This chapter identifies the problems that developed in ammunition support. Ammunition is considered to be a "stovepipe" commodity in that it is requisitioned and reported on through a single channel. The high degree of ammunition support provided to the combat elements in Vietnam was the result of intensive management at Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and Theater level, and the dedicated efforts of men in ammunition units in the ammunition depots and supply points in Vietnam.
The buildup in Southeast Asia impacted on the entire spectrum of ammunition logistics: design and development, procurement and production, budgeting, distribution, transportation, storage, personnel and units, reporting procedures, command and control, security, maintenance and disposal.
In March of 1965, the only U.S. Army ammunition stocks in Vietnam were those belonging to the 5th Special Forces units based in Nha Trang and the armed helicopter units based at Tan Son Nhut.
The former was a mixture of modern, World War II and foreign munitions, all in limited quantities re-supplied monthly from Okinawa. The latter was essentially helicopter ammunition: 7.62-mm, 40-mm Grenade, 2.75" Rocket, and various signal flares and smoke grenades.
The stockage on hand fluctuated around 1,500 short tons at Tan Son Nhut which was stored in an old French storage site on the Airbase. Even this quantity was too much for the facility which had safe storage capacity of approximately 900 short tons under a waiver due to its proximity to fuel storage, napalm mixing sites, and the main airbase runway.
Elsewhere in the Pacific Theater, U.S. Army Pacific had ammunition reserves stored in Korea, Japan, Hawaii, Okinawa, and Thailand plus a limited supply in the Department of the Army Forward Floating Depot in the Philippines. These stocks were for
the most part reserved for Commander in Chief Pacific contingency plans and were earmarked for deployment with U.S. Army Pacific units. The contingency plan for Southeast Asia stated that units would carry their basic loads and would be supported for the first 180 days by Push Packages of ammunition shipped from Continental U.S. depots.
Based on the decision at the 9-11 April 1965 Hawaii Conference to deploy combat units to Vietnam, several ammunition related actions were implemented: ammunition depot and supply point locations were selected, real estate was acquired, ammunition units were included in force requirements plans, and a stockage objective of 60 days in-country was planned in conjunction with a 30-day off-shore reserve to be established on Okinawa. The 60-day in-country stockage objective was to consist of 45 days at Qui Nhon, Cam Ranh Bay and the Saigon area, and 15 days in Ammunition Supply Points.
Concurrent with this planning and, perhaps a portent of things to come, the 1st Logistical Command requisitioned from the 2d Logistical Command on Okinawa a 15-day supply of ammunition to support the 173d Airborne Brigade which was earmarked for early deployment to Vietnam. However, this requisition was canceled by the 2d Logistical Command as the Push Packages from Continental U.S. would sustain the deploying units until normal pipeline operations could be established. Things didn't work quite that well. The 173d Airborne Brigade deployed rapidly and immediately commenced combat operations and the Push Packages, delivered in 30-day increments were far short of the quantity being consumed and also contained obsolete ammunition such as anti-tank mines, 3.5" rockets, and antitank munitions for 90-mm tank guns and 100-mm recoilless rifles. As a consequence, the 1st Logistical Command requisition was purified and initiated anew. This time ammunition, approximately 225 tons, was immediately airlifted from Okinawa to Tan Son Nhut. This action tied up all the available transport aircraft in the theater for a 7-day period and also dangerously overloaded the ammunition Storage site at Tan Son Nhut, as this input coupled with the Push Packages totaled more than 4,000 short tons.
From April through June, the ammunition picture was chaotic at best. Push Packages arrived before units, units were diverted from their scheduled debarkation points where their ammunition was offloaded, and ammunition piled up on the beach at Cam Ranh Bay and aboard leased sampans and barges on the Saigon River. The problem was compounded by the delayed arrival of
transportation terminal units and Ammunition Companies to clear the port and manage the receipt, storage, issue, and requisitioning of ammunition.
With the establishment of Headquarters U.S. Army Vietnam in July 1965, some order began to appear in the ammunition logistics picture. The arrival of the 182d Ammunition Stock Control Detachment along with one ammunition company and several detachments also helped although difficulties were still experienced in the next six months. These centered around the lack of ammunition command and control units, the lack of senior ammunition officers and staffs at Headquarters U.S. Army Vietnam and the 1st Logistical Command, and the malassignment of the 182d Stock Control Detachment to the Saigon Area Support Command. The 182d, through co-ordination with the few ammunition units that had by then arrived in Vietnam (one company and two detachments) began the task of establishing an ammunition support system. Based on estimates of the ammunition on the ground and on unofficial counts of weapons densities, stockage objectives were computed and requisitions were initiated to maintain the 60-day stockage objective in-country.
With the buildup proceeding, the 182d Stock Control Detachment, without direct access to the 1st Logistical Command Ammunition Staff Office, continued to manage the ammunition support program. Requisitions were developed and passed to the 2d Logistical Command who in turn either filled the requisitions from stocks on hand or passed them to Headquarters U.S. Army Pacific. If Headquarters U.S. Army Pacific was unable to fill the requisitions from other theater assets, the requisitions were passed on to the Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency. It didn't take long-three months-to exhaust available U.S. Army Pacific assets. By then it was clear something else had to be done. Consumption rates were higher than planning had foreseen and weapons density calculations were inaccurate.
Improvements were made, some almost immediately, others later. Some of the delays in the requisitioning system were eliminated when, in July 1965, Okinawa was by-passed. Requisitions then flowed directly to Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency with information to Headquarters U.S. Army Pacific's Inventory Control Point, who filled requisitions to the extent possible and notified Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency of those requisitions on which U.S. Army Pacific had taken action. Even so, improvement in reporting was warranted to the extent that the Secretary of the Army dispatched a team of ammunition experts
to Vietnam to examine the problems incident to the validity and timeliness of the U.S. Army Vietnam "U.S. Army Worldwide Ammunition Reporting System (WARS), RCS CSGLD-1322" feeder report.
The findings and recommendations of this team represented a critical upturn in ammunition logistics and are synopsized as follows:
1. Immediately implement the doctrine for Ammunition Service in the Theater of Operations (FM 9-6) throughout the theater.
2. Organize an Ammunition Staff headed by a full colonel, reporting to the G-4, U.S. Army Vietnam.
3. Establish an Ammunition Group as quickly as possible to provide operational control and management over ammunition and ammunition units.
4. Reassign the 182d Stock Control Detachment to G-4, U. S. Army Vietnam.
5. Assign all ammunition units to include the 182d Stock Control Detachment to the Ammunition Group upon its establishment.
