|Army of the Republic of Vietnam|
|(Quân l?c Vi?t Nam C?ng Hòa)|
Flag of the South Vietnamese army
|Founded||December 30, 1955|
|Disbanded||April 30, 1975|
|Size||Regular Forces: 410,000|
Territorial Militias: 532,000
Total: 942,000 in 1972
|Garrison/HQ||Saigon, South Vietnam|
|Nickname(s)||QLVNCH (ARVN in English)|
|Motto(s)||T? Qu?c, Danh d?, Trách Nhi?m (Country, Honor, Duty)|
|Anniversaries||Army Day (December 30, 1955)|
Cambodian Civil War
Laotian Civil War
Battle of the Paracel Islands
|Dng V?n Minh|
Cao V?n Viên
Ngô Quang Trng
The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN; Vietnamese: L?c quân Vi?t Nam C?ng hòa), were the ground forces of the South Vietnamese military from its inception in 1955 until the Fall of Saigon in April 1975. It is estimated to have suffered 1,394,000 casualties (killed and wounded) during the Vietnam War.
The ARVN began as a post-colonial army trained and closely affiliated with the United States and had engaged in conflict since its inception. Several dramatic changes occurred throughout its lifetime, initially from a 'blocking-force' to a more modern conventional force using helicopter deployment in combat. During the U.S. intervention, the role of the ARVN was marginalised to a defensive role with an incomplete modernisation, and transformed again most notably following Vietnamization as it was up-geared, expanded and reconstructed to fulfill the role of the departing U.S. forces. By 1974, it had become much more effective with foremost counterinsurgency expert and Nixon adviser Robert Thompson noting that Regular Forces were very well-trained and second only to U.S. and IDF forces in the free world and with General Creighton Abrams remarking that 70% of units were on par with the U.S. Army. However, the withdrawal of American forces through Vietnamization meant the armed forces could not effectively fulfill all the aims of the program and had become completely dependent on U.S. equipment, given it was meant to fulfill the departing role of the United States.
At its peak, an estimated 1 in 9 citizens of South Vietnam were enlisted and it had become the fourth-largest army in the world composed of Regular Forces and more voluntary Regional and Village-level militias.
Unique in serving a dual military-civilian administrative purpose in direct competition with the Viet Cong, the ARVN had, in addition, become a component of political power and suffered from continual issues of political loyalty appointments, corruption in leadership, factional in-fighting and occasional open internal conflict.
After the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), the ARVN was dissolved. While some high-ranking officers had fled the country to the United States or elsewhere, thousands of former ARVN officers were sent to reeducation camps by the communist government of the new, unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Five ARVN generals committed suicide to avoid capture by the PAVN/VC.
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 B?o i, 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 S?n (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 Nguy?n V?n 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 Di?m, the VNA crushed the armed forces of the Bình Xuyên.
On 26 October 1955, the military was reorganized by the administration of President Ngô ?ình Di?m 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 Di?m 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 ?ình 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 Di?m were criticized by the foreign press when the troops were used to crush armed anti-government religious groups like the Cao ?ài and Hòa H?o as well as to raid Buddhist temples, which according to Di?m, were harboring VC guerrillas. The most notorious of these attacks occurred on the night of August 21, 1963, during the Xá L?i Pagoda raids conducted by the Special Forces, which caused a death toll estimated to range into the hundreds.
In 1963 Di?m 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 Dng V?n 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.
South Vietnamese Command and General Staff College (Trng Ch? huy Tham m?u) 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
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.
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. 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 Qu?ng Tr? 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 Nguy?n V?n Thi?u fired the incompetent General Hoàng Xuân Lãm and replaced him with General Ngô Quang Trng. He gave the order that all deserters would be executed and pulled enough forces together in order to prevent the PAVN from taking Hu?. 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 Qu?ng Tr? 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.
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 Hu? 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 L?c from 9 to 21 April before being forced to withdraw. President Thi?u 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 Hu?, 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 commit 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 commit 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.
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".
The 1956 army structure of four conventional infantry divisions (8,100 each) and six light divisions (5,800 each) were reorganised according to American advice as seven full infantry divisions (10,450 each) and three corps headquarters by September 1959. The three armed services together numbered around 137,000 in 1960. In face of the communist threat, the army was expanded to 192,000 with four corps, nine divisions, one airborne brigade, one SF group, three separate regiments, one territorial regiment, 86 ranger companies, and 19 separate battalions, as well as support units in 1963, and a force strength of 355,135 in 1970. Meanwhile the supporting militia forces grew from a combined initial size of 116,000 in 1956, declined to 86,000 in 1959, and then were pushed up to 218,687 RF & 179,015 PF in 1970. The effect of expanding the total land force from about 220,000 in 1960 to around 750,000 in 1970 can be imagined, along with the troop quality issues that resulted.
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