Army of the Republic of Vietnam

The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN; Vietnamese: Lục quân Việt Nam Cộng hòa), also known as the South Vietnamese army (SVA), were the ground forces of the South Vietnamese military from its inception in 1955 until the Fall of Saigon in 1975.[2] It is estimated to have suffered 1,394,000 casualties (killed and wounded) during the Vietnam War.[3]

The ARVN began as a post-colonial army trained and closely affiliated with the United States and had engaged in conflict since its inception. Several dramatic changes occurred throughout its lifetime, initially from a 'blocking-force' to a more modern conventional force using helicopter deployment in combat. During the U.S. intervention, the role of the ARVN was marginalised to a defensive role with an incomplete modernisation,[4] and transformed again most notably following Vietnamization as it was up-geared, expanded and reconstructed to fulfil the role of the departing U.S. forces. By 1974, it had become much more effective with foremost counterinsurgency expert and Nixon adviser Robert Thompson noting that Regular Forces were very well-trained and second only to U.S. and IDF forces in the free world[5] and with General Creighton Abrams remarking that 70% of units were on par with the U.S. Army.[6] However, the withdrawal of American forces through Vietnamization meant the armed forces could not effectively fulfil all the aims of the program and had become completely dependent on U.S. equipment, given it was meant to fulfill the departing role of the United States.[7]

At its peak, an estimated 1 in 9 citizens of South Vietnam were enlisted and it had become the fourth-largest army in the world composed of Regular Forces and more voluntary Regional Militias and Village-level militias.[4]

Unique in serving a dual military-civilian administrative purpose in direct competition with the Viet Cong political and armed wing, the PLAF.[8] The ARVN had in addition became a component of political power and notably suffered from continual issues of political loyalty appointments, corruption in leadership, factional in-fighting and occasional open conflict between itself.[9]

After the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese army (NVA), the ARVN was dissolved. While some high-ranking officers had fled the country to the United States or elsewhere, thousands of former ARVN officers were sent to reeducation camps by the communist government of the new, unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Five ARVN generals commit suicide on Black April to avoid captured by PAVN/VC.

Army of the Republic of Vietnam
(Quân lực Việt Nam Cộng Hòa)
ARVN Service Banner
Flag of the South Vietnamese army
FoundedDecember 30, 1955
DisbandedApril 30, 1975
CountrySouth Vietnam
SizeRegular Forces: 410,000
Territorial Militias: 532,000
Total: 942,000 in 1972[1]
Part of Republic of Vietnam Military Forces
Garrison/HQSaigon, South Vietnam
Nickname(s)QLVNCH (SVA, ARVN in English)
Motto(s)Tổ Quốc, Danh dự, Trách Nhiệm (Country, Honor, Duty)
AnniversariesArmy Day (December 30, 1955)
EngagementsVietnam War
Cambodian Civil War
Laotian Civil War
Battle of the Paracel Islands
Dương Văn Minh
Cao Văn Viên
Ngô Quang Trưởng


Vietnamese National Army (VNA) 1949–55

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

On March 8, 1949, after the Élysée Accords the State of Vietnam was recognized by France as an independent country ruled by the Vietnamese Emperor Bảo Đại, and the Vietnamese National Army (VNA) was soon created. The VNA fought in joint operations with the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps against the 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 Nà Sản (1952), Operation Atlas (1953) and the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954).[10]

Benefiting from French assistance, the VNA quickly became a modern army modelled after the Expeditionary Corps. It included infantry, artillery, signals, armored cavalry, airborne, airforce, navy and 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 Da Lat, including Chief of Staff General Nguyễn Văn Hinh who was a French Union airforce veteran.

After the 1954 Geneva agreements, French Indochina ceased to exist and by 1956 all French Union troops had withdrawn from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. In 1955, by the order of Prime Minister Diệm, the VNA crushed the armed forces of the Bình Xuyên.[11][12]

Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 1955–75

Early unmodified ARVN M113 during the Vietnam War

On October 26, 1955, the military was reorganized by the administration of President Ngô Đình Diệm who then formally established the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) on December 30, 1955. The air force was known as the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF). Early on, the focus of the army was the guerrilla fighters of the Vietnam National Liberation Front (NLF, also known as the Viet Cong (VC)), formed to oppose the Diệm administration. The United States, under President John F. Kennedy sent advisors and a great deal of financial support to aid the ARVN in combating the insurgents. A major campaign, developed by Ngô Đình 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 leaders and President Diệm were criticized by the foreign press when the troops were used to crush armed anti-government religious groups like the Cao Đài and Hòa Hảo as well as to raid Buddhist temples, which according to Diệm, were harboring NLF guerrillas. The most notorious of these attacks occurred on the night of August 21, 1963, during the Xá Lợi Pagoda raids conducted by the Special Forces, which caused a death toll estimated to range into the hundreds.

