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North Vietnamese Army Soldier 1958-75, Gordon L. Rottman
North Vietnamese Army Soldier 1958-75, Gordon L. Rottman
Osprey Warrior 135
This entry in Osprey's Warrior series looks the North Vietnamese Army in South Vietnam, following the route a NVA soldier would take on his way from civilian life in the north to a combat mission in the south.
The book starts with a dry but essential section that establishes the difference between the various military and political forces that were involved in the Vietnamese War, in particular between the NVA, which was a regular army that conducted conventional operations in the south and the PLA, better known as the VC, which was the military army of the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam, and conducted a guerrilla war. Although the VC, or Viet Cong, is better known in the west, it was the NVA that actually bore the brunt of the war.
The first half of the book looks at the organisation of the NVA, how it recruited its soldiers, their training in the north and their uniform and equipment.
In the second half we follow the new NVA soldiers on their journey to the south and into combat. The last section of the book follows a single unit through a typical attack on a South Vietnamese base, in this case the Loc Ninh Special Forces Camp.
The Author served in Vietnam, and his views on North Vietnamese cause do sometimes leak through, but without having a negative impact on the text, and it does also mean that the author appears quite legitimately in one of the wartime photographs!
This book lacks the normal first-hand accounts found in this series. This is redeemed to a certain extent by the use of material from wartime interrogations, which give some feel for the attitude of the average NVA soldier.
The text is supported by a good selection of photographs from North Vietnamese sources, which illustrate life in the army and in North Vietnam.
Weapons and Equipment
Conditions of Service
Belief and Belonging
Experience of Battle
The Aftermath of Battle
Collections, Museums and Re-enactment
Author: Gordon L. Rottman
North Vietnamese Army Soldier 1958-75 by Gordon L Rottman
North Vietnamese Army Soldier by Gordon L Rottman is part of Osprey’s “Warrior” series, which seeks to provide insights into the daily lives of history’s fighting men and women, detailing their motivation, training, tactics, and experiences. For most Americans, there is a lot of mystery that surrounds our old adversaries in the Vietnam War. Rottman attempts to shed light on this mystery.
The booklet (63 pages) is divided into several sections (mini-chapters if you will) that describe various aspects of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), such as organization, recruitment, and weapons and equipment. Rottman provides a balanced analysis of the NVA. The average NVA soldier was very similar to the average American soldier. Contrary to what many Americans believed, the NVA soldier was just as likely as an American soldier to be intimidated by the jungle. The NVA soldiers were from cities and farms, thus they did not have any innate skills to deal with the snakes, insects, and other hazards of the jungle.
The average NVA soldier did differ significantly from the average American soldier in his motivation – he had an extreme hatred of the South Vietnamese Army soldiers (puppet government troops) and the American imperialists. This hatred drove him to perform superbly under extraordinary circumstances – long marches, lack of supplies, and constant fear of air attacks from the enemy (many times B-52s would drop their bombs on unsuspecting NVA or Viet Cong).
Rottman also stresses the differences between the NVA and Viet Cong (VC) – local militia that mainly served in a part-time role. The VC did not receive any formal training and they were given the NVA’s cast-off equipment. As the war progressed (due to increased casualties), more VC units were composed of NVA replacements because of low recruitment in South Vietnam – this was especially true after the Tet Offensive devastated the VC ranks.
This booklet is an excellent summary of the North Vietnamese Army and its soldiers.
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North Vietnamese Army Soldier 1958–75 - Gordon L. Rottman
The NVA was an all-encompassing armed force the air force and navy were components of the army alongside the much larger ground forces. NVA organization was rather nebulous with overlapping and inconsistent responsibilities. This was owing to intentional redundancies to ensure the survival of command structures, secrecy and the existence of warlord-like fiefdoms. Reorganizations, activation of new commands and reassignments were frequent. Many senior commanders wore multiple hats, being responsible for a number of commands and organizations.
Regionally the DRV divided North and South Vietnam into three regions: North (Buc Bo) with zones 1–3, Central (Trung Bo) with zones 4–6 and South (Nam Bo) with zones 7–9. These three regions coincided with the old French Union, separately administered colonies of Tonkin, Annan and Cochin China respectively. In 1965 the zones were redesignated military regions (quan khu). Zones 5–9 were in the RVN and comprised administrative control regions for NVA units in the South they were under the control of the Central Office for the South (COSVN – Trung Uong Cuc Mien Nam) established in 1960.
