The Formative Years, 1950-1959
The history of formal U.S. aid to Vietnam began on 1 May 1950, when President Harry S. Truman approved a $10 million grant for urgently needed military assistance items for Indochina. Later, in December, the United States signed a Pentalateral Agreement with France and the associated states of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam termed the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. Under this program the U.S. government committed itself to furnish military supplies, material, and equipment to Indochina for the purpose of halting the expansion of communism, and an American Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), Indochina, was formed to administer the support program. From 1950 to 1954 the United States contributed about $1.1 billion to France for the prosecution of the war including some $746 million worth of Army matériel delivered directly to the French Expeditionary Corps in Indochina. However, despite the magnitude of this aid, U.S. advisers exercised little if any supervisory authority. U.S. supplies and equipment were generally turned over to the French, and, until 1955, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Indochina, functioned only as a small logistical accounting group.
Following the Indochina cease-fire agreement (Geneva Accords) of 20 July 1954, the United States became directly involved with advising and assisting the government of Vietnam (south), headed by President Ngo Dinh Diem. The Geneva Accords, a joint agreement between France and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (north), divided Vietnam at the 17th parallel, provided for the withdrawal of all Communist forces from the south, and established strict limitations and prohibitions on the introduction of foreign military personnel and matériel. Its provisions would be supervised by an International Control Commission (ICC) consisting of representatives from Canada, India, and Poland. The Eisenhower administration regarded the provisions as potentially disastrous and the United States did not sign or endorse the Accords. On 15 June 1954 Lieutenant General John W. "Iron Mike" O'Daniel, chief of Military Assistance Advisory Group, Indochina, had obtained agreement from the French commander in chief for
U.S. participation in training Vietnamese units and requested that more men be sent immediately. After the cease-fire General O'Daniel drew up plans for a comprehensive assistance program for the Army of the Republic of (South) Vietnam, but the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff were more cautious and declared it "hopeless to expect a U.S. military training mission to achieve success unless the nation considered is able effectively to perform those governmental functions essential to the successful raising and maintenance of armed forces." In opposition to this view, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles underlined the need "to bolster that government by strengthening the army which supports it." Dulles was backed up by the National Security Council, and in the end political considerations overrode military objections; shortly thereafter Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, assumed a new training mission in support of the Diem regime. On 22 October 1954 U.S. Ambassador Donald R. Heath and O'Daniel were authorized to "collaborate in setting in motion a crash program designed to bring about an improvement in the loyalty and effectiveness of the Free Vietnamese Forces," and General J. Lawton Collins was sent as a special envoy to Saigon to coordinate the endeavor. The result was a formal agreement in December between representatives of France, the Republic of Vietnam, and the United States to supply direct aid through the Military Assistance Program (MAP).
Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam
Shortly after the Geneva Accords the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Indochina, was split into separate components for Vietnam and Cambodia. The former, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam (MAAGV) (officially designated as such only in October 1955), was limited by the Accords to 342 individuals. With these few the advisory group had the immense task of raising the military capabilities of the Republic of Vietnam armed forces through planning, developing, and administering military assistance. All plans to be coordinated with the remaining French forces, and in February 1955 a joint Franco-American Training Relations and Instructions Mission (TRIM) was established with thirty-three U.S. and twenty-eight French officers and enlisted men. Headed by O'Daniel, the Training Relations and Instructions Mission was charged with developing a training program that would deal with Vietnamese command and staff organization and procedures, all planning and logistical activities, and both unit and individual training. To accomplish this mission, the team was
The U.S. Military Advisory Headquarters, Saigon
enlarged and organized in two echelons: a staff that advised and assisted the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense, the Vietnamese General Staff, and the Vietnamese Arms and Service Directorates, and a group of advisers who assisted and advised subordinate headquarters, units, schools, training centers, agencies, and installations. Key staff positions were held by both French and U.S. officers. In the case of the advisory teams, if the senior were French, his immediate assistant was American, and vice versa. These advisory teams were placed within the military geographical subdivisions (regions), the field divisions, light divisions, training centers, and schools. Members of the headquarters staff doubled in duty by acting as advisers to their Vietnamese counterparts in higher headquarters and with the chiefs of the technical services. Since the French still retained a portion of their army in South Vietnam, its chief, General Paul Ely, was technically both head of the Training Relations and Instructions Mission and O'Daniel's operational superior. However, Ely never interfered with TRIM operations, and in the following years the French elements were slowly reduced.
