This monograph on logistic support to Vietnam is an historical account of significant actions and events, and includes discussions of the logistic environment, decisions, techniques, accomplishments, and lessons learned during the years 1965 through 1970 and, in some cases, early 1971.
The monograph describes selected logistic events in order to assist the Army in its development of future operational concepts and provides reference material for a comprehensive historical record.
This document traces the evolution of logistics operations beginning in the period before the extensive U.S. buildup in early 1965. Environmental factors influenced the manner in which the logistician had to perform his mission-overcrowded ports, lack of warehousing and storage areas for unloaded supplies, poor security conditions at existing facilities, and insufficient and inadequately trained personnel to perform the monumental task of support for combat operations.
Supply support in Vietnam is discussed from the management viewpoint, including the particular or significant experience gained in various types or classes of supply services provided by the logistician such as maintenance, construction, real estate procurement and management, and transportation support including aviation. Each is illustrated to present a better understanding of techniques used and concepts developed which may influence future logistic support doctrine. A discussion of graves registration, property disposal, bath, laundry, bakery, and food services is also included.
In addition to the support of U.S. Forces, this monograph includes information on the logistics support to Army of the Republic of Vietnam, Free World Military Assistance Forces, logistic responsibilities relative to the Pacification Program, and the effects on the total logistics efforts throughout the world.
To understand the events and decisions related to logistics in the Republic of Vietnam, one must evaluate them against a backdrop of the conditions and problems which prevailed at the time. Fundamentally, none of the background is new or unique to the history of combat logistics. Nonetheless, each condition and each
event had its own impact and posed its own problems. Never before had the Army's logistic system been tasked with the mission of supporting large numbers of ground combat troops operating in a counterguerilla role with a pipeline 9,000-11,000 miles long. The logistics doctrine developed as a result of years of experience in conventional ground warfare was not always applicable in the Vietnam environment. Many of the techniques and assumptions which were accepted as valid in conventional warfare did not apply in the harsh, primitive, jungle environment and the isolated support enclaves. Even so, Vietnam is a story of remarkable logistics achievement. At no time was logistic support a constraint on a major tactical operation. This record was made despite the conditions which imposed a fantastic strain on logistics operations and which offered an enormous challenge to all logisticians.
Bordered on the west by Cambodia and Laos and on the east by a seacoast of approximately 1,500 miles on the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, the Republic of Vietnam extends in a crescent shape along the southeastern side of the Indochina peninsula. The land area is dominated by a mountain chain, extending southward from the republic's northern border to within 60 miles of Saigon, with peaks ranging in height from 2,000 to 8,000 feet. The overall topography of Vietnam comprises jungles, deltas, swamps, plains and mountains. The Mekong Delta, southwest of Saigon, is a vast alluvial plain fed by the many mouths of the Mekong River and criss-crossed by a dense network of canals. The Delta is one of the major rice producing regions of Southeast Asia. The topography of Vietnam created many difficulties for U.S. Forces, hindering such activities as construction, transportation and communications while, at the same time, facilitating the enemy's type of operations.
The climate of Vietnam is tropical and subject to monsoon rains. There are two seasons: hot and dry, and hot and rainy. Highest temperatures and humidity are experienced in the southern delta in April and May, with the rainy season beginning in late May and continuing through September. In the coastal and highland areas the highest temperatures and humidities are experienced during the months of July and August, with the rainy season beginning in October and continuing through March. In the highland areas the nights are cool regardless of the season. Overall, the climate of Vietnam severely hampered all logistical operations.
The population of the Republic of Vietnam totals approximately 18 million. The bulk of this population has subsisted
throughout the years by the cultivation of rice on lands irrigated through the use of primitive pumps and sluices. The majority of the population lives in the open lowland plains and the rice bearing deltas. The uplands region has been left to the ethnically alien and primitive mountain tribes. Although the majority of the population is ethnically and culturally Vietnamese, there are significant minorities. This minority population is comprised of approximately 1 million Chinese (mostly living in the Saigon area), 500,000 Cambodians, and approximately 1 million Montagnard mountain tribesmen. Buddhism is the predominant religion in Vietnam, although there are approximately 2 million Roman Catholics.
