Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1971
The War in Vietnam
The redeployment of U.S. Army forces from Vietnam continued at a high rate during fiscal year 1971. Major unit strength dropped from 6 division force equivalents to 2 2/3 and completion of the 150,000-man withdrawal announced by President Nixon on April 20, 1970, left Army strength in Vietnam at approximately 200,000 as the fiscal year closed.
The most significant change in operational patterns was the shift by U.S. forces from a combat role to a dynamic defense while supporting Vietnamese operations. The Vietnamese armed forces demonstrated an increasing ability to conduct large-scale and multidivisional operations. In cross-border operations in Laos and Cambodia, the South Vietnamese inflicted heavy damage upon North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces and facilities. In line with the objectives of full South Vietnamese assumption of battlefield responsibility and American transition to advice and assistance as redeployment progresses, U.S. military field forces headquarters were redesignated regional assistance groups or commands and their activities increasingly reflected the new mission.
As U.S. combat strength decreased, a greater premium was placed on accurate and timely intelligence on the enemy. Increased knowledge of enemy movements and locations was acquired by more effective use of ground and aerial reconnaissance and closer co-ordination with intelligence agencies of the other services and the Vietnamese armed forces. Stress was placed on the interrogation of prisoners, ralliers, and other knowledgeable persons and upon exploitation of captured documents and personnel. Progressively improving information on the location, strength, and capabilities of the enemy promoted the economical and effective use of the Army's mobility and firepower. Combined American-Vietnamese intelligence operations, on which military success has depended, will provide an intelligence foundation for the Vietnamese forces as they assume full responsibility for military operations.
The April 1970 presidential announcement concerning redeployment of 150,000 U.S. troops was executed in three increments. Fifty thousand men were withdrawn by October 15, 1970, another 40,000 by December 30, and the final 60,000 by April 30, 1971. In the last month, as the first major withdrawal was being completed, the President announced a second phase under which 100,000 more men would be
pulled out of Vietnam by December 1, 1971. By June 30, 1971, the terminal date of this report, redeployments that included one artillery and three infantry battalions had been applied against the new and continuing schedule. A recapitulation of strength changes due to redeployments within fiscal year 1971 indicates that U.S. forces in Vietnam were reduced from 434,000 to 254,700 by June 30, 1971. The bulk of the remaining troops were Army.
In terms of units, the 3d Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division and the 199th Light Infantry Brigade were returned to the United States, to be inactivated on October 13 and 15, 1970, respectively. By December 31; 1970, the remaining two brigades each of the 4th and 25th Infantry Divisions had been redeployed. In the increment ending April 30, 1971, the 1st and 2d Brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), the 2d Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, and the Headquarters and the 1st and 3d Squadrons of the 11th Armored Cavalry regiment were returned to the United States.
The Army continued to contribute on a major and comprehensive scale to the Vietnamization program. Army support of a combined Vietnamese Army and Regional and Popular Force numbering over 950,000 represented the leading U.S. effort under Vietnamization. One of the more important advances in the past year was the expansion of the territorial forces. Regional and Popular Force companies and platoons increased by 649, while the Vietnamese Army's artillery arm increased by about 100 two-gun 105-mm. howitzer platoons. Thirty-seven Ranger Border Defense Battalions were organized by converting Civilian Irregular Defense Groups, and the logistic and combat service support capability of the Vietnamese Army was also improved. Force structure modifications resulted in an over-all increase of about 60,000 Republic of Vietnam armed forces personnel. The U.S. sustainment promoted Vietnamese mobility, firepower, and communications for a substantive increase in combat effectiveness; U.S. equipment, training, supplies, and advice enabled the Vietnamese forces to shoulder a major share of battlefield responsibility. The magnitude of materiel support is indicated in the amounts of several types of equipment delivered to the Vietnamese armed forces to date: 855,000 small arms and crew-served weapons; 1,880 artillery pieces and tanks; 44,000 radios; and 778 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
In addition to military support there were a number of Army contributions of some potential in the long-range development of the Vietnamese economy. Among them were the following activities: the Base Depot Upgrade Program with the short-term purpose of providing Vietnam with a self-sustaining rebuild capability, but with a long-range prospect of providing the country with a modest industrial base; the Line of Communication Program to improve or restore key national and inter-
province roads to make a network of all-weather highways, thereby stimulating economic development through the movement of foods and goods from farms and factories to population centers; and the National Civil Telecommunications System to provide the government of Vietnam with an autonomous civil corporation to operate and maintain communication facilities to serve all military and civil clients.