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

In 1963 Ngô Đình Diệm was killed in a coup d'état carried out by ARVN officers and encouraged by American officials such as Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. In the confusion that followed, General Dương Văn Minh took control, but he 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 more control of the war against the 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 US was highly critical of the ARVN, it continued to be entirely US-armed and funded.

Although the American news media has often portrayed the Vietnam War as a primarily American and North Vietnamese conflict, the ARVN carried the brunt of the fight before and after large-scale American 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 armored cavalry (ACAV) modifications were adopted based on ARVN experience. One notable ARVN unit equipped with M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs), the 3d Armored Cavalry Squadron, used the new tactic so proficiently and with such extraordinary heroism against hostile forces that they earned the United States Presidential Unit Citation.[13][14] The Army of the Republic of Vietnam suffered 254,256 recorded deaths between 1960 and 1974, with the highest number of recorded deaths being in 1972, with 39,587 combat deaths,[15] while approximately 58,000 U.S. troops died during the war.[3] There were also many circumstances in which Vietnamese families had members on both sides of the conflict.[16]

Flag of Thu Duc Infantry School

Thu Duc Infantry School (Trường Bộ binh Thủ Đức).

Cư an tư nguy

Emblem of Thu Duc Infantry School (Trường Bộ binh Thủ Đức).

Flag of ARVN Junior Military Academy

ARVN Junior Military Academy.


Van Kiep National Training Center.

Flag of South Vietnamese National Military Academy

South Vietnamese National Military Academy (Trường Võ bị Quốc gia Việt Nam).


Emblem of the Vietnamese National Military Academy.

Flag of Quang Trung National Training Center

Quang Trung National Training Center.

Flag of South Vietnamese Command and General Staff College

South Vietnamese Command and General Staff College (Trường Chỉ huy Tham mưu) at Da Lat. This was the primary officer training school.

Tự thắng để chỉ huy

Regiments of Cadets of the Vietnamese Military Academy at Da Lat. since 1950 to 1975.

Flag of Dong De Military School

School of the Non-commissioned Officers of the Vietnam Military.

Flag of ARVN Military Dog Training Center

ARVN Military Dog Training Center.

Flag of South Vietnamese Polwar College

South Vietnamese Political Warfare College (Trường Đại học Chiến tranh Chính trị).

Flag of South Vietnamese Women's Army Corps Training Center

South Vietnamese Women's Army Corps Training Center (Trung tâm Quản trị Huấn luyện Nữ quân nhân).

ARVN Capital Military Zone Unit SSI
Insignia of the Capital Military Zone unit of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, responsible for defending Saigon and surrounding areas.

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 their newly created arm, the National Liberation Front (NLF or Viet Cong). Slowly, the 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 one 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-led 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. The officer corps was still the biggest problem. Leaders were too often inept, being poorly trained, corrupt and lacking morale. Still, Sir Robert Thompson, a British military officer widely regarded as the worlds foremost expert in counterinsurgency warfare during the Vietnam War, thought that by 1972, the ARVN had developed into one of the best fighting forces in the world, comparing them favorably with the Israeli Defence Forces.[17]

Forced to carry the burden left by the Americans, the South Vietnamese Army actually started to perform rather well, though with continued American air support.

In 1972, General Võ Nguyên Giáp launched the "Easter Offensive", an all-out attack against South Vietnam from the DMZ. The assault combined infantry wave assaults, artillery and the first massive use of armored forces by the PAVN. Although the T-54 tanks proved vulnerable to LAW rockets, the ARVN took heavy losses. The PAVN and NLF forces took Quảng Trị Province and some areas along the Laos and Cambodian borders.

M41 of South Vietnamese Army
M41 Walker Bulldog was used by the 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 lost. In desperation, President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu fired the incompetent General Hoàng Xuân Lãm and replaced him with General Ngô Quang Trưởng. He gave the order that all deserters would be executed and pulled enough forces together in order to prevent the PAVN from taking Huế. Finally, with considerable U.S. air and naval support, as well as hard fighting by the ARVN soldiers, the Easter Offensive was halted. ARVN forces counter-attacked and succeeded in driving part of the PAVN out of South Vietnam, though they did retain control of northern Quảng Trị province near the DMZ.

