Battle of Binh Gia

The Battle of Binh Gia (Vietnamese: Trận Bình Giã) was conducted by the Viet Cong (VC) and People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) from December 28, 1964, to January 1, 1965, during the Vietnam War in Bình Giã. The battle took place in Phước Tuy Province (now part of Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu Province), South Vietnam.

The year of 1964 marked a decisive turning point in the Vietnam War. Following the ousting of President Ngô Đình Diệm in 1963, South Vietnam's top army generals continued to vie with each other for control of the country's military-dominated government instead of combating the emerging forces of the VC. The fragility of the South Vietnamese government was reflected on the battlefield, where its military experienced great setbacks against the VC. Taking advantage of Saigon's political instability, leaders in Hanoi began preparing for war. Even though key members of North Vietnam's Politburo disagreed on the best strategy to reunite their country, they ultimately went ahead to prepare for armed struggle against the South Vietnam government and the American occupation.[2]

Towards the end of 1964, the VC commenced a series of large-scale military operations against the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). As part of their Winter-Spring Offensive, the VC unleashed its newly created 9th Division against the ARVN forces at Bình Giã, fighting a large set-piece battle for the first time. Over a period of four days, the PAVN 9th Division held its ground and mauled the best units the ARVN could send against them, only breaking after intense attack by U.S. bombers.[3]


In 1964, the political establishment in South Vietnam was still in turmoil. Following the coup that ousted Ngô Đình Diệm, the military situation quickly worsened as the VC gained significant ground in the countryside because the Military Revolutionary Council which governed South Vietnam, lacked direction both in terms of policy and planning, and lacked political support from the population.[4] Furthermore, General Dương Văn Minh, as the Chairman of the Military Revolutionary Council, and his civilian Prime Minister Nguyễn Ngọc Thơ favoured a political resolution instead of using military force, which brought them into conflict with the United States over the best strategy to fight the VC in South Vietnam.[5] As a result, both men became increasingly unpopular among the military generals who held real political power in Saigon. On January 30, 1964, General Nguyễn Khánh successfully ousted Dương Văn Minh from the Military Revolutionary Council without firing a single shot.[6] For much of the year, Khánh spent most of his efforts on consolidating political power, instead of fighting the VC.[7]

In contrast to the political unrest in Saigon, the Communist leadership in North Vietnam and in the VC were far more concerned about the best strategy to fight the South Vietnamese government and the Americans. While all leaders in Hanoi and in the VC shared the same goal of eventual reunification of their homeland, different factions within the Communist Party disagreed on the best method to achieve their desired goal.[8] Members of North Vietnam's Politburo were divided by the issues surrounding the Soviet strategy of peaceful co-existence versus the Chinese strategy of supporting national liberation movements in emerging countries.[8] Despite their differences of opinion, the Communist Party leadership ultimately made preparations for armed struggle in South Vietnam. From Hanoi's perspective, the military regime in Saigon was able to hold out because the Communist main forces were still not ready to fight a conventional war, so North Vietnam must focus on the development of its military force in the shortest period of time. In the meantime, however, the war must be kept at its current level in order to prevent the full involvement of the United States military.[8]

On October 11, 1964, the VC was ordered to carry out a series of military operations as part of the Communist winter-spring offensive. The VC Nam Bo (Mekong Delta) Regional Command established a sub-command under the leadership of Trần Đình Xu, with Nguyễn Hòa as the deputy commander, and Lê Trọng Tấn as the political commissar.[9] Their mission was to inflict damage on the regular units of the ARVN and destroy the strategic hamlets constructed by the former Ngô Đình Diệm regime. The VC identified the regions of Bình Long-Phước Long and Bà Rịa-Long Khánh, along Route 14, as the main targets for their offensive. Meanwhile, the Central Military Commission in Hanoi appointed General Nguyen Chi Thanh as the commander of North Vietnamese military operations in southern Vietnam. Other high-ranking officers such as Major Generals Lê Trọng Tấn and Trần Độ, and Colonel Hoàng Cầm were sent to South Vietnam to supervise the military build-up which would commence in November 1964.[9]


