Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1970



Although the Vietnam War continued to be a major concern both nationally and militarily during the last year, there was a marked change of direction in the conflict that was promising for the United States and for American armed forces. Following the steady expansion in military strength and combat commitment that occurred between 1965 and 1968, and the general stabilization that took place in 1969, a significant contraction was begun in fiscal year 1970. There were reductions in over-all Army strength, division force structure, troop deployment, combat operations, and battle casualties.

Army strength at the end of June 1970 was 1,322,548—down more than 248,000 from the peak of 1,570,000 reached in June 1968. The over-all reduction was made possible by the withdrawal of about 115,000 American troops from Vietnam, almost 59,000 of them Army. This left a little over 300,000 Army troops in the combat zone in June 1970, as compared with the high of 361,000 in June 1969.

Withdrawn from Vietnam in two increments were the entire 1st Infantry Division, two brigades of the 9th Infantry Division, the 3d Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, and the 3d Brigade of the 82d Airborne Division. The reduction, the equivalent of 2 1/3 divisions, left six division forces in Vietnam. Inactivations and demobilizations, notably of the 24th Infantry Division, reduced the active Army's division force structure from 19 2/3 to 17 1/3 division force equivalents by year's end.

Initial withdrawals were justified by the course of events. For the most part, American, Republic of Vietnam, and Free World Military Assistance forces held the initiative throughout South Vietnam following a long period of search and destroy operations that inflicted progressively heavier losses on the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese. Infiltration routes were regularly interdicted. The enemy's logistic base was uncovered site by site, and large stores of food, equipment, and arms were captured or destroyed. Pacification activities were expanded concurrently, weakening the enemy's hold on the populace and strengthening the Saigon government's popular support. Moreover, major operations against enemy sanctuaries in neighboring Cambodia in May and June 1970


seriously affected the enemy's ability to carry out operations in South Vietnam.

Vietnamization of the war became a central theme of American policy and the focus of American effort during the year. As the major task of equipping and training Republic of Vietnam units progressed, indigenous forces began to assume a more prominent combat role while U.S. forces turned their attention increasingly to consolidation and eventual disengagement.

The acceleration of troop deployment to Southeast Asia from the summer of 1965 to the summer of 1969 and the broadening of the fighting had produced a steady increase in U.S. casualties; monthly tolls, for example, ran as high as 1,363 soldiers killed in February and 8,298 wounded in March of 1968. Army losses were the greatest among the services.

By fiscal year 1970, on the other hand, the enemy had been severely punished, the level of combat had dropped, a troop withdrawal was in progress, and Republic of Vietnam forces were assuming increasing battlefield responsibility. Despite the operations in Cambodia, American casualties dropped sharply. Weekly losses for all services fell to three-year lows, and for the first time American casualties were less than those sustained by the Republic of Vietnam. By June 30, 1970, the United States had lost 43,000 soldiers killed over the full course of the war, including eight general officers; another 285,000 had been wounded in action, about half of whom required hospital care. The Army's total war casualties were 28,011 soldiers killed and 183,760 wounded in the 9 ½ years of American military involvement.

In addition to the requirements of the war, the Army continued to provide major forces in other areas of the world as a part of American contributions to collective security: 2 divisions remained in Korea and 4 1/3 in Europe. Special mission forces continued on station in Berlin, the Canal Zone, Hawaii, Alaska, and Okinawa; remaining active Army division forces, augmented by Reserve Component units, formed a part of the Strategic Reserve in the continental United States.

Although the gradual stabilization of conditions in Vietnam and the withdrawal of some troops eased personnel imbalances, especially with regard to junior leaders and specialists, manpower problems were inherent in the two-year service obligation of inductees and the short tour replacement requirements for Vietnam and Korea. These strictures probably will continue until a substantial leveling-down is possible in Vietnam, bringing short tour needs into general balance with the long tour rotation base. Meanwhile,


requirements will be met by a combination of individual assignment extensions, short term service curtailments, voluntary extensions and involuntary repetitive tours in Vietnam, and accelerated promotion at junior officer and noncommissioned officer levels.

The Army requested $30 billion in new funds for fiscal year 1970 operations. Following reviews by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Bureau of the Budget, the President requested just under $26 billion. The Congress appropriated something less than $22.5 billion. The downward turn in Vietnam and the urgency of domestic needs required the Army to meet its responsibilities with diminishing resources. Smaller appropriations and inflation placed a premium on the management of resources.

A general climate of social unrest in the nation, exacerbated in part by domestic ills and in part by an unpopular war, continued to be reflected in and to have implications for the armed forces in fiscal year 1970. Problems were both internal and external, and covered a wide range of dissent. Externally they were manifested by opposition to the draft, evasion of military service, interference with recruiting, and destruction of campus ROTC buildings; internally they took form in underground activities, racial antagonism, resistance to authority, and desertion.

Irresponsible forms of dissent were limited to relatively small numbers of citizens and soldiers. The majority of Americans, no matter what their personal feelings concerning the war or social justice, were prepared to carry out their responsibilities of citizenship and service and to work within the system and through established methods and procedures to further their views. Mindful of the basic requirements to provide a disciplined and effective force for national security, the Army reacted to responsible dissent by making certain adjustments in policies, procedures, and regulations.

Despite a rigid code of ethics, the Army is a product of the society from which it springs and has its share of human weaknesses and failings both on and off the battlefield. Several misdeeds of recent times were of some magnitude, received major publicity, and required a substantial investigative effort during the last year. Notable among them were charges of battlefield misconduct in the Son My (My Lai) area in South Vietnam and mismanagement of service clubs in various locations. Unfortunate as these incidents were, they involved only a few individuals and did not derogate the fine performance of the vast majority of American soldiers on the battlefield, at home, and elsewhere around the world.

The Army's task in the seventh decade of the twentieth century was no different from what it has been since its inception—to pro-


vide the land element of the military forces that insure U.S. national security. Some of the details of how this task was accomplished in fiscal year 1970 are covered in the following pages.


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Last updated 9 August 2004