The Crucial Years, 1960-1964
The Problem, 1959-1960
By 1960 it was apparent that the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam were incapable of dealing with the growing insurgency. Since 1956 the Viet Cong had been slowly turning the south into a battlefield of unconventional warfare and eroding the limited authority of Saigon in the countryside. Assassinations and other acts of terrorism began to rise rapidly and for the first time battalion-size attacks occurred against isolated posts and small towns. When, on 26 January 1960, the Viet Cong overran a South Vietnamese Army regimental headquarters in Tay Ninh Province and captured large amounts of arms and ammunition, U.S. planners realized that new and forceful actions and programs were needed if the government of Vietnam was to survive. The coming years would be crucial.
The United States had already begun responding to this new threat. The previous year, in May 1959, the Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), directed that MAAGV advisers be provided down to infantry regiment and to artillery, armored, and separate Marine battalion level. This move would enable advisers to give on-the-spot advice and effectively assess the end result of the advisory effort. The Pacific commander in chief's orders forbade the advisers to participate directly in combat operations or to accompany units on antiguerrilla operations immediately adjacent to national boundaries. The Commander in Chief, Pacific, also took steps to obtain U.S. Army Special Forces mobile training teams to assist in training indigenous "Ranger" companies for counter-guerrilla warfare. The Ranger units had been created by President Diem, against U.S. advice, simply by taking the fourth company out of each infantry battalion and redesignating it. These Ranger units thus constituted a special branch of the Army--in addition to the Vietnamese Special Forces--but as yet had received no special training which would justify their new mission.
The major elements of the Republic of Vietnam armed forces at this time were three corps headquarters, seven infantry divisions, one airborne brigade, the Ranger force of about 9,000 men, three Marine battalions, a token Air Force and Navy, and a small num-
ber of logistical support units. In 1960 the Military Assistance Advisory Group reported that the Republic of Vietnam armed forces were about 13,000 below its authorized 150,000 level and that both the Civil Guard and the Self-Defense Corps were below strength and still largely untrained. The Civil Guard and the Self-Defense Corps were not considered part of the Republic of Vietnam Army or armed forces until 1964. MAP support was available for about 25,000 Civil Guardsmen, but the Self-Defense Corps was still not receiving any financial aid. In view of the growing insurgency these force levels had to be raised and both the training program and the organization of the Army modified to provide the armed forces with a greatly strengthened counterinsurgency capability.
At the Pacific commanders conference in April 1959 General Williams, the chief of Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, reviewed the situation in Vietnam and cited what he felt were the most serious problems: absence of a national plan for control of the situation, no rotation of military units in the field, the need for a central surveillance plan, the proliferation of Ranger-type counterinsurgency units, the lack of intelligence concerning enemy activities, an inadequate military communications system, and the need for a single commander to direct the war effort. Williams also underlined the inability of the Civil Guard to maintain internal security and the ensuing commitment of South Vietnam Army units to stability operations in lieu of training. The Civil Guard was still under the government of Vietnam's Department of Interior and controlled locally by the province and district chiefs. While this arrangement made it possible for the U.S. Operations Mission to support the Civil Guard financially, it also made it extremely difficult to implement any significant improvements for these scattered troops.
The Immediate Response, 1960-1961
In March 1960 the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) began drawing up a comprehensive counter-insurgency plan which would unite all U.S. and South Vietnamese elements behind a common objective. At the same time, the Joint Chiefs reversed their past policy and recommended that the Vietnamese Army develop a counterinsurgency capability over and above that supplied by the territorials. Later, in June, the Military Assistance Advisory Group approved the formation of several Ranger battalions to spearhead the counterinsurgency effort, and in September the advisory group, under its new chief, Lieutenant General Lionel C. McGarr, super-
vised the development of the new counterinsurgency plan at the Saigon level. Finally, in October, the advisory group recommended an immediate 20,000-man increase in the South Vietnamese armed forces structure.
Efforts to restructure the expanded Vietnamese Army and armed forces for the counterinsurgency effort had only mixed success. In March 1960 the government of Vietnam approved in principle a national planning system without providing for the necessary national level direction and control to ensure that the system would be implemented and integrated.
Although the chief of the South Vietnam armed forces Joint General Staff (JGS) received responsibility for the military security of the nation, the tools necessary to fulfill this responsibility were either denied him or were made ineffective. Individuals and agencies not directly or fully responsible to the Joint General Staff still had direct influence over units and agencies of the South Vietnam armed forces. For example, forty-two key leaders, each responsible for pacification within his own sphere of responsibility, reported directly to President Diem. These included the thirty-eight province chiefs who by-passed all military authority, three military region commanders who by-passed the Joint General Staff and field commands, and one field commander. President Diem remained reluctant to delegate responsibility or to furnish the means to individuals whereby they might accomplish their missions and insisted on retaining tight control of all civilian and military activities.
On 7 October 1960 President Diem, at the urging of the U.S. Ambassador, reestablished the Internal Security Council to coordinate governmental actions at the highest level. The Internal Security Council would be similar to the U.S. National Security Council and act as an executive agent for Diem by issuing orders and instructions to the Department of National Defense and other government agencies instrumental in carrying out the counterinsurgency campaign. This setup placed responsibility on the Permanent Secretary-General for National Defense for executing council decisions. Later, on 3 December, a South Vietnam government decree placed the Civil Guard under the control of the Department of National Defense. This arrangement allowing Military Assistance Advisory Group to assume responsibility for training and equipping the Civil Guard, with the cost to be borne by the International Cooperation Administration, represented a major organizational improvement.
Counterinsurgency Plan, 1961
In August 1960 the U.S. Departments of Defense and State approved the JCS outline plan for counterinsurgency operations in Vietnam and Laos, and the Country Team in South Vietnam proceeded to prepare a more detailed plan based on this initial guidance. The final Counterinsurgency Plan was approved on 6 February 1961 and laid down the basic guidelines for most future U.S. plans and actions. Its objective was to halt the spreading insurgency by reforming and enlarging the military forces of the government of Vietnam. In concept, the plan divided most of the country into tactical control zones supervised by military headquarters of appropriate size and strength. Security would be provided by a combination of regular, Ranger, and territorial units. The Counterinsurgency Plan proposed to raise MAP support for the Vietnamese armed forces from 150,000 men to 170,000 and to support a Civil Guard force of approximately 68,000. The proposed 20,000-man Army increase was to provide 15,000 spaces for combat forces and 5,000 spaces for logistical support units.