In July 1964, the VC 271st and 272nd Regiments began moving into the provinces of Bình Dương, Bình Long and Phước Long to carry out their mission. During the first phase of their campaign, the VC regiments overran several strategic hamlets at Xan Sang, Cam Xe, Dong Xa, and Thai Khai.[10] Between August and September 1964, VC regiments executed deep thrusts into Bình Dương and Châu Thành to apply additional pressure on South Vietnamese outposts situated on Route 14. During the second phase of their campaign, the VC ambushed two ARVN infantry companies and destroyed five armoured vehicles, which consisted of M24 Chaffee light tanks and M113 armored personnel carriers. The VC defeated regular ARVN units at the strategic hamlets of Bình Mỹ and Bình Co.[10]

Ta Minh Kham
Colonel Ta Minh Kham (second from left), commander of the Viet Cong 272nd Regiment, with other high-ranking VC officers

Following the completion of the initial stages in their campaign, the VC forces were ordered to regroup and prepare for the next offensive in the Long Khánh region. VC soldiers from the two regiments were assembled in War Zone D, where they were trained to attack well-fortified enemy strongholds.[11] On November 20, 1964, the VC reached the Long Khánh battlefield, having completed a 200 kilometres march from War Zone D.[11] On the battlefield the VC 186th Battalion (from Military Region 5), the 500th and 800th Battalions (from Military Region 7), and the 445th Company also joined the offensive.[12] To kick-start their offensive in the Ba Ria-Long Khánh region, the VC selected Bình Giã as their next target. Bình Giã was a small village located in Phước Tuy Province, about 67 kilometres away from Saigon.[13]

During the war about 6,000 people lived in Bình Giã, most of whom were staunchly anti-communist. The inhabitants of Bình Giã were Roman Catholic refugees who had fled from North Vietnam in 1954 during Operation Passage to Freedom because of fears of Communist persecution.[13] To prepare for their main battle, the VC 272nd Regiment was ordered to block Inter-provincial Road No. 2 and 15, and destroy any South Vietnamese units attempting to reach Bình Giã from the south-western flank of the battlefield. In the days leading up to the battle, the VC often came out to harass the local militia forces. On December 9, 1964, the 272nd Regiment destroyed an entire ARVN mechanised rifle company along Inter-provincial Road No. 2, destroying 16 M-113 APCs. On December 17, the 272nd Regiment destroyed another six armoured vehicles on Inter-provincial Road No. 15.[11]


During the early hours of December 28, 1964, elements of the VC 271st Regiment and the 445th Company signaled their main attack on Bình Giã by penetrating the village's eastern perimeter. There, they clashed with members of the South Vietnamese Popular Force militiamen, which numbered about 65 personnel. The militia fighters proved no match for the VC and their overwhelming firepower, so they quickly retreated into underground bunkers, and called for help.[14] Once the village was captured, Colonel Ta Minh Kham, the VC regimental commander, established his command post in the main village church and waited for fresh reinforcements, which came in the form of heavy mortars, machine guns and recoilless rifles.[14] To counter South Vietnamese helicopter assaults, Colonel Kham's troops set up a network of defensive fortifications around the village, with trenches and bunkers protected by land mines and barbed wire. The local Catholic priest, who was also the village chief, sent a bicycle messenger out to the Bà Rịa district headquarters to ask for a relief force.[15] In response, the Bà Rịa district chief sent out elements of two Ranger battalions to retake Bình Giã. On December 29, two companies of the ARVN 33rd Ranger Battalion and a company from the 30th Ranger Battalion were airlifted into area located west of Bình Giã, by helicopters from the U.S. 118th Aviation Company to face an enemy force of unknown size.[7]

