From 1963 to 1965 the Civilian Irregular Defense Group program continued to develop rapidly and there were changes not only in its organization and command structure but also in its mission. New combat techniques evolved and the integral role the CIDG would play in the U.S. counterinsurgency effort in Vietnam began to take shape. The Montagnard uprising forced a re-evaluation of the program and placed new emphasis on developing satisfactory turnover procedures. The U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam became the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Attention continued to be devoted to civic action and psychological operations with further augmentation of the Special Forces in these areas, and there were new developments in the logistical support system for the CIDG program.
With the phase-out on 1 July 1963 of the U.S. Mission's logistical responsibility for the CIDG program, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, assumed complete responsibility for all Special Forces activities in Vietnam, with the exception of four A detachments engaged in surveillance along the Laotian border. These detachments passed to the control of the Military Assistance Command in November 1963 when it became responsible for everything, including the entire border surveillance mission, in the CIDG program. In order to achieve closer co-ordination between Special Forces (Provisional), Vietnam, and Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, a tactical operations center, composed of the S-2 and S-3 sections from Nha Trang, was established in Saigon in March 1964. The logistical support center S-1 and S-4 staff sections and the headquarters section remained in Nha Trang. This split command remained unchanged until the end of October 1964.
Until May 1964 the Special Forces chain of command—from headquarters at Nha Trang to B detachments at the four corps
headquarters to operational A detachments—remained unchanged and distinct within the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, chain. With the growth of the U.S. advisory effort and the expansion of counterinsurgency programs, there was an increasing need for better co-ordination at all levels, particularly in the field where in many areas CIDG camps were near Vietnamese Army and provincial units. Accordingly, on 1 May 1964, in order to integrate more effectively the CIDG program within the countrywide pacification program, operational control of Special Forces A and B detachments was transferred to the Military Assistance Command senior advisers in each corps tactical zone. The Vietnamese Special Forces were already under corps command, so both the U.S. Special Forces and the Vietnamese Special Forces were responsive to the same command levels.
During Operation SWITCHBACK, a number of CIDG camps had been placed along the Laotian-Cambodian border. (See Map 4.) Emphasis was placed on expanding the Montagnard area development camps toward the border to provide border-screening forces. After Operation SWITCHBACK, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, placed even greater emphasis on border surveillance and control. The Border Surveillance-Control Operating Concept drafted by Special Forces (Provisional), Vietnam, specified the following missions for U.S. and Vietnamese Special Forces: recruit and train personnel to serve in border surveillance and control units in populated areas; establish intelligence nets in the border areas to detect infiltration; direct psychological indoctrination and civic action programs in the border control zone; gain control of the international border little by little and gradually expand small secure areas until the border zone should be permanently under the control of the Border Command; and conduct guerrilla warfare—long-range patrol activities to deny the border areas to the Viet Cong by detection, interdiction, harassment, and elimination of the infiltration routes parallel to or through the border control zone.
In November 1963 the U.S. Mission's responsibility for border surveillance was terminated and the mission assigned to Special Forces (Provisional), Vietnam. From this date, priority was given to the establishment of CIDG camps near the border where they could carry out a border surveillance or area development center and border surveillance mission, depending on the density of the population in the area. CIDG and Special Forces did not, however, have the entire mission. The Vietnamese Pacification Plan called for use of both CIDG camps and Vietnamese Ranger battalions.
Other government forces manned approximately seventy-six border outposts, mainly of a static, defensive type, with a total strength of 3,860 men. In contrast, the CIDG concept involved active patrolling by screening forces, which often operated from forward operating bases when the CIDG campsite was some distance from the border. By 1 July 1964, twenty-five border projects employing eighteen Special Forces detachments and 11,250 strike force troops had been initiated.
Planning and organization for border surveillance was based on the planning factor that a CIDG camp could exert appreciable influence over the area within a ten-kilometer radius of the camp. The ideal distance, then, between border surveillance camps would presumably have been twenty kilometers. The addition of two border camps in IV Corps in late 1964, which resulted in an average distance of twenty-seven kilometers between camps, was the closest Special Forces (Provisional), Vietnam, was able to come to this spacing interval.
