The United States Army has met an unusually complex challenge in Southeast
Asia. In conjunction with the other services, the Army has fought in support
of a national policy of assisting an emerging nation to develop governmental
processes of its own choosing, free of outside coercion. In addition to
the usual problems of waging armed conflict, the assignment in Southeast
Asia has required superimposing the immensely sophisticated tasks of a modern
army upon an underdeveloped environment and adapting them to demands covering
a wide spectrum. These involved helping to fulfill the basic needs of an
agrarian population, dealing with the frustrations of antiguerrilla operations,
and conducting conventional campaigns against well-trained and determined
As this assignment nears an end, the U.S. Army must prepare for other
challenges that may lie ahead. While cognizant that history never repeats
itself exactly and that no army ever profited from trying to meet a new
challenge in terms of the old one, the Army nevertheless stands to benefit
immensely from a study of its experience, its shortcomings no less than
Aware that some years must elapse before the official histories will provide
a detailed and objective analysis of the experience in Southeast Asia, we
have sought a forum whereby some of the more salient aspects of that experience
can be made available now. At the request of the Chief of Staff, a representative
group of senior officers who served in important posts in Vietnam and who
still carry a heavy burden of day-to-day responsibilities has prepared a
series of monographs. These studies should be of great value in helping
the Army develop future operational concepts while at the same time contributing
to the historical record and providing the American public with an interim
report on the performance of men and officers who have responded, as others
have through our history, to exacting and trying demands.
All monographs in the series are based primarily on official records,
with additional material from published and unpublished secondary works,
from debriefing reports and interviews with key participants, and from the
personal experience of the author. To facilitate security clearance, annotation
and detailed bibliography
have been omitted from the published version; a fully documented account
with bibliography is filed with the Office of the Chief of Military History.
Lieutenant General Carroll H. Dunn is specially qualified to tell the
story of Base Development construction in Vietnam. A professional engineer
since the beginning of his Army career, General Dunn has been the Director
of the Army Waterways Experiment Station, Executive Officer to the Chief
of Engineers (responsible for the construction of the nation's first ballistic
missile warning system), and both Director and Deputy Commander of the Titan
II Missile System construction program. As Engineer for the Army's Southwestern
Division, he supervised construction of the Manned Spacecraft Center at
Houston. In January 1966 he became Director of Construction for the U.S.
Military Assistance Command in Vietnam, responsible for all Department of
Defense construction in the country. In June 1966 he became Assistant Chief
of Staff for Logistics and held that post until his return to the United
States in the fall of 1967. He was then assigned as Director of Military
Construction, Office of the Chief of Engineers. In 1969 he was appointed
Deputy Chief of Engineers and in August 1971, with promotion to the rank
of lieutenant general, he became Director of the Defense Nuclear Agency.
|Washington, D. C.
30 March 1972
|VERNE L. BOWERS
Major General, USA
The Adjutant General
Before mid-1965, when the first U.S. engineer units arrived, the only
American construction capability in Vietnam was a small civilian force under
contract to the U.S. Navy. During this period, the Navy's Bureau of Yards
and Docks (now the Naval Facilities Engineering Command) and the Army Corps
of Engineers shared worldwide responsibility for military construction,
with Southeast Asia among the areas assigned to the Navy.
As the military buildup proceeded, engineer and construction forces received
high priority for mobilization and deployment. With the coming 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 increased rapidly. Vietnamese Army engineers and engineer troops
of other Free World allies handled some of the construction for their own
forces, thereby furthering the over-all effort.
In February 1966 the Directorate of Construction was established in the
Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, to provide centralized management
of the U.S. program. As the first Director of Construction, I had the duty,
as the principal staff officer for engineering and base development, to
assure that the construction effort was responsive to tactical needs and
priorities. Among my assigned tasks were holding construction to minimum
essential requirements and enforcing the most austere standards consistent
with operational needs and tactical objectives. Embracing ports, airfields,
storage areas, ammunition dumps, housing, bridges, roads, and other conventional
facilities, the construction program was probably the largest concentrated
effort of its kind in history.
One feature of the program was unique. Because engineer troops were few
at the beginning, contractors and civilian workmen for the first time in
history assumed a major construction role in an active theater of operations.
Without their valuable contribution, many more troops would have been required
to do the job.
Formidable obstacles confronted the engineers. The tropical climate, with
its monsoon rains and enervating heat, imposed severe handicaps on constructors.
Few building materials, either natural or manufactured, were available locally.
Saigon was the only deepdraft port. Roads, mostly primitive, were interdicted
by the enemy.
Cargoes had to move in coastal vessels or by air. The supply line to the
United States stretched ten thousand miles. Native labor was largely unskilled.
Because much of the country was thickly populated and graves of venerated
ancestors abounded, building sites were at a premium. Complicating the entire
construction program was the use of essentially peacetime funding methods
in a war situation.
As U.S. forces disengage, American engineers will bequeath a rich legacy
to the people of South Vietnam. Much of the construction completed for our
forces will serve as a foundation for national development in the years
ahead. Seven deep-draft ports exist where there was only one. Similarly,
roads, bridges, utilities, and many airfields and other facilities will
remain as valuable assets to the country. Perhaps the program's greatest
impact has been upon the people themselves. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese
have had an opportunity to learn American building techniques and many of
them have. become skilled welders, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and
heavy-equipment operators. Their competence will contribute immeasurably
to the goal of economic viability.
Many people have contributed to the preparation of this monograph, to
all of whom I am deeply grateful. I am particularly indebted to the following:
Major General Daniel A. Raymond, Colonel Robert B. Burlin, Colonel Edward
T. Watling, Lieutenant Colonel Gerald E. Boyer, Dr. Kenneth J. Deacon, Mr.
Leon Albin, Mr. Charles J. Owen, and Mr. Boris Levine, Office, Chief of
Engineers; Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Wallace and Major James H. Andrews,
U.S. Army Engineer Center, Fort Belvoir. Also, I wish to express my gratitude
to the Engineer Strategic Studies Group and the Directorate of Real Estate,
OCE, for assistance rendered during development of the manuscript and to
Major Robert W. Whitehead, Office, Chief of Engineers, who was the project
officer for this monograph.
My thanks to the friends and colleagues who read all or parts of this
volume in manuscript form and who provided many important corrections and
helpful suggestions. These associates of mine cannot, of course, be held
responsible for any views or interpretations which I have advanced.
Washington, D. C.
30 March 1972
CARROLL H. DUNN
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army
All illustrations are from Department of the Army files
page created 15 December 2001
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