Chapter XI: 

Lessons Learned

Although no one can predict the future, the likelihood of being involved in another limited war seems to be high. Since the advent of the nuclear age, limited wars and insurgency operations have been both frequent and common. Since World War II, the U. S. Army has gone through the Korean War, the Lebanon landing, the operation in the Dominican Republic, and was involved in Vietnam for a decade, being there in strength since 1965. A number of lessons have emerged from the Vietnam years that can be applied in similar future campaigns. These can be grouped under three broad headings: Personnel, Equipment, and Policies and Procedures.

Personnel Lessons Learned

1. A twelve month tour is too short if a logistic system is to operate at near peak efficiency. When casualties (combat and non-combat) are considered, about 10 percent of the personnel change every month. On the other hand, if other benefits merit a fixed short combat tour policy, then in-theater personnel turbulence must be held to a minimum by strictly limiting the number of assignment changes for each individual during his tour.

2. The Continental U.S. training base is overly civilianized. The small pool of trained and experienced military people in maintenance operations, ammunition operations, storage and warehousing operations, and supply management is incapable of providing the number of skilled personnel needed when a force buildup starts. Either depots and installation logistics facilities should increase their military strengths or Continental U.S. civilians in these facilities should be used to support an overseas buildup until the Continental Army Command school system can turn out the required number of trained military men and women. An additional benefit that would result from using more military in Continental U.S. logistical installations would be that there would be assignments in Continental U.S. where skilled overseas returnees could employ their expertise.

3. There is a need to improve driver training programs in Continental U.S. Poorly trained drivers add to maintenance


workloads and cause the overseas commanders to divert personnel resources to establish driver training programs. Continental U.S. Training should include operating in combat type conditions.

4. Units of the Reserve Components called to active duty performed well. The decision to rely on draftees or regulars instead of calling up reserve units meant that valuable logistics skills were not put to use. The few National Guard and Reserve units that were used in the Da Nang area during the summer and fall of 1968 were very good. Brigadier General James W. Gunn, Commanding General, US Army Support Command, Da Nang remarked that ". . . these units proved to be outstanding in every respect. They were composed of mature officers and men who arrived in-country with 100 percent of their TOE strength and equipment. They were for the most part well educated and highly motivated and skilled. . .

5. Replacement centers in combat zones should assure that every individual has a set of readable fingerprints in his 201 file. The prompt and current identification of the dead is a must.

Equipment Lessons Learned

1. The use of DeLong Piers in Vietnam showed that new ports can be created quickly or existing ones expanded in a relatively short time. As a contingency for any possible future conflict in undeveloped areas, these piers should be stockpiled in several geographic areas.

2. Cross-country petroleum pipelines can be used in insurgency type operations. Their use reduces the number of trucks required, thereby shortening convoy lengths. However, there is a price to pay in fuel losses as the enemy is given an opportunity to easily interdict the supply system and local inhabitants can readily pilfer a valuable and useful commodity. Using pipelines in insecure or partially secure areas means the acceptance of higher fuel losses in order to save other resources. Pipeline knowhow disappears in peace time. We must have people who can inspect the equipment in storage and determine what is needed to make it work. Pumps in storage for twenty years just won't work-even if they do they are probably not nearly as reliable or efficient as ones developed in the interim. There is a need for better surveillance and updating procedures.

3. Logistic management has become increasingly dependent on automatic data processing and high-speed digital data transmissions, both within the contingency area and between Continental U.S. and overseas locations. Therefore, logistic contingency plan-


ning must be explicit as to communications requirements and heavy transportable self-contained equipment must be developed to provide prompt availability of high-quality circuits, automatic switches, and terminal equipment to tie into the automatic digital network.

4. Containerized shipments reduce port congestion and handling time and upon offloading the containers can be used as a substitute for covered storage facilities. There is a need for container ships to have self-supporting gear for off loading in early combat and at both shallow draft locations and deep water ports. Containerized shipments should be used to a maximum in the early stages of an operation and especially so in an underdeveloped area.

