South Vietnam was the test case for implementing the Nixon doctrine and a new U.S. planning approach to Asia. Vietnamization was both a goal and the program through which that goal would be achieved at the earliest practical time. The constituent elements of Vietnamization--improvement and modernization of the South Vietnam armed forces, pacification, and combat operations--were inseparably interwoven, and the United States made every effort to maintain and strengthen their natural interdependence. Within the context of the situation in South Vietnam, Vietnamization referred only to that portion of the war effort engaged in by the United States and did not refer to the total war effort which the government of Vietnam had carried as a large and heavy burden for so many years.The 1968 Tet offensive aimed at inflicting a decisive defeat on allied military forces and at sparking popular uprisings against the South Vietnam government throughout the country. In a radical departure from his former strategy, the enemy brought his forces out of their cross-border sanctuaries, went to unprecedented lengths to assemble supplies and weapons, and infiltrated his local forces into the major cities and towns, while holding his main forces in reserve to exploit the anticipated uprisings. But the local Viet Cong units were expended in vain and the regulars fared no better. Only in Hue did the enemy succeed in holding out for more than a few days; in most areas, his guerrilla units and clandestine governments came out into the open only to be quickly destroyed. South Vietnamese units, including the territorial forces, stood firm and worked side by side with U.S. units to throw the enemy out of his objective areas. Far from weakening the government of Vietnam, the Tet attacks gave it a new unity and sense of purpose. It had suffered the enemy's worst attacks and survived.
The Tet offensive galvanized the Vietnamese mobilization effort. Having weathered the storm, government officials emerged
with increased confidence and prestige, as well as with an increased sense of responsibility. American troop strength was now reaching its highest peak, and both Saigon and Washington began to feel public pressure for U.S. troop withdrawals. It was Tet that ushered in the era of Vietnamization. Immediately after the offensive, reservists with less than five years of active service were made subject to recall, and by 1 April 1968 nineteen-year olds were being drafted and by 1 May eighteen-year olds. Stronger enforcement efforts than ever were exerted as units sought to fill their depleted ranks. Finally, on 19 June, the South Vietnamese government announced a general mobilization and the interim period of mobilization by decree came to an end. Henceforth, personnel in the military service would serve an indefinite period as long as a state of war existed. All males between the ages of sixteen and fifty would be mobilized; those between eighteen and thirty-eight would serve in the armed forces (including the Regional and Popular Forces), and other age groups would serve in the new People's Self-Defense Force, a part-time, local militia. The government now had the confidence and the stability both to enact and enforce these strong measures.
The general mobilization succeeded in producing large numbers of recruits for the armed forces. During 1968, 80,443 men were conscripted into the armed forces and, under pressure of the draft, many others volunteered for units and stations of their own choosing. An accelerated pacification campaign in the closing months of the year brought 76.3 percent of the population within government security by the end of the year (with 11.4 percent contested and 12.3 percent still under Viet Cong control), a proportion never before equaled. This increase in turn further enlarged the government's recruiting base and made the continuing expansion of the armed forces possible.
Force structure planning continued, and in March 1968 Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, submitted new strength proposals for Washington approval. The proposals recommended a supported force level for the Vietnamese armed forces from the fiscal year 1968 approved level of 685,739 to a new level of 779,154 (including 341,869 Army, 211,932 Regional Forces, and 179,015 Popular Forces) in fiscal year 1969 and 801,215 (355,135 Army, 218,687 Regional Forces, and 179,015 Popular Forces) for fiscal year 1970. These increases provided for 1 regimental headquarters, 2 battalion headquarters, 4 infantry battalions, 15 artillery bat-
Rangers Defend Saigon, TET 1968
talions (105-mm.), 2 armored cavalry squadrons, increases in Regional and Popular Forces strength, additional logistical units, increases in pipeline authorizations, and increases in the South Vietnam Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. The proposed levels would further round out and balance the force structure and make significant progress toward developing a self-sustaining force capable of expanding or contracting its main effort to conform to shifts in the course of the war. Planning for these levels was done within the constraints of manpower availability, leadership potential, and inflationary pressures. As before, the major limiting factor was manpower availability. In April 1968 the agreement between the governments of the United States and North Vietnam to begin peace talks brought a new sense of urgency to the development of the South Vietnam armed forces. Since its inception, the armed forces had been developed predominantly as a ground combat force. The United States had provided the major part of the air and naval effort, as well as essential general logistical support. But the prospect of an immediate negotiated withdrawal of U.S. and North Vietnamese forces required a radical departure from this role.
On 16 April the Deputy Secretary of Defense ordered a plan developed for gradually shifting the burden of the war to the South Vietnam forces and to support, as quickly as possible and to the maximum extent feasible, the efforts of the government of
Vietnam to enlarge, improve, and modernize the armed forces. In an almost simultaneous action, the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked for approval of an immediate force level increase to 801,215 men (regular and Regional and Popular Forces). On 28 May the new ceiling was approved, but funds were withheld pending a thorough examination of South Vietnam armed forces needs. In late May the Vietnamization plan requested in April was also submitted. Essentially it proposed the dissolution of one Vietnamese Army infantry division to support necessary increases in naval, air, and logistical support units. But the following month the Defense Department approved only the equipment modernization and force structure increases in ground combat units and helicopter squadrons contained in the fiscal year 1968 portion of the plan. The Defense Secretary directed that a further review of the fiscal year 1969-70 portions be completed in order to prepare two contingencies or "phases." Phase I would be based on American participation in the war continuing at the current level; Phase II would provide for the development of a self-sufficient South Vietnam armed forces capable of coping with the internal insurgency that would remain after a joint U.S.-North Vietnamese withdrawal. No consideration was to be given now to the threat of the renewal of external aggression.
On 27 August Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, completed its Phase I Improvement and Modernization Program. Essentially, it provided for an armed force of 801,215, as requested by the JCS, and closely resembled the initial plan submitted in May. The Phase I Improvement and Modernization Program was based on two assumptions--first, barring a negotiated settlement, that the enemy threat would continue at the current level for an indefinite period, and, second, assuming continued U.S. participation at currently approved levels, that the South Vietnam armed forces did not need to be "balanced" since their lack of adequate air, naval, and logistical capability could be offset by U.S. support. The expansion of the armed forces naval and air elements would thus be restricted, and the Army logistical elements would receive only the minimum number of spaces required for effective support of combat units. Most increases would thus be devoted to ground combat forces and would ease problems stemming from artillery and armor deficiencies, unfilled division structures, inadequate direct support capability, and the lack of helicopter lift. The Phase I plan was quickly approved on 23 October 1968.
By September 1968, armed forces strength stood at 811,509, some 10,000 over the authorized force level, and the momentum of the general mobilization would soon carry this figure to over
850,000. Military Assistance Command consequently recommended that additional units be activated. An increase in the supported force ceiling would maximize the benefits of the mobilization, deny manpower to Viet Cong recruiters, and permit initiation of long lead-time training required to expedite the ultimate transition from a Phase I to a Phase II force structure. Military Assistance Command thus proposed that 48,785 more spaces be allocated and apportioned between the Regional Forces (39,000) and the pipeline (9,785). On 5 November Washington approved this request, and the new force levels for a Modified Phase I Improvement and Modernization plan rose to 850,000. On 8 October Military Assistance Command submitted its plan for the balanced Phase II Improvement and Modernization force structure. The Phase II plan called for a force of 855,594 with substantial increases included for the Vietnamese Navy and Air Force. While this plan was being reviewed, on 9 November, the MACV commander requested authority to go beyond Phase I and move rapidly toward the Phase II posture. He considered that the Phase I plan was no longer in line with the situation in Vietnam and the political considerations associated with the negotiations being conducted in Paris. At the time, the U.S. government had suspended the air offensive against North Vietnam and, with a presidential election being held, there were increased expectations for progress at the peace talks. What was needed was the authority to proceed with the necessary programming, budgeting, and other actions required to provide manpower and equipment for the Phase II structure. The new commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam, General Creighton W. Abrams, therefore recommended immediate approval of an Accelerated Phase II Improvement and Modernization plan and an immediate increase in force levels to 877,895 in order to make possible increased training or pipeline strength, with no immediate decrease in the scheduled expansion of the ground combat forces. The combat units could be phased down later once the emergency had run its course. The Joint Chiefs of Staff concurred and, except for the section on naval structure, the Deputy Defense Secretary approved the Phase II plan on 18 December, raising supported force levels to a new high of 866,434 and requesting Accelerated Phase II activation schedules as well as plans for withdrawal of U.S. units no longer needed after equipment turnover to South Vietnamese units. Approval of a modified naval structure on 12 February 1969 resulted in a total force of 875,790.
