- General Donn A. Starry
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
WASHINGTON, D. C., 1989
- Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
- Starry, Donn A 1931-
- Mounted combat in Vietnam.
- (Vietnam studies)
- 1. Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975-Campaigns. 2. United States Army. Armored
Force-History. 3. Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975-United States. I. Title.
- DS558.9.A75S73 959.704'342
- First Printed 1978-CMH Pub 90-17
- For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Washington, D.C. 20402
- The United States Army met an unusually complex challenge in Southeast Asia.
In conjunction with the other services, the Army fought in support of a national
policy of assisting an emerging nation to develop governmental processes of
its own choosing, free of outside coercion. In addition to the usual problems
of waging armed conflict, the assignment in Southeast Asia required superimposing
the immensely sophisticated task of a modern army upon an underdeveloped environment
and adapting them to demands covering a wide spectrum. These involved helping
to fulfill the basic needs of an agrarian population, dealing with the frustrations
of antiguerrilla operations, and conducting conventional campaigns against
well-trained and determined regular units.
- It is still necessary for the Army to continue to prepare for other challenges
that may lie ahead. While cognizant that history never repeats itself exactly
and that no army ever profited from trying to meet a new challenge in terms
of an old one, the Army nevertheless stands to benefit immensely from a study
of its experience, its shortcomings no less than its achievements.
- Aware that some years must elapse before the official histories will provide
a detailed and objective analysis of the experience in Southeast Asia, we
have sought a forum whereby some of the more salient aspects of that experience
can be made available now. At the request of the Chief of Staff, a representative
group of senior officers who served in important posts in Vietnam and who
still carry a heavy burden of day-to-day responsibilities have prepared a
series of monographs. These studies should be of great value in helping the
Army develop future operational concepts while at the same time contributing
to the historical record and providing the American public with an interim
report on the performance of men and officers who have responded, as others
have through our history, to exacting and trying demands.
- The reader should be reminded that most of the writing was accomplished
while the war in Vietnam was at its peak, and the monographs frequently refer
to events of the past as if they were taking place in the present.
- All monographs in the series are based primarily on official records, with
additional material from published and unpublished secondary works, from debriefing
reports and interviews with key participants, and from the personal experience
of the author. To
- facilitate security clearance, annotation and detailed bibliography have
been omitted from the published version; a fully documented account with bibliography
is filed with the U.S. Army Center oŁ Military History.
- The story of mounted combat in Vietnam was written at Fort Knox between
1973 and 1976 by a task force under the direction of Major General Donn A.
Starry, then commander of the Armor Center and commander of the Armor School.
General Starry has been involved in the planning or direction of armored operations
and development since he was graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1948
as a second lieutenant of cavalry. After serving in command and staff positions
from platoon to battalion in armored units in Europe until 1953, he became
a staff officer in the Eighth Army in Korea and then an instructor in combined
arms and nuclear weapons employment at the U.S. Army Intelligence School.
He later served as an armored battalion commander and staff officer in U.S.
Army, Europe. In 1966 he assumed duties in the G-3 Section, U.S. Army, Vietnam,
and was a member of the Mechanized and Armor Combat Operations, Vietnam, study
group which evaluated armored operations in Vietnam. After serving in assignments
with the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and the Secretary of Defense, he
returned to Vietnam to join the plans office of J-3, Headquarters, U.S. Military
Assistance Command, Vietnam, and in 1969 assumed command of the 11th Armored
Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam. In 1970 he returned to the United States and
served successively as Deputy Director of the Operations I Directorate and
Director of Manpower and Forces. After two and j one-half years as the commander
of the Armor Center, he assumed command of V Corps, U.S. Army, Europe, in
1976. Promoted to full general, in July 1977 General Starry became commander
of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe,
- Washington, D. C.
15 September 1977
- JAMES C. PENNINGTON
Brigadier General, USA
The Adjutant General
- This monograph is an account of the operations of armored units of the United
States Army in the Republic of Vietnam. The term armored units as used
here is generic and includes tank and mechanized infantry battalions and companies,
armored cavalry squadrons and troops, and air cavalry squadrons and troops-all
forces whose primary modus operandi was to fight mounted.
