Vietnamese National Army: Wikis


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Vietnamese National Army (VNA)
Quân đội Quốc gia Việt Nam
Flag of the Vietnamese National Army
Flag of the Vietnamese National Army
Active 1949 – 1955
Country State of Vietnam
Allegiance Chief of State of Vietnam
Type Army
Engagements First Indochina War
Nguyen Van Hinh

The Vietnamese National Army or Vietnam National Army (Vietnamese: Quân đội Quốc gia Việt Nam, "National Army of Vietnam") was the State of Vietnam's military force created in 1949 at the instigation of French General de Lattre. It was commanded by Vietnamese General Hinh and was loyal to Bao Dai.


Operations (1949–1955)

While loyalist to the Chief of State of Vietnam Emperor Bao Dai, the VNA fought along the French Union forces against the communist Viet Minh led by Ho Chi Minh during the First Indochina War until 1954 and the partition of Vietnam.

In 1955, the State of Vietnam was dissolved and replaced by Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north and Ngo Dinh Diem's Republic of Vietnam in the south. In early May, civil war ensued in the capital of South Vietnam. New President of the State of Vietnam Ngo Dinh Diem's VNA fought Binh Xuyen forces in the criminal organization's controlled areas of Saigon.[1]

By 1956 all French Union troops withdrew from Vietnam and most of the VNA officers remained in service in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. After the fall of Saigon breaking in 1975, some joined the French Foreign Legion and others exiled to France or the United States.

Military schools


National Military Academy

Benefiting with French cadres assistance and U.S. material support the VNA quickly became a modern army modelled after the CEFEO Expeditionary Corps.[2] Officers and Non-commissioned officers were trained in local schools of cadres known in French as Ecoles des Cadres, or at the elite National Military Academy of Dalat (EETD).[3]

The Preparatory Military School (école militaire préparatoire, EMP) of Dalat was directed by Lieutenant Savani, a metropolitan French who was educated in the Autun EMP. It was created in 1936 after the Autun EMP as the Dalat School of the Eurasian Children of Troops (Ecole des Enfants de Troupe Eurasiens de Dalat, EETED). Once dissoluted during the Japanese occupation in 1944, General de Lattre reformed the EETED as the EETD Dalat School of the Children of Troops (Ecole des Enfants de Troupe de Dalat) in 1950.

In 1953, the cadres formation raised with 54 new battalion created and hundreds of new officers formed by early March.[4] By November the Vietnamese National Army was entirely enlisted of Vietnamese recruits from the Privates to Generals.[5]

On the other hand, until 1954 some Vietnamese were trained four months in an Infantry Instruction Centers (Centre d'Instruction de l'Infanterie, CII) based in southern Vietnam. Once licensed these recruits would not be part of the VNA but the French CEFEO. Other officer and NCO alumni were coming from all French Union including Cambodia, Overseas (Martinique, Reunion, French Guiana), metropolitan French and "French citizens" of French West Africa and India.[6][7]

Hoang Dieu promotion

On April 20th 1952, the Dalat academy celebrated its first promotion (Hoàng Diệu) with a "baptism" which is the Saint Cyr -French West Point- fashion. Celebrating officials included Chief of State Bao Dai, Prime Minister Tran Van Huu, General Governor of French Indochina Gautier and French General Salan, commander of the CEFEO.[8]

His majesty Bao Dai awarded the Hoang Dieu promotion Major and Second with a Saint-Cyr offered saber.[9] As a symbol of autodefense of the whole Vietnam by the VNA, the Major shot four arrows in each direction.[10]


Alumni of the Vatchay Light Infantry Commando school located in the Halong Bay, were trained to anti-guerrilla warfare including bayonet fighting, close quarters combat, jujutsu art, river crossing, basic rope bridge (known as "monkey bridge") crossing, enhanced camouflage, minefield crossing, barbed wire field crossing and trench warfare.[4]

Military ranks

Military ranks were organized after the French army's hierarchy. Shoulder patch insignia would have three, two or one bar or star.[11] Generals would have three stars while NCO officers with a straight bar (Sous-Lieutenant for "1st Lieutenant") were called Ong Mot ("Mister One") and those with two straight bars (Lieutenant for "2nd Lieutenant") were unofficially named Ong Hai ("Mister Two"). Since anyone working for the government was called Quan the rank Lieutenant soon replaced it, Quan Mot became Sous-Lieutenant, Quan Hai became Lieutenant and so forth.[12]

When the VNA was replaced by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam after the fall of the State of Vietnam in 1955, military ranks and hierarchy were reformed.[12]


Ground force

Organized as a modern army the Ground Force included artillery, infantry, transmission and armoured cavalry units.[13].

Airborne regiments including paratrooper "TDND" (Tieu Doan Nhay Du, "Commando Battalion"), the so-called 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th BAWOUAN, were later created. These elite units were referred as the "BPVN" (Bataillon de Parachutistes Viêt-Namiens, "Vietnamese Paratroopers Battalions") by their French allies. Some of these paratroopers were attached to the GCMA special forces.