Within this framework the Training Relations and Instruc-
tions Mission had two chief objectives: first, to create a conventional army of divisional units and supporting forces by 1 January 1956 and, second, to establish follow-through programs to increase and maintain the efficiency of this force. Furthermore, the combat infantry divisions were to have a dual capability of providing internal security and serving as a blocking or counterattacking force against an external attack. The Training Relations and Instructions Mission set about accomplishing its training objectives through direct relations with the South Vietnamese high command and by the use of mobile training teams consisting of MAAGV personnel and technical service teams which were sent to Vietnam on a temporary duty (TDY) or "loan" status. The use of TDY personnel made it possible to provide increased training support since they were not included in the 342-man MAAGV ceiling imposed by the Accords. Later, on 25 August 1955, the International Control Commission requested that the Military Assistance Advisory Group include all temporary duty personnel in the 342-man ceiling. Instead, the advisory group organized substitute training teams composed of civilian specialists and technicians from the United States and continued its efforts undisturbed. For example, the U.S. Operations Mission (a precursor of the U.S. Agency for International Development) contracted with Michigan State University to provide advisory personnel to the South Vietnam government along with assistance in developing the territorial militia and an effective police organization.
Although the Training Relations and Instructions Mission made some progress in beginning training programs and identifying problem areas, its work was severely limited by the internal military and political situation in South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese Army was still organized into small units and lacked trained leaders, equipment, and adequate logistical capabilities at all levels. These units were scattered throughout the country, and a large proportion of them were still fighting remnants of the religious sects and other factions. The TRIM team continued its existence until the French withdrew their advisers on 28 April 1956. The French continued to maintain a small naval and air advisory mission until the following year.
Throughout the early period a chronic problem of the advisory effort was its lack of personnel. The establishment of a separate Military Assistance Advisory Group for Cambodia in June 1955 and a similar institution, the Programs Evaluation Office, for Laos in December eased the situation somewhat; so also did the transferal of forty-three spaces for administrative support person-
nel from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon to the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam in 1957.
These measures could not begin to remedy the basic problem. The background of the situation is fairly clear, but deserves a detailed presentation. At the close of the Indochina War the French Expeditionary Corps had a strength of approximately 140,000. It was agreed at the time of the signing of the defense agreement in December 1954 that the United States would support a reduced Vietnamese armed forces of approximately 100,000. By mid-1955 the French Expeditionary Corps had been reduced to roughly 35,000, and other factors, such as the failure of special representatives of the French and Vietnamese to open negotiations on the future status of the French forces in Vietnam, plus the fact that the French military budget for calendar year 1956 made no provisions for Indochina, indicated a questionable future for the French in Vietnam at best.
A second problem grew out of the dominance of the French in the field of logistics up to 1956. Until that time both Vietnamese and Americans had been excluded from this area, despite the fact that logistical autonomy had been planned for the Vietnamese forces by January 1956. U.S. influence on the logistics system was thus confined to the combined staff efforts of the Training Relations and Instructions Mission and, in actuality, American influence on logistical matters was practically nil. As a result, the Vietnamese in late 1955 were unprepared to assume logistical responsibility for their army, and the limited number of U.S. logistical advisers could do little to offset the lack of Vietnamese experience.
After January 1956 the accelerated withdrawal of the French forces further aggravated an already complex situation. The French literally dumped mountains of equipment upon the Vietnamese. Most of this matériel was improperly packed, indiscriminately piled, often placed in outside storage, and controlled by inadequate or meaningless inventory records. To add to this confusion, the Vietnamese were prone to open all packages to ascertain their contents. It is questionable whether the Vietnamese could have handled this situation properly even if they had been better trained.
