Comrade Giap’s Clever Nuggets #3: PAVN Artillery

Campaign Series Vietnam | Comrade Giap's Clever Nuggets

Comrade Giap’s Clever Nuggets is yet another series, where David Galster shares some of his tips and techniques in scenario research and design for CS: Vietnam.


Can you guess what advantage PAVN artillery had over US firebases? It was the superior range of 130mm guns. Their maximum range was 27.5 km, vs 14.6 km for US M114 155mm howitzers.

This was evident in some battles, like Lam Son 719, where the 130mm guns were immune from counterbattery fire while they hammered ARVN firebases. This article explains in more detail the artillery in the Peoples Army of Vietnam.

Artillery Organization in the NVA

The battalion was the basic artillery unit. Each battalion had 12 guns of all the same type or calibre.

(Three batteries of 4 guns each.) Artillery groups or regiments could be composite, having different battalion types. For example, the 16B Regiment was organised with two 85mm field-gun battalions, and one 122mm howitzer battalion.

Infantry divisions typically had an artillery regiment. In the earlier years, it might be a 85/122 composite or 105/122. In later war years the 122/130 composite was more common. Separate artillery regiments were similar to division ones, except they tended to have higher calibre up to the 152mm howitzers.

Larger commands such as the 69th Artillery Command existed. In the 1972 battle of An Loc, the 69th Artillery Command consisted of a HQ and support unit, the 42nd Artillery Regiment, 208th Rocket Regiment, and the 271st Air Defence Regiment.

The “Guns”

During the First Indochina War with France, the Vietminh developed their artillery forces using guns from China, which were captured, from Chiang Kai-Shek’s Army. These were primarily US equipment, such as 75mm pack howitzers, and M101 105mm howitzers. The Viet Minh also had some Japanese artillery, such as Type 94 75mm mountain guns. These were the guns that won the battle of Dien Bien Phu. The 75mm howitzers continued limited use in the 1960s for Laos mountain areas. Pack mules or human porters carried these on rugged mountain trails.

After the 1954 Geneva agreement, the North Vietnamese received greater Soviet and Chinese assistance. New developments in Soviet artillery doctrine were adopted by the NVA. These included the newer D-44 85mm divisional gun, howitzers such as the 122mm, and the M-46 130mm field gun. These became the main guns used by the NVA against the Americans and South Vietnamese between 1958 to 1975. Larger calibres, such as the 152mm howitzer, were also used by the NVA. Some additional information on these follows.

The  D-44 85mm divisional gun was a more powerful upgrade to 76mm field guns. It was developed in late WWII. D-44 design started in 1943 at the design bureau of No.9 factory “Uralmash” and production began in 1944. The barrel was developed from T-34-85 tanks, and could fire 20–25 high-explosive (HE), armour-piercing, and high-explosive antitank (HEAT) projectiles per minute. It has a split trail design with pnuematic tires. The NVA used this for both anti-tank, and for field artillery purposes. The Campaign Series Vietnam game features the  anti-tank version only.

The M-30 122mm howitzer replaced the 105mm as the most numerous divisional artillery piece.

Many divisional artillery regiments had two 122mm battalions. The M-30 was designed by Fyodor Petrov just before World War II, and entered production in 1940. When production ended in 1955, the Soviet Union began sending them to its allies. China also produced the gun, designating it the Type 54. Over 450 M-30s were shipped to North Vietnam, beginning in 1964.

The 122mm howitzer was effective against strong points and troop concentrations. Four types of rounds were used: High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT), High Explosive (HE), illumination, and smoke. The 11800-meter range was 10% greater than the US M101 105mm howitzer.

Another 122mm gun was the M1931/37 A-19. It was developed in the late 1930s, and combined the barrel of the M1931, and the 152mm howitzer carriage. The M1931/37 was manufactured by the Barrikady Plant in Stalingrad (1939–41) and No. 172 Plant (1941–46). The A-19 had a 20400-meter range, which was its main advantage.

Although the 122mm A-19 gun had a long range, the NVA relied more on the M-46 130mm field gun. The 130mm had a 27500-meter range. This advantage over the US 155mm howitzers was frequently used in the “stand-off” tactic. The 130mm guns would be placed just outside the effective range of the US 155s, and thus were immune to counterbattery fire. The 130mm was developed in 1946 to provide a “duplex” artillery system to replace the obsolete 122 mm gun M1931/37 (A-19), 152mm howitzer-gun M1937 (ML-20,) and other World War II era field guns. The trade register reports 519 “second-hand” 130mm guns shipped to North Vietnam between 1968 and 1973.

Initially, the towed 152mm howitzer M1943 (D-1) was the NVA’s larger calibre artillery. The Russians had used 152mm calibre since World War I. This particular model was the result of Soviet development for rifle corps in 1942. The design concept combined mobility and high firepower. The Model 1938 barrel was mounted on a 122mm carriage. The D-1 had a 12400-meter range.

The 152mm gun-howitzer M1955 (D-20) was a later towed piece used by the North Vietnamese. The late 1940s design of the D-20 was first seen in public in 1955. It was designed in Artillery Plant No 9 in Sverdlovsk, led by Petrov. The  factory designation was “D-20.” The range was 17400 meters.

In the Soviet Army, the 152mm was used in battalions of motor rifle division artillery regiments, and army level artillery brigades. The NVA tended to use them for independent corps-level artillery groups or regiments.

Gun TableGun Table

D-44 85mm Field Gun

D-44 85mm Field Gun

M1938 (M-30) 122mm Howitzer

M1938 (M-30) 122mm Howitzer

M1954 (M-46) 130mm Gun

M1954 (M-46) 130mm Gun

M1955 (D-20) 152mm Gun-howitzer

M1955 (D-20) 152mm Gun-howitzer

Rocket Artillery

Rocket artillery had been used by the Russians in WWII on a large scale. Rocket launchers, using area fire, were used as weapons of opportunity to break up troop concentrations. The Soviets assigned  rocket battalions, with mobile truck-mounted launchers, to mechanised and armoured divisions. Multiple rocket launchers sacrifice range and accuracy, but deliver a much heavier explosive, in proportion to weight and calibre, than conventional artillery. As Soviet support of the North Vietnamese forces increased, the NVA obtained 140mm (BM-14) multi-round rocket launchers either mounted on trucks, (GAZ-63,) or on split trail carriages.

As US involvement increased, the NVA and VC increased attacks, supported by recoilless rifles and mortars. These had to move quickly after firing in a “shoot and scoot” mode. As they were carried by troops on foot, this limited firepower capability.