A strike force ceiling of 20,000 was set in November 1963 to be attained by July 1964. In March 1964, a table of organization and equipment for a CIDG light guerrilla company was issued. (Chart
CHART 5—ORGANIZATION OF CIVILIAN IRREGULAR DEFENSE GROUP COMPANY IN 1964 (13.7 KB)
5) The conventionalization of CIDG forces had begun. Before this, the Special Forces troops and their counterparts had enjoyed considerable leeway in determining the strength of the CIDG forces at the various camps. The number of CIDG troops at any camp reflected, to the extent possible, the nature of anticipated operations as well as the possible recruits in the area.
The importance of the area development mission continued to fall off during this period with the shift of the program to the borders. The area development mission was still in force in border surveillance posts where there were adequate population resources, but many camps were located in such isolated regions as I Corps in the north where no such resources existed. In cases such as these, irregulars often had to be hired for pay and transported, along with their families, to the campsites. Very few hamlet militia were trained; the emphasis would be on off-site offensive operations, with a corresponding increase in advanced individual training and tactical practice for the civilian irregulars involved.
Another trend toward the conventional employment of CIDG forces was their increased use in joint operations with Vietnam Army and other government units after assumption of their opera-
tional control by corps. In such operations, CIDG forces were used as regular troops in activities for which they had not been intended and, in many cases, for which they had not been trained or equipped.
The ethnic composition of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group also expanded during this period to embrace Cambodians and the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao, religious sects in the Mekong Delta. These groups, like the Montagnards, did not always have the same goals as the government, which accepted their inclusion in the program reluctantly. (Table 2)
The initiation of new projects and the construction of camps constituted the major portion of the Special Forces effort during this period, largely as a result of the shift of attention to the borders under the border surveillance mission. Approximately thirty camps were opened. (Map 5) At that time, there were forty-four A detachments in Vietnam with four B detachments controlling them— one in each corps tactical zone. Another B detachment was assigned to the Vietnamese Special Forces Training Center at Dong Ba Thin, just south of Nha Trang. A corollary to the opening of new camps was the requirement to close a number of other sites and a subsequent relocation of these troops to camps nearer the border. The Special Forces participated in the turnover or closeout of approximately thirty CIDG camps during this period. In areas that were considered secure, the paramilitary forces were turned over to provincial officials; in others, notably I Corps, the number of Montagnards available for CIDG recruitment was always very small and rapidly absorbed.
The assumption of the border surveillance mission and the deemphasis on area development resulted in a training requirement for strike force troops only. Very few hamlet militia were trained after November 1963, almost none after April 1964. Basic training continued for strike force recruits, and much effort was devoted to retraining former members of the CIDG forces.
There were a number of developments in the area of combat operations during the July 1963-May 1965 period, just before the extensive buildup of conventional U.S. forces. These were significant in that they laid the foundation for the combat operations that would characterize the Special Forces civilian irregulars in the years 1965-1970.
Emphasis continued to be placed on the offensive role of strike
TABLE 2—ETHNIC BACKGROUND OF STRIKE FORCES AT U.S. SPECIAL FORCES CIDG CAMPS, OCTOBER 1964
MAP 5-- U.S. SPECIAL FORCES DEPLOYMENT, 20 OCTOBER 1964 (16.3 KB)
forces in both area development and border surveillance operations. The border surveillance operations were not as effective as the planners had hoped. The camps were too far apart, averaging twenty-eight miles between each, and the indigenous CIDG platoon and squad leaders were not really capable of conducting their own independent patrolling. It was typical for a new border surveillance camp to engage and inflict casualties on the Viet Cong for a few weeks, then to relapse into inertia. The Viet Cong were clever enough to avoid contact on the border, as well as in the interior where they had no immediate operational interest. Their purposes were served if their main force units, groups of replacements, and resupply columns could cross such areas undetected. There was no interlocking, lateral patrol pattern between border surveillance camps. Each camp was authorized four companies. Two companies were supposed to be on the border at all times, operating from forward bases in a wide linear deployment that subdivided the company into platoons, sections, and five-man reconnaissance teams; but this arrangement did not work very well in practice. It is doubtful that the negative intelligence reports by CIDG patrols were of much value. Eighteen border sites, with a total of sixty-three strike force companies assigned, gave a density of one company to twenty-eight miles of border, or, in terms of continuous patrolling on a 24-hour basis, one platoon to twenty-eight miles. This constituted only a minor presence on the border. As a result, the border surveillance camps had no real success in controlling enemy movement across the border. The continued existence of the camps, however, was still justified, because they were able to continue valuable surveillance missions and collect a variety of intelligence data and, where located in populated areas, they contributed significantly to area development.