While these recommendations were never fully implemented, the extent to which they were resulted in an overwhelming improvement for ammunition logistics. An operational staff headed by a full colonel was activated at Headquarters U.S. Army Vietnam. The 52d Ammunition Group Headquarters and Headquarters Company was activated, sent to Vietnam in February 1966, and used as the nucleus of the Directorate of Ammunition at 1st Logistical Command. The 182d Stock Control Detachment was assigned to the Ammunition Directorate at 1st Logistical Command. Command and Control of Ammunition Units was obtained through the expedited arrival of Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Companies and the establishment of Directors of Ammunition at each of the Area Logistics Commands. Of equal importance, a system was developed whereby the G-3, U.S. Army Vietnam provided valid weapons densities to the 1824 Stock Control Detachment.
Ammunition Supply Rates
The overriding issue during the time frame January-June 1966, (more important than the port thru-put of ammunition which will be addressed later) was that of determining valid supple rates. The supply rates had far-reaching implications in that they impact on the length of time D to P stocks, would last. (D to P stocks are those war reserves of ammunition which are stocked in
peace time to provide the necessary reservoir of ammunition to sustain combat operations until such time that the planned production base can be activated and producing at a rate which equals consumption. The designation "D" signifies deployment date or the date that hostilities commence and "P" signifies production day, hence D-P stocks.) Supply rates are also a factor in determining when, in what quantities, and at what rate production of ammunition should be established. For these reasons, it was virtually necessary that realistic supply rates be determined and approved, so that necessary funds could be provided in the revised fiscal year 1966, 1967, and 1968 budgets.
Prior to the onset of the buildup in Vietnam, the authorized ammunition expenditure rates (supply rates) were published in Supply Bulletin 38-26. These rates had been derived from historical data generated from World War II and the Korean conflict and modified by subsequent studies and war gaming exercises. The alarming scale at which most of these consumption rates were being exceeded in Vietnam, due to the unique environmental conditions and operational concepts, resulted in a dramatic drawdown of reserve ammunition stocks.
Headquarters U.S. Army Pacific in coordination with Headquarters U.S. Army Vietnam and Department of the Army concurrence, issued U.S. Army Pacific Regulation 710-15 on 9 June 1966, titled Theater Required Supply Rates for Ammunition-SEA. Essentially, this regulation provided for two rates; one being the Theater Stockage Objective Rate which provided the basis for determining U.S. Army Vietnam's Stockage Objective; and the other rate being the Required Supply Rate for the authorized expenditure rate which was the basis for requisitioning replacement of combat consumption. Provisions were made for necessary rate changes and the regulation was updated semiannually. These rates, in rounds per weapon per day or rounds per unit per day, when multiplied by the applicable weapons or unit density determined a day of supply. This day of supply for each line item was utilized in computing stockage objectives and requisitioning objectives.
At the October 19'67 Munitions Conference at Headquarters U.S. Army Pacific, the dual rate was discontinued and a single Required Supply Rate based on the highest six months consumption period was substituted to bring rates in line with the latest consumption experience data. Subsequent semi-annual ammunition conferences were held at Headquarters U.S. Army Pacific for purposes of revising rates to insure their validity and to resolve
ammunition maintenance problems. In the 1968 fall conference, the rates were again revised to reflect two rates, an Intense Combat Rate and a Theater Sustaining Rate. These changes were the outcome of the consumption experienced in the 1968 Tet offensive and resulted in a significant tonnage reduction in the U.S. Army Vietnam Stockage Objective and in the Offshore Reserve. The 60-day in-country stockage objective was based on 30 days at the Intense Combat Rate and 30 days at the Theater Sustaining Rate whereas the offshore reserve was based on 30 days at the Intense Combat Rate. During fiscal year 1969 three ammunition conferences were held at Headquarters U.S. Army Pacific wherein joint Department of the Army-U.S. Army Pacific revisions to the Required Supply Rates were hammered out. The fact that flexibility was allowed contributed significantly to the success of the overall ammunition support in the Vietnam conflict.
Subsequent to the initiation of expenditure rates for U.S. and Free World Forces in Vietnam, similar rates were approved by Commander in Chief Pacific for Vietnamese Forces which were integrated into the separate ammunition supply system in support of the South Vietnamese Army. This system, known as the Vietnam Ammunition Procedures, had been established in 1964. Essentially, it began as a "push" system, but later in conjunction with rate integration became a "pull" system. The system was managed by Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency who received from J-4, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, a forecast of the ensuing 120 days consumption. The effectiveness of this system is attributed to its small scope and intensive management efforts by both Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency as the increase in the tempo of the South Vietnamese Army combat effort increased.
Ammunition stock status reporting also played a significant role. The ammunition logistics system demands a comprehensive and timely report, but such a report did not exist at the onset of the buildup in Vietnam. However, the necessity for such a report was soon evident, and a program was initiated to establish a meaningful report.
The ammunition reporting systems in effect on 1 January 1965 were peacetime oriented and were adequate for that environment. Within the Pacific Theater two reports existed. For management of munitions within the U.S. Army Pacific Theater, an Asset Balance Report was prepared and furnished monthly to the U.S. Army
Pacific Inventory Control Point by each subordinate command to include U.S. Army Support Command Vietnam. The report was prepared manually or by computer, dependent on the capability of each subordinate command. It contained the data pertinent to peacetime management and was adequate for a peacetime environment. The second report was the Ordnance Ammunition Stock Status Report. This was called the ORD 26 report due to its unique reports control symbol-ORD 26 R1 and was used by the Munitions Command for worldwide management of ammunition. This report, submitted on a quarterly basis, was consolidated at major command levels except in the U.S. Army Pacific theater where each subordinate command submitted individual reports direct to the National Inventory Control Point at Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency (Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency was established as an ammunition procurement supply agency under the munitions command). The exception was based on the fact that all ammunition assets stored in the theater were not theater-owned assets but included stocks in Department of the Army ownership accounts over which the theater had no control. These assets were primarily in the Department of the Army Forward Depot and Department of the Army Forward Floating Depot ownership accounts. The excessive manual effort and time required to prepare this report limited its usefulness to a historical record. It consisted of data for each line item typed on 12 by 18 inch preprinted forms and, depending on the subordinate command, consisted of up to 300 pages with as many as 60 pages of clarifying notes. The preparation efforts resulted in a submission date of about 60 days subsequent to the cutoff date. The content of this report, coupled with its frequency and age of data at submission, negated its value as a wartime management tool (although it did provide the National Inventory Control Point with the necessary munitions data for asset and distribution planning and determination of procurement objectives in peacetime).
