Operation 34A

Operation 34A (full name, Operational Plan 34A, also known as OPLAN 34-Alpha) was a highly classified U.S. program of covert actions against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV or North Vietnam), consisting of agent team insertions, aerial reconnaissance missions and naval sabotage operations.


After the Geneva Conference in 1954, Air Force Colonel Edward Lansdale was sent by the then CIA director Allen Dulles as Deputy Director of the Office of Special Operations (under the CIA), to initiate a series of clandestine operations against North Vietnam. These operations, codenamed 'Nautilus', consisted of raids conducted by commandos (South Vietnam recruits), and the insertion of CIA-recruited spies.

In July 1963, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the CIA determined that operational control should be transferred to the DOD. On January 1, 1964, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) took command of the operation (MACV-SOG was a cover name for a multi-service unconventional warfare task force under the direct guidance and control of the Pentagon).[1][2]


Once the MACV-SOG took control, the Pentagon (under which MACV-SOG operated) issued an Operational Plan (OPLAN 34-63), which entailed commando raids of a similar sort to what had been happening under the CIA. Most of these raids tended to be unsuccessful, with the Republic of Vietnam (RVN or South Vietnam) commandos usually being captured or killed (the actual commandos themselves were always people of South Vietnam ethnicities, so as to maintain the deniability of the American involvement in the operation).[3] A U.S. Navy base was set up in Da Nang, to serve as a base for the operations, and was staffed with U.S. Navy SEALs, U.S. Marine intelligence officers, and other guerrilla warfare specialists. The Navy also donated several Nasty-class PT boats, and training crews for them, for operational purposes. At the same time, the operational plan was expanded, with much more and more ambitious missions, into what became known as Operational Plan (OPLAN) 34A, which essentially shifted the focus to offshore assaults on coastal installations of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV or North Vietnam),[1] while agent insertion operations still continued. These however, were discontinued after they realized that most of the agents they were running had been captured and/or turned, and psychological operations were stepped up. These consisted mostly of spreading anti-communist propaganda, and deception operations, for example, the creation of a "Sacred Sword of Patriotic League", which was a fictitious resistance movement against the communists, designed to spread discontent and provoke paranoia among the civilians and military of North Vietnam.[3][4]

Starting in mid-1962, the U.S. Navy began conducting electronic surveillance operations conducted by a division of ocean-going minesweepers (MSO) operating along the coast of North and South Vietnam. The minesweepers were equipped with portable vans containing highly sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment. The minesweepers fueled on occasion at a South Vietnamese fueling station located near the fishing port (Da Nang) and took on evidence from CIA operatives which allegedly tended to prove that China and Russia were supplying the Viet Cong with weapons and other material. Occasionally, usually between midnight and 3 a.m., DRVN gunboats would approach the minesweepers at high speed and then peel off and return to a DRVN naval base operating on an island north of the 30th parallel. The gunboats made threatening maneuvers but never actually attacked the minesweepers. The maneuvers were reported to CINCPAC and the Pentagon in nightly Top Secret cryptograph messages. The minesweepers were essentially defenseless should an attack occur. In early 1963, the minesweepers were relieved by a division of destroyers (the DESOTO patrols) which appear to have carried out the same electronic surveillance operations conducted by the minesweepers.

Although the two sets of operations were at least nominally independent of one another, the patrols often gathered intelligence that was crucial to OPLAN 34A. The attacks carried out by the patrol boats provoked responses by the North Vietnamese military that were monitored by the American destroyers, thus providing very useful intelligence on DRV military capabilities. The situation swiftly escalated as the DRV deployed heavy gunboats and torpedo equipped frigates to observe the U.S. maneuvers.