The major increase in the combat forces called for the activation of three infantry regiments (about 7,000 spaces) which would allow the Vietnamese Army to maintain its current field strength. Specific counterinsurgency elements were also strengthened. One-fifth of the increase (about 3,000 spaces) was pledged to expand the Ranger units from sixty-five to eighty-six companies. By this time all sixty-five existing companies had been trained and equipped for counterinsurgency operations and were committed. Equally important, the Vietnamese Special Forces were to be more than tripled with a 500-man increase. These units had been trained by U.S. Army Special Forces teams to carry out unconventional warfare operations behind enemy lines and by early 1961 were being employed to conduct long-range reconnaissance operations; search out, organize, and direct anti-Viet Cong elements including ethnic and religious groups; recruit and organize tribal (Montagnard) border watchers; and establish intelligence nets along the Cambodian and Laotian borders. In an attempt to cope with the serious deficiency in military intelligence, the Counterinsurgency Plan proposed establishing the equivalent of a U.S. Army military intelligence battalion. The battalion would include a security company, an intelligence collection company, a linguistic company (interrogator-translator), and cellular intelligence teams designed to support tactical intelligence needs or to conduct coordinated operations on an area basis. The unit would thus provide a wide range
of intelligence support at all echelons for the equivalent of a field army.
Other major additions included two civil affairs companies, one air support operations center at each corps headquarters, twenty-four air-ground teams to provide better coordination for air support, and a CH-34 helicopter squadron to permit the lift of one rifle company. The 5,000 logistical spaces would correct the imbalance in support activities. New support units would be organized, and the logistical system would be restructured to provide regional logistical commands to support the tactical commanders in the field. These changes would end the inherent problems of the existing system that attempted to control all logistical support operations from Saigon.
The Counterinsurgency Plan also strove to strengthen the Joint General Staff by creating a Joint Operations Staff within the Joint General Staff that would have the mission and authority to develop national plans for pacification and other operations. Joint Operations Staff control was to be exercised through subordinate headquarters following normal command channels of the military organization. In addition, the plan visualized that in areas where pacification operations were to be conducted, supreme authority would be vested in a senior tactical military commander. All agencies, both military and civilian, would be subordinated to this commander during the period of operations.
In April 1961, in response to the deteriorating situation in Southeast Asia, President John F. Kennedy inaugurated a series of actions designed to bolster the Republic of Vietnam and demonstrate to the world his firm determination to take whatever steps were necessary to defend that country. In April representatives of the United States and the Republic of Vietnam signed a treaty of amity and economic relationships, and the National Security Council, with the chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, in attendance, took steps to inaugurate a program to assist South Vietnam. A special group, Task Force Vietnam, was formed initially under the Department of Defense to guide the program; later the State Department assumed responsibility. A counterpart body, Task Force Saigon, consisting essentially of the South Vietnam Country Team, was organized to formulate an effective program on the ground level. Although Military Assistance Advisory
Group, Vietnam, was not initially included in Task Force Saigon, it later gained representation.
At this time President Diem abolished the system of military regions and made his army field command responsible for counterinsurgency operations. This step proved relatively ineffective, for President Diem continued to retain tight control of all operations. No single military chain of command from the field command to the units and agencies engaged in counterinsurgency operations existed; corps and military district commanders continued to receive their instructions directly from the President. On 11 May 1961 Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson visited South Vietnam to discuss the matter of increased aid with the Vietnamese officials. One of the conditions for continued U.S. aid was to be a reorganization of the entire political-military setup. President Diem agreed but continued to dominate military operations.
On 13 May 1961 both President Kennedy and Secretary of State Dean Rusk declared that the Republic of Vietnam was to get added military and economic assistance and that consideration was to be given to the use of U.S. forces, if necessary, to help resist internal Communist pressure in Vietnam. This joint communiqué was followed on 19 May by President Kennedy's announcement of his Presidential Action Program. The program approved the basic elements of the MAAGV Counterinsurgency Plan and increased U.S. financial aid by $41 million to support the higher force levels. Specifically, the Presidential Action Program authorized the following measures:
1. MAP support for a 20,000-man increase in the South Vietnam armed forces strength;
2. augmentation of the Military Assistance Advisory Group to ensure effective implementation of the program, to include the training of the additional 20,000 troops;
3. consideration of an increase in the South Vietnam armed forces strength beyond the 170,000 limit;
4. MAP support for the entire Civil Guard force of 68,000 men;
5. expansion of advisory support to the Self‑Defense Corps; and
6. provision of more U.S. Special Forces mobile training teams to speed up the training of the Vietnamese Special Forces.
While the Presidential Action Program was being implemented, South Vietnam leaders in mid-June 1961 made their own force level proposals. Their request corresponded closely with an earlier proposal by Military Assistance Advisory Group on 19 May and outlined the creation of a fifteen-division force totaling 278,000 men. This was to be a phased buildup, and as a first step they requested two divisions requiring an over-all Vietnamese armed
forces increase of 30,000. In consideration of the South Vietnam government request, on 4 August President Kennedy announced that the United States would support an armed force of 200,000 men, with the condition that an agreement on the training and employment of these additional 30,000 men be reached. No decision was made on the request for a force increase above the 200,000 level.
At first, these measures had little effect on the situation in the field. Activation of new units created by the force increases was to be completed by the end of 1961. However, by the end of August, Vietnamese armed forces strength was only about 153,000--far short of the 170,000 goal and farther still from an Army of more than 200,000. By September it was thus apparent that the Presidential Action Program was in danger of bogging down. Funds were slow in having an impact, and both desertions and combat operations continued to take a rising toll of available personnel. The creation of new units only stretched existing leadership and personnel resources. Moreover, the government of Vietnam had only barely begun to show receptiveness to U.S. proposals and advice for military reorganization, and the danger of defeat loomed closer than ever. Thus, in October 1961, President Kennedy sent General Maxwell D. Taylor to South Vietnam to make an on-the-spot analysis of the situation and establish the basis for new decisions.
Taylor reported that the South Vietnamese government was losing the war through poor tactics and administration, and he recommended increased American support for the territorial forces, an expansion of Military Assistance Advisory Group, and the introduction of American logistical support forces into Vietnam to increase the mobility of the South Vietnamese Army. During Taylor's visit President Diem had asked for a bilateral defense treaty with the United States and for the dispatch of U.S. combat troops to his country, but in November President Kennedy decided not to commit U.S. forces and instead to bolster the military strength of South Vietnam.
On 4 December 1961, however, President Kennedy informed President Diem that the United States was ready to participate in a sharply increased joint effort with the South Vietnamese government. Referring to a memorandum of understanding previously approved by President Diem, President Kennedy's communication outlined fundamental new steps in U.S.-South Vietnamese collaboration, including the participation of U.S. uniformed troops in operational missions with South Vietnam Army forces and close, Vietnamese consultation with American advisers in planning the
conduct of security efforts. All forms of aid previously furnished were to be increased significantly. The United States would specifically provide the following:
1. increased airlift to South Vietnamese forces, including helicopters, light aviation and transport aircraft, manned as necessary by U.S. uniformed personnel and under U.S. operational control;
2. additional equipment and personnel required for air reconnaissance, photography, instruction in the execution of air-ground support techniques, and special intelligence;
3. small craft and U.S. Uniformed advisers and operating personnel for surveillance and control of coastal and inland waterways;
4. expedited training and equipment for the Civil Guard and Self-Defense Corps to relieve regular forces from static missions and use them for mobile offensive operations;
5. necessary personnel and equipment for improving the military and political intelligence systems, beginning at the province level and extending upward through the government and armed forces; and
6. additional personnel to Military Assistance Advisory Group to support the increased U.S. participation.