The NVA’s need for accurate, effective, support weapons became apparent. Rockets fired from portable launching systems, were the ideal weapon to meet this need. The truck-mounted rockets are obviously very portable, but single launchers could be carried by porters, and had “foot portability” as well. So either way, mobility is maintained, but firepower greatly increased. (Equivalent to 152mm gun-howitzer shells.)

The 140mm rockets were used at first. But later, 122mm rocket systems were developed with greater accuracy. The 122mm rocket trajectory was flight stabilised by “spin.” This spin was imparted  by a spiralled U-shaped channel on the launcher. The channel ran 120 degrees clockwise around the inside of the launcher tube its entire length. The rocket itself had a spin lug which rode in the channel. Further stability was provided by four tail fins. These folded around the motor prior to launch, but extended when the rocket cleared the tube.

Further accuracy for the 122mm rockets was gained by sophisticated instruments for initial site  surveys. A theodolite or transit, mounted on a tripod, determined correct firing data. This survey, in conjunction with the spin/fin guidance system, improved sighting system, and tripod mount provided improved accuracy.

The 122mm (BM-21) 40-round rocket launcher was mounted on a URAL-375 truck. Single launchers were also available. They were foot mobile, highly accurate, and could be broken down into pack loads. These were designated as the DKZ-B rocket artillery launcher.

The 122m rockets weighed 46 kg, and their range was 11000 meters. The 140mm rockets weighed 40 kg, and their range was 10000 meters.

Rocket regiments and battalions resembled the conventional artillery organisations. Two well known rocket regiments were the 368B and 84A. In the 1965 to 67 timeframe, 368B was assigned to Military Region 5, and 84A was known to have operated around Bien Hoa in Military Region 7.

The 368B Rocket Regiment consisted of three battalions: D-1 (140mm,) 2nd Bn (122mm,) and 3rd Bn (122mm). The 84A Regiment had three battalions numbered 1, 2, and 3. Typically, each battalion had 18 launchers. (Two batteries of three launchers, and nine rockets.)

On 2 February 1967, the D-1 Rocket Artillery battalion fired 140mm spin-stabilized rockets on Da Nang Airbase. This was the first time NVA rockets were fired in South Vietnam.

On 7 March 1967, Soviet 122mm fin-stabilised rockets were fired on Camp Carrol in Quang Tri Province. This was the first use of 122mm rockets in South Vietnam.




All howitzers and guns listed here have Wikipedia articles. To find them with internet searches, use the calibre and model number as keywords. Keywords example: M1943 (D-1) 152mm howitzer

“Study 67-080 NVA Rocket Artillery Units,” Phillip B. Davidson, Brigadier General, 1967

“Arms Trade Register,” Stockholm International Peace Institute

General Giap had a great appreciation for artillery. The famous victory at Dien Bien Phu could not have been won without the massed guns in hardened concealed emplacements. The NVA would continue to have effective artillery under Giap’s leadership.

Campaign Series Vietnam | Comrade Giap's Clever Nuggets



Comrade Giap’s Clever Nuggets #2: NVA Infantry

Campaign Series Vietnam | Comrade Giap's Clever Nuggets

Comrade Giap’s Clever Nuggets is yet another series, where David Galster shares some of his tips and techniques in scenario research and design for CS: Vietnam.


Were you aware that NVA soldiers sometimes wore sandals fashioned from discarded truck tires? Well, these were known as “Ho Chi Minh” sandals. It illustrates the “Spartan” nature of their equipment. But, make no mistake; the “bo doi” were equipped well enough with weapons and ammunition. And, their resourcefulness and initiative compensated well for any lack of extravagance.

NVA Soldier

The typical NVA soldier’s equipment was light, practical, and functional. Their uniforms were mostly North Vietnamese or Chinese made. Webbed ammunition belts were likewise, but some of these items were Eastern European or Soviet. Sometimes worn equipment was replaced with captured ARVN or US ones.

Uniforms were dark green cotton shirt and trousers. However, khaki was also used, particularly by the officers and political commissars. Belts were simple light-green webbing with five-point stars embossed on a nickel-plated brass or steel buckles. Collar insignia indicated rank, although this was usually discarded in South Vietnam.

The “sun” or “pith” helmet” was one item actually produced in North Vietnam. These helmets were made of “phenolic,” a synthetic material of resin-impregnated cardboard. An outer cloth layer was permanently bonded to the helmet. The hats protected against sun and rain, but were not bullet-proof. Sometimes, camouflage nets or plastic rainproof covers were worn on these. Other headgear included the French style “bush” hat.

The usual footwear was a “jungle shoe” similar to French Pataugas jungle boots. They were made like tennis shoes, with light green, tan or black canvas uppers, and a black rubber sole and toe cap. Most Vietnamese grew up barefoot or wearing sandals, so Ho Chi Minh sandals were common.

In the early war years,  troops used the Soviet SKS semi-automatic carbine. The caliber was 7.62mm, and it had a ten-round magazine. Later, the Soviet AK-47 assault rifle became predominant. It used the same ammunition as the SKS, and had a 30-round magazine. It could be used in the fully automatic mode, and had a pistol grip. Made of low-precision stamped parts, the gun was still highly reliable, and could fire even after immersion in water or mud. The AK-47 gave the NVA soldier an edge over Allied forces using 5.56-mm M16A1 rifles.

NVA Soldiers showing sun helmets and AK-47s

NVA Soldiers showing sun helmets and AK-47s

The rucksacks carried only essential items. These included one spare uniform and underwear. Sometimes a spare pair of Ho Chi Minh sandals were carried. A toiletry kit included toothbrush and paste, with soap. A raincoat (Poncho) that could also be used as a ground sheet, along with a mosquito net were their shelter items. Cigarettes and Zippo lighter were usually included, as most troops smoked. Curiously, each soldier was required to have a copy of Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book. Was this really an essential item? Given the political emphasis of the Communist Party, yes it was!

Other items included eating utensils: cup, canteen, rice bowl, chopsticks, and soup spoon. Rifle cleaning kits were a must, and had the bore brush, oil, solvent, and cleaning patches. Finally, a bandage kit,  and magazine charging adapter for AK-47s completed the essential pack list.

Ho Chi Minh Sandals

Ho Chi Minh Sandals


Rifle companies had three rifle platoons plus a weapons section or platoon.  There was no standard allocation of weapons. Rifle platoons had had three squads, each with a 7.62mm light machine gun, possibly an RPG-2 or 7 (B40, B41) antitank weapon and sometimes a captured M79 grenade launcher. The weapons platoon might have a few 7.62mm SGM machine guns, two to four 60mm mortars, and sometimes 57mm recoilless rifles.

