callow young lieutenants to give advice to Vietnamese National Policemen who have been on the job for as many as 17 years. Naturally our people are far over their heads and find that they are rarely listened to by those whom, in theory, they are to give operational assistance. One of the officers, a captain, knows what should be done. He is familiar with his duties and does know a great deal about the precinct-population, size, state of the .economy, ethnic breakdown, enemy strength, recent VC activity , who their supporters are, the true identity of the VC leaders, etc. His only difficulty is that he hasn't won the confidence of the National Police chief yet.
In the 7th Precinct the situation is so unsatisfactory that it is sickening. There a lazy young punk is absolutely without any influence and, unless there is a dramatic improvement in his efforts, there is little hope there ever will be. This member of the "Pepsi Generation" knows almost nothing of the area for which he is supposedly accountable. In response to questions relating to the enemy ... he had no answers. He complained that the Chief of the Special Police would spend no time with him, and that he, our lieutenant, was never approached for advice. Small wonder.
What are our advisory personnel like? Well, they range from being as useless as the clod in the 7th Precinct to some who have spent years in the Counter-Intelligence Corps. Most of these are majors or chief warrant officers; they know their trade and they manage to establish effective relationships with the National Police and Province S2s early on. Our best people aren't in Saigon because the need is greater out in the remote border areas where the Vietnamese dump their duds. They naturally concentrate their most competent searchers for the VCI here in the nation's capital; after all, they don't want to have the Prime Minister or the President unhappy with the program.
In an April 2 letter, McCoid discusses the Thu Duc training center, where two thousand ARVN officers were to be sent for Phoenix training in preparation for assignment as village police chiefs:
The frustrations of working with some of these little bastards are formidable. They absolutely cannot do anything requiring any initiative -- or perhaps the term should be "will not." The school is for their case officers, yet they rely almost exclusively on the efforts of one of our personnel to draw up the program of instruction, the lesson plans, and the schedules. The course is to commence on the 19th and they've invited the Prime Minister to attend the opening ceremony; yet the building needs repairs and there is little or nothing available in the way of furnishings. There are only four of the required 10 instructors and few of the other personnel on hand -- and no steps are being taken to correct the situation. By this time, if they were Westerners, they would be in a state of emotional collapse; but the Vietnamese face the situation with perfect equanimity -- in fact, Monday the 5th is a holiday and they all are taking the day off. What are they waiting for? Well, American funding for one thing. They know that we will eventually come through with about seven million piasters ($25,000) and they see no reason to get excited until our money starts to flow.
In an April 14 letter McCoid announces the transfer of power on April 25 from John Mason to the third and final Phoenix director, John Tilton. [iii] A graduate of George Washington University, Tilton had served most of his career in Central and South America, where he served as operations officer in two countries. He also served as chief of station in two other Latin American countries, including Bolivia, where he mounted the successful manhunt and capture of Che Guevara. Colonel Paul Coughlin, chief of operations at the Phoenix Directorate throughout 1971, claimed that a photo taken of Che's spread-eagled corpse -- which was leaked to the press and depicted the revolutionary as a crucified Christ figure -- was the reason why Tilton was exiled from his area of expertise to Southeast Asia.  Tall and thin, gaunt and gangly, Tilton, according to McCoid, was like Mason insofar as they both held Ted Shackley "in awe." [iv]
Tilton served as Phoenix director from May 1971 till August 1973. From August 1972 till August 1973, he also served as deputy chief of station and senior adviser to the Special Branch in Vietnam. Under Tilton, Phoenix was reunited with its foster parent, the Special Branch.
Tilton considered himself a hands-on manager who worked closely with his region and province officers on operational matters. He inspected DIOCCs, evaluated the military officers posted to the directorate, attended Central Phung Hoang Committee meetings, and occasionally visited the Phung Hoang Office. In return, the Phung Hoang chief, Colonel Ly Trong Song, was frequently in Tilton's office and house. Song, Tilton noted, was replaced by Colonel Nguyen Van Giau.
Tilton defined Phoenix as basically committees and cited this as one of the program's faults -- because committees are okay in setting broad policy, but a single agency in charge of the program would have been more. effective. His other gripes were that Americans were trying to organize a country that wasn't a country, that Phoenix advisers were too dependent on their interpreters, and that most informants were working for both sides. Tilton described Phoenix as a Special Forces program run out of Fort Bragg, and he tried hard to conceal the role of his parent agency. Prior to an interview with reporter Michael Parks, Tilton told McCoid not to reveal that Tilton was with the CIA. "He was very cherry about that," McCoid noted.
On May 30, 1971, on orders from President Thieu, Colonel Ly Trong Song assumed command of the Phung Hoang bloc, and the program began going downhill. Always late, often not appearing at work at all, Song busied himself picking up order blanks for Sears or Montgomery Ward, snatching pens and pencils from people's desks, and asking Colonel McCoid to buy him booze at the PX. A political appointee, Song had the job of preventing Phung Hoang personnel from disrupting Thieu's influence in the provinces.
Morale problems began to affect the directorate. In a June 2 letter McCoid writes that more and more Phoenix advisers were requesting early releases, which were being granted as a means of scaling down U.S. involvement. Otherwise, CORDS was not filling vacancies. McCoid mentions how one captain assigned to the directorate asked for release after five weeks and how most of the others were badly disaffected. McCoid notes that more and more enlisted men were turning to drugs and that more and more NCOs were finding solace in the bottle. "Our strength here in the Directorate is scheduled to fall steadily while our work load sky-rockets," he says, adding that he spent one third of his time responding to flag notes from William Colby, whom he called "a monumental figure."
In a July 3 letter, McCoid notes that Colby had gone home to testify once again before Congress about Phoenix. Colby was to remain in Washington as executive director-comptrol1er of the CIA until his appointment as director in August 1973. Colby's job at CORDS was taken over by George Jacobson, and CORDS, too, began its descent into oblivion. "Our supply and funding officer," McCoid once wrote, "theorizes that only the Americans feel strongly about the necessity of rounding up the political cadre of the VC." Indeed, with the ineluctable withdrawal of American "advisers," Vietnamese determination steadily deteriorated, and the war effort staggered to its dishonorable conclusion.
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