The subject received further attention at the Secretary of Defense conference held in Hawaii that December. There Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara authorized Military Assistance Advisory Group to provide an adviser for each province chief and advisory teams down to battalion level for operational units. In order to expedite the training of the Civil Guard and the Self-Defense Corps, new training centers were to be established and adviser strengths increased. In addition, the need for intelligence advisers to improve the marginal intelligence capabilities of the Vietnamese was recognized; these specialists would assist corps, divisions, and province headquarters as well as higher-level staffs. At that time, the Secretary of Defense indicated that the existing U.S. policy did not anticipate the employment of American troops against the Viet Cong; however, South Vietnam was to have the highest priority for aid, and the United States was to provide everything needed to control the rising insurgency except combat troops. Secretary McNamara also indicated that money was not to be a controlling consideration in planning operations. Conferees also decided that the United States would prepare detailed campaign plans for submission to the South Vietnam government and to the Vietnamese field commanders, and also a border control plan. All these measures meant more American personnel so that by the end of the year MAAGV strength authorization had again been pushed up.
U.S. Army Adviser Trains At Battalion Level
U.S. Buildup, 1961-1962
The proposed counterinsurgency program placed equal stress on civic, economic, and military actions. Civilian contract technical representatives acted both as instructors and skilled workers; mobile training teams set up courses of instruction for intelligence, chemical, biological, and radiological, and psychological warfare activities. Six Vietnamese Army and nine Civil Guard training centers as well as two divisional training areas were programmed for completion by September 1962 to provide for increased training requirements resulting from the South Vietnam armed forces increase of 20,000 men. By September 1961, three Vietnamese Army training centers were in operation and were receiving American personnel to help train three recently activated Vietnamese Army regiments. During 1961 the most important training activities in South Vietnam were the training of Ranger units, the Civil Guards and the Self-Defense Corps; the use of the mobile training teams; the establishment of a medical training center at Saigon; the establishment of a Republic of Vietnam armed forces joint General Staff Combat Development and Research Center; and the training
South Vietnamese Troops Boarding U.S. Amy Helicopter
of the Vietnamese Junk Force, for which MAP funds were authorized late in 1961.
In mid-1961, the chief of the Republic of Vietnam armed forces Joint General Staff authorized MAAGV advisers to accompany Vietnamese battalion and company-size units in combat with the understanding that they would only observe and advise. This authority, with which the Commander in Chief, Pacific, concurred, was intended to permit advisers to help Vietnamese commanders in operational, signal, and logistical matters; in the establishment and operation of aerial supply points; and in communication advice and support. Although armed, the advisers were not to engage in actual combat except in self-defense.
The expansion of the Vietnamese armed forces, the determination to authorize MAP support for the Civil Guard and Self-Defense Corps, and related training and administrative problems caused a sharp increase in MAAGV strength. The Joint Chiefs of Staff authorized a MAAGV increase from a May 1961 base of 740 personnel, 574 of which were U.S. Army, to 1,904 spaces (to include, 1,606 U.S. Army personnel.) In December 1961 the Commander in Chief, Pacific, requested that the Joint Chiefs augment the MAAGV staff by forty-five to provide an Aviation Section and a Naval Section in the Operation Division. As of 12 December 1961, the actual MAAGV strength was 1,062. In addition, 1,209 military and civilian personnel were present for duty and working directly for Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, on classified and other miscellaneous projects. Also in December, two helicopter companies (438 men) arrived in South Vietnam.
Most U.S. personnel increases occurred during the last three
months of 1961, creating logistical problems that arose primarily from a lack of policy guidance regarding fund resources and support responsibilities. U.S. TOE units deployed to South Vietnam were supported by their parent services. The expansion of the advisory effort involving American personnel and equipment assigned to South Vietnam units in the field committed U.S. men to field communications and intelligence operations and made necessary the assignment of additional U.S. Personnel to MAAGV. Some of the equipment involved in the buildup program was to be included in the fiscal year 1962 Military Assistance Program for South Vietnam. Some questions also existed concerning title to other equipment sent in for use by U.S. forces for which the fund source remained undetermined by the end of 1961. These problems, coupled with the arrival of American combat support units, made clear that a single control agency was required to guide the U.S. military effort in the Republic of Vietnam.
Establishment of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam
On 23 November 1961 the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed the Commander in Chief, Pacific, to be prepared to establish a unified or joint (Army-Navy-Air Force) command and develop a suitable staff for a Commander, U.S. Forces, Vietnam, with the object of increasing U.S. Military and economic assistance to the Republic of Vietnam and of increasing American participation in the effort to eliminate the Viet Cong. The Joint Chiefs envisaged that a commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam would control all intelligence operations, all MAAGV functions having a direct bearing on Vietnamese armed forces combat capabilities, and economic aid relating to counterinsurgency. The commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam would have the mission of assisting and supporting South Vietnam in defeating Communist insurgency and in destroying the Viet Cong. He would also have full authority over all U.S. assets in South Vietnam that could or should be used in a unified effort against the Viet Cong, and he would be the principal U.S. Military adviser and single spokesman for American military affairs in South Vietnam.
As planned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam would have a small joint and special staff to concentrate on planning, operations, and intelligence; a service component was to handle the actual troop support; and the Vietnamese armed forces training advisory function was to remain with Chief, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, who would also be the Pacific commander in chief's direct representative in
planning, programming, and administering the Military Assistance Program. The Joint Chiefs also wanted a small logistical support activity to be established to back up all elements of the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam as well as a research and development center and a joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force (to include Controlled American Source, U.S. Operation Mission, and U.S. Information Service).
On 8 February, with the approval of President Kennedy, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Commander in Chief, Pacific, Admiral Harry D. Felt, established a U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (USMACV), and designated Lieutenant General Paul D. Harkins (who was promoted to general) as commander (COMUSMACV). The Commander in Chief, Pacific, also set forth terms of reference for the new command. The Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, as the senior U.S. military commander in the Republic of Vietnam, was directly responsible for all U.S. Military policy, operations, and assistance in that country. He was authorized to discuss both American and Vietnamese military operations directly with President Diem and other South Vietnam leaders. The MACV commander also had access to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to the Secretary of Defense through the Pacific commander in chief. However, since the U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam was responsible for American political and basic policy matters, the MACV commander was to consult with him on those matters. If a difference of view existed, both the MACV commander and the U.S. Ambassador could communicate their positions directly to Washington for decision. Both the U.S. Ambassador and the MACV commander were also responsible for keeping each other fully informed, especially on all high-level contacts with the Republic of Vietnam, major military plans, and pending operations.
Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, was also kept separate from Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam. General Harkins was charged directly with the responsibility for all military policy, operations, and assistance in South Vietnam and for advising the government of Vietnam on all matters relative to security, organization, and use of the regular and paramilitary forces. The Military Assistance Advisory Group remained a separate entity still charged with the mission of training and advising the armed forces, and it was subordinate to Military Assistance Command. On 16 February the Joint Chiefs authorized 216 spaces for the new headquarters which began to function shortly thereafter.
Years of Progress, 1962-1963
By 1962 many of the measures taken during the past two years began to bear fruit. Significant gains were made in all areas owing to the buildup of U.S. advisory and operational support forces, and the greater strength and effectiveness of both the South Vietnam Army and the territorial units. Regular force strength grew to approximately 219,000, exceeding the 200,000 authorized level. The Civil Guard expanded to a total of 77,000 and the Self-Defense Corps to 99,500, and a new paramilitary force, the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG), was established and, by the end of 1962, totaled about 15,000. In 1963 MAP supported levels rose to 225,000 for the Vietnamese armed forces, 86,000 for the Civil Guard, and 104,000 for the Self-Defense Corps.
Significant organizational changes were also made in 1962. Separate Army, Navy, Air Force, and Special Forces commands were established as major subordinate elements of the armed forces; a joint Operations Center was created at the JGS level to control military operations of national scope; and South Vietnam was operationally divided into four corps tactical zones (CTZ) and a Capital Military District. A field corps headquarters controlled each corps tactical zone while a special command ran the more sensitive Capital Military District.
Long-range planning activities also intensified during 1962 and resulted in the Comprehensive Plan for South Vietnam. The plan, in intent and purpose, was conceptually an extension of the Counterinsurgency Plan of 1960. Its objective was to provide the government of Vietnam with the military assistance and equipment necessary to bring the insurgency under control, maintain its sovereignty, and allow the United States to phase out special military assistance beginning in 1964. To attain its objectives, the Comprehensive Plan for South Vietnam depended on the success of the development and implementation of the many supporting military plans and programs. Among the most vital were the National Campaign Plan, the Strategic Hamlet Program, and the CIDG Program. Increased military force levels were also critical. The Comprehensive Plan envisaged a peak armed strength of 575,000 in mid-1963 with a gradual phase-down to 368,000 as the government approached its goal of controlling 90 percent of the population.
Long-range plans were also being developed which provided for a decrease in the South Vietnamese armed forces structure over a five-year period and a reduction of 1,000 U.S. personnel. The final plan, called the Accelerated Model Plan, was based on the
assumption that the Viet Cong insurgency would be suppressed by the end of 1964 in the northern and central areas and by 1965 in the delta; after that, it was assumed, only a Military Assistance Advisory Group of about 3,000 personnel would be required. These plans were never to be put into effect.
Years of Crisis, 1963-1964
By the end of 1962 it appeared that U.S. efforts had been successful. The buildup of its advisory and operational support strength together with its intense emphasis on counterinsurgency instruction had greatly improved South Vietnamese armed forces operational efficiency, and military trends were beginning to favor South Vietnam. Over-all U.S. Military strength had more than tripled during the year and now totaled 11,326, while the MAAGV staff had grown from an authorized strength of 1,949 at the end of 1961 to 2,989 (of which 1,138 were designated as field advisers). But suddenly in 1963 the situation was dramatically reversed and U.S. optimism quickly faded. The Buddhist riots during the summer were only a prelude to the military coup which ousted the Diem regime. This event, in turn, sparked a period of renewed civil unrest and political instability from which the South Vietnam government did not begin to emerge until late 1965. The U.S. Advisory and assistance effort was caught in the middle.
General Harkins refused to let his advisers report to their assigned units if those units were to be used to quell Buddhist riots or for other nonmilitary purposes. When Diem declared martial law on 22 August and began mass arrests of Buddhists, a resolution was introduced into the U.S. Senate calling for the withdrawal of all American forces and halting all aid unless the Diem government abandoned its repressive policies. Diem ended martial law on 16 September, but economic aid was nonetheless at a virtual standstill during October. The immediate problem was finally solved when Diem was killed during the coup of 1-2 November.
During the crisis South Vietnam armed forces strength fell by approximately 3,000 spaces, down to a total of 216,000 troops, while increases of about 11,500 men were made in the Civil Guard and Self-Defense Corps and 3,000 for the Civilian Irregular Defense Group. Civil Guard strength rose to 85,900, the Self-Defense Corps remained around 100,000, and the Civilian Irregular Defense Group totaled 18,000 by the end of the year. The "home militia" character of the gaining units had always made them popular in times of stress. But these statistics obscured high desertion rates and constant personnel turnover. At the same time, the activation
Lonely Outpost Of Self-Defense Corps
of new combat units within the regular Army and the territorial forces continued unabated. The South Vietnam Army, comprising the bulk of the regular forces with 192,000 men, was now organized into 4 corps, 9 divisions, 1 airborne brigade, 1 Special Forces group, 3 separate regiments, 1 territorial regiment, 86 Ranger companies, and 19 separate battalions and associated support units. American military strength also continued to increase and by the end of 1963 reached a new high of 16,263. Of this number 3,150 were assigned to Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, and 1,451 of these were designated advisory personnel.
The civil unrest and political instability that gripped the Republic of Vietnam from 1963 to 1965 had disastrous effects on the armed forces whose morale dropped to a new low by mid-1964. Two successive coups created numerous changes in the command structure and seriously impaired the administrative and military
efficiency of the Army. Short tenures prevented commanders from gaining the full support of their troops, and the confusion was further aggravated by junior officers who openly expressed dissatisfaction and spread discontent among the rank and file. In this atmosphere there was little incentive for conducting normal operations, and the war effort ground to a halt. By the end of 1964 the enemy had clearly seized the initiative, North Vietnamese Army units had been committed, and larger Viet Cong units were maneuvering around the capital area. Once again the survival of the government of South Vietnam was in doubt.
American response to the deteriorating situation was marked by great urgency. The advisory effort was tightened by several major organizational changes in 1964. On 27 January, Lieutenant General William C. Westmoreland was appointed as the first Deputy Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, with his principal concern being the advisory structure and all forms of support to the South Vietnamese armed forces. On 15 May, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, was combined with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and the military support organization was finally united with the advisory effort. This consolidation ended duplication of effort, economized on personnel, and simplified coordination. On 20 June General William C. Westmoreland became Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.