At the Midway conference in June 1969, the South Vietnam government requested support for further force increases and
During these developments, a more thorough study was undertaken to determine the final form of the armed forces once U.S. troops had withdrawn. Termed Phase III or the Consolidation Phase of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Improvement and Modernization Program, its main objective was to identify and plan for long-range needs up to fiscal year 1973. In general, these needs reflected qualitative rather than quantitative improvement in the armed forces, and under the Phase III plan the total force structure would rise only moderately from the 986,560 Midway package for fiscal year 1970 to 1,100,000 by the end of fiscal year 1973. Most of the later force increases provided for more combat support and combat service support units as well as for territorial forces. On 5 June 1970 the Secretary of Defense approved the general outline of the Phase III plan, and thereafter specific items of the plan were approved in fiscal year increments, underwent continual review, and were altered as new needs were identified and older ones disappeared.
By 1972 most of the Phase III plan was completed, and both U.S.and Vietnamese armed forces efforts were concentrated on improving existing units and making comparatively minor adjustments within the over-all force structure. The only major force reorganization occurred in 1971 when an eleventh infantry division was formed in I Corps Tactical Zone. The constituent units, taken from two other divisions and local territorial forces, had little opportunity to co-operate before the North Vietnam Army offensive in the spring of 1972, and this lack may in part explain the poor performance of these units.
At the beginning of 1972 South Vietnamese combat strength was formidable: about 120 infantry battalions in 11 divisions supported by 58 artillery battalions, 19 battalion-size armored units, and many engineer and signal formations. On the front line were
The territorial force became stabilized at about 300,000 Regional Forces and 250,000 Popular Forces men, marshaled into about 1,679 Regional Forces companies and 8,356 Popular Forces platoons. The Regional Forces group and later Regional Forces battalion headquarters and administrative and direct support logistic companies were created to assist sector and subsector headquarters in managing these growing forces; however, the trend toward incorporating them into larger units--brigades and divisions--was generally resisted successfully.
Concurrent with the post-1968 expansion of the Vietnamese armed forces were significant increases in the paramilitary forces. Pacification personnel (RD, ST, and VIS cadres and armed propaganda teams) peaked in 1971, provincial reconnaissance units remained stable, and both the U.S.-employed Kit Carson Scouts and Civilian Irregular Defense Group were slowly phased out. The latter were eventually either disbanded or converted into border Regional Forces and Ranger units and incorporated into the regular Army. The greatest expansion in supported levels occurred in the National Police forces, which rose from 16,900 in 1962 to 116,000 and in the local militia, which rose from 1 million in 1969 to more than 4 million by 1970. It should be noted that the militia forces were at best part-time personnel, and their organization, the People's Self-Defense Force, represented an attempt to involve all levels of the population in the war effort, whatever their military value.
In 1967 the South Vietnam armed forces desertion rate had been reduced to 10.5 per thousand, but efforts to lower this figure still further were unsuccessful. Traditionally, desertions had always increased just before the Tet holidays and 1968 was no exception. As before, the joint General Staff asked all commanders to cooperate in minimizing this practice and tasked the Central Political Warfare Agency with publicizing news reports on trials of deserters by radio, television, newspapers, and magazines. Other measures were to make examples of typical offenders, to impose
severe sentences, and to hold mobile court sessions. In addition, the agency prepared special radio broadcasting and TV programs for servicemen on New Year's Day. Annual leaves were to be granted on New Year's Day only to outstanding individuals who had a number of children, and units were still enjoined to remain within the established 5 percent leave system.
These measures notwithstanding, a considerable number of soldiers were absent from their units at the start of the enemy's Tet offensive and, in the heavy fighting that followed, absenteeism rapidly increased. The monthly desertion rates continued to rise to 16.5 per thousand in July (13,056 deserters), the highest count of any month since mid-1966, and reached an all-time high of 17.2 per thousand in October. Then, as the fighting subsided at the end of 1968 and in 1969, the desertion rate fell and again became stable at about 12 per thousand. Of course, all these rates were normally doubled and tripled in the individual tactical infantry units where most of the burdens of war were felt.
This time the South Vietnam government acted quickly to keep the rate at acceptable levels. On 27 September the Joint General Staff dispatched a directive establishing "quotas" or acceptable maximum rates of desertion for all commands. The directive stated that failure to meet these standards would result, in the punishment or relief of commanders. Other measures followed. In October the Joint General Staff directed an increase in the award of the Gallantry Cross, primarily for lower ranks in combat units to include the Regional and Popular Forces, raised the number of personnel authorized to be on leave from 5 to 10 percent, and granted a graduation leave of ten days to those completing basic training (over and above the fifteen days of leave authorized annually). In addition, all sectors (provinces), special sectors, and special zones were told to organize guidance sections to aid personnel on leave and to include transient billets, messing, and transportation arrangements.
The South Vietnam armed forces also participated in the implementation of the National Police Records System. This system provides for the establishment of a central fingerprint file with a related system for furnishing information on all "wanted" personnel. The target date for completion of the fingerprinting of all the men in the South Vietnam armed forces was 31 January 1969. This program assisted in the identification and apprehension of deserters, especially those who deserted to enlist in other units.
Despite these new measures, the problem of desertion in the Vietnamese armed forces, and particularly within the Army and Marine Corps, was a matter of continuing command concern to
Military Assistance Command and the Joint General Staff. South Vietnam armed forces gross desertions for 1968 totaled 139,670 and were still the largest single cause of manpower loss. As a result of JGS antidesertion program in 1969, some progress was made and the number of deserters dipped to 123,311. In 1970 gross desertions were 150,469; however, 23,716 returned for a net loss of 126,753. This pattern, with no apparent trend, continued in 1971.
Pay and Allowances
The low base pay and allowances set for the men in the armed forces had a direct influence on desertions and morale. The base pay for single individuals was well below the average standard of living pay scale in Vietnam, and in August 1971 single members were accounting for 65 percent of the total desertions in combat units. The South Vietnam government had taken token action early in the year to provide incentive pay for combat personnel. On 9 February the South Vietnam Prime Minister prescribed a temporary special allowance of 100 plasters (37¢) per day military personnel and for the Ministry of Defense civilians who were participating in operations and support missions outside South Vietnam. On 8 March the government increased the cost of living allowance for regular forces and Regional Forces by 100 piasters per month for each service member, his legal wife, and each of his supported children. The base pay for members of the Popular Forces was increased by 100 piasters per month, and the cost of living allowance for his legal wife and each of his supported children was increased by a similar amount.
Recognizing that a substantial pay increase was needed for the armed forces and government employees, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, in coordination with the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Agency for International Development, conducted a study of the armed forces pay scales during August 1971. Addressing the grave problem of procurement and retention within the combat infantry battalions, Military Assistance Command recommended across-the-board percentage increases (28 percent) in base pay, incentive pay for the South Vietnam Army combat units (4,500 piasters) and Regional Forces mobile battalions (2,000 plasters), and an increase in death gratuity payments. General Abrams submitted the pay proposal to the Minister of National Defense in September 1971, and the following November the government increased the cost of living allowance for all service members and civil servants by
1,200 piasters ($2.80) per man per month and authorized incentive pay as proposed by Military Assistance Command. Subsequently the Chief, Joint General Staff, sought the MACV commander's assistance in seeking to obtain 4,500 piasters ($11.00) incentive pay for other "crack troops" who were excluded from the framework of the new pay measure. In response, General Abrams counseled that "in determining the best application of the military pay raise, primary consideration was given those units [combat infantry battalions] experiencing grave procurement and retention problems" and "any deviation to the current list [of authorized units] would be in contradiction of the stated purpose of the allowance and invite requests for exceptions from other services and arms." However, on 15 December the South Vietnam government's Ministerial Decree 1215 extended the incentive pay, without the MACV commander's sanction, to reconnaissance companies, shock companies, and scout companies subordinate to the 81st Ranger Group (Airborne) and to certain personnel assigned to the technical directorates.