Prior to the onset of the buildup, the ORD 26 report posed an almost impossible task for the limited resources of the small ammunition detachment of the US Army Support Command. With the establishment of U.S. Army Vietnam and the advent of the buildup, the task of preparing this report was a nearly impossible one for the 182nd Stock Control Detachment, and the report failed to provide necessary and timely information to the National Inventory Control Point. Relief from the requirement for U.S. Army Vietnam was sought by Headquarters U.S. Army Pacific in mid-1965 and was reluctantly granted in July 1965. Meanwhile, De-
partment of the Army was involved in a program to develop a replacement report for the ORD 26 report. In July 1965, the efforts of this program resulted in the Worldwide Ammunition Reporting System, the 1322 report due to a new reports control symbol (RCSGLD 1322 (R1)) . The initial implications of establishing this report were that there would be relief for the preparing elements in that it was desired on a semi-monthly frequency and required 98 elements of data for each line item.
Based on recommendations from Commander in Chief U.S. Army Pacific to Department of the Army and prior to the initiation of the 1st report in September 1965, the report was revised to the extent that the frequency was changed to monthly, the cutoff date was changed from the last day of the month to the 26th of the month, and the due date in Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency for the theater rollup was moved back from the 5th of the following month to the 15th.
The Inventory Control Point at U.S. Army Pacific responsible for rolling up the sub-command feeder reports into a single theater report was faced with a dilemma in that the Theater Asset Balance Report did not contain all the necessary input for the 1322 report. Alternatively, the input data for the 1322 report did not provide all the necessary information required for management of theater assets.
Confining the comments to U.S. Army Vietnam, the problem was overcome by a complex but workable system. The report data was assembled each month and a member of the 182d Stock Control Detachment hand carried it to the Inventory Control Point at U.S. Army Pacific. There the courier provided the necessary interpretation for the theater rollup, then accompanied an Inventory Control Point courier to Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency to assist that agency in further interpreting the data.
The necessity for a courier continued as the buildup progressed and the reporting system went through a period of purification. With the establishment of the Directorate of Ammunition in the 1st Logistical Command in late 1965 and the organizational relocation of the 182d Stock Control Detachment as an integral part of that office, the situation improved. Physically, the Detachment moved from a warehouse in downtown Saigon to take up residence in two pyramidal tents on the front lawn of the 1st Logistical Headquarters. While this move served to improve the communications between the Directorate and the Stock Control Detachment, the environment subjected stock records files to constant ruination
by humidity, rain, mud, and dust. This situation continued until late in 1966 when the total Directorate Office moved into newly erected Quonset huts adjacent to the 1st Logistical Headquarters.
Crucial not only to the management of ammunition logistics in Vietnam, but to the reporting system as well was the amount of ammunition in-transit to and within Vietnam. Obtaining visibility of this ammunition was slowly but effectively overcome through the improvement in the communications system and by the then formalized structure of the Directorates of Ammunition in each of the Area Support Commands.
The situation was further improved in 1st Logistical Command by the arrival of two Department of the Army civilian management and reporting experts dispatched by the Munitions Command at U.S. Army Vietnam's request. These two civilian personnel made a significant contribution during their six-month stay. By the time they departed, just prior to mid-1966, the 1st Logistical Command was capable of not only managing ammunition assets in a professional manner, but were also producing an acceptable 1322 report. By mid-1966, the volume of the report and its related preparation had reached unforeseen proportions. The U.S. Army Pacific Inventory Control Point, newly reorganized and titled the Materiel Management Agency, was hard put to roll up such a voluminous report for the theater.
The problem was magnified at the National Inventory Control Point not only by the turbulence in ammunition stock status in the Pacific Theater but also by the reverberations experienced in all other major commands as the result of significant shifts and activity in their stock status which occurred from their contribution of ammunition to Vietnam.
As a consequence, the Munitions Command initiated a program to automate the preparation of the 1322 Report. In essence each major command was to input by card or tape the information that heretofore had been typed on blank formats for the 1322 report. A Munitions Command team visited Headquarters U.S. Army Pacific in late 1966 to present the program and discuss input requirements. As the requirement unfolded, it was apparent that the conversion of the theater rollup to cards would entail a greater effort than the manual production of the reports. U.S. Army Pacific non-concurred in this program at the time. However, in early 1967, in recognition of the need for improving and automating ammunition management within the theater, Headquarters U.S. Army Pacific established a team to accomplish this objective. The objective was two-fold: develop a computer program that
would provide the optimum in ammunition management and that would also provide theater input directly to the National Inventory Control Point for the 1322 report. The concept was developed and implemented within six months.
Included in the system design were the necessary programs for each subordinate command (Korea, Japan, Hawaii, and Vietnam) , taking into consideration the peculiarities of operations and available computer equipment. Teams were dispatched to each subordinate command to implement the system. The team dispatched to U.S. Army Vietnam carried completely developed programs for application to the UNIVAC 1004/1005. The implementation progressed smoothly and within two weeks time the system was installed and operating on shared time with a locally adjacent Machine Record Unit across the street from the 1st Logistical Command.
However, this was only an interim measure and subsequently the system was reprogrammed for application to the IBM 360/50 equipment at the 14th Inventory Control Center. The initial report was key-punched and airmailed to the U.S. Army Pacific Inventory Control Point in September 1967. Once the installation of the autodin transceiver system was completed in 1967, the cards were dispatched via autodin direct from the terminal drop in U.S. Army Vietnam to U.S. Army Pacific. The team had developed and was prepared to implement automation of depot stock control which would not only further improve the management of ammunition at the depot level, but would also provide directly daily input of management information and monthly 1322 input data to the 182d Stock Control Detachment. However, other overriding priorities for available computer time, coupled with the pressure of day to day commitments at the Ammunition Supply Depots precluded the application of automation to the management of depot operations. As a consequence the total automated management information system was not accomplished.
Almost from the onset ammunition shortages developed. Some shortages initially evolved from port thru-put problems and in-country distribution problems. The effects of these shortages were blunted to a degree in some instances by application of Available Supply Rates and by airlift of ammunition from the offshore reserve on Okinawa. These shortages were generally short lived and correctable within the capability of the system. However long term shortages also developed which were not easily overcome.
On the one hand were those long term shortages which prevailed from the onset. On the other hand were those shortages which developed in late 1966 which were attributed to the unforeseen high consumption rates and the inability of the Continental U.S. production base to expand at a pace consistent with the buildup of forces in Vietnam.
In the former category were shortages related to ammunition items which were: developed for, or highly applicable to, Southeast Asia, were either still in the research and development or product improvement phase, or so newly into production that required production schedules had not been attained. Examples of items in this category were the 40-mm ammunition for the M75 helicopter armament system, M557 Fuze for 81-mm Mortar, the new family of antipersonnel artillery ammunition, the 2.75" rocket, and the M564/M565 family of Mechanical Time, Super quick and Mechanical Time artillery fuzes. Most of these shortages were ultimately resolved through adherence to controlled expenditures or Available Supply Rates, and temporary use of substitute items.
