CLIP, CLOP, AND BUDDIES: VIETNAMIZATION AND
OPERATIONAL LEVEL LOGISTICS 1968-1971
A thesis presented to the Faculty of the U.S. Army
Command and General Staff College in partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the
MASTER OF MILITARY ART AND SCIENCE
Art of War Scholars
ANDREW P. BETSON, MAJOR, US ARMY
M.A., University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, 2010
B.S., United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, 2004
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
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US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) logisticians and logistics advisors faced a difficult problem
set in transferring operational-level logistics tasks to the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) after US
President Richard Nixon announced his Vietnamization Policy. US logisticians had to sustain combat operations
while retrograding US personnel and equipment, transferring materiel to the RVNAF, and handing over logistical
tasks. The RVNAF grew rapidly in size and complexity around a fledgling administrative infrastructure, deeply
reliant on US support for logistics. MACV published the Combined Logistics Offensive Plan and the Country
Logistics Improvement Plan to Vietnamize operational level logistics. While these plans demonstrated critical
thought by MACV, they were late in coming, lacked synchronization, and failed to leverage the natural potential
of operational-level support commands to train the RVNAF in the art and science of logistics. General Joseph
Heiser, Jr.’s Project Buddy in the 1st Logistical Command represented the untapped potential. As withdrawal
schedules increasingly demanded logisticians’ attention throughout South Vietnam, the RVNAF’s capabilities, and
the Vietnamization plans, faced difficult tests. An analysis (using the Generate-Transport-Sustain-Redeploy
construct) of the operational-level logistics supporting Operation Lam Son 719, the incursion into Laos in 1971,
revealed the RVNAF’s heavy reliance on US logistics support.
15. SUBJECT TERMS
Vietnam War, Logistics, Vietnamization, Theater Logistics, Combined Logistics Offensive, Country
Logistics Improvement Plan, Distribution, Port Operations, Security Force Assistance, Lam Son 719
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MASTER OF MILITARY ART AND SCIENCE
THESIS APPROVAL PAGE
Name of Candidate: Major Andrew P. Betson
Thesis Title: CLIP, CLOP, and Buddies: Vietnamization and Operational Level
Tony R. Mullis, PhD
Thesis Committee Chair
Dean A. Nowowiejski, PhD
Allan S. Boyce, M.S.
Accepted this 10th day of June 2016 by:
Robert F. Baumann, Ph.D.
, Director, Graduate Degree Programs
The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the student author and do not
necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Anny Command and General Staff College or
any other governmental agency. (References to this study should include the foregoing
CLIP, CLOP, AND BUDDIES: VIETNAMIZATION AND OPERATIONAL LEVEL
LOGISTICS 1968-1972, by Major Andrew P. Betson, 149 pages.
US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) logisticians and logistics advisors
faced a difficult problem set in transferring operational-level logistics tasks to the
Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) after US President Richard Nixon
announced his Vietnamization Policy. US logisticians had to sustain combat operations
while retrograding US personnel and equipment, transferring materiel to the RVNAF,
and handing over logistical tasks. The RVNAF grew rapidly in size and complexity
around a fledgling administrative infrastructure, deeply reliant on US support for
MACV published the Combined Logistics Offensive Plan and the Country Logistics
Improvement Plan to Vietnamize operational level logistics. While these plans
demonstrated critical thought by MACV, they were late in coming, lacked
synchronization, and failed to leverage the natural potential of operational-level support
commands to train the RVNAF in the art and science of logistics. General Joseph Heiser,
Jr.’s Project Buddy in the 1st Logistical Command represented the untapped potential.
As withdrawal schedules increasingly demanded logisticians’ attention throughout South
Vietnam, the RVNAF’s capabilities, and the Vietnamization plans, faced difficult tests.
An analysis (using the Generate-Transport-Sustain-Redeploy construct) of the
operational-level logistics supporting Operation Lam Son 719, the incursion into Laos in
1971, revealed the RVNAF’s heavy reliance on US logistics support.
I must first recognize and thank my wife and children for their patience,
understanding, and support during this endeavor. The days on research trips, quasi¬
residency in the library, and countless hours researching and writing meant an increased
burden on my wife in the fonn of diapers, baths, and bedtimes. I could not have done this
without her, and the ability to get smiling faces and jumping hugs at the end of the day.
My thesis committee, Dr. Randy Mullis, Dr. Dean Nowowiejski, and Mr. A1
Boyce, inspired me to continue this project through the ebbs and flows inherent in the
process. I greatly appreciated the balanced timely reassurance, patient discussions, and
occasional “stimulation” that helped me get to the finish.
The Art of War Scholars Program, notably the Ike Skelton Chair, Dr. Dean
Nowowiejski, and my library carrel buddy and sounding board, Major Zach Alessi-
Friedlander were instrumental in this process. The rest of the team drove me to question
my fundamental understanding of war and warfare. Additionally, I owe much to my
bosses and colleagues in the West Point Defense and Strategic Studies program,
particularly Dr. Brian Detoy, for thrusting me into the world of military logistics.
Finally, the inspiration for this study resulted from research funded by the Omar
N. Bradley Foundation. This opened my eyes to archival research that was supported by
the excellent staffs at the US Army Heritage and Education Center, and the Ike Skelton
Combined Anns Research Library, particularly John Dubuisson, whose research
assistance formed the nucleus of much of the primary source documentation for this
TABLE OF CONTENTS
MASTER OF MILITARY ART AND SCIENCE THESIS APPROVAL PAGE.iii
TABLE OF CONTENTS.vi
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION.1
What is/are Logistics?—The GTSR Cycle.3
Literature Review and Sources.9
CHAPTER 2 COMPARATIVE LOGISTICS SYSTEMS, POLICY, AND
Logistics of an Americanized War.22
RVNAF Logistics System.29
The Strategic Environment.38
CHAPTER 3 CLIP, CLOP, AND BUDDIES.47
The Combined Logistics Offensive Plan—CLOP.49
Country Logistics Improvement Program—CLIP.56
LTG Joseph Heiser, Civic Action, and Project Buddy.64
CHAPTER 4 IDENTIFYING GAPS: LAM SON 719 AND RVNAF’S RELIANCE
The RVNAF Goes on the Offensive.82
Operation Lam Son 719.87
The Logistical Plan.90
Lam Son 719—Operational GTSR Cycle.101
CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION
Areas for Further Research.119
APPENDIX A COMBINED LOGISTICS OFFENSIVE PLAN EXCERPT.123
APPENDIX B COUNTRY LOGISTICS IMPROVEMENT PLAN EXCERPT.129
Area Logistical Command. RVNAF geographic logistical commands
subordinate to the Central Logistics Command
Army of the Republic of Vietnam
Central Logistics Command
Country Logistics Improvement Plan
Combined Logistics Offensive Program
Central Office for South Vietnam
Combined RVNAF Improvement and Modernization Program
Corps Tactical Zone
Forward Support Area
Fire Support Base
General Support Group
Generate-Transport-Sustain-Redeploy. A model for thinking about
Joint General Staff
Logistics Offensive Coordination Center
Military Assistance Command Vietnam
North Vietnamese Army
Operations Report on Lessons Learned
Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants
RVNAF Improvement and Modernization Management System
Republic of Vietnam. Another name for South Vietnam
Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces
Security Force Assistance
Senior Officer Debriefing Report
United States Army, Vietnam. The US Army Service Component
Command in the theater of operations.
Area Support Command. US geographic logistical commands subordinate
to the 1st Logistical Command
Vietnam Air Force
Figure 1. GTSR Cycle: A Way of Thinking about Military Logistics.6
Figure 2. Ports, Land Lines of Communication and Major Logistic Commands.26
Figure 3. RVNAF Area Logistical Commands.32
Figure 4. Logistics Master Plan Management Chart.57
Figure 5. 1970 Cambodian Incursion.83
Figure 6. Organization for Logistic Support, Cambodian Incursion, 1970.85
Figure 7. Operational Map—Lam Son 719.88
Figure 8. Ports Supporting Operation Lam Son 719.91
Figure 9. RVNAF Operational Logistics Units Supporting Lam Son 719.96
The United States Army’s logisticians in Vietnam faced myriad challenges from
1968-1971. US President Richard M. Nixon established a policy of Vietnamization to
transfer warfighting responsibility to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), and its armed
forces (RVNAF), to include the Anny of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). This policy
paved the way for the withdrawal of US and Free World Forces from the conflict. The
withdrawal, however, was not uncontested. The new commander of the Military
Advisory Command in Vietnam (MACV), General Creighton Abrams, would have to
continue to fight a determined insurgent force, supported by a capable enemy anny
equipped by communist patrons. His commitment to a “One War” concept, giving equal
measure to the combat and pacification efforts, meant that his troops would engage in
significant combat operations, ranging from local patrols to secure the population, to the
invasion of two neighboring countries.
The US Army’s operational-level logisticians in the final years of the war had
their work cut out for them in this environment. They had to sustain major combat
operations, facilitate the withdrawal from theater of more troops than exist in the entire
2016 active US Anny, and transfer effectively all of their tasks to the RVNAF or to RVN
civilians. 1 The last of these tasks supported most directly the military/political end state
1 Walter J. Woolwine, “Vietnam Redeployment and Materiel Retrograde,” Army
Logistician 3, no. 4 (July-August 1971): 8-9.
desired by the Nixon Administration a functional, friendly RVN capable of defending its
borders, but each goal influenced the others.
This study examines how, and evaluates how well, the Americans Vietnamized
the art and science of operational level logistics by describing the challenges inherent in
the problem, analyzing the plan that guided MACV, and considering South Vietnamese
perfonnance in major operations in 1970-71. Such an analysis, however, demands
elaboration of some definitions and context. This study’s first chapter defines logistics
and, specifically, refines the concept of the operational level of logistics. Then, it captures
the literature and sources pertaining to logistics in the latter years of the Vietnam War,
and the American efforts to transfer these important tasks to the South Vietnamese.
Chapter 2 describes the American and South Vietnamese logistical systems, and
recounts the general military situation in South Vietnam in 1968-1972. Understanding the
inherent logistical challenges for the Americans and South Vietnamese in the early years
of the conflict provides the appropriate context to understanding the challenges of the
final years. Next, the chapter addresses how the January 1968 Tet Offensive and the
arrival of Richard M. Nixon administration changed the strategic approach in the war. A
summary of how this approach took shape in tenns of operations and troops withdrawals
presents a clear picture of the environment in which the operational logisticians operated.
Chapter 3 details the reality of Vietnamization at the operational level. It explains
the plan for handing over the support tasks through an analysis of MACV’s Combined
Logistics Offensive Plan (CLOP) and Country Logistics Improvement Plan (CLIP), and
how they fell within the larger combined campaign plan. Next, the chapter shows the
influence of a dynamic, prescient leader named Joseph Heiser, Jr. and how his
organization began to support the Vietnamization effort. It describes how logistics
organizations possess natural potential for training host nation forces, and how various
Area Support Commands took measures to improve their counterparts through an On-the-
Job Training (OJT) program called Project Buddy.
The fourth chapter examines how effectively MACV Vietnamized operational
logistics by studying major ARVN operations after 1969. After providing context by
addressing the logistical challenges of the US/ARVN 1970 incursion into Cambodia, it
deliberately addresses the invasion of Laos. The chapter shows how the planning process
for the operation and the execution of operational-level logistics reveals the depths to
which the RVNAF relied on the Americans to conduct major operations.
The final chapter of this study synthesizes the lessons of the previous chapters to
show that MACV did a poor job Vietnamizing operational-level logistics, but shows the
competing demands that presupposed this result. After summarizing the scope of this
historical study, it addresses areas for future study, and the contemporary value of the
study. A coherent conclusion, however, requires a coherent understanding of military
logistics, a complex topic of strategic and military affairs.
What is/are Logistics?—The GTSR Cycle
Defining “logistics” is an age-old problem for those who study military art and
strategy. Consider the word itself. Should one ask “What is logistics?” or “What are
logistics?” Fleet Admiral Ernest King, the Chief of Naval Operations in World War II,
reputedly said, “I don’t kn ow what the hell this ‘logistics’ is that Marshall is always
talking about, but I want some of it.” 2 Apocryphal as this quote may be, it relays the
complexity of the concept.
The range of definitions and concepts associated with the tenn is wide, indeed.
Antoine de Jomini, in his seminal work The Art of War defined it as everything up to the
clash between annies, to include reconnaissance and engineering. 3 Admiral Henry
Eccles, in his work Logistics and the National Defense, stated that logistics is the bridge
between military operations and the national economy. 4 Noted modem war theorist Colin
Gray describes logistics as the “arbiter of strategic opportunity.” 5 Most theorists that
address the subject acknowledge the importance of the topic beyond how many short tons
can be carried on a particular truck, train, or barge. Logistics is both an art and a science
that can make or break a military. 6
Given the disparity in definitions, it helps to have a construct with which to
understand logistics. This paper uses the Generate-Transport-Sustain-Redeploy (GTSR)
2 Naval Supply Systems Command, “Logistics Quotations,” US Air Lorce,
accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/navy/
3 Antoine de Jomini, The Art of War, trans. G. H. Mendell and W. P. Craighill
(Rockville, MD: Arc Manor, 2007), 189-191.
4 Henry Eccles, Logistics and the National Defense (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole,
5 Colin Gray, Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace, and Strategy
(Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007), 115.
6 See for instance George C. Thorpe, Pure Logistics: The Science of War
Preparation (Washington, DC: National Defense University, 1986).
concept. 7 It defines logistics as a series of GTSR cycles at the tactical, operational, and
strategic levels. Generation at the strategic level includes manning and equipping a
military. In this phase a country either develops or procures its tanks, ships, planes, and
the materiel needed to sustain its military. The generation phase also encapsulates all of
the activities needed to prepare this military force for conflict.
Transportation at the strategic level includes the establishment of nodes and lines
of communication for the movement of the materiel and personnel into a theater of
operation. This may be done on the surface (ground and/or sea) or through the air, and
includes the major activities at terminals until it reaches the theater. The transportation
phase requires the ability to establish and improve these lines of communication.
Once this collection of personnel and materiel is inside a theater of operations, it
must be sustained. Sustainment includes maintenance of the men and materiel through a
continuous provision of all classes of supply. Furthermore, the sustainment phase
includes all of the infrastructure required to conduct major overhaul of materiel that may
have been destroyed or expended. It is in the strategic-level GTSR Cycle’s sustain phase
that the operational-level GTSR cycle emerges. The operational level GTSR cycle will be
7 1 developed the G-T-S-R construct while I was an instructor at the United States
Military Academy. As the reading suggests, it was difficult to find something simple for
my students to draw upon to understand how logistics influence military strategy. While
the tenns are similar to another construct, my definition of the term is more
comprehensive because it includes the Force Management process as military logistics
and adds redeployment to the cycle. For similar construct, see William L. Scott, “Combat
Logistics,” in The Fundamentals of Military Logistics: A Primer of the Logistics
Infrastructure, ed. Craig M. Brandt (Dayton, OH: Defense Institute of Security
Assistance Management, 2005), 169-181.
Finally, once a military force has completed (or ultimately failed to complete) its
mission, it must redeploy. This oft-overlooked phase of logistics includes disengagement
and movement out of the theater, and the disposal or transfer of equipment or property.
Movement along SLOCs
Transport includes the establishment and
protection of lines of communications and
bases of supply
Maintenance of military forces:
Health and Human Services
Provision of all classes of supply
At strategic level, transition from transport
to sustain phases is marked by entry into a
theater of operations
A Way of Thinking about Military Logistics
Figure 1. GTSR Cycle: A Way of Thinking about Military Logistics
Source : Created by author.
The tactical level GTSR cycle is often what comes to mind when one discusses
logistics. It generally includes the actions and activities where the logisticians fall
organically within combat organizations, such as in division or corps support commands.
The generate phase is the most obscure phase at the tactical level when one considers a
developed force like the US military. However, a developing nation’s tactical units may
commonly find foraging necessary for their forces in austere environments among
population centers. This author, for instance, learned in 2015 how Nigerien forces
procured their sustenance locally while securing their cities.
Tactical transportation includes the distribution of all classes of supply along lines
of communication within an area of operations. This includes the delivery of combat
power to the battlefield, such as utility helicopters delivering troops and supplies to
landing zones amidst a battle.
Tactical sustainment pertains to the maintenance of the troops and materiel within
an organization. Whether it is preventative care, maintenance, and checks on equipment,
or conducting sick call for soldiers, or providing a hot meal at a mobile kitchen, these
activities ensure the longevity of the tactical forces.
Tactical redeployment includes the ultimate extraction of tactical units from an
engagement area, and the evacuation of troops and material in the midst of the fighting.
For example, the ability to triage, provide immediate care for, and evacuate a wounded
soldier falls within tactical redeployment.
Couched between the strategic and tactical GTSR cycles is the operational GTSR
cycle, which will be used as a tool for evaluating RVNAF logistical capability. The
operational GTSR cycle refers to the supply and support activities and actions in a
theater, or in support of a major operation. Operational generation includes local
procurement of supplies. For instance, a military may find it cheaper to purchase oil from
a provider near their area of operations, rather than ship it from their country of origin.
Transportation at the operational level includes the establishment, improvement,
and maintenance of nodes and lines of communications within the theater. Activities in
this phase include terminal operations, such as port clearance, and theater distribution.
Often overlooked, this phase includes the demanding task of synchronizing the
movement and transfer of the classes of supply.
Like the strategic level, the operational sustainment phase contains the tactical
GTSR cycle, but also includes major depot operations that enable the lower level
activities. This includes warehousing days of supply for a theater, or in support of a major
operation, ensuring uninterrupted availability of the classes of supply.
While the tactical redeployment phase includes the evacuation of troops and
materials out of companies and battalions, the operational phase includes the evacuation
of the same out of the divisions and corps. Moreover, this phase includes the often
overlooked tasks of accounting for property at the conclusion of major operations, and
the retrograde of supplies and equipment once the combat arms units no longer need
them. The operational-level GTSR cycle framework serves as a productive tool for
evaluating a military’s logistical capability and capacity.
The scope of this study finds the US military transitioning from the sustain phase
to the redeploy phase at the strategic level. Meanwhile, the ongoing hostilities between
North and South Vietnam compelled the RVNAF to assume logistical activities the US
once executed. The following chapters focus on how well MACV Vietnamized the
activities in the operational-level GTSR cycle. A hard look at the RVNAF’s operational-
level GTSR capability provides insight into their true warfighting prowess. The
complexity of the interplay between the art and science of warfare and logistics
developed in this thesis contributes to the small amount that is written about the subject.
This applies particularly to the literature associated with the waning years of the Vietnam
Literature Review and Sources
Historians have not written much about the American military’s relationship to
RVNAF logistics after the Tet Offensive. Only a few published works address how
effectively MACV Vietnamized logistics efforts. The few authors on the subject agree
generally that the RVNAF struggled to assume the support requirements of a modem
military, but that this was no surprise to the military and political leaders involved in the
conflict. The nuances of the subject reside within a few secondary works, but mainly
among the wide range of available primary sources.
In contrast to the number of works specifically addressing the Vietnamization of
operational logistics, there is plethora of literature that consider, evaluate, and often
criticize the Vietnamization policy’s effectiveness. While the many works on
Vietnamization in total is beyond the scope of this work, some of the general evaluations
cannot be ignored.