In the past, poor treatment of veterans had only exacerbated the problem of desertion. Traditionally, the Vietnamese armed forces carried physically impaired servicemen on the active rolls because of inadequate facilities for their physical and vocational rehabilitation; this practice caused a drawdown on unit present-for-operations strength. The Cat Lai Project, established May 1967, under the joint sponsorship of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Veteran Affairs, conducted vocational school training for physically impaired personnel before discharge from the service, thus preparing them more adequately for civilian life. The goal was to train annually some 1,200 soldiers who, upon successful completion of their course, would be eligible for gainful employment. In July 1967 the school officially opened with 138 students enrolled in eight courses (tailoring, supply, mechanics, carpentry, plumbing, masonry, typing, and electronics), and in December it graduated ninety-five of the original students. Placement of these graduates by the Veterans Affairs Placement Office at first proved unsatisfactory; through the efforts of Education Consultants, Ltd., however, many of the students were later placed in civilian jobs.
In a letter to the Ministry of Defense on 4 January 1968, General Westmoreland reaffirmed his interest in the placement of physically impaired South Vietnam armed forces soldiers upon
discharge from the service. A viable veterans program was an essential element of an effective armed force. On 16 January 1968, at a conference held to discuss the revitalization of the South Vietnam government Veterans Program, Westmoreland announced that Military Assistance Command would assume responsibility for advising and assisting the Ministry of Veteran Affairs in its Veterans Program and outlined four areas of concentration: hospitalization, classification, training, and job placement. He assigned the mission of implementing MACV's advisory effort to MACV J-1; this staff agency, in turn, formed a separate division whose mission was to advise the Ministry of Veteran Affairs in carrying out the objectives outlined by Westmoreland. In July this division was replaced by the Mobilization and War Veterans Advisory Branch in the Advisory Division of Military Assistance Command.
At first the advisory effort centered around the identification of resources, the determination of requirements, and the unification of all agencies affiliated with armed forces veterans affairs. Plans and material for the conduct of the command survey of physically impaired soldiers were prepared and made available to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Veteran Affairs. Finally, a combined committee comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Veteran Affairs, and Military Assistance Command was organized to formulate plans and administer the over-all program for armed forces physically impaired soldiers. In the area of hospitalization, aid was expected in getting additional hospital beds. Tied closely with hospitalization was a re-emphasis on the methods and execution of medical classification to ensure precise and prompt categorizing of the individual. When vocational training was prescribed, the accurate and rapid filing of occupational questionnaires and the issuance of a security clearance were imperative. In the case of individuals who desired civil employment, assurance of an early release became essential. Military authorities felt that by joining the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Veteran Affairs, and Military Assistance Command, cooperation in these areas, policies beneficial to the individual, the armed forces, and the nation would be assured.
The development of private businesses was discussed with members of the Industrial Developments Branch of the U.S. Agency for International Development who were especially knowledgeable in this area. It was their opinion that industrial development planning should remain within the sphere of the Ministry of Economy, since its mission was to explore ventures of this nature. The MACV commander agreed with this position.
One important step forward was a South Vietnam government
Instruction At Da Nang Vocational School
reorganization, which resulted in the merger of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Veteran Affairs. The Ministry of Veteran Affairs lost its ministerial status and became an integral part of the Ministry of Defense, which was redesignated Ministry of Defense and War Veterans. No changes in the administration and operation of the defunct ministry were anticipated.
In the area of job placement, the establishment of working relationships and close liaison between the job placement section, Ministry of Defense and War Veterans, and U.S.-Vietnamese civilian and governmental enterprises opened the way for the employment of physically impaired soldiers and veterans. During the second quarter of 1968, approximately 1,100 job referrals and placements were made. In an effort to create additional employment, the Ministry of Defense and War Veterans studied the feasibility of establishing factories to produce operational rations, ammunition, and items of organizational equipment. Additionally, the Ministry of Defense and War Veterans, working in conjunction with the Ministry of Economy, planned to utilize approximately 1,000 disabled veterans as security guards to relieve the Regional and Popular Forces guarding industrial complexes. These disabled
The problems of leadership, promotions, and grade were interrelated and deserve special attention. In general, the actual grade structure of Vietnamese armed forces units was far below the authorized level. This condition was most apparent in senior command and staff positions and especially in the infantry battalions and armored cavalry squadrons. In 1969, for example, 47 percent of the infantry battalion commanders were two grades below authorization, and lieutenants and aspirants (officer candidates) were called upon to assume responsibilities beyond their experience or training. A major effort during the year centered on identifying and promoting qualified leaders. Yet, despite an increase of 2,653 senior officers between December 1968 and October 1969 (more promotions than in any other year), the regular Army still had only 63 percent of its authorized senior officers assigned: Rapid force expansion simply outpaced officer strength increases, and the armed forces supplemental August promotion board actions had little effect in raising the percentage of assigned senior officers. Additionally, most officers lacked formal training, although the amount of such training conducted at the Vietnamese armed forces leader-producing schools was slowly rising.
Another major headache, which continued to plague both the regular and territorial forces, was an imbalance of mid-level officers and noncommissioned officers grade structures. The situation stemmed mainly from what had been the inability of the Vietnamese armed forces officer and noncommissioned officer production and promotion systems to keep pace with the rapid mobilization. This problem was compounded by the fact that most of the officer and noncommissioned officer input had necessarily been at the bottom of their respective grade structures. The armed forces had no large pool of reserve officers or noncommissioned officers from which to draw; when some 1,055 reserve officers were recalled to active duty in early 1968, the pool was almost depleted. The armed forces developed a "three-year officer and NCO realization plan" which stipulated a progressive system of officer and noncommissioned officer promotions designed to achieve at least a 90 percent fill in all grades by the end of 1970. Owing in part to continued force structure increases, however, lack of eligible and qualified personnel for promotion and unrealistic promotion goals, all such projections proved too optimistic.
A third difficulty was the length of officer assignments. Some officers had never served away from the JGS headquarters, while others had stayed in combat units during their entire service. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, initiated the development of a combined Personnel Systems Evaluation Committee to push a career management program, and the Joint General Staff finally adopted a limited officer rotation program which permitted officers who had served two years in one unit, upon request, to be reassigned to more desirable duties such as central agencies, schools, or the Joint General Staff. The policy was not fully implemented, however, and progress in the program was slow.
The most significant breakthrough in career management discipline was a plan for the progressive development of infantry officers. This plan was the Joint General Staff's first manpower management effort concerned with a particular category of personnel. It spelled out provisions for the career management of infantry officers, specified rotation of duty assignments between remote and more desirable areas, and included provisions for alternating tours between command and staff duty. Newly commissioned infantry officers were to serve their initial tours with combat units. Educational criteria for both military and civilian schools were prescribed for the selection of division, regimental, battalion, and sector commanders, for staff officers at all levels, and for service school cadres, to include the Command and Staff School. The program was basically similar to the U.S. Army's program for officer career management.
Efforts to remedy the grade structure by reforming the promotion system met with less success. No major renovation had occurred in the Vietnamese armed forces officer promotion system since 1965, but some reforms took place in 1968 and 1969. Promotions were centralized within the Joint General Staff for all of the armed services, and a selection board was convened annually for all officer and noncommissioned officer grades. Even though well-defined, promotion goals were not met. In April 1970, Military Assistance Command published a comprehensive study of the system and recommended major changes, such as the establishment of separate promotion boards for the South Vietnam Navy and Air Force. The most serious problems and recommendations are noted below.
