Home News Doris Allen, analyst who foresaw Tet Offensive, dies at 97

Doris Allen, analyst who foresaw Tet Offensive, dies at 97

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Doris Allen, an Army intelligence analyst during the Vietnam War whose warnings about North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces launching the so-called Tet Offensive in early 1968 were ignored by her superiors, died June 11 in Oakland, Calif. She was 97.

She died at the hospital, confirmed Amy Stocker, director of public affairs for the Army Intelligence Center of Excellence.

Allen joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1950 and volunteered for service in Vietnam in 1967, hoping to use her intelligence training to save lives. She was the first woman to attend the Army’s prisoner-of-war interrogation course and served for two years as a strategic intelligence analyst for Latin American affairs at Fort Bragg (now Fort Liberty), North Carolina.

Working at the Army Operations Center in Long Binh, South Vietnam, Specialist Allen received intelligence in late 1967 that at least 50,000 enemy troops, possibly reinforced by Chinese soldiers, were gathering to attack South Vietnamese targets. She pinpointed the start date of the operation: January 31, 1968.

In an interview for the book A Piece of My Heart: The Story of 26 American Women Who Served in Vietnam by Keith Walker, Specialist Allen recalled writing a report warning that “we better be prepared because this is what we’re facing, it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen around a certain time and a certain month and a certain year.”

She said she told an intelligence agent: “We need to spread this word. This has to get out.”

But it was not to be. She urged the top brass to take her report seriously, but no one did. On January 30, 1968—just as she had predicted— The enemy was surprised American and South Vietnamese military leaders understood the size and scope of their respective attacks.

The U.S. and South Vietnamese forces suffered heavy losses in the early stages but were able to repel the offensive. This was a turning point in the war and further undermined American public support for the war.

The Army’s refusal to take Allen’s analysis seriously left her feeling that she was being viewed with prejudice because she was a black woman who was not an officer. She was one of about 700 women, known as WACs, who served in intelligence positions during the Vietnam War, only 10 percent of whom were black.

In 1991, she told Newsday: “My credibility means nothing: a woman — and a black woman.”

in 2012, She told An Army publication: “I just recently figured out why they didn’t believe me – they weren’t ready for me. They didn’t know what to make of a black female military intelligence officer outside of the WAC. I can’t blame them. I’m not bitter.”

Lori S. Stewart, a civilian military intelligence historian at the Army’s Intelligence Center of Excellence, said in an email that the analysis by Allen’s experts was not the only one that was overlooked.

“National and theater-level organizations believed the enemy would likely launch an offensive around Tet, but too many conflicting reports and preconceptions led leaders to misread the enemy’s intentions,” she wrote.

Speaking of Specialist Allen, Ms. Stewart added: “Like many other intelligence officers in the country, she is a diligent, observant intelligence analyst doing what she is supposed to do: assess the enemy’s intentions and capabilities.”

Expert Allen Selected Inducted into the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame in 2009.

Doris Ilda Allen was born in El Paso on May 9, 1927, to Richard and Stella (Davis) Allen. Her mother was a cook and her father was a hairdresser.

Ms. Allen graduated from Tuskegee Institute (now University) with a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1949. She taught high school in Greenwood, Mississippi, and joined the Women’s Army Corps the following year.

After completing basic training, she auditioned for the WAC band as a trumpet player, but she and two other black women were later told by a warrant officer that “there could be no black people in the band,” she recalled in “One Voice.”

Over the next dozen years, she served in many roles: as an entertainment specialist, organizing soldier shows; as a military newspaper editor for the Army Occupation Forces in Japan during the Korean War; as a broadcast specialist at Camp Stoneman, California, where her commanding officer was her sister, Jewel; as a public information officer in Japan; and as an information specialist at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

In the early 1960s, Specialist Allen studied French at the Defense Language Institute and completed the Prisoner of War Interrogation Course at Fort Holabird, Md. She completed the Interrogation and Intelligence Analysis Course at Fort Bragg.

After requesting to go to South Vietnam, she arrived in October 1967 to begin the first of her three tours of duty there.

“I had a lot of skills, a lot of education and training that was wasted in positions all over the country, so I decided to make a difference in a high-action position like Vietnam.” She told Lavender Notesa publication for older LGBTQ+ adults that came out in 2020.

She had no survivors.

Allen’s Tet analysis wasn’t the only time her warning was ignored. She advised a colonel not to send a convoy to the town of Song Be in southern South Vietnam because of the risk of an ambush. Five flatbed trucks were blown up, killing three people and injuring 19.

But her words were taken seriously when she warned in early 1969 that the North Vietnamese had placed dozens of 122mm rockets around the Long Binh operational center northeast of Saigon and would launch a massive attack with them. She wrote a memo that led to an airstrike that destroyed the rockets.

Later that year, Specialist Allen learned that the North Vietnamese planned to use 82mm chemical munitions. She wrote a report saving as many as 100 Marines, instructing them in her memo to avoid any contact with these munitions as they fell in their area; they later exploded. A grateful colonel sent a memo suggesting that whoever wrote the report should receive the Medal of Merit.

Specialist Allen did not receive that medal, but she received one of her many awards, a Bronze Star with two oak blossom clusters. She left South Vietnam in 1970 after seeing a stolen enemy document that listed her name as a target to be killed.

After 10 years in the Army She retired with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.

By then, she had earned a master’s degree in counseling from Ball State University in Indiana in 1977. After her military service, she worked with private investigator Bruce Haskett, whom she had met through counterintelligence work. In 1986, she earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California, where she mentored young psychologists.

“She knows people so well and has an innate ability to judge people quickly,” Haskett said in an interview. “She’s the kind of person who can walk into a pit of vipers and have everyone at her beck and call within 15 minutes.”

Christina Brown Fisher Contributed reporting.

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