Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1973



The major development of fiscal year 1973 for the United States Army was the negotiated settlement of the Vietnam War. On 23 January 1973, President Richard M. Nixon announced that agreement had been reached in Paris between the United States and the Republic of Vietnam on the one side and the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong on the other. A cease-fire would take effect on 27 January 1973, and all U.S. military personnel would be withdrawn by 28 March 1973. By the latter date the last three of fifteen redeployments of U.S. forces had been completed, bringing to an end the longest war in U.S. history and the fourth costliest in battle deaths.

American involvement in the Vietnam War developed over a period of years in a series of relatively distinct phases. An advisory period opened in 1950 when the United States entered into a Pentalateral Agreement with France and the associated states of Indochina, of which Vietnam was one, to provide military aid. The U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group, Indochina, was established to administer the program. Accelerated attention to South Vietnam's needs came in the mid-1950s following the signing in 1954 of the Geneva Accords, which divided Vietnam at the 17th parallel, and French withdrawal from Indochina. Although the United States was not a signatory to the accords, it moved to fill the vacuum created by the French departure by launching, at South Vietnam's request, advisory, logistical, and training programs.

A renewal of revolutionary activity in 1960 and the authorization in January 1961 for U.S. advisers to be assigned to Vietnamese field units—although with the understanding that the advisers would not engage in combat except in self-defense—signaled an expansion of U.S. assistance to include an operational support as well as an advisory role. The operational support mission required an infusion of air-mobile, communications, intelligence, logistics, and Special Forces personnel, opening a phase of American assistance to South Vietnam that extended over a period of about three years and included wide-ranging efforts to improve the lot of the Vietnamese citizen as well as to develop the military capabilities of the Vietnamese armed forces.

The combat phase of the U.S. commitment in Vietnam opened in early 1965 in response to a number of deliberate and unprovoked attacks on American military personnel and facilities by Communist forces, which included North Vietnamese regular units, and the inability of the South Vietnamese to cope with mounting enemy attacks. Over a


period of about four years these forces were rapidly augmented until, at the peak in April 1969, there were 363,300 of the Army's 1,500,000 strength in Vietnam, including 8 1/3 of the Army's 19 2/3 division force equivalents.

By 1968 the immense logistics base required to maintain such a force had been forged, the lines of communication were established, and a force appropriate to the measured scale of the war had been fielded. Extending from the battlefield back to the home front, the variety of contributing systems of personnel, training, supply, equipment, weapons, transportation, and reclamation were functioning smoothly. On the diplomatic front, U.S. and North Vietnamese negotiators were meeting in Paris in a face-to-face attempt to find mutually acceptable grounds for reducing or ending the conflict, even as heavy fighting continued in the battle zone.

A major milestone in the conflict was reached on 8 June 1969, when President Nixon, meeting on Midway Island with the Republic of Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu, announced that 25,000 American troops would be withdrawn from South Vietnam by the end of August 1969. This unilateral move by the United States opened the way for substantive negotiation to end the war. Combat and Vietnamization proceeded in concert with negotiation and withdrawal, leading eventually to the cease-fire of 27 January 1973—an imperfect one in the light of continuing incidents between indigenous elements, yet final with respect to U.S. Army involvement. The last redeployment of U.S. troops in March 1973 brought the long and costly struggle to an end.

In terms of deaths due to hostile action, the Vietnam War is surpassed only by the Civil War and the two world wars as the costliest in U.S. history. Between 1 January 1961 and 30 June 1973, a total of 46,063 Americans—30,617 of them Army personnel—were killed as a result of enemy action. Of 303,653 members of the U.S. armed forces who were wounded in action, 201,533 were Army personnel, of whom 104,723, it may be noted, did not require hospital care. Equally distressing for both the Army and the next of kin was the fact that 342 individuals were listed as missing at the end of the year and at the close of the war, 13 as prisoners of war, 235 as missing in action, and 94 as missing and unaccounted for.

Not all deaths in Vietnam were the result of hostile action. Another 10,308 American military personnel—7,155 of them Army—died from such causes as aircraft and vehicle accidents; drownings, suffocations, and burns; malaria, hepatitis, and other diseases; heart attacks and strokes; and suicide and homicide. Among these deaths were eighty-six that resulted from "fraggings"—assaults by one serviceman upon another with an explosive device, such as the fragmentation grenade. A serious, unusual, and highly regrettable development that received wide publicity


and raised speculation about a breakdown in discipline, the incidence of fragging was yet relatively limited in light of the over-all strength of the Army and the size of the Vietnam commitment. In perspective, the phenomenon takes its place with other forms of behavioral extremes that marked the Vietnam era.

