Chapter II:
Organizing the Assistance Effort
Since the inception of the United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, on 8 February 1962, its policies, organization, and objectives were guided by staff contingency planning for the entire Southeast Asia area. The chain of command from Military Assistance Command headquarters in Saigon to Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii was established primarily at the insistence of Admiral Harry .D. Felt, Commander in Chief, Pacific, who strongly believed that only Pacific Command with its joint Army, Navy, and Air Force staff could effectively and dispassionately deal with the entire Southeast Asia area. For this reason the staff and planning capabilities at Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), were limited. Contingency and long-term operational planning for Southeast Asia were to be conducted from the headquarters having cognizance of the entire Pacific theater. Furthermore, the disrupted political and military situation had not been accurately appraised. It was thought that the insurgency problem could be brought under control in short order and that a temporary MACV headquarters incorporating the old Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) as an operating headquarters would prove adequate for handling operations until the emergency passed and the Military Assistance Advisory Group could resume its normal functioning. (Chart 1)
General Paul D. Harkins, as the first Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV), was responsible for performing the functions of the chief of the old military advisory group and in that capacity acted as senior adviser to the Republic of Vietnam's armed forces while also commanding the Army component of the combined services' Military Assistance Command. The commanding general of the U.S. Army Support Group, Vietnam, which had been formed in 1961 to provide administrative and logistic support for Army forces in Vietnam, became the deputy Army component commander. General Harkins therefore exercised operational control of Army forces, while the commanding general of Support Group, Vietnam, was responsible for administrative and logistic support.

The Military Assistance Advisory Group was finally absorbed intact by the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, in 1964. The air and naval advisory activities and their personnel were subordinated to the corresponding component commands of the Military Assistance Command. General Harkins as COMUSMACV was succeeded on 20 June 1964 by General William C. Westmoreland, who continued to direct actively only Army component activities while providing general guidance to the other participating services. Shortly after General. Westmoreland assumed command, the U.S. force buildup completely outpaced the existing support system, and in April 1965 the 1st Logistical Command was deployed and sub-

sequently assigned to the U.S. Army Support Group, Vietnam. (Chart 2)
When President Lyndon B. Johnson was given the mandate of Congress to commit U.S. troops in August of 1964, and the decision was made to do so on a large scale, it became apparent that a review of the command and control structures would be necessary. The major issues concerned MACV's status as a subordinate unified command under orders from Pacific Command headquarters, MACV's working relations with the Vietnamese military and arriving allies, and MACV's U.S. troop command authority.
The same argument Admiral Felt voiced in 1962 was raised

again in 1965, this time by the new Commander in Chief, Pacific, Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp. The military threat in the Pacific was not limited to Vietnam and action there could not, therefore, be conducted without regard for operations and plans for Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Laos, Thailand, or any other Pacific area. Military Assistance Command would remain subordinate to Pacific Command (PACOM) headquarters, and General Westmoreland could direct his attention to Vietnam exclusively.
The second issue under consideration, MACV's relationship with the Vietnamese armed forces, was still more sensitive. A single joint command under an American commander hinted too strongly of American colonialism; therefore command would devolve into co-operation and co-ordination between U.S. and Vietnamese forces. The question of the operational control of _U.S. Army forces involved both military and political considerations.
To provide administrative control of and support for the combat forces, the U.S. Army Support Command was transformed into the U.S. Army, Vietnam (USARV), on 20 July to carry out "all the functions of a field army save those an Army commander would perform at a forward command post." Military Assistance Command would carry out the tactical functions. The establishment of USARV made a headquarters available with the personnel and other resources required to control all Army activities. An Army component headquarters, exercising operational control over land combat forces, would have been in keeping with existing doctrine and, in the opinion of some observers, would have provided a more efficient means of conducting land combat operations. In the context of events in 1965, however, adoption of this approach was not so clearly indicated. In particular, it would have required General Westmoreland to interpose a new, untested, and inexperienced headquarters between himself and his newly arrived American combat troops. Of equal concern was the fact that the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff (JGS) was also the Army of Vietnam headquarters. Coordination of land combat operations was being conducted between MACV and the JGS; if operational control of U.S. Army forces had rested in USARV, the absence of a counterpart headquarters in the Vietnamese Army would have made co-ordination much more difficult. For these reasons, the responsibilities of USARV were limited to administrative and logistical matters.
Before mid-1965, when the first U.S. engineer units arrived, the only American construction capability in Vietnam resided in a small civilian force under contract to the Navy. For a number of years the Department of Defense had followed the practice of assigning to the construction arms of the Army, Navy, and Air Force areas of

