1st Division (South Vietnam)

The 1st Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN)—the army of the nation state of South Vietnam that existed from 1955 to 1975—was part of the I Corps that oversaw the northernmost region of South Vietnam, the centre of Vietnam.

The 1st Division was based in Huế, the old imperial city and one of two major cities in the region, which was also the corps headquarters. This division was also tasked with the defence of Quảng Trị, the closest town to the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and among the first to be hit by the Tet Offensive.

1st Division
ARVN 1st Division SSI
1st Division SSI
CountrySouth Vietnam South Vietnam
BranchFlag of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.png Army of the Republic of Vietnam
Part ofI Corps
EngagementsVietnam War
Nguyễn Khánh
Tôn Thất Đính
Nguyễn Văn Thiệu
Đỗ Cao Trí
Nguyễn Chánh Thi
Ngô Quang Trưởng
Phạm Văn Phú


In mid-July 1966 the Division launched Operation Lam Son 289 in support of the US 3rd Marine Division's Operation Hastings in the southern DMZ. The division lost 21 killed in the operation.[1]:160-176

From 18-26 May 1967 the Division conducted Operation Lam Son 54 in coordination with the US 3rd Marine Division's Operation Hickory near Con Thien.[2]:23-30

By 1968 the Division's 1st Regiment was responsible for Strongpoint A-1 (16°55′59″N 107°07′52″E / 16.933°N 107.131°E) part of the Strongpoint Obstacle System south of the DMZ.[3]:38

On 25 May near Thong Nghia (16°50′46″N 107°05′59″E / 16.846°N 107.0996°E) the 2nd Regiment engaged a PAVN battalion killing 122 PAVN. The next day the Regiment killed another 110 PAVN while losing 2 killed.[3]:309-10

On 8 August the 2nd Regiment engaged a PAVN force from the 1st Battalion, 138th Regiment 2km east of Gio Linh killing over 100 and forcing them to withdraw towards the DMZ.[3]:387 On the morning of 15 August the 2nd Regiment and the US 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, supported by Company A, 1st AMTRAC Battalion launched an assault into the southern DMZ which resulted in a reported 421 PAVN killed.[3]:387

On 23 October the 2nd Regiment supported by Company H, 9th Marines and a tank platoon from Company A, 3rd Tank Battalion launched a raid into the DMZ north of Ha Loi Trung (16°57′58″N 107°08′10″E / 16.966°N 107.136°E), resulting in 112 PAVN killed.[3]:395

