Chapter X:
Lessons and a Legacy
Army base development doctrine before 1965 prescribed that base development plans be prepared at theater level by component representatives. Several base development plans for Southeast Asia were completed. They addressed specific situations with certain assumptions based on U.S. and Vietnamese responses. While the situation which materialized after 1965 was much more extensive and the base development requirements were much greater than those represented in base development plans, Army planning before 1965 should have identified base requirements early in the buildup.
In 1965 there was a Pacific Army plan for South Vietnam, but two significant errors in the operations plan quickly became apparent: the South Vietnamese Army was not as effective as had been anticipated during planning, and U.S. deployments had exceeded the plan.
New buildup plans made between April 1965 and January 1966 set the real scale of base development requirements. Detailed planning was done at the base or installation level with supervisory control at the service level. Control at the service level resulted in competition among construction agencies for limited resources, but management of scarce construction resources improved when the MACV Directorate of Construction was established.
Until June 1965 there were few American engineer troops and only a small contract construction capability in South Vietnam. The buildup had in fact generated a need for far more engineer construction units than existed in the active establishment of all the services. Initially the military construction capability was limited by the decision not to call up the Reserves or National Guard, which contained the bulk of construction units in accordance with Department of Defense policy. Major reliance, therefore, was placed on contractor capability, while the services accelerated programs to increase the number of construction units in the active forces. Based on these considerations and the approved force buildup, a base development plan was devised which consisted of a $1 billion construction program to be accomplished in two years at approximately a $40 million monthly contract placement rate and executed

under Navy supervision. Allied engineer troops also performed some construction for their respective forces.
At the beginning of the program there were no set standards except limitations on living space and the general admonition that facilities would be minimum and austere. The basic principle in establishing construction standards was to provide the required facilities for the expected duration of use as cheaply as possible. Theater standards were developed to minimize costs and time. These standards were based on three factors: the mission of the unit for which the facilities were provided, the permanency of units in a given location, and the philosophy of each military service. The problem of establishing standards was complicated by variations in philosophies and the peculiar characteristics of the war.
Although forty-two construction units of battalion strength were deployed to South Vietnam, the requirements for base development were of such magnitude that the contractor force supplied a greater construction capability than the entire military force. This was attributable to the special equipment and personnel that the contractor could mobilize for large projects. Equipment like 30-inch pipeline dredges, 30-ton dump trucks, and 400-ton-per-hour rock-crushers speeded work on big jobs.
Roads were upgraded and surfaced with asphalt paving as a deterrent to clandestine mining and as a solution to subgrade moisture during the monsoon rainfall. Land clearing, 100 meters along each side of the right of way, was a counterinsurgency measure against ambush.
Troop housing was upgraded from tents to tropical wood-frame buildings because of the rapid deterioration of canvas in a tropical environment. The static nature and the long duration of operations made it economical to install better quality more durable utilities and to support services beyond the temporary nature of the designs in Technical Manual 5-302.
Major airfield runways were first constructed at an expeditionary standard and then replaced by concrete runways. Although expedient matting was not durable enough for continuous fighter or heavy transport aircraft operations, it was sufficient for use on the smaller airfields.
Construction in Southeast Asia was funded by a variety of United States sources: the Agency for International Development, Military Assistance Programs, Operations and Maintenance funds, and Military Construction funds. Control was exercised through tight project allocations with most of the work being done by military construction funds allocated by Congress. This type of funding forced extensive preliminary planning and made approved