Although pacification, now referred to as community defense and local development, is only one part of the total war effort in Vietnam, it is in the long run the most important part, for it is designed to produce the social, economic, and political advances that will sustain the people and their government as they seek a just peace. U.S. forces are providing material assistance, advice, and encouragement. Although progress was slow over the past year as a result of enemy reaction, economic problems, domestic strife, and cross-border military operations, advances were made in the following ways: a growing number of Vietnamese citizens enjoyed greater security than ever before; Regional and Popular Forces strength increased by more than 50,000; 96 percent of all village and hamlet and province council officials were elected; the People's Self-Defense Force improved; 30,000 enemy sympathizers rallied to the government under the Chieu Hoi program; and land distribution and reform progressed. Although internal security continued to be hampered by a shortage of competent leaders particularly at the lower echelons, the outlook for progress was good as the year closed. The community defense and local development plan, embracing self-defense, self-government, and self-development objectives, while written in the context of continued conflict with the Communists, reflects the fact that the level of this contest has changed from main force or territorial military attack to an internal security and political and economic contest. The plan serves as a basis for political and economic momentum in the event the Communist security threat further declines.
U.S. Army civil affairs agencies continued to support the operations of U.S. forces and the pacification program under the over-all direction of the Office of Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) and in a wide range of civil affairs and civic action activities. Two civil affairs companies and four platoons operated in Vietnam during the year, chiefly at province and district levels, contributing to the over-all pacification effort by conducting water surveys, providing medical and dental care, assisting refugees, constructing schools and sanitary facilities, providing agricultural advice, and handling foreign claims. An Army engineer control and advisory detachment supported the rural development program, constructing and repairing water supply and purification systems and drilling wells. And U.S. Army military surgical teams continued to work in provincial hospitals,
supporting the Ministry of Public Health by providing medical care for civilians and advice and assistance in public health and sanitation, and training Vietnamese personnel in medical care, health, and sanitation.
Redeployment and Vietnamization were the chief concerns in the logistic field in fiscal year 1971. The withdrawal of large numbers of American soldiers and units from Vietnam meant that huge stocks of supplies and equipment had to be redistributed. Assets and requirements had to be reconciled in U.S. Army, Vietnam, and materiel excess to the needs of the Army and other U.S. agencies had to be disposed of in the most practicable and economical manner.
With the gradual disengagement from an operational logistic role in Southeast Asia, refinements could be made in transportation management. Air and surface transport were brought under tighter control to meet the needs of the user in the field more effectively. Attention centered on improving a variety of transportation programs, existing and projected, and on refining control over shipments, using airlift for selected items, and expanding the use of containerization.
Department of the Army (DA) cargo movements to and from Southeast Asia in fiscal year 1971 amounted to 36 percent of the total worldwide over-ocean movements. Passenger movements amounted to 42 percent of the total. The Military Sealift Command moved 4.6 million measurement tons of this cargo, down approximately 3 million tons from 1970. Air cargo shipments totaled 96 thousand short tons, down 45.6 thousand tons from 1970. Of the total Southeast Asia support, 71 percent of the surface cargo and 58 percent of the air cargo shipments were from the continental United States.
During fiscal year 1971, a total of 243,420 passengers were moved from the continental United States to Southeast Asia. All except 11 of these passengers traveled by air.