Tet Offensive

Battle of Hue

During the Battle of Hue, the division fought the entirety of the battle while its Mang Ca Garrison, headquarters in the northeast corner of the Citadel was completely surrounded.[4] In the early morning hours of 31 January 1968, a division-sized force of PAVN and VC soldiers launched a coordinated attack on the city of Huế breaking through the western wall of the Citadel. On the Tây Lộc Airfield, the Division's elite Hac Bao (Black Panther) Company, reinforced by the 1st Division's 1st Ordnance Company, stopped the PAVN 800th Battalion. The 802nd Battalion struck the 1st Division headquarters at Mang Ca. Although the PAVN battalion penetrated the division compound, an ad hoc 200-man defensive force of staff officers and clerks staved off the enemy assaults. General Trưởng called back most of his Black Panther Company from the airfield to bolster the headquarters defenses, which kept division headquarters secure.[3]:167 General Trưởng called in reinforcements ordering his 3rd Regiment; the 3rd Troop, 7th ARVN Cavalry; and the 1st ARVN Airborne Task Force to relieve the pressure on Mang Ca. Responding to the call at PK-17 base 17 km north of Huế, the 3rd Troop and the 7th Battalion of the Airborne task force rolled out of their base area in an armored convoy onto Highway 1. A PAVN blocking force stopped the ARVN relief force about 400 meters short of the Citadel wall. Unable to force their way through the enemy positions, the South Vietnamese paratroopers asked for assistance.[3]:168 The 2nd ARVN Airborne Battalion reinforced the convoy, and the South Vietnamese finally penetrated the lines and entered the Citadel in the early morning hours of 1 February. The cost had been heavy: the ARVN suffered 131 casualties including 40 dead, and lost four of the 12 armored personnel carriers in the convoy. The ARVN claimed to have killed 250 PAVN, captured five prisoners, and recovered 71 individual and 25 crew-served weapons.[3]:168 The 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 3rd Regiment, advanced east from encampments southwest of the city along the northern bank of the Perfume River, but PAVN defensive fires forced them to fall back. Unable to enter the Citadel, the two battalions established their night positions outside the southeast wall of the old City. PAVN/VC forces surrounded the 1st and 4th Battalions of the regiment, operating to the southeast, as they attempted to reinforce the units in Huế. Captain Phan Ngoc Luong, the commander of the 1st Battalion, retreated with his unit to the coastal Ba Long outpost. At Ba Long, the battalion then embarked upon motorized junks and reached the Citadel the following day. The 4th Battalion, however, remained unable to break its encirclement for several days.[3]:168 South of the city, Lieutenant Colonel Phan Hu Chi, the commander of the 7th Armored Cavalry Squadron attempted to break the PAVN/VC stranglehold. He led an armored column toward Huế, but like the other South Vietnamese units, found it impossible to break through. With the promise of U.S. Marine reinforcements, Chi's column, with three tanks in the lead, tried once more. This time they crossed the An Cuu Bridge over the Phu Cam Canal (16°27′25″N 107°36′00″E / 16.457°N 107.6°E) into the new city. Coming upon the central police headquarters in southern Huế, the tanks attempted to relieve the police defenders, but an enemy B-40 rocket made a direct hit upon Lieutenant Colonel Chi's tank, killing him instantly. The South Vietnamese armor pulled back.[3]:168 At 15:00, the 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment reached the Mang Ca compound. Later that day, U.S. Marine helicopters from HMM-165 brought part of the 4th Battalion, 2nd Regiment from Đông Hà Combat Base into the Citadel. The deteriorating weather forced the squadron to cancel the remaining lifts with about half of the battalion in the Citadel.[3]:176

The ARVN would attempt to regain the Citadel while the Marines regained the new city south of the Perfume River. Within the Citadel the ARVN 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment and the 1st Airborne task force cleared out the north and western parts of the Citadel including Tây Lộc Airfield and the Chanh Tay Gate, while the 4th Battalion, 2nd Regiment moved south from Mang Ca towards the Imperial Palace, killing over 700 PAVN/VC by 4 February. On 5 February General Trưởng exchanged the Airborne with the 4th Battalion, which had become stalled. On 6 February the 1st Battalion captured the An Hoa Gate on the northwest corner of the Citadel and the 4th Battalion captured the southwest wall. On the night of the 6th, the PAVN counterattacked, scaling the southwest wall and pushing the 4th Battalion back to Tây Lộc. On the 7th General Trưởng ordered the 3rd Regiment, which had been futilely trying to break into the southeast corner of the Citadel to move to Mang Ca to reinforce his units inside the Citadel.[3]:192 On 11 February the Vietnamese Marines Task Force A comprising the 1st and 5th Battalions, began to be lifted by helicopter into Mang Ca to replace the Airborne, however due to poor weather this deployment would not be completed until 13 February. General Trưởng called for assistance in clearing the Citadel and at 10:45 on 11 February Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines was airlifted aboard Marine CH-46s into Mang Ca, however enemy fire forced several of the helicopters to return to Phu Bai. The Marines together with 5 M48s from the 1st Tank Battalion would later be loaded onto Mike Boats at the LCU Ramp in southern Hue and ferried across to Mang Ca.[3]:197 On 14 February the Vietnamese Marine Task Force A joined the battle. The operational plan was for the Marines to move west from Tây Lộc and then turn south, however they were soon stopped by strong PAVN defenses; after two days the Vietnamese Marines had only advanced 400 metres. Meanwhile, the ARVN 3rd Regiment fought off a PAVN counterattack in the northwest corner of the Citadel.[3]:204 On 17 February the Vietnamese Marines and 3rd Regiment resumed their attacks south, while the Black Panther Company was moved to support the right flank of the 1/5 Marines, over the next 3 days these forces would slowly reduce the PAVN's perimeter.[3]:206 On 22 February after a barrage of 122mm rockets the PAVN counterattacked the Vietnamese Marines who pushed them back with the support of the Black Panther Company. On the night of 23 February the PAVN attempted another counterattack but were forced back by artillery fire and the 3rd Regiment launched a night attack along the southern wall of the Citadel, at 05:00 they raised the South Vietnamese flag on the Citadel flag tower and proceeded to secure the southern wall by 10:25. General Trưởng then ordered the 2nd Battalion 3rd Regiment and the Black Panther Company to recapture the Imperial City and this was achieved against minimal resistance by late afternoon. The last remaining pocket of PAVN at the southwest corner of the Citadel was eliminated in an attack by the 4th Vietnamese Marine Battalion in the early hours of 25 February.[3]:210–11 As a result of the battle this division had earned several commendations from the RVN Government as well a US Presidential Unit Citation.