The literature that most contributes to this work falls into three general categories;
topical histories, specific works on logistics in the Vietnam War, and the works related to
Operation Lam Son 719, the invasion of Laos. Within the topical histories, there is a
healthy discourse on the effectiveness of the Americans’ operational approaches in
Vietnam, to include evaluations of Nixon’s Vietnamization policy, and the course of the
war after the Tet Offensive. Most military histories have a general appreciation for
logistics and address them in stride, but often inadequately. The second category, those
on logistics in the war, are few but provide first-hand knowledge about the herculean
efforts to sustain both the American military and the RVNAF. Finally, military histories
of the 1971 invasion of Laos provide the opportunity to draw out logistical implications
of the operation.
The secondary source histories that aid in understanding military logistics fall into
two general categories. First, readers will benefit from historical works on logistics to
gain an appreciation for how they influence operations and strategy. Secondly, general
histories of the conflict, of the years of withdrawal, and those on post-Tet operations,
such as the incursions into Cambodia and Laos, provide the context within which the
logisticians attempted to crack this tough nut.
In United States Army Logistics, Steve Waddell of the History Department at the
United States Military Academy surveys the bureaucracy and logistical efforts in US
military history. His work complements the more famous Sinews of War by James
Huston by extending the topic beyond the Korean War to 2011. After addressing some of
the exigencies and difficulties that faced logistics planners up to 1968, Waddell provides
very little for the latter years of the conflict. His greatest contributions involves a concise
report on the withdrawal operation named Keystone. Additionally, he notes the
extravagance and plenty that American soldiers have experienced since the Second
World War. This aspect of American military history informed how American advisors
approached the buildup of the RVNAF. 8
Waddell’s work illustrates a gap in the literature on logistics in the Vietnam War.
Many histories address the great challenges faced in establishing the logistics network.
Joel Meyerson concludes John Lynn’s Feeding Mars by recounting the theater’s
8 Steve Waddell, United States Army Logistics (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger
Security International, 2010), 162-166.
challenges and how the US Army structured itself to face them. 9 Economic historian
Marc Levinson similarly describes the logistics environment in the early- and mid- 1960s
and explains how it led to the worldwide standardization of the shipping container in The
Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy
Bigger. 10 This prevailing understanding of the logistics challenges of the war is likely
influenced by General William Westmoreland’s final report and memoir. Westmoreland
commanded MACV from 1964 to 1968, when he handed over command to General
Abrams. He produced jointly with US Navy Admiral U.S.G. Sharp, the Commander in
Chief Pacific from 1964-1968, a Report on the War in Vietnam, which included an
infonnative appendix on “Logistics and Base Development.” 11 Lurthennore, he directly
addresses some of his logistics challenges and how they influenced some command
decisions in his memoir, A Soldier Reports. 12 These prolific works by the controversial
9 Joel D. Meyerson, “War Plans and Politics: Origins of the American Base of
Supply in Vietnam,” in Feeding Mars, ed. John A. Lynn (Boulder, CO: Westview Press,
1993), 271-287. Feeding Mars is very much an answer to Martin Van Creveld’s seminal
work Supplying War. The various authors address some concerns in Van Creveld’s
conclusions, and add some critical American experiences. Van Creveld notably did not
address the American Civil War, nor, perhaps understandably given his first edition’s
publication date, the Vietnam War. Van Creveld responded to Lynn’s edited volume in
his second edition. See Martin Van Creveld, Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein
to Patton, 2nded. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
10 Marc Levinson, The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller
and the World Economy Bigger, 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press:
11 U. S. G. Sharp and William Westmoreland, Report on the War in Vietnam
(Washington, DC: Government Reprints Press, 2001), 253-266.
12 William Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports (Garden City, NY: Doubleday,
1976), 124-125, 185-188.
commander seem to have inspired rightful interest in the logistics challenges of the early
years, but left little interest in the Abrams’ years of command.
In The Lifeblood of War, Julian Thompson did not constrain himself to the
Westmoreland years. Like Waddell, he also addresses the Americans’ propensity for
lavish logistics in his chapter “Insufficiency and Super-Abundance.” Thompson, fonnerly
a British commando brigade commander during the Falkland Islands War, contrasts how
the French could not muster sufficient supplies during their years of trying to maintain a
unified Vietnam with the abundance of American forces. He directly addresses some of
Vietnamization’s shortcomings, and discusses some logistical components of the
Cambodian Incursion, Lam Son 719, and the Easter Offensive. Thompson drew heavily
from both Khuyen and Heiser (discussed below), but he lacked the reports from the Area
Support Commands to address what efforts the Americans made. 13
While the historiography of military logistics is meek, that is not the case for the
Vietnam War in general. Many seek to explain how such a world power as the United
States failed to establish a viable South Vietnam. While most of these works provide
useful context, they generally lack substantive discussion of logistics, but for treatment of
the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail. George Herring’s seminal work, America’s Longest War,
reflects how most single volume histories of the war approached the topic. Herring
devotes a few pages to Vietnamization, with special emphasis on how the Americans
made the RVNAF into a large modern force seemingly overnight, but not before the
13 Julian Thompson, The Lifeblood of War (London: Brassey’s, 1991), 206-219.
RVNAF had become overly dependent on its ally. 14 Herring alludes to the relationship of
the logistical requirements of the modernization of the RVNAF and their reliance on the
Americans with respect to logistics, but lack any in depth discussion in his influential
Two histories that focus on the war after the Tet offensive have slightly differing
views of American success. In A Better War, Lewis Sorley argues that the
Vietnamization and pacification efforts under the tutelage of General Abrams brought
victory in late 1970, but that US policy decisions to suspend support years later led to
ultimate defeat. 15 James Willbanks in his book Abandoning Vietnam agrees with Sorley
on the timeline pressures from Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, but grants no victory.
Willbanks argues that the fall of Saigon was the end of a long process begun with the rise
of the Nixon administration and the genesis of the Vietnamization program. In his work,
though, Willbanks defines the Vietnamization policy, MACV’s plan to institute it, and
measures the effectiveness of the program through the fall of Saigon. His explanation of
14 George C. Herring, America’s Longest War, 4th ed. (Boston: McGraw Hill,
2002), 283-288; See also Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1978), 164-222; U. S. G. Sharp, Strategy for Defeat (San Rafael, CA: Presidio
Press, 1978), 240-242; Dave R. Palmer, Summons of the Trumpet (San Rafael, CA:
Presidio Press, 1978), 218-255.
15 Lewis Sorley, A Better War (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 1999), 217-218. See also
Sorley’s three causes for failure as they have stood out to him over time: The tennination
of public support, materiel support, and fiscal support; the failure to build effective
leadership in the rapidly expanded RVNAF; and the failure to isolate the battlefield. 381-
the expectation of the residual force informs how the Americans approached the
Vietnamization of operational logistics. 16
Apart from independent historians, the official histories published by the US
Army are valuable. While the authors’ charge limits their freedom to be overly critical,
they are written by professional historians, so their treatment of sources can be trusted.
Jeffrey Clarke addressed some of the key elements of this study in his work Advice and
Support: The Final Years. His chapter, “Vietnamization of Military Support,” provides a
valuable record and assessment of how the Americans transferred logistical tasks. He
gives credit to the 1st Logistical Command (1st Log Cmd) elements for instituting OJT
efforts before MACV formally assumed some advisory roles. Furthermore, he addresses
how Vietnamizing different tasks varied by function, reflecting the complexity of this
monumental effort. 17 While Clarke’s account of the improvement and modernization
efforts convey to depth of research portrayed in his notes and bibliography, he does not
discuss MACV’s plans for improving and transferring logistical tasks to the RVNAF in
Clarke’s work is a great companion to Graham Cosmas’ MACV: The Joint
Command in the Years of Withdrawal. This command history provides an account of
MACV’s approach to the conflict from the arrival of General Creighton Abrams to the
final drawdown. It provides insight into the plans for the RVNAF modernization such as
16 James H. Willbanks, Abandoning Vietnam (Lawrence, KS: University Press of
Kansas, 2008), 4, 24-32.
17 Jeffrey J. Clarke, Advice and Support: The Final Years (Washington, DC: US
Anny Center for Military History, 1988), 427-445.
the Combined RVNAF Improvement and Modernization Plan (CRIMP), and of the
method behind the order of forces to be withdrawn over the course of Operation
Keystone. 18 Like Clarke’s work, Cosmas’ volumes telling MACV’s story did not include
details related to this important effort.
The study of logistical activities in war, particularly one as enduring as the
Vietnam War, can be challenging due to the consistent activation, movement, and
withdrawal of forces throughout the country. Regarding this turbulence in the final years,
Shelby Stanton’s Vietnam Order of Battle accounts for the arrival and departure of units,
to include support commands and groups, and functional organizations throughout the
theater and the war. 19 His work proved critical in portraying the American logistical
network in chapter 2.
The second major category of works contributing to this study deal specifically
with logistics in the Vietnam War. Two monographs provide the most comprehensive
review—Joseph Heiser’s Logistic Support from the Vietnam Studies series, and Dong
Van Khuycn’s RVNAF Logistics from the Indochina Monographs Series. The authors
possessed exceptional qualification for their subjects. The fonner contributed to a topical
series of works meant to capture immediate lessons of the war for the US Anny. After
describing the logistics environment, the monograph addresses each of the major
sustainment activities with special interest on commodities, such as petroleum and
18 Graham Cosmas, MACV: The Joint Command in the Years of Withdrawal
(Washington, DC: US Army Center for Military History, 2007), 173, 210, 270.
19 Shelby Stanton, Vietnam Order of Battle (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole
Books, 2003), 191-229.
ammunition. Apart from providing quantitative data and analysis, it also includes
qualitative commentary, such as an assessment of most of the stages of the retrograde
Operation Keystone. While Heiser speaks generally well of the logisticians’ efforts, he is
critical of the logistical training efforts in his chapter, “Logistics Support of U.S.
Advisors and Special Forces, Vietnam Armed and Pacification Forces, and Free World
Military Assistance Forces.” His criticism was prescient. Though it was published in
1974, all of the front matter is dated December 1972, predating the fall of South
Vietnam. 20 Heiser used much of his monograph to flesh out the Vietnam chapters of his
memoir, A Soldier Supporting Soldiers . 21 Apart from providing the critical starting point
for this study, Heiser’s works directed attention to his archival papers that exposed a
strong leader with an exceptional understanding of the problem addressed in this work.
Dong Van Khuyen’s monograph RVNAFLogistics complements Heiser’s work
by providing the South Vietnamese perspective from after the final collapse. His was one
of a series of 20 works written by prominent officers from the South Vietnamese,
Laotian, and Cambodian armed forces on military topics and events related to the war. In
three parts, Khuyen captures chronologically the perfonnance of the RVNAF logistics
system from 1955 to 1975. His second part includes a chapter on the “Logistic Support
for Combat Operations,” in which he covers and evaluates the incursions into Cambodia
and Laos, and the 1972 Easter Offensive. Khuyen’s third part covers the period after
20 Joseph M. Heiser, Jr., Vietnam Studies: Logistic Support (Washington, DC: US
Anny Center for Military History, 1991), iii, 67-72, 238-241.
21 Joseph M. Heiser, Jr., A Soldier Supporting Soldiers (Washington, DC: US
Anny Center for Military History, 1992), 127-167.
America withdrew her troops leaving the RVN to face the North Vietnamese on their
own. He concludes that the RVNAF was never capable of self-reliance, despite the
efforts of the Americans in the periods of modernization and improvement. 22
The final category pertains to Operation Lam Son 719. The existing literature
agree, fundamentally, that the RVNAF perfonned poorly in the invasion of Laos for a
number of reasons, that the planning and execution of the operation exposed the
RVNAF’s reliance on the Americans in major military endeavors, and that the Nixon
administration touted it as a success for the Vietnamization policy in order to accelerate
the timeline for American withdrawal. Keith Nolan’s groundbreaking account Into Laos
drew extensively from first-person accounts, to include key logistical leaders, to form an
impressive narrative. The work relies too heavily at times on the perspective of young
soldiers, and lacks the benefit of time to have developed the North Vietnamese Anny’s
(NVA) activities. 23 James Willbanks fills this gap in his book A Raid Too Far, with an
impressive chapter on the NVA’s preparation for and response to the operation. His
account reflects the benefit of military experience, and the opportunity to gain first-hand
22 Dong Van Khuyen, RVNAF Logistics (Washington, DC: US Anny Center for
Military History, 1984). Though it is beyond the scope of this study, readers seeking
deeper appreciation for Eccles concept of the Logistics Bridge should read Khuyen’s
account. Khuyen provides a helpful view of the economics of South Vietnam spanning
the course of the conflict. He relays the essential connection between RVN’s poor
national economy and the unfortunate results it had on the nation’s military logistical
potential, particularly after the US Congress suspended military support and funding.
23 Keith W. Nolan, Into Laos: The Story of Dewey Canyon II / Lam Son 719
(Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1986).
knowledge from North Vietnamese sources. 24 While both of these works addressed the
logistical challenges of the operation, the most valuable resources for this study proved to
be the primary sources produced by the US XXIV Corps and the logistical elements
supporting the fight.
Due to the dearth of sources that address logistics in sufficient detail the most
critical category of sources that assists in understanding and evaluating the
Vietnamization of operational level logistics includes the many plans, reports, articles,
and unit histories from the era. They are unsullied by some of the retrospective
controversy attached to the Vietnam War and the knowledge of the ultimate capitulation.
One should not forget, however, that individuals wrote the summary reports about their
unit’s or their own performance, so there is potential for exaggeration of achievements, or
minimization of failures.
Commanders at various echelons recognized the need to transfer activities and
operations to the RVNAF and the South Vietnamese civilians at variable times
throughout the war. These efforts were fonnalized at different times as well, through
policies and then by orders. The original orders, such as the CLIP, or the order from the
1st Log Cmd Headquarters that created Project Buddy reveal the challenges inherent in
the tasks. They may show how a commander has conceptualized a process, or how the
commander is implementing his higher headquarters’ concept. Given the collection of
such well thought out plans that were produced, the challenge is finding why they could
24 James H. Willbanks, A Raid Too Far: Operation Lam Son 719 and
Vietnamization in Laos (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2014).
not be translated into a fully functioning military system for the RVNAF. This aspect of
execution can be hard to surmise, but can be interpreted by reports on progress.
Three collections of reports provide a periodic survey of the efforts made by
troops in Vietnam - the Operational Reports on Lessons Learned (ORLL), the Senior
Officer Debriefing Reports (SODR), and the command histories. The ORLLs were
submitted on a quarterly basis by certain units to capture and promulgate lessons learned,
and to request or recommend changes to doctrine, organization, etc. Like the ORLLs,
Anny Regulations also required certain leaders to submit SODRs when they relinquished
command, and/or exited the theater. Finally, MACV produced yearly Command Histories
with an eye on capturing the events of the associated year, and contributing to refined
The recurring nature of these reports allow us to estimate how the various
commands and commanders approached and appreciated specific missions. Some
commanders used their final debriefing reports as a tool to capture the work
accomplished under their command, while others seem to have not bothered with the
administrative requirement. Brigadier General (BG) Albert Hunter, Commanding General
of the US Area Support Command (USASC) Qui Nhon, for instance submitted a 30-page
report with recommendations on processes, and reports of successes. 25 His predecessor,
BG Darrie Richards, in comparison, submitted only three pages, telling the reader to refer
25 Senior Officer Debriefing Report (hereafter cited as SODR), BG Albert E.
Hunter, 1 June 1970, Defense Technical Information Center (hereafter sited as DTIC),
provided on disk by the Ike Skelton Combined Arms Research Library (hereafter cited as
to his unit’s ORLL. 26 Despite this inconsistency, the SODRs and ORLLs taken in tandem
are reasonable tools to detennine how different units and commanders executed the
scheme of plans intended to develop a functioning RVNAF logistics system.
The passage of time has allowed for a number of other reports, files, and
memoranda to be made available for researchers. This study benefited from their
availability through a number of sources, to include Texas Tech University’s Vietnam
Virtual Archive, and the Defense Technical Information Center. Reports from outside the
Department of Defense on Vietnamization can provide bona fide evaluations, and
insights into how the situation looked in real time. One such report to Congress,
“Logistics Aspects of Vietnamization — 1969-72” gives positive marks on the
implementation of the CLIP, but concluded that the RVNAF would require materiel
support and advisory training for the foreseeable future. 27 Other internal reports can
imply how MACV gauged their own progress in their quest to make the RVNAF self-
In conclusion, the body of literature available establishes that the US Government
and US Military, in coordination with the RVN and RVNAF, had plans to Vietnamize the
operational-level logistics activities and tasks. Subordinate commands implemented these
plans through various projects and programs, with varying degrees of success. In
retrospect, historians have evaluated Vietnamization efforts in general as futile due to
general inadequacy and lack of will of the RVNAF. The challenge now will be to find
26 SODR, BG Darrie Richards, 9 June 1969, DTIC, CARL.
27 General Accounting Office, Report to the Congress by the Comptroller General
of the United States, “Logistic Aspects of Vietnamization—1969-72,” January 31, 1971.
how well this Vietnamization process was implemented with the context of the logistics
environment, and the realities facing the RVN.
COMPARATIVE LOGISTICS SYSTEMS, POLICY, AND STRATEGY
In order to evaluate the perfonnance of the operational-level logistics
organizations after 1968 it is appropriate to first consider the fundamental logistics
challenges found in Vietnam, the logistics environment before and after Tet, and how the
US’s strategic approach changed with the new US Presidential administration. These
factors define what logisticians had to support, and what was available to them. These
key starting points will allow for a fair evaluation.
Logistics of an Americanized War
In 1965, MACV’s logistics infrastructure had the capacity to support
approximately 20,000 personnel. By the end of 1967, the 1st Log Cmd was responsible
for supporting approximately 1.2 million troops of different services and nationalities. 28
As MACV incurred this influx of fighting forces, it faced a dismal logistics situation. In
an August, 1966 “Logistical Structure Conference,” the representatives from
Headquarters, US Anny Vietnam listed five factors bearing on logistical operations in
Vietnam: enemy, weather, terrain, lines of communication, and the evolution of the
logistical structure. 29 While the other factors would fluctuate over the course of the war,
the weather and terrain factors remained constant.
28 Sharp and Westmoreland, 253.
29 Conference on the Reorganization and Augmentation of the USARV Logistics
Structure (1966), “Logistical Structure Conference, 14-18 August 1966,” Headquarters,
United States Army Vietnam, 1966, US Army Heritage and Education Center (hereafter
cited as USAHEC), A-1 - A-5.
In the movie Forrest Gump, the title character portrays the plight of the American
infantryman in Vietnam, explaining that “one day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for
four months.” 30 In the movie Gump wears the patch of the 9 th Infantry Division, which
served primarily in the southern III and IV Corps Tactical Zones (CTZs). 31 This region
falls south and southwest of the Annamite Mountain chain where, as with the rest of the
country, from mid-May to October, the monsoonal climate causes “daily, often torrential,
rainshowers [sic] occurring during the afternoon and evening hours.” 32 Maintenance on
personal weapons systems proved a challenge in these conditions, as the famed debate
about the American M-16 rifle’s performance showed. 33 The logisticians struggled with
the deleterious effects humidity and precipitation had on clothing, webbing, and
electronics. Further, the cloud cover and winds frequently prevented the use of airfields
and disrupted ship unloading operations at the many deep and shallow draft ports in the
country. 34 Nature, however, was not the only source of disruption.
The security situation for the lines of communications in Vietnam was uncommon
in American military history. One commander of 1st Log Cmd put the length of the
supply line at 10,000 miles stretching from the west coast, and 15,000 miles from the east
30 Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis (Paramount Pictures, 1994), DVD,
(Paramount Pictures, 2001).
31 Stanton, 78.
32 Conference on the Reorganization and Augmentation of the USARV Logistics
Structure (1966), “Logistical Structure Conference, 14-18 August 1966,” A-2.