As the year closed, the Army was using seven ports in South Vietnam: Newport, Qui Nhon, Cam Ranh Bay, Vung Tau, Cat Lai-Nha Be, and Da Nang, all deep draft ports, and Phan Rang, a shallow draft port. Da Nang, previously a Navy port, was transferred to the Army as the year opened. Nha Trang ceased operation in August 1970 and Vung Ro terminated operations in December 1970. The average time that a ship waited for a berth in Vietnam ports declined from 20.4 days in the critical 1965 period to an average of 1.7 days in 1971. Port congestion was no longer a problem. The deep draft ports attained a daily throughput capacity of 25,755 short tons. During the first three months of fiscal year 1971, port throughput (discharge and out-loading combined) in Army-operated ports in Vietnam averaged 503,-
000 short tons monthly compared with 560,000 for fiscal year 1970. This average decreased substantially in the following quarters because of a reduction in tonnage rather than in handling capacity.
The decrease in ammunition consumption in Southeast Asia, coupled with worldwide improvements in the over-all ammunition posture, led to a reduction from fifty to thirty-three in fiscal year 1971 of the number of allocable ammunition items controlled by the Department of the Army Allocation Committee, Ammunition. Insofar as Vietnam ammunition supply was concerned, two separate systems had evolved there over a period of timeone for U.S. Army forces, the other for Vietnamese forces. During fiscal year 1971 a single ammunition logistic system was begun. It calls for a merger of the U.S. and Vietnamese depot systems, with the consolidated facilities supporting all customers. Eventually, Vietnamese personnel would take over full responsibility for operating the system, with U.S. personnel as advisers. In several areas of Vietnam, the Vietnamese Army had already assumed retail support of U.S. customers as the year ended. Complete turnover will follow at a later date.
Even under the carefully phased withdrawal presently in progress, numerous actions are required from the zone of the interior out to the battlefield to insure an orderly and economical operation. Millions of dollars have been invested in the procurement, shipment, maintenance, storage, and use of U.S. materiel in Vietnam. The Army has developed a number of programs to insure the most efficient redistribution and redeployment actions. Under the Keystone program, for example, predisposition instructions were prepared to guide logistical agencies at all levels in handling the equipment that would become available as units were deactivated. Estimates were compared with continuing requirements of U.S. units remaining in the battle zone, with Vietnamization needs, with Pacific area military assistance considerations, and with Army requirements worldwide. In the fiscal year the Keystone program identified over $521.6 million in principal items for redistribution.
Another control developed by the Department of the Army was the Vietnam Asset Reconciliation Procedure, to balance major item requirements with assets in U.S. Army, Vietnam. Steps were also taken to automate the materiel management system for the Republic of Vietnam armed forces, for which the U.S. Army has been designated the primary support agency.
Equipment readiness remained high in the Pacific area in fiscal year 1971. Although large quantities of unserviceable equipment generated by the phase-down were restored in Vietnam, requirements for performing depot maintenance elsewhere increased. The Pacific depot maintenance program was funded at $43.7 million, higher than in previous years because of equipment backlog and the increased repair
capability in the region. The maintenance cycle was shortened and transportation and replacement requirements reduced as a result of the Pacific regional repair capability.
Materiel and supply management attention was focused on using stocks in Southeast Asia effectively. A controlled program was instituted to carry out the transfer of major equipment items from U.S. to Vietnamese armed forces, and large quantities of consumables, secondary items, and ammunition were transferred to the Vietnamese Army. Shipments from the United States were thus limited to essential combat items, because of the major stocks already on hand in Southeast Asia.
The transfer of installations to the South Vietnamese was also accelerated, phased to the ability of the Vietnamese to maintain and operate real property. Indigenous personnel were trained to operate equipment and systems, so that during fiscal year 1971 over sixty Army installations were transferred to the Vietnamese. Such major combat bases as Engineer Hill, Camp Radcliff, Duc Pho Bronco, Phuoc Vinh-Gorvad Tay Ninh, Quan Loi, Dau Tieng, Cu Chi, and portions of Di An and Lai Khe were among those turned over.
The gradual expansion of the Vietnamese Army over the past several years and the introduction of complex equipment led to increases in support costs as well as in the costs associated with initial authorizations. Baseline equipment levels were established that enabled the Army to hold costs within departmental budget limits. Under the military assistance service-funded program for the Vietnamese Army, requirements were regularly reviewed and costs were held within program goals despite the increased scope and magnitude of combat operations.