projects somewhat cumbersome to change. For major projects approximately twenty-four months normally elapsed between the development of requirements and final construction. Some of this delay can be attributed to the procurement of materials and some of the administrative requirements that all funds for construction be on hand before the start of construction. Stringent control made changes difficult and did affect over-all operations to some degree because once the sites had been determined for ports and airfields their requirement was subject to change in light of ongoing operations.
Costs for construction in South Vietnam were approximately two and a half times greater than for similar construction in the United States. This is attributable to the 12,000-mile supply line, a premium wage rate for U.S. nationals, the urgency placed on all projects, and the crash nature of the program. As the intensity of hostilities diminishes, many things can be built of local materials by local labor at far less cost.
Contractor costs included an extensive support force (that is, direct labor was 15 percent of the labor .force in South Vietnam compared to 60 percent on construction projects in the United States). While tabulated troop construction costs included only the material, the overhead costs were very high because of the combat training needed and the special military support costs.
The construction done in 1965-68 in South Vietnam enabled the United States to deploy and operate a modern 500,000-man military force in an underdeveloped area. The ground combat force of 165,000 men was able to combat an enemy force effectively from an adequate facility base which permitted U.S. and allied forces to concentrate and operate when and where they wished. Most construction was temporary; the more durable construction will become economic assets for South Vietnam. (Map 12 and Table 5)
The Army's base development activities in South Vietnam during 1965-68 have been reviewed in a series of assessments: "Observations on the Construction Program Vietnam" by Brigadier General Daniel A. Raymond (June 1967); the Chief of Engineers sponsored Seeman Board (February 1968); the joint Chiefs of Staff sponsored Special Military Construction Study Group (October 1968); and the Office, Secretary of Defense's Joint Logistic Review Board (September 1970). Several major problem areas and corrective actions have been revealed and suggested in these assessments.
The wide disparity of construction standards between the services in Vietnam was particularly evident in cantonment construction. Air Force planners contended that a $100 million base was not a transient facility and wanted more for their money in durable

construction. They felt that pilots and electronics technicians lost efficiency when forced to live like combat troops. This caused dissatisfaction between the troops of different services living in the same general area.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff took up the standards of construction problem in November 1969, but left the decision to the President. In June 1970, the joint Chiefs of Staff Construction Board for Con-

Installation Cantonement  Capability Admin. Space Square Feet 
Storage Space S Maint Space Square Feet
Based On Housing Based On W.B.Sewage @ 80 GPD/MAN (Total) Based On Water Supply @ 100 GPD/MAN (Total)
Officers EM Covered S.F.  Open S.Y.
Phu Bai 754 5,800 1,000 1,700 93,784 127,983 9,777 48,532
Da Nang 671 4,865 1,150 1,790 106,500 21,634 89,617 114,425
Chu Lai 1,595 10,337 0 4,520 76,615 101,881 56,587 262,949
Pleiku 611 9,521 0 10,000 119,497 112,669 5,916 100,547
Camp Enari 1,023 9,223 0 5,680 300,420 85,600 58,200 218,898
An Khe 1,950 12,000 0 4,500 259,730 225,492 107,761 188,942
Qui Nhon 1,870 20,980 2,065 3,070 519,200 1,050,499 359,242 499,128
Tuy Hoa 1,002 6,765 750 5,130 116,345 88,438 233,550 92,063
Nha Trang 438 7,958 5,080 7, 340 275,407 306,605 51,840 154,541
Dong Ba Thin 563 2,430 0 2,650 38,192 7,600 0 25,220
Dalat 7 579 80 1, 000 3,821 17,767 373 1,760
Cam Ranh Bay 1,479 17,173 0 10,000 440,900 873,425 622,844 377,795
Phan Rang 220 4,487 0 720 48,119 48,075 230 11,176
Lai Khe 532 3,706 0 700 72,326 17,038 105,350 26,216
Phu Loi 932 5,721 0 12,500 81,032 36,716 149,055 481,013
Cu Chi 1,512 12,616 0 4,500 207,261 125,036 91,560 191,800
Bien Hoa 815 8,407 6,035 22,680 134,597 91,972 3,333 136,353
Long Binh 5,855 36,987 16,250 25,530 1,085,544 992,655 1,269,901 917,734
Black Horse   (Long Giao) 307 4,537 0 1,800 79,320 30,302 5,333 6,824
Bearcat 972 7,615 0 13,200 125,132 60,978 64,207 117,778
Macv- Saigon-T.S.N 10,768 23,288 250 14,700 1,143,452 1,453,945 64,813 221,155
Saigon Ports 218 1,379 3,875 2,470 163,582 945,499 365,231 61,093
Long Thanh North 189 933 0 5,400 21,808 28,880 27,710 70,050
Vung Tau 294 8,182 2,625 4,140 136,390 267,757 135,068 331,035
Dong Tam 1,193 10,995 0 6,480 160,210 89,184 11,247 212,266
Vinh Long 365 2,435 188 2,400 11,544 25,951 0 46,582
Can Tho 131 1,915 337 5,120 41,419 32,782 28,050 48,643