As soon as the soldiers from the 30th and 33rd Ranger Battalions arrived at the landing zone, they were quickly overwhelmed by the VC in a deadly ambush.[7] The entire 30th Ranger Battalion was then committed to join the attack, but they too did not initially succeed in penetrating the strong VC defensive lines. Several more companies of the Rangers then arrived for an attack from multiple directions. Two companies of the 33rd Ranger Battalion advanced from the northeast. One of them came to the outskirts of the village, but was unable to break through the VC defenses. The other one, trying to outflank the enemy, had been lured into a kill zone in open terrain and were quickly obliterated in an ambush by the three VC battalions using heavy weapons. The two companies suffered a 70 percent casualty rate, and survivors were forced to retreat to the nearby Catholic church. The 30th Rangers had more success by assaulting from the western direction and succeeded in fighting their way into the village, aided by local residents. It however also suffered heavy losses, with the battalion commander and his American adviser severely wounded.[16] The local civilians in Bình Giã retrieved weapons and ammunition from the dead Rangers, and hid the wounded government soldiers from the VC. The 38th Ranger Battalion, on the other hand, landed on the battlefield unopposed by the VC, and they immediately advanced on Bình Giã from the south. Soldiers from the 38th Rangers spent the whole day fighting, but they could not break through the VC defences to link up with the survivors hiding in the church, and fell back after calling in mortar fire to decimate VC fighters moving to encircle them.[16]

The morning of December 30, the 4th South Vietnamese Marine Battalion moved out to Bien Hoa Air Base, waiting to be airlifted into the battlefield.[16] The 1/4th Marine Battalion was the first unit to arrive on the outskirts of Bình Giã, but the 1st Company commander decided to secure the landing zone, to wait for the rest of the battalion to arrive instead of moving on to their objective.[16] After the rest of the 4th Marine Battalion had arrived, they marched towards the Catholic church to relieve the besieged Rangers. About one and a half hours later, the 4th Marine Battalion linked up with the 30th, 33rd and 38th Ranger Battalions, as the VC began withdrawing to the northeast. That afternoon the 4th Marine Battalion recaptured the village,[16] but the VC was nowhere to be seen, as all their units had withdrawn from the village during the previous night, linking with other VC elements in the forest to attack the government relief forces. On the evening of December 30, the VC returned to Bình Giã and attacked from the south-eastern perimeter of the village. The local villagers, who discovered the approaching VC, immediately sounded the alarm to alert the ARVN soldiers defending the village. The South Vietnamese were able to repel the VC, with support from U.S. Army helicopter gunships flown out from Vung Tau airbase.[16]

While pursuing the VC, a helicopter gunship from the U.S. 68th Assault Helicopter Company was shot down and crashed in the Quảng Giao rubber plantation, about four kilometres away from Bình Giã, killing four of its crewmen. On December 31, the U.S. Marines Advisory Group sent a team of four personnel, led by Captain Donald G. Cook, to Bình Giã to observe conditions on the battlefield.[16] At the same time, the 4th Marine Battalion was ordered to locate the crashed helicopter and recover the bodies of the dead American crewmen. Acting against the advice of his American advisor, Major Nguyễn Văn Nho, commander of the 4th Marine Battalion, sent his 2/4th Marine Battalion company out to the Quảng Giao rubber plantation.[16] Unknown to the 4th Marine Battalion, the VC 271st Regiment had assembled in the plantation. About one hour after they had departed from the village of Bình Giã, the commander of the 2/4th Marine Battalion reported via radio that his troops had found the helicopter wreckage, and the bodies of four American crewmen.[16] Shortly afterwards, the VC opened fire and the 2/4th Marine Battalion was forced to pull back. In an attempt to save the 2nd Company, the entire 4th Marine Battalion was sent out to confront the VC. As the lead element of the 4th Marine Battalion closed in on the Quảng Giao plantation, they were hit by accurate VC artillery fire, which was soon followed by repeated human wave attacks.[16] Having absorbed heavy casualties from the VC's ambush, the 2/4th Marine Battalion had to fight their way out of the plantation with their bayonets fixed.[17] During the entire ordeal, the company did not receive artillery support because the plantation was beyond the range of 105mm artillery guns based in Phước Tuy and Bà Rịa.[16] They however escaped with the crucial support of the U.S. aircraft and helicopters whose rocket attacks forced the enemy to pull back and halted their attempt at pursuit.