The U.S. Special Forces and Vietnamese Special Forces counterpart command structure had its effect on the combat operations conducted in the CIDG program. Vietnamese Special Forces counterparts consistently resisted patrolling in squads and platoons. They argued reasonably that they lacked trained, indigenous CIDG leaders. The shortage of leaders among the irregulars, however, was an inescapable consequence of the Vietnamese Special Forces refusal to allow leadership training in the camps. Even with this shortage of leaders, many border operations were planned in camp to break down into small squad-size patrols on arrival at the border, but the plan was seldom carried out. Once away from camp, the Vietnamese Special Forces patrol commanders frequently found a plausible excuse for changing the plan and keeping the force to-
gether as a company. The Vietnamese Special Forces also resisted patrolling at night. The night outpost "ambush" was a Special Forces compromise, which had the value of placing armed troops in a location outside the camp without the necessity for insisting on patrolling.
Command problems also arose. Vietnamese Special Forces men normally served as strike force commanders both in the CIDG camp and on operations. On patrol, however, the Vietnamese Special Forces often abdicated this role, with command then going to the U.S. Special Forces by default. When Vietnamese Special Forces commanders demonstrated a complete inability to exercise command in situations in which everyone's safety depended on the issuance of orders, or when delay meant defeat or allowing the enemy to escape, some U.S. Special Forces detachment commanders were virtually forced to assume command authority. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the good rapport that readily developed between Special Forces and strike force troops tended to diminish the authority of the counterpart Vietnamese Special Forces almost to the point of eliminating them from the chain of command.
In general, the operational effectiveness of the U.S. Special Forces CIDG in this period was hindered by two things. The Montagnard uprising in September 1964 caused a loss of momentum, and, combined with heavy rains in the highlands, severely restricted offensive operations for the last quarter of 1964. Until mid-1965, despite the assignment of additional missions, the pattern of CIDG operations remained essentially the same as that described above: patrols were generally of company size, and were carried out in daylight. The target was the local Viet Cong shadow government.
On 15 May 1964 the U.S. Mission in Saigon initiated a new program called Project Leaping Lena, with the mission of conducting reconnaissance operations in Vietnam. Under Leaping Lena, Special Forces A detachments trained Vietnamese Special Forces and CIDG troops in techniques of long-range reconnaissance patrolling. In June Leaping Lena began to be transferred to the Military Assistance Command and the Special Forces under Operation SWITCHBACK procedures. Under the Military Assistance Command and the Special Forces, Leaping Lena would become Project Delta, the first of the special operations which would come to be among the most powerful and effective combat operations of the Vietnam War. Project Delta had a long-range reconnaissance and intelligence gathering mission as its basic operating concept. Organized into a reconnaissance element and a reaction force, at full
operating capacity Project Delta would comprise about 600 men, both U.S. and Vietnamese, plus an advisory command element organized as a modified B detachment. The typical reconnaissance element consisted of eight road patrol teams of four indigenous personnel each, and sixteen reconnaissance teams of two Special Forces and four indigenous personnel each. The reaction force was a battalion equivalent of three or more companies; for Project Delta, this force was a Vietnamese Army Ranger battalion while other projects used Montagnard troop units.
Another special operations force, the mobile strike force had its beginnings in this period. In October 1964 a mobile strike force, dubbed the "Eagle Flight," was formed in II Corps Tactical Zone. It was the forerunner of the mobile reaction forces which consisted of highly trained CIDG units organized into separate companies at Special Forces company (corps or field force) and Special Forces operational base level for use as reserve and reinforcement elements to CIDG camps threatened or under attack by superior numbers of the enemy. Mobile strike forces were also capable of conducting raids, ambushes, combat patrols, and other small-scale conventional combat operations independently, in conjunction with other CIDG units, or in support of conventional forces. When organized in 1964, the mobile strike forces were placed under unilateral U.S. Special Forces command. It would not be until December 1966 that they would come under joint U.S. Special Forces-Vietnamese Special Forces command. Throughout their existence, mobile strike forces maintained a flexibility of organization, but usually a typical company would have a headquarters element, three rifle platoons, a weapons platoon, and a reconnaissance platoon. As in the case of other special operations forces, the mobile strike forces were airborne qualified.