Units were assigned cover designations, which changed frequently. Many of these would provide no indication of the unit’s identity or type for example, one NVA regiment carried the deceptive designation of Garden Plot 9. The NVA Main Force, with formations in both the North and South, comprised the main operating forces for both the defense of North Vietnam – the national defense war – and the liberation of the South. The Main Force was also referred to as the Permanent Force, Regular Force, or Full-time Military Force. These terms, like many other NVA organizational terms, differ mainly according to translation. There was no standard established translation of military terms. For example, the term doan means group and don unit, but these terms could identify any echelon of unit by adding a prefix and might be used interchangeably – tieu doan (regiment), trung doan (battalion).
The soldiers of the NVA comprised youths. Here an equally youthful French Union Vietnamese paratrooper brings in a wounded Viet Minh fighter.
Another component of the NVA were the Paramilitary Forces, which consisted of a bewildering array of regional, district and local forces. These under-equipped and moderately trained part-time units supported the national defense war. They were further supported by local self-defense militia units, mostly companies, based around factories, communes, villages and city precincts. In the event that the country was invaded, they would conduct a local people’s war – guerrilla warfare. They also served as a means of incorporating the people into the national defense and government structure, imparting basic military training and providing a pool of registered men for conscription. It was often this militia that turned out to capture downed American aircrewmen.
Operational formations were usually formed to control forces committed to specific campaigns. These were usually designated fronts, which roughly equated to corps, but their structure could consist of any number and type of units tailored for the mission and included service organizations to support the campaign. A dual military and political command structure was employed. To give one example, during the Khe Sanh siege the Route 9-Khe Sanh Military Command and Route 9-Khe Sanh Party Committee were established to control the operation. Such dual commands would usually be co-located and were seldom situated inside the RVN, but across the border in North Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.
Divisions were the principal operating forces, but there were also numerous independent regiments and others. Divisions and their organic units might have the letters B, C, or D appended to unit designations indicating cloned divisions formed from the original unlettered division. This is very confusing to order of battle specialists, especially since even North Vietnamese documents sometimes omit the letters. 325C Division, for example, is the second division, bearing the same number, raised by its parent 325 Division. The component regiments and other units would bear the same letter indicator. Wartime intelligence often omitted the letter from component regiments.
A full-strength NVA infantry division (su doan bo binh) had 9,600 troops organized into three infantry regiments, an artillery battalion, occasionally a regiment, plus antiaircraft, engineer, signal and medical battalions and a transport company. In the South, artillery battalions were mostly armed with 82mm and 120mm mortars and possibly rockets (107mm, 122mm, 140mm), although most rocket units were non-divisional. Those in North Vietnam had conventional light artillery, as did the divisions after 1972 when more conventional mobile operations were conducted to defeat the
Vietnam War Books
It is commonly thought that the U.S. Army in Vietnam, thrust into a war in which territory occupied was meaningless, depended on body counts as its sole measure of military progress. In No Sure Victory, Army officer and historian Gregory A. Daddis uncovers the truth behind this gross simplification of the historical record. Daddis shows that, confronted by an unfamiliar enemy and an even more unfamiliar form of warfare, the U.S. Army adopted a massive, and eventually unmanageable, system of measurements and formulas to track the progress of military operations that ranged from pacification efforts to search-and-destroy missions. Concentrating more on data collection and less on data analysis, these indiscriminate attempts to gauge success may actually have hindered the army's ability to evaluate the true outcome of the fight at hand--a roadblock that Daddis believes significantly contributed to the multitude of failures that American forces in Vietnam faced. Filled with incisive analysis and rich historical detail, No Sure Victory is a valuable case study in unconventional warfare, a cautionary tale that offers important perspectives on how to measure performance in current and future armed conflict.
Commonly mistaken for the locally raised Viet Cong, the NVA was an entirely different force, conducting large-scale operations in a conventional war. Despite limited armour, artillery and air support, the NVA were an extremely politicized and professional force with strict control measures and leadership concepts. Gordon Rottman follows the fascinating life of the highly motivated infantryman from conscription and induction through training to real combat experiences. Covering the evolution of the forces from 1958 onwards, this book takes an in-depth look at the civilian and military lives of the soldiers, whilst accompanying artwork details the uniforms, weapons and equipment used by the NVA in their clash against America and her allies.