5. There is a need to standardize intermodal container sizes. They should not be so large that port or city congestion will preclude their use or that they will be incapable of being lifted by heavy lift helicopters.

6. Dry battery supply and storage-We must assure that there is adequate refrigerated storage space for dry batteries.

7. Fresh foods can be provided to the combat soldier on a regular and routine basis. This requires a lot of refrigeration equipment and use of helicopters, but is worth it in terms of morale and combat effectiveness.

8. Armored vehicles of the V 100 type (the M706 Armored Car) should be available in adequate numbers to provide convoy security. The field expedient of "hardening" (armor plating) assigned cargo type vehicles prevents the most effective use of these vehicles-hauling cargo.

9. The 5-ton and 21/2-ton trucks with dropsides make loading and unloading with forklifts an easier and faster operation.

Policies and Procedures Lessons Learned

1. We must recognize early in any similar operation that requirements for an expanding force will increase faster than will the ability of manufacturers to produce the needed items. The declaration of a national emergency will lessen the degree of the shortfall, but a shortfall will exist for some period of time. Therefore, special management actions, to include withdrawing assets from low priority organizations for redistribution to the high priority ones, controlling the allocation of new assets in short supply, and programing retrograde, repair, and reissue should be instituted early. Shortages can be tolerated easier in the low


priority units than in units in combat, but readiness levels also have to be watched and the impact of overall shortages minimized.

2. The logistic organization is over-structured and too imbalanced toward functionalism with too little weapons systems or commodity orientation. Beginning at the Department of the Army and progressing out toward the theater of operations, consolidation and elimination of superstructures must take place. The Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics at Headquarters Department of the Army and at Army Materiel Command, for example, are functionally duplicating command management of logistics without specific weapons systems or commodity intelligence at either level. Further study is needed to determine which echelons of command management can be eliminated or changed to facilitate logistic support of a theater of operation such as Vietnam. The role of an intermediate headquarters is questionable in the direct chain between the source of logistics intelligence data and materiel and the supported logistic echelon in the zone of combat operations. A component commander required to furnish major logistic support to ground forces in a contingency operation must be provided with a logistic management capability, vested in an officer whose rank and logistic experience are appropriate to the ultimate scope of the logistic operation. This senior logistician and his staff must participate in prior planning for contingency operations and be deployed to the area concurrently with the forward echelon of the headquarters of the combat forces.

3. While separate pipelines for Medical, Signal, Aviation and Special Forces logistics worked, and usually worked well under the environment existing in Vietnam, it is doubtful that we can afford more than one pipeline into a theater of operations in future conflicts. This is particularly so where the pipeline is of great length both in geography and time and where the pipeline is subject to enemy action.

a. Since initiation of accelerated action in the Republic of Vietnam the mobile National Cash Register 500 automatic ledger posting machine has been installed as the standard direct support or general support stock control and accounting system in Army non-divisional combat service support units. This system was initially developed to fill the urgent need of support units in Republic of Vietnam during 1965-1966. Due to exceptionally successful deployment in Republic of Vietnam, the system was adopted for Army-wide installation. In addition, divisional support units in Republic of Vietnam utilized this standard system for supply applications. Division Logistics System, using the mobile UNIVAC


1005 card processor was developed during this same time frame for use by divisional support units.

b. As a "spin off" from development of the standard combat service support system for support of the Army in the field, a Quick Reaction Inventory Control Unit has been added to the Army Force Structure. This unit is to be readily available for overseas deployment to provide immediate in-theater stock control and supply management to provide a base for orderly development of theater level support operations. The Quick Reaction Inventory Control Unit is currently being trained at Fort Lewis. If conditions dictate that several separate pipelines are required, it is possible to operate these unique systems within the structure of the Quick Reaction Inventory Control Unit. The Quick Reaction Inventory Control Unit is a combination of people, organizations, automated and manual machines, and procedures to provide effective combat service support to a task force.

c. The primary lesson learned during the buildup, that central logistic system design, development and control was required, has been applied in the expansion of responsibilities for standard systems development in Headquarters Department of the Army, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and its Class II activity, Logistics Doctrine Systems and Readiness Agency. This latter expansion has not yet come to complete fruition, but control of military standard support, such as Military Standard Requisitioning and Issue Procedures, Military Standard Transaction Reporting and Accounting Procedures, Military Standard Transportation and Movement Procedures and logistic data elements had been initiated. Functional proponent participation in standard operating systems design and development has been implemented.