responsibility around the world where bases were planned, under way, or already built. The Army Corps of Engineers was given jurisdiction over military construction contracts in Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, Korea, the Mediterranean, and the Near East. Air Force Civil Engineers were assigned the United Kingdom, and the Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks (which was later redesignated Naval Facilities Engineering Command) was committed to Spain, the South Pacific islands, Guantinamo Bay, Antarctica, and Southeast Asia. As Department of Defense contract construction agent, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) had an Officer in Charge of Construction (OICC) for Southeast Asia headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, with a branch office in Saigon. In July 1965 the Navy divided the area by creating the position Officer in Charge of Construction, Republic of Vietnam.
As the military buildup gained momentum, engineer and construction forces received higher priorities for mobilization and deployment. With the arrival of contingents of Army engineers, Navy Seabees, Marine Corps engineers, Air Force Prime BEEF and Red Horse units, and civilian contractors, U.S. construction strength in Vietnam mounted rapidly. Because the buildup was so rapid, construction had to be accomplished on a crash basis, but before that could be done there were numerous logistical obstacles to overcome. Changing requirements for facilities from which to conduct or support combat operations and deployments interfered with the establishment of construction priorities, which in turn depended upon the availability of labor, equipment, materials, and sites, for which there was intense competition among the services.
During a visit to Vietnam in July 1965, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Properties and Installations discussed the situation with the Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics (J-4), MACV, and the commander of Military Assistance Command. He strongly urged that "there be one focal point in MACV for direction of construction matters, a central office with which the Department of Defense, CINCPAC, and other service agencies can coordinate"; and he recommended a construction czar other than the MACV J-4.
General Westmoreland had assigned staff supervision of base development to his Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics. Up to the time of the buildup, the J-4 had been concerned primarily with the Military Assistance Program (MAP). Among other duties the J-4 also chaired the U.S. Construction Staff Committee which consisted of representatives pf agencies involved in civil and military construction. Within the J-4 office was a Base Development Branch of four officers headed by a Navy commander and overly. occupied for the most part with routine staff matters. About twenty-five Engi-

neer officers were also in the Engineer Branch of the Directorate of the Army MAP Logistics-a separate staff agency and remnant of the old MAAG. Headed by Colonel Kenneth W. Kennedy, Corps of Engineers, this branch had the mission of advising the Vietnamese Armed Forces Chief of Engineers. On 7 April 1965, J-4 merged the Engineer Branch, Directorate of Army MAP Logistics, with its small Base Development Branch to form the Engineer Division, J-4, under Colonel Kennedy; but, as the scope of engineer activities (especially base development) expanded, the post of the Engineer was upgraded to Deputy J-4 for Engineering in November 1965.
During this same month Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara visited General Westmoreland's headquarters in Saigon, where he was advised that the then-envisaged construction program would cost about $1 billion within a two-year period. Upon his return to Washington, Secretary McNamara directed the establishment of a construction base for Vietnam. On I 1 February 1966 the position of Director of Construction (MACDC) was established. As a special staff officer, he would report directly to General Westmoreland independently of J-4 channels. Brigadier General Carroll H. Dunn, who had been selected for promotion to major general, was the first director and served in this post until 1966 when he was succeeded by his deputy, Brigadier General Daniel A. Raymond. General Dunn's initial staff consisted of 135 people, half Army, one-quarter Navy, and one-quarter Air Force. The mission assigned to General Dunn was to "direct, manage, and supervise the combined and coordinated construction program to meet MACV requirements and coordinate all Department of Defense construction efforts and resources assigned to MACV or in the Republic of Vietnam."
The ultimate mission of the MACV Director of Construction was to provide military engineering advice and assistance to the Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. In executing this mission the Construction Directorate supervised the construction program; co-ordinated all Department of Defense construction efforts and resources assigned to Military Assistance Command or other agencies in Vietnam; established joint service policy; and monitored all military construction programs. The Construction Directorate also supervised the execution of interservice facility management matters and obtained and allocated real estate for use by U.S. and Free World Military Assistance Forces. The Construction Directorate was later given the responsibility for advising and assisting the Ministry of Public Works, Communications, and Transportation relative to the government of Vietnam's highway