Title: My Enemy My Friend
On April 16, 1972 at 15,000 feet in the skies near Hanoi, North Vietnam Major Dan Cherry first met Lieutenant Nguyen Hong My. In an intense five minute aerial battle Dan shot down the MiG-21 piloted by Hong My. Major Cherry returned safely to base. Lieutenant Hong My lived but was severely injured during the ejection. Both men returned to the cockpit to fly aerial combat again. Thirty-six years later Dan Cherry and Hong My met face to face in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam for the first time since that fateful day.
The first comprehensive study of the massacre's reception in the United States and its place in American memory Contrary to common interpretations of the Vietnam conflict as an unhealed national wound or trauma, it argues that, if anything, Americans have assimilated the war and its violence rather too well and that they were able to do so even when the war was at its height Incorporates a wealth of different source materials - government papers, military records and legal papers, newspapers and television, opinion polls, memoirs, psychological studies and philosophical reflections, interviews, film, art, novels, poetry and popular song, as well as a visit to the site of the massacre itself Attempts to restore the perspectives of the Vietnamese victims, neglected in most American accounts, to the written record of the massacre.
Drawing on a wealth of new evidence from all sides, Triumph Forsaken overturns most of the historical orthodoxy on the Vietnam War. Through the analysis of international perceptions and power, it shows that South Vietnam was a vital interest of the United States. The book provides many new insights into the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963 and demonstrates that the coup negated the South Vietnamese government's tremendous, and hitherto unappreciated, military and political gains between 1954 and 1963. After Diem's assassination, President Lyndon Johnson had at his disposal several aggressive policy options that could have enabled South Vietnam to continue the war without a massive US troop infusion, but he ruled out these options because of faulty assumptions and inadequate intelligence, making such an infusion the only means of saving the country.
Gordon L Rottman served in the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam in 1969-70, and then went on to make the Army his career. Rottman published his first military history book in 1984, and has been producing prodigiously since then. He has written fifty books for Osprey, the British military publisher.
Rottman’s latest is US MACV-SOG Reconnaissance Team in Vietnam (Osprey, 64 pp., $18.95, paper), the 159th in Osprey’s “Warrior” series. These are heavily illustrated, concise books that are filled with photographs and drawings (in this case by Brian Delf) primarily of weapons and equipment.
Rottman looks at MACV-SOG’s covert recon cross-border operations in Laos, Cambodia, North Vietnam, as well as those in South Vietnam. Those missions mainly included keeping track of American POWs and MIAs (Operation Bright Light), training and sending undercover Vietnamese teams into North VIetnam, and so-called “black” and “gray” psychological ops in the North.
The Viet Cong
At the height of the Vietnam War, if you had asked an American who their country was fighting in Vietnam, most would have answered the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong was a network of communist agents and subversives, supplied and controlled by North Vietnam but active within South Vietnam.
The origins of the Viet Cong begin with the Geneva Accords of 1954. Under the terms of the Accords, military personnel were ordered to return to their place of origin, either North or South Vietnam. Many Viet Minh soldiers and sympathisers, however, stayed in South Vietnam and remained ‘underground’, mostly in rural or remote areas.
Their reasons for remaining in the South are open to debate. Some historians suggest that indigenous communist groups in South Vietnam chose to remain there, rather than shift to the North. Others claim they did so under orders from Hanoi, which wanted to disrupt the development of the South and prepare for a future war.
Whatever the reasons, by 1959 there were as many as 20 different communist cells scattered around South Vietnam. In total, these cells contained as many as 3,000 men.
The formation of an organised communist insurgency in South Vietnam was masterminded by Le Duan. A native of Vietnam’s southern provinces, Le Duan was active in communist groups in the Mekong region in the 1940s. By the mid-1950s, he was a high ranking member of the North Vietnamese government, occupying a seat in the Lao Dong Politburo.
In 1956, Le Duan developed a plan titled the ‘Road to the South’. In it he called for communists to rise up and gather support, overthrow South Vietnam’s leader Ngo Dinh Diem and expel foreign advisors and businessmen.
Le Duan presented this plan to members of the Politburo but they did not support his call for a full-scale war. The Politburo considered North Vietnam’s domestic policies, such as economic and military reform, to be more pressing. It would be better, they said, to wait three years for attempting to facilitate a revolution in South Vietnam. Nevertheless, the Politburo authorised communist insurgents in the South to begin a limited campaign of violence.