In the morning of December 31, the 4th Marine Battalion returned to the crash site with the entire force and the American graves were located and their corpses were dug up. At about 3 pm, a single U.S. helicopter arrived on the battlefield to evacuate the casualties, but they only picked up the bodies of the four American crewmen, while South Vietnamese casualties were forced to wait for another helicopter to arrive. At 4 pm, Major Nguyễn Văn Nho ordered the 4th Marine Battalion to carry their casualties back to the village, instead of continuing to wait for the helicopters. As the 4th Marine Battalion began their return march, three VC battalions, with artillery support, suddenly attacked them from three directions. The battalion's commanding and executive officers were immediately killed and air support was not available. Two Marine companies managed to fight their way out of the ambush and back to Bình Giã, but the third was overrun and almost completely wiped out. The fourth company desperately held out at a hilltop against VC artillery barrages and large infantry charges, before slipping out through the enemy positions at dawn. The 4th Marine Battalion of 426 men lost a total of 117 soldiers killed, 71 wounded and 13 missing.[16] Among the casualties were 35 officers of the 4th Marine Battalion killed in action, and the four American advisers attached to the unit were also wounded.[16] Backed by U.S. Air Force bombers, on January 1 three battalions of ARVN Airborne reinforcements arrived, they were too late as most of the VC had already withdrawn from the battlefield.[18]


Binh Gia Victory
The Bình Giã victory monument dedicated to the Viet Cong, located in Châu Đức District, Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu

The battle of Bình Giã reflected the VC's growing military strength and influence, especially in the Mekong Delta region. It was the first time the VC launched a large-scale operation, holding its ground and fighting for four days against government troops equipped with armor, artillery and helicopters, and aided by U.S. air support and military advisers. The VC demonstrated that, when well-supplied with military supplies from North Vietnam, they had the ability to fight and inflict damage even on the best ARVN units.[1]

The VC apparently suffered light casualties with only 32 soldiers officially confirmed killed, and they did not leave a single casualty on the battlefield.[19] In recognition of the 271st Regiment's performance during the Bình Giã campaign, the VC High Command bestowed the title 'Bình Giã Regiment' on the unit to honour their achievement. Following the Bình Giã campaign, the VC went on to occupy Hoài Đức District and the strategic hamlets of Đất Đỏ, Long Thành and Nhơn Trạch along Inter-provincial Road No. 2 and 15. They also expanded the Hát Dịch base area, which was located in Bà Rịa and Bình Thuận Provinces, to protect the important sea transportation routes used by the Vietnam People's Navy to supply VC units around the regions of the Mekong River.[20]

Unlike their adversaries, the South Vietnamese military suffered heavily in their attempts to recapture the village of Bình Giã and secure the surrounding areas. The South Vietnamese and their American allies lost the total of about 201 personnel killed in action, 192 wounded and 68 missing.[1] In just four days of fighting, two of South Vietnam's elite Ranger companies were destroyed and several others suffered heavy losses, while the 4th Marine Battalion was rendered ineffective as a fighting force.[19] At that stage of the war, Bình Giã was the worst defeat experienced by the South Vietnamese.[19] Despite their losses, the ARVN considered the battle as their victory and erected a monument at the site of the battle to acknowledge the sacrifices of the soldiers who had fallen to retake Bình Giã.[21]

Order of battle (ground forces)

Viet Cong

  • 271st Regiment (renamed the 1st Regiment and became part of the 9th Division on 2 Sep 1965)
  • 272nd Regiment (renamed the 2nd Regiment and became part of the 9th Division on 2 Sep 1965)
  • 186th Battalion
  • 500th Battalion
  • 514th Battalion
  • 800th Battalion
  • 445th Company
  • 80th Artillery Detachment