Air force

The VNA air force first took part in the First Indochina War during the joint Operation Atlas in April 1953.[14] The aviation consisted of Morane Saulnier MS-500 reconnaissance planes and Douglas DC-3 and DC-4 transport aircraft useful in airborne operations.[2]


The navy included amphibious vehicles such as Landing Craft Infantry, Landing Craft Mechanized, small craft and materiel.[2]

Marine troops

The Marine Troops corps was modelled after the French Troupes de Marine. Their particular Navy blue uniform with white gaiters is still used by the French Fusiliers Marins.

Special forces

Special forces consisted of Vietnamese commandos trained by French officers in local schools. They used a whole different personnel, uniform, equipment, training and warfare compared with the regular airborne or infantry troops.

The GCMA airborne commandos (Groupe Commando Mixte Aéroporté, "Airborne Mixed Commando Group") were Vietnamese ethnic minorities or Laotian montagnard partisans led by paratrooper officers of the SDECE French intelligence agency. Some of them would be used as cadres in the North Vietnam Commandos (Commandos Nord Viêt-nam).

In 1951, French General de Lattre commander of the CEFEO ordered for the creation of the North Vietnam Commandos to Louis Fourcade. These remained operational until 1954 with Fourcade as the "Big Boss" (le Grand Patron) until June 21, 1953.

Their mission was to collect intelligence, perform hit-and-run ambushes and bring confusion in Viet Minh controlled areas (northern Vietnam) wearing enemy uniforms and using unconventional warfare such as guerrilla techniques.[15] These were based on both, GCMA director and famous counter-insurgency theorician Roger Trinquier's experience as French Jedburgh in World War II, and on Viet Minh POWs collaboration.

Weaponry & equipment

Just like in the CEFEO, most of the VNA's military equipment was World War II vintage. Firearms were mixed U.S. and French. Helmets were mostly U.S. M1 Helmet (and airborne version) with some French copy "Model 51" (modèle 51, M51) and certain units wearing the WWII U.S. or Australian Imperial similar Slouch hat (chapeau de brousse nicknamed "broussard"). Uniforms were mixed U.S., French and British (SAS airborne).

Heavier equipment of the armoured cavalry was made of WWII vintage U.S. light tanks as they had the ability to be drop stripped and assembled by specialized engineering companies on location.

Viet Minh captured arms like German Karabiner 98k with bayonet, U.S. Browning MGs or Japanese "knee mortars" were sometimes used.[16] These arms would often be supplied to the guerrillas by China as captured material from the Chinese Civil War (the NRA had been supplied by both Nazi Germany and the USA) or left behind by the Japanese Southern Expeditionary Army Group after the Pacific War.




Infantry / Airborne




TDND 5 (BAWOUAN) emblem. This elite airborne unit fought several battles including Dien Bien Phu.

Famous units of the VNA are the 5th Vietnamese Artillery Group (5e Groupe d'Artillerie Viêt-namienne, GAVN) who fought at the battle of Na San in 1952, the 301st Vietnamese Infantry Battalion (301e Bataillon Viêt-namien, BVN) and the 5th Vietnamese Airborne Battalion (TDND 5 or 5e BAWOUAN) who both fought at the 1954 battle of Dien Bien Phu.


Notes: "ARVN" stands for Army of the Republic of Vietnam, "FFL" stands for French Foreign Legion, "USA" stands for United States Army, "VNA" stands for Vietnamese National Army.


  1. ^ Indochina: Saigon after the combats (rushes) French news archives, ORTF, May 10, 1955
  2. ^ a b c A Brief Overview of the Vietnam National Army and the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces(1952-1975), Stephen Sherman and Bill Laurie
  3. ^ Revival of Vietnamese culture - the Nguyen Dynasty seminar (Office of The Imperial Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam)
  4. ^ a b Future Vietnamese cadres (Vietnamese National Army footages), French newsreel archives (Les Actualités Françaises) March 5, 1953
  5. ^ The young army of Vietnam (Vietnamese National Army footages), French newsreel archives (Les Actualités Françaises) November 26, 1953
  6. ^ French Defense Ministry archives ECPAD, Raoul Coutard reportage (text), June 1954
  7. ^ French Defense Ministry archives ECPAD, Raoul Coutard reportage (picture), June 1954
  8. ^ First promotion of the Vietnamese Army (Vietnamese National Army footages), French newsreel archives (Les Actualités Françaises) May 1, 1952
  9. ^ French Defense Ministry archives ECPAD, Raymond Varoqui reportage, April 20, 1952
  10. ^ French Defense Ministry archives ECPAD, Raymond Varoqui reportage, February 15-28 1952
  11. ^ The young army of Vietnam (Vietnamese National Army footages), French newsreel archives (Les Actualités Françaises) November 26, 1953
  12. ^ a b Toan Nguyen in Vietnamese Military Mail Terms and Markin
  13. ^ The young army of Vietnam (Vietnamese National Army footages), French newsreel archives (Les Actualités Françaises) November 26, 1953
  14. ^ French Defense Ministry archives ECPAD, Fernand Jentile reportage, April 1953
  15. ^ Pissardy, Jean-Pierre (1999). "Commandos Nord-Vietnam: 1951-1954" (in French). Indo Editions. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  16. ^ Vietnamese National Army gallery (May 1951-June 1954), French Defense Ministry archives ECPAD


See also

Media links

External links


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