1. Too little credit was given for technical skill levels and qualifications in the promotion of the Vietnamese Air Force and Navy enlisted personnel. The basic eligibility criterion for their promotion was time in grade. Promotion considerations included nature of the units to which assigned, formal training, evaluation
by commanding officers, and awards for meritorious or valorous service. While all criteria were significant, none reflected the actual skill level and degree of qualification each soldier attained. The armed forces promotion system therefore did not ensure that the men who were promoted had the skills and qualifications required for their grade. This situation created difficulties in many technical areas. Personnel attaining senior noncommissioned officer status in the Vietnamese Navy or Air Force were frequently required to supervise the operation and care of sophisticated equipment or to be responsible for complex and important operations. If the senior noncommissioned officer lacked the skills required of his grade, the operational effectiveness of his unit was seriously reduced. Military Assistance Command recommended that grade-to-skill qualifications standards be developed, used as minimal prerequisites for promotion to E-4 and above, and the degree of qualification be given major weight in the promotion point system for the Navy and Air Force.
2. There were inconsistencies in the promotion system as it applied to the Women's Armed Forces Corps (WAFC) personnel. While WAFC personnel were supposed to be considered with all other Vietnamese armed forces personnel in the annual promotion selection, WAFC members in some instances were apparently considered, selected, and listed separately. Military Assistance Command recommended that all promotion selection boards be instructed to consider them at the same time and under the same criteria as other armed forces personnel, and that WAFC selectees be listed in the consolidated selection lists. This action would help provide fair promotion practices and would furnish correct promotion dates for WAFC selectees.
3. The manner in which the prerequisite for eligibility for promotion to major (a ninth grade level diploma required) was applied caused discontent. The requirement was designed to raise the educational level requirements for field grade officers without penalizing those field grade officers who had already achieved their rank without it (the diploma was not required for higher level promotion). Many officers believed this policy was an inequity in the system. Military Assistance Command recommended that the prerequisite be retained but that an explanation of its rationale be disseminated and provision made for educational level equivalency examinations for personnel desiring to qualify for major. Military Assistance Command also recommended that the Chief of Staff, Joint General Staff, be empowered to waive the educational requirement in exceptional cases.
4. There was a need to establish separate Regional Forces and
regular force battlefield promotions for noncommissioned officers and enlisted men. The existing system allocated quotas to each corps tactical zone, the Vietnamese Air Force, Navy, Special Forces, airborne, and Marine Corps. The four corps tactical zones and the Vietnamese Navy were allocated quotas, which included Regional Forces personnel as well as regular force members. Results from 1969 showed that for the most part field commanders had not taken maximum advantage of battlefield promotion quotas; during the last six months, for example, only 32 percent of the total allocated quota for enlisted men had been used. By far the greater number of battlefield promotions went to the regular forces. To ensure fair and equitable treatment of Regional Forces personnel, it was recommended that two separate quotas be given to the designated commanders, one for the regular forces and one for the Regional Forces.
Vietnamese armed forces response to these recommendations was slow. In September 1971, the Joint General Staff amended the armed forces promotion policies and adjusted those parameters designed to recognize and accelerate promotions for able leaders; they also awarded extra promotion points to troops serving in combat and combat support units and reduced time in grade requirements for battlefield and non-battlefield (meritorious) promotions. In consequence, the armed forces fulfilled its 1971 regular officer and noncommissioned officer promotion goals. However, sheer numbers and accelerated promotions alone did not necessarily ensure that the most effective leader was selected or that the overall leadership was upgraded. Moreover, despite significant emphasis on officer fill and promotions, commanders of maneuver battalions remained generally below authorized grades. The occupation was simply too dangerous and combat operations often eliminated the best commanders. In December 1970, 37 percent (forty-nine) of the infantry battalions were still commanded by captains. In January 1971, ninety-one of these officers were promoted to field rank, but increased combat operations and casualties took their toll. By 31 May, forty-six of the 133 infantry maneuver battalions (35 percent) were still commanded by captains; eighty of these 133 commanders had been in command one year or less, and fifty-two of those for less than six months.
All these forces demanded vast quantities of military equipment, most of which was purchased or loaned from the United States. Deserving special attention were the efforts of General
Westmoreland and his successors to equip the Vietnamese infantry with modern small arms, communications, and transportation equipment. In 1964 the enemy had introduced the AK47, a modern, highly effective automatic rifle; later he began using a light but excellent series of rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers against both armored and supply vehicles. In contrast, the South Vietnam forces were still armed with a variety of World War II weapons and, in view of the enemy's rising advantage in firepower, the MACV commander had asked that all South Vietnam Army ground combat units be equipped with the new U.S. lightweight M16 automatic rifle, as well as with other contemporary firearms. In the fall of 1965 he made an initial urgent request for 170,000 M16 rifles (later reduced to 100,000). But although the request was approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Military Assistance Command was informed that U.S. forces in South Vietnam would receive first priority. After 1965 the increasing U.S. buildup slowly pushed Vietnamese armed forces matériel needs into the background. In December 1966 the Secretary of Defense directed that the issue of M16's to South Vietnam Army and Republic of Korea (ROK) forces be deferred and that the allocations previously planned for these forces be redirected to U.S. units. Finally, in March 1967, the allocation of M16 rifles for South Vietnamese and South Korean maneuver elements was reinstated, and the first shipments of rifles for the South Vietnam Army arrived the following month. But until 1968 there were only enough to equip the airborne and Marine battalions of the General Reserve.
In 1968 this situation began to change drastically. One new development was the end of the American buildup in South Vietnam and with it a leveling off of U.S. matériel demands. Two other developments were the decisions, first, in 1968 to support the more elaborate South Vietnamese armed forces structure outlined in the series of Improvement and Modernization programs and, second, in 1969 to Vietnamize the war by having the Vietnamese armed forces assume all American combat responsibilities. The result was a comprehensive logistical effort to supply the South Vietnamese military forces with superior small arms as quickly as possible. By mid-1968 all of the South Vietnamese Army infantry battalions had received the new weapons, along with other contemporary small arms--the new U.S. M60 machine gun, the M79 grenade launcher, and the LAW (or light antitank weapon). In the years that followed, South Vietnamese Army combat support units, the territorial forces, and the Civilian Irregular Defense Group received identical equipment. Together, these small arms gave a significant morale and psychological boost to the South Vietnamese
soldier by allowing him to meet the enemy with equal or greater firepower. The standardization of small arms also simplified the equally important matters of logistics and maintenance.
Before 1968 the South Vietnamese Army also had severe shortages in crew-served weapons, tactical communications, equipment, and light transport vehicles, items that were critical to an Army composed mostly of foot soldiers. To overcome these deficiencies, Military Assistance Command instituted temporary loan procedures whereby the Vietnamese armed forces highest priority requirements were met by temporary transfers from U.S. depots and excess stocks. By mid-1968, equipment valued at approximately $10 million was on loan to the Vietnamese Army and included 691 1/4-ton trucks, 388 2 1/2-ton trucks, 151 1/4-ton trailers, 208 106-mm. recoilless rifles, 100 M60 machine gun mounts, 4,932 .50-caliber machine gun mounts, 18 .50-caliber machine guns, and 177 survey sets. Once the Improvement and Modernization programs began to take effect in 1969, however, this practice stopped and the Vietnamese armed forces shortages in these areas were rapidly made up.
After 1969 most armed forces matériel needs were satisfied from existing U.S. stocks in South Vietnam. As U.S. units redeployed, most of their equipment and supplies were turned in, reconditioned, if necessary, by U.S. logistical units, and reissued to the Vietnamese armed forces units as appropriate. Requirements that could not be satisfied in this manner were met from the Pacific Command supply and maintenance facilities or shipped from CONUS sources. This practice was expanded by the Vietnamization Logistics Program, which began in July 1971. Major objectives of the new program were the acceleration of equipment deliveries and the expansion of Vietnamese armed forces secondary item stockage.
