North Vietnamese Army: Wikis


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Vietnam People's Army
Quân Đội Nhân Dân Việt Nam
Flag of Viet Nam Peoples Army.svg
Flag of the Vietnam People's Army. Slogan translates as "Determined to win."
Active December 22, 1944 – present
Country Vietnam
Allegiance Vietnam
Type Army
Anniversaries Traditional Founding Date: December 22, 1944. Dien Bien Phu Victory: May 7, 1954. Liberation of the South: April 30, 1975.
Engagements *World War II (Anti-Japanese Campaign 1944–1945)
Võ Nguyên Giáp, Nguyễn Chí Thanh, Văn Tiến Dũng, Trần Văn Trà, Chu Văn Tấn, Vương Thừa Vũ, Lê Đức Anh, Nguyễn Thị Định, Hoàng Văn Thái, Chu Huy Mân, Lê Trọng Tấn, Nguyễn Bình, Trần Nam Trung, Hoàng Cầm, Trần Văn Quang, Đoàn Khuê, Nguyễn Hữu An, Nguyễn Minh Châu, Phùng Thế Tài, Trần Độ, Nguyễn Sơn etc.

The Vietnam People's Army (Vietnamese: Quân Đội Nhân Dân Việt Nam, variously translated as Vietnamese People's Army and People's Army of Vietnam) is the armed forces of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The VPA includes the: the Vietnamese People's Ground Forces (including VPA Strategic Rear Forces and Border Defense Forces), the Vietnamese People's Navy (including VPN Marine Corps), the Vietnamese People's Air Force, and the Vietnamese People's Coast Guard.

During the French Indochina War (1946–1954), the VPA was often referred to as the Việt Minh. In the context of the Vietnam War (1959–1975), the army was referred to as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) or the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN). This allowed writers, the US Military, and the general public, to distinguish northern communists from the southern communists, or Viet Cong. However, northerners and southerners were always under the same command structure. According to Hanoi's official history, the Vietcong was a branch of the PAVN.[2]



The predecessor of the VPA was the Armed Propaganda Unit for National Liberation, an organization that was formed by President Hồ Chí Minh on December 22, 1944 to drive the French colonialists and Japanese occupiers from Vietnam.[1] The group was renamed the "Vietnam Liberation Army" in May 1945.[3] In September, the army was again renamed the "Vietnam National Defence Army."[3] At this point, it had about 1,000 soldiers.[3]

Osprey Publishing's 'The NVA and Vietcong' (1991), written by Conboy, Bowra, and McCouaig, (henceforth Conboy et al.) traces the development of the VPA Ground Forces from their earliest origins.[4] As early as January 1947, its first regiment, the 308 'Capital' Regiment, was created for operations around Hanoi. Over the next two years, partially at training camps in the Chinese towns of Wenshan, Long Zhou, and Jing Xi, Regimental Group 308, a divisional size force formed from the 308 Regiment, was established. It consisted of Regiments 98, 102, and 308, and soon became the 308 'Capital' Division. By late 1950 the 308 Division had a full three infantry regiments, one heavy weapons regiment, and support units, and was backed by two further independent regiments, the 174 and 209.Following disastrous failures against three French strongpoints in the Red River Delta, in late 1951 refocused on building up its ground forces further, with four new divisions, each of 10-15,000 men, created: the 304 Division at Thanh Hoa, the 316 Division in the northeast border region, the 320 Division in the north Red River Delta, formed in Spring 1951, and the 351 Heavy Weapons Division. At same time, and the 325 Division, formed in the northern summer period in central Vietnam, the six rifle formations (304, 308, 312, 316, 320, and 325) became known as the original PAVN 'Steel and Iron' divisions. In 1954 four of these divisions (the 308, 312, 316, supported by howitzers and AA guns of the 351 Division) overwhelmed the French Union forces at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

Soon after the 1954 Geneva Accords, the 330 and 338 Divisions were formed from southern Communists who had moved north in conformity with that agreement, and by 1955, six more divisions were formed: the 328, 332, and 350 in the north of the DRV, the 305 and the 324 near the DMZ, and the 335 Division of regroupees who had returned from Laos. In 1957, the 'interzones' of the war with the French were reorganised as the first five military regions, and in the next two years, several divisions were reduced to brigade size to meet the manpower requirements of collective farms. In May 1959 the first major steps to prepare infiltration routes into South Vietnam were taken; Group 559 was established, a logistical unit charged with establishing routes into the south via Laos and Cambodia, which later became famous as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. At about the same time, Group 579 was created as its' maritime counterpart to smuggle supplies into the South by sea. Most of the early infiltratees were members of the 338 Division, former southerners who had been settled at Xuan Mai from 1954 onwards. Regular formations were sent to South Vietnam from 1965 onwards; the 325 Division's 101B Regiment and the 66 Regiment of the 304 Division met U.S. forces on a large scale, a first for the PAVN, at the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in November 1965.