33 See C. J. Chivers, The Gun (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), 263-336.
34 Conference on the Reorganization and Augmentation of the USARV Logistics
Structure (1966), “Logistical Structure Conference, 14-18 August 1966,” A-2.
coast, of the United States, to units in fire support bases in places like Pleiku, Khe Sanh,
and Cu Chi. 35 The air and sea lines of communications into the country provided safe
passage for the duration of the conflict. However, given the recent experiences in the
Korean War and World War II, senior planners were accustomed to having a relatively
safe rear area, or “Communications Zone” where supplies could move forward from
depots and forward support areas to troops on the lines. Such was not the case in
Vietnam. 36 In fact, MACV was forced to commit significant efforts to keep roads and
railways open. In its Command History for 1967, MACV reported that in 1966 an
average 33.2 percent of the 1,720 miles of roads “considered to be essential for the
conduct of military operations” were “secure.” The year 1967 showed improvement after
July with an average of 58.6 percent, or 1,008, of the 1,720 critical miles. 37
This security situation drove US Army, Vietnam (USARV) to establish a
nontraditional logistics network in the country. 38 Instead of establishing a
communications zone as the Army had done in WWII and the Korean War, the 1st Log
Cmd created subordinate USASCs in each of the CTZs in the country (See Figure 2). The
35 Heiser, A Soldier Supporting Soldiers, 149.
36 Heiser, Logistic Support, 7.
37 General 1967 CMD History Vol 2, 1967, Folder 01, Bud Harton Collection,
The Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University (hereafter cited as TTUVVA).
accessed 19 May 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?
38 US Army, Vietnam was the Anny’s Service Component Command under the
subunified command, MACV. According to current and past doctrine, the service
component commands retain responsibility for supplying their forces in an operational
USASCs were located (south to north) in Saigon (III and IV CTZ), Qui Nonh (II CTZ -
South), Cam Ranh Bay (III CTZ - North), and Da Nang (I CTZ). In his oral history,
Retired Lieutenant General Jean Engler, an early Deputy Commander of USARV,
described USASC leaders as “Metropolitan Area Commanders.” 39
Each of the USASCs possessed subordinate organizations that performed the
operational-level logistics tasks within their area. USASC Qui Nhon’s major subordinate
commands, for instance, included the Pleiku and Qui Nhon Sub Area Commands, US
Anny Depot—Qui Nhon, 5th Transportation Command, 8th Transportation Group, 45th
General Support Group, 86th Maintenance Battalion, 184th Ordnance Battalion, 240th
Quartermaster Battalion, 593d General Support Group, and other government contractor
units and activities. 40 This allowed each ASC to provide common user logistics to all
units within their supported zone with daily sustainment, and to deploy Forward Support
Teams in special circumstances. When combat units moved out of their normal area to
conduct large-scale operations, the ASCs could provide Provisional Composite Supply
and Service Battalions to augment organic support elements. 41
39 Oral History, LTG Jean Engler, interviewed by Phillip Shepard, “Senior
Officers Oral History Program: Project 81-3,” Papers of Jean E. Engler, USAHEC, Box
40 Stanton, 193.
41 Heiser, Logistic Support, 21-22; Stanton, 201-203. While these Forward
Support Teams fall into the tactical level of logistics, it is helpful to understand the
measures required to support fighting forces in the Vietnam environment.
Figure 2. Ports, Land Lines of Communication and Major Logistic Commands
Source : Joseph M. Heiser, Jr., Logistic Support (Washington, DC: Department of the
Anny, 1991), 168.
The missions of the major subordinate units in the USASCs illustrate the meaning
of logistics at the operational level. The 45th and 593d General Support Groups, for
instance, took on the role of a Sub Area Support Command, conducting day-to-day
activities in the Pleiku and coastal areas of operations, respectively. The 5th
Transportation Command had the “Terminal” mission in Qui Nhon, responsible for the
transfer of personnel and cargo on and off ships and piers, and for conducting logistics
over-the-shore operations. The remaining functional battalion headquarters provided
administrative and command oversight of the many separate companies that deployed to
Vietnam to provide general support. For instance, the 149th and 160th Maintenance
Companies deployed from Ft. Hood, Texas in 1965 and 1967, to provide light and heavy
equipment maintenance in the Pleiku and Qui Nhon regions, respectively. They fell under
the command of the 86th Maintenance Battalion that deployed from Fort Devens,
Massachusetts. 42 This complexity illustrates why it took well into 1968 for the Americans
to establish a coherent system of supply.
The composition and mission sets of the logistical commands changed throughout
the war as operational tempo and troop strengths changed. USASC Cam Ranh Bay, for
instance, grew significantly in size and importance over the course of the war. It was
conceived in the Spring of 1965 to alleviate the great stresses on the single deep water
port in Saigon as the US Anny poured in supplies and personnel. US Anny engineers
built the port and warehousing facilities essentially from scratch. In fact, the US shipped
a DeLong Pier from South Carolina, through the Panama Canal, to get port activities
started. This portable pier was 300-feet long with holes in it for pilings to implant into the
seabed of Cam Ranh Bay. Malcom McLean, the entrepreneur behind Sea-Land
42 Stanton, 195, 207, 209, 223.
containerization would use these new facilities to jump start his revolutionary concept of
standardized shipping containers. 43
A year after the first engineer arrived to survey Cam Ranh Bay, the USASC
assumed the responsibility to provide logistical support to the southern half of the II CTZ,
and to provide general support of common-user logistics for the entire theater. The
headquarters personnel authorization changed from 125 in 1966, to 358 in 1968, to 1,300
by 1970. At its zenith, USASC Cam Ranh Bay had assigned to it over 16,000 personnel
responsible for supporting over 72,000 troops. 44
The tactical use of helicopters also demanded that USARV establish a specific
headquarters for aviation support. The 34th General Support Group provided
maintenance, avionics, and armament support across the country for over 4,000
helicopters at the height of the conflict. While the Headquarters Company had an
authorized strength of only about 140 troops, they were heavily augmented by contractors
throughout the war. In 1965, Dynalectron had only 34 maintenance contractors. By 1969,
three companies had 2,120 maintainers in Vietnam. The growing utility of helicopters
demanded dramatic changes to the system that supported them, to include the
establishment of a floating aircraft maintenance facility that could move from port to port
as the tactical situation required. 45
43 Levinson, 230-253.
44 Stanton, 192.
45 Heiser, Logistic Support, 134-146; Heiser, Soldier Supporting Soldiers, 136-
137; Stanton, 195.
This (at times, rather arduous) review of the logistical environment, the support
network, and niche support requirements provides two helpful perspectives when
considering Vietnamization. First, the support structure, like the intensity and flow of the
war, remained complex, dynamic, and at times, ad hoc. The US Army logisticians had to
transfer these responsibilities, while breaking the system down during the withdrawal.
Second, it illustrates the logistical tail required to support the trimmings of a first-world
mechanized military. The sheer weight of the support network strained the RVNAF to
extreme levels. The demands of helicopter sustainment alone demanded a special
program for Vietnamization efforts. 46 Some of this strain was due to the RVNAF system,
and its dependencies.
RVNAF Logistics System
The RVNAF logistics system and organization possessed fundamental
characteristics that made Vietnamizing operational logistics activities difficult. The most
critical among these were the nascence of the logistics structure, its built-in dependencies,
and the rapid growth of support requirements. These challenges shed light on the
existence of the art and science of logistics.
When President Nixon announced his Vietnamization policy in 1969, the core
concept of the RVNAF logistics organization was only 12 years old. However, it was
truthfully much younger, with major organizational restructuring having only been
completed in 1968. The institution originated from the bifurcation of Vietnam and
precipitous withdrawal of the French in 1954 after the fall of Dien Bien Phu. The
46 Clarke, 441-443.
Vietnamese National Army followed a French model as it was reeling from the loss to the
Viet Minh, and a costly evacuation from the newly established North Vietnam. While the
French spent some effort in building the anny before 1954, it was in their interests that
the Vietnamese National Army remained weak as an organization. 47
The RVNAF, renamed as such by RVN President Ngo Dinh Diem, adopted a US
model for logistics in 1957 in the very early stages of the American advisory effort. Their
organization consisted of five directorates (Ordnance, Quartermaster, Construction,
Medical, and Transportation), a Signal Service, and an Engineer Command. Unlike the
American system, this was a Joint RVNAF system, overseen by the office of the
Assistant Chief of Staff, J-4. Eventually, the various directorates, and commands fell
under a Central Logistics Command (CLC), whose commander served dual-hatted as the
Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics. 48 The earliest American advisors had a justifiably
poor impression of RVNAF logistical support capacity, particularly in their planning and
coordination of transportation. 49 Much had to be done to the organizational structure to
remediate this problem, and the individual chosen to be the Chief of Staff for Logistics
would be critical in its improvement.
Dong Van Khuyen served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics in the Joint
General Staff (JGS), and as Commander of the CLC from October 1967 until the fall of
47 Dean E. Gullion, as quoted in The Lessons of Vietnam, ed. W. Scott Thompson
and Donaldson D. Frizzell (New York: Crane, Russak and Company, 1977), 241-242.
48 Khuyen, 30-34.
49 Ronald H. Spector, Advice and Support: The Early Years (Washington, DC: US
Anny Center for Military History, 1985), 299-300.
Saigon. His career represented the great challenges inherent in a military built as quickly
as the RVNAF. He received his commission as an Infantry Second Lieutenant in the
Vietnam National Anny in June 1952 at age 25, before the bifurcation. By 1964, as a 37-
year-old major, he commanded the 3rd RVNAF Area Logistical Command responsible
for supporting the III and IV CTZs, and portions of the II CTZ, essentially the southern
half of South Vietnam. Four years later, he had advanced four ranks to Major General,
and held the responsibility for supplying the entire RVNAF. 50 Khuyen was the most
important individual in the improvement and modernization of the RVNAF’s logistical
framework. He accomplished much in the time he had before his country’s defeat, but he
lacked the time necessary to garner comprehensive and effective operational-level
50 “Fact Sheet,” Logistics Directorate: Joint Logistics Advisory Division-re:
Impact on ARVN Supply System Based on Potential Force Structure Reduction-Record
MACV Part 1, 24 February 1973, Folder 0525, Box 0027, TTUVVA, accessed 27
February 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?item=
Figure 3. RVNAF Area Logistical Commands
Source: Dong Van Khuyen, RVNAF Logistics (Washington, DC: US Army Center of
Military History, 1980), 164.
The RVNAF logistical command structure underwent significant changes
throughout the 1960s. From 1961-1965, they established Area Logistical Commands
(RVNAF ALCs) that evolved to match the USASCs. In addition to having operational
control of all logistical elements in their area, though, the RVNAF ALC Commanders
acted as staff members for their corresponding Corps, advising the operational
commander on logistical matters. 51 This degree of alignment in the command and support
structure would seem to lend itself to an effective transition with the Americans.
However, political infighting in the upper-echelons of the RVNAF military often resulted
in commanders circumventing, or outright ignoring, the chains of command brought on
by reforms. 52 Furthermore, a lack of appreciation on both MACV’s and the RVNAF
JGS’s parts of the importance of these RVNAF ALCs in supporting major combat
operations hurt the RVNAF later in the war (See chapter 4).
The RVNAF’s reorganization efforts of the late-1960s regarding their logistics
framework resulted in a coherent structure, but the impressive organization hid its
inherent dependencies. This is not to say that the American advisors were ignorant of the
potential problems of dependency. In fact, a logistics advisor from MACV wrote in 1969
that the ARVN system for procurement intentionally allowed the ARVN logistics system
to operate independently from the US system. This apparent independence, like the
RVNAF logistical structure, hid how much they relied on the American industrial base. 53
51 Khuyen, 37-48.
52 Spector, The Early Years, 300
53 Carl M. Guelzo, “Managing Military Assistance Support in Vietnam,” Military
Review (January 1969): 33.
The process undertaken by the ARVN to requisition equipment illustrates that
while the RVNAF had developed a coherent structure to transport supplies for the
sustainment of their forces, those supplies still largely originated in the US. The
fundamentals of a Military Assistance, Service-Funded Program required requests to
follow two channels, one to approve funding, the second for the actual materiel. Funding
requests began at the technical services directorates, who would compute with their
MACV advisors their requisitions to fill their growing Tables of Organization. The
advisors would then forward their funding requests through the Office of the Assistant
Chief of Staff for Military Assistance, MACV, to the Headquarters, US Army Pacific
Command. Upon approval for funding, the ARVN technical services sent their requests
for the materiel to one of three suppliers—US Anny Depot Command in Japan, USA
Medical Depot in Ryukyu, and the International Logistics Center in US Army Materiel
Command. These major commands then provided the commodities directly to the ARVN
customers. 54 This model shows that the United States provided the strategic Generate and
Transport phases for materiel logistics for the RVNAF. Major items such as tracked
vehicles, and gun tubes for the RVNAF were generated by factories in the US, then
transported by US providers, most likely contractors. As MACV and the US
administration faced tough decisions with respect to the US’s level of involvement in the
later years of the war, obliviousness to the nuances of logistical dependency set the stage
for poor policy.
54 Guelzo, 33.
The operational level of RVNAF logistics showed varying levels of reliance as
the Americans transitioned toward withdrawal. Khuyen provides some positive and
negative examples in his review of RVNAF logistics. In terms of theater distribution, he
identified that the RVNAF lacked sufficient escort troops, which resulted in combined
US-ARVN convoys along theater lines of communications. He provided as an example
that the US 8th Transportation Group from the USASC Qui Nhon, and the 2nd
Transportation Group from the 2nd RVNAF ALC coordinated their distribution convoys
in order to economize escort assets. 55 While this certainly provided opportunities for
shared experiences between the US and ARVN units, one can assume the tendency for
dependency, whether in the US provision of anned escorts, or in tonnage capacities.
Khuyen described how this tendency took a clear shape with respect to base
depots. Base depot organizations held the responsibility for storing and maintaining
supplies. They were categorized by department as listed above (Quartermaster, Signal,
etc.), and would provide regional support or general support by commodity for the
ARVN. For instance, within the Quartermaster Department, the 10th and 30th
Quartermaster Base Depots provided general support for warehousing supplies for the
ARVN throughout the country, from their location in Saigon. The 10th Quartermaster
Base Depot provided food, water, office supplies, and engineering supplies, while the
30th Base Depot provided petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL). Below the Base Depot
level were Field Depots and special-purpose depots (such as ammunition storage, or
airborne items depots) that would be spread throughout the country, as the terrain and the
55 Khuyen, 75.
enemy situations dictated. 56 Each of the technical services departments had echelons of
command similar to that of the depot commands.
Khuyen described the unfortunate phenomena of “devoted advisors” with respect
to these depots and other services of logistics. He stated that US advisors found ways to
ensure their charges received various classes of supply, “especially after 1964, since there
appeared to be no budget limitations.” 57 The model for requisitioning described above
resulted in the US strategic providers delivering directly to the Field Depots, bypassing
the Base Depots. While this may have expedited the process, surely to the liking of the
US advisors, it resulted in neglect of the Base Depots, thereby undennining the long-tenn
viability of the RVNAF operational logistics framework. 58
The RVNAF’s fundamental approach to supply and maintenance changed as a
result of the increasing American influence over the 1960s. Former South Vietnam Prime
Minister, and former officer and Chief of the Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) Nguyen Cao
Ky relayed in his memoirs how the French way of frugality within the Vietnamese
National Army gave way to American profligacy. He argued that the US advisors stayed
long enough to change the general workshop attitude within the RVNAF. Anecdotally, he
stated that the VNAF aircraft mechanics could very well replace a plane engine, but did
56 Ibid., 43-44. Khuyen’s narrative and his associated map do not agree on the
designation of one unit. His narrative says the 30th Base Depot for Class III (POL), while
the map reflects the 50th Base Depot as provided this commodity.
57 Khuyen, 97.
58 Ibid., 97-98.
not know how to fix it when no engines could be procured. 59 This fundamental mentality
exemplified the shortsightedness in training the RVNAF, and an assumption that the
pipeline of funding and parts from the US would never run dry.
It appears that some MACV advisors recognized the RVNAF’s tendency toward
American extravagance and attempted to aid in changing the culture. In a report on
ordnance supply management from December 1971, an American advisor reported that
the RVNAF 20th Ordnance Storage Base Depot had instituted three programs to enhance
supply discipline. The 20th Ordnance Storage Base Depot provided general ordnance
support from its location in Saigon. 60 While it fell within the category that Khuyen
described as being underdeveloped due to the RVNAF ALC/USASC organization, it
successfully provided repair parts in support of Operation Lam Son 719 in Laos
(discussed in chapter 4). They began withholding repair parts for faults associated with
parts that could be returned for salvage. They established a procedure to challenge
customer requisitions. Most importantly, they instituted a program to issue repair kits
instead of replacement parts for items that could be replaced in country. 61 While this
suggests that some advisors made an effort to adjust the mindset of the RVNAF and
make them more self-reliant, those efforts came too late.
59 Nguyen Cao Ky, How We Lost the Vietnam War (New York: Stein and Day,
1976), 174-175, 198-201.
60 Khuyen, 41-42.
61 Letter and Inclosures from Colonel Worley, Logistics-re: Historical Interest
‘Key Subjects’-Record of MACV Part 1, 6 February 1972, Folder 1056, Box 0025,
TTUVVA, accessed 19 May 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/
The RVNAF logistics network already experienced strain due to the
organizational and cultural factors described above, but the events after 1968 further
taxed the system. After spending a decade adjusting from a French model to an American
model, and fonning RVNAF ALCs to match the USASCs, the RVNAF logisticians faced
the rapid expansion in men and materiel in its military. This came about due to a crucial
series of events that kicked off in January 1968.
The Strategic Environment
Key factors explain the strategic environment in which logisticians began to
transition their duties to the RVNAF. They include the results of the general offensive of
the NVA and Viet Cong (VC) on the Tet holiday in January 1968, the introduction of the
Vietnamization Policy, and the plans for withdrawal under the Nixon Administration’s
concept of “Peace with Honor.” These factors complete the context necessary to
appreciate the efforts at Vietnamization undertaken by the Americans, and to evaluate
their performance in 1971.
Some aspects of the Tet Offensive and its results contextualize the environment in
which logisticians attempted to Vietnamize operational logistics. The war showed the
scale of a general offensive that the NVA could prepare for, coordinate, and sustain in
multiple regions of South Vietnam; and the strategic surprise achieved set the Americans
on a path of rapid withdrawal from a conflict that was becoming increasingly unpopular
at home. The logistics response and improvisation required to quell the offensive foretold
the demands that would likely be placed on the RVNAF after an American withdrawal,
assuming that the NVA would continue to fight. The effects of the strategic surprise on
the home front also doomed the long-term plans made by the Americans and South
Vietnamese regarding residual support.
The Tet Offensive marked the general uprising hoped for by the insurgents in the
South. Hanoi approved the plan by the famous NVA Commander-in-Chief General Vo
Nguyen Giap in July of 1967 and authorized the significant preparations for the attacks.