and road system. The directorate also assisted the component services, the Agency for International Development, and the Vietnamese National Railway System in the development of waterways and railways.
The establishment of the Director of Construction clarified several matters: the Commander, Military Assistance Command, would exercise direct control of the construction effort in Vietnam, including direction of the Navy's Officer in Charge of Construction in areas of project assignments, priorities of effort, and standards of construction. He would control the use and allocation of all construction resources in Vietnam. What up to now had been several programs of separate agencies responsible to different bosses both in and out of Vietnam became a unified program under centralized control and direction.
Throughout 1965 there had been an increased commitment of U.S. military personnel. On 8 March 1965, 3,500 marines landed in the I Corps area to take up defensive positions around the U.S. air base at Da Nang. On 5 May 1965, U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft began landing at Bien Hoa Air Base, north of Saigon, with the main body of the 173d. Airborne Brigade, previously stationed on Okinawa. On 16 June 1965, the Secretary of Defense announced the deployment of an additional 21,000 U.S. troops to South Vietnam, which brought the total commitment to 75,000.
On 12 July, the 2d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, landed at Vung Tau and immediately moved inland to Bien Hoa. To the north, the 2d Brigade's remaining battalion came ashore at Cam Ranh Bay and relieved the 1st Logistical Command forces of the bulk of the peninsula security mission. A little over two weeks later, the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, landed at Cam Ranh Bay and relieved a battalion of the 2d Brigade, 1st Division, of its security mission. These two brigades were the first U.S. Army combat forces to be deployed from the United States to South Vietnam.
On 28 July 1965, in a television address to the nation the President announced: "I have today ordered to Vietnam . . . forces which will raise our fighting strength from 75,000 to 125,000 men almost immediately. Additional forces will be needed later and they will be sent as requested." In the next five months, the strength of U.S. forces rose not to 125,000 but to nearly 200,000. By Christmas 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and the 1st Infantry Division (-) had arrived in South Vietnam, where they were joined by the Korean 1st (Capital-Tiger) Infantry Division. To control the U.S. combat forces in II Corps, Task Force Alpha, a corps head-

PICTURE - ELEMENTS of 1st CAVALRY DIVISION (AIRMOBILE) arrive at Qui Nhon September 1965.
ELEMENTS of 1st CAVALRY DIVISION (AIRMOBILE) arrive at Qui Nhon September 1965.
quarters, was deployed in August from Fort Hood, Texas, to Nha Trang.
The troop buildup continued into the new year. On 29 December 1965 the 3d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, began a two-week movement from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, to Pleiku. By 8 January 1966 a second corps headquarters, designated II Field Force, was deployed to manage U.S. combat forces in the III and IV Corps areas.
The first Army engineer unit to arrive in Vietnam was the 173d Engineer Company, which landed at Bien Hoa on 5 May 1965 as part of the 173d Airborne Brigade. This company, like other brigade and divisional engineer units, worked to establish base camps and provide combat support to the larger organization of which it was a part.
On 9 June 1965 Headquarters, 35th Engineer Group, together with the 864th Engineer Battalion and D Comp4ny, 84th Engineers, had debarked on the Cam Ranh Peninsula. These were the first major units to arrive at Cam Ranh Bay. On 16 July the 159th Engineer Group (Construction) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina,

