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. It is estimated to have suffered 1,394,000 casualties (killed and wounded) during the Vietnam War.
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, 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 and with General Creighton Abrams remarking that 70% of units were on par with the U.S. Army. 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.
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.
Unique in serving a dual military-civilian administrative purpose in direct competition with the Viet Cong political and armed wing, the PLAF. 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.
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)|
Flag of the South Vietnamese army
|Founded||December 30, 1955|
|Disbanded||April 30, 1975|
|Size||Regular Forces: 410,000|
Territorial Militias: 532,000
Total: 942,000 in 1972
|Part of||Republic of Vietnam Military Forces|
|Garrison/HQ||Saigon, South Vietnam|
|Nickname(s)||QLVNCH (SVA, ARVN in English)|
|Motto(s)||Tổ Quốc, Danh dự, Trách Nhiệm (Country, Honor, Duty)|
|Anniversaries||Army Day (December 30, 1955)|
Cambodian Civil War
Laotian Civil War
Battle of the Paracel Islands
|Dương Văn Minh|
Cao Văn Viên
Ngô Quang Trưởng
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).
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.
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.
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. 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, while approximately 58,000 U.S. troops died during the war. There were also many circumstances in which Vietnamese families had members on both sides of the conflict.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 
The U.S. had provided the ARVN with 793,994 M1 carbines, 220,300 M1 Garands and 520 M1C/M1D rifles, 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. 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. 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. 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".
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:
53rd Regiment25th 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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