At the end of 1972, Operation Linebacker II helped achieve a negotiated end to the war between the U.S. and the Hanoi government. By 1974, the United States had completely pulled its troops out of Vietnam. The ARVN was left to fight alone, but with all the weapons and technologies that their allies left behind. With massive technological support they had roughly four times as many heavy weapons as their enemies. The U.S. left the ARVN with thousands of aircraft, although the B-52 strategic bombers were removed to the United States, making the South Vietnam Airforce the fourth largest air force in the world.[18] These figures are deceptive, however, as the U.S. began to curtail military aid. The same situation happened to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, since their allies, the Soviet Union, and China has also cut down military support, forcing them to use obsolete T-34 tanks and SU-100 tank destroyers in battle.

In the summer 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 facing a collapse in South Vietnamese troop and civilian morale, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the ARVN to achieve a victory against the NLF. Moreover, the withdrawal of U.S. aid encouraged North Vietnam to begin a new military offensive against South Vietnam. This resolve was strengthened when the new American administration did not think itself bound to this promise Nixon made to Thieu of a "severe retaliation" if Hanoi broke the 1973 Paris Peace Accords.

The fall of Huế to NLF forces on March 26 began an organized rout of the ARVN that culminated in the complete disintegration of the South Vietnamese government. Withdrawing ARVN forces found the roads choked with refugees making troop movement almost impossible. North Vietnamese forces took advantage of the growing instability, and with the abandoned equipment of the routing ARVN, they 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 masse. President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu escaped with large amounts of money and the assistance of the CIA, according to a reporter.[16] Except for one battle by the 18th Division at Xuân Lộc and the perimeters around Saigon, ARVN resistance all but ceased. At Bien Hoa, ARVN soldiers made a strong resistance against NVA soldiers and tanks. However, ARVN defenses at Cu Chi and Hoc Mon start to collapse significantly. However, at the Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc Island, many of ARVN soldiers were aggressive and intact to prevent VC taking over any provincial capitals. Less than a month after Huế, Saigon fell and South Vietnam ceased to exist as a political entity. The sudden and complete destruction of the ARVN shocked the world. Even their opponents were surprised at how quickly South Vietnam collapsed.

There were hundreds of soldiers, officers, and colonels who commit suicide making a decision not to live under communism. Five ARVN generals committed suicide during Black April to avoid caught by VC and potential reeducation camps. General Le Nguyen Vy commit suicide in Lai Khe shortly after hearing Duong Van Minh surrender from the radio. Both ARVN generals in Can Tho, Le Van Hung (hero of An Loc) and Nguyen Khoa Nam, commit suicide after deciding not to prolong resistance against outnumbered PAVN/VC soldiers in Mekong Region. Brigadier General Tran Van Hai commit suicide via poisoning at Dong Tam Base Camp. General Pham Van Phu commit suicide at hospital in Saigon. [19]

The U.S. had provided the ARVN with 793,994 M1 carbines,[20] 220,300 M1 Garands and 520 M1C/M1D rifles,[21] 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 M113 APC), 930 M113 (APC/ACAVs), 120 V-100s (wheeled armored cars), and 190 M48 tanks; however on the eleventh hour, an American 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.[22] Despite such impressive figures, the Vietnamese were not as well equipped as the American GI's they replaced. The 1972 offensive had been driven back only with a massive American bombing campaign against North Vietnam. The VNAF had 200 A-1, 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 by Soviet-supplied NVA surface-to-air missiles and anti-air batteries.

The Case–Church Amendment had effectively nullified the Paris Peace Accords, and as a result the United States had cut aid to South Vietnam drastically in 1974, just months before the final enemy offensive, allowing North Vietnam to invade South Vietnam without fear of U.S. military action. As a result, only a little fuel and ammunition were being sent to South Vietnam. South Vietnamese air and ground vehicles were immobilized by lack of spare parts. Troops went into battle without batteries for their radios, and their medics lacked basic supplies. South Vietnamese rifles and artillery pieces were rationed to three rounds of ammunition per day in the last months of the war.[23] Without enough supplies and ammunition, ARVN forces were quickly thrown into chaos and taken down by the well-supplied PAVN, no longer having to worry about U.S. bombing. C

