Well, in my estimation, the Viet Cong, who left about three to five thousand well trained cadres behind in 1954, which they weren't supposed to do under the Geneva Accords, hoped that they could topple Diem and take over the government in the next year or two '55, '56, in that period.
By '59, it hadn't worked the economy was growing relatively well, the rubber plantations were producing more than pre war bringing in several million dollars a year, rice production went up beyond pre war levels in 1957, '58 they increased again so the things were rolling very well. And, uh, at that time, in my estimation, Hanoi decided it could not topple the government of the South by just hiring cadres, the guerrilla-type operations, urban type operations, guerrilla operations, and, uh, they decided they better change the thing around. In 1957...'59, uh, indications point to the fact that, uh, the North had decided they better pour more troops down there, bring more equipment down...
And, uh, July '59
they had a very serious raid on the Bien Hoa
Air Base where two American officers were killed those two officers were the first casualties of the, US casualties of the Vietnam War.
By 1960, in February, they had the first battalion size attack by the Viet Minh, the Viet Cong, the Viet Minh they're all really from the North the hocus pocus about being just a indigenous civil war is just so much eyewash.
But they had a battalion type, sized attack on ARVN Military Installation at Thai Ninh to get munitions, guns and medical supplies, and by November 1960
, they had a rather heavy, uh, strike two or three of them in the Pleiku
area in the High Plateau and they wrecked a lot of road construction equipment because Diem was building a road a long the spine, there, to promote high purposes paralleling what was the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
And, actually, in 1960
, after all the maneuvers they had in Laos
to get everybody's attention to the North, Louangphrabang
up near the Chinese border is when they started to reopen Ho Chi Minh Trail. So, by 1960
, the military operations against the Diem government were on on a much bigger scale than they'd been since 1954
That caused a military problem for Diem, wasn't that he didn't have the trained, um, troops to try and defend it, but compared to what it was before, it was much, much heavier. The pressure from the Viet Minh was much, much heavier by that time, and beginning in Jan—December 1960
, uh, we discovered the first Soviet air lift for supplies into the Plaine des Jarres
. The Plaine des Jarres
is the area in Laos
to the north and west of Vietnam to which the Ho Chi Minh Trail goes.
And, uh, first part of December
we had reports that they were air dropping supplies in the Plaine des Jarres
, and I asked our military attaché who was accredited to Vietnam, Laos
, and Cambodia
so he didn't have to get a visa every time, follow a flight plan and go there, he flew up there about the middle of December 1960
and sure enough, IL-16, IL-l4 Soviet cargo planes flying in over the Plaine des Jarres
and paratrooping, air dropping supplies.
He saw one little bulldozer being dropped. Took some pictures, just a Dakota was all it was, C-47 and, uh, asked him to go up there again we got more and more reports that they were building up the Ho Chi Minh Trail coming down there, and that was, uh, about the 23rd or 24th of December. And this time, when he went up had a take a look see, the IL-14's had teeth in them.
And they shot at our plane and didn't do very much damage, they shot the rear section a bit and came through the cabin, nobody was hurt, but we got other pictures of this air drop. By that time they had the bulldozers laying on an airstrip on the Plaine des Jarres
. So, that whole period from '59 to '60
, uh, Hanoi decided to step up then military operations in a big way, open up Ho Chi Minh Trail and start putting the real military pressure on.