In the latter category, an entirely different situation existed. Certain ammunition items were being expended at such a high rate that D to P stocks, as well as all other available assets, would be consumed to the extent that the situation would culminate in a zero balance in-country before production could catch up to expenditures (P-day) . A reevaluation was made to encourage a reduction in the Required Supply Rate and application of stringent Available Supply Rates where necessary to preclude additional leadtime for production expansion. Commander U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, immediately conducted a detailed analysis of the worldwide asset status contained in the 1322 report and notified Commander in Chief Pacific on 7 September 1966 that eight ammunition items would reach zero balance in the near future and the situation would not be alleviated even with immediate increases in production due to order and shiptime limitations. Concurrently, Commander in Chief U.S. Army Pacific's analysis revealed that 21 additional items would also reach zero balance in forthcoming months.
At an ammunition conference at Commander in Chief Pacific in October 1966, the correlation of data and a review of the facts emphasized the gravity of the situation. Immediate action was initiated at the highest levels of the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army to bring the situation under control. At the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics level, the Office of Special Assistant for Munitions, headed up by Brigadier General Henry A.
Rasmussen was informally established on 14 November 1966 and formally chartered on 15 December 1966 for the express purpose of putting the necessary resources together to provide intensive overall management of forty combat critical high dollar value ammunition items. A corollary action involved the establishment of the Department of the Army Allocation Committee Ammunition in September 1966. This committee, under the control of Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, was concerned with the allocation, distribution and redistribution of all allocable ground ammunition. Ammunition was designated as allocable when actual or potential demand was determined to be greater than supply availability. The number of allocable items increased steadily from the initial eight items to ninety-seven by late 1969. Initially, the Department of the Army Allocation Committee Ammunition met almost daily. However, the frequency soon stabilized to a monthly schedule and by February of 1970, the Committee was meeting bi-monthly. The task undertaken by these two agencies was successful in alleviating the gravity of the envisioned shortages to the extent that no combat operations failed or were unduly influenced in their outcome by lack of adequate ammunition.
It soon became apparent that multi-service implications for certain ammunition items indicated a need for resolution at the joint Service level. In recognition of this problem, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics on 27 January 1967 forwarded a Memorandum of Understanding to the Logistics Chief of each of the other Services, recommending the establishment of the Military Services Ammunition Allocation Board. On 20 April 1967, with the concurrences of the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and the Air Force, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, this Board was formally approved. The Military Services Ammunition Allocation Board charter provided for the allocation and control of the distribution and redistribution on a worldwide basis of selected items of ground ammunition common to two or more services. The Office, Special Assistant for Munitions, was reorganized into the Directorate of Ammunition, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, in early 1968 (with expanded mission to cover all ammunition items) and continues in existence at this writing. Three examples of short supply ammunition and actions taken to resolve the shortages follow:
The first item is the 2.75 inch Rocket. This rocket was originally designed as an air to air weapon, however circumstances in Vietnam led to the weapon being used primarily in an air to ground role. The increased number of aircraft employed using the 2.75 inch
rocket increased the demand to a degree that production capability and production capacity was not available to meet the demand. The Army was designated as the service manager for the 2.75 inch rocket procurement: The Army accordingly established a project manager for the rocket in December 1965. The initial task for the project manager was to find commercial contractors with the capability and capacity to produce quality components and deliver the quantities desired by the Services. Contracts were terminated with producers who could not meet delivery schedules and incentive awards were offered for production above scheduled quantities. These measures were successful in obtaining the required stock of rockets and cost reductions from $88 to approximately $39 per rocket. Since 1965, over 27 million 2.75 inch rockets have been produced. In addition, rocket reliability was improved from 80 percent to over 99 percent, a 17 pound High Explosive warhead with increased lethality and cost effectiveness has been produced, a proximity fuze and flechette warhead have been produced and fielded, and safety devices have been developed.
The second item, the 4.2 inch high explosive cartridge saw production lagging behind usage till February 1968. This was due to poor forecasting. After improving this fault, production rates actually equaled or exceeded the usage rates.
The third item, the 105-mm cartridge, both the high explosion and illuminating types, was in critical status through April of 1967. This situation was primarily caused by the continuing deployment of troop units not included in support programs and the lead time required for the production base to accelerate to meet these increased requirements.
Of the many facets of ammunition logistics, the role of design, development, and product improvement were especially significant. The adverse weather and terrain, new combat concepts, and triple canopied jungle growth seriously influenced the storage and explosive effects of ammunition. The situation also dictated the hurried design and development of special purpose munitions such as the tunnel destruction kit or extensive product improvement as in the case of the 2.75 inch rocket. In the latter example, the size of the warhead more than doubled, the types of warheads expanded, the fuzes were completely redesigned, and the overall reliability increased from 80 percent to 97 percent.
To further compound the overall situation, Department of the Army had estimated ammunition expenditures for fiscal year 1966
to be the sustaining rate, 54 percent of the U.S. Army Pacific rates set forth in SB 38-26, and the fiscal year 1966 budget was constrained initially by this factor. This constraint was removed by supplemental budget action, but valuable lead-time had been lost.
To support the ammunition consumption and stockage requirements during 1965-1970, the munitions procurement programs increased as shown in Table 6.
TABLE 6-MUNITIONS PROGRAMS, FISCAL YEARS 1965-1970
(IN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS)
|Fiscal Year||Army Total||Army Southeast Asia|
These programs provided for support of U.S. Army Vietnam and South Vietnamese Army forces as well as other Free World Forces which were supported from U.S. Army assets. The requirements on which the programs were based included ammunition consumed, on hand, in off-shore reserves, and in the pipeline, and provided for the building of U.S. combat divisions to a peak strength in fiscal year 1969.
With the buildup in Southeast Asia, munitions requirements increased significantly. This placed considerable strain on procurement agencies of the military departments since they were operating at peacetime personnel levels and under peacetime constraints. Required resources were not mobilized, as they were in previous wars, to support the increased munitions procurement activity. Although sufficient flexibility was provided in the Armed Services Procurement Regulations to allow timely contract placement through negotiation, there was a tendency to tighten rather than relax pre-contract administrative controls. This anomaly was heightened by the emphasis at the highest levels of government on obtaining maximum competition through the means of formal advertisement; or alternatively, if negotiated procurements were utilized, competition was required. This tightening of controls, coupled with the emphasis on competition, created a serious obstacle to the timely execution of contracts. Contracting for ammunition was further inhibited by a lack of interest by private enterprise, shortages in trained procurement personnel, dependency on foreign sources for certain munitions components, time required
for processing Secretarial determinations and findings, cancellation of administrative leadtime, fluctuating requirements, and limited capability of the production base. A few of these factors are discussed in the following paragraphs.