Viet Cong operations in the vicinity of CIDG camps continued at a high level of intensity throughout the 1963-1965 period; three major Viet Cong attacks took place and the camps at Hiep Hoa and Polei Krong were overrun. The enemy victories spotlighted two major weaknesses of the CIDG camp system at that time: each camp was on its own during the hours of darkness and if attacked the arrival of reinforcements was unlikely until daylight; and in areas where the Viet Cong effectively controlled the villagers and could rely on their silence, it was possible for a Viet Cong battalion to preserve surprise right up to the moment it launched its attack at close range. CIDG camps were also infiltrated by Viet Cong posing as loyal troopers and helping the enemy with intelligence and interior support when the attacks began.
Two nights after the Polei Krong attack, the Viet Cong attempted a similar raid on the 300-member strike force at Nam Dong in the southwest portion of Thua Thien Province in I Corps area. At 0230 on 6 July 1964 an estimated reinforced battalion of several hundred Viet Cong launched a co-ordinated attack. It opened with a shattering mortar barrage that hit most of the key installations, followed by the three ground assaults. The camp, however, was not overrun. The U.S. Special Forces troops and the Nungs put up a gallant fight and held the inner perimeter until dawn, when the Viet Cong withdrew.
Nam Dong had been scheduled to be closed out for lack of recruiting potential and its defenses were not in good shape. Tall grass had been allowed to grow on otherwise good fields of fire right up to the outer perimeter, and the defenses of the inner perimeter were reasonably sound more by chance than by a deliberately constructed defensive feature. It was an old French installation, too small to contain the strike force; it was therefore used as the core of a larger camp and housed the Special Forces and the Nungs. This inner perimeter of defense helped save Nam Dong; the "hardened" and "fighting" camps developed within the next few years would utilize the second interior perimeter defense, or mutually supporting positions, extensively and with success. Even with total penetration and breakdown of the first perimeter, a camp could be held from the inner perimeter.
There is evidence that the Viet Cong had been attempting to undermine the loyalty of the garrison. Agitators had appeared in the village and treated members of the strike force to drinks. On the day before the attack, there had been some rock-throwing; even a few weapons had been fired by the Vietnamese civilians. In the afternoon there had been a show of reconciliation, but the Nung leader feared more trouble. That night none of the Nungs slept in their quarters. All were at their posts, armed and alert, when the attack came.
A circumstance that favored the Viet Cong was a peculiar decision on the part of the district chief, whose headquarters was at Khe Tre, a village at the other end of the valley about a three-hour march away. He insisted that his Civil Guard companies do all the patrolling west of the airstrip and had forbidden the Nam Dong garrison to send any patrols into the area adjacent to the campsite in the direction from which the attack came.
The enemy approached from the northwest across the river and the airstrip. Surprise was complete. Ten mortar concentrations within fifteen minutes shattered the night and paralyzed the de-
fenders. Only one fragmentary message was received by the B detachment at Da Nang. The radio shack was hit early, but the Special Forces radio operator who slept there rolled over as the first round exploded and tapped out at 0235 "under intense mortar attack." It is estimated that 80 percent of the casualties occurred within the first fifteen minutes of the attack when the radio shack, the Nung barracks, and the dispensary were knocked out. The camp was badly cratered—much more severely than Hiep Hoa or Polei Krong.
As the mortar barrage lifted, the first assault rolled over the outer perimeter. Strike force troops who were not actually on watch had been asleep in their barracks, but the Nungs were at their posts, manning machine guns and fighting in the communications trenches. Unlike that in Polei Krong, ammunition at Nam Dong was stockpiled close to the gun positions. The Nungs fought well; a number of them were wounded, but none were killed.