With regard to the quality of the equipment, consideration must again be given to the circumstances of the French withdrawal. The French were confronted with a rapidly deteriorating situation in North Africa, which required increasing quantities of personnel and equipment. Therefore, they were primarily concerned with salvaging the best equipment for their own use. With
this end in mind, the French were able to exploit the agreement which authorized their removal of MAP-type equipment based on a proportionate input. In the face of French reluctance to allow U.S. personnel to inventory this matériel, there was no way to determine the quality or quantity of equipment.
French refusal to allow U.S. personnel into their installations and dumps covered their natural effort to obtain the best of everything in the quantities desired for their future needs. As a matter of fact, the equipment turned over to the Vietnamese was in both respects inadequate. In most instances, it had been used prior to Indochina and had subsequently seen hard service under wartime conditions. Maintenance requirements could not be met since critical spare parts and tools were nonexistent.
Provisions of the Geneva Accords relating to the introduction of war matériel was also a matter of concern. The French-North Vietnamese protocol specifically defined the nature of "arms, munitions, and war matériel" and also outlined the procedures for the control of the importation and exportation of these items under the supervision and auspices of the International Control Commission. The Accords also established the procedures for notifying the commission in order that credit could be obtained for items exported. However, these provisions were never strictly adhered to. Upon withdrawal, the French took vast quantities of matériel with them. Despite their responsibilities with respect to the Accords, it was assumed that only a small portion of these supplies was reported to the commission in such a way as to obtain credit against future imports. Moreover, because the protocol was concluded between the French and the North Vietnamese, the Saigon government consistently refused to recognize its validity or to comply openly with its provisions. The French were expected to support this position in a showdown since it could be shown that they were remiss in complying with the provisions concerning exportation.
Finally, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam was never reduced to a force goal of 100,000. In light of the rapid withdrawal of most of the French forces, continued Viet Cong buildup, and the civil war against the dissident sect forces, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, took the position that such a force goal was inadequate. With the concurrence of the U.S. Embassy in May 1955, the advisory group proposed a 150,000-man force goal to be reached by 1 July 1956, and this proposal was subsequently approved. However, all these developments together with the departure of the French Expeditionary Corps in April 1956 and the dissolution of the Training Relations and Instructions
Mission made it mandatory that U.S. advisory forces be increased.
In order to satisfy this need, the manpower ceilings were bypassed with the establishment of the Temporary Equipment Recovery Mission (TERM) on 1 June 1956. With an authorized strength of 350, the recovery mission raised the total size of Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, to 692. Overtly the recovery mission was to assist the advisory group in recovering excess war matériel being turned in. In performing this function, the group supervised the removal of large quantities of matériel through exportation, destruction, and scrapping; additional items were sent out of the country for repair and rebuilding and then returned to Vietnam. However, the Temporary Equipment Recovery Mission's real assignment was to aid in developing an adequate and effective South Vietnamese logistical system. TERM. Personnel were assigned to all major South Vietnamese armed forces logistical organizations. Under their guidance, training courses were developed, selected logistical officers were sent to U.S. service schools, and U.S. supply and maintenance procedures were adopted. Marked progress was realized in the reorganization of the medical, quartermaster, ordnance, and engineer services. Transportation and signal services did not show the same degree of advancement owing to reluctance of certain South Vietnamese Army officers to accept advice and to the lack of trained personnel. But by 1957 the transformation of the logistical facilities had largely been completed, and all the technical services were using U.S. Supply procedures. The Temporary Equipment Recovery Mission had been introduced into South Vietnam without official ICC sanction, and in December 1958 the International Control Commission adopted a resolution urging the recovery mission to complete its activities by 30 June 1959. Consultations at the diplomatic level with the Indian ICC representatives extended the completion date to the end of 1960. But the major goal of the United States was to have the size of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam legally increased to 888, the total of U.S. and French advisers in South Vietnam at the time of the Geneva Accords. The Canadians were enthusiastic and the U.S. Ambassador requested that the State Department begin immediate negotiations with Ottawa to increase the MAAGV strength ceiling. The dissolution of the Temporary Recovery Mission in 1960 only emphasized the need for more people.