Terrorism in the South
This began in mid-1957 with a few units carrying out acts of terrorism against foreigners, foreign sympathisers and government targets. South Vietnamese communists called this campaign of violence the “extermination of traitors”.
In 1957 alone, there were more than 150 assassinations attributed to communist subversives. In July, 17 people were killed by the Viet Minh underground in Chau Doc. A police chief and his family were murdered in September. The insurgents also carried out bombings of hotels and cafes in Saigon and other cities. Many of these locations were frequented by foreigners and several Americans were injured during these attacks.
Newspapers in Saigon began referring to the insurgents as Viet Cong, a shortened form of Viet Nam Cong San (Vietnamese communists). The insurgents continued their violence between 1958 and 1959 while improving their organisation and command structures and obtaining the backing of Moscow.
Under international pressure to rein in this violence, the North Vietnamese government continually stressed that southern communists were acting independently, not under instruction from Hanoi. By mid-1959, however, the North was providing obvious support to the Viet Cong.
The National Liberation Front
The revolutionary movement in South Vietnam was formalised on December 20th 1960, with the formation of Mat Tran Dan Toc Giai Phong Mien Nam (the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam). Westerners came to know it as the National Liberation Front (NLF).
Shortly after its formation, the NLF issued a ten-point program that called on the Vietnamese people to “overthrow the camouflaged colonial regime of the American imperialists and the dictatorial power of Ngo Dinh Diem”. Membership of the NLF grew rapidly, filled both by southern sympathisers and thousands of communists who streamed down from the North. The NLF also adopted its own anthem called Giai Phong Mien Nam (Liberate the South):
“To liberate the South we decided to advance.
To defeat the American Empire and destroy the country sellers.
Oh bones have broken and blood has fallen, the hatred is rising high.
Our country has been separated for so long.
Here the sacred Cuu Long river.
Here glorious Truong Son Mountains
Are urging us to advance to kill the enemy,
Arm by arm under a common flag.”
Viet Cong organisation
By 1961, the NLF’s internal organisation had evolved further and resembled the structure of the Lao Dong. Major decisions were made by a Presidium (in effect, a mini Politburo) and implemented by a Secretariat.
On the ground, the NLF adopted its own “shadow government”, which operated across 20 regions and was commanded by a party official. Within each region, there were several districts and villages, overseen by one or more NLF cadres. The role of these cadres went beyond military and guerrilla operations. The NLF was also a political movement that worked to attract and build popular support.
NLF teachings stressed two important concepts: dan tranh (‘struggle’) and giai phong (‘liberation’). Its cadres circulated these ideas by organising political education forums, youth groups and women’s groups. The NLF also disseminated information and propaganda that praised communist ideas and values, as well as communist land reforms in the North. Cadres also informed people about the crimes and exploitations of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem and his followers.
The NLF’s military arm was called the Quan Doi Giai Phong (Liberation Army). South Vietnamese and Westerners knew it as the Viet Cong. Its members were given extensive political and historical training, including sessions about the failure of the Geneva Accords, American double standards and the excesses of the Diem regime.
The ‘Ghost Army’
For obvious reasons, most NLF operations could not be conducted in the open. In most parts of South Vietnam, the NLF remained an underground organisation its movements and activities were often described as “ghostly”. There was no NLF uniform or insignia, so most Viet Cong were indistinguishable from ordinary South Vietnamese.
There was also no official NLF headquarters or even a particular area where NLF officials could be found. Presidium members held their meetings in remote locations, rarely meeting in the same place twice. Their decisions were passed along the chain of command either by word of mouth or on scrawled notes written in code.
Thousands of South Vietnamese, marginalised and dispossessed by the corruption and brutality of the Diem regime, enlisted to fight with the NLF. Those unable to fight – including women, children and the elderly – gave support in other ways, promising to provide food, safety and information about enemy troop movements. Buddhist monks, former members of religious sects like the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao, displaced peasants and urban workers could be found in NLF ranks.
Support did not only flow one way, however. The NLF’s bombings, sabotage and assassinations also generated considerable opposition. These attacks, though aimed at foreign or South Vietnamese government targets, often killed innocent civilians, destroyed private property and disrupted business. As a consequence, there were many South Vietnamese who supported neither the Diem government or the NLF.
