REAL ESTATE ACQUISITION
The responsibilities and procedures that eventually evolved for acquisition of real estate were promulgated in U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Directive 405-1, 3 November 1966, of which the following is a paraphrase.
The Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, was responsible for the acquisition of real estate for U.S. forces and Free World Military Assistance Forces in Vietnam. The director of construction was responsible to the commander for performing these functions. Component commanders in Vietnam were directed by the MACV commander to coordinate real estate functions and activities of all U.S. and Free World forces within their areas of responsibility. Their duties were discharged through their field real estate officers who negotiated with Vietnamese officials for required real estate and maintained a central record of all real estate utilized by U.S. and Free World forces within their areas. Real estate requirements were submitted to the appropriate field real estate office, where it was determined whether the requirements could be met. If a requirement could not be met, the request was prepared for consideration by the Vietnamese government.
The initial point of contact for U.S. real estate requests was the appropriate Vietnamese government official-district chief, province chief, or mayor. A land-use concurrence document was submitted to the appropriate official for his approval. This document described the requested property and, when signed, granted to the allied forces the exclusive use of the real estate for as long as the requirement existed. If approval could not be obtained, the reasons were noted on the disapproval. The request and the land-use concurrence document then were forwarded through support channels to the component commander and then to the MACV commander. The complete package was submitted to the Interministerial Real Estate Committee, a subelement of the joint General Staff, Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. When the committee granted approval of the request, the component commander assigned the real estate to the original requestor.
If the requested real estate included privately owned property such as houses, crops, and graves, indemnification was necessary.
The local district chief, mayor, or province chief made a tabulation by name, item, and amount for each person to be indemnified. The amount was based on a process established at meetings between the local province and district officials and the working subcommittee of the Interministerial Real Estate Committee. Tabulations were forwarded to the joint General Staff for verification by the committee. Upon approval, the committee forwarded the funds to the site. Actual payment was made by the local district chief, mayor, or province chief.
The problem of moving graves was a particularly serious cause of major delays in acquiring real estate. During the 2,000-year history of Vietnam, the countryside had become virtually covered with individual graves-in marked contrast to the well-defined graveyards of the western world. Cultural, religious, and legal precepts required the permission (and frequently the indemnification) of the descendants of those interred before the graves could be relocated.
The procedure for acquiring land on which graves were located involved determination of ownership; through the landowner, determination of the names and locations of the descendants of those interred; and when the relative had been contacted, removal of the remains or the granting of a waiver authorizing the contractor to proceed without removing the remains. Because many grave sites were ancient, it was frequently difficult if not impossible to determine the proper persons from whom to seek such permission. Because the religion of many Vietnamese contains elements of ancestor worship, tampering with grave sites could have caused serious complications. For example, when the contractor uncovered graves during the preliminary construction of his camp at Phu Cat, the village chief initiated a protest via the district and province chiefs that resulted in a letter of protest from General Vien, Chairman of the Vietnamese Joint General Staff, to General Westmoreland. Delays ranging from one day to one month resulted from the need to relocate the graves. The runway construction at Phu Cat was stopped for approximately one month because of graves at the construction site. The local Vietnamese officials were consulted, and the province chief agreed to have the graves moved and granted approval for the contractor to proceed after approximately four weeks even if the graves had not been relocated. Four weeks later, the contractor commenced construction.
The real estate problem was further complicated by the fact that within a three-year period there had been nine changes in the government in Vietnam; each change had caused a shift in the central government. The relative independence of province officials,
who had a strong voice in land acquisition, had compounded the difficulty. Continuity at both central and province levels was virtually nonexistent. Although real estate acquisition procedures were established in the latter part of 1965, delays in actual procurement continued to be a common and persistent problem. The inability of the Vietnamese government to provide land in a timely manner definitely hampered the development of facilities.
The prime civilian contractor for construction in South Vietnam listed the acquisition of real estate as a major and continuing problem throughout the life of the contract. Inability to obtain real estate in a timely fashion hampered his work on projects and on physical plants, especially quarry sites.
Return to the Table of Contents
Return to CMH Online