In December 1959 the Office of the Secretary of Defense directed the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) to prepare a new MAAGV joint table of distribution to reflect the phase-out of the recovery mission, and in April 1960 the chief of the advisory group
indicated that the International Control Commission had favorably considered a request to increase MAAGV strength to 685. On 5 May 1960 the U.S. government officially announced that at the request of the government of South Vietnam the U.S. MAAGV strength would be increased from 327 to 685 members. Implementation of this increase involved the conversion of TERM personnel to MAAGV status during the remainder of 1960.
Organization and Force Structure
Organization and training of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam was the primary task of the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, during 1956-59. The South Vietnamese Army had been created in 1949 out of units that had been native auxiliaries to the French Union Forces; these units were commanded by French officers and fought alongside regular French Army units. A series of decrees by the government of Bao Dai, recognized by the French as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the new State of Vietnam, provided a judicial basis for the evolving armed forces. A Ministry of National Defense headed by a Secretary of State for National Defense was established on 19 September 1949. A Vietnamese Air Force was authorized on 25 June 1951, a Vietnamese Navy on 6 March 1952, and a Marine Corps by decree of 13 October 1954.
The earliest MAP support levels provided for a force of 150,000 starting on 1 July 1956. This level had been recommended after determination by the Country Team that the security of the Republic of Vietnam was threatened by both internal subversion and external aggression.1 However, despite the threat of subversion, initially no provisions were made to provide MAP funding for the paramilitary territorial forces, the Civil Guard, and the Self-Defense Corps militia. Realizing the importance of these paramilitary forces in assuming internal security duties, in November 1956 Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, recommended that MAP support be provided for a Civil Guard force of 59,000 and a Self-Defense Corps force of 60,000. But it was not until 1961 that any appreciable financial support was available for the paramilitary forces.
At the time of the 1954 armistice, the Vietnamese armed forces numbered about 205,000 men and consisted primarily of infantry
units under French officer and noncommissioned officer cadres. This force included 152 infantry battalions, 2 airborne battalions, 2 imperial guard battalions, 2 highlander infantry battalions, 2 armored cavalry squadrons, 6 artillery battalions, and 5 engineer battalions. Under TRIM guidelines these units were reorganized into four standard field divisions of 8,100 men each and six light divisions of 5,800 men each and a number of territorial regiments. The air and sea elements were smaller, ill-equipped, and poorly trained.
Following the June 1954 cease-fire, and the subsequent division of the country, Army strength decreased rapidly. The primary cause was a high desertion rate during the redeployment of troops from North to South Vietnam. During the reorganization period, French officers and noncommissioned officers were withdrawn, and a lightly armed auxiliary force was inactivated. Army strength decreased even more sharply after 1954, while navy and air force strength gradually increased. The armed forces as a whole, however, remained below the 150,000 level supported by the United States.
From 1957 to 1959 the South Vietnamese Army was further restructured under MAAGV guidance to meet the threat of external attack. In October 1957 the advisory group began tests to determine the most effective and practical organization for a standard division. The next two years saw more than two hundred tables of organization and equipment and tables of distribution developed in the search for the proper organization. By September 1959 the South Vietnamese Army had been organized into seven standard divisions of 10,450 men each and three Army corps headquarters. Each division consisted of three infantry regiments, an artillery, a mortar, and an engineer battalion, and company-size support elements. The airborne troops were organized into a five-battalion group and the armor branch into four armored cavalry "regiments" (approximately the equivalent of a U.S. Army cavalry squadron), each containing one squadron (U.S. troop) of M24 light tanks and two squadrons of M8 self-propelled 75-mm. howitzers. The eight independent artillery battalions were equipped with U.S. 10-mm, and 15-mm. pieces. Tactical control was divided between I Corps at Da Nang for the northern and central areas, II Corps at Pleiku for the Central Highlands provinces, and III Corps at Saigon for the southern part of the country. Saigon city remained a special military district.