The Viet Cong had crept up to the exterior lines of barbed wire through the tall grass and breached the wires apparently before launching the attack so that they could toss hand grenades into an open 81-mm. mortar emplacement. This emplacement was the scene of heroic action when the U.S. detachment commander, Captain Roger H. C. Donlon, who was himself wounded, repeatedly attempted to rescue a team member wounded by grenades. Captain Donlon was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Two more assaults were directed at the inner perimeter. The Viet Cong charged in with great elan; some did not stop until disabled by the intense fire. Close examination of the dead Viet Cong after the action suggested that the attacking force had been increased by special shock troops just before the operation. Among those killed close to the inner perimeter while leading the assault elements were well set-up, well-muscled young men with closecropped hair and clean fingernails and toenails, an indication that they had not been in the jungle very long.
The defenders held out, but dawn was welcome for they had little ammunition left. There was no relief until daylight. It was the Vietnamese Independence Day weekend and the Vietnamese pilots were off in Da Nang. Nothing was ready to go. The flareship was not even loaded, but it finally got over the target at 0430 and reported the entire camp ablaze. The Vietnamese district chief at Khe Tre had heard the firing and assembled his two Civil Guard companies for march, but, fearing ambush, he would not start until first light. As the column approached the village outside the camp, it met the last withdrawing elements of the Viet Cong.
Following the attacks on these three camps, Special Forces (Provisional), Vietnam, issued a detailed and extensive standing operating procedure on CIDG camp security for use by U.S. detachment commanders in advising their Vietnamese Special Forces counterparts. The Special Forces began to use small groups of Nungs as special security forces for certain CIDG camps, principally in I Corps and II Corps. The Nungs, many of whom had fought with the French during the Indochina War, proved to be excellent soldiers. They entered into contracts with the U.S. Special Forces and were directly responsible to them.
In the early stages of the CIDG program, the U.S. Mission in Saigon employed a flexible and militarily unorthodox system to supply CIDG camps. The Army adopted many of these methods to provide a system of logistics unique in U.S. military history. It was not part of the U.S. Military Assistance Program for Vietnam, and it was independent of Military Assistance Advisory Group and Vietnam Army control. Funding was handled under a phase of the Operation SWITCHBACK program called PARASOL-SWITCHBACK. Under PARASOL-SWITCHBACK, funds for the CIDG program were received by Special Forces headquarters in Vietnam. The U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Support Office was established on Okinawa on 27 February 1963 and assigned the mission of supporting the Special Forces programs through triservice depots and local procurement sources and accounting for the PARASOL-SWITCHBACK funds expended outside Vietnam. Many items of clothing and equipment, for example, had to be obtained from markets in other countries because of size problems, composition of material, and equipment which had to be tailored to Montagnard measurements. Funds for procurement and salaries of civilian irregulars in Vietnam were accounted for by Special Forces headquarters.
There were ten key features of the Special Forces logistical system for the CIDG program.
1. Control of material, transportation, and funds (including CIDG troop pay) was kept in U.S. hands down to the point of issue to the ultimate users.
2. Local purchases of goods and services were authorized at all levels, with cash from current operating funds.
3. Requisitioning, justification, stock control, and other procedures were, initially at least, simple and informal.
4. Deliveries of equipment and supplies to A detachments from
higher echelons were made from the Logistical Support Center at Nha Trang directly to the A detachments.
5. Air transportation, with supplies landed or dropped, was the predominant method of delivery.
6. Maintenance by replacement took the place of repairing equipment on the site.
7. A special Counterinsurgency Support Office was established in Headquarters, U.S. Army, Ryukyu Islands, Okinawa, to control and expedite Special Forces external logistical support.
8. U.S. balance-of-payments control regulations were waived, permitting unlimited direct overseas procurement.
9. A special "quick-reacting supply and procurement" procedure was devised to provide quick procurement service in the United States for unusual needs.
10. Formal accountability was dropped on shipment of material to the Special Forces, and justification of requests was not required above the level of the Special Forces operational base.
Rations for CIDG troops, petroleum products, and other goods used on a daily basis were obtained in Vietnam through local and central procurement. Construction materials, labor, and services were also largely procured and paid for locally. Rations for American military personnel along with standard equipment and supplies were obtained from the U.S. Army Support Group and later U.S. Army, Vietnam, and the U.S. commissary in Saigon, and were supplemented by local purchases at each echelon.