Battalions had three rifle companies plus a combat support company, which included three or four 82mm mortars, an engineer (Dac Cong,) platoon, and a few heavy machine guns such as the DShK 12.7mm anti-aircraft gun. The support company might have some transportation elements like bicycles, or even light trucks.

The regiments had multiple support companies such as recoilless rifle, mortar, anti-aircraft, reconnaissance, transport, and an engineer company. The recoilless rifle company had eight to twelve 75mm guns, that were either Soviet (73mm,) US, or Chinese. Sometimes 57mm guns were used instead.

The mortar company had six to twelve mortars, usually 107 or 120mm, and sometimes just 82mm ones. These were Chinese or Soviet made.

The anti-aircraft company featured six to twelve DShK M38/46 machine guns.

Reconnaissance companies had three “recon” platoons. These were typically elite troops.

Transport companies were used porters to to man-pack supplies, or used transport bicycles. Sometimes light trucks were available, like the GAZ-63 or the ZIL-157.

Engineer companies might have up to three platoons. These were not always present, but when available, they were used to build camps, fortifications, and obstacles.


An NVA elite force evolved that were called “sappers.” They were assault commandos. Some regiments raised a sapper company or platoon, called “Bo Doi Dac Cong” or “Dac Cong,”  (translated as “soldiers in special forces.”) Larger sapper units such as battalions were also formed. They were highly organized, well trained and equipped units that carried out special operations.

The term “sapper,” from the French “saper,” means undermining, by digging. It refers to troops digging narrow trenches, or “saps,” toward an enemy forts, providing protected channels for moving men closer for an assault. Alternatively, “sapper” refers more broadly to combat engineers handling construction and demolition.

Sappers had two missions: infiltrate enemy installations to destroy targets such as command posts, artillery positions, and ammunition dumps; and train infantrymen in perimeter penetration and shock attack.

Ho Chi Minh established requirements for sappers in 1969: “Adoption of sapper tactics must be flexible. Acquaintance must be made with combat techniques. Morale must be stable. Discipline must be strict. Determination to win and destroy the enemy must be strong. Be loyal to the party and the people. Accomplish all missions and overcome any difficulties.”

In South Vietnam, the 429th Sapper Group supervised these units. NVA sapper units were grouped into companies and battalions. Sapper battalions had a headquarters platoon of 15 to 20 men, and three field companies of 60 members each. Every company was divided into three 20-man sections. A section comprised six cells of about three men each. Rounding out the battalion would be a signals platoon of 30 soldiers and a reconnaissance platoon with 30 men.

In addition to the infantry weapons described earlier, sappers used TNT satchel charges, hand grenades, mines, pistols, submachine guns, and flamethrowers. This required additional training, from three to 18 months. Of course, political indoctrination was included, but reconnaissance and observation skills were stressed the most. Map and compass training, combined with identifying defensive positions, guard routines, command centers, fuel depots and ammunition dumps was important. They also were shown camouflage methods, and practiced tiptoeing, duck-walking, crawling, and other techniques to avoid detection when moving. They learned to disable mines, and cut through barbed or concertina wire. There were classes in bomb making, weapons, and close-combat infantry fighting. This training did not take place in North Vietnam, and was instead done in the South with a “hands-on” practical approach.

One of the typical missions was to attack a firebase, such as FSB Cunningham in the A Shau Valley. Before conducting a mission, sappers carried out a thorough reconnaissance. They not only scouted the target from the outside, using sources such as local guerrillas, but also collected intelligence using agents operating from the inside. After reconnaissance was complete, usually over three to seven days, the commander could determine which enemy fighting positions, and other obstacles his men would face. He then planned the attack.

A typical raiding party, without infantry support, would be organized into four elements: security, assault, fire support and reserve. The security team consisted of a reinforced cell (four men), armed with at least one RPG launcher, AK-47s and several mines to stop enemy reinforcements from reaching the battlefield.

The key component of the raiding party was the assault element, two or more teams called “arrows.” Moving along a specified route, each arrow traveled with three cells, contingents for penetration, assault and direct-fire support. The penetration cell had four members, usually wearing only shorts and a coat of mud, who carried AK-47s, wire cutters, bamboo poles to lift up barbed wire, bangalore torpedoes, and probing tools such as metal stakes, knives, and bayonets.

The assault cells, hauling most of the demolition material, employed five men arned with AK-47s, RPGs, anti-tank grenades and scores of explosive charges. Often more than one assault cell was used in an operation. The direct-fire support cell, made up of two or three soldiers, brought RPGs and AK-47s to the assault. The indirect-fire crew, using mortars and AK-47s, masked raiding party noise to  distract attention, and hit enemy reaction forces.

Once inside, sappers moved rapidly. They placed demolition charges, threw satchel charges, and grenades, and fired RPGs to inflict casualties, suppress enemy resistance, and keep the garrison’s troops pinned down. After assignment completion, or if they could not overcome enemy opposition, the raiding party withdrew, covered by the direct-fire support and reserve sections. They moved back to a rally point.


“North Vietnamese Army Soldier 1958–75,” Gordon Rottmann

“Sapper Attack: The Elite North Vietnamese Units,” Arnold Blumberg, 2/1/2017, Vietnam Magazine

I imagine General Giap had great affection for infantrymen, and certainly the sappers. Even before, in the battle of Dien Bien Phu, sappers had proven their worth.

Campaign Series Vietnam | Comrade Giap's Clever Nuggets

Comrade Giap’s Clever Nuggets #1: PAVN Armed Forces

Campaign Series Vietnam | Comrade Giap's Clever Nuggets

Comrade Giap’s Clever Nuggets is yet another series, where David Galster shares some of his tips and techniques in scenario research and design for CS: Vietnam.


The North Vietnamese fought the Americans and South Vietnamese in order take over the South,  and form a united Communist Vietnam. This series of articles describes their armed forces, and provides background for the coming Campaign Series Vietnam game simulation.


The nation of North Vietnam’s armed forces were known as “The Peoples Army of Vietnam” or PAVN. This is the accepted name for the North Vietnamese Army that fought against the Americans and South Vietnamese from about 1958 to 1975. Otherwise, it was often referred to as the “NVA.” Both PAVN and NVA are used interchangeably. Many prefer to say “NVA” in speaking, because it is easier and less awkward to say than “PAVN.”

There were actually two North Vietnamese armies: The “homeland army” defended North Vietnam with conventional forces, mainly armor, artillery, air defenses, a small air force, and a small navy.  There was also a “liberation army” that conducted offensive operations in South Vietnam. It was much larger, and mostly consisted of infantry and artillery units.