4. There is a need to establish standards of living for troops early in a campaign. Once the standards have been decided on, they should be binding on all troops of all services. From these standards flow the requirements for real estate, construction materials, utilities, real property maintenance, post, camp and station property authorizations, as well as some engineer unit requirements. Also affected by the troop standards of living is the extent to which Post Exchanges are to be established and stocked. For logisticians, this is particularly important because PX supplies also consume port, shipping and in-country transportation space. Army and Defense contingency planning should include alternative plans for different standards of living. In the absence of such criteria, every unit will establish its own standards, usually high; and


constantly strive to upgrade them. This places excessive demands on an already busy logistic system.

5. Security in Vietnam type operations is a larger consideration for logistical units than in wars characterized by front lines and relatively secure rear areas. Convoys need to have protection, both ground and air. Installations need personnel and sentry dogs for local security. They also need equipment such as night lighting devices and sensors to support the local security forces. Stock levels should be as small as possible to present less lucrative targets. The huge excesses that developed in Vietnam were costly in men and dollars to dispose of or retrograde. The shipment of unneeded materiel from the Continental U.S. in future conflicts should be avoided.

6. Automatic data processing equipment and computers are needed. The intelligent and coordinated use of this equipment and its associated technology can provide the basis for an efficient and flexible logistic system.

7. The concept of common supply support is usually sound for selected items, but it cannot be imposed without considerable advanced planning both as to the items to be commonly supplied and the conditions and situation in the area concerned. The most profitable areas for the application of common supply support included subsistence, selected items of petroleum, oils, and lubricants and construction materiel. There is a need and an ongoing effort (Department of Defense Study Group) to develop criteria defining the commodities or items and conditions under which common supply support should be applied.

8. The use of contractors to augment or supplement the military forces is feasible and workable. Where contractors are to be supported by the Army logistical system, they can be better supported by depots than by direct support units. The Army supply system can obtain demand data for nonstandard commercial parts. However, the determination whether to support contractors from the Army's supply system or to have the contractor provide his own support should be the result of a careful analysis. The cost effectiveness and responsiveness of each method should be evaluated.

9. A combined military and commercial petroleum distribution system is workable. However, a need exists to have a petroleum, oils, and lubricants Contracting Officer in country to deal with local commercial petroleum firms.

10. The concept of Push Package is sound. Implementa-


tion procedures have been revised to provide fewer items based on equipment densities.

11. Preventive maintenance programs are basic to achieving higher operational rates on equipment. Command attention is a continuing need.

12. The use of commercial equipment on military projects is feasible and efficient. This is particularly applicable to large scale engineer efforts such as the Line of Communications road construction program. The Vietnam experiences showed that when standardized items of critical military construction and utility equipment are not available or appropriate, a program should be established to standardize available commercial items.

13. An adequate intra-theater airlift capability must be planned for. Plans for air transporting 10 percent of the anticipated cargo and 65 percent of the total monthly forces should provide an adequate initial capability.

14. The equipment required for the operation of a property disposal activity should be planned for and made a part of the approved Table of Distribution and Allowances and Table of Organization and Equipment. Country to country agreements should be made at the ambassadorial level to insure that the host country does not have control over U.S. equipment being sold to out of country purchasers.