By 1960, the NLF had grown and evolved into a sophisticated communist insurgency. With the approval of Hanoi, the NLF increased its terrorist activities in the South. In October 1961, there were 150 NLF bombings and attacks, triple the number of the previous month. This escalation prompted US president John F. Kennedy to increase the number of American military advisors in South Vietnam, with several thousand arriving over the next six months.
One of the most successful Viet Cong operations occurred in January 1963 when around 1,500 South Vietnamese (ARVN) soldiers, along with American advisors, tracked down 300 Viet Cong near Ap Bac in the Mekong Delta.
As the ARVN soldiers approached the enemy across rice fields, the Viet Cong were able to inflict heavy casualties from concealed positions. The ARVN had the advantage of American helicopters but even these proved ineffective at locating and eliminating the enemy. Around 200 ARVN troops were shot, almost half of them fatally, while three US advisors were also killed. In contrast, the Viet Cong lost only 18 men.
The tactics they employed at Ap Bac – stealth, concealment, patience, discipline and teamwork – withstood the most modern weaponry in Vietnam. It was not the last time these tactics would prove successful.
American attitudes to the Viet Cong
After the American military escalation in 1965, eradication of the Viet Cong became the number one objective for the US military. The Viet Cong were featured and demonised in the American press. They were painted as communist revolutionaries and heartless terrorists, responsible for every act of carnage in South Vietnam.
American military personnel in Vietnam knew the Viet Cong as “VC”, “Victor Charlie”, “Charlie” or “Chuck”. The attitude of most American soldiers towards the Viet Cong evolved into a combination of hatred, fear and begrudging admiration.
The Viet Cong were cursed and condemned for not following the Western conventions of war. They were labelled cowards for refusing to fight in open battle. The Viet Cong relied on elements of speed and surprise. Ambushes, lightning raids, sniping, tunnel warfare, land mines and booby traps became their preferred tactic.
Viet Cong soldiers were trained to be subversive, evasive and crafty. They were adept at hiding among civilian populations, taking shelter in the thick jungle and moving only in the dead of night.
As the Vietnam War unfolded, the world’s strongest military power found itself at war with an enemy that could scarcely be found.
A historian’s view:
“The reasons a man or woman joined the VC are as varied and complex as individuals themselves. The most common was simply disillusionment with the government in Saigon, and acceptance of the constant barrage of NLF propaganda. Often the only contact villagers had with the government was through heavy-handed tax collectors and ARVN soldiers. Saigon was a place they had only heard of. The peasant’s real loyalties were to his or her family and village. Beyond that, district, province and national government had no meaning… After 1965, ARVN and US troops were to blame for many turning to the VC.”
Gordon L. Rottman
1. The Viet Cong was the military arm of the National Liberation Front (NLF), an underground communist insurgency formed in December 1960 and active in South Vietnam.
2. The seeds of the NLF were several thousand communists who defied the terms of the Geneva Accord (1954) and remained underground in South Vietnam.
3. As support for the NLF grew it adopted organisation and command structures similar to those of the Lao Dong, as well its own a military arm, the Viet Cong.
4. The NLF and Viet Cong were shadowy organisations that blended into rural life but remained politically and militarily active, recruiting and disseminating propaganda.
5. Viet Cong bombings and operations increased from late 1961. Using guerrilla methods they targeted foreign and government personnel, buildings and facilities.
Vietnamese National Army (VNA) 1949–55 Edit
On 8 March 1949, after the Élysée Accords, the State of Vietnam was recognized by France as an independent country ruled by the Vietnamese Emperor Bảo Đại, and the Vietnamese National Army (VNA) was soon created. The VNA fought in joint operations with the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps against the Viet Minh forces led by Ho Chi Minh. The VNA fought in a wide range of campaigns including the Battle of Nà Sản (1952), Operation Atlas (1953) and the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954). 
Benefiting from French assistance, the VNA quickly became a modern army modeled after the Expeditionary Corps. It included infantry, artillery, signals, armored cavalry, airborne, airforce, navy and a national military academy. By 1953 troopers as well as officers were all Vietnamese, the latter having been trained in Ecoles des Cadres such as Da Lat, including Chief of Staff General Nguyễn Văn Hinh who was a French Union airforce veteran.
After the 1954 Geneva agreements, French Indochina ceased to exist and by 1956 all French Union troops had withdrawn from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. In 1955, by the order of Prime Minister Diệm, the VNA crushed the armed forces of the Bình Xuyên.  
Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 1955–75 Edit
On 26 October 1955, the military was reorganized by the administration of President Ngô Đình Diệm who then formally established the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) on 30 December 1955. The air force was established as a separate service known as the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF). Early on, the focus of the army was the guerrilla fighters of the Viet Cong (VC), formed to oppose the Diệm administration. The United States, under President John F. Kennedy sent advisors and a great deal of financial support to aid the ARVN in combating the insurgents. A major campaign, developed by Ngô Đình Nhu and later resurrected under another name was the "Strategic Hamlet Program" which was regarded as unsuccessful by Western media because it was "inhumane" to move villagers from the countryside to fortified villages. ARVN leaders and President Diệm were criticized by the foreign press when the troops were used to crush armed anti-government religious groups like the Cao Đài and Hòa Hảo as well as to raid Buddhist temples, which according to Diệm, were harboring VC guerrillas. The most notorious of these attacks occurred on the night of August 21, 1963, during the Xá Lợi Pagoda raids conducted by the Special Forces, which caused a death toll estimated to range into the hundreds.
In 1963 Diệm was killed in a coup d'état carried out by ARVN officers and encouraged by American officials such as Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. In the confusion that followed, General Dương Văn Minh took control, but he was only the first in a succession of ARVN generals to assume the presidency of South Vietnam. During these years, the United States began taking more control of the war against the VC and the role of the ARVN became less and less significant. They were also plagued by continuing problems of severe corruption amongst the officer corps. Although the US was highly critical of the ARVN, it continued to be entirely US-armed and funded.
Although the American news media has often portrayed the Vietnam War as a primarily American and North Vietnamese conflict, the ARVN carried the brunt of the fight before and after large-scale American involvement, and participated in many major operations with American troops. ARVN troops pioneered the use of the M113 armored personnel carrier as an infantry fighting vehicle by fighting mounted rather than as a "battle taxi" as originally designed, and the armored cavalry (ACAV) modifications were adopted based on ARVN experience. One notable ARVN unit equipped with M113s, the 3d Armored Cavalry Squadron, used the new tactic so proficiently and with such extraordinary heroism against hostile forces that they earned the United States Presidential Unit Citation.   The ARVN suffered 254,256 recorded deaths between 1960 and 1974, with the highest number of recorded deaths being in 1972, with 39,587 combat deaths,  while approximately 58,000 U.S. troops died during the war.  There were also many circumstances in which Vietnamese families had members on both sides of the conflict. 
ARVN Junior Military Academy
Van Kiep National Training Center
South Vietnamese National Military Academy (Trường Võ bị Quốc gia Việt Nam)
Emblem of the Vietnamese National Military Academy
Quang Trung National Training Center
South Vietnamese Command and General Staff College (Trường Chỉ huy Tham mưu) at Da Lat. This was the primary officer training school
Regiments of Cadets of the Vietnamese Military Academy at Da Lat from 1950 to 1975
School of the Non-commissioned Officers of the Vietnam Military
ARVN Military Dog Training Center
South Vietnamese Political Warfare College (Trường Đại học Chiến tranh Chính trị)
South Vietnamese Women's Army Corps Training Center (Trung tâm Quản trị Huấn luyện Nữ quân nhân)
United States experience with the ARVN generated a catalog of complaints about its performance, with various officials saying ‘it did not pull its weight,’  ‘content to let the Americans do the fighting and dying,’  and ‘weak in dedication, direction, and discipline.’  The President remained prone to issue instructions directly to field units, cutting across the entire chain of command. Major shortcomings identified by U.S. officers included a general lack of motivation, indicated, for example, by officers having an inclination for rear area jobs rather than combat command, and a continuing desertion problem.
Final campaigns Edit
Starting in 1969 President Richard Nixon started the process of "Vietnamization", pulling out American forces and rendering the ARVN capable of fighting an effective war against the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and VC. Slowly, the ARVN began to expand from its counter-insurgency role to become the primary ground defense against the PAVN/VC. From 1969 to 1971 there were about 22,000 ARVN combat deaths per year. Starting in 1968, South Vietnam began calling up every available man for service in the ARVN, reaching a strength of one million soldiers by 1972. In 1970 they performed well in the Cambodian Incursion and were executing three times as many operations as they had during the American-led war period. However, the ARVN equipment continued to be of lower standards than their American and other allies, even as the U.S. tried to upgrade ARVN technology. The officer corps was still the biggest problem. Leaders were too often inept, being poorly trained, corrupt and lacking morale. [ citation needed ] Still, Sir Robert Thompson, a British military officer widely regarded as the worlds foremost expert in counterinsurgency warfare during the Vietnam War, thought that by 1972, the ARVN had developed into one of the best fighting forces in the world, comparing them favorably with the Israeli Defence Forces.  Forced to carry the burden left by the Americans, the ARVN actually started to perform rather well, though with continued American air support.