Army of the Republic of Vietnam

  • 1st Airborne Battalion
  • 3rd Airborne Battalion
  • 7th Airborne Battalion
  • 4th Marine Battalion
  • 29th Ranger Battalion
  • 30th Ranger Battalion
  • 33rd Ranger Battalion
  • 35th Ranger Battalion
  • 38th Ranger Battalion
  • Two artillery platoons and one section of M-24 tanks in support.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Burstall (1990), p.40
  2. ^ Ang Cheng Guan (2002), p. 82
  3. ^ War Story – Bình Giã: The Battle
  4. ^ Shaplen (1966), pp.221–224
  5. ^ Kahin (1986), pp. 182–186
  6. ^ Karnow (1997), p. 352
  7. ^ a b c Moyar (2006), p. 337
  8. ^ a b c Guan (2002), p. 82
  9. ^ a b Guan (2002), p. 83
  10. ^ a b PLAF (1967), p. 16
  11. ^ a b c PLAF (1967), p. 19
  12. ^ Guan (2002), p.84
  13. ^ a b Price (2007) p.34
  14. ^ a b Price (2007), p. 48
  15. ^ Price (2007), p. 51
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Battle of Bình Giã,; accessed March 23, 2015.
  17. ^ Price (2007), p. 72
  18. ^ Moyar (2006), p. 339
  19. ^ a b c Shulimson & Johnson (1978), pp. 204-205
  20. ^ Guan (2002), p. 85
  21. ^ Price (2007), p. 73
  22. ^ Burstall (1990), p.55


  • Ang, Guan C. (2002). The Vietnam War from the other side: The Vietnamese Communists’ Perspective. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1615-7.
  • Burstall, Terry (1990). A Soldier Returns: a Long Tan veteran discovers the other side of Vietnam. Brisbane: University of Queensland. ISBN 978-0-7022-2252-8.
  • Kahin, George M. (1986). Intervention: How America Became Involved in Vietnam. New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-0-385-24099-4.
  • Karnow, Stanley (1997). Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-026547-7.
  • Moyar, Mark (2006). Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War 1954–1975. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-86911-9.
  • People's Liberation Armed Forces (1967). History of 272nd Regiment, PLAF 9th Division. Binh Thuan: Giai Phong Publishing.
  • Price, Donald L. (2007). The First Marine Captured in Vietnam: A Biography of Donald G. North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-4116-7.
  • Shaplen, Robert (1966). The Lost Revolution: Vietnam 1945–1965. London, UK: Andre Deutsch.
  • Shulimson, Jackson; Johnson, Charles M. (1978). U.S Marines in Vietnam: The Landing and the Buildup 1965. Washington D.C.: U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters.

External links

1964 in the Vietnam War

South Vietnam was in political chaos during much of the year, as generals competed for power and Buddhists protested against the government. The Viet Cong communist guerrillas expanded their operations and defeated the South Vietnamese army (ARVN) in many battles. North Vietnam made a definitive judgement in January to assist the Viet Cong insurgency with men and material. In November, North Vietnam ordered the North Vietnamese Army to infiltrate units into South Vietnam and undertake joint military operations with the Viet Cong.

The new President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, and his civilian and military advisers wrestled with the problem of a failing government in South Vietnam and military gains by the communists. In August, an attack on American navy vessels caused Johnson to seek and gain U.S. congressional approval of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which authorized him to use military force if necessary to defend South Vietnam. Throughout the year, there were calls from many quarters — American, foreign, and South Vietnamese — for the United States to negotiate an agreement for the neutralization of South Vietnam, which they refused to considered.

Many of President Johnson's advisers advocated an air war against North Vietnam and the introduction of U.S. combat troops into South Vietnam. By year's end, the 23,000 U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam were still technically "advisers" (although they participated in many air and ground operations with the ARVN), but Johnson was contemplating U.S. ground troops.

At the time, most of the reports and conversations mentioned below were secret; they were not made public for many years.

1965 in the Vietnam War

In 1965, the United States rapidly increased its military forces in South Vietnam, prompted by the realization that the South Vietnamese government was losing the Vietnam War as the communist-dominated Viet Cong gained influence over much of the population in rural areas of the country. North Vietnam also rapidly increased its infiltration of men and supplies to combat South Vietnam and the U.S.. The objective of the U.S. and South Vietnam was to prevent a communist take-over. North Vietnam and the insurgent Viet Cong sought to unite the two sections of the country.

Political instability and internal dissent continued to plague the government of South Vietnam, although in June General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu and Air Marshall Nguyễn Cao Kỳ took control of the country and remained in power for the remainder of the year. In the United States, a majority of Congress and the people supported U.S. participation in the war, although protests against the war became larger and more frequent, especially among college students.