Project ENHANCE in May 1972 began to augment the armed forces capabilities as one response to the North Vietnamese Army offensive in April. The purpose of the project was to accelerate the delivery of the residual balance of fiscal year 1972 and 1973 Phase III assets, replace all abnormal armed forces combat losses projected through the end of fiscal year 1972, and provide the armed forces with selected augmentation capabilities. Initially, Project ENHANCE required that large quantities of matériel be delivered to the Vietnamese armed forces as soon as possible. To avoid overburdening the armed forces with materiel that it was ill-prepared to absorb, utilize, or maintain, execution of the program was relaxed to the extent that the MACV commander was authorized to call forward quantities of matériel that would on
Maintenance Classes For New Equipment
arrival immediately support or "enhance" the Vietnamese armed forces capabilities. This shift to a "pull" versus "push" concept in no way de-emphasized the high priority assigned to the project. But the flexibility provided by relaxation of the required delivery dates enabled Military Assistance Command to run the program more efficiently. These efforts were continued until the implementation of the cease-fire accords early in 1973. As the variety of equipment and supplies given to the Vietnamese armed forces grew, it became a more "balanced" and thus a more specialized institution. Once the slumber of infantry units became stabilized, the various combat controlling headquarters were then slowly filled out with engineer; signal, ordinance, and logistical support units. The rising number of artillery battalions (from twenty-nine in June 1968 to fifty-eight by 1972) and armored cavalry squadrons (from eleven to seventeen) has already been noted. New elements in the Vietnamese Army inventory were Rome Plows for land-clearing, 175-mm. artillery pieces on the demilitarized zone (South Vietnam's border with North Vietnam), and, in the fall of 1971, the first battalion of M48 medium battle tanks. It may be added that, although beyond the scope of this work, the expansion of the Vietnamese Navy and Air Force-both technical services-was also highlighted by the acquisition of what was for the Vietnamese extremely sophisticated equipment,
The technical expansion of the South Vietnam armed forces placed great demands on the schools and training centers. Military
Assistance Command continuously sought to maintain and improve these institutions so that the Vietnamese forces would be more than an army on paper. New schools and training centers were established and existing facilities improved and expanded to upgrade their training capacity. Course content was constantly reviewed and revised to ensure it was meeting field requirements; Military Assistance Command continued to pay special attention to leadership training, small unit and night operations, marksmanship training, and ambush and patrol tactics. New courses of instruction, such as the special officer candidate, company commander, regional forces officer refresher, and methods of instruction, were established in all schools. At Regional Forces and Popular Forces training centers, consolidation programs were initiated in order to improve training facilities and standardize and upgrade training activities. Finally, MAC started programs to improve the leadership and cadre in the Vietnamese Army training base, and made vigorous efforts to place combat-experienced soldiers throughout these centers.
During 1968 the expansion and improvement of the training base enabled the South Vietnam Army to meet all of their training requirements. Service school inputs rose from 53,000 students in 1967 to 70,000 by the end of the year. The volume handled by the training centers was much larger and included some 168,335 Vietnamese Army and Regional Forces recruits, 19,174 OCS preparatory course students, 22,483 Popular Forces recruits, 13 new and 13 old infantry battalions (refresher training), 44 new Regional Forces heavy weapons platoons, 588 new Popular Forces platoons, and refresher training for 656 old Popular Forces platoons. With enemy activity low and mobilization efforts successful, this pace continued throughout the following years.
From 1968 to 1970 U.S. attempts to develop the size and scope of the training base also met with success. The service school system grew to a total of twenty-six schools offering training in 326 different courses of instruction with a normal capacity of 24,000 students expandable to an emergency capacity of 34,000. Training centers, including Regional and Popular Forces, Ranger, and the ten division training centers, numbered thirty-three and were located throughout the country. These centers provided instruction in a total of thirty-four different courses and had a normal capacity of approximately 65,000 students, with an emergency capacity of about 105,655. Formal training needs which could not be satisfied within the Vietnamese armed forces systems--pilots and operators of complex signal equipment for example--continued to be met by CONUS installations or by special U.S. service
mobile training teams in South Vietnam. Hereafter the emphasis would be on quality rather than quantity. In January 1970 the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, dispatched a special DA training team to South Vietnam headed by Brigadier General Donnelly P. Bolton for the purpose of examining the state of U.S. training advice. A month later the team recommended several measures to strengthen the American training advisory system. Most important was the matter of personnel, and in the following months the Department of the Army gave much attention to both the quantity and the quality of the replacements it was sending to the MACV Training Directorate. By September 1970 the assigned strength of the MACV training advisory element rose from 55 to over 100 percent, and by June 1971 over 90 percent of the training advisers were combat experienced. At the end of the year the training advisory element numbered over 3,500, but thereafter it decreased until the total withdrawal in March 1973. Other major accomplishments with DA encouragement during this period were the publication of a five-year Vietnamese armed forces training program and training budget in 1971, the revision of all armed forces training programs of instruction (over 650), and the institution of a "sister service school system" whereby similar U.S.and Vietnamese Army schools maintained liaison on a regular basis. Finally, the practice of Central Training Command (CTC) level refresher training was ended and instead divisions instituted their own annual training programs assisted, when necessary, by mobile training teams from the Training Command.
School and Training Center Improvements
In April 1971 the Joint General Staff conducted an appraisal of all instructor positions to determine which required combat-experienced personnel, and on the basis of its findings directed certain reallocations. The number of positions was reduced from 1,685 to 710, and the criteria for the replacement of long-tenure officers in key training center and service school positions were strengthened and enforced. As a result, 138 combat-experienced instructors were added during the year in areas dealing with command, operations, tactics, and weapons. Recognizing that combat experience alone did not guarantee a good instructor, the Central Training Command introduced a six-week method of instruction course in June at the Quang Trung Training Center. In addition, a one-week method of instruction refresher course was established at the remaining training centers and in thirteen of the twenty-three service schools. The appointment of combat-
experienced senior commanders to the key Vietnamese armed forces training installations added strength and validity to the training program. (Map 2)
In June 1971 Military Assistance Command began a series of briefings designed to acquaint the faculties of the Vietnamese armed forces training centers and service schools with a proposed Training Management System. The key element in the proposal was a systematic approach to curriculum development called Instructional System Development (ISD). In essence Instructional System Development was an eight-step model for the development of a course of instruction. The Central Training Command favored the proposal, and on 27 July Military Assistance Command presented a new two-week curriculum development and management course to selected members of the CTC staff. Subsequently, Military Assistance Command prepared twenty-one related draft directives and manuals for the Central Training Command; these training materials were essential for the proper implementation of the Training Management System and Instructional System Development within the armed forces. The first of eight calendar year 1971 classes in August began teaching staff officers and training managers of the service schools and training centers the fundamentals of ISD techniques.
By 13 January 1972, eight classes had been completed and 102 officers had graduated. The Central Training Command put together a workable Vietnamese version of Instructional System Development and, in coordination with U.S. advisers, supervised the system engineering of a pilot program at the Vietnamese armed forces ordnance school. The goals for the immediate future were to complete the instructor training so that CTC officers could take over the presentation of the curriculum development and management course and conduct the first ISD course entirely in the Vietnamese language.
A consolidation of the training centers began in 1970 as a measure to increase training center capacity at the lowest possible cost. Military Assistance Command was vitally concerned with the facilities to upgrade water system improvement programs connected with this consolidation and also with those improvements planned for service schools. The 1970-71 Military Assistance Service Funded Military Construction (MASF/MILCON) Program apportioned $28 million for these projects. A total of twenty-three national, Regional Forces, Popular Forces, and Ranger training centers were to be improved, modernized, and consolidated into ten "national" centers by the end of 1972. The consolidation plan
proceeded on schedule and five Popular Forces training centers were closed by the end of the first quarter, 1971.
