Combined Document Exploitation Center (CDEC)

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The Combined Document Exploitation Center (CDEC) sought to gather in Saigon all the documents captured by Allied forces throughout the Republic of Viet Nam. CDEC staff used the captured documents to publish both intelligence products and such reference works as a dictionary of new vocabulary created by the Ha Noi government.

Shortly after the war a Republic of Viet Nam intelligence chief commented that CDEC absorbed disproportionate resources and distracted attention from cheaper, more valuable tactical intelligence. Political scientist David Elliott, who worked there as an Army enlisted man, has remarked that by focusing on documents CDEC fed a formalized view of the revolutionary movement that proved mistaken. But many others would disagree with any suggestion that the United States paid too much attention to understanding the enemy.

CDEC will endure as a gathering of talented people, an archive of expression, and a site of literary fascination. Poet Bruce Weigl and translator Thanh Thi Nguyen have translated Poems from Captured Documents (University of Massachusetts, 1994) from soldiers' diaries and commonplace books on CDEC microfilm now held at the William Joiner Center. Cong Nguyen Ton Nu Nha Trang and William L. Pensinger set much of their encyclopedic modernist novel, The Moon of Hoa Binh (Foundation Autopoy, 1994), in the intelligence compound at Ton Son Nhat airbase that contained CDEC.

Note that the captured diary of physician Dang Thuy Tram, now published in English in the United States as well as in the original Vietnamese in Viet Nam, was never in possession of CDEC.

Dan Duffy started this entry.