In 1972, the PAVN launched the Easter Offensive, an all-out attack against South Vietnam across the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone and from its sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia. The assault combined infantry wave assaults, artillery and the first massive use of armored forces by the PAVN. Although the T-54 tanks proved vulnerable to LAW rockets, the ARVN took heavy losses. The PAVN forces took Quảng Trị Province and some areas along the Laos and Cambodian borders.
President Nixon dispatched bombers in Operation Linebacker to provide air support for the ARVN when it seemed that South Vietnam was about to be lost. In desperation, President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu fired the incompetent General Hoàng Xuân Lãm and replaced him with General Ngô Quang Trưởng. He gave the order that all deserters would be executed and pulled enough forces together in order to prevent the PAVN from taking Huế. Finally, with considerable US air and naval support, as well as hard fighting by the ARVN soldiers, the Easter Offensive was halted. ARVN forces counter-attacked and succeeded in driving some of the PAVN out of South Vietnam, though they did retain control of northern Quảng Trị Province near the DMZ.
At the end of 1972, Operation Linebacker II helped achieve a negotiated end to the war between the U.S. and the Hanoi government. By March 1973, in accordance with the Paris Peace Accords the United States had completely pulled its troops out of Vietnam. The ARVN was left to fight alone, but with all the weapons and technologies that their allies left behind. With massive technological support they had roughly four times as many heavy weapons as their enemies. The U.S. left the ARVN with over one thousand aircraft, making the RVNAF the fourth largest air force in the world.  These figures are deceptive, however, as the U.S. began to curtail military aid. The same situation happened to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, since their allies, the Soviet Union, and China has also cut down military support, forcing them to use obsolete T-34 tanks and SU-100 tank destroyers in battle. [ citation needed ]
In the summer of 1974, Nixon resigned under the pressure of the Watergate scandal and was succeeded by Gerald Ford. With the war growing incredibly unpopular at home, combined with a severe economic recession and mounting budget deficits, Congress cut funding to South Vietnam for the upcoming fiscal year from 1 billion to 700 million dollars. Historians have attributed the fall of Saigon in 1975 to the cessation of American aid along with the growing disenchantment of the South Vietnamese people and the rampant corruption and incompetence of South Vietnam political leaders and ARVN general staff.
Without the necessary funds and facing a collapse in South Vietnamese troop and civilian morale, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the ARVN to achieve a victory against the PAVN. Moreover, the withdrawal of U.S. aid encouraged North Vietnam to begin a new military offensive against South Vietnam. This resolve was strengthened when the new American administration did not think itself bound to this promise Nixon made to Thieu of a "severe retaliation" if Hanoi broke the 1973 Paris Peace Accords.
The fall of Huế to PAVN forces on 26 March 1975 began an organized rout of the ARVN that culminated in the complete disintegration of the South Vietnamese government. Withdrawing ARVN forces found the roads choked with refugees making troop movement almost impossible. North Vietnamese forces took advantage of the growing instability, and with the abandoned equipment of the routing ARVN, they mounted heavy attacks on all fronts. With collapse all but inevitable, many ARVN generals abandoned their troops to fend for themselves and ARVN soldiers deserted en masse. The 18th Division held out at Xuân Lộc from 9 to 21 April before being forced to withdraw. President Thiệu resigned his office on 21 April and left the country.  At Bien Hoa, ARVN soldiers made a strong resistance against PAVN forces, however, ARVN defenses at Cu Chi and Hoc Mon start to collapse under the overwhelming PAVN attacks. In the Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc Island, many of ARVN soldiers were aggressive and intact to prevent VC taking over any provincial capitals. Less than a month after Huế, Saigon fell and South Vietnam ceased to exist as a political entity. The sudden and complete destruction of the ARVN shocked the world. Even their opponents were surprised at how quickly South Vietnam collapsed.