The NVA liberation army supported the People’s Liberation Army, PLA of the National Liberation Front or NLF in South Vietnam, which was fighting a revolution there. The Vietnamese name for the PLA was Quan Doi Giai Phong, otherwise known as the Viet Cong. (VC)

The overall approach to the war was much different from the Communists used in Korea. Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap were aware of Chinese and North Korean casualties of over a million troops. They were not willing, and the NVA was not able, to accept such losses in a conventional fight.

Instead, the North Vietnamese were willing to take their time, and fight a lengthy war lasting many years. The more lightly armed NVA was not able to conduct a traditional war, given South Vietnam’s rugged terrain and harsh climate, against massive American  firepower, superior mobility, lavish logistics, and highly mobile strike forces.

The strategy was to develop local population support through political propaganda, and use guerilla war to “wear down” the enemy. General Giap’s familiar words, “Strike only when success is certain,” would be the guiding principle.

Relationship Between NVA and VC

The NVA had a complex support relationship with the VC. While the NVA “supported” the VC war of liberation, there was little doubt that the VC were secondary to the NVA. The NVA relied on the VC to provide local intelligence on terrain, the civilian population, local government security units, enemy movements, trails, water points, and other information. The VC also provided guides for NVA units passing through their area, prepared base camps, and led NVA reconnaissance teams. The VC provided food and basic supplies. They also arranged porters and laborers from the local population.

North Vietnam began sending advisors to the VC in South Vietnam in 1958. The next year, it declared that the “political struggle” was changed to an “armed struggle,” and regular NVA troops went south. As the war escalated, more units were sent south, and it was not long before entire divisions and support troops were deployed. As early as 1964, NVA troops were being assigned to VC units to make up losses and provide a better training.

During the 1968 Tet Offensive, the VC were decimated. Many VC units remained drastically understrength, or dwindled away as popular support was lost. Often, they were no longer able to recruit meaningful numbers. Selected units received NVA fillers, up to 90 percent strength, while retaining the “VC” designation.

American soldiers had many nicknames for the VC: “Victor Charlie,” “Charlie,” or “the Cong.” The NVA, in contrast, were simply the “NVA,” or sometimes “NVA regulars.” The Americans also used derogatory nicknames such as “gook” or “slope-head.”

Military Regions

Vietnam was divided into areas that coincided with the old French Union designations: Tonkin, or North (Buc Bo) with regions 1–3, Annan or Central (Trung Bo) 4–6 and Cochin China or South (Nam Bo) with regions 7–9. The military regions (quan khu,) 5–9 were in South Vietnam or the Republic of Vietnam.

A more detailed description of Regions 5-9 is helpful for interpreting narrative and order of battle information for the main combat areas. These are described in relation to the South Vietnam Army ARVN Corps Tactical Zones CTZ: (See map below)

Military Region 5 covered the northern half of South Vietnam (the ARVN I CTZ and II CTZ south to Dar Lac and Khanh Hoa provinces).

Military Region 6 covered the rest of ARVIN’s II CTZ and the very northern part of III CTZ (Quang Duc, Tuyen Duc, Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Lam Dong, and Binh Tuy provinces).

Military Region 7 (or Eastern Nam Bo Region) covered the ARVN’s III CTZ, roughly from Saigon northward (Phuoc Long, Long Khanh, Phuoc Tuy, Binh Long, Binh Duong, Bien Hoa, Tay Ninh, and Han Nghia provinces).

Military Region 8 was southwest of Saigon, running from Cambodia to the South China Sea (Long An, Kien Tuong, Kien Phong, Sa Dec, Dinh Tuong, Go Cong, and Kien Hoa provinces).

Military Region 9 covered the southernmost part of South Vietnam (Ghau Doc, An Giang, Vinh Long, Vinh Binh, Phong Dinh, Ba Xuyen, Kien Giang, Bac Lieu, Chuong Thien, and An Xuyen provinces.)

Detailed information on units, fronts, and their locations is at this website:

Map of South Vietnam

South Vietnam Province Map showing ARVN Corps Tactical Zones CTZ

Fronts, Divisions, and Main Force Units

Large operational formations controlled forces committed to specific campaigns. These were usually designated “fronts,” which roughly equated to corps, but their structure could consist of any number and type of units tailored for the mission. Dual military and political command structures existed. For example, during the Khe Sanh siege, both the Military Command and Party Committees controlled the operation. Such dual commands were usually be co-located,  and seldom located inside South Vietnam. Names of some well known fronts were the Tay Nguyen, or B-3 Front. The lowlands from Da Nang to Nha Trang was the B-1 Front or B-1 Theater.

In Laos, numbered or lettered Campaigns were designated. “Campaign Z” was  the offensive against the Plain of Jars in 1972. Campaign 139 was another Laos operation.

Divisions were the principal operating units, but there were many independent regiments. Divisions and their organic units might have the letters “B,” “C,” or “D” appended to unit designations indicating “cloned” divisions formed from the original unlettered division. This is very confusing, especially since even North Vietnamese documents sometimes omit the letters. 325C Division, for example, is the second division, bearing the same number, raised by its parent 325 Division. The component regiments and other units would bear the same letter indicator. Wartime intelligence often omitted the letter from component regiments.

The original six Viet Minh Divisions from the First Indochina War were 304, 308, 312, 316, 320, and 325. These were known as the “Steel and Iron” Divisions. Typically, Divisions had nicknames. Sometimes they referred to where most of the troops came from. Division 316 was called “Bien Hoa” which meant “highlands,” since nearly half the original recruits were Thô highlanders.

Units also had cover designations, which changed frequently. Many of these would provide no indication of the unit’s identity or type. One NVA regiment carried the deceptive designation of “Garden Plot 9.”

The NVA developed a curious unit notation like d4/e272. This refers to the 4th Battalion, 272th Regiment.  The following letters refer to unit sizes: a = squad, b = platoon, c = company, d = battalion, e = regiment, and f = division. If a lower unit is to be identified, the listing is from lower to higher units, left to right. Therefore, c11/d3/e9/f304 would be the 11th company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Regiment, of the 304th Infantry Division.

Variants of this notation include capital letters instead of lower case. And, sometimes the slashes are eliminated, and only spaces separate them. So C11 D3 E9 F304 would be a variation in the notation. Sometimes additional letters, usually capitalized, are included which indicate the unit type. For infantry, BB (Bo Binh,) and artillery, PB (Phao Binh) are sometimes used. For example, dBB8/f304 means 8th Infantry battalion of the 304th Division.