- Of necessity the story begins not with the arrival of the first U.S. armored
units in Vietnam in 1965 but with armor in Vietnam during the years immediately
after World War II. The generally unsuccessful experience of French armored
forces in Southeast Asia from the end of World War II to 1954 convinced American
military men that armored units could not be employed in Vietnam. It was widely
believed that Vietnam's monsoon climate together with its jungle and rice
paddies constituted an environment too hostile for mechanized equipment; it
was further agreed that armored forces could not cope with an elusive enemy
that operated from jungle ambush. Thus at the outset of American participation
in the conflict and for some time thereafter, Army planners saw little or
no need for armored units in the U.S. force structure in Vietnam. At the same
time, however, extensive American aid that flowed into Vietnam after the French
left the country was directed in part to developing an armored force for the
newly created Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
- It was not until 1967, however, when a study titled Mechanized and Armor
Combat Operations, Vietnam, conducted by General Arthur L. West, Jr., was
sent to the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Army, that the potential of
armored forces was fully described to the Army's top leaders. Despite the
study's findingsthat armored cavalry was probably the most cost-effective
force on the Vietnam battlefield-there was little that could be done to alter
significantly either the structure of forces already sent to Vietnam or those
earmarked for deployment. By that time, constraints on the size of American
forces in Vietnam had been imposed by Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara
and decisions on force deployment extending well into 1968 had already been
made. The armored force of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, meanwhile
had been successful enough in fighting the elusive Viet Cong that U.S. armored
units had been deployed in limited numbers, usually as part of their parent
- From early March 1965 until the cease-fire in January 1973, U.S. armored
units participated in virtually every large-scale offensive operation and
worked closely with South Vietnamese Army and other free world forces. After
eight years of fighting over land on which tanks were once thought to be incapable
of moving, in weather that was supposed to prohibit armored operations, and
dealing with an elusive enemy against whom armored units were thought to be
at a considerable disadvantage, armored forces emerged as powerful, flexible,
and essential battle forces. In large measure they contributed to the success
of the free world forces, not only in close combat, but in pacification and
security operations as well. When redeployment began in early 1969, armored
units were not included in the first forces scheduled for redeployment, and
indeed planners moved armored units down the scale time and again, holding
off their redeployment until the very end.
- In almost equal parts this study has drawn from official war records of
armored units and personal interviews with men of those units. The monograph
makes no attempt to document every armored unit in every battle. Nor does
it list in detail the lessons that may be learned from the Vietnam conflict,
although it does call attention to some. In so doing it sometimes isolates
and focuses on the mounted combat aspects of operations that actually included
many different American and other free world units. The reader should keep
in mind that the author's intent is to tell the story of mounted units, and
not to describe battles in their entirety.
- Documenting this story of mounted combat in Vietnam was not a one-man job.
Of the many people who helped, several deserve special thanks. Lieutenant
Colonel George J. Dramis, Jr., director of the monograph task force, developed
the first topical outline, assessed the historical significance of each bit
of the wealth of information available, and ran the task force from day to
- The members of the monograph task force, Vietnam veterans with firsthand
experience, whose collective knowledge contributed to the continuity of the
story were armor officers Major John G. Russell, Major Thomas P. Barrett,
Captain Robert M. Engeset, Captain John L. Hagar, Captain Gerald A. McDonald,
Captain Maurice B. Parrish, Captain Jeffrey A. Stark, Captain Calvin Teel,
Jr., and Sergeant Major Christopher N. Trammell; infantry officers Captain
Robert P. Antoniuc and Captain John J. Strange; and Captain Dennis M. Jankowski
of the (quartermaster Corps. The contributions of the Infantry School, particularly
those of Lieutenant Colonel Wayne T. Boles, were invaluable. Without the good
work of the administrative staff, Mrs. Pege R. Bailey, admin-
- istrative assistant, Mrs. Jeanne Meyer, typist, and many temporary typists,
this volume would not have been completed. Specialist 5 Elmer R. Adkins, Jr.,
and Specialist 4 Jack D. Travers, who repeatedly typed the final drafts, deserve
special mention. Not to be forgotten are the many lieutenants on temporary
assignment with the task force who painstakingly researched articles and located
officers and enlisted men who had served in Vietnam.
- This monograph is an accounting of the stewardship of the tank crewmen,
mechanized infantrymen, armored cavalrymen, and air cavalrymen who had a hand
in some of the more significant events in the Vietnam War. It was their devotion,
professionalism, valor, and dedication that brought American arms to the conclusion
decided upon and ordered by their commander in chief. In the end they left
us a large legacy. The monograph is their story - it is dedicated to them.
Fort Monroe, Virginia
15 September 1977
DONN A. STARRY
General, U.S. Army
- All illustrations are from Department of Defense files
- page created 17 January 2002
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