received orders to activate Headquarters, 18th Engineer Brigade, from its resources. On 30 July the newly formed brigade received movement orders, and one month later it departed for South Vietnam and assignment to U.S. Army, Vietnam. This brigade was commanded by Brigadier General Robert R. Ploger. The brigade's advance party arrived in Vietnam on 3 September and immediately scrambled to find space in the Saigon area for its headquarters and to establish a communications net with its subordinate units. On 16 September the headquarters (less the main body, which did not arrive until 21 September) became operational and assumed command of all nondivisional Army engineer units from the 1st Logistical Command. In northern II Corps, meanwhile, the engineer situation was significantly changed by the arrival at Qui Nhon of Headquarters, 937th Engineer Group (Combat), and the 70th Engineer Battalion (Combat) on 23 August. These units came to South-east Asia as time-tested organizations, since both had been in operation before deploying. By 1 October 1965 the engineer force was composed of two group headquarters, six battalions, and nine separate companies. One week later USARV assigned the following missions to the brigade:
a. Provide operational planning and supervision of USARV construction and related tasks in the Republic of Vietnam and for other missions as may be directed by this headquarters.
b. Exercise command and operational control of engineer units assigned to United States Army, Vietnam.
c. Provide for physical security of personnel, equipment, facilities, and construction of all units assigned or attached to your command.
On 1 January 1966 the 20th and 39th Engineer Battalions, along with the 572d Light Equipment Company, landed at Cam Ranh Bay. From 2 January until mid-May, only two companies were added to the strength of the 18th Brigade. The 20th and 39th Battalions were the last products of the initial herculean push by the United States Continental Army Command to deploy a maximum number of engineer units to Southeast Asia. It would be summer before the steady flow of engineers across the Pacific would resume.
The command situation for base development was by now formally established. The Director of Construction at the MACV joint staff headquarters exercised control and guidance for all service construction. Air Force, Navy, and Army construction efforts would

be co-ordinated through this office. To ensure effective operation, the Construction Directorate was organized along functional lines. The directorate originally consisted of five main divisions: Plans and Operations, Engineering and Base Development, Construction Management, Real Estate, and Program Management. On 1 January 1968 a major revision of the organization occurred with the creation of the Lines of Communications (LOC) Division. (Chart 3) The LOC Division assumed the responsibility for managing a 4,100kilometer road restoration program and for advising the Vietnamese Director General of Highways. Before this reorganization, LOC responsibility had been delegated to the Construction Management

Division, which was dissolved. Its functions were assumed by the Base Development Division.
The Base Development Division served as the focal point for base development planning, for monitoring the component service base construction projects, and for interservice facility management matters. Engineer staff activities pertaining to military operation, determination of engineer requirements and plans for employment of engineer forces, and technical supervision of engineer activities were the responsibility of the Plans and Operation Division.
The Lines of Communications Division, once established, directed, supervised, and managed the development and restoration of designated roads to support military operations, pacification programs, and national economic growth. The division co-ordinated the planning and execution of LOC programs for the component services, the Agency for International Development, and the Vietnamese government. Assistance and advisory support were also provided to the Ministry of Public Works, Communications, and Transportation; to the Directorate General of Highways; and to the five regional engineers and the province engineers. The Lines of Communications Division also assisted all interested agencies in the development of waterways and railways. The Program Management Branch, meanwhile, was responsible for funding matters including fund status, piaster impact, and statistical analysis of the Vietnamese military construction program, while the Real Estate Division served as the MACV agent in obtaining and allocating real estate for U.S. use.
The commander of Army units in Vietnam remained the Commanding General, U.S. Army, Vietnam. As senior Army component commander, he was responsible for base development at ports, beaches, depots, and major installations in II, III, and IV Corps Tactical Zones, except for those bases specifically assigned to other services through the office of the MACV Director of Construction. Since the Commanding General, U.S. Army, Vietnam, was also the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, this apparent division of command may be seen as a simple differentiation of staff functions made necessary by the diversity of responsibilities inherent in the planning staff, which was MACV, and the execution staff, which was USARV.
Initially the Army engineer construction effort was the responsibility of the Engineer Section of the 1st Logistical Command. In September 1965 the headquarters of the 18th Engineer Brigade arrived and assumed responsibility of engineer staff planning from the 1st Logistical Command; the Commanding General, 18th Engineer Brigade, acted as both the Engineer Troop Commander and

