Here we have included some descriptions from some of our units, this is also work in progress.
SOG (Studies and Observations Group)
The following is by all means not an extensive description of SOG's operations. All info was taken from the address stated at the start. Go there for more information.
During the Vietnam war and in its legacy, perhaps no group of men has created more interest or exhibited more heroism than the Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen of the Studies and Observation Group. Operating in secrecy and far away from the support of the vast military machine, they were the eyes, ears and the tip of the sword.
MACV-SOG was the joint service high command unconventional-warfare task force engaged in highly classified clandestine operations throughout Southeast Asia. It was given the title “Studies & Observation Group” as a cover. The joint staff was allegedly performing an analysis of the lessons learned to that point in the Vietnam War, but it was actually a special operations group with distinct command decision authority.
MACV-SOG had five primary responsibilities and the capability to undertake additional special missions as required. Primary responsibilities included: (1) Cross-border operations regularly conducted to disrupt the VC, Khmer Rouge, Pathet Lao and NVA in their own territories; (2) Keeping track of all imprisoned and missing Americans and conducting raids to assist and free them as part of the Escape and Evasion (E & E) mission for all captured U.S. personnel and downed airmen; (3) Training and dispatching agents into North Vietnam to run resistance movement operations; (4) “Black” psychological operations, such as establishing false (notional} NVA broadcasting stations inside North Vietnam; (4) “Gray” psychological operations as typified by the Hue- Phu Bai propaganda transmitter. MACV-SOG was also entrusted with specific tasks such as kidnapping, assassination, insertion of rigged mortar rounds into the enemy ammunition supply system (which were set to explode and destroy their crews upon use) and retrieval of sensitive documents and equipment if lost or captured through enemy action. MACV-SOG was often able to use the intelligence it gathered for its own internal purposes as well as for high command special activities.
LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol)
When the first major combat units were deployed to Vietnam in 1965 the Army found itself in a bit of a predicament. The war which it had become involved was not going to be like the warfare it had trained and equipped itself for; the terrain was nothing like Eastern Europe. This coupled with a jungle terrain, and an enemy that preferred guerrilla tactics as opposed to a stand up and fight set piece battle, meant that an effective means of locating him was required.
This need gave rise to the formation of small reconnaissance units of platoon size which were responsible to the Brigade or Divisional Commander. Two of the earliest examples of these “provisional” LuRRPs were formed by the 196th Inft Brigade and the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
LEAPING LENA: Ten months before the Marines hit the beach at Da Nang, project Leaping Lena had been initiated. Activated on the 15th of May 1964 project Leaping Lena was created for the purpose of conducting classified long range recon missions in Vietnam. Special Forces “A” detachments were put in charge of training CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Groups) and VNSF (Vietnamese Special Forces) in long range patrolling and recon techniques. Project Delta originated from Leaping Lena in October 1964, with Special Forces Detachment B-52 being created to provide control HQ in June 1965.
Delta continued to train soldiers in LuRRP skills, training them in long ranging reconnaissance work, artillery spotting, intel gathering, forward air control, and bomb damage assessments. In 1966 Delta extended its LuRRP training to allow for regular US Infantry units that needed LuRRP training to be included in the program.
MFR (Marine Force Recon)
The objective of a Force Recon team is to conduct pre assault and distant post assault recon in support of landing forces. Force Recon teams accomplish their missions through various types of reconnaissance: zone recon, obtaining information on all routes, obstacles, terrain and enemy forces within certain boundaries; providing real time information through surveillance of areas of interest; and photographs and sketches, to provide accurate visual aids describing areas and enemies. In addition, they posses the capability to engage the enemy by supporting arms, implant sensors, capture selected prisoners, conduct initial terminal guidance operations, and conduct specialized terrain reconnaissance.
