The 1967 Battle of Dak To (6)

In the aftermath of the battle, other intelligence sources confirmed what we had forecast.

A North Vietnamese defector said that the attack date was to have been 28 October, but coordination problems we had detected in intercepted messages had made that impossible. Intrusion of U.S. forces south of Dak To took the North Vietnamese by surprise and forced them into battle before they were really ready.

Captured documents made clear that the North Vietnamese objective had been the annihilation of the 4th Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Their plan was to follow the same procedures they had used at Ia Drang some two years before—chewing up U.S. battalions one by one as they were committed as reinforcements. The tip-off through signals intelligence precluded that tactic. Whether the North Vietnamese 1st Division ever recovered completely from the blow is questionable.

Some good did come from the battle. My little team was congratulated by superiors; the 4th Infantry Division was impressed; my guys were submitted for a Presidential Citation. And as intercepted communications made clear in the months that followed, the Dak To offensive and a similar attack in January 1968 on Khe Sanh just south of the DMZ (the border area between north and south Vietnam) were both part of a larger strategy that culminated in the 1968 Têt Offensive.

But the curse of not being believed when I told U.S. commanders what the enemy was about to do would stay with me until the end of the war. It happened so often I coined a term for it: the Cassandra Effect, named after the Trojan woman blessed with the gift of prophecy and cursed with never being believed.

More tomorrow.

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