By the time of the Secretary of Defense conference in June 1964, it was apparent that a further buildup of U.S. strength was necessary to prevent more serious battlefield reverses. One outcome of the conference was the decision to extend the U.S. Advisory effort down to district level in the seven key provinces surrounding Saigon. This extension would shore up South Vietnam's emergency Hop Tac program, a concentrated effort to ensure the security of the critical capital area. To support this and other programs, by mid-July a total of 4,200 more U.S. troops were moving to Vietnam. With every increase in the advisory effort, additional logistical and administrative support systems were required, as well as more helicopters to support the South Vietnamese Army and U.S. agencies.
Another significant decision was the assignment of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) to Vietnam on a permanent basis. As the 1,300 men of this unit began to arrive by the end of the year, along with the 4,200 additional troops that had been requested in July, U.S. Strength rose to a total of 23,310.
It was also now apparent that the South Vietnamese armed forces levels were still too low to satisfy South Vietnam's security
needs without sacrificing their own training and reorganization requirements. To remedy this shortage a joint U.S.-South Vietnamese study was made to determine the appropriate force structure required to support the war effort. The study developed two proposals: the first provided for an increase of 30,309 men in the regular forces, 35,387 in the Regional Forces, and 10,815 in the Popular Forces. These forces would support only the Hop Tac program and arrest Viet Cong operations in a number of other high-priority areas: The second proposal outlined an increase of 47,556 in regular forces and the same increase in the Regional and Popular Forces. This increased force was considered adequate for substantial over-all progress in pacification but would take considerable time to recruit, train, and equip. On 23 January 1965 the first alternative, with some modification, was formally approved for MAP support. The new force levels were fixed at 275,058 for regular forces, 137,187 for Regional Forces, and 185,000 for Popular Forces. Whether this financial support could be translated into a more effective army was another question.
Training of the South Vietnamese Army, 1960-1964
Poor training or its complete absence was a continual handicap for all South Vietnam armed forces units. Many units had been formed and filled out with hastily drafted personnel with no formal training who were expected to learn by doing. High desertion rates also kept unit personnel in a constant state of flux and made unit retraining a pressing need. After 1960, owing to increasing force levels, the creation of many new units, and the need to acquire counterinsurgency capabilities, training activities took on added emphasis.
Military Assistance Command, Vietnam; assisted the government of Vietnam by drawing up proposed training programs, suggesting specific programs of instruction, providing on-the-spot advice at training centers, and deploying mobile training teams to assist in specific areas such as intelligence, psychological warfare, communications, civil affairs, logistics, and medical training.
By June 1960 Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, instituted a full-scale counterinsurgency training program within the Vietnamese Army, and by November three Special Forces operational detachments were training 1,200 selected military leaders of the Vietnamese Army in tactics and techniques of counterinsurgency operations. Most of these early efforts were centered around the training given to the newly formed Ranger units by U.S. Special Forces personnel. In 1961 a centralized Ranger Train-
ing Center was established at Duc My complete with jungle, swamp, and mountain schools, and there by February 1962 the last of the twenty-one newly activated Ranger companies completed their training. Meanwhile, U.S. Army training teams had been conducting on-site training courses for Ranger companies in the field. In November 1961 these courses had been extended from three to five weeks, and by February 1962 twenty-seven companies had received this instruction and the remainder would finish by the end of the year. At Duc My, individual replacements for Ranger units continued to be trained and the school became a center for counterinsurgency operations.
Counterinsurgency training for regular Vietnamese Army units received less direct emphasis. The newly activated South Vietnamese Army 9th Infantry Division began a 22-week training program in March 1961, and in July the 25th Infantry Division was activated and undertook a similar course. Later, in each of the three corps tactical zones, Military Assistance Advisory Group established a regimental training center staffed with U.S. advisers and Vietnamese cadres. Vietnamese Army infantry regiments were to be rotated through the centers for a seventeen-week refresher course. Training proceeded satisfactorily through 1962 but, as noted above, began to reflect the political and military turbulence at the end of 1963.
During 1964 recruit training was drastically changed. At the beginning of the year plans called for the training of 30,000 recruits at the Quang Trung Training Center, and in January the advisory group recommended that the programs of instruction for basic combat training and advanced individual training be revised to eliminate duplication and correspond more closely to counterinsurgency requirements. This extensive revision was accomplished by March for all arms and services. But by now the military situation was seriously deteriorating and morale was low.
In May the Vietnam government decision to bring The Vietnam Army strength up to authorized force levels resulted in a requirement to train some 40,000 recruits during the remaining seven months of the year. In light of this substantial training increase, Military Assistance Command (Military Assistance Advisory Group was combined with Military Assistance Command on 15 May 1964) recommended that recruit training be expanded from Quang Trung to four other national training centers and to the Ranger Training Center at Duc My. To allow for the increased capacity at the four national training centers, an emergency construction program was immediately initiated for housing, ranges, and other facilities. In addition, Military Assistance Command
reluctantly approved a reduction of the recruit training program from twelve to nine weeks. Without the reduction, it would have been impossible to accommodate the large number of recruits unless combat divisions were required to conduct part of the training. The reduced nine-week program began on 1 June and continued for the remainder of 1964. By then over 45,000 recruits had been trained or were in training at these centers. Experience in the latter part of 1964 showed that initial misgivings over the inadequacy of the nine-week program were well founded, and on MACV's recommendation the twelve-week program was readopted on 1 January 1965.
Unit training continued to pose serious problems. In 1963 and 1964 the increased level of enemy activity made it almost impossible to regroup entire combat units for training despite the increased force levels. Only the Ranger battalions were able to complete their initial training and thereafter maintain a continuous retraining program using a six-week cycle. For the Vietnam Army infantry, initial plans called for two battalions from each corps to be in training at all times. In January 1964, eight battalions were in unit training for a four-week cycle which was extended to five weeks in April. However, by May the number of battalions undergoing training had dropped from eight to four because of operational requirements, and by September each corps headquarters was finding it difficult to release even a single battalion for formal training.
Field advisers continued to report that the low state of training was one of the major causes of the low level of combat effectiveness. In spite of this report, formal infantry battalion training continued to slide during the year until, by December 1964, there was only one battalion in training at a national training center. Although 25 infantry battalions had been trained and 8 battalions retrained during the year, there still remained 15 that had not received any formal unit training.
Refresher training of artillery and armored cavalry units continued throughout 1964. In July an intensive retraining program for divisional 4.2-inch mortar battalions being converted to 105mm. howitzer battalions began and was completed in January 1965. Transition training of armored reconnaissance troops receiving the new M113 armored personnel carriers, begun in April, was completed by November.
During the year Military Assistance Command also proposed new programs of instruction for replacement training, operational readiness training, leadership training, and basic unit training. Although a revised basic unit program of instruction (seven weeks)
was adopted and the revised program of instruction for leaders (seven weeks for squadron leaders and ten weeks for platoon leaders) was under consideration, no action was taken on the proposals for replacement or operational readiness programs of instruction.