The Special Forces Logistical Supply Center at Nha Trang aimed at keeping a sixty-day stock level of standard-issue items and those special items that had in effect become standard for the CIDG program, for example, uniforms and jungle boots for CIDG troops. Three of the four B detachments maintained emergency five-day stocks, particularly of ammunition and medical supplies. Because of the bad weather prevailing in I Corps during the monsoon, the forward supply point at the B detachment at Da Nang kept fifteenday stocks. Over 9,000 line items of all classes of supplies were handled. In the last three months of 1964, a monthly average of 1,335 tons was distributed from the center at Nha Trang, of which 1,245 tons were delivered by air.
The most significant organizational change in the logistics system during this period was the establishment of forward supply points, like the one at Da Nang in I Corps and at the other B detachment headquarters in Pleiku, Saigon, and Can Tho. At each of these points a five-day emergency stock was maintained for A
detachments. Four basic advantages were derived from the employment of the forward supply points in each corps tactical zone: aircraft could be used to the maximum extent, the response time to subordinate detachments' requests was reduced, the stockpile was dispersed, and a more effective use was made of sea lift.
Civic Action and Psychological Operations
The role and purpose of civic action in the context of insurgency-counterinsurgency is sometimes confused with that of psychological operations. Civic action, apart from its nation-building and humanitarian aspects, should be recognized as an activity calculated to prepare the way for psychological operations. By generating a sense of goodwill in the population through specific beneficial actions, a state of mind favorable to psychological operations is created among the people. These operations, if carefully planned and skillfully executed, promote a sense of loyalty to the government and motivate the people to co-operate with the government in order to defeat the insurgency. The two activities may proceed concurrently and may even be carried out by the same person or persons.
The border surveillance sites in isolated areas did not offer the same opportunities for civic action that existed in the area development centers. Nevertheless, Special Forces men, to the extent practicable, ran medical dispensaries, helped build schools and local markets, and initiated sanitation, agricultural, and home improvement projects. As the CIDG program developed, it became customary for the two medical noncommissioned officers in each A detachment to hold sick call at the CIDG camp dispensary or in the adjoining village two or three times a week for the benefit of CIDG dependents, the local villagers, and any others from the surrounding countryside. After establishing this routine, the aidmen would extend their activities by conducting village sick calls in outlying villages, taking their medicines and equipment in a jeep or on their backs.
The contribution by the medical men is generally considered to be the most influential and productive of all the various civic action programs—and by far the biggest success with the people. By the spring of 1964, over 1.5 million people had been helped by the Special Forces in the medical programs under civic action. Special Forces medical men and their Vietnamese assistants treated wounds, fractures, sores, and infections; gave immunizations and pills for many diseases and illnesses; pulled teeth; and delivered babies.
They also supervised and helped in the building of village dispensaries.
Co-operating with U.S. civilian agencies, the U.S. Army Special Forces conducted a wide variety of nonmedical civic actions including distribution of relief supplies to refugees (food, clothing, blankets, cooking utensils, soap, and toothbrushes—all furnished by the United States Operations Mission, CARE, religious groups, and families of Special Forces troops back home); building and repairing schools, dispensaries, playgrounds, marketplaces, pagodas, latrines, orphanages, and leprosariums; digging wells, clearing land, carrying out irrigation and drainage projects; constructing and repairing roads, bridges, and culverts; distributing tools, fertilizer, and seed received from United States Operations Mission and CARE; working for rodent and insect control; improving the grade of chickens and pigs with breeding stock provided by United States Operations Mission; building ponds and stocking them with fish provided by United States Operations Mission; distributing school books, pencils, notebooks, blackboards, and chalk; conducting classes in English for CIDG troops and in some cases local officials; and establishing co-operative stores where local
produce and handicrafts could be sold and manufactured articles purchased. In remote and dangerous areas, Special Forces men sometimes acted as the forward agents or representatives for U.S. civilian agencies.