Battle of Quang Tri

Launched simultaneously with the attack on Hue the PAVN/VC also attacked Quang Tri on the early morning of 31 January. The PAVN 812th Regiment (reinforced), of the 324th Division was tasked with capturing the city. The brunt of the attack would fall on the ARVN forces in and around the city. These were the 1st Regiment, 1st Division, the 9th Airborne Battalion, 2nd Troop, 7th Cavalry an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) Troop attached to the 1st Regiment, the Republic of Vietnam National Police, a paramilitary body led by regular military officers stationed within the city, and Regional and Popular Force (militia) elements in the city. The 1st Regiment had two of its battalions in positions to the north of the city, and one to the northeast, protecting pacified villages in those areas. The Regiment's fourth battalion was in positions south of the city in and around the regiment's headquarters at La Vang Base. One Airborne company was bivouacked in Tri Buu village on the northern edge of the city with elements in the Citadel, and two Airborne companies were positioned just south of the city in the area of a large cemetery where Highway 1 crosses Route 555.[5]:51

Quảng Trị City was clear of PAVN/VC troops by midday on 1 February, and ARVN units with U.S. air support had cleared Tri Buu Village of PAVN troops. The remnants of the 812th, having been hit hard by ARVN defenders and American air power and ground troops on the outskirts of the city, particularly artillery and helicopters,[5]:56 broke up into small groups, sometimes mingling with crowds of fleeing refugees, and began to exfiltrate the area, trying to avoid further contact with Allied forces. They were pursued by the American forces in a circular formation forced contact with the fleeing PAVN/VC over the next ten days.[5]:56 Heavy fighting continued with large well-armed PAVN/VC forces south of Quảng Trị City, and there were lighter contacts in other areas. This pursuit continued throughout the first ten days of February.[5]:57

The US military considered the attack on Quảng Trị "without a doubt one of the major objectives of the Tet Offensive". They attributed the decisive defeat to the hard-nosed South Vietnamese defense, effective intelligence on PAVN/VC movements and the air mobile tactics of the 1st Cavalry Division. Between 31 January and 6 February, the Allies killed an estimated 914 PAVN/VC and captured another 86 in and around Quang Tri.[5]:57 The successful defense of Quang Tri prevented reinforcement at Hue, as well as preventing the further collapse of security in the region.[6]

May Offensive

On 28 April at the start of the May Offensive the Division's Hac Bao Company located the 8th Battalion, 90th Regiment in the fishing hamlet of Phuoc Yen 6 km northwest of Huế. Units from the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 501st Infantry Regiment surrounded the hamlet and destroyed the battalion in a 4 day long battle. PAVN losses 309 killed (including all the senior officers) and 104 captured.[7]:538 On 2 May a Regional Force company reported that PAVN were in the hamlet of Bon Tri, 6 km west of Huế that had been used as a supply station during the Battle of Huế. Several companies from the 1st Battalion, 505th Infantry Regiment and the Hac Bao Company engaged the PAVN 3rd Battalion, 812th Regiment in a 2 day battle resulting in 121 PAVN dead for Allied losses of 4 killed and 18 wounded.[7]:538