In this connection, the Army's problems in the Vietnam era were to some extent a reflection of the nation's problems. American youths tend to bring into the Army the ideals, philosophies, and opinions of their society, and the Vietnam War, developing in a period of social unrest, affected and was affected by the problems of the time. The fact that American participation in the war was founded upon ideological premise rather than territorial threat, was fought on the other side of the world, required only selective manpower levies, and was undertaken with only minor Reserve Component mobilization, placed additional strains upon military efficiency and effectiveness. The impact upon behavior and discipline extended from the civil into the military sphere, embracing draft evasion and card burning, drug abuse, antiwar demonstrations, underground activities, resistance to legally constituted authority, unauthorized absences, desertion, fraggings, and battlefield misconduct. The details of how the Army dealt with a wide variety of behavioral and disciplinary problems are covered in appropriate annual editions of this report.

The termination of the war, reform and then elimination of the draft, reductions in over-all strength, and transition to an all-volunteer force, by mid-1973 had largely eliminated wartime problems and cleared the way for the armed services to rebuild along new lines. From a wartime peak in June 1968 of over 1,500,000 men and women, the Army leveled off in June 1973 at a strength of 800,000, slightly below intended postwar levels. Steady reductions during the five-year period proceeded in parallel with the co-ordinated program to phase out the draft and achieve the all-volunteer force. The Army launched a series of actions to elevate the professional environment, provide a better life for military personnel, and inspire public esteem for the military men and women who serve the nation. By December 1972 these actions had been so successful that the Secretary of Defense terminated draft calls for the period January-June 1973—six months before the legal expiration of the draft on 30 June 1973. By that date—the eve of the target date of 1 July 1973—the transition from the draft to an all-volunteer basis had been achieved. The Army could turn its full attention to a central goal—the development of a disciplined, highly motivated, and thoroughly professional peacetime force.

A wartime situation puts military organization to its severest test. The Vietnam period revealed weaknesses and pointed the way to modifications which could make the Army an even more efficient and effective


Photo, GENERAL BRUCE PALMER, JR., Acting Chief of Staff (1 July-11 October 1972).

Photo, HOWARD H. CALLAWAY, Secretary o f the Army (15 May 1973-).

GENERAL BRUCE PALMER, JR., Acting Chief of Staff (1 July-11 October 1972).

HOWARD H. CALLAWAY, Secretary of the Army (15 May 1973-).

force. Thus in 1973 the Army launched its first major reorganization since the sweeping one of 1962. Among the principal changes begun in fiscal year 1973 and scheduled for completion in fiscal year 1974 were the discontinuation of the Continental Army Command and the Combat Developments Command and the redistribution of their functions between two new commands. These are the United States Army Forces Command, which will comprise all operational divisions and Strategic Army Farce units in the continental United States, will direct all U.S. Army Reserve units, and will be responsible for Army National Guard readiness; and the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, which will oversee individual training, the service schools, and the combat developments process. Numerous other modifications in existing organizational and functional arrangements were instituted to diminish the involvement of the departmental headquarters in field command operations, enhance the role of the installation commander, and take advantage of technological change and new managerial techniques.

Several major changes took place in Army leadership as well as in organization and operation during fiscal year 1973. On 12 October 1972, General Creighton W. Abrams was sworn in as Army Chief of Staff, replacing General William C. Westmoreland, who retired on 1 July 1972; General Bruce Palmer, Jr., served as Acting Chief of Staff pending


Photo, GENERAL CREIGHTON W. ABRAMS, Chief of Staff (12 October 1972-).

Photo, ROBERT F. FROEHLKE, Secretary of the Army (1 July 1971-14 May 1973).

GENERAL CREIGHTON W. ABRAMS, Chief of Staff (12 October 1972-).

ROBERT F. FROEHLKE, Secretary of the Army (1 July 1971-14 May 1973).

General Abrams' confirmation by the United States Senate. In the top civilian leadership, the Honorable Howard H. Callaway was sworn in as Secretary of the Army on 15 May 1973, succeeding the Honorable Robert F. Froehlke, who returned to private life.

These were some of the highlights of a year of transition from a wartime to a peacetime environment. The details of the conversion along numerous functional lines are set out in the following chapters of this report.


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Last updated 9 August 2004