Combat readiness programs met with even less success. Continued MACV recommendations to establish an effective system of combat readiness training finally resulted in the publication of an implementing directive in September 1964, but this directive had little impact and at the end of the year little effective training was being accomplished outside of schools and training centers.
Between 1960 and 1964 greatly increased air support was made available to the South Vietnam Army and should have enabled them to retain the initiative. However, lack of training in airmobile operations proved a severe handicap. The unfamiliarity of both Vietnamese commanders and their MAAGV advisers with the capabilities and limitations of helicopters hindered the effectiveness of early helicopter operations. Too often incomplete pre-mission briefings led to poor coordination of air-to-air and air-to-ground operations while all American and Vietnamese aircraft engaged in a mission were airborne. The inability to communicate with supporting Vietnamese fighter aircraft, because of the language barrier and because of differences in communications equipment, also hampered early operations. The incompatibility of U.S. Army UHF helicopter radios and Vietnamese fighter aircraft VHF equipment necessitated the use of a control aircraft to relay messages between the two elements in the air. This method was too cumbersome to support the fast-moving tactical situations and often messages were not retransmitted accurately. The language barrier was still a serious problem even after compatible equipment was installed in late 1962, especially during an operation, when last-minute changes or adjustment became necessary. English-speaking Vietnamese pilots helped to overcome this barrier, but such skills were scarce.
The Vietnamese armed forces unfamiliarity with heliborne operations and other refinements of modern warfare taxed the already overstrained personnel situation of the helicopter companies and served to limit their operational capability. U.S. Army flight personnel found it necessary to devote valuable time to orienting and training Vietnamese fliers in such basic activities as loading, offloading, and safety procedures while in flight. Vietnamese com-
manders had to be instructed on the need of separating troops into single aircraft loads to facilitate loading, and on the need of ordering troops to board aircraft with weapons on "safe."
Reluctance to off-load from a hovering helicopter and the tendency to bunch up in the immediate landing zone instead of dispersing rapidly to secure an area often delayed the landing of following helicopters and exposed aircraft and personnel to hostile fire. U.S. helicopter personnel presumed that Vietnamese reluctance to offload from a hovering aircraft was the result of depth perception errors which made the helicopter appear to be much higher off the ground than it actually was; again, lack of training was the real villain.
The South Vietnam Army provided artillery and mortar support fire in many helicopter operations, but its inaccuracy and undependability made it necessary to halt all fire within a ten-kilometer radius of the landing zone; this ban eliminated valuable close fire support to ground troops and helicopters at the time when they needed it most. Craters created by artillery fire presented hazards to heliborne operations, and flight paths into landing zones sometimes had to be altered because of the location of Vietnamese gun target lines. On one occasion in early 1963 the South Vietnam Army began its artillery preparation of the landing areas too far in advance of the aerial deployment and compromised the element of surprise. The fire was also employed in such a manner as to cause the Viet Cong to move in toward the landing area instead of away from it.
Vietnamese fighter escort aircraft, when they used napalm to clear landing zones, often made the strikes just before the helicopters arrived; the resulting fire and smoke constituted a serious hazard to the helicopters. U.S. helicopters pilots also voiced dissatisfaction with the performance of Vietnamese fighter escort for various other reasons: speed differences between the slow helicopters and fast fighters; withdrawals of fighter aircraft to an altitude of 1,000 feet over the landing or pickup zone, depriving the helicopters of valuable protection at a time when they were most vulnerable to, and most frequently subjected to hostile fire; and fighter aircraft often abandoning helicopters to assist in ground operations. During the third quarter of calendar year 1962, air support flown by Vietnamese pilots was described by the U.S. helicopter personnel as inadequate, inaccurate, uncoordinated, and useless.
To remedy the situation, the Air Force component command of U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, in late December 1962, established standard tactics and procedures to be used by
fighter aircraft when escorting helicopter formations. Supposedly designed to accommodate the flight tactics used by the helicopters in performing their various missions, the regulations, nevertheless, still stipulated that “ . . . standard strafing, rocket, napalm or bomb attacks will be made immediately prior to helicopter landings . . .” and that “ . . . fighters will orbit the landing zone at an approximately 1,000 feet absolute altitude searching and available to attack on call . . .” A more successful endeavor was the Air-Ground Operations Mobile Training Team, a joint U.S.-Vietnamese team, which toured schools, training centers, and units during 1964 to familiarize ground troops and especially commanders with air operations.
Other obstacles stemming from training deficiencies were common. Vietnamese confusion in converting weight estimates from the metric system to the avoirdupois weight system sometimes resulted in the overloading of helicopters. Stringent Vietnamese restrictions on night flying and the refusal of local air units to fly night missions to illuminate landing zone areas also restricted the night operational capability of the helicopter units. To overcome this difficulty, some helicopter units trained their own crews to drop flares and diverted valuable aircraft needed elsewhere for such tasks.
Poor intelligence was another handicap. Often Vietnamese combat troops took two to three hours to react to an enemy raid that required quick action. This lessened the effectiveness of airmobile operations in mounting "fire-brigade" type missions, for which U.S. Army helicopter units themselves had a reaction time of only one hour. At the end of 1962 plans were underway for developing small alert force operations to cut the time lapse between "alert announcement" and "on target" to less than an hour.
Role of the U.S. Army Special Forces
Before September 1962 U.S. Army Special Forces personnel served in South Vietnam on a temporary duty basis with MAAGV mobile training teams to provide training for the Vietnamese Army and assist in the CIDG Program. As early as 1957 a team from the 14th Special Forces Operations Detachment on Okinawa trained fifty-eight South Vietnam Army troops at the Commando Training Center at Nha Trang. These Vietnamese troops later became the instructors and cadres for the first Vietnamese Special Forces units. In mid-1960, when the Vietnamese Army established three Ranger training centers at Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Song Mao to train sixty Ranger companies, U.S. Continental Army Command
(USCONARC) sent thirty individuals from the 7th Special Forces Group to South Vietnam on TDY to set up the training course. A nine-man mobile training team (four from the 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa and five from the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii) replaced the earlier team in 1961. Personnel from the new mobile training team went to DA Nang and Nha Trang to supervise Ranger cadre training and the remainder went to Song Mao to support preparations for the Civil Guard training program. A twelve-man mobile training team from the 1st Special Forces Group in turn replaced the nine-man team on 1 June 1961 and afterwards the 1st Group provided other mobile training teams to South Vietnam to train Vietnamese Army troops. In January 1962 the chief of Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, requested an augmentation of sixty-eight Special Forces men (twelve officers and fifty-six enlisted men) to advise and assist the Vietnamese Special Forces, the Vietnamese border patrol, and the Montagnard units. He proposed to organize the Special Forces augmentation into one modified B (command and control) and four A (operational) detachments. The Department of Defense rejected the proposal at first, owing to increased Special Forces commitments in other areas of the world, but finally in September approved the principle of placing Special Forces units in South Vietnam on a permanent change of station, or permanent status.