tingency Operations made minor modifications to the 1966 standards and suggested the following standards for construction and base development in support of contingency operations:
Field: Cantonments for forces whose activities are such that they may be characterized as essentially transient.
Intermediate: Cantonments for forces subject to move at infrequent intervals. Anticipated duration of occupancy: 24-48 months.
Temporary: Cantonments for forces not expected to move in the foreseeable future.
Experience in Vietnam has shown that a Director of Construction should operate directly under the command of and as part of the staff of the joint commander in the combat area to ensure effective and responsive co-ordination with operations and logistic support. A Director of Construction provides the commander of a joint force with the means of exercising control and direction over construction. The Joint Logistics Review Board suggested that contingency planning set forth the appropriate composition and role of a construction directorate on the staff of the joint field commander.
The board has also made several recommendations pertaining to funding for construction in support of contingency operations, but the funding problem persists pending revision of Department of Defense instructions. While not as detailed as construction programs, base development planning can provide the data necessary to keep construction costs within limits set by funding procedures.
The board further noted that there were no country-to-country agreements or draft agreements in support of contingency plans for Vietnam that could have expedited real-estate acquisition. Also, there were too few trained real estate teams available to meet the needs of the many widely separated bases and operational areas requiring property for the expanding war.
The Joint Chiefs have developed procedural plans to resolve many of our real-estate problems. Base development plans now identify real-estate requirements, existing base rights, and any additional rights that are necessary. Such plans can provide a basis for the start of negotiations for real-estate agreements in areas for which contingency plans have been prepared. The Army has recently organized real estate teams with the capability of deploying into a contingency operation area and augmenting and expediting measures to obtain real estate for American military operations.
Investigations into planning, procurement, and shipping to provide material for construction in Southeast Asia identified several weaknesses in the Engineer Functional Components System. Prob-

lems resulted from the differences between standard design and actual requirements and the inability to use the system to initiate procurement and shipping actions. Construction forces and large organizations can achieve considerable savings by planning around local resources and conditions. Designs should be flexible enough to use substitute materials when time or money can be saved. Direct delivery can help maximize savings. In other words, the system should be flexible and allow for special requirements. The inadequacy of base development plans during the Vietnam buildup, for example, has produced new interest in the functional components system. Efforts are under way to update and refine the system, which is now called the Army Facilities Component System, and to make better use of the Army supply system.
As a result of the Special Military Construction Studies Group recommendations in October 1968, the joint Chiefs established the joint Staff/Services Construction Board for Contingency Operations. To date, papers have been distributed on suggested standards of construction for cantonments and planning factors for many Department of Defense categories.
Since mid-1968, the Army staff has provided base development planning assistance to the commanders of subordinate Army commands. Eight base plans in support of selected contingency operations have been drafted. Others are being prepared some of which will also serve as joint base development plans. The drafts provide the information and detail required by the joint Chiefs directive and use automatic data processing to produce the output in hard copy or card decks. Increased use of data processing over the past few years has significantly reduced planning preparation time. Pacific Command Base Development System has recently been improved and simplified to eliminate nonessential data and reduce the work required in developing plans. U.S. Army, Pacific, and the other service component commands assisted in developing these improvements. To reduce further the preparation time and effort of draft base plans, a computer system will soon be available which will perform a major portion of the facilities identification and work calculations.
A proposal is being considered to establish in the Army staff a central planning office for base development. Such an office would support the Army by drafting component and joint base development plans and enhance planning capability by pooling experienced planners with an adequate computer hardware system. The planning office would provide a useful point for liaison with Army and other joint staffs.
The Army Base Development Board (BDB) is sponsored by the

Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and was established as a continuing committee on 14 October 1970. Its mission is to evaluate the concepts, management systems, and supporting mat6riel systems for base development within the Department of the Army. It will determine their adequacy and initiate such measures as necessary to establish staff responsibilities and ensure that Army base development support in future contingency operations is both effective and responsive. This board will maintain the momentum and initiatives started by the joint staff.
Since the Vietnamese will be responsible for the care and maintenance of base facilities and lines of communications, it is important that skilled people be available. For several years U.S. Army engineers have informally given Vietnamese engineer units technical assistance and training to enhance their capability. In October 1968 Major General David S. Parker, then USARV Engineer and Commanding General, Engineer Troops, Vietnam, formally initiated a program of affiliation with Vietnamese engineer units. Through liaison provided by the MACV Engineer Advisor, U.S. engineer units work with their Vietnamese counterparts to complete their projects jointly. Vietnamese engineer troops have been learning the American way of doing things.
In addition to training Vietnamese military personnel, both American military organizations and civilian contractors have hired and trained many Vietnamese civilians to work on construction and maintenance projects. Certainly, the development of a Vietnamese construction capability will probably become the most enduring economic consequence of the base construction program.
In Vietnam, as in other underdeveloped countries, skilled labor has been in short supply. The future progress of these nations depends to a marked degree on the presence of an adequate labor force. At the beginning of the American buildup in 1965, nearly three-quarters of the Vietnamese labor force was engaged in agriculture and related occupations. There was a severe shortage of skilled workers. While some were skilled in basic carpentry, masonry, sheet-metal handling, and electrical work, few were familiar with modern construction methods or equipment, and many had been inducted into the armed forces.
This situation was caused in part by an educational philosophy which honors the diploma more than the skills it is supposed to represent. In Vietnam manually skilled workers have been denied the status and earnings commensurate with the value of their skills to society. As taught in the Vietnamese schools, manual and vocational training prepare the student for semiprofessional occupations rather than for the actual building trades.

PICTURE - CORPORAL MUNG, 103d Engr. Bn., ARM, directs his construction crew in pile driving for a new bridge.
CORPORAL MUNG, 103d Engr. Bn., ARM, directs his construction crew in pile driving for a new bridge.
The arrival of American military and contractor organizations created an overwhelming demand for construction workers. There not being enough in Vietnam, some workers were recruited from America and from the Philippine Islands, Taiwan, and Korea. So acute was the shortage of trained workers that contractors had to

hire unskilled local nationals and show them what tools to use and how to use them.
In the earliest stages of wartime vocational training, workers received on-the-job training to satisfy the immediate needs of a particular employer. The unskilled were assigned as helpers to pick up whatever they could by observation and practice. Gradually, as they proved they could handle the equipment, they were left more and more on their own. Manual training later advanced from on the-job training to formal programs with full-time "foremen-operators" as instructors. Trainees then learned how to operate different machines and fully to understand equipment capabilities.
At its peak in July 1966, RMK-BRJ employed some 50,000 Vietnamese at fifty locations. Because of the labor turnover caused by the draft or by the reluctance of the Vietnamese to relocate on jobs farther from their homes, RMK by 1970 had cumulatively hired more than 200,000 persons. Among those trained at contractor run schools were accountants, clerk-typists, engineer-draftsmen, auto mechanics and painters, drivers, electricians, machinists, heavy equipment operators, refrigeration and air-conditioning maintenance men, and welders. Besides acquiring technical skills, all students also studied English.
Between 1965 and 1970 Pacific Architects and Engineers trained some 28,000 Vietnamese in various facets of facilities engineering in the operation and maintenance of boiler plants, water plants, kitchen equipment, generators, and refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment-as well as firefighters, engineer-draftsmen, auto mechanics, electricians, heavy-equipment operators, and stock clerks. In 1966 PA&E established a training department in Saigon for both formal and on-the-job training. One of its most successful projects has been the training of women to work as welders, carpenters, generator operators, crane operators, and vehicle operators.
In addition, engineer units of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force have trained thousands of other Vietnamese civilians. During October 1967 the U.S. Army Engineer Command, Vietnam, employed over 8,500 Vietnamese, many of whom acquired new skills and insights through this experience.
As the Joint Development Group has pointed out, the improved skill base will strengthen Vietnam's postwar economy. Those ex-servicemen and civilians who have worked in war-related construction will be able to transfer readily to peacetime reconstruction. It is expected that most will find suitable employment in private and public sectors. Civil projects will include programs for the repair and maintenance of highways, bridges, and railroads, and projects for water control, irrigation, and land reclamation needed