On 29 April the PAVN 320th Division attacked An Binh, north of Đông Hà Combat Base, this drew two Battalions of the 2nd Regiment into a running battle and the 1st Battalion 9th Marines was sent in to support the ARVN resulting in a 7-hour long battle that left 11 Marines, 17 ARVN and over 150 PAVN dead.[3]:292 On 30 April, a PAVN unit opened fire on a US Navy Clearwater patrol from entrenched positions near Dai Do, 2.5 km northeast of Đông Hà. It was later discovered that four PAVN Battalions including the 48th and 56th from the 320th had established themselves at Dai Do.[3]:294 The Battle of Dai Do lasted until 3 May and resulted in 81 Marines, 5 ARVN and over 600 PAVN killed.[3]:295–304 On 26 May the 2nd Regiment killed 110 PAVN north of Thuong Nghia.[3]:309

From 4-20 August 1968 the Division participated in Operation Somerset Plain a spoiling attack on the PAVN logistics hub in the A Sầu Valley with the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. The US/ARVN forces proceeded to search the valley meeting only scattered resistance until 10/11 August when the ARVN 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment was attacked by elements of the PAVN 816th and 818th Main Force Battalions. Air and artillery support was called in and the PAVN retreated into the jungle losing several dozen killed. The Division lost 11 killed while the PAVN lost 181 killed and 4 captured.[7]:607-8

From 10–20 September 1968, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 54th Regiment participated in Operation Vinh Loc a security operation on Vinh Loc Island, Phú Vang District, east of Huế with the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. VC losses were 154 killed, 370 captured and 56 Chieu Hoi.[8]:206-8

From 15 March to 2 May 1969 the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment participated in Operation Maine Crag with the 3rd Marine Division in the "Vietnam Salient" in northwest Quảng Trị Province.[9]:63

From 30 March to 26 May 1969 the 51st Regiment participated in Operation Oklahoma Hills with the 1st Marine Division against PAVN/VC base areas southwest of Da Nang.[9]:103-16

From 10 May to 7 June 1969 the 1st and 3rd Regiment participated in Operation Apache Snow with the US 101st Airborne Division in the A Sau valley. [10] During this operation the 3rd Regiment participated in the Battle of Hamburger Hill. ARVN losses were 31 killed while PAVN losses were 675 killed and 3 captured.[11]

From 26 May to 7 November 1969 the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 51st Regiment participated in Operation Pipestone Canyon with the 37th Ranger Battalion and the US 1st Marine Division against PAVN/VC base areas on Go Noi Island southwest of Da Nang.[9]:175-87

From 12 June to 6 July 1969 the 2nd Regiment participated in Operation Utah Mesa with US Marine and Army forces on the Khe Sanh plateau.[9]:71-2

From 1 April to 5 September 1970 the Division participated in Operation Texas Star with the US 101st Airborne Division in Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên Provinces.[12]

From 5 September 1970 to 8 October 1971 the Division participated in Operation Jefferson Glenn with the US 101st Airborne Division to patrol the PAVN/VC rocket belts that threatened Huế and Da Nang.[13]

From 8 February to 25 March 1971 the Division troops participated in Operation Lam Son 719. They developed a series of firebases along the south Route 9 in Laos to screen the southern flank of the ARVN advance.[14]:8-12 On 3 March, elements of the Division were helilifted into two firebases (Lolo and Sophia) and LZ Liz, all south of Route 9. Eleven helicopters were shot down and another 44 were damaged as they carried one battalion into FSB Lolo.[15]:336 Three days later, 276 UH-1 helicopters protected by Cobra gunships and fighter aircraft, lifted the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 2nd Regiment from Khe Sanh to Tchepone – the largest helicopter assault of the Vietnam War.[16]:253 Only one helicopter was downed by anti-aircraft fire as the troops combat assaulted into LZ Hope, four kilometers northeast of Tchepone. For two days the two battalions searched Tchepone and the immediate vicinity, but found little but the bodies of PAVN soldiers killed by air strikes. PAVN responded by increasing its daily artillery bombardments of the firebases, notably Lolo and Hope. During the extraction of the 2nd Regiment, 28 of the 40 helicopters participating were damaged.[15]:336–7

