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i -. ~ - 1 ~, j 1,~ i 1 j 1,Ull( AflAllS OFFCE OF THE ASSSTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WASHNGTON, 0, C, July 24, 1970 Ref: MEMORANDUM FOR THE CHEF OF PUBLC NFORM..:\TON Department of the Army,
i -. ~ - 1 ~, j 1,~ i 1 j 1,Ull( AflAllS OFFCE OF THE ASSSTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WASHNGTON, 0, C, July 24, 1970 Ref: MEMORANDUM FOR THE CHEF OF PUBLC NFORM..:\TON Department of the Army, A TTENTON: Office for the Freedom of nformation SUBJECT: Article Grim Reaper: A New Concept of Rice Denial in RVN by Major Terry E. Rovce for release to the Military Review.. The attached article has been reviewed and is returned without clearance. The article creates misunderstanding in that'it exaggerates this country's very limited food denial and crop destruction activities,directed against the VC/NVA in,vietnam. t lends credence to charges of organized mistreatment of civilians in nojil-gvn controlled areas. t erroneously' depicts the U. S. and the GVN as acting in concert in a deliberate program of denying the very food to those individuals who do not accept a GVN-imposed role as refugees. The thrust of the article is considered detrimental to the aims of Vietnamization and is not in the best interests of the Army or the Gover~ent. Attachm'ent r-- r--~: '\ J,. \ ',~~J :\dper Delaney,.;.--~ Deputy Director, Securit z~ew. '. YJAJ Terry E. Rowe A1S1- FLE DATE SUBJ. SUB-CAT GRM REAPER: A l':ew CONCEPT OF RCE DBl'lAL N RVN A Grain of Rice s Worth a Drop of Blood.,,1 This is the title of a chapter in Last Reflections On a War, a collection of articles and transcripts composed by Dr. Bernard Fall between 1964 and February 21, 1967, the day he was killed in Vietnam. Dr. Fall held that the life cycle and institutions of Southeast Asia are built upon the cultivation of rice.' He contended that the need for more riceland is a fundamental factor in the current strategy of North Vi~ and China. 2 Garden City: Double ldr. Bernard Fall, Last Reflections On a War, day and Co., 1967, p Fall, cp. cit., pp 2 Rice in Vietnam Similiarly, the importance of rice in South Vietnam can scarcely be overstated. t has more social, economic, and political impact on the Vietnamese populace than all other crops combined. Rice (and its supply) is no less important to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Arrow forces (VCjNvA) in South Vietnam. The ene~'s procurement, production, and distribution of rice requires an enormous expenditure of effort. Rice denial operations have increased impact in the northern provinces,,,,here rice is more scarce. This article will focus on a unique concept of rice denial that,.as successfully executed by an U. S. infantry battalion in Quang Nam Province in late The author was a participant. Rice in Quang Nam Quang Nam, like all the northern provinces in South Vietnam, is a rice-deficient area -- the population consumes more rice than is produced. Since available evidence indicates that the VC/NVA do not bring significant amounts into the area from Laos or North Vietnam, it is apparent that there is a continuous struggle between the Government of South Vietnam (GVN) and the VC/NVA for control of the available rice production. lfuch of the rice produced in Quang Nam Province comes from the Que Son Valley. Most of the valley is included in the district of the same name. n many ways the struggle for this district's rice production is a microcosm of the entire populace and resources control (PRC) effort in Corps. 3 GVN in Que Son At the time of the 1968 fall harvest only seven square kilometers of Que Son District was under firm government control. Another area of slmiliar size was considered contested. The remainder of the district was essentially under VC/NVA control, with the exception of 4 or 5 hamlets along Highway 535 [See Appendix in original student paper for map~ The GVN-controlled and contested areas were densely populated and under intensive cultivation. T:lls portion of the district contained almost 25,000 people, most of them recent refugees from outlying areas of the valley. An estimated 1500 people had resisted both voluntary resettlement and involuntary evacuation, and had remained in the enemy-controlled area. Most of these people 'clere families of mown VC who were serving in local VC platoons or the 105th Main Force Battalion. This battalion operated in the mountainous base areas to the north and west of the Que Son Valley. n addition, there was usually a regiment of the 2d NVA Division within two or three days march of the valley. The Que Son District Chief had no Vietnamese Army units available to him. Under his control at harvest time were 2 Regional Force (RF) companies, 10 Popular Force (PF) platoons, one police platoon, and one reconnaissance squad. U.S. Forces in Que Son Since }~, 1968, the Americal Division had been represented in the valley by the 2d Battalion, 1st nfantry, 196th Brigade (2-1 NF). The Tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR) of the 2-1 NF.roughly corres- ponded with the Que Son District boundaries. 