The complicated and costly plan consisted of three parts. First, the NVA initiated large
scale attacks in peripheral areas of the country. These were meant to draw American
attention, and in turn, their larger forces away from the cities. The NVA’s successful
encirclement of Khe Sanh achieved this in spades. Next, the VC would thrust into the
cities and begin coordinating the general uprising. Public assassinations and
demonstrations of force were expected to dissuade the population from taking up a
defense, and the ARVN were expected to dissolve under the pressure. Finally, the plan
called for rested and refitted NVA forces, or those kept in reserve, to join the general
offensive to wipe out any remaining centers of resistance. 62
After recovering from the initial shock, MACV and the ARVN responded swiftly
and effectively to the Tet Offensive. The military arm of the VC as a viable organization
ceased to exist when the regular soldiers and the territorial forces (much like a militia)
responded with surprising effectiveness. By April, major fighting was quelled but for a
few outliers, such as the fighting around the encircled Marines in Khe Sanh, and in the
62 Palmer, 175-177; Herring, 226-229. Recent scholarship on the Tet Offensive
has revealed that while Giap planned the offensive, he was not in favor of this shift to
general warfare. Support for the offensive came most from Le Duan, the secretary-
general of the North Vietnamese Lao Dong Party. See James H. Willbanks, The Tet
Offensive: A Concise History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 8-9.
city of Hue. The brutality of the VC behavior in some villages had the opposite of their
desired effect. It pushed the people to the central government in many regions. General
Westmoreland was confident in the way that the international coalition and the South
Vietnamese responded to the crisis. 63 The response, however, did not come without some
The Operations Division of the 1st Log Cmd reported in their April 1968 ORLL
some of the senior American logistics unit’s reactions to the NVA and VC’s offensive.
They had to repair petroleum pipelines that have been disrupted by enemy explosives.
The successful, periodic interdiction by NVA and VC forces of US lines of
communications throughout the country forced the Americans to conduct emergency
aerial resupply. The ensuing efforts to sustain the Marines isolated in Khe Sanh set the
record for tonnage delivered in a month by airdrop in two consecutive months.
Throughout the country, the intensity of combat forced USASCs to deploy seven
Forward Support Areas (FSAs) in support of operations. 64 Reacting to such an offensive
puts a tremendous strain on a belligerent’s operational logistical framework.
The GTSR cycle helps in understanding the importance of the few examples
provided above. On the strategic level, the United States had generated enough materiel
and transported it into theater to have on hand in depots emergency stocks of supply. At
the operational level, they possessed the flexibility to adjust from one theater distribution
63 Willbanks, The Tet Offensive, 80-81; Lewis Sorley, Vietnam Chronicles: The
Abrams Tapes 1968-1972 (Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press, 2004), 572-573.
64 Operations Report on Lessons Learned (ORLL), 1st Logistical Command (1st
Log Cmd), quarterly period ending April 1968, DTIC, CARL, 4, 18-19, 74.
mode (by ground) to an alternate one (by air), in order to sustain forces cut off in the
USASC-Da Nang’s area of operations, let alone the many other forces throughout the
country. Their sustainment further relied on their capacity to generate supporting
organizations that could assist in tactical sustainment through the FSAs. This depiction of
the operational GTSR cycle illustrates the art of logistics that the Americans failed to
transition to the RVNAF in the years to follow.
While MACV’s and the RVNAF’s logistical and combat forces throughout the
country demonstrated their flexibility and capability in responding to the attacks, the
experience left an ominous air of what would be expected if such an offensive should
happen again. They could prevent such offensives by initiating spoiling attacks in years
to come, but the scale of such attacks demanded a robust logistical network, and strong
planning and management. The strategic effect of the Tet Offensive would present a
significant challenge to the US and South Vietnamese militaries. Diminishing support for
the war meant the Americans had to begin transferring a larger burden of the fight to their
partners faster than expected.
The Tet Offensive set the stage for what proved to be a tumultuous year for the
United States with societal, political, and military implications. US President Lyndon
Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection so he could devote his full efforts to
his domestic and foreign policies. Civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. was
assassinated in April sparking race riots throughout the country. Robert F. Kennedy was
assassinated in June while on the campaign trail for the Democratic nomination. These
and other factors paved the way for Republican candidate Richard Nixon to win the
election after a campaign built on ending the war, and ending the violence at home.
Upon assuming office, Nixon attempted to gain full awareness of the situation in
Vietnam with his National Security Study Memorandum 1, consisting of a list of 29
major questions covering such things as the enemy situation, the state of the RVNAF, and
the pacification effort. MACV, the Central Intelligence Agency, the US State
Department, and other organizations received the questionnaire and answered in kind.
The responses were fairly disparate with optimistic and pessimistic perspectives. Nixon’s
Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird anticipated that the President’s honeymoon period
with the American people would be short, and recommended they come up with a way to
exit the country quickly. 65
President Nixon used the tenn “Vietnamization” to name his policy to bring
“peace with honor” and withdraw American troops from the war. The name was both
controversial and vague. The controversy revolved around the idea that calling it
“Vietnamization” denigrated the great sacrifices that the Vietnamese had already suffered
in the years since the bifurcation of the country. 66 Nguyen Cao Ky reflected that the tenn
thankfully improved upon a previous idea to call it “de-Americanizing” the war effort. 67
The vagaries revolved around what exactly the term Vietnamization meant, and
what exactly it said about the future role for America in the region. Senator A1 Gore, Sr.,
a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed frustration with the
policy’s intricacies through his questioning of Brigadier General Wallace Clement,
65 Willbanks, Abandoning Vietnam , 10-13.
66 Ibid., 40-41.
67 Ky, 172-173.
Director of MACV Training Directorate, in March 1970. Clement’s testimony is helpful
in two respects for understanding the efficacy MACV’s transition of operational logistics
functions. First, he provided a scripted definition of Vietnamization, stating
Vietnamization is the process by which the United States assists the Government
of Vietnam to assume increasing responsibility for all aspects of the war and all
functions inherent in self-government. It means building a stronger government
with improved economy and strengthening the military internal security forces
sufficient to permit the United States to reduce its military and civilian presence
in Vietnam without unacceptable risks to the objectives of the United States in the
security of the free world and Government of Vietnam forces. Vietnamization
refers only to the assumption by Vietnamese of that portion of the war effort
carried on by the United States. It does not refer to the total war effort in which
the South Vietnamese themselves have carried such a large and heavy burden for
some years. 68
The final sentence shows how the US Anny recognized the sensitivity around the tenn.
Secondly, in response to Senator Gore’s line of questioning regarding definitions,
he alluded to MACV’s conception of a residual force to provide support to the RVNAF.
Clement testified that MACV had ongoing on-the-job training efforts with respect to
logistics (See chapter 3), but that RVNAF required continued assistance because of how
rapidly the organization grew. He stated, “The RVNAF logistical organization and
system are presently capable of reasonably satisfactory logistical support to operating
elements. By necessity, there is a strong advisory effort in this area which will continue
for some time.” 69 He specified the type of support forces as “primarily quartermaster,
68 BG Wallace L. Clement, testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, “Vietnam: Policy and Prospects, 1970: US Military Advisory Program, 3
March, 1970, Folder 10, Box 42, Douglas Pike Collection, Unit 03-US Economy and US
Mission (Saigon), TTUVVA, accessed 19 May 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/
69 Ibid., 450.
transportation, engineer, signal, aviation forces . . . technical, administrative, and
logistical people, et cetera, that support the combat effort.” 70 This concept informs the
way that MACV and its units approached the Vietnamization of operational logistics. It is
critical to note that, as late as March 1970, MACV and the RVNAF believed that a
residual force would continue to provide advice and support in the realm of logistics after
the final withdrawal of American combat forces. While the timelines for withdrawal were
oppressive, logistical advisors could assume they still had years to help the RVNAF
achieve greater self-sufficiency in operational level tasks.
The final critical component of the strategic context that relates to understanding
how well the US Vietnamized logistics is the plans that governed the withdrawal of
troops (Operation Keystone), and that transferred US equipment to the RVNAF
(Operation Enhance and Enhance Plus). The demands associated with these operations
diminished the efforts of the OJT program, and reduced the integration between the
USASCs and the RVNAF ALCs.
Operation Keystone put into practice President Nixon’s promises on the campaign
trail to withdraw the US from the Vietnam War. It began in the summer of 1969 with the
first of a series of incremental troop reductions meant to be based on conditions on the
battlefield. The 9th Division was first to leave under Operation Keystone Eagle that
reduced troops strength by 25,000 men. This constituted the first time that the US Army
would withdraw from a theater of operations while actively engaged in combat. While
subsequent increments, named for birds (i.e. Keystone Cardinal, Keystone Oriole, etc)
70 Ibid., 456.
were supposed to be based on conditions, the withdrawal timeline took on a life of its
own and became an unrelenting burden on the logisticians. 71
Two critical factors related to the withdrawal limited the USASC elements from
influencing the development of RVNAF operational logistics from 1969-71. First, the
scale of the task consumed the attention of the logisticians, even those willing to commit
time to developing their counterparts. Heiser estimated, “Three times as much effort is
required to process materiel for retrograde as to receive incoming materiel and
accomplish issue.” 72 This was exacerbated by the fact that the soldiers responsible for
turning in the equipment were not redeploying with the headquarters that was heading
home. Thus, they lacked the motivation to ensure the equipment was in good shape. 73
The USASCs held the responsibility for receiving, cleaning, and preparing all of this
equipment for transfer to the US. No small task for an Anny approaching a decade’s
worth of service in a theater.
The demands surrounding the withdrawal of American troops forecasted the
challenges in store in the year following the scope of this study. Like with Operation
Keystone, the USASCs felt burdened by Operations Enhance and Enhance Plus.
Operation Enhance provided the guidance for transferring equipment from the US
military to the RVNAF in early 1972 as part of a comprehensive improvement and
modernization plan. When secret talks between US and North Vietnam political leaders
71 Willbanks, Abandoning Vietnam, 16; Heiser, Logistic Support, 67-69.
72 Heiser, Logistic Support, 71.
73 Ibid., 68.
began to chart a path for peace in late 1972, Abrams realized the need to surge significant
amounts of equipment to the RVNAF to avoid any limitations imposed by the political
agreement. 74 The USASCs also assumed the responsibility to prepare this equipment for
transfer to the RVNAF, further limiting their ability to contribute to the RVNAF’s
improvement in the closing years.
An understanding of how well MACV Vietnamized operational-level logistics
demands an understanding of the context in which the key players operated. The
comparison of the US and RVNAF logistics systems shows that the similarities of the
theater network presented opportunities for collaboration, but the nascence of the
RVNAF system limited the level of complexity that they could achieve.
The strategic context showed that the aftermath of Tet and the arrival of a new US
Presidential Administration affected fundamentally on what the operational logisticians
could focus. The requirements for theater logistics units to pack up and send home US
equipment, and transfer to the RVNAF quality pieces of equipment, ultimately inhibited
their ability to support efforts to improve RVNAF self-sufficiency.
74 Willbanks, Abandoning Vietnam , 173-175.
CLIP, CLOP, AND BUDDIES
This chapter constitutes the main body of work that informs how MACV
approached the Vietnamization of operational level logistics. To understand the
effectiveness, one must connect the dots from the policy (Vietnamization), to the plan
(Combined Strategic Objectives Plan and the Logistics Master Plan), to activity on the
ground. The previous chapter described how MACV and General Creighton Abrams
began putting the Vietnamization policy into operation, and some of the limitations
imposed by a withdrawal mindset on the part of the Secretary of Defense. This resulted in
a poorly constructed plan on the part of MACV that focused far too much on the science
of logistics, but failed to address the art. Despite MACV’s shortcomings, Project Buddy,
an OJT training program designed by the 1st Log Cmd that preceded the fonnal plans by
MACV, showed great promise, but came too late to reach a tipping point for the RVNAF
logistics infrastructure. The partnerships and training by the USASCs varied in quality
over the concluding years of American involvement, and reflected the influence of
leadership in this increasingly important task.
While MACV planned and implemented the earliest phases of American troop
withdrawals, their attention turned to the improvement and modernization of the
RVNAF. This effort would eventually be reflected in the CRIMP, which reflected
Secretary of Defense Laird’s interests in the accelerated withdrawal from the country,
and received his approval in June 1970. The plan stated that by the end of 1973, the
RVNAF would consist of 1.1 million men capable of conducting national defense and
territorial pacification. The plan assumed that the RVNAF would assume defense of
South Vietnam in two phases; first, ground combat; then air, naval, and logistical
operations. 75 Despite this approval date, units throughout the country already began
efforts in support of the initiative.
Concurrent with the planning and approval of CRIMP, MACV developed and
combined plans for Vietnamizing the logistical factors of the war into a Logistics Master
Plan. This plan included eight main elements: (1) The Combined Logistics Offensive
Plan (CLOP), (2) The Country Logistics Improvement Plan (CLIP), (3) The Base Depot
Upgrade Plan, (4) The Plans for Turnover of Facilities and Functions Program,
(5) Budgeting and Funding Concept Improvement Program, (6) The Administrative and
Direct Support Logistical Company Study, (7) The South Vietnamese Anned Forces
Automated Materiel Management System, and (8) The OJT Program “Project Buddy.” 76
This collection of plans shows that MACV did not ignore the importance of improving
RVNAF logistics, but the question is how well they were executed.
The following pages will address three of these programs in detail, the CLOP,
CLIP, and Project Buddy. Since the CLOP and CLIP are plans that address all aspects of
the RVNAF logistics infrastructure, they are the best tools for detennining MACV’s
approach. Project Buddy represents a clear example of pairing off between RVNAF and
MACV logisticians. In order to establish continuity in drawing the line from the
75 Cosmas, The Years of Withdrawal, 270.
76 Heiser, Logistic Support, 239-240. While Heiser refers to a “Logistics Master
Plan” in his Vietnam Studies series book, the Logistics Offensive Coordination Center
referred to it in their November 1969 Newsletter as the “Master Plan for RVNAF
Logistics Self Sufficiency.” Various studies and programs aligned between these two
documents, but were numbered differently.
Vietnamization policy to activity on the ground, the descriptions will follow the order as
they are listed. It should be noted, however, that elements in the 1st Log Cmd were
piloting Project Buddy initiatives prior to the publication of the CLOP and CLIP, thanks
to the prescience and command influence of some key logistical leaders.
The Combined Logistics Offensive Plan—CLOP
MACV the CLOP as a combined plan with the RVNAF in 1969, but then
transferred to the RVNAF as an annual plan to improve logistics efficiency. The CLOP
deserves some detailed attention because it seems to be the flagship of MACV’s fonnal
efforts to enhance the RVNAF’s logistical capabilities. While the plan effectively
formalized how the RVNAF and their advisors could collect and approach problems, the
approach to the problems articulated in the plan left much to be desired.
General Abrams signed the CLOP into effect on 22 July 1969, stating “The
United States Government has invested extensively in improving the Combat Capability
of RVNAF. We must now concentrate our efforts on improving RVNAF logistics support
to complement the increased combat capability.” 77 The plan identified five objectives:
(1) Improve RVNAF logistics effectiveness; (2) Establish RVNAF standards of logistics
effectiveness; (3) Provide techniques for measuring logistics effectiveness and progress
in logistic systems improvement; (4) Improve effectiveness of logistics advisory
organizations and personnel; and (5) Instill a positive and aggressive attitude in personnel
77 MACV Plan, Logistics: Logistics Advisory Directorate - Combined Logistics
Offensive - Record of MACV Part 1, 22 July 1969, Folder 0423, Box 0026, TTUWA,
accessed 17 May 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?
item=F015800260423, cover letter. Hereafter referenced as “CLOP.”
at all echelons, of RVNAF and MACV activities, toward rapid and extensive logistical
support improvements. 78 The plan’s objectives were far-reaching, indeed, and yet the
ambiguous nature of its details caused confusion later.
Despite some ambiguities, the CLOP possessed great potential by establishing a
combined way of approaching logistics problems. The plan ordered the establishment of
a Combined Logistics Offensive Coordinating Committee composed of senior officers
from both the RVNAF and MACV to “administer, evaluate, and provide continuing
direction to the ‘Logistics Offensive.’” 79 In accordance with the plan, the RVNAF
established the CLC Logistics Offensive Coordination Center (LOCC), while MACVJ4
established the MACV LOCC. Among their tasks, the MACV LOCC was expected to
synchronize advisory efforts, publish a logistics advisors guide, and determine special
technical training requirements desired by the RVNAF. The advisory effort was expected
to grow through the development of Mobile Logistics Advisory Teams and by identifying
specific, qualified officers from the United States to deploy in support of this effort. The
CLC LOCC was meant to serve as the “focal point for RVNAF logistics performance
information and evaluation.” 80 The order clearly sought to establish a system that
included both parties.
The CLOP emphasized in numerous places the expectation of senior-level interest
and involvement in the program. It directed the RVNAF Deputy Chief of Staff for
78 CLOP, 5-6.
79 Ibid., 6.
80 Ibid., 6-13, “focal point,” 12.
Logistics (then-BG Dong Van Khuyen) and the MACVJ4 (MG Raymond C. Conroy) to
participate in the committee meetings. Both were expected to appoint senior officers to
the LOCCs to promulgate problems identified within the system, and the efforts being
made to fix them. To do so, the LOCC was expected to publish “’Logistics Newsletters’
to infonn commanders and their staffs of pertinent trends, progress, and problems
concerning logistics effectiveness and the ‘Logistics Offensive.’” In his cover letter,
Abrams wrote, “To achieve the desired results it is necessary that commanders and
advisors at all echelons demonstrate a positive and detennined attitude toward logistics
improvement. . . [and that] aggressive execution and first-hand knowledge of the plan by
US advisors” would assure the success of the plan. 81 This structure and emphasis seemed
to provide a pathway for RVNAF improvement. Unfortunately, the 1st Log Cmd was not
mentioned in the plan. This evidences a myopic view on the part of MACV about who
should take part in the advisory roles. This is discussed further below.
Apart from establishing this bureaucracy, the CLOP further detailed the problems
to be improved within the RVNAF logistics system. The MACV staff work is impressive.
The planners collected problem sheets from field advisory teams that defined a specific
logistics issues within the ARVN (73), Vietnamese Navy (VNN) (21), and VNAF (27),
that amounted to 121 service problems. The staff then identified common problems
finding 52 between at least two of the services, nine of which were common across all
three services. They further identified the causes of the problems from a list of ten
choices, then identified the command-level affected. Each problem then had a problem
81 CLOP, 6-13, “Newsletter,” 8, Abrams, cover.
sheet that elaborated on the issue, offered a solution, and assigned an action agency with
a deadline (See Appendix A). 82
For instance, the previous chapter discussed base depot troubles that afflicted the
RVNAF. Aspects of this issue were reflected in ARVN problem number 65, which stated
that “required maintenance capacity at base depots is not known.” The planners identified
four causes: Command Emphasis at the JGS-CLC level; Programs/Systems/Procedures,
Inspections, and Advisors at the Technical Service level. The problem sheet elaborated
that the issue related to the deterioration of buildings at the 80th Ordnance Rebuild Base
Depot (the same from the previous chapter), and a backlog of items at the 40th Engineer
Base Depot. The actions to address these issues lacked inspiration. “High level approval
for construction and maintenance projects for the 80th Ordnance Rebuild Base Depot,”
and “JGS support recommendations of master planning group soon to be forthcoming
from 40 th Engineer Base Depot and expand program to all maintenance facilities,” to be
completed on 1 October 1969, and 1 December 1969, respectively. 83 While this seems to
address the problem on paper, analysis of the elaborated problem (albeit with the benefit
of hindsight), and the associated “fixes,” indicates a shallow appreciation for the bigger
picture problems within the RVNAF network.
ARVN problem 63 provides another example of how the CLOP failed to address
deep seated issues in the system. Problem 63, “Direct support units do not have enough
maintenance float assets,” included anecdotal evidence that two M-41A3 tanks in a
82 CLOP, i-iv.
83 Ibid., A-1-7, A-1-82.
RVNAF Armored Cavalry Regiment had been unserviceable for over seven months for
lack of parts, despite the fact that the needed parts were available. The proposed action
stated “prepare a directive which will place emphasis on ‘moving forward’ maintenance
float stockage from base depot to [Direct Support Units].” 84
Both of these examples from the CLOP indicate the difficulty associated with
attempting to comprehensively improve a large military’s logistical framework. In an
effort to match solutions to problems within a short time, the solutions failed to address
deep-seated issues in the framework. One can assume that an overriding sense of urgency
toward withdrawal induced the approach, with the resulting actions easily being reported
complete. In the second case, for instance, the preparation of a directive could satisfy the
task, though it did not address the possibility that the maintenance system was broken.