SF (Special Forces)
During the Vietnam war, US Special Forces had many missions, the most important one being the CIDG (Civil Irregural Defence Group) program. The aim of this program was to train local villagers to protect their homes and families against the VC. The US SF were tasked to do this, and they set up border surveillance camps along the borders of Laos and Cambodea, to train and conduct recon patrols to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The main task being to train the local indigenous people in patrolling and surveillance, they also did patrols with the forces they trained, and from the same forces, larger forces like Hatchet Forces (primarily used as companies to raid a specific enemy target), Mike Forces (used primarily as base security) and other forces. Throughout the war the Special Forces trained and lived with the people they trained, and the people they trained held the SF in huge respect.
Vietnam is known to have large groups of ethnic minorities. Montagnards (slang from a french word, meaning mountain people) was the common term used of them. Some of the minor ethnic groups were, Karai, Jade, Bru and many others. All lived in different parts of the country.
The reputation that Navy SEALs earned by terrorizing “Charlie” in the remote swamps and jungle regions of Vietnam, still fascinates to this day. SEALs became experts at setting up kill zones and laying down blankets of fire from which no enemy could escape. The daring of the men with green faces who appeared from nowhere, bringing sudden death, caused the Vietcong to offer a $10,000 bounty on any SEAL captured dead or alive.
Realizing the administration's favor of the Army's Green Berets, the Navy needed to determine its role within the Special Forces arena. In March of 1961, the Chief of Naval Operations recommended the establishment of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla units. These units would be able to operate from sea, air or land. This was the beginning the official Navy SEALs. Many SEAL members came from the Navy's UDT units, who had already gained experience in commando warfare in Korea; however, the UDTs were still necessary to the Navy's amphibious force.
The CIA began SEAL covert operations in early 1963. At the outset of the war, operations consisted of ambushing supply movements and locating and capturing North Vietnamese officers. Due to poor intelligence information, these operations were not very successful. When the SEALs were given the resources to develop their own intelligence, the information became much more timely and reliable. The SEALs and Special Operations in general started showing an immense success rate, earning their members a great number of citations.
The SEALs were initially deployed in and around Da Nang, training the South in combat diving, demolitions and guerrilla/anti-guerrilla tactics. As the war continued, the SEALs found themselves positioned in the Rung Sat Special Zone where they were to disrupt the enemy supply and troop movements, and into the Mekong Delta to fulfill riverine (fighting on the inland waterways) operations.
SEALs operated primarily in the southern part of South Vietnam, around the Mekong Delta and RSSZ, intercepting VC movements and destroying their caches.
CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Groups)
Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG, pronounced “sid-gee”) is one several South Vietnamese irregular military units during the Vietnam War.
The CIDG program was devised by the CIA in early 1961 to counter expanding Viet Cong influence in South Vietnam's Central Highlands. Beginning in the village of Buon Enao, small A Teams from the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) moved into villages and set up Area Development Centers. Focusing on local defense and civic action, the Special Forces teams did the majority of the training. Villagers were trained and armed for village defense for two weeks, while localized Strike Forces would receive better training and weapons and served as a quick reaction force to react to Viet Cong attacks. The vast majority of the CIDG camps were initially manned by inhabitants of ethnic minority regions in the country (especially Montagnard), who disliked both the North and South Vietnamese and therefore quickly took the American advisors. The program was widely successful, as once one village was pacified, it served as a training camp for other local villages.
By 1963, the military felt that the program was a great success, but also that the CIDG units and Special Forces units were not being employed properly, and ordered Operation Switchblack, which transferred control of the CIDG program from the CIA over to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. The CIDG Program was rapidly expanded, as the entire 5th Special Forces Group, U.S. Army Special Forces, moved into Vietnam, and the CIDG units stopped focusing on village defense and instead took part in more conventional operations, most notably border surveillance. Most of these were converted to Vietnam Army Ranger units in 1970.
ARVN (The Army of the Republic of Vietnam) was a military component of the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).
On March 8, 1949, after the signing of the Elysee accord Vietnam was recognized as a independent country and its Army was built to fight side by side with the Armed Forces of France against the Communist forces lead by Ho Chi Minh. This force was named the “National Army of Vietnam” and was officered by French trained personnel or French army veterans such as the army's chief of staff, General Nguyen Van Hinh. The French referred to the formation of this organization as the “yellowing” of the French army in Indochina.
