Sacred Sword of the Patriots League
By Ralph McGehee, 10 November 1999
"The Secret War Against Hanoi," --a careful historian, Richard H. Shultz Jr.'s, book is a revelation. Vietnam was a laboratory for the men who had fought and [won WWII.] They wanted to use the same ...technology and deception that had confounded the Nazis. The secret warriors fought as hard and came up with some clever ideas. But many were blunted by bureaucrats, who had authorized the ops but weren't prepared to follow through. More important, our covert actions were confounded by a peasant enemy in Hanoi. This secret war was launched in 1964, under the Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group -- MACVSOG. The heart of the program was psychological warfare. They crafted fake Chinese ammo to blow up in the faces of North Vietnamese. They sent fake letters with inflammatory info to unwitting recipients in North Vietnam, so Hanoi's secret police would think they were traitors or spies. They created clandestine radio stations.
The [best op]--was a phony opposition movement called the "Sacred Sword of the Patriots League." [It] began radio broadcasts in 1965, from "its base in mountainous Ha Tinh province." Leaflets were used. [Men] were gathered from North Vietnamese POWs and poor fishermen kidnapped from the Northern coast by gunboats. From 1964 to '68, more than 1,000 were taken for "training" to an Island off the South Vietnamese coast, fabricated to look like a liberated zone in the North. Some were parachuted back. [We] assumed most would be captured and tortured. What they divulged would reinforce the myth there was a real opposition group. They would parachute one agent first, and leave his comrades--instead dropping a dozen dummy parachutes laden with blocks of ice. When the North Vietnamese found the empty parachutes, they would assume a far greater force had been sent. But...An imaginary movement could not be credible if it wasn't [at least partially real]. And through all the machinations of MACVSOG, the politicians...refused to sanction any serious effort to overthrow the North. (RMC Comment: The heavy bombing of North Vietnam causing over two million deaths and many more wounded might be considered serious.) In that sense, [we were] simply playing at dirty war in Vietnam. [Because] Vietnam was an all-out struggle for only one side. David Ignatius op-ed, Washington Post 11/10/99 A39.
It would seem that variations of the dirty war game have been played over and over. Certainly in Laos, and Cambodia and possibly a dozen other countries. It may be that such covert operations do not succeed in most non-war situations.