Communist regime sent over 250,000 ARVN soldiers to prison camps wherein they were routinely tortured and murdered some for a period of eleven consecutive years. The communists conveniently called these prison camps "reeducation camps". The Americans and South Vietnamese had laid large minefields during the war, and former ARVN soldiers were made to clear them. Thousands died from sickness and starvation and were buried in unmarked graves. The South Vietnamese military cemetery at Biên Hòa was vandalized and abandoned, and a mass grave of ARVN soldiers was made nearby. The charity "The Returning Casualty" in the early 2000s attempted to excavate and identify remains from some camp graves and restore the cemetery.[24] Reporter Morley Safer who returned in 1989 and saw the poverty of a former soldier described the ARVN as "that wretched army that was damned by the victors, abandoned by its allies, and royally and continuously screwed by its commanders".[16]

Vietnam1 001

South Vietnamese Army Operations, 1965.

Vietnam3 001

South Vietnamese Army with suspected NLF member, 1965.

Vietnam2 001

South Vietnamese Army Operations, 1965. A Douglas A-1 Skyraider, A1E, drops napalm on a target spotted by an O-1 Bird Dog.

WAFC-ARVN National Armed Forces Day parade 06-19-71

WAFC (Women's Armed Forces Corps) division in the National Armed Forces Day parade, Saigon, June 19, 1971.