Throughout this period the paramilitary Civil Guard and Self-Defense Corps remained poor cousins of the regular Army. The Civil Guard had been created by presidential decree in April 1955
from members of inactivated wartime paramilitary agencies and numbered some 68,000 at the end of 1956. Its primary function was to relieve the regular forces of internal security duties, with additional missions of local intelligence collection and counter-subversion. The Civil Guard was initially under the direct control of the President, but in September 1958 it was placed under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. Organized into companies and platoons, the Civil Guard was represented by two to eight companies in each province. In addition, eight mobile battalions of 500 men each were controlled from a central headquarters in Saigon and employed in general support mission.
The Self-Defense Corps had existed locally since 1955. It was officially established in April 1956 with some 48,000 non-uniformed troops armed with French weapons. The Self-Defense Corps, like the Civil Guard, was established to free regular forces from internal security duties by providing a police organization at village level to protect the population from subversion and intimidation. Units of four to ten men each were organized in villages of 1,000 or more inhabitants. The chain of command extended from the Ministry of the Interior to the province chiefs, district chiefs, and village councils. The Civil Guard and the Self-Defense Corps were poorly trained and ill-equipped to perform their missions, and by 1959 their numbers had declined to about 46,000 and 40,000, respectively.
Command and control of the South Vietnamese defense forces was less than satisfactory. President Diem appointed the Secretary of State for National Defense who in turn supervised the activities of the General Staff chief and several special sub-departments. The General staff chief, in turn, supervised the Army staff and, through it, the military regions and the field commands. In practice the system was beset by conflicting, duplicating channels of command and communications and by duplicate offices or agencies with overlapping interests. To further complicate matters, various major agencies of the Department of National Defense were installed in widely separated areas, so as to hamper coordination, rapid staff action, and decision-making.
Problems resulting from this command structure were frequent. Often a division commander would receive orders from both the corps commander (who should have been his undisputed boss) and the region commander in whose region his division was stationed. In another case, branch (infantry, armor, and so forth) chiefs would give orders to units of their branches while the units in question were assigned to field commands. Perhaps the most flagrant case involved the President himself, who, using his radio
Civil Guard Basic Training Class
net from a van in the garden of the presidential palace, sometimes sent out operational orders directly to combat regiments, bypassing the Department of National Defense, the General Staff, and the field commands. An example of duplicate agencies of primary interest was the presence of a Director of Air Technical Service (who was nominally directly under the Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff but actually subordinate to the Director General of Administration, Budget, and Comptroller for fiscal matters) and a Deputy Chief of Air Staff for Matériel.
The physical location of various agencies also caused problems. The Department of National Defense and most of the central organizations and the ministerial services were located in downtown Saigon, while the General Staff (less air and navy elements) was inefficiently located in a series of company-size troop barracks on the edge of the city. The chief of the General Staff was thus removed several miles from the Department of National Defense. The navy and air staffs were also separately located in downtown Saigon. With such a physical layout, staff action and decision-making unduly delayed on even the simplest of matters.
The over-all ministerial structure described above was originally set up by the French and slightly modified by presidential decree on 3 October 1957. Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, had proposed a different command structure which would have placed the ministry and the "general staff" in closer proximity both
physically and in command relationship. But the proposal was not accepted by President Diem, perhaps because he wished to continue to maintain a division of power and prevent any one individual--other than himself--from having too much authority. Thus, during the period in question, the existing system was accepted by the advisory group which, in turn, served as lubrication for its more delicate components.
In organizing and training the South Vietnamese Army, the United States relied heavily on its recent experience in South Korea. The similarity between the Vietnamese situation of 1954 and the Korean situation of 1950 prompted the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam to concentrate on developing a South Vietnamese force capable of meeting an overt invasion from North Vietnam. While the threat of an external aggression was real, it was not until 1959 that the internal subversion and insurgency openly supported by the north was recognized as the major threat and that a strong effort to give South Vietnam a counterinsurgency capability began.