After the arrival in Vietnam of the advance Special Forces team and its designation as Headquarters, U.S. Army Special Forces (Provisional), Vietnam, in September 1962, the headquarters remained at Saigon, sharing administrative tasks with CAS Saigon until 12 February 1963. The new headquarters then moved to Nha Trang, a more central location from which to control and logistically support the CIDG Program.
Special Forces strength in Vietnam remained fairly constant throughout 1963, starting at 625 in January and reaching 674 by the end of June (of which 646 were trained Special Forces personnel). The June totals included 98 on permanent change of station at the headquarters, 24 in TDY C detachment at the headquarters, 524 on TDY in B and A detachments, and 28 with other TDY teams--a Civil Affairs Mobile Training Team and three U.S. Army Engineer Control and Advisory teams. In December two U.S. Navy Special Technical Advisory teams of one officer and thirteen men each began working with the Special Forces in the CIDG Program. And in the following year, as related above, the entire 5th Special Forces Group arrived in Vietnam. By this time most of their training activities centered around the Civilian Irregular Defense Group.
The Civilian Irregular Defense Group Program
CAS Saigon originally began the CIDG Program in December 1961 as a covert operation to win over and train Montagnards and other isolated ethnic minority groups into an anti-Viet Cong irregular, paramilitary force. The Civilian Irregular Defense Group had among other missions that of collecting intelligence in the highlands of central South Vietnam and in Laos, where tribal affiliations were used extensively to further clandestine activities. The program also had a civic action aspect, and CAS provided medical treatment, medicines, seeds, clothing, and other social welfare goods to win over the ethnic groups. After the U.S. Army assumed control over the overt activities of the CIDG Program, the medical phase of civic action evolved into the Special Forces Village Defense Medical Program.
The CIDG Program rapidly grew to include overt activities and embraced other paramilitary groups such as the republican youth, Catholic youth, hamlet militia, strike forces, mountain commandos, trail-watchers, fighting fathers, and force populaire. Most of these organizations served mainly to relieve the South Vietnam armed forces, the Civil Guard, and the Self-Defense Corps troops from static defense missions. Therefore, the nature of their activities were in the main defensive; but such groups as the strike forces, mountain commandos, and trail-watchers aggressively sought out the Viet Cong. The strike forces and mountain commandos operated against existing enemy units, while the trail-watchers tried to prevent infiltration into South Vietnam. When infiltrating forces were too large for a trail-watcher group to handle, it reported the presence of the enemy to the nearest Vietnamese Army corps headquarters.
The U.S. Army Special Forces overtly entered into the CIDG Program on 1 February 1962 when sixteen Special Forces troops began assisting CAS Saigon in training selected Vietnamese in special warfare activities. By the end of April 1962, seventy-five Special Forces men were providing CAS with assistance in training, advising, and supporting the various activities of the program.
By April 1962 it was becoming evident that the expanding CIDG Program was straining the capabilities of CAS Saigon, and the commander of Military Assistance Command in Vietnam recommended that direct U.S. military support be made available. In mid-July the Secretary of Defense agreed and launched Operation SWITCHBACK, the code name for MACV's assumption of the covert aspect of the CIDG Program. During the transitional period CAS Saigon continued supporting the entire program; after the
CIDG Unit Training
takeover CAS was responsible for only the covert aspects of the effort, and the Army continued to provide CAS with Special Forces type training assistance when requested. Military Assistance Command had operational control over the overt aspects of the program throughout the transitional period. After 1 July 1963 the bulk of the Special Forces effort together with the CIDG Program fell under complete MACV control. By October 1963 this group amounted to 16,084 strike force members, 40,765 hamlet militiamen, 4,912 mountain scouts, and 3,256 border surveillance personnel.
Territorial Forces: Civil Guard and Self‑Defense Corps
Between 1960 and 1964 the territorial forces received more training but were still stepchildren of the growing South Vietnam armed forces family. One basic problem was organizational. While these units were operationally controlled by province and district officials, training was usually an Army responsibility. Nevertheless, beginning in 1960 much effort was expended on strengthening the operational capability of the Civil Guard and the Self-defense
Corps by improving their training and supplying them with weapons and communications equipment. To speed up Civil Guard training new unit training centers were opened, and the training cycle was reduced from twenty-four to twelve weeks. In addition, joint MAAGV-Civil Guard training teams were formed to instruct both Civil Guard and Self-Defense Corps units at their operational bases. The Self-Defense Corps, now supported by MAP funds, was reorganized into squads and platoons and underwent intensified training. Training centers were established in twenty-six provinces where a six-week program of instruction was offered. MAAGV's goal was to have all Self-Defense Corps units completely equipped and trained by the end of 1962.
Before 1964 no established recruit training program for the Regional Forces (formerly the Civil Guard) had existed. Many units were little more than armed bands of young men; others were private armies and gangs "federalized" into the service of the government of Vietnam. Military Assistance Command recommended a plan to train 4,000 recruits in 1964 but, although the plan was approved and scheduled to begin in April, training fell short because of recruiting difficulties. In June the Regional Forces began conscripting personnel in order to reach a goal of 14,000 recruits; however, owing to the priority given to the Vietnam Army, few recruits were obtained and at the end of the year only about 2,000 had received training while about 700 were undergoing training. The recruit training program of instruction of nine weeks was the same as that used in the Vietnamese Army training centers. This approach at least allowed the Regional Forces training centers to train Vietnamese Army recruits when their own quotas fell short.
Because of force structure increases and other demands, Regional Forces unit training also expanded in 1964. By May the number of Regional Forces companies had risen from 473 to 523 and in November plans were made to increase this total to 640. Objectives for calendar year 1964 included unit training for all new Regional Forces companies and refresher training for approximately 60 percent of the existing units. By the end of the year, 533 Regional Forces companies had been organized, of which 494 were trained, 20 were training, and 19 remained to be trained. Of the 533 companies, 196 had completed the four-week refresher course and seven were in refresher training.
With the lowest recruiting priority, the Popular Forces (formerly the Self-Defense Corps) suffered grave deficiencies in all aspects of training. Popular Forces strength initially fell far behind programmed force levels until July 1964, and leadership training
quotas were never filled during the entire year. Training had been programmed for the year based on an authorized force structure of 110,000. But serious training lags developed early in the year owing to the late publication of the 1964 program, difficulties in recruiting, and the reluctance of province chiefs to relinquish their units to training centers because of local security conditions. Thus, despite much emphasis by Military Assistance Command, both units and leadership training continued to trail as much as 60 percent behind programmed levels. On October 1964 Military Assistance Command proposed the consolidation of Popular Forces training centers to improve facilities and the conduct of training and reduce cost of manpower and matériel without reducing the over-all training base capacity. In addition, a proposal was made to turn over the training responsibility of the Regional and Popular Forces from the Vietnamese Training Command to the national Regional and Popular Forces headquarters in order to ensure unity of effort. However, as yet there was no agreement as to which agency should be responsible.
