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(Redirected to Army of the Republic of Vietnam article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Tổ Quốc (Nation), Danh dự (Honor), Trách Nhiệm (Duty)

The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was the land-based military forces of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), which existed from October 26, 1955 until the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. The ARVN is often erroneously used as a collective term to refer to all South Vietnamese military forces, including the Vietnam Air Force and Republic of Vietnam Navy. They are estimated to have suffered 1,394,000 casualties [1 ] (killed and wounded) during the Vietnam War.

Just after the end of the Vietnam War, after the fall of Saigon and the North Vietnamese takeover, the ARVN was dissolved. While some members had fled the country to the United States or elsewhere, hundreds of thousands of former ARVN soldiers were sent to reeducation camps by the newly unified Vietnamese communist government.




Vietnamese National Army (VNA) 1949–1955

The TDND 5 airborne unit fought several battles including Dien Bien Phu.

On March 8, 1949, after the Elysee accords the State of Vietnam was recognized by France as an independent country ruled by Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai and the Vietnamese National Army was soon created. The VNA fought in joint operations with the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps against the communist Viet Minh forces led by Ho Chi Minh. The VNA fought in a wide range of campaigns including but not limited to the Battle of Na San (1952), Operation Atlas (1953) and the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954).[2]

Benefiting with French assistance the VNA quickly became a modern army modelled after the Expeditionary Corps. It included infantry, artillery, transmission, armored cavalry, airborne, airforce, navy and even 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 Dalat, including Chief of Staff General Nguyen Van Hinh which was a French Union airforce veteran.

After the 1954 Geneva agreements, the French Indochina ceased to exist and by 1956 all French Union troops had withdrawn from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 1955–1975

USCGC Sherman's doctor and a South Vietnamese corpsman at a medical Civil Action Patrol in a small Vietnamese village.

On October 26, 1955, the military was reorganized by the administration of President Ngo Dinh Diem who then established the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The air force was known as the VNAF. Early on, the focus of the army was the guerrilla fighters of the Vietnam National Liberation Front (NLF), a shadow government formed to oppose the Diem administration. The United States, under President John F. Kennedy sent advisors and a great deal of financial support to aid ARVN in combating the Communist insurgents. A major campaign, developed by Ngo Dinh 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 and President Diem began to be criticized by the foreign press when the troops were used to crush armed anti-government religious groups like the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao as well as to raid Buddhist temples, which according to Diem, were harboring Communist guerrillas. This most notably occurred on the night of August 21, 1963, during the Xa Loi Pagoda raids conducted by the Special Forces, which caused a death toll estimated to range into the hundreds. Diem also crushed the armed forces of the Binh Xuyen crime syndicate, which were supported by the French. In 1963 Ngo Dinh Diem was killed in a coup d'état carried out by ARVN officers and encouraged by US officials such as Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. In the confusion that followed, General Duong Van Minh took control, but 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 full control of the war against the communist NLF 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 U.S. was highly critical of them, the ARVN continued to be entirely U.S. armed and funded.

Early unmodified ARVN M113 during the Vietnam War

Although the US media has often portrayed the Vietnam war as an exclusively American vs Vietnamese conflict, the ARVN carried the brunt of the fight before and after large-scale US 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 ACAV modifications were adopted based on ARVN experience. An estimated 224,000 South Vietnamese troops died, while around 47,000 U.S. troops were killed during the war.[1 ]

Final campaigns

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) of the North (Also called NVA for North Vietnamese Army) and the allied National Liberation Front. Slowly, ARVN began to expand from its counter-insurgency role to become the primary ground defense against the NLF and PAVN. 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 a 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 war period. However, the ARVN equipment continued to be of lower standards than their American and South Korean allies, even as the U.S. tried to upgrade ARVN technology. But the officer corps was still the biggest problem. Leaders were too often poorly trained, corrupt, lacking morale and inept.

However, forced to carry the burden left by the Americans, the South Vietnamese army actually started to perform rather well and in 1970 was clearly winning the war against the Communists, though with continued American air support. The exhaustion of the North was becoming evident and the Paris talks gave some hope of a negotiated peace if not a victory.

In 1972, General Vo Nguyen Giap launched the "Easter Offensive", the first all out invasion of South Vietnam by the Communist North. The assault combined infantry wave assaults, artillery and the first massive use of tanks by the North Vietnamese. Although communist T-54 tanks proved vulnerable to LAW rockets, M48 and even the M41 light tank, the ARVN took heavy losses. The Communists took Quang Tri province and some areas along the Lao and Khmer borders.

M41 was used effectively against T-54 tanks by ARVN

President Richard Nixon dispatched more bombers in Operation Linebacker to provide air support for the ARVN when it seemed that South Vietnam was about to be overrun. In desperation, President Nguyen Van Thieu fired the incompetent General Hoang Xuan Lam and replaced him with General Ngo Quang Truong. He gave the order that all deserters would be executed and pulled enough forces together so that the North Vietnamese army failed to take Hue. Finally, with considerable U.S. air and naval support, as well hard fighting by the ARVN soldiers, the Easter Offensive was halted. ARVN forces counter-attacked and ultimately succeeded in driving the NVA out of South Vietnam, though they did retain control of northern Quang Tri province near the DMZ.

At the end of 1972, another US bombing offensive Operation Linebacker II brought Hanoi to a negotiated end to US involvement. By 1974, the United States had completely pulled its troops out of Vietnam. The ARVN was left to fight alone. With massive technological support they had roughly four times as many heavy weapons as their enemies. The U.S. even provided South Vietnam with thousands of aircraft, making the South Vietnam Airforce the fourth largest airforce in the world.[3] These figures are deceptive, however, as the U.S. began to curtail military aid while the North Vietnamese were given more Soviet and Chinese support.