The U.S. began bombing North Vietnam in March, in Operation Rolling Thunder. The U.S. Army and Marines began ground operations to ferret out and defeat the communist forces. General William Westmoreland commanded U.S. forces in South Vietnam. Westmoreland's strategy was attrition, employing U.S. superiority in firepower, technology, and mobility. The usual military tactic of the United States was search and destroy operations in which large U.S. and South Vietnamese units, supported by air and artillery, swept through an area to attempt to engage the communists in battle. North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, by contrast, relied on hit-and-run operations and ambushes, avoiding set-piece battles except at their own initiative.

In November, the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies met head-on for the first time in the Battle of Ia Drang. Both sides claimed victory. The U.S. inflicted heavy casualties on the North Vietnamese, but the battle vindicated the conviction by North Vietnam that its military could slowly grind down the U.S.'s commitment to the war.

South Korea contributed an army division to South Vietnam, while Australia, New Zealand and other countries provided smaller numbers of soldiers. North Vietnam received military aid from the Soviet Union and China.

At year's end, President Lyndon Johnson declared a temporary halt to the bombing of North Vietnam and undertook a diplomatic initiative to seek negotiations with North Vietnam. North Vietnam, on its part, aimed to achieve a decisive military victory, but prepared also for an expanded war if the U.S. continued to escalate its involvement.

Most of the reports and conversations mentioned below were secret and not made public for many years. They reflect the ongoing debate among American officials, military leaders, and the American people about the scope and character of American intervention in the Vietnam War.

4th Marine Battalion (South Vietnam)

The 4th Marine Battalion was a marine battalion of the Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. The battalion was formed in early 1961 and based at Vũng Tàu in Phước Tuy Province (now Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu Province). On 30–31 December 1964, it was ambushed by elements of the Viet Cong 9th Division near the Quang Giao rubber plantation, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) south east of Bình Giã and suffered 60% casualties. The battalion ceased to exist after the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975 and the collapse of the South Vietnamese government.

9th Division (Vietnam)

The 9th Infantry Division is a division of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), first formed from Viet Cong units in 1964/5 in the Mekong Delta region.

9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (United States)

The 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade was a United States Marine Corps unit.

Battle of Ba Gia

The Battle of Ba Gia was a major battle that marked the beginning of the Viet Cong's (VC) Summer Offensive of 1965, during the early phases of the Vietnam War, known in Vietnam as the American War. The battle took place in Quảng Ngãi Province, South Vietnam, between May 28–31, 1965.

Following the victory of VC forces in the Battle of Binh Gia earlier in the year, the North Vietnamese leadership in Hanoi decided to intensify their war effort in order to defeat the American-backed Government of South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese war effort received a major boost in the first half of 1965, when the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China stepped up the delivery of military aid, which included the deployment of military specialists and other personnel to train North Vietnam's armed forces. The North Vietnamese decision to intensify the war culminated in the Summer Offensive of 1965, which aimed to destroy the regular divisions of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in large-scale battles, and pin down the elite units of the ARVN strategic reserve. In Quảng Ngãi Province, South Vietnam, the VC kick-started their summer campaign by attacking elements of the ARVN 51st Infantry Regiment during the early hours of May 29, 1965. In the days that followed, the VC destroyed an entire ARVN Task Force to mark a successful start to their summer campaign.

List of battles (geographic)

This list of battles is organized geographically, by country in its present territory.

Order of battle

In modern use, the order of battle of an armed force participating in a military operation or campaign shows the hierarchical organization, command structure, strength, disposition of personnel, and equipment of units and formations of the armed force. Various abbreviations are in use, including OOB, O/B, or OB, while ORBAT remains the most common in the United Kingdom. An order of battle should be distinguished from a table of organisation, which is the intended composition of a given unit or formation according to the military doctrine of its armed force. As combat operations develop during a campaign, orders of battle may be revised and altered in response to the military needs and challenges. Also the known details of an order of battle may change during the course of executing the commanders' after action reports and/or other accounting methods (e.g. despatches) as combat assessment is conducted.

Outline of the Vietnam War

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Vietnam War:

Vietnam War – Cold War-era proxy war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States, Philippines and other anti-communist allies. The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle.