The MACJ4 recognized these trends.
Major General (MG) Raymond C. Conroy served as the MACV’s Assistant Chief
of Staff for Logistics, J-4, from March 1969 to October 1970. He was a transportation
officer who served in the Middle East in World War II, and in Korea. Prior to serving as
the MACVJ4, Conroy commanded the Military Traffic Management Command (Western
Area) out of Oakland, CA, and as the Department of the Anny Assistant Chief of Staff
for Logistics for Plans and Doctrine. He would go on to retire as the Chief of Staff for US
Anny Europe. 85 His vast experience helped him recognize that the plan seemed to be
distilled to half-baked efforts.
84 CLOP, A-1-79.
85 Oral History, Raymond C. Conroy, interviewed by Debbie B. Bazemore, 4
December 1985, accessed from US Anny Transportation Corps History, General Officer
For all that the CLOP built it up, the Combined RVNAF/MACV Coordinating
Committee seems only to have met two times. 86 That is not to say that the LOCC was not
meeting and moving forward on the actions directed by the CLOP. In fact, the first
“Logistics Newsletter” signed on 9 September 1969, recorded that attendees of a recent
joint MACV-RVNAF logistics offensive meeting approved an extension to the deadlines
of the CLOP due to the late publication of the RVNAF version of the CLOP. 87
Clearly, the LOCCs made headway in synchronizing efforts and collecting
reports, but it is questionable how deeply they were affecting the system. While they
were certainly doing great work, it is shocking that in the November 1969 committee
meeting, only four months after the order was published in English, the LOCCs reported
that 101 of the 121 problems were “closed out”! MG Conroy was skeptical, as reflected
in the newsletter, stating “MG Conroy emphasized during his closing remarks that
completion of actions as reported on paper was one thing but the true test of success was
actual improvement in logistics which must be measured and validated.” The November
Interviews, accessed 20 May 2016, http://www.transportation.army.mil/history/
86 The author based this assumption on what is available from the “Record of
MACV.” It is possible that the Coordinating Committee met more times, but doubtful
given the language of the newsletter dated 6 March 1970. The LOCC produced three of
the prescribed “Logistics Offensive Newsletters” as minutes for the Committee meetings.
The first newsletter, signed by the MACVJ4, MG Conroy, on 9 September 1969 recorded
that the MACV LOCC had been established, but they were waiting on the RVNAF to
approve the translation of the RVNAF’s list of problems. This addendum to the CLOP is
thus far unavailable.
87 CLOP, MG Raymond Conroy, “Logistics Offensive Newsletter,” 9 September
1969. The first Logistics Offensive Newsletter is included in the CLOP file in the Record
newsletter acknowledged, however, that the CLOP was conceptually short range, and
recorded that the MACV LOCC maintained statuses on all of the elements of the Master
Plan for RVNAF Logistics Self Sufficiency. 88
The second, and seemingly final, meeting of the Combined Logistics
Coordination Committee included an update on the CLOP problems, and then a
discussion of the Logistics Offensive II. The newsletter from the February 27 meeting
emphasized that this new program was initiated by the RVNAF and, while advisory
personnel were expected to advise and assist in the preparation of this sequel, MACV
was to insure that it was a fundamentally Vietnamese effort. The RVNAF timeline for
publishing the Logistics Offensive II gave only a few months to collect and study inputs
for the plan, and submit them through multiple agencies. They expected to publish the
plan by June 1970. 89 Though the MACV record shows no such publication, it appears
that the RVNAF planned to reissue the plan annually with subsequent enumeration.
General Dong Van Khuyen did not refer to the subsequent CLOPs in his monograph.
The CLOP represents an excellent effort at a combined effort on the part of
MACV and the RVNAF to address the improvement and modernization of the RVNAF
logistics systems. The plan resulted in the establishment of a coordination center that
88 Letter from Major General Conroy and Inclosures, Logistics - re: Logistics
Offensive Newsletter - Record of MACV Part 1, 22 November 1969, Folder 0508, Box
0025, TTUVVA, accessed 17 May 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/
items .php? item=F015800250508.
89 Letter from Major General Conroy and Inclosure, Logistics - re: Logistics
Offensive Newsletter - Record of MACV Part 1, 06 March 1970, Folder 0515, Box 0025,
TTUVVA, accessed 17 May 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/
items .php? item=F015800250515.
produced results. Nonetheless, retrospect affords the ability to see shortcomings. The
honest efforts to improve comprehensively the RVNAF system seems to have been
reduced to closing out tasks by writing directives. 90 Furthennore, the evidence shows that
MACV missed an opportunity to involve elements other than advisors. Specifically,
neither the 1st Log Cmd, nor any of its USASCs seem to have been represented on the
Logistics Offensive Coordination Committee. Lieutenant General (LTG) Heiser’s sense
of frustration surrounding this plan for oversight will be discussed below. While this part
of the Logistics Master Plan possessed shortcomings and successes, it was augmented
and complemented by other plans that further assisted the RVNAF toward self-
Country Logistics Improvement Program—CLIP
The CLOP was not the only plan produced by MG Conroy’s Office of the
Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics, MACV. While the CLOP represented a short range,
combined military (USMACV-RVNAF) effort that transferred to primary direction under
the RVNAF, the CLIP represented a long range, joint, interagency, and multinational
approach to improving the RVNAF logistics systems directed by the MACVJ4. While
similar to the CLOP in how it identified problems and directed action for improvement,
the CLIP was much more comprehensive, with a large section detailing the RVNAF
Logistics Organization, and an estimate of the logistics situation across all of the
Vietnamese military services. Taken together, however, the CLOP and CLIP seem to lack
90 See “Logistics Offensive Newsletter,” 6 March 1970, Enclosure 1 “Remarks by
ACofS, J4, MACV.”
synchronization and leave one pondering how advisors and trainers could possibly keep
track of the numerous systems to report improvement.
MASTER PLAN MANAGEMENT CHART
Figure 4. Logistics Master Plan Management Chart
Source: United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Command History 1969.
Volume II (San Francisco: US Army Center for Military History, 1969), VI-116.
How the CLIP and the CLOP could be so desynchronized is hard to discern since
they both emanated from the same office, and were signed within ten days of each
other. 91 Neither plan references the other in their text, although, as mentioned previously,
the Logistics Offensive minutes mentioned the CLIP in its annex as a portion of the
Master Logistics Plan. The Master Plan Management Chart provided in the MACV
Command History 1969: Volume II falls short of clarifying how the tracking system
should truly work. In fact, the reporting diagram does not match the commentary in the
disparate plans. While the CLOP assigned tasks and created a reporting mechanism
through the LOCCs, the CLIP established a reporting process through the larger RVNAF
Improvement and Modernization Management System (RIMMS). 92 In the larger sense,
MACV planners refer to both the CLIP and CLOP as two of its five annual plans, in the
overarching Combined Strategic Objectives Plan, which ostensibly directed all of the US
military efforts in Vietnam. 93 It is confusing how the CLIP and CLOP fell within the
bureaucratic hierarchy of plans. Both were parts of the Logistics Master Plan, but are
91 General Abrams signed the letter of promulgation for the CLOP on 22 July,
1969, while his Assistant Adjutant General, Major J. F. Harris signed “for the
commander” on 31 July, 1969.
92 Report, Logistics - Country Logistics Improvement Plan (CLIP) - Record of
MACV Part 1, 31 July 1969, Folder 0707, Box 0025, TTUVVA, accessed 20 May 2016,
http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?item=FO 15800250707, 3-9.
Hereafter referenced as CLIP.
93 “Updated US/RVN (US MACV/RVNJGS) Combined Strategic Objectives
Plan,” 1971, Folder 01, Box 19, Douglas Pike Collection: Unit 01 - Assessment and
Strategy, TTUVVA, accessed 19 May 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/
items.php?item=2121901001, 13-3 - 13-4. Hereafter referenced as CSOP. The other plans
were the Combined Campaign Plan, the National Community Defense and Local
Development Plan, and the RVNAF/MACV Communications Offensive Plan.
listed individually in MACV’s Combined Strategic Objectives Plan. Even though the
CLIP represented long-term objectives, it fell below the CLOP coordinating framework.
They also differed in their distribution, which may explain some disparities.
While the CLOP included recipients within MACV and the RVNAL, the CLIP’S
distribution reached much further, to include a number of offices in Pacific Command,
the Counterinsurgency School in Maxwell Air Lorce Base, and the US Command and
General Staff College. This, along with references to formatting in accordance with the
Commander-in-Chief Pacific Command Military Assistance Manual indicate that this
plan was made for wider consumption. 94 Regardless of how the formatting matched
audiences, the CLIP did project deadlines further in the future, and seemed to have a
wider scope on problems in the RVNAL system.
The plan’s authors divided their product into three sections. The first section laid
out the purpose, scope, policy, and implementation of the plan. The policy prioritized
command emphasis, logistics training, and logistics organization as critical for the
RVNAL’s achievement of self-sufficiency, and assigned the MACVJ4 as the plan’s
monitor. The agencies tasked within the order were to submit two quarterly reports to the
MACVJ46 on each of their assigned tasks, with the third and fourth quarter reports
combined into an annual report. 95 The MACV historical records do not include any of
94 CLIP, cover letter, 1-2 - 1-3. In the general section, MACV planners stated that
Country Logistics Improvement Plans normally address improvement throughout a
country, to include economic reform, industry, etc. They qualify that this plan addressed
only the RVNAL logistical capabilities.
95 Ibid., 1-1 - 1-3.
The second section described the RVNAF Logistics organization is great detail,
and presented estimates of the logistics situations of each service’s logistical capability.
The logistical organization subsection delves into the RVN’s GTSR cycle by explaining
the roles of each branch’s technical services at the tactical, operational, and strategic
level. In terms of maintenance, for instance, it explains that first, second, and third
echelon maintenance is performed at the unit-level within the ARVN divisions, and
Direct Support Units located throughout the RVNAF ALCs. At the operational level,
fourth, and fifth echelons, highly complicated maintenance issues and total rebuilds, were
to be provided by medium support battalions located at each RVNAF ALC, and by the
80th Ordnance Rebuild Base Depot located in Saigon. 96 This section provided the
theoretical way the RVNAF logistics system should work.
The “estimate of the situation” subsection shines light on some of the
shortcomings within the system. The summary argues that the RVNAF had advanced
toward self-sufficiency from 1968-1969, but they still relied on assistance from the US
advisors. It further emphasized that the ARVN system could expect more strain in the
near future due to the changing situation and new growing force. This would be due to
the ARVN taking on the challenge of defending the nation from outside aggressors as
well as their pacification efforts, and the logistics snowball effect of increasing logistics
personnel to support the increasing force structure. This section goes on to address some
trends within each of the technical services. 97
96 CLIP, 2-1 -2-9.
97 Ibid., 2-33 - 2-38.
While the second section of the CLIP made a detennined effort to describe the
RVNAF system and its shortcomings, it fundamentally failed to address the problem of
integration, and leadership among the logistics organizations. It stated that the “supply
system responded well during the past Communist Offensives,” but fails to qualify the
statement by mentioning the degree to which they relied on the US system to react. 98
The third, final and largest section of the CLIP, “Logistic Objectives and Active
Projects,” listed the 81 projects of the plan, divided into ten groups. The plan divided the
projects between the South Vietnamese services, with nine assigned to the VNAF, eight
to the VNN, and 64 to the ARVN. The ARVN projects fell into eight subcategories: J462,
J463, Engineer, Medical, Ordnance, Quartermaster, Signal, and Transportation. The
number of projects within each subcategory varied from only one in the J462, to twenty
in the Ordnance subcategory. 99
The first subcategory had only one project, “Develop a Management Information
System Geared Toward Evaluating Effectiveness of the RVNAF Improvement and
Modernization Program.” This section seemed to relieve MACV from collecting and
reporting infonnation for inclusion in the monthly RVNAF Improvement and
Modernization Management System (RIMMS) report. The new expectation was that the
JGS/CLC will collect their own information, and that the MACV J462 will help them
develop reporting systems to evaluate their supply management, maintenance system, and
98 CLIP, 2-33.
99 Ibid., 3-1 - 3-6.
transportation management. 100 It is difficult to rationalize how this affected logistics
reporting through the RIMMS. RIMMS reports are not readily available after the August
1969 edition, the month in which the CLIP was published, implying that MACV
discontinued the report. Nonetheless, the MACV 1971 Combined Strategic Objectives
Plan still referred to the RIMMS as if it was still being produced. 101 While the reporting
regimen remains unclear, especially considering the Logistics Master Pan Management
Chart, the projects seemed to remedy some of the problems evident in the CLOP.
The issues represented in the CLIP’S projects spanned a wide range from tactical
to strategic considerations. The projects in the J463 category, for instance, dealt mainly
with strategic generation tasks, such as the establishment of an RVNAF National
Materiel Management Center (Project 2-1). Meanwhile, the Engineer section included
Project 3-6, “Shortage of Engineer Technical Manuals at Operator and Maintenance
An exploration of the eighth subcategory of transportation projects helps to gain
understanding of how the CLIP seemed to tie into the O JT program discussed later, and
shows the coherent and realistic approach by MACV, while showing the myopic focus of
the projects. The Transportation subcategory includes four projects: Transportation
Improvement (OJT with U.S. Units); Water Lift Improvement; Terminal Operations
Improvement, Tenninal Service Companies; and Tenninal Operations Improvement, Port
100 Ibid., 3-7.
101 CSOP, 17-2. The CSOP goes on to state that the primary tool to evaluate
operational effectiveness was the System for Evaluating the Effectiveness of RVNAF.
102 CLIP, 3-1,3-9,3-31.
Facilities. Each project includes an objective, a narrative of the background and current
situation, courses of action, and deadlines for each sub task. 103 (See Appendix 2)
The CLIP represents a long term plan to improve the RVNAF logistical self-
sufficiency. The deliberate way in which it laid out objectives, tasks, and forecasted
deadlines seemed to mitigate the problems that Conroy experienced with the CLOP.
Nonetheless, the available records do not indicate that the CLIP enjoyed much more
success than its complementary plan.
While the plan attempted to address aspects of the science of logistics, it failed to
embrace the complexities of the art of logistics. The categorization of the projects into
departments and services fundamentally failed to address the deep-seated challenges of
developing operational-level logistics capabilities. The projects do not address how
logisticians above the corps level should be included into planning major operations. Nor
do they foresee challenges in managing distribution networks and the integration of the
different services. Had the plan insisted upon training high-level logistics planning within
the RVNAF ALCs, they may have found more success in integrating the technical
services and planning more effectively for support to combat operations. These
shortcomings would become apparent in a few short years in Cambodia and Laos.
While the CLIP presented better guidance to the MACV J4 advisory sections on
where to focus their efforts, it still fell short in recognizing the full potential of pairing off
units that were already on the ground. The few references in the CLIP to the
improvement of OJT programs demonstrated the influence of one individual on MACV’s
103 Ibid., 3-131 -3-138.
belated planning efforts. As MACV struggled to finally get the CLOP and CLIP
published and approved, one logistics commander had already embraced the natural
nexus that exists among logistics units and civilians to develop a way to assist in RVNAF
LTG Joseph Heiser, Civic Action, and Project Buddy
Project Buddy represented an OJT Program designed to transfer duties among 1st
Log Cmd elements to the RVNAF counterparts that were often collocated at ports,
depots, and ammunition points. The commander who initiated the project, LTG Joseph
Heiser, displayed prescience and determination, despite a lack of support from MACV.
The actions of his subordinates demonstrated how the policy of Vietnamization translated
into action at the operational level of logistics, and represented a lost opportunity by
MACV over years of advising in Vietnam.
LTG Joseph Heiser demonstrated exceptional leadership as the commander of the
1st Log Cmd from July 1968 to July 1969. Not only did he initiate programs to improve
the US logistics situation upon his arrival, he also recognized how he could extend his
organization’s influence to affect multiple aspects of the overall campaign plan in
Heiser had a tough childhood. He was raised in Charleston, SC by his great aunt
because his mother died of influenza soon after divorcing his father for abusive
alcoholism. When Heiser was 12 years old in 1926, his father took him away to
Washington DC, having a brief exchange of gunfire with relatives on the way. As the
specter of World War II loomed, Heiser enlisted in the Anny because he did not want to
wait on his Marine enlistment waiver. His leadership qualities earned him orders to the
Officer Candidate School where he received his commission as an Ordnance officer. He
gained significant experience in the United Kingdom Base Section until 1945, then as the
7th Division Ordnance Officer in the Korean War. 104
In January 1966, Heiser began his assignment as the Assistant to the Deputy Chief
of Staff for Logistics under LTG Lawrence Lincoln, Jr, and then LTG Jean Eiger. Eiger
took the assignment as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics after having served as
Commander of the 1st Log Cmd. During this assignment, Heiser was sent to Vietnam to
investigate some claims about inefficiencies in the logistics system. He found numerous
problems, to include a backup in shipping and broken communications. At this early
stage, he attributed the problems to a lack of accountability for what material was on the
ground. This informed his approach and aggressiveness when he took charge of the 1 st
Logistical Command in the summer of 1968. 105
Upon arrival in Vietnam, Heiser established three major programs that inform the
scope of this study. First, he initiated a “Logistics Offensive” to address the problems in
the American logistics system that he found in his earlier investigation. This offensive
focused on gaining accountability of material on hand and halting unnecessary items
from coming into the theater. The success of Heiser’s program undoubtedly inspired the
naming of the combined plans discussed previously, and inspired Heiser to enact an
Army-wide “Logistics Offensive” when he became the Deputy Chief of Staff for
104 Heiser, Soldier Supporting Soldiers, 3-79.
105 Ibid., 129-140.
Logistics after his tour in Vietnam. 106 Secondly, he commenced Project Skills II two
months after he took command. This program augmented the Command’s Operations
Order 1-68, the plan for civic action throughout Vietnam. Skills II established an OJT
program for Vietnamese in the fields of auto mechanics, clerical work, and carpentry.
Finally, in light of the success of his civic action program, he instituted Project Buddy. 107
Heiser understood that members of the 1st Log Cmd were capable of providing more than
just services and support as means to achieving the military strategic ends in Vietnam. It
started with their natural interaction with the host nation’s people.
Operational-level logistics organizations represent a natural point of collaboration
between a military force and a host country. The logistical units in Vietnam interacted
with the local population from the very start of the efforts to establish a viable South
Vietnamese government. They executed local projects to support the quality of life for
locals, trained the South Vietnam Armed Forces’ logisticians, and developed programs
for civilians with an eye on South Vietnam’s post-war prosperity. Interactions with the
local nationals were not always positive, however. Logistical commanders often
negotiated with the local population to counter such frustrations as pilferage and labor
Before President Lyndon Johnson’s commitment of significant ground forces to
Vietnam in 1965, the Headquarters Support Activity, US Navy, preceded the 1st Log
Cmd as the ranking command for logistics. Even before a significant build-up of forces,
106 Ibid., 150-165.
107 SODR, Joseph M. Heiser, Jr., 23 September 1969, DTIC, CARL; Skills II,
224, 239-240; Buddy, 15.
the Navy demonstrated the natural ties between the logistical units and civic action
missions. Voluntary dental care for the Vietnamese people, for instance, included more
than 12,000 cases by October 1965. 108 In the US Navy’s 1972 history of operational
logistics in Vietnam, Mobility, Support, Endurance, Vice Admiral Edwin Hooper wrote,
“The Dental Department sent out volunteer teams on weekends to villages and hamlets,
where they performed minor surgery to relieve oral suffering and halt infections. In a
typical ten-hour day, two dentists would pull as many as 600 teeth.” 109 Apart from dental
care, they saw numerous opportunities to help the host nation.