Two typical monthly reports submitted by A detachments in March 1964 further show the wide range of Special Forces activity. Civic action activities conducted by one Special Forces A detachment in one month included 925 patients treated at the camp dispensary; 1,963 patients treated in three neighboring villages; land cleared for growing dry rice and vegetables; security fence constructed for a strategic hamlet (villagers who were physically able to work furnished the labor); food provided for a leper colony nearby; two new houses constructed for the leper colony (clothing, tools, and other implements for the colony were purchased at the local market and at the district capital instead of being requested through normal supply channels, since the lepers were familiar with the local tools and worked better with them); and a co-operative store established to resell at a small profit merchandise bought at the district capital.
A recapitulation of civic action activities conducted in a single
month by all Special Forces detachments deployed throughout Vietnam at that time included the distribution of 7,800 kilograms of rice, 1,000 pounds of salt, milk, fish, and other foods; 300 sets of clothing and school uniforms and quantities of yard goods and blankets; and school supplies, including textbooks, for various town schools. Twenty-four truckloads of bamboo and thatch were delivered to one village; bridges, roads, wells, and schools were repaired; cement was donated for the improvement of one pagoda and one Catholic church; 33,130 patients were treated at CIDG camp dispensaries; 23,140 patients were treated in neighboring villages by U.S. Special Forces and Vietnam Special Forces medical men or village health workers; 119 villages were visited by medical patrols; and 3,000 typhoid inoculations were administered.
Americans were the driving force behind civic action; the attitude of the Vietnamese and even the people involved, occasionally, was disappointingly indifferent. There were some encouraging instances of genuine concern on the part of district chiefs, province chiefs, Vietnamese Special Forces camp commanders, and other government officials for the welfare of the people, but many reports of Special Forces units mentioned the unsympathetic attitude of their Vietnamese Special Forces counterparts toward the civilian population. The following is an excerpt from the section on civic action in a U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, study of Tay Ninh Province dated 23 December 1963:
Vietnamese military action in the province is almost non-existent. The scope of civic action projects being accomplished by USOM and US military personnel includes education, commerce, transportation, public welfare, health, and sanitation. But the refusal of ARVN military personnel to cooperate and assist in these projects results in failure to achieve the objectives of military civic action (goodwill leading to support for the GVN).
While a few isolated instances of military civic action have occurred, the prevailing attitude among military personnel is that manual labor which assists civilians is beneath a soldier's dignity. The degree of indifference of the military toward civilian welfare was exemplified when the Vietnamese soldiers refused to help unload USOM emergency food supplies for a hamlet destroyed by the Viet Cong. The arrogant, inconsiderate treatment of civilians by soldiers has caused many civilians to support the Viet Cong.
A milder form of the military resistance to civic action was the reluctance of Vietnamese soldiers to help build houses for the civilians on the grounds that they saw no reason to help some questionable refugee to have a house when their own families' housing was so poor. Province chiefs and district chiefs were in many cases not disposed to contribute to civic action. Supplies in-
tended for relief purposes or for civic action projects were occasionally siphoned off into commercial channels, or the intended recipients were made to pay for them instead of receiving them free.
The villagers were generally receptive to medical attention and to relief and welfare aid. The benefits to the individual were direct and tangible. Reactions to larger community-improvement projects, however, were not always what an American would expect. Villagers were willing to work on such projects if they were paid for their labor and for the materials they provided, but the concept of co-operative self-help with an unpaid contribution from each participant seemed foreign to their nature or culture patterns. Such projects had only limited success.
Psychological operations conducted in connection with the CIDG program began with emphasis on the direct day-to-day, person-to-person approach based on thorough knowledge and understanding of the ways of the local villagers and their leaders. Later, under Vietnam Army and Vietnamese Special Forces management, it became largely a mass-media program with one-time lectures to assembled groups, film showings (American westerns were very popular), loudspeaker broadcasts, and the distribution of printed matter. Until the 1964-1965 period, Vietnamese military participation in psychological operations was minimal; Special Forces provided most of the initiative, often without fixed guidelines, using their imagination in ad hoc programs. In the period 1964-1965 an augmentation of men qualified in civic action and psychological operations was provided to the Special Forces, with a resultant improvement in the program.
