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Losing VietnamHow America Abandoned Southeast Asia$

Ira A. Hunt, Jr.

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780813142081

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813142081.001.0001

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(p.327) Appendix A General Definitions and Processing Ground Rules for Combat Analyses

(p.327) Appendix A General Definitions and Processing Ground Rules for Combat Analyses

Losing Vietnam
University Press of Kentucky

1. General Definitions and Processing Ground Rules

The generic types of incidents considered are ground contacts, attacks by fire, mine and booby trap incidents, terrorism, sabotage, and political incidents. Each of these can be further decomposed into either enemy- or friendly-initiated.

The definitions used for the purpose of data processing, and interpretation of the data are given as follows:

  1. 1. A ground contact is any troop combat engagement between friendly and enemy forces, initiated by either side. The size of forces involved may vary from platoon size to divisional size. A ground contact may result in enemy, friendly, and/or civilian casualties. Ground contacts may be decomposed into four distinct categories, defined as follows:

    1. (a) A contact is normally any open engagement between opposing forces, initiated by either side.

    2. (b) An ambush is an action initiated by the enemy as an element of surprise.

    3. (c) Harassment is an action initiated by the enemy against friendly forces which may result in very few or no casualties. The purpose of harassing action is not to engage friendly forces in combat, but is more geared to a type of psychological warfare.

    4. (d) A penetration incident is a probing action designed to test the strength of the opposing force. This type of action may be friendly or enemy initiated. (p.328)

  2. (2) An attack by fire (ABF) is an enemy or suspected enemy delivery of standoff fire from artillery, mortar, rocket, or recoilless rifles against a friendly position not accompanied or followed (within time constraints to be discussed later) by a ground attack. An ABF can result in any type of friendly (including civilian) casualties.

  3. (3) Mine and booby trap incidents are those in which friendly military forces physically detonate an enemy placed mine, or fall prey to an enemy placed booby trap.

  4. (4) Terrorism is any action initiated by the enemy against a civilian element. For example, enemy rockets or mortars directed against civilians will be treated as an incident of terrorism, and not an attack by fire. Kidnapping and assassinations of civilian officials are classed as incidents of terrorism.

  5. (5) Sabotage is any action initiated by the enemy against lines of communication (LOC). Lines of communication are defined as physical structures such as bridges, dams, ammo dumps, military equipment, etc. For the purpose of definition, sabotage will never result in any casualties of any type. (Casualties associated with this type of incident will cause the incident report to be changed to that of either harassment or terrorism, depending on the target of the attack.)

  6. (6) Political incidents are actions initiated by the enemy which may result in a show of force, but never any casualties of any type. This type of action is used to gain the attention of any person(s) to the enemy’s political goals and ambitions in South Vietnam.

The critical facets of the incident definitions given are the purpose of the action and who the action was directed against. There is certainly some subjective judgment involved in categorizing the data into the different types of incidents.

It must be noted at this point that only reports subsequent to 2 December 1973 identify the generic type of friendly unit involved in an action. Prior to that date, the data is aggregated, and can be treated only in reference to the total armed forces (RVNAF).

The unit definitions used in the report are given below:

  1. (p.329) (1) Main force units are those units consisting primarily of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), but also includes the Vietnamese Navy (VNN) and the Vietnamese Marine Corps (VNMC).

  2. (2) Regional Forces (RF) consist of units assigned to protect areas falling within the Government of South Vietnam (GVN) provincial boundaries.

  3. (3) Popular Forces (PF) consist of units assigned to protect areas falling within GVN district boundaries in any province.

  4. (4) The People’s Self Defense Forces (PSDF) are elements which act as a local militia to guard their hamlet of residence.

  5. (5) The National Police Field Forces (NPFF) is an agency which acts as a civilian police force with normal responsibilities of a policeman. It is also used as a tactical force to combat against enemy activities.

  6. (6) Civilians are personnel not paid by the GVN to bear arms.

  7. (7) The Rural Development (RD) cadre consists of personnel paid by the GVN to assist the population in the development of farms, land areas, etc. RD cadre personnel bear arms, but only for self-protection. (RD cadre personnel are treated as civilians in incident reporting.)

  8. (8) Territorial Forces (TF) consist of any combination of Regional Forces (RF), Popular Forces (PF), People’s Self Defense Forces (PSDF), and/or National Police Field Forces (NPFF).