The NVA “Main Force,” with formations in both the North and South, comprised the main operating forces for both the defense of North Vietnam – the “homeland army” – and the liberation of the South. The Main Force (chu-luc) was also referred to as the Permanent Force, Regular Force, or Full-time Military Force. These terms, like many other NVA organizational terms, differ mainly according to translation.

Similarly, the VC troops organized into battalions and regiments were called “VC Main Force.” The “Local Force” paramilitary units were  regional units (dia-phong quan,) and local militia (du-kich.) These were under-equipped, and moderately trained part-time units, mostly companies based around villages and city precincts. The Local Force units were not mobile, and usually did not leave their areas. Local Force battalions existed in smaller numbers, but were understrength, and under equipped relative to the Main Force ones.

Vietnamese military terms do not have exact standard translations. For example, the term “doan” means “group.” Likewise, “don” means “unit,” but these terms could identify any echelon of unit by adding a prefix, and might be used interchangeably. For example “tieu doan” usually is equivalent to a battalion, and  “trung doan” is a regiment.

Typical Division and Regiment Organization

A full-strength NVA infantry division (su doan bo binh) had 9600 troops, organized into three infantry regiments, an artillery battalion, plus antiaircraft, engineer, signal and medical battalions and a transport company.

Infantry regiments featured about 2500 troops including three 600-man battalions. Units were often understrength, and battalions were considered combat capable with only 300 troops. Battalions organic to a regiment might be numbered 1 to 3, but often they were numbered in sequence within a division; for example, 324B Division was assigned the 90B Regiment (7, 8, 9 battalions), 803B Regiment (1, 2, 3 battalions) and 812B Regiment (4, 5, 6 battalions). Companies were numbered in sequence through battalions.

Regiments typically had several supporting companies directly under their control. These included a recoilless rifle, mortar, antiaircraft, medical, transport (logistics,) and engineer (sapper) companies.

The graphic below is from Campaign Series Vietnam org editor, showing a typical infantry regiment organization.


Campaign Series Vietnam Org Editor Display of Regiment Structure

Regardless of organization tables, manning and armament of NVA units varied considerably due to lengthy campaigning, weapons availability, and manpower. Configurations varied for specific operations. The term “organization tables” is used loosely. Organizational documents provided only vague guidelines, and commanders had a great deal of latitude in the organization of their unit.


This article explains the overall organizational approach and terminology used by the North Vietnamese Army. The general concepts explained here will be useful in understanding subsequent articles about infantry, artillery, armor, Viet Cong, and political indoctrination.


“People’s Army of Vietnam,” Wikipedia

“North Vietnamese Army Soldier 1958 – 75,” Gordon Rottman

Campaign Series Vietnam | Comrade Giap's Clever Nuggets

World War 2 in Colour

About colourised photographs

I have long been a fan of WW2 Colourised Photos, one can but marvel at time, dedication and skills often put in use to colourise a vintage WW2 black&white photograph. Often in addition to colourisation, there’s been a lot of effort put in describing the background of the photograph and the soldiers in them, and what their fate was.

I am responsible for 2D Graphics for Campaign Series, and as all work makes Jack a dull boy, I need my distractions. What better than to try to achieve something different with my trusty graphics editor. Here it is, my first WW2 colourisation!

Making of the colourised version

Not just the picture, but the story behind it, too!

Obviously, to begin with, one needs the original photograph of interest, and permissions to use it if the colourisation is to be published. For the benefit of us history geeks, Finnish Army has made all their wartime photographs available at, under Creative Commons CC BY, requiring that they are credited, and that photographs are not used for inappropriate or unlawful purposes. So we are good to go!

I wanted to try colouring one of the assault guns, and having looked at the SA-kuva archive, ended up  choosing picture # 151597.

Picture comes with an original description (translated to English) written at the time: New assault guns being shown to Field Marshal Mannerheim and to President of the Republic. Assault Guns on parade. Enso, 1944.06.04.

More of that in a bit. Here’s the original:

SA-kuva # 151 597

So, what we have here is an authentic Finnish Army photograph of Finnish Assault Gun Battalion, in spic&span condition, readying to parade in front of  the Finnish Top Brass, on June 4, 1944.

I thought this would be not only an interesting picture to colourise, but also easier to get up to speed, as there’s no foliage, dust, wear, etc on the equipment.

Colourisation technique

How colourisation is typically done is that first the original picture is cleaned up, and contrast and brightness adjusted. That’s what I did as well. There were quite a few specks in the original negative, so I first removed those. Then, unfortunately, there was quite a lot of granulation in the original, so I had to blur it a tad, to make it look smoother.

That done, with my graphics editor (I use GIMP), I added several transparent layers on top of the original, and then dedicated each of them to a certain colour or a certain aspect of the picture. I ended with a dozen or so layers there, one for grass, one for sky, one for each of the camo colours, skin, uniforms, dust, what not.

For each of them, I then adjusted their transparency setting so that the colours appear naturally on top of the original. This opens up an almost endless amount of variations, where I ended up using not too strong colours, at least for the first version here.

All this took quite a few hours, but all worth the effort.

Want to see more?

Here’s the YouTube tutorial referred by the WW2 Colourised Photos Facebook page. Make’s it look easy, doesn’t it!

Update: Finally, what you could next, and what I ended up doing as well, is to “Photoshop” it a bit using your favourite photograph editor, in my case Affinity. Worked wonders, to make the original effort look like any of your contemporary snap shots!

Choosing the right colours and hues

Finnish three-colour camo scheme

Part of the colourisation effort in trying to make a timeless, colourful version of the orginal, is to get one’s facts right!

One of the peculiarities with colourising this picture is that there are no surviving original colour pictures of any WW2 era Finnish vehicles in their camo scheme. As odd as that sounds, those are the cards we’re dealt with, and for instance for the modelling community, it has been an endless source of frustration.

What is known of course, from the many surviving original guidelines, is that the three colours used in the scheme were

  • Grey N:o 1
  • Moss Green N:o 2
  • Sand Brown N:o 3

However, their exact hues have been lost in time.

The closest we can come are the surviving equipment carrying the camo, with Bofors 37mm anti-gun guns perhaps the best examples, as they had a folding gun mantle, which was closed the time they were in storage:

Bofors 37mm at Parola Armour Museum (Wikimedia Commons)

From there, and from other similar pieces of equipment, it’s been possible to determine what the original hues were. Not an exact science, but close enough anyway.