General Võ Nguyên Giáp was the first Commander and commander-in-chief of VPA and the fourth Minister of National Defence (after Chu Van Tan, Phan Anh, Ta Quang Buu). This force was to launch many offensives, and eventually survive counter-attacks by United States forces in what was known as the Vietnam War in the United States. During the 1968 & 1972 Vietnam War, VPA sustained heavy losses.


Towards the second half of the 20th century the armed forces of Vietnam would participate in organized incursions into the neighboring Indochinese countries of Laos and Cambodia.

  • Parts of Laos were invaded and occupied beginning in the mid 1960s, along with the Pathet Lao movement nurtured by Hanoi. In 1975 the Vietnamese military succeeded in toppling the Royal Laotian regime and installing a pro-Hanoi government, the Lao People's Democratic Republic,[5] that rules Laos to this day.
  • Parts of Cambodia were invaded and occupied beginning in the mid 1960s, upsetting the Cambodian military, which led to Lon Nol's coup in 1970 and the pro-US Khmer Republic state. In 1978, along with the FUNSK Cambodian Salvation Front movement nurtured by Hanoi, the Vietnamese military succeeded in toppling Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea regime and installing a pro-Hanoi government, the People's Republic of Kampuchea. Unlike in Laos, the PRK/SOC state would not be recognized by the United Nations, despite the genocidal record of the regime that had been overthrown.[6]

Both in Cambodia and in Laos, the heavily armed and battle-hardened Vietnam People's Army was the real power behind either the Pathet Lao or the FUNSK insurgencies.


During peaceful periods, the VPA has actively been involved in Vietnam's workforce to develop the economy of Vietnam, to coordinate national defense and the economy. The VPA has regularly sent troops to aid with natural disasters such as flooding, landslides etc. The VPA is also involved in such areas as industry, agriculture, forestry, fishery and telecommunications.

The VPA has numerous small firms which have become quite profitable in recent years. However, recent decrees have effectively prohibited the commercialisation of the military.


Minister of National Defense oversees operations of the VPA and is the Commander-in-Chief. He also oversees such agencies as the General Staff and the General Logistics Department. However, military policy is ultimately directed by the Central Military Commission of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.

The VPA is a "triple armed force" composed of the main force, the local force and the civil defence/guerrila force. As with most countries' armed forces, the VPA consists of standing, or regular, forces as well as reserve forces. During peacetime, the standing forces are minimized in number, and kept combat-ready by regular physical and weapons training, and stock maintenance.


Colonel Nguyen Trong Canh, Director of the Vietnamese Army Engineering Command's Technology Center for Bomb and Mine Disposal (BOMICEN)

The Vietnamese People's Army comprises various units of the main forces (Chủ lực), local forces (Lực lượng Địa phương) and the People's Defence Forces (Dân quân-Tự vệ).

It is subdivided into the following branches and sub-branches:

  • Vietnamese People's Ground Forces (Lục quân)
  • Vietnam Border Defense Force (Lực lượng Biên phòng)
  • Vietnamese People's Navy (Hải quân Nhân dân Việt Nam) consists of:
    • (Naval Infantry (aka Marines)) (Hải quân Đánh Bộ)
  • Vietnamese Marine Police (Lực lượng Cảnh sát biển Việt Nam)
  • Vietnam People's Air Defense and Air Force (Phòng không-Không quân nhân dân Việt Nam).

As mentioned above, reserves exist in all branches and are organized in the same way as the standing forces, with the same chain of command, and with officers and non-commissioned officers.

See Vietnamese military ranks and insignia.

Note:Vietnam Strategic Rear Force (Lực lượng dự bị chiến lược) is also a part of the ground force.

International presence

The Foreign Relations Department of the Ministry of National Defense organizes international operations of the VPA.

Apart from its occupation of half of the disputed Spratly Islands, which have been claimed as Vietnamese territory since the 17th century, Vietnam has not had forces stationed internationally since its withdrawal from Cambodia and Laos in early 1990.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, Vietnamese forces are sent to Laos repeatedly to quell the Hmong rebellion.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] The most newly campaigns occurred in late November of 2009, shortly before the start of the 2009 Southeast Asian Games in Vientiane.[15][16]

Main Force

Frogman of a PAVN-Phu Lai River

The main force of the VPA consists of combat ready troops, as well as support units such as educational institutions for logistics, officer training, and technical training.

In 1991, Conboy et al. stated that the VPA Ground Forces had four 'Strategic Army Corps' in the early 1990s, numbering 1-4, from north to south.[17] 1st Corps (Vietnam People's Army), located in the Red River Delta region, consisted of the 308th (one of the six original 'Steel and Iron' divisions) and 312th Divisions, and the 309th Infantry Regiment. The other three corps, 2 SAC, 3 SAC, and 4 SAC, were further south, with 4th Corps (Vietnam People's Army), in what was South Vietnam, consisting of two former PLAF divisions, the 7th and 9th.