Having discussed the incident and force unit definitions used in the report compilation process, it is now necessary to discuss the various ground rules associated with incident classification.

Perhaps the most critical ground rule or assumption used is that incidents occurring within specified time and space constraints are treated as a single incident. The guidelines specified are that incidents occurring within 300 meters of one another, and within a twelve hour period, are combined and treated as a single incident. The primary rationale for doing this is to make some attempt to account for events which may be reported as separate, but are in reality part of a single encounter. A few examples may help illuminate the incident combining procedure and the rationale for doing it.

  1. (p.330) (1) Suppose the enemy rockets or mortars a friendly position with four rounds at a specified time, and sends in ten more rounds two hours later. For the purpose of this report, we would only show one ABF incident of fourteen rounds.

  2. (2) Suppose the enemy initiates an ABF on a friendly position, and then within the twelve hour time constraint, either attacks the position, or the friendlies initiate a ground attack (within the space constraints), then one incident of an enemyinitiated contact (with rounds) would be reported. In the case of an ABF followed by an enemy attack, the rationale for combining incidents is that the initial ABF was probably designed to soften up the friendly defenses in preparation for a ground attack. The rationale for combining an initial ABF followed by a friendly-initiated attack on enemy positions (again within the temporal and spatial constraints) into one incident of an enemy-initiated contact is that the ABF was the first event (enemy-initiated) and may have a direct causal relationship to the initiation of the friendly security operation. In either case, the number of incoming enemy rounds associated with the incident is in the data file.

It must be noted that although the temporal and spatial constraints for incident combinations are somewhat arbitrary, military combat experience appears to support such incident aggregation in a vast majority of cases.

Some other general ground rules include:

  1. (1) The time and location reported for each incident are the time and location of incident initiation. Although some contacts could last several hours, and the engagement location could move substantially, the report considers only the time and location at the beginning of the incident.

  2. (2) In situations where incidents are combined, the time and location of the incident is taken to be that of the initiator event. For example, in the case where the enemy initiates an ABF followed by a ground attack (which when combined would report one incident of enemy-initiated contact), the time and location of the combined reported incident would be that of the initial ABF attack. (p.331)

  3. (3) Summarizing the incident types in terms of who can initiate an incident we have the following rules:

    • contact—enemy- or friendly-initiated

    • ambush—enemy-initiated only

    • harassment—enemy-initiated only

    • penetration—enemy-initiated

    • mines & booby traps—friendly-[triggered] (by definition)

    • sabotage—enemy-initiated only (against LOC)

    • political—enemy-initiated only

  4. (4) Enemy casualties resulting from VNAF airstrikes in a close air support role (i.e., in conjunction with a ground operation or contact) are counted as part of the casualties associated with the contact incident. However, VNAF air strikes not in conjunction with ground operations are not counted as incidents, and consequently, enemy casualties which result in such an action are not utilized in the data base or report.

Further ground rules will be discussed in the next section on data collection procedures and manual and machine editing processes.

2. Data Collection Procedures; Manual and Machine Editing Processes

A. Data Collection Procedures

As incidents occur in the field, the friendly element involved files a report of the incident with its operations center. This initial report is relayed from there through command channels to the military headquarters of the region in which the incident occurred. [As a matter of note, South Vietnam is divided into four military regions: MRs -1, -2, -3, and -4. A special zone, the Capital Military District (CMD), encompasses Saigon City and portions of the city’s immediate surrounding areas (the CMD can be compared to the Military District of Washington in the US). However, for the purpose of reporting cease-fire incidents, (p.332) the CMD is included as part of MR-3.] From the MR headquarters the cease-fire incident reports are encoded and transmitted telephonically to the Joint Operations Center (JOC) located in the JGS compound in Saigon. The reports are transmitted hourly, or sooner if required. Updated information is reported as it is received by the MR headquarters. The JOC decodes the messages and includes the information in one of two reports: “The Morning Situation Summary (1800-0600)” and “The Evening Situation Summary (0600-1800).” Each report is published daily for the time period specified and each is checked and authenticated by the team chief on duty in the JOC.