Considering the impact of large expenditures of munitions on the national economy and to ensure that the procurement actions were properly executed with maximum competition, Secretary McNamara promulgated a directive in July 1965 requiring certain approvals for all contracts awarded in support of Southeast Asia operations, when the basis of procurement was shifted from competitive to noncompetitive. This directive required "before the fact" Service Secretarial approval for awards over one million dollars and Assistant Secretary of Defense (Installations and Logistics) approval of awards in excess of ten million dollars. If the exigency was such that extraordinary procurement actions were utilized to ensure continuity of production, then an after-the-fact review and notation was required. In 1969, in recognition of the fact that the buildup had been accomplished and that the above control had been established during a period of increasing procurement activity and was based on a concern that the exigencies of this activity tended unnecessarily to cause a shift from competitive procurement, this control was rescinded. This recision highlighted the need for continued maximum emphasis on competitive procurement.
The established mobilization plans included the provision of production of munition metal parts by planned mobilization producers in private industry. In response to the munitions requirements generated from the buildup in Southeast Asia, the necessity for rapid acceleration of munitions production developed almost overnight. In the absence of full mobilization of national resources, these planned producers did not feel a strong obligation to respond to the needs of the Department of Defense.
Historically, the decisions pertinent to the production of munition metal parts have culminated in situations whereby contract delivery schedules ran out in February of a given year. To maintain continuity of production, thus avoiding shut-down and startup cost, follow-on procurement needed to be placed in the preceding July-August time frame. However, since funds were not normally available until the July-August time frame, the munitions program could not be released as a total package at that time. Therefore, munitions items were required to be broken out by component for procurement. The time available precluded the letting of all the necessary contracts in a manner designed to
ensure the best interest of the government. Experience indicated that a minimum of six months administrative leadtime was required to accomplish quality procurement and a minimum of three months was essential for reorder leadtime. To circumvent this lack of adequate leadtime, shortcuts were taken in the form of letter contracts, utilization of option clauses, and non-competitive procurements; or alternatively, production schedules were extended to retain continuity of production and bridge the delay. These shortcuts and alternatives were costly to the Army.
Ammunition Units and Personnel
just as contingency plans depended on mobilization of private enterprise to augment in-house ammunition production capability, so too, did they envision mobilization of reserve forces. Since the number of ammunition support units required in time of war greatly exceed the number required in peacetime, these contingency plans provided for the selective activation of ammunition support units to accompany large scale deployments of combat units. Mobilization of reserve units did not take place and the peacetime ammunition support structure was grossly inadequate for the task. A Continental U.S. training base for military personnel was almost non-existent as Continental U.S. depots and post, camp, and station storage areas were largely civilianized. This same condition prevailed at the National Inventory Control Point. In short, the Army's ammunition qualified military personnel and organic units were fully committed to peacetime support operations. Additional necessary support existed only in reserve units and they were essentially inaccessible for the conflict at hand. This shortage delayed the activation and deployment of ammunition units to Vietnam and resulted in a shortage of ammunition management skilled officers, warrant officer, and enlisted men to staff the various headquarters and operating units. For example a detachment, deployed in late 1965, was formed at Fort Devens with the detachment commander being a master sergeant with no ammunition experience whatsoever, being instead a transportation Non Commissioned Officer with a truckmaster's Military Occupation Specialty. None of his personnel were experienced in ammunition renovation either. Although all were ammunition handlers, MOS 55B, less than 10 percent were school trained. The detachment had a renovation capability in name only and required civilian augmentation to provide on-site training.
At the beginning of the Vietnam buildup, the Army was in the process of converting the logistics support system to the Combat
Support To The Theater Army concept. Under this concept, ammunition support is accomplished as an Army-wide service with the command and operational control of ammunition and other commodity oriented systems vested in a Group or Brigade Headquarters as appropriate. Since the total conversion was incomplete and untried in combat a decision was made to remain with the Logistical Command concept in Vietnam as opposed to assigning all ammunition units to the command and control of the 52d Ammunition Group. Ammunition battalions, once they arrived in-country were, for control purposes, assigned to a General Support Group or Field Depot Command or direct to Army Support Commands as separate battalions. Hence, the ammunition channel of communication was from an Ammunition Battalion to a Group or Depot Command to the Director of Ammunition at the appropriate Area Logistics Command to the Director of Ammunition at 1st Logistical Command.
The buildup of ammunition support units continued to lag behind the increase in combat and combat support units to the extent that a balanced ratio of ammunition support units to units supported was not achieved until 1967. The initial ammunition supply units to deploy to Vietnam were two ammunition supply detachments which arrived in May 1965. By Tables of Organization and Equipment, these units had little or no equipment and were designed to be attached to a conventional Tables of Organization and Equipment 9-17 ammunition company where they could augment the handling capability of the company by 150 short tons per day. By August 1965, the number of ammunition units had increased to four supply detachments, one ammunition company, and one stock control detachment. In September, three additional ammunition companies had arrived while the supported force had increased to two and two-thirds division equivalents. The first ammunition battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company 3d Ordnance Battalion, arrived in November 1965 and assumed command of the subordinate units and became the 3d Ordnance Battalion (Ammo). The battalion immediately moved to Long Binh to assume operational control of the Long Binh Ammunition Supply Depot and the two companies and detachments already on hand. The second battalion to arrive, the 191st, moved to Cam Ranh Bay, was assigned to the 504th Field Depot, and assumed the operational control of the Cam Ranh Bay Ammunition Supply Depot and command of the two companies and two detachments on hand. Subsequently, the 3d and last ammunition Battalion Headquarters to arrive, the 184th, moved to Qui
Nhon, and was assigned directly to the Qui Nhon Area Logistics Support Command as a separate battalion. The Battalion assumed the operational responsibility of operating a U.S. depot within a South Vietnamese depot until late 1966 when a wholly owned U.S. Depot was developed at a separate location. The Da Nang Area Logistics Command in the I Corps area did not receive an Ammunition Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company at first. The three ammunition companies and one detachment in the Da Nang Area were among a number of reports units assigned directly to the 80th General Service Group until the 336th Ordnance Battalion (Ammo) Headquarters and Headquarters Company, a National Guard unit, was activated and deployed to Vietnam in July 1968 as an aftermath of the 1968 Tet offensive. This battalion was deactivated and redeployed in July 1969. At that time the 528th Ammunition Battalion (Provisional) was formed and remained as the command and control element for ammunition units in support of I Corps. In September 1970 the 528th Headquarters and Headquarters Company was redeployed and the ammunition units split up among the 26th and 80th General Support Units where they were assigned to various types of battalions for command and control. In early 1971 when the command and control of ammunition for the Laotian incursion indicated a need for these units to be assigned to an ammunition battalion another provisional battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company was formed and all ammunition units assigned to it.
