Monday, April 3, 1972

Battles Seen as Big Test

WASHINGTON (UPI) --President Nixon was reported Saturday to be closely watching North Vietnam's long-awaited major offensive as a test of the success of his Vietnamization program to shift the burden of the war effort to South Vietnam.

"We were aware that the enemy had a capacity for increased activity," said deputy White House press secretary Gerald L. Warren as reports reached Washington of Hanoi's invasion of the northern provinces of South Vietnam across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

"We are confident that the South Vietnamese army can cope with the enemy threat," said Warren, adding that Nixon was "watching the war very closely."

There was no indication whatever Saturday that the United States was prepared to intervene massively in Saigon's behalf in defense of its troops, which were reported to have fled in disarray from their outposts along the DMZ in the face of three North Vietnamese infantry divisions.

Nor was there a hint that the Communist offensive might disrupt Nixon's latest goal of reducing U.S. forces -- which have long since relinquished an active combat role to the South Vietnamese -- to a level of 69,000 men within the next month.

Nixon, Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird and Secretary of State William P. Rogers have been predicting just such a major Communist offensive for many weeks, and have been uniformly optimistic that despite anticipated reversals, the South Vietnamese even without strong American support would prevail.

At his last news conference March 24, the President quoted Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, the U.S. commander in Vietnam, as saying he was "confident that while the South Vietnamese lines, in the event the attacks are heavy, may bend but they will not break."

Said Nixon; "If this proves to be the case, it will be the final proof that Vietnamization has succeeded."

"Battles Seen as Big Test", by UPI, published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on Monday, April 3, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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