After the disestablishment of Naval Support Command as the ranking logistics
headquarters, the Navy was still responsible for (Naval) USASC Da Nang, providing
support for the northernmost I CTZ. One officer assumed the full time job of supervising
civic action efforts, while other officers and sailors worked as volunteers. Over time, the
commitment grew. By June of 1967, USASC-Da Nang had eight village action teams that
rebuilt homes in damaged hamlets, established parks, and taught civil functions, such as
waste disposal and traffic planning. 110 US Marine Corps “Seabees” 111 actively engaged in
civic projects throughout the war building schools, bridges, resettlement villages (critical
in counterinsurgency environments), and wells. The units in the area support commands
108 Edwin B. Hooper, Mobility, Support and Endurance: A Story of Naval
Operational Logistics in the Vietnam War, 1965-1968 (Washington, DC: Department of
the Navy, 1972), 64-65.
109 Ibid., 65.
110 Ibid., 101.
111 The term “Seabee” comes from the abbreviation “CB” for construction
were particularly well suited to perform these functions because of excess dunnage
available after supplies arrived. 112
The civic action operations in Da Nang were replicated across the other support
commands and grew in importance over the years. In 1967, USASC Saigon implemented
the Long Binh Post People-to-People Program with marked success. The 1st Logistical
Command Headquarters ORLL from July 1968 recorded,
The program involves weekly hamlet visits and the conduct of an intensive civic
action program in the area. One significant project currently underway is the
relocation of the entire hamlet of Nui Dat, which was devastated during the Tet
attacks. Land was acquired from the government approximately two kilometers
from the original site and 100 new homes are being built, entirely on a self-help
basis, with material and technical assistance being provided by the Government of
South Vietnam and USASC, Saigon. 113
In response to USARV’s Operations Plan 81-68 (Campaign Plan), the 1st Logistical
Command, then under MG Thomas Scott, implemented Operations Order 1-68 ordering
all of the Support Area Commands to develop programs like the USASC Saigon’s
People-to-People program. The July ORLL stated, “Its scope extends far beyond
anything undertaken heretofore and is a major step forward in the effective coordination
of the military civic action effort throughout Vietnam.” 114 Heiser recalled in his memoirs
the voluntary efforts by U.S. servicemen on behalf of the Vietnamese in 1968 and 1969
112 Hooper, 192-193.
113 ORLL, 1st Log Cmd, Quarterly Period Ending 13 July 1968, DTIC, CARL,
included construction of 1,253 schools, 175 hospitals, 598 bridges, and 7,099
Operations Order 1-68 produced long-tenn fruits among the area support
commands and paved the way toward training Vietnamese to take on increased
responsibility in the USASCs. The 10th Transportation Battalion (Tenninal) operated a
stevedore training school for local nationals. Brigadier General Henry Del Mar stated in
his Senior Officer Debriefing Report, “We are quite proud of the stevedores that
graduated from our own stevedore training course. So fast have they advanced that
Support Command trained stevedore crews now account for approximately one-third of
all the cargo tonnage handled in Can Ranh Port.” 116 Such programs exhibit the influence
that the logistical commands could have in supporting the population in positive ways
through civic action and civilian interaction.
Two months after Heiser arrived in Saigon, he expanded on the civic action
program with Project Skills II, a training program for local nationals employed at the
USASCs, in recognition of the increasing role of South Vietnamese civilians as
manpower resources available to the 1st Log Cmd. Heiser further expanded this to Skills
IIA, targeting high performers from the Skills II program for further education and
potential managerial responsibility. 117
115 Heiser, A Soldier Supporting Soldiers, 165.
116 SODR, BG Henry Del Mar, 18 February 1971, USAHEC, 13.
117 SODR, Heiser, 224.
This extensive review of the civic action and local national training programs
shows that operational level logistics organizations naturally find themselves in positions
to interact with local nationals, and take part in the improvement of their host nation.
Furthennore, it demonstrates how the 1st Log Cmd leadership, particularly LTG Heiser,
understood how they could use their USASCs to conduct OJT programs. Unfortunately,
MACV failed to appreciate this capability. While Project Buddy did not receive its due
attention in the eyes of its creator, it became a talking point for MACV in weekly updates
to Pacific Command, and to the US Congress.
An understanding of the 1st Log Cmd’s Project Buddy serves two purposes for
understanding how the US Anny Vietnamized operational level logistics. First, it
solidified the Vietnamization concept before the policy even took effect. Secondly, it
represents a missed opportunity for MACV to take an alternate approach to the advisory
effort, and embrace further Abrams’ “One War” concept.
Project Buddy emerged in the 1st Log Cmd’s January 1969 ORLL’s annex for
training as a conceptual plan submitted to MACV and ARVN headquarters for approval.
The report defined the operation as “a means of expeditiously expanding ARVN’s
logistical forces in order to insure [sic] their readiness to assume responsibilities
connected with T-Day planning and MACV RVNAF improvement and modernization
program.” 118 It further explained that 1st Log Cmd submitted the plan to USARV and
MACV for concept approval in November 1968, but that the subordinate support
commands should provide comments for consideration in the final plan, and be prepared
118 ORLL, 1st Log Cmd, quarterly period ending January 1969, DTIC, CARL, 47.
to implement the plan 30 days after USARV granted approval. Finally, it reported that
each of the USASCs had initiated programs anticipating the plan’s approval. 119 This
approval was not as smooth as Heiser hoped and expected.
MACV dragged its feet on approving Heiser’s program because of a fundamental
belief that advising, assisting, and training the RVNAF should be restricted to the
advisors within MACV. 120 The friction between the organizations can be sensed through
subsequent ORLLs, and by Heiser’s records. In the 1st Log Qnd’s April 1969 ORLL, the
training division annex reported “MACV has not yet provided overall ARVN logistical
training requirements to initiate full implementation of the program.” 121 The MACVJ46
finally received a briefing and completed an evaluation of the 1st Log Cmd’s OJT
training capacity in August 1969, nine months after Heiser’s headquarters submitted the
plan for approval. 122
MACV’s annual Command History 1969, included OJT Project Buddy as a
program in the master plan for logistics self-sufficiency. It acknowledged that 1st Log
Cmd initiated Buddy in January as a pilot, and that the Military Assistance Command-
Training staffed a proposed directive for RVNAF OJT that was published in October.
119 ORLL, 1st Log Cmd, quarterly period ending January 1969, DTIC, CARL, 47.
120 Clarke, 430.
121 ORLL, 1st Log Cmd, quarterly period ending April 1969, DTIC, CARL, 51.
122 ORLL, 1st Log Cmd, quarterly period ending October 1969, DTIC, CARL, 33.
The history concluded the section stating, “At the end of the year, all indications were
that the various OJT Programs were exceeding original expectations.” 123
Heiser expressed his displeasure with how MACV took on his proposed program
in his SODR, his memoirs, and in the Logistics Support edition of the Vietnam Studies
Series. In his SODR, Heiser wrote, “General Abrams personally approved the BUDDY
concept in January but we have been unable to make real headway due to lack of interest
in MACV J4 and some ARVN top level people who don’t recognize the problem!” He
went on to state, “We have a psychological problem to solve in that there are those who
are not intimately knowledgeable of our logistic system or the equipment provided;
therefore, they cannot recognize what the requirement really is!” 124 In Logistics Support,
Heiser wrote that the Buddy Project’s potential was never realized due to mid-level
bureaucracy and jurisdictional protection on MACV’s part. 125 In his memoirs, published
after the fall of Saigon, Heiser reiterated his disappointment, stating, “Because of lack of
cooperation within the MACV staff, even though their boss had approved the project, we
did not make nearly the progress we should have. I can’t judge the extent to which this
failure affected the capability of the ARVN combat service support troops, but I know
that it did hurt in the long run.” 126
123 Command History, 1969 Volume II, VI-126.
124 SODR, Heiser, 15.
125 Heiser, Logistics Support, 241
126 Heiser, Soldier Supporting Soldiers, 161-162.
Some of Heiser’s frustration potentially resulted from the decision by MACV in
summer of 1969 to eliminate the 1st Log Cmd Headquarters in their effort to optimize US
troops in support of withdrawal caps. Heiser’s replacement would be the last 1st Log
Commander. He closed the headquarters in the summer of 1970. Thereafter, the USASCs
reported directly to USARV. 127
Heiser’s frustrations notwithstanding, the Buddy Project resulted in deliberate
contributions by the USASCs to the RVNAF’s self-sufficiency in operational logistics for
the remainder of the war. The 1st Log Cmd’s ORLLs show impressive growth in training
the RVNAF troops through the years. During the “pilot period” before MACV approved
the program, ten ARVN soldiers received training as tug boat masters from the 4th
Transportation Command from USASC-Saigon , and 16 ARVN soldiers received heavy
boat, machine shop, and harbormaster operations training from the 159th Transportation
Battalion (Terminal). 128 The 159th Transportation Battalion (Terminal) oversaw
stevedore functions in Qui Nhon from 1966 to April 1969, and the Vung Tau and Cat Lai
ports in the USASC-Da Nang until it departed Vietnam in June 1971. 129 The
geographical locations of these troops show that 1st Log Cmd carried this initiative
throughout the country, not just in the major Saigon / Long Binh area.
In the first month that MACV finally evaluated Heiser’s program, August 1969,
the 1st Log Cmd trained 80 ARVN soldiers. Two months later, 572 soldiers received
127 Cosmas, MACV: The Years of Withdrawal, 209-210.
128 ORLL, 1st Log Cmd, quarterly period ending April 1969, DTIC, CARL, 51.
129 Stanton, 226.
training in areas ranging from laundry machine maintenance, to tug, medium, and heavy
boat operations. 130 By January 1970, 814 ARVN soldiers had been trained, while 843
ARVN soldiers were in training. 131 In the 1st Log Qnd’s final ORLL before deactivation,
the program expanded even further throughout the ASCs with 2,425 ARVN soldiers
trained over the course of three months. This training included more nuanced courses,
such as the 24 ARVN soldiers who received ammunition handling, identification
inspection, and maintenance techniques training by the 3rd Ordnance Battalion from
The project received mixed coverage in the USASC Commanders’ SODRs. This
indicates to some degree the amount of command emphasis the program received. With
respect to USASC Cam Rahn Bay, for instance, Colonel (COL) Fra nk Gleason’s SODR
makes no mention of Project Buddy, or of any coordination or relationship with the
RVNAF ALCs that had the same area of support operations. 133 In fact, the USASC Cam
Rahn Bay ORLLs from his time in command reflect no efforts to institute the concept
Heiser instructed his subordinate commands to develop. 134 Gleason’s replacements,
though, highlighted specifically the value of the program.
130 ORLL, 1st Log Cmd, quarterly period ending October 1969, DTIC, CARL, 33.
131 ORLL, 1st Log Cmd, quarterly period ending January 1970, DTIC, CARL, 31.
132 ORLL, 1st Log Cmd, quarterly period ending April 1970, DTIC, CARL, 22.
133 SODR, COL Frank Gleason, 19 September 1969, DTIC, CARL.
134 ORLLs, USASC Cam Ranh Bay, quarterly periods ending April, July, and
October, 1969, DTIC, CARL.
BG Henry Del Mar assumed command of USASC Cam Ranh Bay in October
1969, and seemed to have embraced Project Buddy. The first ORLL released after he
took command reflected the initiation and growth of the program, including that in
January 1970, “an Instruct and Advise (I&A) Team composed of six personnel from this
command was attached to MACV Team 11 in Nha Trang to assist ARVN personnel
while they were working on the job.” 135 The program received further emphasis in the
US Army Depot, Cam Ranh Bay report for the same period, that reported how nine
ARVN soldiers were receiving training on care and preservation techniques and methods
of packaging. The depot commander used contractors from the Vinnell Corporation to
teach the course because they were the subject matter experts in the task. When a
Contract Officer Representative from Vinnell Corporation stated he would not continue
instruction without a letter from the USASC Cam Ranh Bay Headquarters, one was
readily produced and provided. 136
In his SODR, BG Del Mar expressed pride in his command’s efforts to
Vietnamize their tasks, and in the rapport that the members of his command had built
with the Vietnamese civilian and military communities. In the “Highlights of My Period
of Command” section, he stated, “approximately one of every three tons of cargo that
passes through the Cam Ranh Port is handled by Support Command trained Vietnamese
135 ORLL, USASC Cam Ranh Bay, quarterly period ending January 1970, DTIC,
136 ORLL, US Anny Depot, Cam Ranh Bay, quarterly period ending January
1970, DTIC, CARL, 5. The Vinnell Corporation was a government-owned civilian
operated component at ASC Cam Ranh Bay that operated high voltage power plants,
stevedore support, and port clearance support to the command. Stanton, 192.
stevedores,” and “in all my maintenance areas I have Vietnamese military and civilian
personnel working side-by-side doing on-the-job training with my own maintenance
personnel.” 137 Del Mar’s replacement, MG Harold Kissinger, who commanded USASC
Cam Ranh Bay from September 1970 until March 1972, enthusiastically continued this
trend reporting on direct and indirect dealings with the 2nd and 5th RVNAF ALCs. 138
Support for Project Buddy among the commanders of USASC Da Nang started
strong, but took on a different tone in the final years. BG George Young commanded this
northern most USASC from March 1967 to October 1968. He observed that the
effectiveness of MACV’s centralized advisory effort was “highly questionable,” and that
the 1st Log Commander should be in charge of this aspect of Vietnamization. This was
prescient as he left command prior to Heiser’s arrival. 139 His successors did not reflect
similar zeal in their SODRs. BG James Gunn, the commander from October, 1968 to
October, 1969, made no mention of Project Buddy or any relations with his ARVN
counterparts. COL H. D. Smith, commander from October 1969 to July 1970, included
Project Buddy in his list of activities, but did not stress any relationships in his SODR. 140
However, the USASC Da Nang ORLLs during Smith’s tenure in command implied
significant support for the program. The ORLL covering the period from January to
April, 1970, reported that Project Buddy remained a “top priority” for the command.
137 SODR, BG Henry Del Mar, February 1971, DTIC, CARL, 21.
138 SODR, MG Harold Kissinger, December 1972, DTIC, CARL, 5.
139 SODR, BG George Young, October 1968, DTIC, CARL, 12-13.
140 SODR, BG James Gunn, November 1969, DTIC, CARL; SODR, COL H.D.
Smith, December 1970, DTIC, CARL, 3.
Smith had organized two internal Instruct and Advise teams. One team completed a six-
week training cycle at the ARVN 812th Ordnance Company in Da Nang, while the other
worked with the ARVN 811th Ordnance Direct Support Unit in Hue. 141 Smith’s
successor, MG Arthur Sweeney’s report covering November 1970 to April 1972, leaves
the impression that Vietnamization diverted from being a matter of training, but was
merely a method of handing over equipment and responsibility. 142 Sweeney’s perspective
was likely influenced by his focus on supporting Operation Lam Son 719, and then
transferring his attention almost solely to Operation Keystone duties.
The SODRs from the commanders of USASC Qui Nhon further imply differing
attitudes about the USASCs role in transferring tasks to the ARVN. BG Darrie Richards,
commander fonn May 1968 to June 1969 made no mention of Project Buddy, or of
Vietnamization. Although, the ORLL for his time in command reflected that they had
introduced and were widening the scope of the project. 143 On the contrary, Richards’
successor, BG Albert Hunter, who commanded from 8 June 1969 to 1 June 1970, lauded
his command’s efforts in his SODR’s summary. His comments are worth quoting at
A final but most noteworthy accomplishment has been the success achieved by
[Qui Nhon Support Command] in the ARVNIZATION Program. The 1377
members of the RVN, 2d Area Logistics Command who have been trained in
logistics skills represent about 23 percent of the 6,000 personnel assigned to the
141 ORLLs, USASC Da Nang, quarterly periods ending January, July, 1970,
DTIC, CARL; ORLL, USASC Da Nang, quarterly period ending April 1970, DTIC,
142 SODR, MG Arthur Sweeney, December 1972, DTIC, CARL.
143 SODR, BG Darrie Richards, July 1969, DTIC, CARL; ORLL, USASC Qui
Nhon, April 1970, DTIC, CARL, 23.
2d ALC. Other ARVNIZATION highlights include the planned relocation of US
Ammunition stocks into the ARVN [ammunition supply point] at Pleiku early in
June 1970 and the ARVN operations of the Pleiku Tank Farm. [Qui Nhon Support
Command] is giving high priority to the ARVNIZATION Program in order to
prepare the ARVN 2d ALC for the eventual take over and operation on US
logistical facilities. 144
Sadly, Hunter’s successor made no mention of Buddy, Vietnamization, or relationships in
This meticulous review of the SODRs and ORLLs from the 1st Log Cmd and
USASC levels contributes to our understanding of the Vietnamization of operational
level logistics in two significant ways. It shows how the policy of Vietnamization
materialized on the ground where the US and ARVN troops met face to face.
Furthennore, it illustrates the influence of the personalities associated with such a
program and how much effort they receive, particularly in a time when these
organizations faced multiple competing requirements. These negative factors were
exacerbated by the loss of the program’s patron, LTG Heiser, and the subsequent closing
of the 1st Log Cmd Headquarters the year after he left.
The progress made in training the RVNAF troops through Project Buddy proved
to be a point of pride for the US Army, writ large. The numbers of troops trained through
the program were included in the “Army Activities Report: SE Asia,” a weekly
informational report from the US War Office. 145 In his testimony to the US Senate
144 SODR, BG Albert Hunter, July 1970, DTIC, CARL, 29.
145 “U.S. Army Activities Report - U.S. Anny Build-Up and Activities in South
Vietnam, 1965-1972” - Vietnam War Research Collections, 17 February 1971, Folder
0521, Box 0024, TTUVVA, accessed 10 March 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/
Committee on Foreign Relations in March 1970, General Clement used data from Project
Buddy to highlight MACV’s increase in training efforts. 146 Unfortunately, this did not
mean that 1st Log Qnd’s great efforts effectively complemented MACV’s efforts.
This detailed review of MACV’s plans for the improvement and modernization of
the RVNAF logistics, as captured in the CLIP and CLOP, and the efforts made by 1st
Log Cmd through Project Buddy after years of practice training Vietnamese civilians,
demonstrates two key factors about how the US Vietnamized operational level logistics.
First, it showed that there was a logical thread from the Vietnamization policy through
plans made by MACV to improving the RVNAF logistics. The CLIP and CLOP
represented honest efforts to find measures of effectiveness and attempted to assign tasks
and timelines to each of them. Sadly, though, the related documents available for this
study indicate superficial efforts that did not address the art of operational logistics. This
seems to match what historian Gregory Daddis said of MACV’s advisory efforts in
general. Daddis concluded, “there were too many metrics, but not enough meaningful
Secondly, a review of the programs as a whole reflects the lack of synchronization
between MACV’s efforts, and those of the organizations that could directly affect
146 BG Wallace L. Clement, testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, “Vietnam: Policy and Prospects, 1970, U.S. Military Advisory Program,”
147 Gregory Daddis, No Sure Victory: Measuring US Army Effectiveness and
Progress in the Vietnam War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 224.