Based on research done by a Finnish historian Esa Muikku, the RAL RSD codes for these colours were:

  • Grey: 075 50 10
  • Moss Green: 110 30 10 (should yet have a bit more grey)
  • Sand Brown: 070 30 10 (should yet be a tinted a bit)

Now we know.

Background for SA-kuva # 151597

What is left before publishing the photograp is the background information part. So here goes:

Assault Gun Battalion of the Armoured Division

On parade were the men and equipment of the Armoured Division, and their most modern formation, Assault Gun Battalion, with their Stu-40 Ausf. G assault guns, procured from Germany in summer 1943.

  • Did you know: StuG III’s with the upgraded 7,5-cm-StuK 40 L/48 main gun got called “StuG III”  only as the production of StuG IVs started. Before that, these particular vehicles were classified as Stu-40, short for Sturmgeschütze-40.

Shown here are the armored fighting vehicles of battalion’s 2d Company. There was just one assault gun battalion at this stage, of 30 Stu-40s, with another similar batch (29, to be exact), arriving in July 1944, forming the 2d Assault Gun Battalion at that stage.

Those familiar with Finnish history might take note of the date of the parade, as June 4th was the birthday of Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Mannerheim.  Accordingly, he was the recipient of this very parade, together with the president of republic, Mr Risto Ryti.

Story of Ps. 531-10 ‘Bubi’

At front is the Ps.531-10, nicknamed ‘Bubi’, the second assault gun of the I Platoon (of three assault guns), 2d Coy. Here’s some interesting facts about her.

It was customary the driver of each vehicle got to name it, often naming their vehicle, often after their sweethearts. As for  ‘Bubi’, it is understood not to be a particular sweetheart, but a misspelled version of English word ‘Baby’…

Kills were credited for the gunner. ‘Bubi’s gunner Olli Soimala was the tank ace of the battalion, with eleven confirmed kills during the summer 1944 battles, before September 1944 armistice with Soviet Union. Battalion soon adapted a practice where each kill would be painted as circles on assault gun’s main gun, so ‘Bubi’ had eleven of those around her gun tube (there’s link to a restored ‘Bubi’ at the end of this blog post).

To the right is the assault gun commander, First Sergeant Börje Brotell, and to the left, I assume, is either the gunner Olli Soimala or loader Armas Launikko, with driver Sulo Kauppi the one of the four-man crew certainly not  visible here.

What about these soldiers in the picture, what became of them?

Again, this picture was taken on June 4, 1944, and in a matter of only a few days – on June 10, 1944 – the Soviet Viborg-Pedrozavodsk Summer offensive would hit the Finnish front.

These men, so much at their leisure here, would find themselves in the hottest of hot spots in the next coming weeks and months…

I am happy to report they all survived the war, as did the assault gun, which is now standing guard at Parola Garrison, home of the modern Armoured Brigade cadre formation.

The other two assault guns with their markings visible, Ps. 531-11 and Ps. 531-8,  both survived the war, both the men and the assault guns.

Assault guns with visible markings in the picture are:

  • Ps. 531-11 ‘Airi’, lead by Sergeant Kumlin, the third tank of the I platoon.
  • Ps. 531-8 ‘Aili’ lead by Lieutenant Peltonen, the platoon leader of the II Platoon.

2d Company pictured here was the luckiest company in this sense, as they only lost one vehicle in the fighting that summer. All in all, this Assault Gun Battalion  lost eight Stu-40s in exchange to 87 confirmed enemy kills.

SA-kuva # 151597 in colour

With all that said, here’s the colourised picture, finally:

I hope you enjoy it, together with the history of the men and their vehicles!

For more information about Finnish assault guns, I can recommend Mr Andreas Lärka’s excellent webiste, here’s a link to our ‘Bubi’ at his site.

Coloured picture updated 9 June 2019: Tanker uniforms are tan, not grey colour. Source: Suomen Panssarisota.

Hack’s Hardcore Hints #12: Vietnam Counterinsurgency

mpaign Series Vietnam | Hack's Hardcore HintsIn Hack’s Hardcore Hints series, David Galster shares some of his scenario design toolkits for Campaign Series: Vietnam, a work-in-progress tactical platoon-scale wargame.

It’s a pleasure, Campaign Series Wargamers,

You may have heard of the “Phoenix Program,” and possibly that its basic mission was to “assassinate” Viet Cong leaders. But, according to Bill Colby, the Saigon CIA station chief,

” . . . neither Phoenix nor its action arms were assassination programs, as critics charged . . .” This is because it is better instead to use captured insurgents for additional intelligence. This article explains this and other aspects of counterinsurgency in more detail, and how they were applied in Vietnam.

Counterinsurgency Theory

Roger Trinquier commanded French counterinsurgency forces in the First Indochina War. (Groupements de Commandos Mixtes Aeroportes, GCMA) He was one of the early counterinsurgency theorists, and wrote Modern Warfare, in 1961. His writings influenced US military and CIA counterinsurgency efforts in Vietnam

Trinquier’s theory identifies an insurgency as well organized militarily and politically, with the goal to destabilize established order, and overthrow the existing regime. Terror is the primary method of warfare.

The political organization is compartmentalized and hierarchal. It consists of cells, cell groups, and districts. As an example, a demi-cell has three members. Two demi-cells plus a leader make a cell of seven. Two cells plus a leader form a demi-group of fifteen people. This pattern continues until groups, sub districts, and districts are formed having 127 total membership. Compartmentalization means that members of one cell do not know members of a different one. (This is “by design” to hinder counterinsurgency intelligence gathering.)

The military organization is similar, but perhaps smaller. By combination of members, committees are formed  for liason, intelligence, propaganda, enforcement, financial, labor unions, and sabotage. (bomb network)

The means of control is through intimidation and threats. Cell members approach an innocent civilian, and request money. If he refuses, they threaten him physically. Usually, they can extort him to make monthly payments. In time, they recruit him to collect funds from other civilians, and so on, in a “ponzi scheme” manner.

Ultimately, the insurgency offers the civilian cell membership if he can “prove” his worth by killing someone for no particular reason. If he commits the murder, he is recruited into a cell. And, the cell now has “blackmail” evidence to use against him if he gets “out of line.”

The military organization spreads terror through public bombings or other sabotage missions. They may also engage in assassination. They are supported in turn by the political organization.

As the insurgency gains power, and the public loses confidence in the government, the insurgent military grows, and then overthrows the regime.

Trinquier offers a theory on how to combat and defeat the insurgency. The key is to gain and maintain public allegiance and confidence in the existing government.