The Montagnard Uprising
The bad feeling between the Montagnards and the Vietnamese flared into an armed uprising in September 1964. The Montagnards struck in five CIDG camps in the II Corps Tactical Zone: Buon Mi Ga, Buon Sar Pa, Bu Prang, Ban Don, and Buon Brieng. During the night of September 19-20, sixty-four CIDG troops disarmed and restricted their U.S. Special Forces advisers and rebelled against the government. At Bu Prang the mobile strike force troops killed fifteen of their Vietnamese leaders and later killed seventeen Popular Forces soldiers and two civilians at a nearby Popular Forces post. The Buon Sar Pa Mobile Strike Force with help from Bu Prang killed eleven Vietnamese Special Forces troops at their camp, seized the district headquarters at Dak Mil, and
advanced on the town of Ban Me Thuot, the province capital. Two hundred Vietnamese civilians were also rounded up and held at the Buon Sar Pa camp. The CIDG force at Ban Don bound and gagged their Vietnamese Special Forces advisers and marched on Ban Me Thuot. The camp at Buon Brieng, although requested to do so, did not join in the uprising—mainly as a result of the cool-headed actions of the U.S. Special Forces detachment commander, Captain Vernon P. Gillespie.
These disorders constituted an armed challenge to the government. By late evening of 20 September, however, most of the insurgent elements had returned to their base camps. U.S. Special Forces A detachment leaders at Bu Prang, Ban Don, and Buon Brieng personally persuaded their Rhade units not to march on Ban Me Thuot, but those at Buon Sar Pa and Buon Mi Ga were less successful. The following six days were marked by an uneasy calm during which leaders of both sides negotiated. On 28 September the situation was finally brought under control by U.S. advisers acting as intermediaries.
Montagnard demands presented to Vietnamese officials at a conference in Pleiku from 15 to 17 October included: publishing of government policy in regard to landownership and relations between Montagnards and the government; representation in the National Assembly and at the district and province levels of government; positions in government bureaus and local government offices; larger Montagnard quotas in Vietnamese officer and noncommissioned officers schools; Montagnard tribunals; and certain symbols of Montagnard autonomy, for example a Montagnard flag, Montagnard languages taught in primary schools, and retention of Montagnard names for cities and villages. Government representatives agreed to some of these demands and promised to study the others.
The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
In the early summer of 1964, two decisions were made concerning the future employment of the U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam: to expand the Special Forces organization to a full group, and to change the tour from a six-month temporary duty assignment to a one-year permanent change of station.
The emphasis on the border surveillance mission after the takeover from the U.S. Mission, the further development of that mission as stated in the Vietnamese Pacification Plan for 1964, and other new missions under consideration created a requirement for
TABLE 3—ORGANIZATION OF U.S. SPECIAL FORCES DETACHMENTS
TABLE 4—STATUS REPORT, U.S. SPECIAL FORCES CIDG CAMPS, OCTOBER 1964
TABLE 5—U.S. SPECIAL FORCES CIDG Camps Established in Vietnam, July 1961- October 1964
more Special Forces detachments. In March 1964, the commanding officer of Special Forces (Provisional), Vietnam, had requested eleven additional A detachments, three B detachments, and four C detachments—in effect an increase to a full group. In the spring of 1964, Special Forces (Provisional), Vietnam, became an established command and was officially designated U.S. Army Special Forces, Vietnam. Finally, on 1 October 1964, the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, with an authorized strength of 1,297, was assigned to Vietnam. The introduction of the 5th Special Forces Group and the transition to permanent change of station was to be phased, with the first nine permanent change of station A detachments arriving on 28 September 1964. All temporary duty detachments were to depart by 1 May 1965. By the end of September there were five B and forty-four A detachments in Vietnam, of which one B and three A detachments were assigned to special projects, plus a signal element and twenty-man psychological operations and civic action augmentation unit. By February 1965 Special Forces strength would rise to four C, twelve B. and forty-eight A detachments. (Tables 3 and 4)
With the expansion to group level, C detachments were to replace B detachments at the corps level and B detachments were to continue to control A detachments and possibly were to be collated with Vietnamese Army division headquarters. Headquarters, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), was to exercise command less operational control of deployed detachments, which would remain for the time being with the U.S. senior advisers in each corps; to advise on opening and closing of camps; to establish new camps; and to advise the Vietnamese Special Forces High Command. (Table 5) The 5th Special Forces Group would also provide formal training when required for Vietnamese Special Forces and CIDG units.