While this overall organization provided for the systematic and orderly processing of ammunition matters, there was room for improvement. The capabilities of the battalion staff were never fully exercised and the delays incident to processing actions through these unrelated supply channels comprised of staffs and commanders unfamiliar with ammunition logistics resulted in unwarranted time-consuming delays. This observation is borne out by the operations of the 3rd Ordnance Battalion during the incursion into Cambodia in early 1970 unencumbered by a unique organizational relationship as a separate battalion reporting directly to the Saigon Support Command with free access to the Director of Ammunition at G-4, U.S. Army Vietnam. (1st Logistical Command was de-activated in early 1970) . The successes achieved in this operation were instrumental in de-activating the Saigon Support Command (Directorate of Ammunition) shortly after the successful completion of this operation.
The revision of the 9-17 Table of Organization and Equip-
ment to change the ammunition company magazine platoon leaders from commissioned officers, MOs 4514, to Warrant Officers, MOs 411A, resulted in a significant drawdown on the skilled senior non-commissioned officer corps as this was the source from which this sudden demand was filled. The majority of the ammunition personnel who were instrumental in developing and operating the ammunition logistics system completed their one year tours and redeployed. Not only were there few if any qualified personnel to replace them, but the turnover was so complete over such a short time span that many lessons learned through experience had to be learned again. While the impact of each subsequent cycle was lessened, the initial cycle re-emphasized the need for a continuing Continental U.S. Training base.
Transportation of Ammunition
The quantity of ammunition moved to Vietnam averaged slightly under 40,000 short tons per month in 1966, approximately 75,000 short tons per month in 1967, and just under 90,000 short tons per month in 1968. In February and March of 1968, receipts exceeded 100,000 short tons per month.
The problems in Continental U.S. ports encompassed an initial lack of adequate ship bottoms, the glutting of ports with ammunition cargo, and an inadequate number of berthing facilities. The resolution of these difficulties was relatively easy when compared to those faced in Vietnam.
The lack of adequate ports and port facilities in Vietnam required initially that all ammunition had to be offloaded onto barges and lighters for transport to shore. From the shore it was moved by truck.
Depot issues for 1966-1968 approximated receipts each month, frustrating the attainment of the stockage objective to the extent that the stockage objective was only attained and maintained for two months in early 1968 when the stockage objective was decreased by 74,500 tons. Had the capability existed to routinely offload each ammunition ship as it arrived, the stockage objective could have been maintained to the extent of availability of assets from Continental U.S. almost from the beginning. The situation was compounded by the Army's responsibility for offloading Air Force munitions at Cam Ranh and Saigon. In 1965 Air Force tonnage alone increased from 2,576 short tons in January to 23,000 Short tons in December 1965. Air Force munitions requirements also increased each year.
There were three major ports for offloading ammunition; Da
Nang, Cam Ranh Bay, and Saigon. Other ports that played a lesser role in ammunition offloading were Qui Nhon and Vung Tau.
At Da Nang, the amount of ammunition offloaded for the Army by the Navy was relatively small when compared to that of the Air Force and the Marine Corps. The total stockage objective was slightly under 20,000 tons. With the redeployment of the 3rd Marine Division in late 1969 the situation changed to the extent that the Army became the largest user and the stockage objective increased to approximately 45,000 short tons. The ammunition was largely distributed among 7 Ammunition Supply Points. Initially all ships were offloaded in the outer harbor, although an isolated LST ramp was constructed and used for redistribution up and down the coast.
At Qui Nhon all ammunition ships were offloaded off-shore as sand bars at the river mouth precluded bringing oceangoing ships even into the outer harbor until 1967. In adverse weather with high seas running ammunition ships could not discharge and had to put to sea for safety. (This same condition existed in Da Nang until a breakwater was constructed in 1968) . An LST ramp was also available inside the harbor for coastal movement.
At Cam Ranh Bay, a natural harbor, ammunition ships were offloaded in the outer reaches of the harbor, and the ammunition was barged or lightered ashore just as at Da Nang and Qui Nhon. A DeLong pier was implaced specifically for ammunition in late 1966. Here too LST ramps were available for coastal movements of ammunition. Only at Cam Ranh Bay was an optimum operational arrangement established. However, the logistical remoteness of this location to the supported units and the need for transhipment of ammunition to more active ammunition depots precluded more effective utilization.
At Vung Tau, ammunition for the Delta region was offloaded. A pier was available, however the depth of the water precluded fully loaded vessels from offloading ammunition and the facility saw little use. Ammunition was largely discharged into barges for direct movement to the delta while the overflow to those needs was stored in a large Ammunition Supply Point at Vung Tau.
Saigon was the most active of all the ammunition ports. This is attributed to the stockage objective at Saigon Support Command being almost double that of any other support command, all South Vietnamese Army ammunition initially being offloaded there, and the Air Force requirement there exceeding that of all other
locations. Ammunition was discharged in mid-stream at Cat Lai, barged to a river port at Cogido, and then trucked to the depot.
All of the major and most of the minor ports were operated by mixed military and civilian contractor contingents. In some instances the contractor discharged the ship, barged the ammunition ashore, moved the ammunition over-land, and even offloaded it in the depots. At Saigon the contractor was restricted to discharging and barging to shore. From the shore the ammunition was transported overland by Army Transportation Units and offloaded by depot personnel.
Until mid-1966, the discharging of ammunition ships was constrained by the fact that ammunition was removed from pallets at Continental U.S. outloading ports and loaded aboard ship by individual boxes and projectiles. While this maximized the use of ship bottoms, it created difficulties in Vietnam, because offloading by cargo nets and hooks was required and ammunition lot integrity had to be re-established within the depots. (Management of ammunition dictates that ammunition be stored and accounted for by lot number).
At the request of the Commanding General 1st Logistical Command this practice was halted and all ammunition shipped to Vietnam was palletized. Lot integrity was maintained by ships' holds to the maximum extent practicable. This decision improved the discharge rate of ammunition ships almost 100 percent, allowing discharge offloading time to be decreased from seven days to four days.
Prior to this improvement in December 1965 52 ammunition ships with an estimated 165,000 short tons aboard were awaiting discharge. This predicament was an outgrowth of the effort to build up to the stockage objective while concurrently supporting the demands of combat units. A further factor was the necessity for selective discharge of certain ammunition items that were in a short supply status in the depots. This situation required manifests and stowage plans to be reviewed so that certain ships could be moved on berth for partial discharge. The ships would then be returned to a holding area while other ships were called in for selective discharge. Steps were taken to relieve the backlog in December 1965 by redistributing the ships to Da Nang, Qui Nhon, and Cam Ranh Bay.
This situation added impetus for the installation of the DeLong Pier at Cam Ranh Bay and general improvements in over-the shore offloading at other ports. However, ammunition ships continued to have to await discharge and the number of days spent
waiting for an empty berth remained serious until a general downward trend began in January 1968. For example, 12 ammunition ships were offloaded in December 1967, but eleven of them had spent some time in a hold category. The total number of days for all eleven ships totaled 71. January 1968 was the turning point and improvement continued thereafter.