Gulf of Tonkin Incident

On the morning of 2 August 1964, the morning after OPLAN commandos raided a North Vietnamese radio transmitter located on an offshore island, one of these destroyers, the USS Maddox, was reported to have come under attack by DRV naval patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. There was a second alleged attack on August 4, which was later shown to be a falsehood.[5] These attacks, and the ensuing naval actions, known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, were seized upon by President Lyndon Johnson to secure passage by the U.S. Congress of the Southeast Asia Resolution (better known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution) on 7 August 1964, leading to a dramatic escalation of the Vietnam War. It has since been alleged that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was partly a fabrication, including testimony by participants, such as squadron commander James Stockdale, in the events themselves. Even the attacks that did happen were not unprovoked, but a result of the OPLAN 34A raids, which was in essence an American operation.[5]


  1. ^ a b Jennings, Jack. "NASTY! The inside story of Operation 34A and the Nasty-class PT boats – and the crews that manned them during the Viet-Nam War". Military Magazine. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  2. ^ Wheaton, Kelly. "Spycraft and Government Contracts: A Defense of Totten v. United States". Heinonline. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  3. ^ a b Ahern, Thomas L. The Way We Do Things: Black Entry Operations Into North Vietnam (U). The Center for the Study of Intelligence (CSI). pp. 50–60. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. ^ Kelley, Danny M. THE MISUSE OF THE STUDIES AND OBSERVATION GROUP AS A NATIONAL ASSET IN VIETNAM. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College 8. p. 66. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  5. ^ a b Paterson, Pat. "The Truth About Tonkin". Naval History Magazine. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
1963 in the Vietnam War

The defeat of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) in a battle in January set off a furious debate in the United States on the progress being made in the war against the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. Assessments of the war flowing into the higher levels of the U.S. government in Washington were wildly inconsistent, some citing an early victory over the Viet Cong, others a rapidly deteriorating military situation. Some senior U.S. military officers and White House officials were optimistic; civilians of the Department of State and the CIA, junior military officers, and the media were decidedly less so. Near the end of the year, U.S. leaders became more pessimistic about progress in the war.

Although the U.S. denied that it had combat soldiers in South Vietnam, U.S. soldiers routinely participated in combat operations against the Viet Cong. The number of U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam rose to more than 16,000 by year's end with 122 combat deaths in just that year.

The President of South Vietnam Ngô Đình Diệm initiated a brutal crack-down on protests by Buddhists against his (largely Roman Catholic) government that caused consternation in the U.S. and concern that the Diệm government was failing. In November, Diệm was overthrown and killed in a coup d'état by his military, with the tacit acquiescence of the United States. A military junta headed by General Dương Văn Minh replaced Diệm. United States President John F. Kennedy was assassinated three weeks later. Lyndon Johnson became President of the United States. Johnson did not make any major changes in Kennedy's policies or team of policy advisers on Vietnam.

Most of the statements and reports quoted below were secret and not shared with the American public for many years.

1964 in the Vietnam War

South Vietnam was in political chaos during much of the year, as generals competed for power and Buddhists protested against the government. The Viet Cong communist guerrillas expanded their operations and defeated the South Vietnamese army (ARVN) in many battles. North Vietnam made a definitive judgement in January to assist the Viet Cong insurgency with men and material. In November, North Vietnam ordered the North Vietnamese Army to infiltrate units into South Vietnam and undertake joint military operations with the Viet Cong.

The new President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, and his civilian and military advisers wrestled with the problem of a failing government in South Vietnam and military gains by the communists. In August, an attack on American navy vessels caused Johnson to seek and gain U.S. congressional approval of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which authorized him to use military force if necessary to defend South Vietnam. Throughout the year, there were calls from many quarters — American, foreign, and South Vietnamese — for the United States to negotiate an agreement for the neutralization of South Vietnam, which they refused to considered.

Many of President Johnson's advisers advocated an air war against North Vietnam and the introduction of U.S. combat troops into South Vietnam. By year's end, the 23,000 U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam were still technically "advisers" (although they participated in many air and ground operations with the ARVN), but Johnson was contemplating U.S. ground troops.

At the time, most of the reports and conversations mentioned below were secret; they were not made public for many years.