In October 1971 the Division's 2nd Regiment and several of its battalions were transferred to the newly formed 3rd Division which assumed responsibility for the defense of the DMZ and Quảng Trị Province.[17]:18-9

The 1st Division's new operational area was south of the Quảng Trị-Thừa Thiên Province boundary and north of the Hải Vân Pass. Its primary responsibility was to defend the western approaches to Huế. Its 1st Regiment and 7th Armored Cavalry Regiment were deployed at Camp Evans, its 3rd Regiment as Firebase T-Bone and its 54th Regiment at Firebase Bastogne. Division headquarters were at Camp Eagle southeast of Huế.[17]:19

Easter Offensive

Simultaneously, the 324B Division moved out of the A Sầu Valley and advanced directly eastward toward Fire Bases Bastogne and Checkmate, which protected the old imperial capital of Huế from the west.


Component units:

  • 1st Infantry Regiment
  • 2nd Infantry Regiment (until October 1971)
  • 3rd Infantry Regiment
  • 51st Infantry Regiment
  • 54th Infantry Regiment
  • 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th Artillery Battalions
  • 7th Armoured Cavalry Squadron
  • US Advisory Team 3


  1. ^ Shulimson, Jack (1982). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: An Expanding War, 1966 (Marine Corps Vietnam Operational Historical Series). Marine Corps Association. ASIN B000L34A0C. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ Telfer, Gary (1984). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Fighting the North Vietnamese 1967 (Marine Corps Vietnam Operational Historical Series). History & Museums Division, United States Marine Corps. ISBN 9781787200845. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Shulimson, Jack (1997). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: 1968 The Defining Year. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. ISBN 0-16-049125-8. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/opinion/tet-offensive-americans-vietnam.html
  5. ^ a b c d e Pearson, Willard (1975). Vietnam Studies The War in the Northern Provinces 1966–1968. United States Army Center of Military History. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ "Attack on Quang Tri City During the Vietnam War | HistoryNet". www.historynet.com. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  7. ^ a b c Villard, Erik (2017). United States Army in Vietnam Combat Operations Staying the Course October 1967 to September 1968. Center of Military History United States Army. ISBN 9780160942808. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. ^ Tolson, John (1973). Vietnam Studies: Airmobilty 1961–1971. Department of the Army. ISBN 9781494721848. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  9. ^ a b c d Smith, Charles (1988). U.S. Marines In Vietnam: High Mobility And Standdown, 1969. History and Museums Division, Headquarters US Marine Corps. ISBN 9781494287627. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  10. ^ Summers Jr., Harry G. (1985). The Vietnam War Almanac. New York: Random House. pp. 184–5. ISBN 0-7394-4290-2.
  11. ^ "Battle of Dong Ap Bia - Hill 937 10-21 May 1969" (PDF). Headquarters 101st Airborne Division. 24 May 1969. Retrieved 26 May 2019. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  12. ^ Willbanks, James H. (2010). Vietnam War Almanac. Checkmark Books. p. 332. ISBN 9780816071029.
  13. ^ Olson, James S. (2008). In Country: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War. Metro Books. p. 428. ISBN 9781435111844.
  14. ^ Nguyen, Duy Hinh (1979). Operation Lam Sơn 719. United States Army Center of Military History. ISBN 9781984054463. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ a b Stanton, Shelby (1985). The Rise and Fall of an American Army: U.S. Ground Forces in Vietnam, 1963-1973. Dell. ISBN 9780891418276.
  16. ^ Sorley, Lewis (1999). A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam. Harvest Books. ISBN 9780156013093.
  17. ^ a b Ngo, Quang Truong (1980). The Easter offensive of 1972 (PDF). U.S. Army Center of Military History. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

Further reading

  • Tucker, Spencer C. (2000). Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 526–533. ISBN 1-57607-040-9.
La Vang Base

La Vang Base (also known as La Vang Combat Base or Firebase La Vang) is a former Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) base near Quảng Trị, Vietnam.

Non-U.S. recipients of U.S. gallantry awards

This is a list of non-U.S. recipients of U.S. gallantry awards.

ARVN Sub-branches
Air bases
Coup attempts
and mutinies
Ranks and insignia

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