In the fall 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 a collapse in South Vietnamese troop and civilian morale, South Vietnam found it impossible to defeat the North Vietnamese army. Moreover, the withdrawal of U.S. aid encouraged North Vietnam to begin an intense military offensive against South Vietnam. This was strengthened by the fact that while Nixon had promised Thieu a "severe retaliation" if the Communists broke the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, the new American administration did not think itself bound to this promise.

With the fall of Hue to Communist forces on March 26, began an organized rout of the ARVN that culminated in the complete disintegration of the South Vietnamese government. Retreating ARVN forces found the roads choked with refugees making troop movement almost impossible. North Vietnamese forces took advantage of the growing instability and 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 mass. Except for a heroic final stand by the 18th Division at Xuan Loc, ARVN resistance all but ceased. Less than a month after Hue, Saigon fell and the nation of South Vietnam ceased to exist. The sudden and complete destruction of the ARVN shocked the world. Even the Communist forces were surprised at how quickly South Vietnam collapsed.

The U.S. had provided the ARVN with 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 M-113 APC), 930 M-113s (APC/ACAVs), 120 V-100s (wheeled armored cars), and 190 M48 tanks; however on the eleventh hour, a US 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.[4] Despite such impressive figures, the Vietnamese were not as well equipped as the American G.I.s they replaced. The 1972 offensive had been driven back only with a massive US bombing campaign against North Vietnam. The VNAF air force had 200 A1, A-37 Ground Attack Aircraft and F-5 fighters, 30 AC-47 gunships and 600 transport, training and reconnaissance aircraft, and 500 helicopters. But their lightweight attack fighters lacked the punch of offensive bombers and fighters such as the B-52 and F-4 Phantom. Many aircraft were shot down due to NVA superior missiles. ARVN ground forces were severely outnumbered by the NVA, which had the world's fifth largest army in 1975.

Major Units



  • 1st Infantry Division – The French formed the 21st Mobile Group in 1953, renamed 21st Division in January 1955, the 1st Division later that year. Considered "one of the best South Vietnamese combat units". Based in Hue it had 4 rather 3 regiments.
  • 2nd Infantry Division – The French formed the 32nd Mobile Group in 1953,renamed 32nd Division in January 1955, the 2nd Division later that year. Based in Danang and Quang Ngai. A "fairly good" division.
  • 3rd Infantry Division – Raised in October 1971 in Quang Tri. One regiment was from the 1st Division (the 2nd Inf Regt). Collapsed in the 1972 Easter Offensive and was reconstituted and destroyed at Danang in 1975.
  • 5th Infantry Division – Originally formed as the 6th Division in 1955 but renamed the 5th Division in 1959. Many Nungs originally were in its ranks. At Bien Hoa in 1963 and involved in overthrow of Diem. Then operated north of Saigon. Entered Cambodia in 1970. Defended An Loc in 1972.
  • 7th Infantry Division – Formed as the 7th Mobile Group by the French, becoming the 7th Division in 1959. Served in Mekong Delta 1961–1975.
  • 9th Infantry Division – Formed in 1962, northern Mekong Delta..."by some accounts the worst division in the ARVN".
  • 18th Infantry Division – Formed as the 10th Division in 1965. Renamed the 18th Division in 1967 (number ten meant the worst in GI slang). Considered the worst ARVN division. Based at Xuan Loc. However redeemed itself with the defence of that town for a month in March-April 1975.
  • 21st Infantry Division – The ARVN 1st and 3rd Light Divisions were formed in 1955, renamed the 11th and 13th Light Divisions in 1956. Combined together to form the 21st Division in 1959. Served mainly near Saigon, Mekong Delta--"a good division".
  • 22nd Infantry Division – Initially raised as the 4th Infantry Division which existed briefly in the 1950s but renamed 22nd Division as four is an unlucky number in Vietnam. The ARVN 2nd and 4th Light Divisions were formed in 1955: 4th renamed the 14th Light Division in 1956. Combined to form the 22nd Division in 1959. Served near Kontum and Central Highlands. Collapsed in 1972. In 1975 was in Binh Dinh province; evacuated to south of Saigon as Central Highlands front fell. One of the last ARVN units to surrender.
  • 23rd Infantry Division – Originally 5th Light Division, renamed 23rd in 1959. Operated in central Vietnam. Entered Cambodia in 1970. Fought well in 1972 defending Kontum, shattered in 1975 defending Ban Me Thout..."a good division".
  • 25th Infantry Division – Formed in Quang Ngai in 1962. Moved to south west of Saigon in 1964. Entered Parrot's Break, Cambodia in 1970. Defended western approaches of Saigon 1972, 1975
  • Airborne Division – A branch of the VNAF which was formed by the French as the Airborne Group in 1955. Brigade strength by 1959, formed as division in 1965. Based at Tan Son Nhut airbase but used as a fire brigade throughout SVN. Included 9 Airborne Battalions, 3 Airborne Ranger Battalions. Fought in Cambodia 1970, Laos 1971. Used as brigade Groups in 1975, 1st at Xuan Loc, 2nd at Phan Rang, 3rd at Nha Trang. An excellent formation.


Notable ARVN generals

See also


  1. ^ a b Casualties - US vs NVA/VC
  2. ^ Vietnamese National Army gallery (May 1951-June 1954) French Defense Ministry archives ECPAD
  3. ^ VNAF, '51-'75
  4. ^ Starry/Dunstan


  • Tucker, Spencer C. (2000). Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 526–533. ISBN 1-57607-040-0.  

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. Army of the Republic of Vietnam


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