During the second quarter of 1971, the completion date for consolidation was accelerated--owing to increased Cambodian training requirements, an accelerated construction program, and the additional training commitments generated by the 357 new Popular Forces platoons, which had been formed in IV Corps Tactical Zone. At the end of December the consolidation program was 92 percent complete. Three Popular Forces training centers remained active after their designated training termination date; however, these centers were scheduled to end all training during the first two weeks of January 1972, and the entire program was targeted for completion on 31 January. By then, thirteen underutilized centers had been closed down and the more efficient "National Training Center" system instituted.
In 1971, for the first time, the Central Training Command adopted a selected graduation system for Vietnamese noncommissioned officer and specialist training programs. This move reflected the increased interest in quality, and contrasted with the past policy of graduating every student who "completed" the course. One byproduct of this change was the establishment of slow-learner, remedial training courses and various make-up training programs, all of which were new practices for the Vietnamese armed forces.
A facilities upgrade plan for the centers was designed to complement the consolidation program. Minimum additional facilities were to be constructed to accommodate increased training loads, existing facilities were to be rehabilitated, and water supply and distillation systems were to be installed. By the end of December the training center upgrade program was 92 percent complete with total completion expected by the end of the third quarter of fiscal year 1972.
The MASF/MILCON projects for the service school totaled $9,319,000. The facility upgrade projects ($7,845,000) consisted of rehabilitation and new construction of barracks, classrooms, mess halls, kitchen, latrines, ranges, and other buildings. Water upgrade projects ($1,474,000) included drilling additional wells, laying water distribution lines, building water storage areas, and providing necessary water pumps. By 31 March 1971 all facility and water upgrade projects were under way.
During March the MACV/MASF Military Construction Review Board approved a project for construction of a Vietnamese infantry school at Bearcat Camp (III Corps Tactical Zone) at a projected cost of $7 million. Because of funding restrictions and higher priority projects, this decision temporarily canceled a pre-
vious plan to form a combined arms school at Bearcat and construct new armor and infantry schools there. By August, eight of the twenty-two facilities upgrade projects were completed as were fifteen of the eighteen water projects; blueprints for the Bearcat Infantry School had been completed, contract negotiations were in progress, and the notice to proceed was received in November 1971. When 1971 ended, the $28 million construction program for twenty-seven installations was 96 percent complete in dollar value; twenty-two of the twenty-seven projects were finished and the remaining five were programmed for completion by the spring of 1972.
Combined Arms Training
In June 1971, with the reduction of both U.S. conventional and advisory forces, a question arose regarding the Vietnamese armed forces capability to employ air support and effectively direct air-ground operations. The high-intensity combat operations in Laos and Cambodia made it evident that the armed forces staffs needed strengthening in planning and co-ordinating fire support, airmobile operations, and logistical support. To ensure that this goal received proper command emphasis, in August 1971 the MACV commander admonished his U.S. Advisers to urge their counterparts to conduct command post exercises and war games, which would include exercises in multi-regiment operations at corps level, and multi-battalion operations at regiment level. Concurrently, the MACV commander recommended that the chief of the joint General Staff direct his corps commanders to place command and staff emphasis on measures to strengthen battlefield reporting procedures.
In late August a joint combined committee was approved by the chief of the joint General Staff and formed under the supervision of the Central Training Command to develop a combined arms doctrine suitable for the Vietnam environment. Also in August the Vietnamese armor school conducted eight hours of combined arms training for four airborne battalions, marking for all service schools the start of a program to increase the effectiveness of combined arms operations.
Throughout September the joint committee devoted itself to the development of a Combined Arms Doctrinal Manual, the first effort by the Vietnamese to produce a formal doctrine. The proposed draft, suitable for armed forces application on the battlefield and for use as a training guide, was reviewed by Chief, Central Training Command, and approved by Chief, Joint General Staff, in November. In advance of the document's publication, the Com-
mander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, advised field elements that the doctrine was forthcoming and that . . . proper meshing of air, artillery, naval gunfire, infantry, and armor in accordance with the new doctrine will do much to enhance RVNAF supremacy over the NVA/VC. Advisors and commanders of each US service [are] expected to give dynamic support to the early introduction of this new mode of tactics on the Southeast Asia battlefield. Distributed January 1972, the new combined arms handbook represented a milestone in the Vietnamese armed forces progress and effectiveness. The new tactical approach was first applied by the Vietnamese Airborne Division in mid-December 1971 during its push through Krek to the Chup Rubber Plantation. The results were favorable and the division and corps commanders indicated firm acceptance of the new doctrine. Since the cease-fire, with the inactivation of the separate armor and infantry schools, and the consolidation of these schools at the new Bearcat Combined Arms Center, the Vietnamese armed forces continued to emphasize this approach.
Middle Management Training
To develop and train Vietnamese armed forces middle management assets, Military Assistance Command tasked the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), Office of the Secretary of Defense, with instituting a specialized training program for key management personnel in communications and selected support areas. On 15 December 1970, a one-year contract was awarded to Booz-Allen Applied Research, Inc., to implement the ARPA program and develop the Middle Management Training (MMT) Program for selected officer groups in the Vietnamese armed forces. Advanced courses were to be developed as follow-on training to the existing armed forces basic management training course, Program Review and Analysis Improvement Systems Evaluation, taught at the Vietnamese Logistics Management School. The program was to be documented to serve as a prototype for future training programs in Vietnam or other areas with a similar culture, and from the outset plans had been made to turn the project over to the Vietnamese armed forces as part of Vietnamization.
The specific technical fields selected for the pilot program were supply and maintenance, transportation, and communications-electronics. On 4 March 1971, Booz-Allen briefed Military Assistance Command and Major General Phan Trong Chinh, Chief, Central Training Command, on the scope, general content, and
schedule of the program. The advanced courses were to run for seven weeks, presented in three cycles, two in English and the third in Vietnamese. General Chinh approved the plan and the first course, in communications, began 21 June 1971. The first supply and management course given at the Vietnamese Logistic Management School and the first transportation course at the transportation school began on 5 July 1971, each with twenty students. The first communications-electronic MMT class graduated 9 August 1971. The supply maintenance and logistics MMT classes were completed 21 August 1971. The remaining two classes for each course graduated on 11 December 1971, after which the program became a Vietnamese responsibility.
Advanced Technical Training
In 1971 progress was also indicated in the development of the technically sophisticated and applied production skills. The first class in advanced engineering (twenty-eight students) began at the Military Technical Engineering School, Saigon, on 7 August 1971. This school had a staff of contract university professors and would produce many times more graduate engineers than all of the civilian universities in Vietnam. The engineering course included such vital skills as advance construction, public works, and road and bridge construction.
On 6 September the Vietnamese armed forces opened a school for bridge design. Each class had a maximum capacity of fourteen students who were required to design and supervise the actual construction of a bridge as part of the curriculum. Graduates were highly valued by a country whose waterways and water crossings play a very key role in its economy.
The armed forces ability to operate sophisticated equipment was exemplified by its success in the Integrated Communications System (ICS). The communications system required trained personnel in the fields of microwave, tropospheric scatter radio, fixed plant carriers, and the countrywide dial telephone system. Training in support of this system was conducted in South Vietnam and in the United States. In Vietnam, U.S. civilian contract instructors taught basic, intermediate, and advanced electronics to operators of the system; in the United States, Vietnamese armed forces students received special training as fixed station technical controllers, dial central office repairmen, and communications traffic managers.
On 3 February 1971, the first class of eleven microwave repairmen graduated from the ICS training facility located at the Vietnamese armed forces signal school in Vung Tau. Between February
Bridge Construction Training Engineer School
and December additional communications instruction was progressively transferred to the Vietnamese signal school from the U.S. Crypto-Log Support Center, Saigon, the Vietnamese 60th Signal Depot, Saigon, and the U.S. 1st Signal Brigade at Long Binh. The first class of the dial control repair course graduated at Vung Tau on 16 March 1971. In August the first group of third echelon cryptographic repairmen completed training, and in September the fourth echelon radar and switchboard repair courses were transferred to Vung Tau. By December the fourth and fifth echelon teletypewriter repair course and the fourth echelon signal repair courses were also being conducted at the Vietnamese signal school. The majority of courses were still being conducted by U.S. civilians at the end of December, but the target date for the Vietnamese armed forces to assume the entire ICS mission was 1 November 1972.