During the period October-December 1968, management techniques were applied to ammunition movements which made possible the reduction of ammunition stockage on-the-ground in Southeast Asia. This new management technique identified as Inventory in Motion made possible a significant reduction from approximately 285,000 S/tons of ammunition to approximately one-half that amount. This was achieved without reduction in unit readiness by providing the theater with total visibility of ammunition on-the-ground, ammunition in-transit-to-theater, and in-transit-in-theater, that is, a transparent pipeline. With this visibility, the stockage objectives were reduced from 113 percent in October 1968 to only 81 percent of the total United States Army Vietnam and the South Vietnamese Army objective being on the ground in Southeast Asia in February 1971.
In order to establish the Inventory in Motion concept it was necessary to study order and ship time and regulate issuance of requisitions to ensure prompt shipment of the needed items. Unnecessary delays had to be precluded at all points in the shipment. Management controls involved a teletype forecast of heavy tonnage items being received in Vietnam on the first of each month so that scheduling could be accomplished. This was followed by a transmittal of requisitions for the balance of ammunition items to arrive at Joliet, Illinois on the 10th of each month. These actions permitted planning for ships to be placed on berth over an entire 30-day span. This permitted direct shipments from a place of production to the eventual destinations within a 30-day period and provided for an even workload at the discharge point.
Inventory in Motion was originally applied to U.S. Army Vietnam forces and was broadened to include South Vietnamese Army ammunition as well.
Storage and Handling of Ammunition
The criteria for selection of an ammunition storage site are subordinated to the overriding factor of ensuring that surrounding facilities are a safe distance from the storage site. The determination of this safe distance is a general function of the quantity of net explosive weight and the allowable safe distance to adjacent
facilities. Another constraint is that of hazard class which determines what ammunition items can be stored together or adjacent to each other. Any deviation from these criteria requires a waiver of safety requirements. Once the stockage objective for each line item has been determined, its hazard class established, and net explosive weight computed then the unwaivered size of the storage site can be determined. If ammunition is stored strictly in accordance with this criteria, the probability of an explosion on a single storage pad causing explosions on other storage pads is remote.
Even though available expertise and time would have permitted calculating storage area sizes, the results would have been negated as the size of the buildup and the magnitude of the stockage objectives were not envisioned at the time real estate was acquired. Gross estimating techniques were utilized and, based on the envisioned deployment strength in 1965, real estate was acquired to provide unwaivered storage capacity for approximately 85,000 short tons of ammunition. However by the end of 1966, the stockage objective had climbed to 231,000 short tons and by the end of 1967 had reached a peak of 284,500 short tons.
The expansion of ammunition depots stabilized in about mid1968 with a capacity of approximately 238,000 short tons. The capacity above this figure was vested in Ammunition Supply Points. The number of Ammunition Supply Points fluctuated with the tactical situation; in mid-1968, there were eight Ammunition Supply Points with a capacity in excess of 50,000 short tons.
At Da Nang, there was no major Army Ammunition Supply Depot. Army stocks were essentially maintained in three Ammunition Supply Points at Da Nang, Dong Ha, and Chu Lai, and co-located with U.S. Marine Corps storage in Da Nang. The number of Ammunition Supply Points increased with the redeployment of the 3d Marine Division in late 1969. These Ammunition Supply Points were under adverse waivers as they were, for security reasons, inside secure cantonment areas. They, like most of the Ammunition Supply Points, literally developed in their locations because that was where the ammunition was offloaded by units on hand. While the risk associated with these heavily waivered Ammunition Supply Points was known and accepted, the trade off for security of the Ammunition Supply Point against enemy infiltration was necessary.
At Qui Nhon, the Ammunition Supply Depot was initially CO-located with a South Vietnamese Army Ammunition Supply Point. However, the demand for additional capacity dictated the development of a new U.S. Army Ammunition Supply Depot which
was established at Phu Tai in early 1966 and was operated by the 184th Ordnance Battalion. From the standpoint of safety, the site and the layout of the depot were excellent. It was located in a bowl-shaped valley surrounded on three sides by high ridges. The open side provided entrance to the main highway between Qui Nhon and Pleiku. It had minimum waivers, but had two serious drawbacks: Ammunition offloaded from ships had to be trucked through the city, and the security of the depot was not good. Enemy attacks on the depot could be easily mounted by merely directing recoilless rifle, rocket, and mortar fire from the surrounding high ridges. The terrain lent itself to an easy approach for enemy sapper teams. As a result of this Phu Tai suffered more enemy attacks than any other depot. The two Ammunition Supply Points at Pleiku and An Khe supported by this depot were relatively good and reasonably secure. However, they were subject to the same waivers as those in the Da Nang Support Command because of their being within heavily populated cantonment areas.
The Ammunition Supply Depot established at Cam Ranh Bay in early 1965, operated by the 191st Ordnance Battalion, was initially well located and required limited waivers for its location. However, subsequent location of petroleum storage facilities on the high ground behind the Ammunition Supply Depot and the adjacent location of the Air Force ammunition storage site eventually resulted in having to obtain waivers for its operation. The most adverse aspect of this depot was posed by the sandy terrain. It was not uncommon for a storage pad to be inundated overnight by constantly shifting dunes. Also, the soft sand all but prohibited the orderly movement of vehicle traffic. Ultimately, approximately two-thirds of the depot underwent a major upgrading consisting of concrete storage pads with berms stabilized by the application of peni-prime, a petroleum based product that formed a hardened crust over the sand to preclude its movement by wind action. Road networks were also stabilized to a degree by application of latterite, a clay-gravel combination that was locally available. The battalion's inherent capability for maintaining berms and road nets, two bulldozers in each ammunition company, was unequal to the task of properly maintaining this Ammunition Supply Depot.
The largest field Ammunition Supply Depot in Vietnam was at Long Binh. While the site was well located at first, it suffered the same encroachment as other Ammunition Supply Depots in that it was ultimately surrounded on three sides by other activities and units within the Long Binh cantonment area. However, by the
time the encroachment had subsided, the Ammunition Supply-Depots had expanded from an initial capacity of approximately 35,000 short tons to 100,000 short tons in early 1968.
At the peak of combat operations, it was not uncommon for receipts and issues within a 24-hour period at an Ammunition Supply Depot to exceed 5,000 short tons. The workload associated with this effort can be appreciated by the fact that for every ton of ammunition received an average of three tons of ammunition must be re-warehoused-moved from the rear of the pad to the front so that oldest stocks could be issued first. Further, lot integrity had to be maintained.