There were hundreds of soldiers, officers, and colonels who committed suicide, making a decision not to live under communism. Five ARVN generals committed suicide during late April to avoid capture by the PAVN/VC and potential reeducation camps. General Le Nguyen Vy committed suicide in Lai Khe shortly after hearing Duong Van Minh surrender from the radio. Both ARVN generals in Can Tho, Le Van Hung and Nguyen Khoa Nam, committed suicide after deciding not to prolong resistance against outnumbered PAVN/VC soldiers in Mekong Region. Brigadier General Tran Van Hai committed suicide by poison at Dong Tam Base Camp. General Pham Van Phu committed suicide at a hospital in Saigon. [ citation needed ]
The U.S. had provided the ARVN with 793,994 M1 carbines,  220,300 M1 Garands and 520 M1C/M1D rifles,  640,000 M-16 rifles, 34,000 M79 grenade launchers, 40,000 radios, 20,000 quarter-ton trucks, 214 M41 Walker Bulldog light tanks, 77 M577 Command tracks (command version of the M113 APC), 930 M113 (APC/ACAVs), 120 V-100s (wheeled armored cars), and 190 M48 tanks. Operations Enhance and Enhance Plus an American effort in November 1972 managed to transfer 59 more M48A3 Patton tanks, 100 additional M-113A1 ACAVs (Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicles), and over 500 extra aircraft to South Vietnam.  Despite such impressive figures, the Vietnamese were not as well equipped as the American infantrymen they replaced. The 1972 offensive had been driven back only with a massive American bombing campaign against North Vietnam.
The Case–Church Amendment had effectively nullified the Paris Peace Accords, and as a result the United States had cut aid to South Vietnam drastically in 1974, just months before the final enemy offensive, allowing North Vietnam to invade South Vietnam without fear of U.S. military action. As a result, only a little fuel and ammunition were being sent to South Vietnam. South Vietnamese air and ground vehicles were immobilized by lack of spare parts. Troops went into battle without batteries for their radios, and their medics lacked basic supplies. South Vietnamese rifles and artillery pieces were rationed to three rounds of ammunition per day in the last months of the war.  Without enough supplies and ammunition, ARVN forces were quickly thrown into chaos and defeated by the well-supplied PAVN, no longer having to worry about U.S. bombing.
The victorious Communists sent over 250,000 ARVN soldiers to prison camps wherein they were routinely tortured and murdered some for a period of eleven consecutive years. The communists called these prison camps "reeducation camps". The Americans and South Vietnamese had laid large minefields during the war, and former ARVN soldiers were made to clear them. Thousands died from sickness and starvation and were buried in unmarked graves. The South Vietnamese national military cemetery was vandalized and abandoned, and a mass grave of ARVN soldiers was made nearby. The charity "The Returning Casualty" in the early 2000s attempted to excavate and identify remains from some camp graves and restore the cemetery.  Reporter Morley Safer who returned in 1989 and saw the poverty of a former soldier described the ARVN as "that wretched army that was damned by the victors, abandoned by its allies, and royally and continuously screwed by its commanders". 
Viet Cong and NVA Tunnels and Fortifications of the Vietnam War
Gordon L Rottman entered the US Army in 1967, volunteered for Special Forces and completed training as a weapons specialist. He was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group until reassigned to the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam in 1969–70. Gordon worked as a civilian contract Special Operations Forces Intelligence Specialist at the Army's Joint Readiness Center, Ft Polk, until 2002. A highly respected and established author, who is a recognised expert on this subject, he now devotes himself to full-time writing and research.
Chris Taylor was born in Newcastle, UK, but now lives in London. After attending art college in his home town, he graduated in 1995 from Bournemouth University with a degree in computer graphics. Since then he has worked in the graphics industry and is currently a freelance illustrator for various publishing companies. He has a keen interest in filmmaking and is currently co-producing a movie. Lee James Ray studied design at college before beginning a career in digital illustration. He worked on numerous gaming products creating 3D models and backgrounds, including a spell as a senior artist, before becoming a freelance graphic designer in 2004. He is married with two children, and lives in Nottingham, UK. Alex Mallinson is a freelance graphic designer and animator, whose work has been featured in video games, books, magazines, and on websites. He was born and raised in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, before moving to Singapore with his parents, an artist and a historian. Alex currently lives in Sheffield, UK.