RVNAF capability. Neither the CLIP nor the CLOP are ever mentioned in 1st Log Cmd
ORLLs or in the SODRs of the senior logistics commanders. Nor do the CLIP or CLOP
clearly assign responsibilities to the 1st Log Cmd, or the USASCs to support the MACV
trainers. While the CLIP referenced the initial efforts of Project Buddy (though not by
name) as beneficial to the CLIP objectives, it did not result in aggressive support on the
whole from MACV.
The state of the overall effort to improve the RVNAF operational logistical
capabilities was summed up in the April, 1971 ORLL from USASC Cam Ranh Bay. In it,
the unit reported that efforts toward Vietnamization programs were limited for three
reasons: lack of coordination and planning; lack of translators for Project Buddy; and
feet-dragging by the ARVN. 148 Had MACV considered the need to come up with a plan
earlier, and recognized that the USASCs already had a natural relationship with the
Vietnamese through their civic action programs, they may have produced a more
synchronized plan with more concrete results. The conditions as they played out explain
how well, or how poorly, the RVNAF logisticians would conduct the art of operational
logistics in the final years of American involvement in the war.
148 ORLL, USASC Cam Ranh Bay, quarterly period ending April 1971, DTIC,
IDENTIFYING GAPS: LAM SON 719 AND RVNAF’S RELIANCE ON MACV
In order to properly assess how well the US Anny Vietnamized operational
logistics, we must consider the perfonnance of the RVNAF itself. The 1971 raid into
Laos, Operation Lam Son 719 and the subsidiary Operation Dewey Canyon II, represent
the best case study for considering the effectiveness of the effort for numerous reasons. It
takes place more than 18 months after the publication of the CLIP, CLOP, and Buddy
program, so one may reasonably expect significant RVNAF advances. Furthermore, the
RVNAF and US had the opportunity to leam from the incursion into Cambodia a year
prior. The nature and scale of the operation also make it the best candidate for study.
Since Operation Lam Son 719 was an offensive campaign, the RVNAF possessed the
initiative, ostensibly giving them opportunity to develop an efficient and effective
operational logistics plan and network. Finally, Lam Son 719 serves best as a case study
because once the Nixon Administration used the operation as demonstration of success
for the Vietnamization program, the logisticians’ efforts turned increasingly (even totally)
to Operations Keystone and Enhance, to the detriment of the OJT program.
The execution and aftermath of Operation Lam Son 719 evidenced the neglect of
Vietnamization efforts in operational level logistics because of the lack of coordination in
logistical planning, the overreliance on the American logistical infrastructure, and the
effects of the decision after the operation to accelerate the withdrawal of American forces
from Vietnam. The lack of coordination in logistical planning highlighted MACV’s half¬
hearted efforts to advise and assist the RVNAF in an arena, as Heiser said, MACV did
not fully grasp. The RVNAF performed poorly, or relied heavily on American capability
to transport, sustain, and redeploy at the operational level. Finally, after the operation
concluded and President Nixon declared success of the Vietnamization program, he set
the wheels in motion that would not allow logisticians of the USASCs to bolster their
efforts to improve the RVNAF because of the great demands inherent in the transfer of
equipment and withdrawal. While the true comprehensive test to Vietnamization would
come a year later with the NVA Easter Offensive, the planning, execution, and results of
Operation Lam Son 719 showed that Vietnamization of operational level logistics would
never meet its potential, had MACV began efforts earlier and capitalized on the 1st Log
This chapter evaluates the RVNAF’s capability to conduct theater combat
logistics using the GTSR cycle. It is appropriate though to provide some background for
Operation Lam Son 719, to include some salient points on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the
Cambodia Incursion of 1970, the operational plan and execution, and the logistical plan.
After using the stages of the GTSR cycle as a tool for evaluation, the chapter concludes
with the effects of the aftennath of Lam Son 719 on the final stages of American
involvement in the war.
The RVNAF Goes on the Offensive
In 1970, the Nixon administration faced a balancing act of appeasing ravenous
calls for withdrawals from the theater by the US public, and holding off an aggressive
enemy so MACV and RVNAF could continue implementing Vietnamization.
Meanwhile, his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, engaged in largely
ineffective, secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese. In the midst of these events,
the North Vietnamese were preparing for another offensive into South Vietnam similar to
the Tet Offensive by pushing supplies down their strategic and operational lines of
communications through Laos and Cambodia. This network was the Ho Chi Minh
Figure 5. 1970 Cambodian Incursion
Source: Graham Cosmas, MACV: The Years of Withdrawal, 1968-1973 (Washington,
DC: US Anny Center of Military History, 2006), 299.
149 Herring, 287-288. Similar to discussions in chapter 1, and later in this chapter,
the relative scale of power projection defines what are operational and strategic LOCs.
Since the theater of operations generally includes all of the countries in eastern
Indochina, these road networks are both operational and strategic.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail had, since the establishment of an independent South
Vietnam, been a “thorn in the back” for RVN and American political and military
leaders. 150 In fact, the system’s roots dated to the 1st Indochina War to support the Viet
Minh’s struggle for independence from France. It consisted of about 2,000 miles of
roadways, trails, and waterways that followed the length of South Vietnam, with
offshoots along the way. It took the NVA Group 559 consisting of over 150,000 troops,
volunteers, and forced laborers to sustain the routes in the face of US bombing
interdiction efforts. The NVA committed such deliberate efforts because of its necessity
to support any major operations against the South. 151
The Americans desired for some time to isolate or interdict portions of the Ho Chi
Minh Trail, and in late 1969, the Joint Chiefs asked for MACV’s opinion on a South
Vietnamese incursion into Cambodia near Saigon. After Abrams expressed reticence on
the RVNAF’s ability to conduct the operation on their own, a combined US/RVNAF
assault across the border received Nixon’s support and approval. The operation was
aimed at interdicting the ends of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and disrupting the exiled Central
Office for South Vietnam (COSVN) in Cambodia. Importantly, the operation consisted of
an American-led combined portion, and a largely independent portion for the ARVN in
the “Parrot’s Beak,” a tract of Cambodian territory that juts into South Vietnam. 152
150 Nguyen Duy Hinh, Lam Son 719 (Washington, DC: US Anny Center for
Military History, 1979), 32.
151 Ibid., 9-16.
152 Sorley, A Better War , 200-208.
Figure 6. Organization for Logistic Support, Cambodian Incursion, 1970
Source : Dong Van Khuyen, RVNAFLogistics (Washington, DC: US Anny Center of
Military History, 1980), 190.
Logistically, the Cambodian Incursion served as a great opportunity for the
RVNAF to establish an operational-level logistics network in support of a major combat
operation. This required them to augment the existing infrastructure of the 3d and 4th
RVNAF ALCs with four and five support bases, respectively, located in key sites around
the Parrot’s Beak, and within Cambodia. For instance, at Go Dau Ha, a village just east of
the RVN-Cambodia border on the Parrot’s Beak, along Highway 1, the CLC deployed
the 531st Ammunition Depot, and the 333d POL Field Depot, as well as direct support
platoons for signal and ordnance. Establishing this infrastructure also proved helpful in
integrating engineer troops, who had to make these FSAs survivable, and recondition the
supply routes in their area of operations. 153
According to multiple accounts, the logisticians performed satisfactorily in
support of the Cambodian Incursion, but not without some troubling shortcomings. 154
Some of these related directly to the RVNAF’s operational level challenges. Their field-
and depot-level maintenance proved inadequate due to a lack of replacement parts,
resulting in high unserviceable rates. A lack of wreckers limited their capability of
evacuating the M-l 13 Armored Personnel Carriers, and M-41 tanks. 155 Furthermore,
while they adequately built up the supplies at the FSAs, their processing and issue rate
proved relatively slow. 156
The CLC logistical network enjoyed numerous favorable conditions, particularly
fair weather, an enemy that decided to cut and run rather than stay and fight, and
numerous supply routes among the FSAs and the existing 3d and 4 th RVNAF ALCs’
areas. These supply routes even included the Mekong River, used extensively by the
VNN riverine forces to transport supplies to the Phnom Penh supply base. 137 The
Cambodian Incursion, and RVNAF Logistics monographs from the Indochina Monograph
Series fail to emphasize the importance of the proximity of this operation to Saigon, and
153 Khuyen, 189-193.
154 Khuyen, 195-196; Tran Dinh Tho, The Cambodian Incursion (Washington,
DC: US Army Center for Military History, 1979), 180; Clarke, 418.
155 Tho, 180; Khuyen, 193.
156 Khuyen, 193-194.
157 Tho, 180; Khuyen, 194.
the RVNAF’s existing stocks within the III CTZ. This proximity, which directly relates
to the number of improved roads in the area, effectively simplified the RVNAF’s
strategic, operational, and tactical GTSR cycles. The RVNAF would not possess the
same favorable conditions a year later.
Operation Lam Son 719
Nearly a year after the Cambodian Incursion, MACV hatched another plan to
interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but this time into southern Laos, near the demilitarized
zone between North and South Vietnam. As early as August 1970, Admiral John S.
McCain, Jr., Commander in Chief of US Pacific Command, conveyed to General Abrams
the White House’s proposal for another cross-border effort. Importantly, Abrams had
concerns about how such an effort affected the Vietnamization program, stating “When a
new endeavor is launched, something has to give.” 158 In early December 1970, McCain
instructed Abrams to initiate planning for an ARVN thrust into Laos. By late December,
Abrams presented confidently his plan for the South Vietnamese to seize Tchepone, a
critical hub of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Abrams came to believe the operation could have
lasting, if not permanent, effects on the enemy’s ability to transport supplies into the
northern region of South Vietnam. 159
158 As quoted in Sorley, A Better War, 232. This was a message sent by Abrams to
McCain in August 1970.
159 Sorley, A Better War, 230-235; Willbanks, Abandoning Vietnam, 96-97.
Source : Jeffrey Clarke, Advice and Support: The Final Years, 1965-1973 (Washington,
DC: US Army Center of Military History, 1988), 474.
Unlike the previous year’s operation, political conditions forbade the Americans
from setting foot on Cambodian or Laotian soil. In response to Nixon’s expansion of the
war in 1970, Senators Fra nk Church and John Cooper introduced an amendment to a
foreign military sales bill prohibiting MACV from committing troops outside of South
Vietnam, and for defunding future financial support to the GVN. The amendment,
tempered of its extreme proposals, finally passed in December of 1970. 160
160 Henry Kissinger, Ending the War in Vietnam (New York: Simon and Schuster,
2003), 169-171; David F. Schmitz, Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War (Lanham, MD:
Rowman and Littlefield, 2014), 92-94.
The plan for the attack into Laos had four phases. The first phase consisted of an
American shaping operation named Operation Dewey Canyon II. The US XXIV Corps,
under the command of LTG James W. Sutherland, received the tasks to clear and
improve the routes from the cities of Quang Tri through Khe Sanh, and to the border.
They had to rebuild the airstrip and base area at Khe Sanh to accommodate the significant
logistical footprint necessary to support the operation. Sutherland had to provide forces to
protect the northern approaches to Khe Sanh, and to integrate with the 2nd Regiment of
the 1st ARVN Infantry Division defending against a possible NVA attack across the
DMZ. Meanwhile, the planned called for the ARVN I Corps, under the command of LTG
Hoang Xuan Lam, consisting of their Rangers, the Airborne Division, the Marine Corps
Division, the 1st Infantry Division, and an Annored Brigade, to stage in various bases in
the I CTZ in preparation for the push into Laos. All of this was expected to take place
within approximately a week from its inception on 8 February. 161
Phase II of the plan launched the multidivisional invasion into Laos with Route 9,
the road connecting Khe Sanh in Vietnam to Tchepone in Laos, as the focal point. The
Rangers, paratroopers, and Marines were to be inserted by (mainly American) helicopters
to the north of Route 9 to establish mutually supporting fire support bases to protect the
main road. The 1st Division would enter in a similar fashion to protect the Route from the
south. Then, the Armor Brigade, task organized under the Airborne Division, would
assault along Route 9, rebuilding the road in stride. After an operational pause at
Objective A Luoi, they would continue to attack to Tchepone, linking up with a vertical
161 Hinh, 35-36; Willbanks, A Raid Too Far, 40-43.
envelopment by a brigade from the Airborne Division. The plan estimated that the ARVN
would seize and clear Tchepone by about 6 March. 162
After the seizure of Tchepone, Phase III of the plan called for the ARVN to
establish blocking positions and conduct search operations around the city. This was
meant to disrupt the flow of materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and to find and
destroy any caches in the area. The planners expected this phase to last until the monsoon
season began in the region in early May. 163
The final phase of the operation laid out the withdrawal of the ARVN divisions
from Laos, back into South Vietnam. The plan offered two options. The first essentially
followed the same entry route. The second option consisted of an attack to the southeast
and up through the Laotian Salient clearing the NVA’s so-called Base Area 611. Both
options included plans to leave behind South Vietnamese Guerrilla Forces and other
assets to continue harassing the enemy. 164 It should be noted that the plan failed to
consider the logistical requirements of redeploying this massive effort out of the ICTZ
and the Khe Sanh Area (Discussed below).
The Logistical Plan
The Operation Lam Son 719 logistics planreflected an unrealistic expectation of
RVNAF logistics capability and capacity. Meanwhile, the logistical planning reflected
162 Hinh, 36-37.
163 Hinh, 37; Willbanks, A Raid Too Far, 44-45.
164 Hinh, 39-40; Willbanks, A Raid Too Far, 44-45.
the lack of synchronization between MACV and the USASCs in their efforts to
Vietnamize operational level logistics.
The plan called for the ARVN I Corps to receive its supplies through the US
distribution pipelines manned by USASC, Da Nang for the first 10 days of the operation.
Afterward, over the course of about nine days, the plan expected the ARVN 1st ALC to
assume responsibility for ARVN logistical support. USASC Da Nang, under MG Arthur
Sweeney’s command, planned to provide support using existing networks in the CTZ, but
had to augment this with new bases due to the scale of the operation, and because the US
no longer had a logistical footprint near enough to the Laotian border since the closure of
the Khe Sanh airbase. 165
Source : Nguyen Duy Hinh, Lam Son 719 (Washington, DC: US Army Center for
Military History, 1979), 52.
165 Willbanks, A Raid Too Far, 48-49.
In order to meet the demands of the operation, General Sweeney split the 26th
General Support Group (GSG) into four separate elements. The actual 26th GSG
headquarters remained in Phu Bai in control of the 2nd Maintenance Battalion and port
operations at the nearby shallow-draft port of Tan My. They further established a
“Forward” Headquarters with a Base Support Area in Quang Tri, including the 63rd
Maintenance Battalion. Finally, they opened a FSA 26-1 and FSA 26-2 in Fire Support
Base Vandergrift (Ca Lu) and Khe Sanh, respectively. 166
General Sweeney recognized that his command lacked sufficient transportation
assets to support an operation of this scale. On 7 February 1970, one week into the first
phase of the operation and D-Day for the ARVN attack into Laos, Sweeney called
Colonel Richard Morton, the commander of the 8th Transportation Group in USASC,
Qui Nhon, to move his HQ to Phu Bai to manage the theater’s ground transportation
provided by the 39th and 57th Transportation battalions, and C Company, 11th Motor
Transportation Battalion. Morton described the chain of events in an oral history at the
end of his career, stating, “the reason for me going up there was the motor transport
situation and the highway net. [They were] coming apart.” 167 The resulting command
arrangement placed Morton’s 8th Transportation Group under the 26th GSG and its
commander, COL Emil Konopnicki. Interestingly, Konopnicki was junior to Morton.
Sweeney chose this arrangement, and asked Morton to subordinate himself, because
166 SODR, MG Arthur Sweeney, DTIC, CARL, 5.
167 Oral History, Richard L. Morton, interviewed by Terry Hunter, 20 August
1987, accessed from US Army Transportation Corps History, General Officer Interviews,
accessed 20 May 2016, http://www.transportation.army.mil/history/GOinterviews.html,
14; Hinh, 177.
Konopnicki had been involved in the operation for a long time, while Morton only
learned of the invasion of Laos on the morning that ARVN crossed the border. 168
Morton claimed in his oral history that one of the underlying problems in the Laos
plan was how few people were involved in its planning, stating “There were so few
people cut in on this, that it began rolling without every proper [sic] hands on the
throttle.” He also said, “[The planning team] really never got down to the action officer
level where any logistician action officer type could say, ‘Hey listen, you have half the
number of truck companies. Your road network won’t support this. Your ports are too far
south.’” 169 MACV and the JGS felt compelled to severely limit who would be involved
in the planning of Lam Son 719 for operational security reasons. They hoped to surprise
the NVA. MACV even embargoed the press from mentioning anything of the operation,
or on the embargo, knowing that it would likely not sit well with the American public. 170
Their need to retain operational security resulted in the unfortunate decision to
exclude the 1st RVNAF ALC Commander, Colonel Mai Duy Thuong, or anyone from
his organization, from planning the operation. The planning, therefore, fell upon the
ARVN I Corps G4, who began developing their concept for support on 8 January. 171 The
168 Oral History, Morton, 17.
169 Ibid., 14-16.
170 Sorley, Vietnam Chronicles, 528-529.
171 Report, U.S. Army - After Action Report for Lam Son 719, XXIV Corps, 30
January 1971 thru 6 April 1971 [Part 2 of 2], 14 May 1971, Folder 09, Box 05, Michael
Sloniker Collection, TTUVVA, accessed 20 April 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/
virtualarchive/items.php?item=8850509001, Annex D, Appendix 10, 10-D-l. Hereafter,
US XXIV Corps AAR.
initial concept addressed the 1st RVNAF ALC’s responsibilities, but it can be no surprise
that this led to the same lack of detailed planning that the Americans faced. As luck
would have it, he and the Corps’ lead planner died in a helicopter crash days after the
operation kicked off. 172
The collective reminiscences to this key leader’s exemption reveals the confusion
and frustration associated with this decision. General Nguyen Duy Hinh, took a measured
tone in his Indochina Monograph: Lam Son 719, stating “Unfortunately, the ARVN 1st
Area Logistics Command, which was responsible for logistical support for I Corps and
[Military Region] 1, was excluded from the operational planning staff because of security
and restrictive measures . . . But this tardiness was in no way an insurmountable
obstacle.” 173 General Khuyen, then the Commander of the RVNAF CLC, took slightly
more direct approach, writing “Strangely, the 1st ALC Commander, the man responsible
for the success or failure of support activities on the ARVN side, was not among those
who were authorized advance knowledge of the operation and a role in its planning . . .
Because of the lack of advance planning, the 1st ALC was overwhelmed by the rush of
last-minute activities.” 174 Khuyen went on to criticize I Corps for failing to provide an
appropriate corps support command to coordinate efforts at Khe Sanh, and for
172 Hinh, 69; Sorley, A Better War, 247.
173 Hinh, 47-48.
174 Khuyen, 200.
complaining about having ready access to the 1st ALC Commander. He also pointed out
that Colonel Mai Duy Thuong’s US advisor was also kept in the dark. 175
The USASC Da Nang quarterly ORLL from April 1971 revealed how the
Americans had a similar, measured, frustration with the secrecy of the planning. In its
April, 1971, ORLL, the USASC Da Nang reported the limited distribution restrictions to
the planning of Lam Son as a problem, stating “Even 1st Area Logistical Command
which was directly involved in the operation was not included in the planning.” 176
Furthennore, the report reflected the need for a joint logistical control center before the
operation started in order to avert discontinuities between the USASC’s, and the RVNAF
ALC’s disparate ammunition pipelines. 177
The American and Vietnamese responses to the decision to exclude the 1st
RVNAF ALC Commander from the Lam Son 719 planning shows that, while it did not
have a significant impact on the operation, it had some detrimental effects. More
importantly, hindsight shows us that MACV and the JGS failed to take advantage of what
would be the last opportunity for mentorship on operational support to combat operations
between major US and RVNAF logistical commands. This reinforces Heiser’s claim that
MACV did not fully understand operational level logistics, and the potential role that the
USASCs could have had in developing the RVNAF ALCs (chapter 3).