4 The battalion headquarters Has located at Landing Zone (LZ) Ross, wo kilometers west of the district headquarters f!ee map ;] Operation Golden Fleece Golden Fleece is a designation often given to rice denial operations conducted during the harvest season in Corps. These operations were usually oriented on the destruction of enernw crops, capture or destruction of rice caches, and denying the enernw access to friendly crops. The brigade order for the 1968 Golden Fleece effort was generally permissive. t reflected a realistic appreciation of the large number of tasks to be accomplished with very limited maneuver and aviation resources. The brigade approach concentrated the limited military resources to insure retention of the rice harvested in the GVN and contested areas. The potential harvest from these areas was estimated at 1500 short tons (STON) of paddy (unmilled) rice. The economw-of-force measure that made possible this concentration was acceptance of a limited interdiction of the enernw production and procurement efforts in the remainder of the TAOR. An estimated 18 square kilometers of rice fields rere scattered throughout this area. They 1,rere usually cultivated to a lesser degree than those under GVN control, but still represented a potential of 1200 STON of paddy rice. The Grim Reaper Concept During the initial briefing for the battalion commander, the 2-1 N~' 5 staff agreed that the harvest in the GVN and contested areas could be protected unless the 2d NVA Division uas '.-Tilling to conunit at least a regiment into the Que Son Valley. At the sarne time, it,tas recognized that the battalion could probably hope to capture, destroy, or prevent the harvest of only 100 to 200 STON of the remaining rice. t vas not an encouraging estimate of the situation, with about 1000 STON of rice being lost to the enemlf and being denied to the thousands of Que Son refugees. HO\,rever, it seemed unavoidable using the techniques employed in previous Golden Fleece efforts. This approach was unacceptable to the battalion commander. n his planning guidance he emphasized that the objective was GVN control of every pound of rice produced in the Que Son Valley. After a series of meetings that included the district chief and his senior advisor, the battalion commander announced a new concept. The battalion and district had agreed to conduct a combined operation that would accomplish all the tasks outlined in the brigade order and would include a GVN harvest of the rice being grown in ene~ areas. This carne to be known as the Grim Reaper Concept. The staff was unable to find any U.S. ~ doctrine which addressed this technique. The concept of combat operations to destroy or prevent the harvest of insurgent crops was well-established. t had been successfully employed in Halaya, the Phillipines, and Vietnam. However, there seemed to be no doctrine on employment of maneuver units to harvest and extract crops grown in enemlf-controlled areas. The 2-1 NF would have to develop necessary techniques by trial and error as the operation progressed. 6 Area Coordination Center A single, combined headquarters 'las established to insure coordinated planning and direction of the operation. ts physical location varied bet,teen the battalion command post, the district headquarters, and the field harvest site. The membership usually consisted of the 2-1 NF commander, S2, S3 and s5; the district chief and his advisor; the senior police representative; and the senior RF commander. A group of Que Son business, religious, and village leaders did not attend regularly, but were frequently asked to provide advice. Of greater importance, they were also called upon to sell the program to the populace. The equivalent to an Area Coordination Center (ACC) had been established. Task Force Golden Fleece The ACC agreed upon a basic plan for the offensive harvest and denial operations in enemy-controlled areas. This plan provided for the formation of three task forces: Task Force (TF) pany, one 1r platoon, Golden Fleece, consisting of one 2-1 NF rille comand a police detachment, had a primary mission of conducting operations in areas where VCjNVA production units or enernwcontrolled populace had been successful in harvesting the rice crop. n some of these areas the crop had not been of sufficient quality to arrant commitment of the GVN harve~t force. ~ harvest efforts were identified by air reconnaissance, patrols, and the three fortified observations ;costs in the TAOR. The Golden Fleece force made a detailed search of these areas for rice caches. t usually had air cover. 