People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam

The People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam (PLAF), or Viet Cong's army, was the official army of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. The PLAF forces were independent of the People's Army of Vietnam. The PLAF was unofficially established after 1954 and was recognized as main battle forces in South Vietnam by North Vietnam in 1961. The PLAF forces appeared to be outside of the control of the People's Army of Vietnam, but under the command of the Central Office for South Vietnam, politically and militarily controlled by Hanoi and functioned as a branch of the North Vietnamese Army.

Republic of Vietnam Marine Division

The Republic of Vietnam Marine Division (RVNMD, Vietnamese: Sư Đoàn Thủy Quân Lục Chiến [TQLC]) was part of the armed forces of South Vietnam. It was established by Ngo Dinh Diem in 1954 when he was Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam, which became the Republic of Vietnam in 1955. The longest-serving commander was Lieutenant General Le Nguyen Khang. In 1969, the VNMC had a strength of 9,300, 15,000 by 1973., and 20,000 by 1975.The Marine Division trace their origins to French-trained Commandos Marine divisions recruited and placed under the command of the French Navy but officially incorporated in 1960. From 1970 onwards, the South Vietnamese marines and Airborne Division grew significantly, supplanting the independent, Central Highlands based Vietnamese Rangers as the most popular elite units for volunteers. Along with the Airborne the Marine Division formed the General Reserve with the strategic transformation under Vietnamization, with elite and highly-mobile units meant to be deployed in People's Army of Vietnam attacking points and incursions. By then, the level of training had improved considerably and U.S. General Creighton Abrams who oversaw Vietnamization stated that South Vietnam's Airborne and Marines had no comparable units to match it in the PAVN.This division had earned a total of 9 U.S. presidential citations, with the 2nd Battalion "Crazy Buffaloes" earning two.

Viet Cong and PAVN strategy, organization and structure

During the Second Indochina War, better known as the Vietnam War, a distinctive land warfare strategy and organization was used by the National Liberation Front (better known as the Viet Cong or VC in the West) and the People's Army of Vietnam or NVA (North Vietnamese Army) to defeat their American and South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) opponents. These methods involved closely integrated political and military strategy – what was called dau tranh. The National Liberation Front, (NLF) was an umbrella of front groups, sympathizers and allies set up by the rulers of North Vietnam to conduct the insurgency in South Vietnam. The NLF also included fully armed formations- regional and local guerrillas, and the People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF). The PLAF was the "Main Force" – the Chu Luc or full-time soldiers of the NLF's military wing. Many histories lump both the NLF and the armed formations under the term "Viet Cong" or "VC" in common usage. Both were tightly interwoven and were in turn controlled by the North. Others consider the Viet Cong or "VC" to primarily refer to the armed elements. The term PAVN (People's Army of Vietnam), identifies regular troops of the North Vietnamese Army or NVA as they were commonly known by their Western opponents. Collectively, both forces- the southern armed wing and the regulars from the north were part of PAVN.Terms such as "NLF" and "VC" or "NVA" and PAVN" are used interchangeably due to their widespread popular usage by both South Vietnamese and American military personnel and civilians, and common usage in standard histories of the Vietnam War.

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War (Vietnamese: Chiến tranh Việt Nam), also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America (Vietnamese: Kháng chiến chống Mỹ) or simply the American War, was an undeclared war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war from some US perspectives. It lasted some 19 years with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973 following the Paris Peace Accords, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, resulting in all three countries becoming communist states in 1975.

American military advisors began arriving in what was then French Indochina in 1950 to support the French in the First Indochina War against the communist-led Viet Minh. Most of the funding for the French war effort was provided by the U.S. After the French quit Indochina in 1954, the US assumed financial and military responsibility for the South Vietnamese state. The Việt Cộng, also known as Front national de libération du Sud-Viêt Nam or NLF (the National Liberation Front), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, initiated a