In 1952, Vietnamese forces were made up of sixty battalions however they never played a significant role in the French war against the VietMinh. The French used them mostly to garrison sectors they considered unimportant, to free up French forces for significant operations. They were, for example, used in such a way to man the “DeLattre Line” while French troops made attacks in North Vietnam. A small number fought at the battle of Dien Bien Phu where they famously went into action singing the French national anthem. Generally, there was not much incentive for public support of this French controlled army. Desertions were high and their equipment was often sub-standard, with all of the best material going to the French units. According to the Geneva Accord was signed on July 20, 1954 the army was disbanded and only a militia allowed to remain.
On October 26, 1956, the military was reorganized by the administration of President Ngo Dinh Diem who then established the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Early on, the focus of the army was the Communist guerrillas of the Viet Cong, 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 unsuccessful. ARVN and President Diem began to be criticized by the foreign press when the troops were used to crush anti-government religious groups like the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao as well as to raid Buddhist temples, which Diem claimed were harboring Communist guerillas.
In 1963 Ngo Dinh Diem was killed in a coup d'etat carried out by ARVN officers. 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 Communists and the role of the ARVN became less and less significant. They were also plagued by continuing problems of severe corruption among the officer corps. Although the U.S. was highly critical of them, the ARVN continued to be entirely U.S. armed and funded.
Starting in 1969 President Richard M. 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 and the allied Viet Cong. Slowly, ARVN began to expand from its pacification role to become the primary ground defense against the Viet Cong and PAVN. From 1969-1971 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 Cambodia and were executing three times as many operations as they had during the American war period. However, the officer corps was still the biggest problem. Leaders were often poorly trained, inept and the equipment continued to sub-standard as the U.S. tried to upgrade ARVN technology.
Relations with the public also remained poor as their only counter to Communist infiltration was to resurrect the “Strategic Hamlet” program, which the peasants resented. Disapproving Americans called this “barbed wire diplomacy”. 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.
The most crucial moment of truth for the ARVN came with General Vo Nguyen Giap's 1972 “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. ARVN took heavy losses, but to the surprise of many, managed to hold on and stand their ground. The Communists took Quang Tri province and areas along the Lao and Khmer borders.
President Richard Nixon dispatched more bombers to provide air support for ARVN when it seemed that South Vietnam was about to be overrun. In desperation, President Nguyen Van Thieu fired the incompetent General Lam and replaced him with ARVN's best commander, 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 (NVA) failed to take Hue. Finally, with considerable U.S. air and naval support, as well as some surprising determination by the ARVN soldiers, the Easter Offensive was halted. ARVN 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.
By 1973 and 1974 the United States had almost completely retreated from Vietnam and ARVN was left to fight alone, though with massive technological support, having roughly 4x as many heavy weapons as their enemies. This was deceptive, however, as U.S. aid was continuously cut while the North Vietnamese were able to expand their forces and logistics with Soviet and Chinese support.
In 1975, after the end of American involvement, the NVA again invaded the south. This time, the ARVN collapsed in a total panic. Thieu had ordered a withdrawal from Northern areas which caused massive panic and few of the forces there survived. City after city fell to the Communists with ARVN soldiers joining the civilians trying to flee south. The North called this the “Ho Chi Minh Campaign”. All resistance crumbled. General Cao Van Vien, ARVN chief of staff, ordered his men to fight to the death, then quickly fled the country. The ARVN tried to defend Xuan Loc, their last chance before Saigon. Even according to the Communists, these men fought very well, but it was not enough. Xuan Loc was taken and on April 30, 1975, initiated the Fall of Saigon the Communists captured the city, placing the Viet Cong flag over the Independence Palace. General Duong Van Minh, recently appointed president by Tran Van Huong, surrendered the city and government bringing the Republic of Vietnam and also the Army of the Republic of Vietnam to a final end.