7 TF Golden Fleece also functioned as a screening force. Since it was always employed in the more remote parts of the district, it would have been one of the first elements to make contact with any large enell\v force moving into the area. During the 52 days of the operation, this force discovered several small caches that totaled 72 STON of freshly-harvested rice. All of this rice was extracted to district by helicopter, with the exception of one STON that had to be destroyed in place. This force absorbed much of the enemw reaction to the operations in VG/NVA areas. Reaction was usually limited to harassment by booby traps, small arms fire, and light mortar fire. Task Force Vulture Task Force Vulture consisted of one rifle company, one PF platoon, and a police detachment. These units were available only during the day because they had static security missions at night. They were ed?layed to protect GVN harvest efforts 1n the enell\v-controlled areas nearest to 1Z Ross. All but one platoon was usually employed on foot with the harvesters. Most of the rice harvested in these areas as tied into bundles and carried back to the district headquarters for thrashing. Porters, bic.ycles, buffalo carts, and trucks were used to transport the bundles. Several small enell\v rice caches were found by this force. The techniques employed by this portion of TF Vulture were very similiar to those employed in previous Golden Fleece operations. One platoon of TF Vulture served as an immediate reaction force and remained on full alert at L~ rioss. Whenever this platoon was employed, 8 another was formed of headquarters and support personnel. Several times this small force was lifted into areas where individual rice caches or stores of transported rice had been detected. The platoon always had air cover, and was always extracted with whatever rice they had found. On two occasions the rice was being dried and was not bagged. The platoon carried in empty bags and bagged the rice for extraction. SUbsequent intelligence reports indicated that the enemlf was astonished by this rather unusual technique. Task Force Grim Reaper Task Force Grim Reaper was the backbone of the operation and the embodiment of the battalion commander's n~; concept. t consisted of one rifle company and one RF company. Dlring daylight hours it was reinforced lith three PF platoons and a police detachment. ts primary mission was to provide security for the civilian workers during harvest operations in outlying VC/NVA-controlled areas. t also had a secondary mission of searching for caches of rice already harvested by the enemlf Selection of the general area of employment for TF Grim Reaper was based upon ACC knowledge of the area and its crop c,ycle. Low-level helicopter reconnaissance was used to asses the density and distribution of rice fields ready for harvest. The terrain features that were key to securing that area were also identified. Reconnaissance patrols provided definite information on the condition of the rice and the enemlf activity in the area. A small sample of the rice would usually be extracted by helicopter to verify its ripeness ana quality. These measures were 9 necessary to insure efficient utilization of the resources being comm1tted.3 Once the target area had been confirmed, it remained under surveillance of the patrol until the Grim Reaper outer security forces (one rifle company and one RF company) had moved into and searched the area. This usually took place in the late afternoon. That night the security force,muld deny the enenw access to the area by means of numerous SJ!lall ambushes. The target area for a day's harvest was usually about 1500 meters in diameter, though it varied,-ri th crop distribution. n the morning, the inner security force of three PF platoons would arrive qy CH47 helicopter before the refugee work force. The PF would relieve the US and RF on the inner perimeter and tilose forces would push outward another 500 to soo meters to establish an outer perimeter. Securi ty of these perimeters was maintained by numerous small patrols and observation posts. This degree of dispersion inenenw territory was possible only because the TF usually had air cover and was always ithin range of artillery support. The civilian,-rork force was lifted into the secured inner rerimeter each morning. They cut the rice, bundled it, and carried the bundles to centralized locations for loading into cargo nets. Filled nets were extracted to the district he~dquarters by ch47 external load. Sacked 3These patrols proved indispensable on at least one occasion: During the night a VC/NVA production unit had harvested a large field that was being targeted for a Grim Reaper effort on the next day. A patrol found that the VC/NVA had carefully cut off only the rice he3ds, leaving the stalks undisturbed. The field had a;meared untouched from the air. TF Grim Reaper as diverted to an alternate area and TF Golden Fleece was committed in its place. Host of the rice Ha 3 found in nearby drying areas. 