the Army Engineer until December 1966 when the U.S. Army Engineer Command was formed. The 18th Engineer Brigade was then delegated the responsibility for engineer support in I and II Corps Tactical Zones. The Engineer Command took over responsibility for over-all supervision of the Army construction program and direct supervision of two engineer groups operating in II and IV Corps Tactical Zones. When the 20th Engineer Brigade arrived in Vietnam and was delegated the responsibility of engineer support in III and IV Corps Tactical Zones, the Engineer Command functioned as the over-all planning staff for Army construction subordinate to the Engineer, USARV. In March 1968 the Engineer Command was reorganized with the U.S. Army Engineer Construction Agency, Vietnam (USAECAV), and was charged with responsibility for managing and administering real estate, property maintenance, and execution of the Military Construction, Army (MCA), construction programs. At the same time the Office of the Engineer, USARV, served as the component staff engineer.
The Engineer's staff at USARV headquarters consisted of five main divisions: Construction, Facilities Engineering, Mapping and Intelligence, Military Operations, and Supply and Maintenance. (Chart 4) Although the organizational structure of the Construction Agency provided for operational independence, policies and proce-

dures were prescribed by U.S. Army in Vietnam. The Construction Agency at Army headquarters was composed of three main divisions: Engineering, Real Estate, and Real Property Management. The USAECAV organization also utilized the area concept and had district offices in four major geographical locations.
Like the Construction Agency, the engineer brigades were subordinate to the U.S. Army in Vietnam and their organization and mission evolved in an area concept. The brigades each operated in two tactical zones. Since the brigades divided their areas into group and battalion areas of operations, the battalions were responsible for all engineer support within assigned areas of operation.
Naval construction planning at the beginning of the buildup was delegated to the III Marine Amphibious Force. In October 1965, III Marine Amphibious Force was provided a small support activity which was an extension of Services Forces, Pacific, and the Director of the Pacific Division of Bureau of Yards and Docks. This activity assumed the responsibility for facility planning until April 1966 when the Commander, Naval Forces, Vietnam (COMNAVFORV), assumed the duties of co-ordinator and planner for base, port, beach, depot, air base, road, and installation construction for all Navy, Marine, and allied forces operating in I Corps and for other distinct naval operations in II, III, and IV Corps areas.
The Commander, Naval Forces, Vietnam, as the Navy component commander, was placed under operational control of the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, but remained under the operational command of the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, the operating naval force of the Commander in Chief, Pacific.
The Department of Defense contract construction agent in Vietnam, the Navy's Officer in Charge of Construction, had been providing construction resources. This office and its organization had been modified frequently since 1962 when the Navy negotiated a $16.5 million cost-plus-a-fixed-fee contract with a joint contractor, Raymond International and Morrison-Knudsen (RMK), for construction of airfields and port facilities in Vietnam to support the country's armed forces. The buildup of American forces increased the scope of contract construction. In August 1965 RMK brought two additional contractors-Brown & Root and J. A. Jones--into the partnership (henceforth referred to as RMK-BRJ) to bolster personnel strength and management capability. Lyman D. Wilbur, vice president of Morrison-Knudsen, was in charge of work from May 1965 until February 1966, when he was succeeded by Bert Perkins, also a vice president of the same corporation.
The Navy's OICC in supervising the RMK-BRJ contract assigned a Naval Civil Engineering Corps officer as resident officer