A counterinsurgency organization is formed with close police force cooperation. The organization is hierarchical, with an intelligence component.  Early in the struggle, a census of the entire population must be conducted, and photo-ID cards issued. A database of all citizens is essential.

By means of interrogation of criminals, and surveys of innocent civilians, intelligence is gathered, documented, and shared. It is critical to establish an intelligence network, and identify members and leaders of the insurgency cells. Efforts must be made to determine and understand the insurgency organization.

Declare war openly and publicly against the insurgency. Identify them by name. Use broad police action, and if necessary, involve military forces. Set up detection, surveillance, and then make arrests. Offer arrested insurgents leniency in exchange for information.

Implement social programs to give the population material and moral assistance. Freeze or confiscate insurgent financial assets using the banking system. Use propaganda liberally.

Incarcerate and/or execute arrested insurgents that do not cooperate. Make sure the population knows of each arrest, and sentences carried out. Naturally, efforts to gain cooperation from the press are useful. In this way, an insurgent network can be dismantled.

Lt Col Roger Trinquier

Viet Cong

In the Vietnam War after the French departure, the Viet Cong (VC) were the military organization of the insurgency in South Vietnam. They operated under a front organization, National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam. (NLF) In reality, the People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP) controlled everything, and were the political part of the insurgency. The Party had a cell structure, and formed committees at each of the country’s administrative levels (national, regional, provincial, district, and village.) The Party supplied recruits, money, intelligence, and supplies to guerrilla forces. (Viet Cong)

Cadres levied taxes, recruited rural population to join military units, and gathered information from farmers and others about enemy operations. Through propaganda, they promised a better way of life through land reform, wealth redistribution, and freedom from government repression, onerous taxation, and military conscription.

The Viet Cong used terrorism against the South Vietnamese Government forces, and sabotage. They threatened civilians to keep them in line and to recruit them.

Early Counterinsurgency Efforts

Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) was a program launched in 1963. It used offers of amnesty and resettlement to encourage defections from the VC and the NVA. According to one estimate, the program was responsible for generating 194000 “ralliers” during 1963–1971. Many of these defectors were low-level personnel, and few were from the NVA. Nevertheless, the program generated large amounts of useful information about insurgent motivation, morale, and organization.

The Census Grievance program sent South Vietnamese survey teams to villages. They interviewed one member of every family, to develop an understanding of popular anti-government sentiments, and to gather intelligence on the VCI. The program generated vast amounts of information, although in a largely pre-digital age, it was difficult and time consuming to assess and exploit the data.

Revolutionary Development (RD) cadres were a CIA initiative. The RD program grew out of emerging propaganda and recruiting efforts by the Diem government, such as the action civique and Xay Dung Nong Thon [Rural Development] programs. A deliberate mirror image of the VC, RD cadres were armed teams of young South Vietnamese sent into the countryside to live with villagers, spread pro-GVN and anticommunist propaganda, and recruit for village militias and associations. While ambitious, the RD program failed to gain traction in the countryside.

Counter-Terror Teams (CTT) were similar to the RD cadres. CTTs were organized, trained, and equipped by the CIA, and modeled on Vietnamese-communist methods. The CTTs were trained for small-unit operations deep within VC-dominated areas aimed at capturing (or, if necessary, killing) Viet Cong members.

Phoenix Program

By far the most effective, and most controversial program was the Phoenix Program began in June 1967. It was believed to be modeled after principles in Trinquier’s book, Modern Warfare. Although the CIA established the program, the Saigon government provided the bulk of the manpower. The Vietnamese name was Phung Hoang, named after a mythical Vietnamese bird, somewhat similar to the Phoenix. They set up coordinating committees at the national, regional, and provincial levels. These included representatives from the National Police, the Special Police Branch, the National Police Field Force, the Chieu Hoi amnesty program, the RD cadre, the Military Security Service, the military intelligence, and the Provincial Reconnaissance Units. (PRU)

Each province had a Province Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center. (PIOCC) Likewise each district had a District Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center. (DIOCC) Phoenix was backed by two US agencies: the CIA and MACV. CIA Phoenix advisers at the PIOCC level would mentor the DIOCC advisers.

Most pertinent to anti-VC operations is the fact that they organized an “Order of Battle Branch” that tracked both the Viet Cong (military)  and PRP (political) organizations to determine their composition and identify leaders. Using a variety of intelligence sources, the Political Order of Battle Section labored to produce dossiers on Viet Cong members for storage and recall by an automated system. By 1967, more than 6,000 dossiers on suspected Viet Cong and Party personnel were compiled.

Phoenix was designed to coordinate and disseminate intelligence primarily through the PIOCCs and the DIOCCs. Phoenix created no new operational units, and controlled no forces on the ground. Efforts to disrupt the Viet Cong were assisted by the South Vietnam’s National Police, National Police Field Force, U.S. and Vietnamese conventional armed forces. But, the most effective counterinsurgency forces were the Provincial Reconnaissance Units. PRU.

The CIA decided to reestablish its control over the CTTs, and as a first step, the agency rebranded the teams. The new name, the Provincial Reconnaissance Units, signaled important changes in direction. In highly politicized conflicts during which struggles for “hearts and minds” are under way, names matter, and the term Provincial Reconnaissance Unit had none of the lurid connotations of Counter-Terror Team, at least not initially. The new name was also meant to signal a reorientation of the units away from killing suspected members of the Viet Cong. Henceforth, the paramount mission of the PRUs was not to kill adversaries, but to apprehend and use them for intelligence purposes.

Operating in all of South Vietnam’s provinces, and never numbering more than 5000 men, the PRUs were in essence an intelligence-driven police force. They were better trained, equipped, and paid than the South Vietnamese National Police. They had a highly specialized mission, to be sure, but they were a police force nonetheless.

Although sometimes unavoidable, killing a suspect was not the primary intention of PRU operations. Rather, in the words of John Mullins, an American PRU adviser, “prisoner snatches were key. You can’t get information out of a dead man.”

A typical PRU was made up of five 18-man teams, which were in turn broken down into smaller units for operations at the district level. With American advisers accompanying their operations, PRUs had access to air support when they encountered heavy resistance. As of May 1970, 102 US military personnel and five civilians were advising PRUs.

In the late 1960s, unfavorable publicity about the PRUs began to appear. According to the CIA, anti-infrastructure operations – including those carried out by the PRUs, the National Police, and allied conventional military units – were responsible for capturing, killing, or persuading to defect (“neutralizing” in the somewhat sinister language of the time) more than 80000 insurgents between  1968 and 1972.