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 Huế, it had four rather than three regiments. Component units:
    • 1st, 3rd, 51st and 54th Infantry Regiments
    • 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th Artillery Battalions
    • 7th Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 3
  • 2nd Infantry Division – The French formed the 32nd Mobile Group in 1953, renamed 32nd Division in January 1955, then the 2nd Division later that year. Based in Quảng Ngãi, it was considered a "fairly good" division. Component units:
    • 4th, 5th and 6th Infantry Regiments
    • 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Artillery Battalions
    • 4th Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 2
  • 3rd Infantry Division – Raised in October 1971 in Quảng Trị. One regiment was from the 1st Division (the 2nd Inf Regt). Based at Da Nang. It collapsed in the 1972 Easter Offensive, was reconstituted, and was destroyed at Da Nang in 1975. Component units:
    • 2nd, 56th and 57th Infantry Regiments
    • 30th, 31st, 32nd and 33rd Artillery Battalions
    • 20th Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 155
  • 5th Infantry Division – Originally formed in North Vietnam as the 6th Division (commonly known as the "Nung" division), and renamed the 3rd Field Division after its move to Song Mao then to the 5th Division in 1959. Many Nungs originally were in its ranks. It was at Biên Hòa in 1963 and was involved in the overthrow of Diệm. It then operated north of Saigon. It entered Cambodia in 1970 and defended An Lộc in 1972. Component units:
    • 7th, 8th and 9th Infantry Regiments
    • 50th, 51st, 52nd and 53rd Artillery Battalions
    • 1st Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 70
  • 7th Infantry Division – Formed as the 7th Mobile Group by the French, it became the 7th Division in 1959. Served in Mekong Delta 1961–75. Component units:
    • 10th, 11th and 12th Infantry Regiments
    • 70th, 71st, 72nd and 73rd Artillery Battalions
    • 6th Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 75
  • 9th Infantry Division – Formed in 1962, northern Mekong Delta. Component units:
    • 14th, 15th and 16th Infantry Regiments
    • 90th, 91st, 92nd and 93rd Artillery Battalions
    • 2nd Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 60
  • 18th Infantry Division – Formed as the 10th Division in 1965. Renamed the 18th Division in 1967 (number ten meant the worst in GI slang). Based at Xuân Lộc. Made famous for its defence of that town for a month in March–April 1975. Component units:
    • 43rd, 48th and 52nd Infantry Regiments
    • 180th, 181st, 182nd and 183rd Artillery Battalions
    • 5th Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 87
  • 21st Infantry Division – The ARVN 1st and 3rd Light Divisions were formed in 1955, then renamed the 11th and 13th Light Divisions in 1956. They were combined to form the 21st Division in 1959. Served mainly near Saigon and in the Mekong Delta. Component units:
    • 31st, 32nd and 33rd Infantry Regiments
    • 210th, 211st, 212nd and 213rd Artillery Battalions
    • 9th Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 51
  • 22nd Infantry Division – Initially raised as the 4th Infantry Division, which existed briefly in the 1950s, but was renamed the 22nd Division as four is considered an unlucky number in Vietnam (sounds in Vietnamese like the word for death). The ARVN 2nd and 4th Light Divisions were formed in 1955; the 4th was renamed the 14th Light Division in 1956. They were combined to form the 22nd Division in 1959. It served near Kon Tum and elsewhere in the Central Highlands. It collapsed in 1972, and in 1975 was in Bình Định province. It was evacuated south of Saigon as Central Highlands front fell, and was one of the last ARVN units to surrender. Component units:
    • 40th, 41st, 42nd and 47th Infantry Regiments
    • 220th, 221st, 222nd and 223rd Artillery Battalions
    • 19th Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 22
  • 23rd Infantry Division – Originally the 5th Light Division, it was renamed 23rd in 1959. It operated in central Vietnam, and entered Cambodia in 1970. It fought well in 1972, successfully defending Kon Tum, but was shattered in 1975 while defending Ban Me Thout. Component units:
    • 43rd, 44th, 45th and 53rd Infantry Regiments
    • 230th, 231st, 232nd and 233rd Artillery Battalions
    • 8th Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 33
  • 25th Infantry Division – Formed in Quảng Ngãi in 1962, it moved to south west of Saigon in 1964. It entered Parrot's Break, Cambodia in 1970, and defended the western approaches of Saigon in 1972 and 1975. Component units:
    • 46th, 49th and 50th Infantry Regiments
    • 250th, 251st, 252nd and 253rd Artillery Battalions
    • 10th Armoured Cavalry Squadron
    • US Advisory Team 99
  • Airborne Division – A branch of the VNAF, which was formed by the French as the Airborne Group in 1955. Brigade strength by 1959, it was formed as division in 1965. Based at Tan Son Nhut airbase, it was used as a fire brigade throughout SVN. It included 9 Airborne Battalions and 3 Airborne Ranger Battalions. It fought in Cambodia in 1970 and Laos in 1971. It was used as brigade Groups in 1975, the 1st at Xuân Lộc, the 2nd at Phan Rang, and the 3rd at Nha Trang. A 4th Brigade was added in 1974. Component units:
    • 1st Airborne Brigade
      • 1st, 8th and 9th Airborne Battalions
      • 1st Airborne Artillery Battalion
    • 2nd Airborne Brigade
      • 5th, 7th and 11th Airborne Battalions
      • 2nd Airborne Artillery Battalion
    • 3rd Airborne Brigade
      • 2nd, 3rd and 6th Airborne Battalions
      • 3rd Airborne Artillery Battalion
    • 4th Airborne Brigade
      • 4th and 10th Airborne Battalions
    • US Airborne Advisory Team 162
  • Republic of Vietnam Marine Division – A branch of Navy which was formed in 1954 at first on two battalions, expanded to six in two brigades by 1965, forming a division in 1968. A third brigade was added in 1970 and a fourth in 1975 had a generally good reputation as a combat force. Component units:
    • 147th Marine Brigade
      • 1st "Wild Birds" Marine Battalion
      • 4th "Killer Sharks" Marine Battalion
      • 7th "Grey Tigers" Marine Battalions
      • 1st "Lightning Fire" Marine Artillery Battalion
    • 258th Marine Brigade
      • 2nd "Crazy Buffaloes" Marine Battalion
      • 5th "Black Dragons" Marine Battalion
      • 8th "Sea Eagles" Marine Battalions
      • 2nd "Divine Arrows" Marine Artillery Battalion
    • 369th Marine Brigade
      • 3rd "Sea Wolves" Marine Battalion
      • 6th "Divine Hawks" Marine Battalion
      • 9th "Ferocious Tigers" Marine Battalions
      • 3rd "Divine Crossbows" Marine Artillery Battalion
    • 468th Marine Brigade
      • 14th Marine Battalion
      • 16th Marine Battalion
      • 18th Marine Battalions
    • USMC Advisory Team 1