The IISS Military Balance 2008 attributes the Vietnamese ground forces with an estimated 412,000 personnel.[18] Formations, according to the IISS, include nine military regions, 14 corps headquarters, 10 armoured brigades, three mechanised infantry divisions, 58 infantry divisions whose strengths range from 5,000 to 12,500, 15 independent infantry regiments, one airborne brigade, various đặc công brigades and battalions of both of land combat - Đặc công bộ, urban combat - Đặc công biệt động and water-based combat - Đặc công nước (special task force units with unique high-level guerrila offensive combat tactics, sometimes incorrectly identified as "Sappers"; previously there had been a commando hunting force of this branch during Vietnam war, which has now evolved into an anti-terrorist force), more than 10 brigades of field artillery, eight divisions and more than 20 independent brigades of engineers, and 10-16 economic construction divisions.

Local Forces

Local forces are an entity of the VPA that, together with the militia and "self-defense forces," act on the local level in protection of people and local authorities. While the local forces are regular VPA forces, the militia consists of rural civilians, and the self-defense forces consist of civilians who live in urban areas and/or work in large groups, such as at construction sites or farms. The current number stands at 3-4 million part-time soldiers.


From the 1960s to 1975, the Soviet Union was the main supplier of military hardware to North Vietnam. After the latter's victory in the war, it remained the main supplier of equipment to the united Vietnam. The United States had been the primary supplier of equipment to South Vietnam; some of the equipment abandoned by the United States Army and Army of the Republic of Vietnam came under control of the re-unified Viet Nam's government. NVA captured the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) weapons after April 30 1975 at Saigon was captured.

  • 1,800 tanks
  • 4,900 APC
  • 7,350 Artillery
  • 159 Helicopters

The Vietnamese have also produced their own equipment and repaired existing equipment.




Infantry weapons

  •  Soviet Union AKS-74U Compact assault rifles (used by Special Force (a.k.a Dac Cong)
  •  Soviet Union PP-19 Bizon Submachine guns (used by Special Force (a.k.a Dac Cong)
  •  Poland PM-63 Submachine guns (used by Special Force (a.k.a Dac Cong)
  •  Germany MP-5A4 Submachine guns (used by Special Force (a.k.a Dac Cong)
  •  Israel Uzi Submachine guns (used by Special Force (a.k.a Dac Cong)
  •  Israel MiniUzi Submachine guns (used by Special Force (a.k.a Dac Cong)
  •  Israel McroUzi Submachine guns (used by Special Force (a.k.a Dac Cong)


Vietnamese troops on Spratly Island




Patrol Boat of PAVN 8/2009

The Vietnamese People's Army consists of:

  • Military manpower—military age: age for compulsory service: 18–25 years old; conscript service obligation: 18 months
  • Military manpower—availability:
    • males age 15–49: 21,341,813 (2005 est.)
  • Military manpower—fit for military service:
    • males age 15–49: 16,032,358 (2005 est.)
  • Military manpower—reaching military age annually:
    • males: 915,572 (2005 est.)
  • Military manpower—total troops:
    • 9,564,000 (1st)
  • Military expenditures: $4 billion (Military Balance2007)
  • Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 2% (Military Balance2007)


  1. ^ HISTORY - The Hmong
  2. ^ Military History Institute of Vietnam,(2002) Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People's Army of Vietnam, 1954–1975, translated by Merle L. Pribbenow. University Press of Kansas. p. 68. ISBN 0700611754.
  3. ^ a b c Early Day: The Development of the Viet Minh Military Machine"
  4. ^ Conboy, Bowra, and McCouaig, 'The NVA and Vietcong', Osprey Publishing, 1991, p.5
  5. ^ Christopher Robbins, The Ravens: Pilots of the Secret War in Laos. Asia Books 2000.
  6. ^ David P. Chandler, A history of Cambodia, Westview Press; Allen & Unwin, Boulder, Sydney, 1992
  7. ^ THE HMONG REBELLION IN LAOS: Victims of Totalitarianism or terrorists?, by Gary Yia Lee, Ph.D
  8. ^ Vietnamese soldiers attack Hmong in Laos
  9. ^ Joint-Military Co-operation continues between Laos and Vietnam
  10. ^ Combine Military Effort of Laos and Vietnam
  11. ^ Vietnam, Laos: Military Offensive Launched At Hmong
  12. ^ 2008May20: Laos, Vietnam: Attacks Against Hmong Civilians Mount
  13. ^ Laos, Vietnam: New Campaign to Exterminate Hmong
  14. ^ President Obama Urged To Address Laos, Hmong Crisis During Asia Trip, Student Protests in Vientiane
  15. ^ Vietnam, Laos Crackdown: SEA Games Avoided By Overseas Lao, Hmong in Protest
  16. ^ SEA Game Attacks: Vietnam, Laos Military Kill 23 Lao Hmong Christians on Thanksgiving
  17. ^ See also
  18. ^ IISS Military Balance 2008, Routledge for the IISS, London, 2008, p.408

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