PICTURE - STUDENT VOLUNTEERS help construct a dormitory for roar orphans at the Buddhist Institute, Saigon.
STUDENT VOLUNTEERS help construct a dormitory for roar orphans at the Buddhist Institute, Saigon.
for agricultural expansion. Thus these people will form a base of skilled labor in postwar Vietnam and will make a significant contribution to the development of their homeland.
General Westmoreland had established a priority system for the turnover of U.S. developed property. Although all facilities and bases will be given to the Vietnamese as part of the Vietnamization process, a claim system allows other U.S. forces to have a last chance at property being disposed of. The order runs thus: U.S. forces, Vietnamese armed forces, U.S. forces outside Vietnam, and other U.S. agencies. Between 11 September 1969 and 15 September 1970, thirty-nine installations were transferred to the Vietnamese Army. Total acquisition cost of these facilities was $43,428,000. Among the more valuable were 4 divisional bases, costing $23,950,000; 2 minor ports, costing $7,544,000; 2 compounds, costing $2,556,000; and 2 cantonments, costing $2,547,000.
In some respects the task of building a military base is comparable to that of building a town. Perhaps the major difference is that bases are planned to serve specific ends, while towns are usually unplanned and grow on the basis of expediency rather than purpose. Typical military bases contain cantonments, storage facilities, roads, electric power plants, communications centers, water

supply and sewage systems, and provisions for security. Bases may also include airfields, ports, and fuel storage and distribution facilities. We can look back now to some of the outstanding base facilities and related engineering left to our Vietnamese allies.
Initially the port of Saigon provided the only unloading facilities for oceangoing vessels. Its six deep-draft berths were altogether inadequate for handling regular commercial shipping and the hundreds of ships bringing military cargo from America. The result was an enlarging of port facilities fivefold.
In the spring of 1965 Army engineer troops moved to Cam Ranh Bay, an excellent natural but a wholly undeveloped harbor. There they installed a DeLong pier and a causeway pier that enabled four ships to unload simultaneously. Six more berths were subsequently constructed in this harbor.
To handle military cargo in the Saigon area, the Newport port facilities were constructed by RMK-BRJ on what had been rice paddy land two miles north of Saigon. (Map 13) As silt from the river bottom was unsuitable for fill, great quantities of rock and sand were brought in by barge and truck. Newport can accommodate simultaneously 4 oceangoing vessels, 4 shallow-draft landing craft, and 7 barges. The cost was nearly $25 million.
Deepwater berths and appurtenant coastal facilities have also been constructed at Da Nang, Qui Nhon, Vung Tau, and Vung Ro.
Vietnam has been the scene of one of the world's largest dredging operations. Since 1966, fourteen or more dredges have been doing harbor and land-fill work. They have cleared and deepened harbors, rivers, and canals; stockpiled sand for road and base ca up construction; and reclaimed land for military, industrial, and housing sites. Without continuing dredging operations the accumulation of silt will, however, close the harbors and inland waterways to navigation.
Eight airfields designed to accommodate large jet aircraft were constructed at Da Nang, Chu Lai, Phu Cat, Tuy Hoa, Cam Ranh Bay, Phan Rang, Bien Hoa, and Tan Son Nhut. These are huge installations with 10,000-foot runways and the whole range of appurtenant facilities, including administrative buildings, hospitals, hangars, repair shops, warehouses, barracks, and mess halls. In November 1967, of ninety other airfields using expedient surfacing materials, eleven were operational for jets and sixty-two for C-180 medium cargo aircraft.
A massive well-drilling program has accompanied the buildup of American forces in Vietnam. Although USAID had sponsored well-drilling in Vietnam since 1957, MACV had to develop its own water supply for its bases. Major work was done under contract to the Navy's OICC. Between July 1966 and September 1967, con-