10 rice from captured cacm s H s usually ea tracted by Lnternal Ci-l4 7 and HllH loads.,,{hen tl,,, bundled rice arrived at district headquarters the nets !ere unloaded and bundles carried to the thrashing machines (man-pohered). After thrashing, the rice,;as dried, bagged, and carried to storage areas. Upon completion of the day's harvest effort the workers would be lifted back to district by eh47, foll~.ed by the 3 PF platoons. The remaining Grim Reaper force then moved into a neh area, designated by the ACe and confirmed by patrols. Then the daily cycle started again. Harvest Work Force The harvest Hork force consisted of a daily average of 550 able-bodied male and female refugees from Que Son District. The size of the ork force varied 'd th the amolult of rice estimated to be in that day's harvest area. The recruitment and supervision of these Horkers as entirely in the hands of the district officials. The selection process agreed upon by the Vietnamese members of the ACe was to levy each refugee hamlet in proportion to its population. n turn, the hamlet chief levied each family for a worker every fifth or sixth harvest day. The usual daily breakout of the Hork force was: 350 Horkers Hith TF Grim Reaper, 100 workers with TF Vulture, and DO workers in the carrying and thrashing parties at district headquarters. These Hork parties Here under direct hamlet officials. had overall supervision in the field. The police had general supervision of the uork parties at district headquarters. 11 Enenw Reaction Prior to the operation, intelligence had indicated that rice procurement had become the primary mission of all VC/NVA units in the area. Subsequent intelligence revealed that the Grim Reaper Concept had caught the enenw unprepared. For the first time, the rice usually under their control was being systematically harvested and extracted before their eyes. The enenw was apparently unable or unwilling to risk commitment of the large units that would have been necessary to disrupt the harvest. Host of their reaction was limited to harassment. The enenw's primary advantage in his efforts to harass the harvest was the close proximity of the rice fields to the mountains that bordered the Que Son Valley. Most of the rice fields were within one or two kilometers of these mountains, which offered the enenw excellent concealment, good cover, and good observation into the fields. Due to the mobile nature of the operation, it was not feasible to physically occupy this high ground; therefore, the VC/NVA had the opportunit,y to interdict the harvest effort with relatively little chance of being detected or pursued. Almost every day the enenw attempted to harass the harvest effort with long-range direct or indirect fires. On only one occasion, involving particularly accurate 60mm motar fire, was even moderate disruption achieved. The refugee work force became almost contemptuous of these fires and would remain in the fields, squatting while the rounds were actually incoming, then resuming their work. 12 Results Friendly casualties during the operation were remarkably light: 9 U.S., 4 RF/PF, and 3 civilians were wounded. Enemy losses were: 875 STON of paddy rice harvested, 107 STON captured, and 14 STON destroyed. Also, 34 VC/NVA killed, 19 VC/NVA captured, 2 va Hoi Chanh ralliers, and 9 individual weapons. n more 1Eaningful terms, the VC/NVA lost enough rice from their own areas to feed approximately 44,000 of their troops for a month, or about 7 battalions for an entire year. The district chief estimated that the rice would feed Que Son's refugees for about five months. Distribution of small quanities of the rice was made each week on a per capita basis and under police supervision. Problems, Special Techniques and Areas of Emphasis Problems were encountered with a very few harvest workers during the early stages of the operation. These problems had an adverse effect on harvest production and they ranged from prostitution to laziness. A combination of techniques were employed to solve these and similiar problems: 1. A daily harvest quota was established by the district chief for each hamlet's group of workers. The quota was based upon the crop in the area to be harvested and it resulted in increased supervision by officials and fellow workers from the same hamlet. 2. The command post of TF Grim Reaper was always located near the harvest landing zone. This allowed close observaton of the workers and greatly facilitated coordination be- 13 tween the TF commander and the Que Son officials and advisors on the scene. 3. Arrangements Here made to insert the district chief and battalion commander into the harvest area at the first report of aqy serious trouble with the Horkers or PF. The steady rise in harvest yields per worker-day indicated that these techniques were successful. Rotating U.S. and district units between task forces on a weekly basis was found to be a useful technique. The prill\9ry disadvantage would be the unit's initial unfamiliarity with that particular mission. The advantages were: the spirit of competition that developed among units, avoidance of the complacency that tends to develop.,hen units are engaged in the same task for several weeks, and the psychological advantage of exposing all U.S. troops to Vietnamese efforts at self-help. VC/NVA harvest efforts were largely neutralized by prompt commitment of TF Golden Fleece or TF Vulture. t was one thing for the enemy pro ductlon units to cut the rice d
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