Elite forces

ARVN Rangers defend Saigon, Tet Offensive
ARVN Rangers fighting in Saigon during the Tet Offensive, 1968.
  • ARVN Rangers[25] (Biệt Động Quân)
    • 1st Ranger Group:[26] 21st, 37th and 39th Ranger Battalions
    • 2nd Ranger Group:[27] 11th, 22nd and 23rd Ranger Battalions
    • 3rd Ranger Group:[28] 31st, 36th and 52nd Ranger Battalions
    • 4th Ranger Group:[29] 42nd, 43rd and 44th Ranger Battalions
    • 5th Ranger Group:[30] 33rd, 34th and 38th Ranger Battalions
    • 6th Ranger Group:[30] 35th, 51st and 54th Ranger Battalions
    • 7th Ranger Group:[31] 32nd and 85th Ranger Battalions
    • 8th Ranger Group:[32] 84th and 87th Ranger Battalions
    • 9th Ranger Group:[33] 91st and 92nd Ranger Battalions
    • 81st Ranger Group:[34] 81st Ranger Battalion (Airborne)
  • ARVN Special Forces (Lực Lượng Đặc Biệt or LLDB)
  • 3d Armored Cavalry Squadron, II Corps
Flag of ARVN Armored Cavalry Regiment

The flag of Army of the Republic of Vietnam's Armored Cavalry Regiment, used between 1957 and 1975.

Flag of Security Force of Capital Special Zone

The flag of Security Force of Capital Special Zone, used between 1965 and 1975.

Flag of ARVN's Military Police

The flag of the South Vietnamese Military Police Corps, used between 1955 and 1975.

Flag of ARVN's Artillery Forces

The flag of the ARVN's Artillery Forces, used between 1951 and 1975.

Flag of ARVN Military Engineering Forces

The flag of ARVN Military Engineering Forces, used between 1955 and 1975.

ARVN generals

See also


  1. ^ Pike, John. "Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces [RVNAF] Strength". Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  2. ^ History of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Archived 2007-03-13 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b Casualties – US vs NVA/VC
  4. ^ a b Pilger, John (2001). Heroes. South End Press. ISBN 9780896086661.
  5. ^ Joes, Anthony (2007-04-20). Urban Guerrilla Warfare. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0813172231.
  6. ^ Asprey, Robert (2002). War in the Shadows: The Guerrilla in History, Volume 2. Doubleday & Co. pp. 1021–1022.
  7. ^ Hess, Gary R. (2015-03-25). Vietnam: Explaining America's Lost War. John Wiley & Sons. p. 195. ISBN 9781118949016.
  8. ^ "A Brief Overview of the Vietnam National Army and the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (1952–1975)" (PDF). Viet-Nam Bulletin. 1969. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 18, 2009. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  9. ^ "Vietnam's Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN". doi:10.1163/2468-1733_shafr_sim170070021.
  10. ^ Vietnamese National Army gallery (May 1951 – June 1954) French Defense Ministry archives ECPAD Archived March 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ *Pierre Darcourt (1977). Bay Vien, le maitre de Cholon [Bay Vien, Cholon's Master] (in French). Hachette. ISBN 978-2-01-003449-7.
  12. ^ *Alfred W. McCoy (2003). The Politics of Heroin. Lawrence Hill Books. ISBN 978-1-55652-483-7.
  13. ^ "Photo: U.S. advisor confers with ARVN 3rd Cav commander in front of a South Vietnamese M113". Archived from the original on 14 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  14. ^ "3d Armored Cavalry Squadron (ARVN) earned Presidential Unit Citation (United States) for extraordinary heroism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  15. ^ Clarke, Jeffrey J. (1988), United States Army in Vietnam: Advice and Support: The Final Years, 1965–1973, Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, United States Army, p. 275
  16. ^ a b c "Flashbacks", Morley Safer, Random House / St Martins Press, 1991, p 322
  17. ^ Make For the Hills: The Autobiography of the World's Leading Counter Insurgency Expert. Leo Cooper (1989): page 114.
  18. ^ "VNAF, '51–'75". Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Five Generals | Freedom For Vietnam". Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  20. ^ "Foreign Military Assistance". Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  21. ^ Walter, John (2006). Rifles of the World (3rd ed.). Iola, WI: Krause Publications. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-89689-241-5.
  22. ^ Starry/Dunstan
  23. ^ "Heroic Allies". Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  24. ^ Excavations of Burial Sites at Vietnamese Re-Education Camps by The Returning Casualty, Julie Martin, MSc in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology candidate, Cranfield University UK, from
  25. ^ The Organization of the Ranger Groups is highly tentative, as the battalions were rather frequently switched between different groups. As an example, the much decorated 34th Battalion served in different periods with the 3rd, 5th and 6th Groups.
  26. ^ Formed 1966. Attached to I Corps.
  27. ^ Formed 1966. Attached to II Corps.
  28. ^ Formed 1966. Attached to III Corps.
  29. ^ Formed 1968.Attached to IV Corps.
  30. ^ a b Formed 1970. Attached to III Corps.
  31. ^ Formed 1973.Attached to the Airborne Division.
  32. ^ Formed in 1974. Possibly never fully operational)
  33. ^ Formed in 1975. Possibly never fully operational)
  34. ^ Actually just one single overstrength battalion. While included in the Ranger Command, it had strong links with the LLDB special forces, and used the LLDB green berrets.