Security of Ammunition Depots
In the initial months of the buildup, security of Ammunition Supply Depots was of minor importance in that stocks of ammunition were relatively small and were stored in secure areas. However, as permanent sites were developed and occupied in late 1965, security became significant. The first attack on an ammunition depot occurred at Qui Nhon in April 1966. This attack established the extreme vulnerability of the ammunition depots and over the ensuing four-year period no less than 31 incidents at Ammunition Supply Depots were recorded.
The greatest danger was the threat posed by enemy sapper teams. This threat was a constant one and required aggressive defensive measures twenty-four hours a day. The other threat was from enemy rocket and mortar attacks with the only defense against this being recurring tactical sweeps of the outer perimeters conducted by combat security forces.
Prior to enemy sapper attacks vegetation had been cleared out from the storage sites to a distance of approximately 100 meters, a single row of coiled barbed wire installed, and anti-personnel mines, in some instances, implanted. Guard posts were established along with roving patrols. The increasing tempo of enemy probing actions culminating in three closely spaced attacks against Long Binh in late 1966 emphasized the necessity for more stringent security measures.
At the Qui Nhon Ammunition Supply Depot, extra land clearing was initiated, coiled barbed wire interlaced with trip flares was installed, perimeter lighting and guard towers were constructed, and the number of guards was increased. However, due to the terrain surrounding the Qui Nhon Ammunition Supply Depot, it still remained a vulnerable target for enemy attacks.
At Cam Ranh Bay, the Ammunition Supply Depot was afforded
much security by its location on the peninsular arm of land encircling the bay and its security was further assured by land clearing and minimal fencing.
Long Binh Ammunition Supply Depot, by far the largest storage depot, was probably the most lucrative target. During the period 1966 through 1971, Long Binh Ammunition Supply Depot suffered seven successful enemy attacks; three in 1966, one in 1967, two in 1968, and the last one in 1969. After the initial attacks, it was evident that the single row of coiled barbed wire backed up by antipersonnel mines was inadequate. A crash program was undertaken to clear the jungle vegetation 300 meters out from the perimeter and the perimeter fencing was increased from a single row of coiled barbed wire to three rows triple stacked. All three rows were interlaced at 10 meter intervals with trip flares. The necessity for keeping the vegetation cleared out of, as well as between the rows of wire required the removal of the mines. Observation towers, 44 in all, were built, with fighting bunkers at their bases, and perimeter lighting installed. By 1968 the increase in sapper attacks against all Ammunition Supply Depots resulted in a plan for installing sensing systems. However, this was delayed until 1969. The only available sensing devices were pressure sensitive and they were largely ineffective. During the 1968 time frame, the Long Binh Post perimeter was expanded to the extent that the eastern border of the Ammunition Supply Depot was no longer the post perimeter but was now approximately two miles inside the overall perimeter. No successful attacks were carried out against the Long Binh Ammunition Supply Depot subsequent to March 1969. The use of ammunition personnel as security guards for Ammunition Supply Depots proved to be ineffective for two reasons: (1) it detracted from their efficiency in ammunition operations and (2) the security of such critical installations required a professionally trained and operated security force to include sentry dogs and the best available electronic sensing equipment.
Maintenance and Disposal
Maintenance of ammunition in a combat zone is normally a routine function. In past conflicts, trained military renovation personnel were available to perform this function. However in the Vietnam conflict, the largely civilianized operation of ammunition facilities had precluded the availability of adequately trained military personnel or units skilled in maintenance of ammunition. The degradation of ammunition stocks due to the environmental
conditions in Vietnam established the maintenance problem as one requiring more than a routine effort.
Early in 1966, it became apparent that some maintenance capability was required and each ammunition battalion was provided with a renovation detachment. However these units, each of approximately seventy men, were not provided with the necessary Ammunition Peculiar Equipment to perform renovation, but they did have sufficient tools to perform preservation and packaging. Munitions packaging deficiencies were the first major problem as wooden boxes, pallets, and containers deteriorated rapidly in the South Vietnam climate. Each Ammunition Supply Depot established a local "box shop," augmented with local labor, to produce these items. By early 1967, each battalion had an improvised renovation line where repackaging and some very limited renovation was performed.
Unit returns and long term stockage items kept all detachments busy inspecting, repainting, and remarking where possible, and condemning where required. Typical missions assigned these detachments were: inspecting all 40-mm (duster) munitions for fuze tightness; inspecting the 81-mm High Explosive plastic containers for moisture damage to the rounds, derusting projectiles, mines, and rockets; repainting and restenciling as required; and continual repackaging. Some mortar fuze and ignition cartridge replacements were also performed. However, lack of components restricted any large scale renovation by U.S. depots in South Vietnam.
The disposal of condemned ammunition has been a special problem in every conflict. For this reason, highly skilled, thoroughly trained Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams were available from a well organized peacetime training base. These teams in Vietnam worked under the command and control of a detachment assigned to the Director of Ammunition at 1st Logistical Command and subsequently to Headquarters U.S. Army Vietnam. They were equipped to respond almost immediately to any situation and provided support in the following areas:
1. Destroying deteriorated ammunition.
2. Destroying enemy damaged ammunition in storage. Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel were also responsible for return of storage locations to operational use as soon as possible.
3. Assisting in the recovery of downed gunships and other aircraft, clearing booby-traps, and rendering safe the ordnance aboard these aircraft.
4. Clearing of heavily booby-trapped and mined facilities and
areas, disposing of discovered caches, and rendering U.S. sites unusable prior to abandonment.
5. Clearing of dud munitions and time delay munitions in operational and support areas.
6. Training combat troops on the enemy booby-traps and mines.
All depots and forward support activities had personnel assigned or attached to destroy ammunition. Normally disposal was by detonation or burning at an approved disposal site. Care had to be taken in disposal shot site selection to prevent damage to nearby friendly real estate. Disposal shot size was determined by real estate and surroundings, but calculations were not always perfect; for example, one shot at Long Binh, during a low cloud ceiling, jarred buildings severely and broke several windows. Prior to any in-country disposal actions, efforts were made to return the munitions to Okinawa or Continental U.S. for renovation or demilitarization. At the Ammunition Supply Depots, condemned munitions were disposed of by the battalion Explosive Ordnance Disposal sections. In the forward areas, Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel from area assigned Explosive Ordnance Disposal detachments disposed of hazardous munitions on an as required basis.
In an effort to assure Class V support to the combat arms, each Ordnance ammunition battalion provided Technical Assistance Contact Teams to advise and assist on maintenance, storage, and safety in the Forward Support Areas and Fire Base areas. The 184th Ordnance Battalion (Ammo) at Qui Nhon was a leader in this effort and its assistance program was copied by the other units of the 1st Logistical Command. This technical assistance program was extended in mid-1969 to the South Vietnamese Army and to Republic of Korea Forces Vietnam through the 1st Logistical Command's Project BUDDY. Major assistance was given South Vietnamese Army units in and around Nha Trang by the 191st Ordnance Battalion (Ammo).
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