Pilot Training for the South Vietnam Air Force
Once U.S. redeployment began in earnest, the training and
Students At Vung Tau Signal School
buildup of the South Vietnam Air Force also took on a new importance. While the Army retained jurisdiction over helicopters within its sphere, in the South Vietnam government defense organization these critical machines were controlled by the Air Force. Thus, after 1969 the rapid buildup of the Air Force's rotary-wing arm necessitated close coordination between CONUS training schedules, U.S. Army aviation redeployments, equipment turnover procedures, and U.S. Air Force advisory teams. In many cases Vietnamese Air Force pilots and mechanics served long apprentice periods with Army aviation companies before their own squadrons were finally activated. Again the result was impressive. In 1968 the Air Force possessed about seventy-five outmoded rotary aircraft (H-34's) organized into five squadrons; by the end of 1972 it boasted some 500 new machines in eighteen squadrons, one of the largest; costliest, and most modern helicopter fleets in the world.
Both U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force CONUS installations were used extensively to train Vietnamese Air Force pilots. This practice made it necessary for all prospective pilots to receive extensive language training. English language training for all Vietnamese
Vietnamese Student Pilots, Ft. Stewart, GA.
helicopter pilots were finally completed on schedule with the last group leaving for the United States in April 1971. CONUS helicopter pilot training was scheduled for completion in July 1972. At the time, a total of 1,642 would have been trained including 341 who would have received instrument qualification training. The total Vietnamese Air Force offshore pilot training requirement, including helicopter, fixed-wing, and high-performance aircraft, was 3,334. During 1971, 1,007 students departed for offshore training while the remainder were scheduled to depart for continental United States by May 1972 for eighteen months of training. Completion date for the major portion of the offshore pilot program was September 1973.
Another effort, which provided excellent experience for the South Vietnam Army, was the on-the-job training program, actually a series of programs. It began in 1968 in response to current Vietnamization planning and the new equipment being made available
Signal Training For Vietnamese, sponsored by 1st Signal Brigade.
under the Improvement and Modernization plans. In many cases, both Vietnamese Army users and instructors lacked the ability to handle the more complex equipment. To overcome this handicap, the 1st Logistical Command began Operation BUDDY, under the direction of Major General Joseph M. Heiser, Jr. BUDDY was a large on-the-job training effort using American expertise and equipment in the 1st Logistical Command to train Vietnamese personnel. In general, U.S. Logistical units adopted similar Vietnamese Army units and conducted a variety of programs to enhance their effectiveness, such as integrated operations, training courses, and occasional social events where members could become familiar with each others activities and problems. The U.S. engineer and signal commands initiated similar efforts. In addition, U.S. Logistical services also supervised a number of SWITCHBACK operations, whereby a deploying U.S. unit turned over its equipment directly to a newly activated Vietnamese Army unit of the same type. Both practices proved successful in speeding up the Vietnamese armed forces Improvement and Modernization programs, and showed that U.S. Service support units were capable of accomplishing extensive train-
ing and advisory tasks in addition to their primary, functional missions.
In most cases, on-the-job training programs were decentralized and were developed on the initiative of local commanders. Later, in 1970, they became more formalized in order to handle the larger volume of combat support and combat service support unit activations. These programs varied in length from a few days to several months to over a year and included instruction for both regular and territorial officers and enlisted personnel. The objectives of the programs varied in scope from improving an individual's existing skills to giving him an entirely new capability. Normally on-the-job training was used to acquire and refine highly complex technical skills, especially the repair and maintenance of electronic equipment and machinery. Personnel in on-the-job training fell into four broad categories:
1. trainees detailed to commute and report on a scheduled basis to a U.S. unit for on-the-job training;
2. trainees attached full time to U.S. units for a specified period of training and, upon completion of the on-the-job training cycle, returned to Vietnamese units for proper skill utilization;
3. trainees attached to U.S. units for a specified period of training and, upon completion of the on-the-job training cycle, assigned to positions in the same or a similar unit, replacing U.S. personnel (more trainees would then be attached for on-the-job training, and this sequence would continue until sufficient men were trained to allow the South Vietnamese to assume complete responsibility for the mission; a new Vietnamese unit might officially be activated later); and
4. Vietnamese personnel trained on the job in their present units by U.S. mobile training teams and, upon completion of this training, utilized within their current unit.
Experience showed that the most effective on-the-job training efforts were in the mechanical fields where students learned by watching and imitating. Effectiveness diminished in programs, which required knowledge of theory and related applications. The expansion potential of the on-the-job training programs was thus restricted only by the inability of trainees with limited qualifications to handle complex modern equipment. The language barrier was the second major problem. In many instances, the Vietnamese language equivalent for certain technical terms was too different to use without sacrificing a great deal of precision and understanding.
For nontechnical combat skills, combined and joint operations between Vietnamese and U.S. units constituted a special type of on-the-job training. In theory, by operating with American units, Vietnamese forces would acquire valuable practical experience that could not be duplicated in formal training. Before 1968, the largest organized effort of this sort was the Combined Action Program run by the III Marine Amphibious Force in the northern quarter of South Vietnam. Marine rifle squads were married with Popular Forces platoons defending countryside hamlets; the two units worked together for several months until local security had improved to the degree that the marine were no longer needed. The program achieved success at the local level, but was too costly in terms of manpower to apply to the entire country.
U.S. Army units had conducted similar types of effort since 1965, but had been unable to pursue them in systematic fashion owing to the pressure of combat operations. The first large-scale effort occurred late in 1966 when U.S.and Vietnamese infantry battalions were paired and tasked to support pacification efforts in three key districts close to Saigon in Gia Dinh Province. The endeavor, Operation FAIRFAX, was pushed by General Westmoreland who hoped that the three participating U.S. battalions would inspire the Vietnamese Army and territorial units involved. The U.S. Battalions came from three different U.S. infantry divisions and were thus able to channel considerable U.S. combat support resources into the operation. In theory, however, all units--the U.S.and Vietnamese Army infantry battalions and the territorial and paramilitary forces under district (subsector) control--were to act in concert through co-operation and mutual respect.
Initially the program was beset by coordination and control difficulties; minor problems sometimes became major issues in the absence of higher command direction. Successful combined operations were demonstrated the following year in Gia Dinh Province, when a Vietnamese Ranger group headquarters and the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General John F. Freund, assumed responsibility for the direction of the multicomponent effort. Finally in November 1967, the 199th Brigade was withdrawn leaving only Ranger and province forces in charge, an early example of Vietnamization.
After Tet 1968 these types of operations become more common. As a rule, Vietnamese units remained under Vietnamese commanders except in a few cases where U.S.and Vietnamese units exchanged or "cross-attached" small tactical units (platoons or squads)
with one another. In I Corps Tactical Zone, III Marine Amphibious Force continued its successful Combined Action Program effort while Lieutenant General Richard G. Stilwell, the new XXIV Corps commander, went further and began integrating all U.S.and Vietnamese Army tactical operations in his area of responsibility. Under his direction, all multi-battalion operations were conducted with a mix of U.S.and Vietnamese battalions acting in concert, but not under a unified command. Operations were conceived jointly by General Stilwell and Major General Truong, commanding general of the 1st Vietnamese Army Division, and each contributed a share of the forces against common objectives. During these combined efforts, U.S. brigade and Vietnamese regimental commanders often established neighboring command posts in the same fire support bases and conducted operations through close and continuous cooperation Stilwell and Truong worked closely together and spent most of their days in the same helicopter alternately visiting U.S.and Vietnamese units. The psychological and practical effect of these visits brought about a complete integration of military effort and a high degree of cooperation between the Vietnamese and American forces. The resulting partnership initially made possible some tutelage by U.S. commanders at battalion and brigade levels for their Vietnamese counterparts; later, there was a little "reverse lend-lease" in this arrangement as the seasoned Vietnamese commanders were able to pass on their experience to newly arrived U.S. leaders.