tractors drilled 233 successful wells and 48 test holes at twenty-five sites. These wells had an average depth of 170 feet and an average test yield of 96 gallons per minute. Additional wells have been drilled by Engineer Well Drilling detachments. As of 1 December 1967, 100 wells had been developed and 14 more were under way.

Besides wells now in production, the records of the well-drilling program will be valuable to geologists and engineers charged in peacetime with the responsibility for developing Vietnam's water resources.
"Pentagon East," as the MACV command post has been called, was constructed near Tan Son Nhut Airport. Its network of two-story prefabricated buildings provides air-conditioned working space for 4,000 men. In addition to cantonments and utilities, it includes mortar shelters, security fences, and guard towers. The headquarters complex for USARV was constructed at Long Binh, -sixteen miles from Saigon. It occupies twenty-five square miles and houses 50,000 soldiers at a cost of more than $100 million.
A mere cataloging of works performed by engineer troops would more than fill the pages of this study. Among the major projects under construction by engineer troops at the beginning of 1968the last year of major construction-were fifteen cantonments large enough to accommodate from 4,000 to more than 17,000 men.
The Road Restoration Program was the largest project of its kind ever undertaken by the U.S. military in a foreign country. It was started under USAID totally and transferred to MACV control in September of 1968. Priorities had been jointly established by military and civil authorities. The goal was to construct and upgrade 4,800 kilometers of national and interprovincial highways, replacing obsolete French standards with those of American highway engineers. When completed the system of two-lane all-weather roads will pass through the delta, Saigon, northward along the coast, and into the Central Highlands. Standard bridge designs and standard highway and bridge marking and. numbering procedures have been adopted.
This vast highway restoration project will strengthen the unity and the economy of Vietnam. Lacking the air mobility of USARV, the Vietnamese will utilize the roads to deploy swiftly toward Communist-menaced communities. The roads will end the isolation of rural areas and open them to trade.
Since 1967 an independent research agency, the joint Development Group, has been studying the economic prospects of postwar Vietnam. Many of the facilities discussed in this chapter have also been examined by the group from a economic point of view. The group notes that the ports, airfields, highways, and railroads built or repaired under military auspices will amply satisfy the needs of an expanding national development.
The new and improved seaports should greatly improve coastal and international shipping and travel. The airfields have already Wade Vietnam an important part of the international air network.

PICTURE - NEWLY TRAINED ARMY Engineers return to the task of nation building.
NEWLY TRAINED ARMY Engineers return to the task of nation building.
The highway development program is multiplying contacts between villagers and townspeople and enables both to transport goods and commodities farther, faster, cheaper, and safer. Peasants are rebuilding homes and reworking fields that they had abandoned under

Communist pressure before the roads were built. New trading centers accompany the restoration of the roads.
Clean, potable water should reduce the incidence of infectious debilitating diseases. Improved water supply should lower the rates in infant mortality and adult chronic illness.
When peace comes, new uses will be found for the military building complexes. Some of the buildings may be converted into schools, housing, factories, warehouses, shops, or offices.
The ravages of rot, jungle, and weather have left only memories of the once-mighty World War II bases of the South Pacific. The pessimist may predict that such will be the fate of the bases in Vietnam. The future, however, is likely to prove that the Vietnamese are too resourceful not to find applications for many of the facilities left behind to them.

page created 15 December 2001

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