Up to this point, the cease-fire incident reports have remained strictly in Vietnamese reporting channels. Copies of the reports or situation summaries now enter into US hands. They are furnished to the DAO Liaison Office by the JOC and translated into English by Vietnamese military translators using AOSOP Form 13, “Daily Report.” The AOSOP Form 13 and the Vietnamese spot reports are divided into two sections: Section I contains enemy-initiated incidents by MR, and Section II contains friendly-initiated activities, referred to by the Vietnamese as “security operations.” The AOSOP Form 13 is the source document used to record raw data which is later verified and added weekly to the data master tape. From the AOSOP Form 13, the information is formatted onto AOSOP Form 15EV, “Daily Results of Ceasefire Violations,” from which DAO key punch operators prepare the data cards for input to the master file.

The cards when completed by the DAO keypunch section are either transmitted to USSAG via autodin or in some cases, part of them are hand carried back from Saigon. At this point, as the cards arrive, and again at the end of the reporting week, the manual and machine editing of the input data is accomplished.

B. Manual and Machine Editing Processes

As cards are received at USSAG, certain field validation processes must occur prior to update of the master data file. The first process involves a computerized sort (called a UTM sort) of certain information on each card. A printout is obtained displaying all data on the card which is utilized to ensure that errors in the cards (both keypunch errors and (p.333) consistency errors in relation to our established ground rules previously discussed) are minimized prior to entry into the computer editing routine. Applied conscientiously, these manual checks (which includes combining incidents) will ensure that the data is as consistent with respect to our ground rules as possible, and save a large amount of computer editing time.

Regardless of the care taken in the manual editing process, the amount of information contained on each card, and the sheer number of incidents reported on a weekly basis, make it imperative to have a second editing process performed by the computer. The computer editing routine not only performs consistency checks of the data, as does the manual procedure, but also performs certain reasonableness checks of the data, in order to ensure that potential biasedness in reporting is minimized. As a result of the computer editing process, records (incidents) which do not pass all the formatting and reasonableness checks are printed out, and each record is then compared with the translation (AOSOP Form 13) to ensure the validity of the data on the card. As soon as all necessary corrections have been made, the cards are reinput to the computer, and the master data file is updated on a weekly basis.

3. RVN Cease-Fire Violations Criteria

Because of the large numbers of incidents, most of which result in very few casualties, if any, it was deemed necessary to differentiate cease-fire violations into two categories, major or minor violations, in order to enable responsible military personnel to focus on the more important conflicts taking place. The JGS, of course, had a major input in determining the criteria, which as always was subjective. The criteria for cease-fire violations follows:

  1. I. MAJOR VIOLATIONS constitute one or more of the following situations:

    1. A. An ABF during a short period of time in which 20 or more rounds of mortar, artillery or rocket fire are received.

    2. B. An ABF as described in “A” above consisting of less than 20 rounds but in which 5 or more friendly casualties are taken.

    3. C. One or more acts of terrorism involving extensive use of (p.334) mines, grenades or demolitions whether or not casualties were suffered.

    4. D. An act of terrorism involving grenades or command detonated mines in which 5 or more friendly casualties are suffered.

    5. E. A multiple company ground attack with or without supporting fires.

    6. F. A ground attack of less than multiple company size in which a total of 20 casualties of friendly or enemy are suffered (to include enemy detained or friendly MIA).

    7. G. A ground to air attack which results in the destruction of a friendly aircraft.

    8. H. Any incident such as an assassination attempt,assassination or abduction of a prominent personage such as a province, village or hamlet chief or other VIP.

    9. I. An interdiction of any line of communication to include highways, navigable rivers or rail lines.

    10. J. An attack against the Mekong Convoys to Cambodia which results in the loss of a ship or barge.

    11. K. Any incident involving U.S., Four Party Joint Military Team or ICCS Personnel, aircraft, or facilities.

  2. II. MINOR VIOLATIONS constitute one or more of the following:

    1. A. An ABF during which less than 20 rounds of mortar,artillery, rocket or small arms fire are received and in which less than 5 friendly casualties occur.

    2. B. A small ground attack that is unsupported by significant mortar, artillery or rocket fire in which less than 20 casualties are taken by both sides.

    3. C. Small acts of terrorism involving the use of grenades,mines or demolitions in which less than 5 friendly casualties are suffered.

    4. D. Ground to air attacks which result in only minor injuries and do not result in destruction of an aircraft. (p.335)