This practice was fully supported by Major General Melvin Zais as commanding general of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, and subsequently as Stilwell's successor in 1969-70, when he pushed similar methods in the 1st Marine and the Americal Divisions. Actually, the Americal Division was well along with its combined operations program under Major General Lloyd B. Ramsey and the vast improvement in the 2d Vietnamese Army Division's performance dates from this period. The Americal Division established common brigade-regimental tactical areas for which the U.S.and Vietnamese units were jointly responsible; in each area U.S. brigades and Vietnamese regiments collocated their command posts at the same base camps and conducted extensive combined operations. In II Corps Tactical Zone, combined operations programs were begun by Lieutenant General William R. Peers in early 1968. While the 4th Infantry Division guarded the highland approaches, Peers started a "Pair-Off" program between units of the 173d Airborne Brigade and the Vietnamese 22d and 23d Infantry Divisions. Later the concept was expanded to include Vietnamese artillery and other combat support forces, especially newly established units. In
1969 and 1970 these same Vietnamese units replaced American forces, as they deployed from South Vietnam, almost on a unit-for-unit basis. Similar efforts were initiated later in III Corps Tactical Zone by Lieutenant General Julian J. Ewell, commanding the II Field Force, Vietnam. In mid-1969 Ewell began a corps-wide Dong Tien or "Progress Together" program that paired the 1st and 25th U.S. Infantry Divisions and the 199th Light Infantry Brigade with three Vietnamese infantry divisions. Combined operations were most extensive between the 1st U.S.and 5th Vietnamese Infantry Divisions and paved the way for the 5th Division's assumption of almost all of the Big Red One's area of operation the following year. Finally, on the border areas of III Corps Tactical Zone, II Field Force mated Vietnamese airborne regiments with brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile); there the airborne units made extensive use of the American division's large helicopter resources and became proficient in the more sophisticated methods used by U.S. units In retrospect, the Dong Tien effort served as an invaluable training prelude to the Cambodian invasion in April 1970 during which the Vietnamese III Corps Tactical Zone headquarters put three brigade-size task forces on the road to Phom Penh with minimal American assistance. As in other corps tactical zones, such programs not only served as training vehicles, but they also provided a transitional period during which Vietnamese commanders could gradually ease into their new responsibilities as the U.S. Forces departed.
Mobile Advisory Teams
With the exception of the Combined Action Program and a few other programs, neither on-the-job training nor the combined operations programs had any effect on the territorial units. Yet, as U.S. Forces deployed from South Vietnam and were replaced by Vietnamese regular units, the ability of the Regional and Popular Forces to provide security for pacification became more critical. Up to 1968 the territorial forces had been without advisers, and often Military Assistance Command had little information on their condition and employment. With thousands of these units spread out over the country any effort to place permanent advisers with them would have been too costly in terms of U.S. manpower. In an effort to begin improving them, General Westmoreland was at first forced to rely heavily on the initiative of the corps senior advisers and the U.S. resources available within each corps tactical zone. In 1967 all U.S. corps headquarters initiated Regional and Popular Forces training programs utilizing mobile training teams composed
of from three to ten members who rotated among local Regional and Popular units. Their mission varied from conducting one-day on-site training to five-week refresher training programs. The teams were given a number of military labels--combined mobile training teams, combined mobile improvement teams, "red-catcher" and "impact" teams, and Regional Forces company training teams. However, these efforts proved too decentralized and uncoordinated to deal with what was an extremely difficult problem.
Encouraged by the limited progress that had been made, General Westmoreland directed a countrywide test of the Regional Forces company training team concept. Basically, the concept was similar to the Marine Combined Action Program. In practice, a team of three company grade officers and three noncommissioned officers joined a Regional Forces company at a Vietnamese Army training center, assisted in training, and then accompanied the unit back to its home base for in-place training and operational missions. The team remained until the unit was capable of operating alone, usually six to nine months later. The team did not command the unit, but Regional Forces commanders were instructed to follow the team's directions. The Regional Forces company training team was in the business of training and supervising, not simply advising, and thus had a more active role than that of the advisory teams. Team members were recognized combat leaders with about nine months left in the country and some command of the Vietnamese language. By the end of 1967, advisor reports did not reflect any significant improvement in the territorial forces. However, there was general agreement that the training team concept was valid and should be expanded. At a conference held on 26 October 1967, General Westmoreland recommended that some 354 new advisory teams be created specifically to provide assistance to the Regional and Popular Forces. Other recommendations called for providing engineer and personnel advisers to each of the forty-four provinces. What finally evolved were the mobile advisory team and the mobile advisory logistics team. These teams formed the nucleus of a massive improvement program that addressed all aspects of the administration, logistical support, and tactical operations of the territorial units.
Each mobile advisory team consisted of two officers, three enlisted men, and a Vietnamese Army interpreter. Their primary mission was to advise and instruct Regional Forces companies and Popular Forces platoons and Regional and Popular Forces group headquarters on field fortifications, barrier systems, indirect fire support, and small unit operations with emphasis on night operations and ambushes, patrols, weapons employment, emergency
MAT Adviser Examines Homemade PF Mortar
medical care, and other topics related to Regional and Popular Forces missions. By the end of 1968 the MACV deployment goal had been met and the program was judged a success.
Two significant changes were later made in the program centering around personnel procurement. Initially, personnel were drawn from individuals in U.S. units who still had at least six months remaining in Vietnam. In early 1969, however, mobile advisory team members were assigned directly from the CONUS personnel stream to a specific mobile advisory team for a one-year tour. Tour stability was important and advisers could often pick up more experience in one or two months in their advisory capacity than by serving six with a U.S. unit. In order to be better prepared for the assignment, advisers attended a new adviser school established by the U.S. Army, Vietnam (USARV), at Di An. In order to make mobile advisory team duty more desirable, the second change stipulated that the mobile advisory team leader and his assistant would receive command credit for their duty.
The mobile advisory team concept was hailed as the turning point in improving the effectiveness of the territorial forces, and
the program was continually strengthened during the years that followed. The detailed structure changed from time to time, but in general the teams remained small, close-knit groups with new company grade officers, a light weapons noncommissioned officer, a radiotelephone operator, and an interpreter. Although the mobile advisory teams initially concentrated on working with Regional Forces companies, later they operated with the smaller Popular Forces platoons, and in the end they became extensions of first the province and then the district advisory teams. The mobile advisory teams remained mobile, however, and were transferred to other areas whenever necessary. Since 1970 the mobile advisory teams' success has been periodically reflected in the fine performance shown by territorial units operating independently and with minimal outside support.
The mobile advisory logistics team program complemented the mobile advisory team and placed major emphasis on improving the administrative and logistic support procedures of the Regional and Popular Forces. The mobile advisory logistics teams' missions were to provide on-the-spot administrative, supply, and logistics training and assistance to Regional and Popular Forces units and their direct support logistical companies and depots. As was the case with the mobile advisory teams, initial personnel resources were detailed from USARV resources and later replacements were obtained through normal MACV channels. The mobile advisory logistics teams proved to be an effective means of improving the administrative and logistical functions of the territorial forces and contributed to their high morale and increased materiel independence. No longer were they the forgotten stepchildren of the Republic of Vietnam armed forces.
How successful were U.S. efforts to improve the effectiveness of the South Vietnamese Army during these final years of U.S. involvement? The test came during North Vietnam's spring offensive of 1972. The commendable performance on the part of the South Vietnamese Army and the territorial forces was ample evidence that U.S. effort had not failed. The Vietnamese Army withstood and repelled the vicious onslaught of the enemy, and its success instilled a new sense of esprit and national unity throughout the country. The policy of Vietnamization had not only made it possible for U.S. military forces to disengage from South Vietnam, but it also helped to create a South Vietnamese Army strong enough to take their place.
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