Troops for the armed forces were obtained through voluntary enlistments and conscription. The military service law enacted 29 June 1953 prescribed a continuing active and reserve obligation for all male citizens between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. Under the conscription program, initiated on 1 August 1957 and amended in January 1959, male citizens aged twenty and twenty-one were called up for an eighteen-month service period. In addition, preinduction training was given in high schools to physically fit males fifteen years of age or older. Graduates of this two-year compulsory training program received no military rank, but if they were later inducted they were often sent to officer candidate school.
During this period, South Vietnamese trainees underwent a 31-week training program that had been developed by modifying appropriate U.S. Army training programs to conform to Vietnamese requirements. As in the United States, the training cycle consisted of four phases: basic individual, advanced individual, basic unit, and advanced unit training. To assist in the massive training process U.S. Army field manuals were translated, and both mobile training and contract civilian teams were active, despite ICC objections. One such team, consisting of personnel from the 1st U.S. Army Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducted a sixteen-week course at the Commando Training Center at Nha Trang. For the
most part the South Vietnamese Army fully utilized these teams, although at times U.S. methods were adopted only with reluctance.
The Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam had hoped to have all tactical units complete a full cycle of training by the end of 1959, but progress was slow. Initial plans had called for the Civil Guard and the Self-Defense Corps to take over the internal security mission while the South Vietnamese Army was undergoing training. But, since the poorly trained and ill-equipped paramilitary forces were unable to fulfill this task, it was continually necessary to divert regular forces away from their training program for operational requirements. Hoping to correct this deficiency, the advisory group established provincial training centers to provide at least four weeks of instruction to Civil Guard and Self-Defense Corps personnel. Although this step helped the situation somewhat, by mid-1958 three divisions, the airborne group, a majority of the combat engineers, and all of the territorial regiments had had either major interruptions or no training at all because of operational demands.
Despite delays, the advisory group began an expanded training program in 1958. The new program was to proceed in two cycles: 1) a six-phase cycle of thirty-two weeks leading to advanced unit training and concluding with field maneuvers at regimental level and 2) followed by an annual training cycle of fifty-two weeks within each corps area. The 32- and 52-week training programs extended to all arms and services and were based on modified U.S. Army training programs. The goal continued to be the construction of a conventional military force, and by September 1959 the training picture had brightened. Two of the seven infantry divisions were in the advanced unit training phase, as were the airborne group and the five general reserve artillery battalions. The engineer groups were in on-the-job training and building roads and bridges stage, and considerable progress had been made in training combat and service support elements. In order to emphasize realistic tactical field training, two divisions were scheduled to participate in maneuvers in January 1960, and night combat training was increased throughout all phases of instruction.
Concurrent with the expansion and improvement in the tactical training programs, the Military Assistance Advisory Group devoted considerable effort to the development of a South Vietnamese Army service school and training system. The French military school system in Indochina reflected its own metropolitan system, but was modified significantly by the practice of never promoting native personnel into positions higher than junior officer. As a result, Vietnamese officers were usually untrained for
command and staff positions higher than company level. As early as October 1956, MAAGV personnel participated with key Vietnamese officers on a master school planning board. The board gathered factual information on all schools as a basis for developing a master plan and directed key changes in organizations and location. An Army school system was started to provide technical and specialist schools, arm and service basic and advanced courses, a military academy to train select young men for commissions in the Army, and a replacement training center to provide basic training for conscripts and new enlistees. The system was built around six key centers:
1. a general school center at Thu Duc with a capacity for 1,000 students and comprising most of the arm and service technical and specialist schools;
2. a separate infantry school, to be located initially also at Thu Duc, which would include a 400-student officer candidate school and later basic branch officer and noncommissioned officer courses;
3. medical, intelligence, and psychological warfare schools to be located in the Saigon area owing to the availability of facilities and other resources;
4. the Military Academy at Dalat, with a two-year curriculum combining academic and military subjects to train new officers, to be transformed later into a four-year institution;
5. a higher military school or college, located in Saigon with a capacity of 250 students; and
6. a centralized replacement camp for training conscripts located at Quang Trung near Saigon and with an annual capacity of approximately 24,000 (or about 8,000 at any one time).