The engineer force in Vietnam was reduced in fiscal year 1971 from about 30,000 to around 20,000 people. Engineer troop efforts during the year were distributed for the most part equally between combat and operational support and the lines of communication program. Only about 10 percent was devoted to base construction.
Engineer units continued a program of active affiliation with Vietnamese engineer units. Vietnamese land-clearing companies were trained and equipped and operated successfully in land-clearing operations in the field. Civilianization programs at various industrial sites markedly reduced troop requirements and provided valuable training and improvement in Vietnamese capabilities.
The Lines of Communication Program was the most significant construction activity in Vietnam. Initiated in 1966, it provides for a network of modern, high-speed highways connecting population centers
and strategic areas in South Vietnam. The over-all objectives are to support tactical operations by providing routes for the safe movement of materiel and fire support; to accelerate the pacification program by opening up previously inaccessible areas to military forces; and to stimulate the economic development of the country by promoting the free movement of food and goods from farm and factory to market.
Under the program, 4,100 kilometers of national and interprovincial highways are being improved to provide an all-weather, two-lane, class-50 road network extending from the demilitarized zone to the Mekong Delta. By June 30, 1971, nearly 2,100 kilometers of highway had been completed by U.S. Army engineers and contract crews. The Navy completed its segment of about 400 kilometers as well. Under the Vietnamization program, Vietnamese Army units are responsible for 482 kilometers of the total.
The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong continued to use nuisance mining and booby traps against Free World forces in South Vietnam, and on an undiminished scale. Because the enemy can choose the time, place, and type of materiel to be used, this kind of action is difficult to guard against. Considerable effort was devoted in the past year to countering this kind of enemy activity through individual and unit training, surveillance and denial measures, and detection and neutralization devices. In addition to training conducted within units, a team from U.S. Army, Vietnam, visited combat units to instruct them in the latest doctrine and techniques in mine and countermine warfare. Development was begun on a data bank to assemble all aspects of mine warfarepast, present, and futureto assist the Army in meeting the problem more effectively.
Employment of unattended ground sensors and other surveillance and detection devices in areas of high enemy mining activity was used to counter specific threats. Conventional mine detectors were improved, and their issue to U.S. units was met with enthusiasm. A wide range of research projects were under way during the year to develop mine detection and neutralization hardware. The role of scatterable mines in tactical and strategic operations against enemy forces was also under continuous study.
On March 1, 1971, the 1st Signal Brigade, U.S. Army Strategic, Communications Command, transferred responsibility for operation and maintenance of a major portion of the U.S. fixed communications military system in Vietnam to the Federal Electric Corporation. The change was another step in the process of reducing the U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia.
The contract is a cost-plus-award-fee type under which the Federal
Electric Corporation may receive up to a 6 percent fee for satisfactory performance or be penalized up to 2 percent for unsatisfactory performance. First year contract costs are expected to amount to about $15 million. Federal Electric Corporation was awarded the contract in competition with three other final bidders.
The contract provided initially for the operation and maintenance of thirty-eight integrated communications system (ICS) microwave and tropospheric scatter radio sites, fifteen dial telephone exchanges, and two area maintenance support facilities. The contractor was also to provide full-time maintenance support for one unmanned dial telephone exchange, one secure voice automatic switchboard, one automatic digital network switchboard for data and written messages, and maintenance support for microwave links connected to unmanned undersea cable terminals. On-call maintenance was to be provided for eight other ICS sites which would continue to be manned by U.S. Army personnel. The contractor was also required to provide communications engineering services and on-the-job training to U.S. and Vietnamese military personnel as needed to support the phase-down of U.S. forces and the turnover of communications facilities to Vietnam. The contractor provided approximately 1,600 U.S., Vietnamese, and third country civilian personnel to assume these responsibilities, releasing about 2,400 U.S. Army personnel for other duties or redeployment. The contract was written for a one-year period with renewal options and provisions for extension to other areas of Southeast Asia. Its scope will be reduced in consonance with future reductions in U.S. forces and activities. The contractor will be required to train Vietnamese personnel and be prepared to turn over a somewhat reduced system to the Republic of Vietnam as part of a single integrated telecommunications system that will serve both military and civil needs for Vietnam.
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Last updated 9 August 2004