  • Timeline of Vietnam War
  • Starry, Donn A. General. "Mounted Combat in Vietnam." Vietnam Studies; Department of the Army; first printing 1978-CMH Pub 90-17.
  • "A Brief Overview of the Vietnam National Army and the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (1952–1975)" (PDF). Viet-Nam Bulletin. 1969. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 18, 2009. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  • Dunstan, Simon. "Vietnam Tracks-Armor in Battle." 1982 edition, Osprey Publications; ISBN 0-89141-171-2.
  • Moyar, Mark (October 2006). Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954–1965. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-86911-9.
  • Simpson, Howard R. (August 1992). Tiger in the Barbed Wire: An American in Vietnam, 1952–1991. Brassey's Inc. ISBN 978-0-7881-5148-4.
  • Simpson, Howard R. (1998). Bush Hat, Black Tie: adventures of a foreign service officer. Brassey's Inc. ISBN 978-1-57488-154-7.
  • AFRVN Military History Section, J-5, Strategic Planning and Policy (1977). Quân Sử 4: Quân lực Việt Nam Cộng Hòa trong giai-đoạn hình-thành: 1946–1955 (reprinted from the 1972 edition in Taiwan) [Military History: AFRVN, the formation period, 1946–1955] (in Vietnamese). DaiNam Publishing.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  • Tucker, Spencer C. (2000). Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 526–533. ISBN 978-0-87436-983-0.

Further reading

External links

23rd Division (South Vietnam)

The 23rd 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 II Corps that oversaw the region of the central highlands north of the capital Saigon.

The Division comprised the following:

Division HQ

44th Regiment

45th Regiment

53rd Regiment

25th Division (South Vietnam)

The 25th 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 III Corps that oversaw the region of the country surrounding the capital, Saigon. It was based at Củ Chi Base Camp to the northwest of the city centre.

2nd Division (South Vietnam)

The 2nd Division (Vietnamese: Sư đoàn 2) was a 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. It was part of the I Corps that oversaw the northernmost region of South Vietnam, the centre of Vietnam.

3rd Division (South Vietnam)

The 3rd 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 Division was initially raised in October 1971 in Quảng Trị and composed of 2nd Infantry Regiment (from the 1st Division), 56th Infantry Regiment and 57th Infantry Regiment.

The division collapsed in 1972 during the Easter Offensive, was reconstituted and finally destroyed at Da Nang in 1975 during the Hue-Da Nang Campaign.

9th Division (South Vietnam)

The 9th 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 IV Corps that oversaw the southernmost region of South Vietnam, the Mekong Delta.

The 9th Division was based in Can Tho, SaDec and Vinh Long throughout the war.

Army of the Republic of Vietnam Special Forces

The Army of the Republic of Vietnam Special Forces (Vietnamese: Lực Lượng Đặc Biệt Quân Lực Việt Nam Cộng Hòa or LLDB) were the elite military units of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (commonly known as South Vietnam). Following the establishment of the Republic of Vietnam in October 1955, the Special Forces were formed at Nha Trang in February 1956. During the rule of Ngô Đình Diệm, the Special Forces were run by his brother, Nhu, until both were assassinated in November 1963 in a coup. The Special Forces were disbanded in 1975 when South Vietnam ceased to exist after the Fall of Saigon.

Buddhist crisis

The Buddhist crisis (Vietnamese: Biến cố Phật giáo) was a period of political and religious tension in South Vietnam between May and November 1963, characterized by a series of repressive acts by the South Vietnamese government and a campaign of civil resistance, led mainly by Buddhist monks.The crisis was precipitated by the shootings of nine unarmed civilians on May 8 in the central city of Huế who were protesting a ban of the Buddhist flag. The crisis ended with a coup in November 1963 by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, and the arrest and assassination of President Ngô Đình Diệm on November 2, 1963.