in charge at each major construction site. The OICC since 1965 had been a Navy flag officer of the Civil Engineer Corps.
Unlike the other services, the Air Force was able to avoid many construction planning difficulties. The 7th Air Force Civil Engineer Directorate possessed the planning force required for its construction program in Vietnam before the 1965 buildup, and the 7th Air Force was responsible only for base development at air bases and at other installations where the Air Force was designated as having a primary mission.
The Army's responsibility for facilities engineering support before 1965 was limited to six MACV advisory sites located outside Saigon. The Navy's Headquarters Support Activity, Saigon, took care of all military property within the city. But because of a lack of trained military personnel and experience in contracting for facilities engineering in Korea, the Army decided to contract for this support at the MACV advisory sites. Seven firms submitted bids, and negotiations were undertaken with four of them. On 1 May 1968, Pacific Architects and Engineers (PA&E) received a cost-plus-a-fixed-fee contract.
This contract, except for a change in the type of fee, was the kind awarded as the buildup continued. The contractor was to provide all facilities engineering support for the Army in Vietnam and was to establish an organization essentially the same as provided in Army regulations for standard facilities engineering units. The contractor was to furnish the labor, organization, and management; the government was to supply equipment, repair parts, tools, and material as well as quarters and messing facilities. The flexibility of this contract proved invaluable in the years ahead.
While considerable attention is given in this text to the deployment of Army engineer units, it should be recognized that these units actually constituted less than half of the total American construction force in Vietnam. By mid-1968, thirty-five engineer battalions, forty-two separate companies, and numerous teams and detachments hart been deployed. At its peak, Army engineer strength in Vietnam approximated 40,000 officers and men, including members of combat engineer units of the seven Army divisions and six separate brigades and regiments.
The following summary sets forth what might be termed the construction force in Vietnam. Essentially it lists the principal agencies involved in construction in South Vietnam, and therefore the agencies whose construction activities were co-ordinated, integrated, and directed to varying degrees by the MACV Director of Construction.

U.S. Army
1. Army Engineer Command (Provisional). Consisted of 2 brigades, 6 groups, 21 battalions, and various small specialized engineer units.
2. Pacific Architects and Engineers. Under contract for repairs and utilities support of the Army (21,418 personnel).
3. DeLong Corporation. Fabricated and installed patented mobile piers.
4. Vinnell Corporation. Constructed, operated, and maintained electrical systems including T-2 tankers used as power sources.
U.S. Air Force
1. Walter Kidde Constructors. Employed on a turnkey basis to design and construct Tuy Hoa Air Base.
2. Red Horse Squadrons. Five light construction squadrons structured for augmentation by local labor.
3. Base Emergency Engineering Forces (BEEF) Teams. Small detachments which contained a high level of skills and capability of constructing small quantities of critical facilities.
4. Base Civil Engineering Forces. Equipped to handle repairs and utilities at established bases.
U.S. Naval Forces
1. One construction brigade, composed of the 80th Naval Construction Regiment with nine Seabee battalions.
2. Three engineer construction battalions of the Fleet Marine Force, USMC.
3. Naval Support Activity, Public Works Forces.
4. Philco. Under contract to provide a labor force.
5. Naval Facilities Engineering Command
a. Office in Charge of Construction (OICC), RVN. OICC supervised and administered the contract for:
b. RMK-BRJ. This joint venture of four American contractors accomplished the largest portion of construction projects.
Other U.S. agencies in the organization for construction were those of the embassy's Office of Civil Operations and the MACV Revolutionary Development Support Directorate.
Until early 1967, there was a tendency to view the reconstruction phase of pacification as a Vietnamese effort, supported by U.S. civil agencies, while the U.S. military command concentrated on building Vietnamese combat capabilities. Integration and co-ordination were lacking among the several U.S. civil agencies involved. The U.S.

Agency for International Development (USAID), the Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO), and the Office of the Special Assistant to the Ambassador (OSA), and the military agencies sometimes worked at cross-purposes. To correct this defect the Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) structure was formed under MACV to provide single manager control of U.S. military and civilian efforts in support of Vietnamese pacification programs. CORDS did not include all of the advisory efforts of OSA and JUSPAO. These organizations continued to supply some construction material to the Vietnamese for self-help, while military units often performed the actual reconstruction.

page created 15 December 2001

Previous Chapter     Next Chapter

Return to the Table of Contents