In the course of a staff visit to South Vietnam in early 1960 to determine the assistance needed in civil affairs activities, a member of the U.S. Army, Pacific, G-5 section determined that Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, could profitably employ a civil affairs mobile training team to develop a civil affairs capability within the South Vietnam armed forces. In May 1960 the chief of the advisory group requested the team, and two officers from the Civil Affairs School at Fort Gordon, Georgia, arrived in July for a ninety-day tour of duty. The officers instructed MAAGV and ARVN personnel in civil affairs and civic action and advised and assisted the MAAGV chief on all aspects of civil affairs operations and activities.
For various reasons, including the unfavorable attitude of the South Vietnamese and the fact that the advisory group had no civil affairs officer, the succeeding year saw no tangible results develop from the team's visit. The next significant step came in May 1961 when the MAAGV chief requested a civil affairs mobile training team to conduct a survey, and to assist the advisory group and the Vietnamese Army in developing and implementing civic action projects and programs in accordance with U.S. policies.
Arriving in July, the civil affairs mobile training team was composed of two officers (one a public administrator and the other a public health officer) and one enlisted administrative assistant;
it worked in Vietnam from July to December 1961 and developed a comprehensive civic action program for consideration by the MAAGV chief and the South Vietnamese. The mobile training team also outlined a civil affairs organization needed to help build security in areas liberated from Viet Cong control and recommended actions the South Vietnamese armed forces could take to improve economic, social, and political development of the people. The program, prepared by the team in directive form, was submitted through the MAAGV Chief to the government of South Vietnam. The proposed directive provided instruction concerning responsibilities; guidance, as well as examples, for civic action projects; needs of the population; and training, supply, and necessary administration. Although the South Vietnam government did not initiate the program immediately, it used the plan as the basis for its civic action program.
Meanwhile, in August 1961, the MAAGV chief reported that the Vietnamese Army had conducted two otherwise successful division-size operations which typically devoted inadequate attention to civil-military coordination. He reported that "plans for follow-up pacification of area made by government delegate for area not adequately coordinated and apparently include little or no integration of military and civil operations. Rather, civil plans were separate and not intended to be implemented until operation was completed." The report, plus the results of the mobile training team's survey, indicated a pressing need to improve civic action measures of the South Vietnam armed forces if counter-insurgency operations were to succeed.
During the same period and at the MAAGV Chief's request, the Department of the Army permitted the South Vietnam government to send seventy-five officers to the Civil Affairs School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. From a Vietnamese point of view, the training received was not completely satisfactory because of the difference in staff organization and the school's emphasis on large-scale, military government. At the same time, at the advisory group's instigation, the Vietnam armed forces instituted for military province and district chiefs an eighteen-week civil affairs course of instruction which proved more closely attuned to South Vietnam's immediate needs.
Before the mobile training team departed in December 1961, it helped organize two experimental South Vietnam Army civil affairs companies, made a list of projects to be accomplished by the Vietnam armed forces, and briefed top U.S. and South Vietnamese military and civilian leaders on the importance and need for civic action. As a result of the mobile training teams work,
planning began that visualized the use of the Self-Defense Corps in the dual role of village defense and civic action. Military Assistance Advisory Group continued coordination with the U.S. Operation Mission on military civic action planning conducted through the offices of the Country Team's Psychological Warfare Subcommittee. By December 1961 the MAAGV chief added to his staff a civil affairs officer who served as Chief, Civil Affairs and Psychological Warfare Branch, Organization and Training Division. This branch was responsible for all civil affairs and psychological warfare advisory duties.
In August 1962, at the request of the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, the 97th Civil Affairs Group provided a five-man mobile training team for five weeks to prepare a program of instruction for a civil affairs course at the South Vietnam Army Psychological Warfare School, and also to prepare a training program for use by the Vietnamese civil affairs companies. The mobile training team improved the Vietnamese civil affairs course and launched the training program for the newly activated companies. Concurrent with drawing up plans for assignment of this team, U.S. advisers convinced the South Vietnamese director of Psychological Warfare of the need for more civil affairs units, and in September 1962 the South Vietnam Army directed the activation of three civil affairs companies, one for employment in each of the three corps areas. Later in 1962, with the formation of the IV South Vietnam Army Corps, a fourth Vietnamese Army civil affairs company was authorized. The Vietnam Army officially activated the first three companies on 14 December 1962.
On 11 October 1962 the MAAGV chief requested four civil affairs mobile training teams (each to consist of nine officers and four enlisted men) for 180 days TDY to provide training, advice, and assistance to South Vietnamese personnel in conducting programs for "clearing and holding provinces from Viet Cong forces." Three of the teams arrived on 15 December 1962 and the fourth on 5 January 1963. Each South Vietnam Army corps received one team in order to provide specialized assistance to the Strategic Hamlet Program, advise Vietnamese civil affairs teams, assist in the medical civic action program, and to assist Operations Mission field representatives. In June the four mobile training teams were replaced by a 21-man team attached to the U.S. Army Special Forces (Provisional), Vietnam, for 180 days' TDY to support the CIDG Program. In addition to these units there were also a Medical Civil Action Group and several Engineer Control and
Advisory detachments active in Vietnam and supporting specific South Vietnam programs.
In May 1963 the South Vietnam Army recalled their four civil affairs companies for re-equipping, reorganizing, and retraining. Their initial experiences were evaluated and their concept of operation revised. By early July 1963 the units had completed retraining and redeployed to the field with forty D teams; each province received one team and the infantry divisions absorbed the remainder. These teams had mixed success, but in general were not strong enough to push the more important civil affairs projects, such as the Strategic Hamlet Program, that the South Vietnam government was trying to complete. Needless to say, the declining fortunes of South Vietnam in 1964 also adversely affected both the capabilities and potential of these units.
At the end of 1964 it appeared that Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, had been too optimistic regarding the various training programs. Field reports continued to point out that poor training and a shortage of good junior leaders were still the main factors behind South Vietnam armed forces marginal combat effectiveness. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, tended to become impatient when training programs were delayed and statistical quotas not met. Finally the buildup of Viet Cong strength and activity put too great a strain on the limited South Vietnam armed forces resources to permit unit rotation through the training centers. Pacification progress and troop retraining were simply incompatible with existing force levels. One problem fed upon another, and as the situation deteriorated recruiting became more difficult and desertions more common. Major political and military decisions would have to be made if the training situation was to improve.
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