guerrilla war against the South Vietnamese government in 1959. U.S. involvement escalated in 1960, and continued in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy, with troop levels gradually surging under the MAAG program from just under a thousand in 1959 to 16,000 in 1963.By 1964, there were 23,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam, but this escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which a U.S. destroyer was alleged to have clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft. In response, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave President Lyndon B. Johnson broad authorization to increase U.S. military presence, deploying ground combat units for the first time and increasing troop levels to 184,000. Past this point, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) engaged in more conventional warfare with US and South Vietnamese forces. Every year onward there was significant build-up of US forces despite little progress, with Robert McNamara, one of the principal architects of the war, beginning to express doubts of victory by the end of 1966. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes. The U.S. conducted a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam. The Tet Offensive of 1968, proved to be the turning point of the war; despite years of American tutelage and aid the South Vietnamese forces were unable to withstand the communist offensive and the task fell to US forces instead. The Tet Offensive showed that the end of US involvement was not in sight, increasing domestic skepticism of the war. The unconventional and conventional capabilities of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) increased following a period of neglect and became modeled on heavy firepower-focused doctrines like US forces. Operations crossed international borders; bordering areas of Laos and Cambodia were used by North Vietnam as supply routes and were heavily bombed by U.S. forces.

Gradual withdrawal of U.S. ground forces began as part of "Vietnamization", which aimed to end American involvement in the war while transferring the task of fighting the communists to the South Vietnamese themselves and began the task of modernizing their armed forces. Direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 as a result of the Case–Church Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress. The capture of Saigon by the NVA in April 1975 marked the end of the war, and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 966,000 to 3.8 million. Some 275,000–310,000 Cambodians, 20,000–62,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict, and a further 1,626 remain missing in action. The Sino-Soviet split re-emerged following the lull during the Vietnam War and confllict between North Vietnam and its Cambodian allies in the Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea, and the newly-formed Democratic Kampuchea begun almost immediately in a series of border raids by the Khmer Rouge and erupted into the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, with Chinese forces directly intervening in the Sino-Vietnamese War. The end of the war and resumption of the Third Indochina War would precipitate the Vietnamese boat people and the bigger Indochina refugee crisis, which saw an estimated 250,000 people perish at sea. Within the US the war gave rise to what was referred to as Vietnam Syndrome, a public aversion to American overseas military involvements, which together with Watergate contributed to the crisis of confidence that affected America throughout the 1970s.

Vietnamese Rangers

The Vietnamese Rangers, properly known in Vietnamese as the Biệt Động Quân and commonly known as the ARVN Rangers, were the light infantry of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Trained and assisted by American Special Forces and Ranger advisers, the Vietnamese Rangers infiltrated beyond enemy lines in daring search and destroy missions. Initially trained as a counter-insurgency light infantry force by removing the fourth company each of the existing infantry battalions, they later expanded into a swing force capable of conventional as well as counter-insurgency operations, and were relied on to retake captured regions. Later during Vietnamization the Civilian Irregular Defense Group program was transferred from MACV and integrated as Border Battalions responsible for manning remote outposts in the Central Highlands.Rangers were often regarded as among the most effective units in the war, the most well-led ARVN unit and formed part of the highly-mobile response units operating in key areas. Part of this was due to the specialized role of these units, given that they had their origins in French-raised Commando Units, the GCMA which were drawn from Viet Minh defectors and Tai-Kadai groups, operating in interdiction and counter-intelligence roles, and were trained specifically for counter-insurgency and rough-terrain warfare in the region. Ranger Units often had a US Military Adviser attached to these units although operated independently. The foremost counterinsurgency expert Sir Robert Thompson remarked in 1974 that the ARVN as a whole were the third-best trained army in the free-world and second only to the Israelis in counter-insurgency, with the Rangers, ARVN Airborne and Marine Division forming the vanguard. With improvements in the ARVN from 1969 onward and the growing prestige of the Airborne and Marine Division, depredation had caused the Central Highlands-based Rangers to become manned by deserters, released convicts and Montagnards nevertheless the unit continued to perform critical roles in the Easter Offensive and frontier skirmishes in 1973 and 1974.

A total of 11 U.S Presidential Unit Citation (United States) were issued to the 22 original Ranger Battalions, including one unit whom earned three total citations from two different presidents. See List of Non-US Presidential Unit Citations in Vietnam.

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