15. A number of policies evolved from the process of phasing down forces in Vietnam under the Keystone Programs. Seven of these follow:

a. Redistribution of assets generated from deactivations and redeployments must be controlled through the existing wholesale distribution system to assure adequate cancellation of outstanding requirements.

b. A maintenance facility must be established to repair assets is turned in by deactivated units. These assets must be brought to an issuable condition.

c. All redeployment and deactivation planning must include comprehensive instructions on disposition of all materiel forecasted to become available.

d. The workload associated with preparation, preservation and packaging of retrograde materiel must be recognized, and augmentation Tables of Organization and Equipment must be developed to provide the required staffings.

e. Doctrine developed to support deployment of forces from the Continental U.S. to overseas areas is not adequate for redeploy Inert of forces from the combat zone back to the Continental 


U.S. The biggest deficiency is the failure to recognize that the assistance of the Continental U.S. Post Engineer, Post Signal, Post Medical and Post Maintenance facilities are not available in the combat zone.

f. The sanitation and entomological requirements imposed on retrograde materiel from Vietnam actually determined the speed with which retrograde could be accomplished.

g. Organic divisional support elements are incapable of providing normal mission support to the division in combat for a period up to as long as the last 30 days prior to their redeployment. This logistics support must be provided by non-divisional support elements exclusively.

16. Loss of several Ammunition Supply Points to fire and enemy action justifies the need to find a better method of storing ammunition in a combat zone. Covered storage would have provided a significant decrease in losses caused by burning debris resulting from explosions.

17. Financial management must receive concurrent attention and priority with logistics management. Further, when this occurs, effective and efficient materiel management can follow. This was proved by our experience in Vietnam. Vietnam experience has proved that financial management techniques, when utilized to an appropriate degree, could be useful tools in the effective and efficient management of materiel in combat areas. Financial management systems for Operations and Maintenance funds supporting combat operations are most effective when they are mechanized, require a minimum change from the normal Service system, and provide for the distribution of matériel cost to appropriate cost accounts. The Services, when planning contingencies, should outline appropriate financial management systems for Operation and Maintenance funds supporting operations in the combat areas.

18. An adequate transportation capability, with a proper balance between sealift and airlift resources, is essential to the deployment and successful support of forces deployed in an overseas area. Since the bulk of materiel must be transported by surface means, an adequate and responsive sealift must be in-being. Such a capability is dependent on a modernized Military Sea Transportation Service nucleus fleet backed by access to the resources of an equally modern U.S. merchant marine. A responsive and adequate airlift must be available to support initial deployments, to provide for follow-on movement of personnel, items designated for normal movement by airlift, and for high priority matériel. The growing capability of U. S. civilian and


military airlift emphasizes that the services must develop and test boldly engineered logistic systems to exploit the advantages inherent in this mode of transportation.

19. Provisions should be made for a Traffic Management Agency to be established prior to any type of projected operations. The Traffic Management Agency should have operational control of the transportation assets that are available for common-user service. Using an agency such as Traffic Management Agency means a sizeable reduction in the waste of transportation resources.

20. The attendant maintenance and supply requirements associated with unnecessarily sophisticated or complex equipment and weapon systems may outweigh the value of the dubious operational improvements. For purposes of illustration:

a. Why multi-fuel engines? Concentration of fuel distribution may have been more economical. b. Did we need communications retransmission capability in tanks? c. Did we train sufficient marksmen to justify precision rifles? d. Would not light weight cheaply constructed mass fire weapons serve better than expensive maintenance significant items? e. Must vehicles be waterproof for their occasional submerging? f. Would light weight plastic flotation bags serve better?

Salvage and Scavenger

1. Battle damaged or abandoned American equipment provided the innovative Viet Cong with a source of raw materials. The following provided some illustrations:

a. 155-mm shells were used as mines to destroy tank or personnel carrier tracks.

b. High-powered American rifle shells were adapted to "water pipe" guns by expanding the bullets with coins with holes in them. Inaccurate as the weapon may be, a hit is devastating.

c. 155-mm shells and others of similar size have been successfully used as mortars.

Battlefield Policing

Total destruction of abandoned equipment appears necessary. There is considerable evidence that the soldier is overly equipped and discards items on the march.


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