DESOTO patrol

DESOTO patrols (DeHaven Special Operations off TsingtaO)

were patrols conducted by U.S. Navy destroyers equipped with a mobile "van" of signals intelligence equipment used for intelligence collection in hostile waters. The USS De Haven is the namesake for these patrols. De Haven performed the first patrol off the coast of China in April 1962. The first patrol to target North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin was the USS Agerholm in December 1962.

These patrols were initially a response to the Chinese Communists' unexpected re-definition of their territorial waters to include all waters shoreward from lines drawn tangentially to, and between, twelve mile circles drawn around their offshore islands. Such a declaration represented a huge expansion of their claims. This inhibited the lawful navigation of international waters as defined by US interests and increased the likelihood and frequency of formal diplomatic "serious warnings" issued by Beijing when any Seventh Fleet units navigated through these areas. This became a situation to which Commander Seventh Fleet felt compelled to respond.These types of patrols had previously been conducted off the coasts of the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea, but are widely recognized for their role in the Vietnam War. There were three components to the purpose of these patrols. First, they would establish and maintain the presence of the

U.S. Seventh Fleet in the international waters off the China coast and later the Vietnamese coast. Second, they would serve as a minor Cold War irritant to the Chinese Communists. Third, they would collect as much intelligence

as possible during the patrols.The tactical purpose of the patrols in Vietnam was to intercept North Vietnamese Army intelligence and relay it to South Vietnamese Army forces. With the intercepted communications, the South Vietnamese were able to more effectively coordinate their raids. The destroyers taking part in the DESOTO patrols in Vietnam were accompanied by air support provided by the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga.The DESOTO patrols were part of a larger scheme known as Operation 34A. Run by the Department of Defense at the time, Operation 34A, or "OPLAN 34Alpha" was a top secret program consisting primarily of covert actions against the North Vietnamese.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (T–Z and others)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War, a war fought by America to try to stop communism in Southeast Asia, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States and their assorted allies. This is not a complete list.

Norwegian Armed Forces

The Norwegian Armed Forces (Norwegian: Forsvaret, "The Defence") is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Norway. It consists of four branches, the Norwegian Army, the Royal Norwegian Navy, which includes the Coast Guard, the Royal Norwegian Air Force, and the Home Guard, as well as several joint departments.

The military force in peace time is around 16,048 personnel including military and civilian staff, and around 63,318 in total with the current military personnel, conscripts and the Norwegian Home Guard in full mobilization.

An organised military was first assembled in Norway in the 9th century and was early focused around naval warfare. The army was created in 1628 as part of Denmark–Norway, followed by two centuries of regular wars. A Norwegian military was established in 1814, but the military did not see combat until the German occupation of Norway in 1940. Norway abandoned its position as a neutral country in 1949 to become a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The Cold War saw a large build-up of air stations and military bases, especially in Northern Norway. Since the 2000s, the military has transformed from a focus on defence from an invasion to a mobile force for international missions. Among European NATO members, the military expenditure of US$7.2 billion is the highest per capita.

Outline of the Vietnam War

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Vietnam War:

Vietnam War – Cold War-era proxy war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States, Philippines and other anti-communist allies. The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle.

Tucker Gougelmann

Tucker Pierre Edward Power Gougelmann (January 24, 1917 - June 23, 1975) was a United States Marine Corps captain, World War II veteran, and a Central Intelligence Agency officer in their Special Activities Division who died in Vietnam in 1975.

USS Morton

USS Morton (DD-948) was a Forrest Sherman-class destroyer of the United States Navy, named for Commander Dudley "Mush" Morton USN (1907–1943), commanding officer of USS Wahoo (SS-238) during World War II.

Morton was laid down 4 March 1957, by Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp., Pascagoula, Miss.; launched 23 May 1958; sponsored by Miss Edwina R. Morton; and commissioned 26 May 1959 at North Charleston, SC; Commander John M. DeLargy in command.

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