Saigon, the capital of the Republic of Vietnam, is the largest city in the Republic and is located approximately 50 miles inland from the South China Sea on the west bank of the Saigon River. At the time the U.S. Buildup began in Vietnam, this city was a busy commercial port, and the only port of significance in the country. As the population has increased from 2 million people in 1964, to approximately 3.5 million in early 1971, Saigon (including the twin city of Cholon) became overcrowded. With the overcrowding came many problems which impaired facilities for health and sanitation, transportation, and security. These problems weighed heavily in the October 1967 decision to move most of the military facilities located in Saigon to Long Binh which was approximately 20 miles northeast of Saigon.
In 1965, Vietnam was primarily an agrarian country with a very low level of industrialization. The few industries established by the French were located in North Vietnam. By the end of 1970, there were only 82 large or medium manufacturing operations in all of South Vietnam. Public utilities and services were wholly inadequate by western standards. Facilities vital to a modern logistics base such as ports, terminal facilities, warehouses, communications, transportation, storage, and maintenance facilities, were either limited or nonexistent. The lack of industry was naturally accompanied by a shortage of technicians and skilled labor. For the most part, all necessary supplies, equipment, and skills to support military operations had to be imported, and all necessary facilities had to be built.
In accordance with the obligation as a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organization the U.S. supplied military materiel and equipment at the request of the Republic of Vietnam. A Military Assistance and Advisory Group was established to supervise and coordinate this support program. This commitment for support was
made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on 10 October 1954. In the following year, the Military Assistance and Advisory Group effort was given authority to organize and train as well as to equip the armed forces of South Vietnam.
In 1956 the communist organization in South Vietnam (the Viet Cong) initiated a campaign of terror to undermine the authority of the central government. This campaign included the assassination and kidnapping of government officials and supporters. By 1960 the number of assassinations had reached 1,400 and over 700 kidnappings had occurred. President John F. Kennedy approved requests for additional aid in 1961. As communist pressure increased and military requirements increased, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, was created in February of 1962.
By the end of that year, U.S. advisers were in operational control of U.S. helicopter missions transporting and supporting South Vietnamese Army operations. Overall operational authority was vested in the U.S. Ambassador, with the Embassy handling the pacification program and Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, directly responsible to the ambassador for support in all other fields. In 1963 President Diem was assassinated. A series of coups followed the assassination. These happenings, in addition to assassinations and kidnappings by the Viet Cong, seriously weakened the Vietnamese government. The South Vietnamese Army sustained a series of defeats. Pacification of the countryside was nearly stopped and the enemy was found everywhere. By 1965, it became obvious that a rapid buildup and employment of U.S. combat forces were needed to prevent the complete collapse of the Government of South Vietnam.
General William C. Westmoreland, Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, stated that as late as March 1965 no decision had been taken on U.S. intervention with ground forces, other than the limited Marine Security force deployed to protect the Da Nang Airfield. Consequently there was no logistic system in being, and no development of secure logistic bases, except the totally inadequate installations associated with South Vietnamese forces. There were inadequate ports and airfields, no logistic organization, and no supply, transportation, or maintenance troops. Due to the grave tactical situation, President Lyndon B. Johnson directed the deployment of U.S. Combat forces. Because of force level ceilings and the decision not to mobilize the reserves, the logistical buildup lagged behind the combat force buildup. That this procedure succeeded, is a tribute to the imagination, deter-
mination, and energy of those officers and men in all the services who were charged with this almost impossible task.
The Vietnam conflict was quite different from that for which the Army had trained, and, for that matter, was at variance with combat dynamics upon which the Army's logistic doctrine was based. Vietnam was a war fought essentially by small units (maneuver battalions, companies, and similar forces) in constant pursuit of an elusive enemy. In stark contrast to World War II and Korea, Vietnam was characterized largely by small, isolated actions consisting of ground and air assaults mounted from the numerous isolated base camps dotting the countryside. There were no fixed terrain objectives. Even when some key terrain feature was at issue, it was usually for a limited purpose and a designated time.
There was no neat, linear division between enemy and friendly forces; no front line; and no rear boundaries. Consequently, there was neither an Army service area, nor a communications zone. In fact, the combat zone and the communications zone were one and the same. At no time were there really "secure" ports, depots, storage facilities, service areas, or supply routes. The relative degree of security varied from time to time and place to place. Attacks on logistic facilities and operations at all levels were common, even in the later years of the war. These attacks included major ambushes of supply convoys; harassment by small arms fire; rocket and mortar bombardment; and vicious sapper attacks against general depots, ammunition pads, and petroleum tanks. Later in the war there were some more or less "cleared areas." In 1965, there was quite literally no "friendly" territory.
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