In the judgment of some key American participants, such as William Colby, the fight against what he termed the secret apparatus kept the pressure on the communist underground, which helped to sever its connection with the rural population, thereby cutting off communist access to manpower and other key resources. However, according to Colby, the Vietnamese communists “attributed their problems to Phoenix, when they really should have attributed them to the growth of self-defense forces and that sort of thing.” Although abuses did occur, neither Phoenix nor its action arms were assassination programs, as critics charged, but negative publicity helped shape public perceptions that the United States engaged in questionable practices.

CIA adviser with South Vietnamese forces

CIA adviser with South Vietnamese forces


A variety of border intelligence and interdiction efforts were conducted by the US in an attempt to monitor and interdict supplies moving from North Vietnam into South Vietnam.

After 1967, the HQ 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), provided administrative support to MACV-SOG Special Forces soldiers in Vietnam.

The human intelligence effort is best characterized by the special operations program known as OP 35. OP 35 was the Air Studies Group component of MACV’s blandly named Studies and Observation Group (SOG). SOG was in fact a cover for special operations, and to provide anonymity for the organization and its personnel, OPS-35 had an administrative affiliation with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

OP 35 was the component focused on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. OP 35 utilized small reconnaissance patrols, generally composed of a few U.S. Army Special Forces and several locally recruited tribesmen (for a total team size of about 12), to locate infiltrators and call in air strikes on the targets.

Additionally, OP 35 patrols emplaced sensors for IGLOO WHITE, performed bomb damage assessment, and even conducted limited direct-action missions to capture prisoners or destroy facilities. In addition to the cross-border OP 35, US Army Special Forces camps along the Vietnamese side of the border also provided the ability to gather intelligence aimed at interdicting infiltration. These camps grew out of area-security programs begun in the early 1960s that eventually became a program known as the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG). In addition to area security, U.S. Army Special Forces intelligence efforts known as Projects Delta, Sigma, and Omega helped locate insurgent bases inside South Vietnam.

In June 1969, the killing of a suspected double agent Thai Khac Chuyen, and the attempt to cover it up, led to the arrest in July of seven officers and one non-commissioned officer of the 5th Special Forces Group .(Airborne) This included the new commander, Colonel Robert B. Rheault in what became known as the “Green Beret Affair.” This was related to Project Gamma in Cambodia, similar to Projects Delta, Sigma, etc. American newspapers and television picked up the story, which became another lightning rod for anti-war feeling.

5th Special Forces Group Patch

5th Special Forces Group Patch

Vietnam Primer

Colonel David Hackworth and Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall wrote the “Vietnam Primer” after Hackworth returned from his first tour in Vietnam. The 23-page primer provides many useful hints for conventional forces combating guerillas. Here are a few of the points made by the primer.

The Post-Action Critique –  An important infantry battalion practice is to conduct critique sessions after engagements. This gives the commander a chance to understand what happened from each soldier’s point of view. These critiques, when properly conducted identify weaknesses that can be corrected in later firefights.

District Assault – A company sized attack on a fortified village or base camp can result in heavy losses without adequate preparations. The NVA or VC main forces were determined to defend, with booby traps, hidden tunnels, and unforeseen trenches and machine gun nests.

When coming in contact with this situation, fire teams should hold their position and even fake a withdrawal, while maintaining heavy weapons fire. First take cover, and “fix” the enemy. Most importantly, hit defenses with heavy artillery fire and airstrikes. Once reinforcements arrive, gradually advance with the intent to encircle, and block VC retreat paths. Escalate an assault after artillery and heavy weapons fire has weakened the defenses.

Warning and Movement – During small unit movement, all ground should be approached as though Viet Cong are present in force. Any company or smaller unit encounter with a built up or fortified area should wait for artillery and heavy weapons assistance before considering an assault. If enemy fire continues after making initial contact, interpret it as a warning that larger forces are present.

Doubling Security – The highest shock killing losses occur in the first stage of engagement. Resist the urgency to “get on with it.” March movement should be cautious, with alert scouts. Predetermined objectives, rendezvous points, and LZs should be approached with appropriate recon and caution, with lower priority on meeting time schedules. Getting into a rush creates ambush vulnerabilities.

Contending With Jungle – In thick jungle, combat is at close range, perhaps 20 meters. This is not an advantage for heavy weapons. The canopy may prevent effective use of smoke flares for marking. Mortars are useless under the canopy. Reinforcement advance is often erratic, ponderous, and exhausting. Medevac is highly impractical.

Communications – Many  radio operators get shot up as their conspicuous equipment invariably attracts sniper fire. Concealing PRC-25 radios in standard rucksacks is a wise precaution. But no less invariably, the shift to another frequency or the improvising of a relay saves the day.

Trail Security – Use of the “cloverleaf” pattern for making security sweeps is very important. The object is to scout a limited area around the unit during a security or rest halts or before the troops set up the night defense. Four patrols are sent out anywhere from 100 to 500 meters for this all-around sweep.

Ruses, Decoys, and Ambushes – The Viet Cong have many tricks. Most depend on creating these illusions: 1)  American forces caught the Viet Cong off guard and 2) Viet Cong are present, but weak and unaware. Whenever the enemy makes his presence obvious, ask the question: “Is this the beginning of some design of his own, intended to suck us in by making us believe that we are about to snare him?” This question should be asked before any operation proceeds.

Policing the Battlefield – Every dud grenade or unexploded artillery shell left behind is a gift to the Viet Cong. Discarded C- ration tin cans be transformed into booby traps. The enemy is good at such tricks, and they return to the field to look for free items, as soon as American troops leave. Thus it is extremely important to collect all debris, and carry it back to the base. Combat leaders in Vietnam must prod their men to police the premises before quitting the perimeter and moving on. Undue emphasis on making body count surveys can be dangerous. In Operation Nathan Hale, three men working through a banana grove were hit by sniper fire. They were counting bodies.


Well established theories exist, and have been applied in counterinsurgency. However, success also depends on “isolating the battlefield.” Unfortunately in Vietnam, this was not done, and the counterinsurgency efforts did not prevent infitration from the Ho Chi Minh trail. Laos remained an important sanctuary for Viet Cong. The Phoenix Program was moderately successful, but it became controversial, and communists and anti-war activists used it for propaganda.


“Modern Warfare,”  Roger Trinquier

RAND “The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency,” William Rosenau, Austin Long

“Vietnam Primer,” Colonel David Hackworth and Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall

Col Hackworth is credited with transforming the pitiful 4-39th Inf “Heartbreak” Battalion into the effective “Hardcore” Battalion in 1969. To do so, he used principles described in his “Vietnam Primer.”

mpaign Series Vietnam | Hack's Hardcore Hints