In practice, the principal training establishment during this period was the Quang Trung Training Center, near Saigon, which gave eight weeks of basic training to all recruits and which gave advanced courses to infantry soldiers. Training in other branches of service was given at the specialized training centers, especially those at the Thu Duc Military Schools Center. Regular officers were trained at the Military Academy at Dalat and received further career schooling at the Thu Duc Military Schools complex, at the Command and General Staff College in Saigon, and in schools abroad. Many reserve officers, obligated to serve two years, passed through the Officer Candidate School at Thu Duc. The continued development of the school system made it possible to reduce the number of personnel which had to be sent every year for specialized and advanced training, or at least it made this type of training more selective.
By the end of 1958 a total of eighteen schools and training cen-
Officer Candidate Train At Thu Duc
ters had been established and were training about 20,000 a year. (See Appendixes A and B.) Another important addition was an expanded English Language School. Finally, unit schools conducted training in such subjects as leadership, communications, and automotive operations.
Another vital link in the American training effort was the Off-Shore School Program. Begun in 1955 under MAP sponsorship, it provided formal training for both officer and enlisted men in all branches of the Army at CONUS (continental United States) and overseas U.S. Army schools and included orientation tours for senior officers at various U.S. installations. The importance of this program soon became evident. During the French era in Vietnam all key command and staff positions had been occupied by French officers. After 1954 many Vietnamese officers had to occupy positions for which they had insufficient training experience. This situation was particularly critical in the technical and logistical areas. By fiscal year 1954 a total of 3,644 Vietnamese officers and enlisted men were trained under the Offshore School Program in CONUS installations and schools, and 726 were trained at overseas Army installations. This program was highly successful in training key Vietnamese officers and specialists, but needed to be expanded. The fiscal year 1960 Military Assistance Program therefore provided for the training of 1,375 Vietnamese soldiers in the United States and 226 in allied countries. Probably the most valid criticism was U.S. development of the South Vietnamese Army into a conventional military force not properly organized, equipped, and trained to contest the guerrilla in the jungles and mountains where
he lurks. The realization came in 1959 and massive efforts were finally begun to train Vietnamese units and personnel in counterinsurgency warfare. But owing in part to the strength of the South Vietnamese Army, there was no conventional attack from North Vietnam similar to the invasion of South Korea.
The obstacles Americans faced in training the Vietnamese during this early period were many. Some were overcome. MAAGV advisers noted critical training deficiencies, with incomplete unit training heading the list. Rising operational requirements made it impossible to institute effective training exercises for units already constituted a shortcoming for which harder or longer training for the individual recruit could not compensate. One result was the distinct lack of knowledge of techniques in combined arms operations and amphibious and other joint operations. Officers at all levels lacked the experience and military schooling needed to qualify them for their positions. Another serious problem was the shortage of officers and enlisted specialists for the technical services. Units and schools both suffered from a shortage of trained instructors. Finally, despite all efforts, the output of Vietnamese proficient in the English language never met the increasing demand for this most difficult skill.
Although progress had been made in years past in training and organizing the Republic of Vietnam armed forces, the internal situation in South Vietnam had deteriorated to the point that the Viet Cong were gradually gaining the initiative. By 1959 the enemy had greatly increased the tempo of his activities, ambushing and attacking large military installations. Despite these developments, both the MAAGV chief, Lieutenant General Samuel T. Williams, and the U.S. Ambassador remained optimistic. As late as the spring of 1960 Williams was convinced that Saigon was in no danger and that a phased withdrawal of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam could begin soon. In retrospect, his judgments were to appear premature.
1 The Country Team consisted of the U.S. Ambassador in Saigon, the chief of Military Assistance Advisory Group, and other senior officials who drew up a planning document that dealt with the political, military, economic, and psychological requirements for fighting the Communist insurgency. (back to top)
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