Hoàng Xuân Lãm

Hoàng Xuân Lãm (10 October 1928, Huế–2 May 2017, Davis, California) was a general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Given responsibility for the I Corps Tactical Zone in 1967, Lãm coordinated the South Vietnamese offensive known as Operation Lam Sơn 719 which aimed at striking the North Vietnamese logistical corridor known as the Hồ Chí Minh Trail in southeastern Laos during 1971.

During the Siege of Khe Sanh village 1,500 civilians 400 of which were ethnic Bru, were looking for refuge. Hoang Xuan Lam authorized the evacuation of the 1,100 Vietnamese. The Bru were told to stay, Hoang Xuan Lam insisting that, 'there was no place for minority refugees.'

Due to his political connections with President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, he was still serving as I Corps commander when the North Vietnamese launched the Nguyên Huế Offensive (called the Easter Offensive) in 1972. Lãm was recalled to Saigon on 2 May 1972 by Thiệu, who relieved him of his command, due to complaints regarding Lãm's fitness and competency as a general. Lãm was named to head an anti-corruption campaign at the Ministry of Defense.Lãm's replacement as I Corps commander, Lieutenant General Ngô Quang Trưởng, said “I had served in I Corps under General Lãm and the disaster that occurred there was no surprise to me. Neither General Lãm nor his staff were competent to maneuver and support large forces in heavy combat.”

Huỳnh Văn Cao

Major General Huỳnh Văn Cao (26 September 1927 – 26 February 2013) was a major general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.

Lê Minh Đảo

Lê Minh Đảo (born c. 1933) is a former South Vietnamese major general who led the 18th Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), nicknamed "The Super Men", at Xuân Lộc, the last major battle of the Vietnam War. He currently lives in the United States. Brigadier General Đảo became the ground commander during the last Battle for Saigon.

Lê Nguyên Khang

Lieutenant General Lê Nguyên Khang (11 June 1931 – 12 November 1996 ) was a Marine Commander of the Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps for South Vietnam. Commander of III Corps 9 June 1966. He was awarded the Silver Star for valor June 27 - 29, 1967 by the President of the United States, and was described by General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., CMC USMC, "as one of the finest field commanders in Asia."

Lê Nguyên Vỹ

Brigadier General Lê Nguyên Vỹ (Hán tự: 黎元偉, 22 August 1933, Son Tay—30 April 1975) was an officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.

Lê Văn Kim

Lieutenant General Lê Văn Kim (1918 – 28 March 1987) is a former general of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. He was the brother in law of General Trần Văn Đôn and together with General Dương Văn Minh, the trio organised the 1963 South Vietnamese coup which toppled President Ngô Đình Diệm and ended in the assassinations of Diệm and his brother, Ngô Đình Nhu.

Nguyễn Khoa Nam

Major General Nguyễn Khoa Nam (23 September 1927 – 30 April 1975), was a native of Đà Nẵng and served in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). He received his primary education at the École des Garçons in Đà Nẵng and graduated in 1939. After joining the French-sponsored Vietnam National Army (VNA), he attended the Thủ Đức Military Academy and graduated in 1953.

Nguyễn Viết Thanh

Lieutenant General Nguyễn Viết Thanh (1931–1970) was born in Long An, Vietnam.

General Thanh served in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and was a Commander of the IV Corps from 1968 to 1970.

In May 1970, General Thanh was killed in action in Cambodia when his helicopter collided with a U.S. Cobra.

Operation Coronado

Operation Coronado was a series of 11 operations conducted by the American Mobile Riverine Force in conjunction with various units of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) in the waterways of the Mekong Delta in the south of the country in an attempt to dismantle guerrilla forces and infrastructure of the Vietcong in the waterways of the Mekong, which had been a communist stronghold. The operations ran sequentially from June 1967 to July 1968.The series was named after Coronado Naval Base in California. There the American military had staged planning conference before adopting their riverine military strategy.

Phạm Văn Phú

Major General Phạm Văn Phú (1927, Hà Đông, French Indochina – 30 April 1975, Saigon, South Vietnam) was an officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. He was a graduate of the 8th class of the Dalat Military Academy in 1954.

Trần Văn Hai

Brigadier General Trần Văn Hai was an officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. He was born in Cần Thơ.

Trần Văn Đôn

Trần Văn Đôn (August 17, 1917 – 1998) was a general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, and one of the principal figures in the coup d'état which deposed Ngô Đình Diệm from the presidency of South Vietnam.

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