175 Ibid., 201.
176 ORLF, USASC Da Nang, quarterly period ending April 1971, DTIC, CARL,
177 Ibid., 7.
The RVNAF’s incursion into Laos did not go as planned largely because of the
level of enemy resistance, but also because of poor leadership and logistical challenges.
A general review of the operation provides context for understanding the logistical
challenges, and the RVNAF and MACV responses to them.
Figure 9. RVNAF Operational Logistics Units Supporting Lam Son 719
Source: Nguyen Duy Hinh, Lam Son 719 (Washington, DC: US Army Center for
Military History, 1979), 50.
The first phase of the operation went fairly well, and appropriately set the
conditions for the RVNAF to cross the border along Highway 9. The US XXIV Corps
seized key terrain around Khe Sanh, and reactivated the airfield, although not without a
costly delay (discussed below). Meanwhile, the RVNAF began building up their forces in
Khe Sanh and Fire Support Base (FSB) Vandergrift under unexpectedly light resistance.
By 7 February, US engineers made herculean achievements in building up base areas. US
FSAs 26-1 and 26-2 were operational, and the armored and airborne ARVN forces coiled
themselves in their attack positions to launch the invasion. 178
As planned, the second phase of Operation Lam Son 719 commenced at 0700
hours on 8 February 1971. By the end of the day, four mutually supporting FSBs manned
by ARVN Rangers and paratroopers protected the northern flank of the 1st Armored
Brigade, while another four FSBs manned by ARVN 1st Division soldiers protected the
south. Within two days, lead elements of the armored column linked up with ARVN
paratroopers at A Luoi along Route 9. Nonetheless, aspects of the first few days in Laos
of the operation foretold the great difficulties that were to come. The US helicopters
inserting the troops endured increasing antiaircraft fire throughout the area of operations,
the ARVN immediately came into contact with NVA troops once they hit the ground, and
the 1st Armored Brigade found that Route 9 west of the border was barely passable for
tracked vehicles, and impossible for wheeled vehicles. 179
In the remaining weeks of February, the fighting in Laos went from concern, to
significant danger, to near disaster. As ARVN casualties increased around the FSBs, the
ground assault ground to a halt at FSB A Luoi. The NVA responded aggressively to
protect their vital supply bases, and ultimately, found support from the North Vietnamese
178 Nolan, 75-83; Willbanks, A Raid Too Far, 70-76.
179 Hinh, 68-74; Willbanks, A Raid Too Far, 77-81.
political leadership to seek a decisive victory against their southern rivals. Using armored
and infantry reinforcements from north and south of base area 604, the NVA poured into
the ARVN FSBs. American air and artillery support from across the border narrowly
averted disaster on numerous occasions through the application of tremendous firepower.
Nonetheless, the weight of the NVA attacks in the north, bolstered by PT-76 and T-54
tanks overran multiple ranger and paratrooper FSBs. The ARVN leaders failed to employ
coherently their own annored elements in support of their beleaguered infantryman.
Things looked bleak as February ended. 180
With March came a new ARVN plan to airlift elements of the ARVN 1st Division
into Tchepone in order to achieve the optics necessary to salvage political victories for
the South Vietnamese and US Governments. The NVA kept its critical lines of
communication and supply caches east and west of the town, in the forests and
mountains. Nonetheless, beginning on 3 March, the ARVN and US helicopters executed
a monumental air assault under unprecedented antiaircraft fire to landing zones southeast
of the town to establish FSBs. By the morning of 9 March, the ARVN had secured
Tchepone, having already begun to search for and destroy caches of weapons throughout
the area. 181
Having attained a significant enough milestone for the operation, General Lam
presented President Thieu and the Chief of the JGS with a plan to withdraw the ARVN
divisions from Laos immediately. General Abrams, reflecting the opinion of MACV and
180 Willbanks, A Raid Too Far, 87-115.
181 Hinh, 89-99.
the US National Security Council, objected, hoping instead that the ARVN would stay in
the vicinity of Tchepone until the rainy season began in May. Notwithstanding the
Americans’ advice, Thieu accepted Lam’s plan for a withdrawal that took the ARVN out
of Laos along Route 914B and across the northern end of the NVA’s Support Base Area
611 intent on destroying supply caches along the way. Lam’s plan had ARVN forces out
of Laos by the end of the month, and called for elements of the ARVN 1st Infantry
Division to rest and refit before another raid back into Base Area 611. Finally, the plan
called for Luat’s Armored Brigade to reverse course back to South Vietnam along Route
With this plan in hand, the ARVN set out to conduct what is considered among
the most difficult of military operations—the phased delay operation. The South
Vietnamese soldiers and marines had to conduct a series of movements southeast and
east, leaving behind the protection of the FSBs they fought so hard to establish. The NVA
were unrelenting as they recognized the ARVN units’ intent. Some units suffered heavily
to allow for the withdrawal. For instance, the 4th Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment,
sacrificed nearly every man when NVA pressure forced them to stand and fight as a rear
guard for the remainder of the regiment at FSB Lolo. 183 Furthermore, the NVA ambushed
and cut off a logistics convoy of the annored column, resulting in the loss of 18 vehicles,
to include four M-41 tanks, and three artillery pieces towed by M-l 13 Armored
182 Hinh, 98-104, 118.
183 Ibid., 107-108.
Personnel Carriers. The heavy losses encouraged President Thieu to tell General Lam to
accelerate the withdrawal. 184
By 25 March, all ARVN units but two reconnaissance teams had reentered South
Vietnam and Operation Lam Son 719 ended. The fighting withdrawal proved difficult
and costly, but the ARVN inflicted significant casualties on the NVA in turn. The ARVN
I Corps suffered 7,683 casualties, 1,549 killed, over the two-month operation. The US
XXIV Corps After Action Report estimated that the NVA suffered 19,360 human losses,
14,565 of which they attributed to the RVNAF and air strikes. 185
Throughout the operation, General Abrams remained optimistic of its value and
potential effects on North Vietnam. On 20 February, after the attack had ground to a halt,
but before the ARVN FSB 31 was overrun, Abrams said to Ellsworth Bunker, the US
Ambassador to South Vietnam, that the operation gave them, “an opportunity to deal the
enemy a blow which probably hasn’t existed before.” 186 On 25 March, in a briefing to
renowned British counterinsurgency expert, Sir Robert Thompson, Abrams decried the
negative press surrounding the operation, insisted that the mission continued to have
widespread support among the rural population, and that they would bear fruits from the
fight for a long time. 187 The fact that his feelings and reports did not match the optics of
the operation did not endear him to President Nixon and Henry Kissinger. In fact, after
184 Ibid., 113-114.
185 Hinh, 129-131.
186 Sorley, Vietnam Chronicles, 542.
187 Ibid., 568-570.
the ARVN began their seemingly premature withdrawal, they expressed their
dissatisfaction by sending then-BG Alexander Haig, the Deputy Assistant to President
Nixon for National Security Affairs, to assess the reality of the situation. 188 The
diminished faith in Abrams meant that his objections to withdrawal plans based on their
effect on his “One War” Concept were ignored.
This review of the scope and scale of the plans and execution of Operation Lam
Son 719 serves two purposes in the evaluation of the development of the RVNAF self-
sufficiency at the operational level. First, it showed that such an operation demanded a
departure from business as usual among the RVNAF ALCs and US ASCs. While both
the Americans and South Vietnamese conducted operations throughout the country on a
daily basis, this required a new level of planning and sophistication to perform. Secondly,
unlike the Cambodian Incursion, the operational area’s distance from Saigon demanded
that the US Anny and RVNAF establish a logistical network above the Corps level. This
defined an operational-level GTSR framework that can serve as a separate measure of the
RVNAF operational level reliance and self-sufficiency.
Lam Son 719—Operational GTSR Cycle
Isolating the operational level of logistics that supported the RVNAF invasion of
Laos exposes the extent to which the RVNAF relied on the US for sustainment of major
operations beyond the commonly known commodities of overwhelming airpower, and
the great demands of the US Anny aviation elements. This is not to imply that if the
RVNAF had a better logistics network, that they would have had more success in Lam
188 Willbanks, A Raid Too Far, 139-140.
Son 719. On the contrary, reports and histories from both sides stated that the RVNAF
logistical support was “adequate,” 189 and “effective,” 190 though, with some qualifications.
This analysis purposes to provide a framework with which to evaluate an army’s true
operational capability. 191
Operational generation during Lam Son 719, like during the Cambodian
Incursion, did not constitute a major factor since the RVNAF were operating largely
within their strategic GTSR framework already. However, the fact that the logistical plan
called for the US to provide all support to the RVNAF for the first ten days of the
operation exposed a shortcoming in the agility of the latter’s local procurement. While
general sustainment items such as gasoline and ammunition can be cross-leveled among
annies, particularly common-user items, it is different when dealing with major end
items, categorized as “Class VII” in the US, since they require higher levels of
accountability. The USASC Da Nang ORLL reported that since ARVN was not normally
a customer under the USASC, the procedures for transferring major end items
complicated and delayed receipt of the items. The USASC Da Nang experienced delays
in transferring equipment because of simultaneous requirements to seek approval by the
MACV J-4, and for release by a directive generated from the US Inventory Control
189 US XXIV Corps AAR, 10-D-l.
190 Khuyen, 208.
191 Refer to chapter 1 to discriminate the GTSR cycles at the tactical, operational,
and strategic levels.
Center, Vietnam. 192 While this is just as much an indictment on the Americans, it
revealed RVNAF dependency.
The most glaring example of the RVNAF’s dependence on the US in the
operational GTSR cycle is in the “Transport” phase, which includes the establishment of,
operation along, and clearance of bases and lines of communication toward points where
supplies can be handed off to tactical units, in this case, below the corps level. This
dependence is most clearly evidenced in their shortcomings in the management of theater
distribution assets; in receiving, processing, and clearing ports; and in their ability to
clear, develop, and maintain main supply routes for a major operation. Where possible,
the Americans continued to assist with general success, though it proved calamitous
when they could not.
Key bases and lines of communications that already existed in the RVNAF
Military Region I made up the distribution network that supported the invasion of Laos,
along with some additions to support the large operation. The bases included different
types of ports. The primary seaport was the deep draft port of Da Nang, which could then
send supplies along the coast to the shallow draft ports of Tan My and Dong Ha. After
arrival and clearance from the ports, truck units carried supplies along Route 1 and onto
Route 9 to depots and support areas at Phu Bai, and Quang Tri, on their way to Khe Sanh.
From there, the tactical-level support commands organic to the divisions could receive
and distribute the supplies. Alternatively, supplies could be landed directly at Khe Sanh
192 ORLL, USASC Da Nang, quarterly period ending April 1971, DTIC, CARL,
by fixed wing airplanes (primarily C-130s), or by helicopter flying from any of the major
support areas in the country. 193
The reports on the ARVN’s contribution to the transportation network make it
hard to discern how effective they truly were. The US XXIV Corps After Action Report
stated, “The [Main Supply Route] (QL 9) between Khe Sanh and Vandergrift was
identified as a potential problem area . . . The road capacity could not by itself achieve
the computed daily requirement of 1,250 tons (US Forces only). Consequently, the
importance of the airfield was identified.” 194 The US and RVNAF delivered 9,400 and
1,600 short tons, respectively, by C-130 flights into Khe Sanh during the operation to
account for this limitation. The logisticians faced challenges early in the operation
because US engineers could not rehabilitate the airfield fully until 14 February. 195
Regardless of the delay, the airport’s capacity was insufficient to supply such a large
operation. These vast quantities of supplies required surface transit from Da Nang to the
forward supply areas.
The US XXIV Corps report addressed the daily requirements, stating that the
ARVN commonly surpassed their goal of 200 trucks a day, while the US generally fell
short of their 200 truck requirement until March. 196 The 400 truck per day requirement
only accounted for the final leg from Ca Lu to Khe Sanh. Apart from the convoys on this
193 Khuyen, 204-207.
194 US XXIV Corps AAR, D-7.
195 Khuyen, 206-207.
196 US XXIV Corps AAR, D-7.
leg, the ARVN also provided shuttle convoys between the rearward bases. Khuyen
accounts for this section of the transportation phase, describing how ARVN medium
truck companies operated between Da Nang, Hue, and Quang Tri. 197 He goes on to
describe the general timeline for a Quang Tri—Khe Sanh convoy as departing Quang Tri
at 0500 hours, arriving at Khe Sanh for offloading at 1300, then departing again at 1600
hours to arrive back in Quang Tri at 2100 hours. 198 It seems that the RVNAF ALC I
provided sufficient truck capacity for the operation, but they had an advantage as the
“supported” force in some of the details relating to convoys.
The American logisticians complained about the fact that the ARVN used the plan
to reserve for themselves the daylight hours along these supply routes. Despite entreaties
to modify the times to give the Americans more daylight, the American convoys had to
contend with the inherent dangers of transiting these contested areas at night. 199 Had the
USASC and RVNAF ALC possessed a better relationship in the years prior to this
operation, and had the opportunity to address this in the planning phases, perhaps they
could have reached a more amicable arrangement.
Students of military logistics know that trucks and planes are not ideal platfonns
for the large scale distribution of supplies. Efficiency will generally call for platforms
197 The existence of these medium truck companies does not match the graphics
of support units provided by Khuyen (198) and Hinh (50). Both depict only four light
truck companies between Khe Sanh, Quang Tri and Phu Bai. It seems clear that Khuyen
means to reference ARVN medium truck companies, but it is possible that he is referring
198 Khuyen, 206.
199 Nolan, 220.
with larger capacities over large stretches of the supply line, such a railroads and barges.
The logisticians supporting Lam Son 719 recognized that shallow draft ports allowed for
coastal shipping to deliver mass quantities of supplies closer to their objective, thereby
reducing the need for trucks. Over 74,000 short tons of supplies were offloaded at Tan
My and at Dong Ha. While ARVN proved capable of providing trucks in support of the
operation, they could not claim the same for watercraft, contributing only two Landing
Ship Tanks, a handful of “Landing Craft Mechanized” boats. Therefore, US ships
transported more than 70 percent of ARVN cargo that landed at Tan My, and all of the
18,000 short tons that landed at Dong Ha. 200 Transporting supplies by ship was not just
more efficient, but also put up to 100 miles (the shoreline distance between Da Nang and
Dong Ba) of the supply line on an uncontested route. This illustrates how an investigation
of the upper echelons of the supply system can expose the true level of dependence of a
Martin Van Creveld’s seminal work Supplying War reminds that it is not enough
to merely transport supplies, but in fact, the most difficult aspects of the transport phase
are clearing, processing, and transferring the equipment when they arrive at each node. 201
The RVNAF relied heavily on the Americans to do much of this at most points, and
200 Khuyen, 207. A note within a staffing document concerning the Logistics
section of the 1973 MACV Command History shows that MACV attempted to remedy
this a year later with the transfer of utility landing craft to Da Nang, and barges generally
in mid-1972. See “Disposition Form and Inclosures, Logistics Directorate: Plans and
Programs Division” - re: MACDL Command History - Record of MACV Part 1, 8
February 1973, Folder 0623, Box 0027, TTUVVA, accessed 29 April 2016,
201 See Van Creveld, Chapters 3 and 4.
exclusively at the sea and air ports. The 5th Transportation Command (Terminal)
oversaw all of the port clearance operations at the sea ports. This included receiving
supplies from units like the 329th Heavy Boat Transportation Company, based out of Da
Nang, then transferring the materiel to the aforementioned truck companies. 202
Even the Americans struggled with the monumental tasks associated with clearing
and transferring the supplies. Specifically, they found that they lacked sufficient forklifts
to efficiently lift the supplies off of the many trucks that made it to the FSAs. Colonel
Morton provided an account for Nolan’s Into Laos that pointed out that unlike truck
drivers, forklifts require skilled operators, and their own line of repair parts. Because of
the shortage of forklifts, the heavier trucks stacked up at their destinations, sometimes
waiting for days to be unloaded. 203 This included a dangerous situation where “almost
every 15 ton semi trailer in Vietnam” was waiting to be unloaded at one of the forward
ammunition supply points. 204 The American logisticians went to great lengths to address
these problems. The ARVN simply lacked the capacity to execute these operational level
The final aspect of the transportation phase in Operation Lam Son 719 that
exposed RVNAF shortcomings in this higher echelon of logistics was related to their
inability to establish, develop, and maintain a main supply route. Very few supply
convoys traveled west out of Khe Sanh and across the Laotian border because of the poor
202 Stanton, 222, 228.
203 Nolan, 221-222.
204 Oral History, Morton, 16.
quality of Route 9. Even though the Armored Brigade had the ARVN 101st Engineer
Battalion under their operational control, the engineers were incapable of improving
Route 9 to allow wheeled traffic. Poor weather during the first days of the operation
exacerbated this problem. Regardless of this shortcoming, the plan for Lam Son 719
assumed that only the Armored Column would have been supplied by ground
transportation, while all of the other units would receive their supplies by helicopters
flown by Americans. 205 This vital shortcoming of the RVNAF beyond where they could
call on the Americans proved to have cascading effects with respect the redeployment
from the theater, to be discussed below.
According to the GTSR cycle at the operational level, after the theater level
transportation assets get the soldiers and materiel to weigh stations and FSAs, they must
then be sustained. The GTSR discussion in chapter 1 laid out how the tactical level GTSR
cycle emerges in this operational phase, just as the operational-level GTSR emerged in
the strategic sustain phase. However, a military force must have theater-level
organizations that can perform supply functions, such as warehousing, ammunition
supply points, commodity yards, and upper-echelon maintenance capability. The
logisticians must ensure that the organization’s capacity is commensurate with the
complexity of the operation, and they must synchronize their efforts to optimize
efficiency and effectiveness.
The RVNAF logistics network, despite how hasty it came together, seems to have
provided sufficient capability and capacity to support the corps-level operation into Laos,
205 Hinh, 56, 68.
but lacked the coordination and synchronization needed for a combined arms ainnobile,
annored operation. In addition, the shortcomings in operational-level redeployment
(discussed below) meant that many maintenance demands and considerations went
The 1st RVNAF ALC proved capable of deploying the appropriate functional
units to adjust from their standard configuration in support of the operation. This included
positioning the 311th POL Field Depot and the 71st Medical Company at Quang Tri, and
the 512th Ammunition Company to manage a forward ammunition supply point at Khe
Sanh. Additionally, they deployed the 112th Quartermaster Field Depot and 811th
Ordnance Direct Support Company at Phu Bai that subsequently deployed detachments
to Khe Sanh. 206
Khuyen identified that despite their ability to field an appropriate array of separate
supply and service support elements, the 1st RVNAF ALC lacked the capacity to field
FSAs with general support capability, such as the 26th GSG’s FSA 26-1 and FSA 26-2.
This limited their coordination capability forcing the RVNAF ALC Commander Colonel
Thuong to personally help coordinate and expedite in numerous places. The Americans
took measures to assist, through coordination centers and by collocating depots.
Nonetheless, the ARVN I Corps Commander complained about his inability to get a hold
of his RVNAF ALC Commander. 207
206 Khuyen, 198-199.
207 Ibid., 201, 209.
The supply elements also had their fair share of problems that demonstrated some
immaturity at operational level logistics. The USASC Da Nang ORLL covering Lam Son
719 reflected that the 1st RVNAF ALC and USASC Da Nang had different pipelines,
stockage schemes, and resupply criteria with respect to ammunition. 208 This referred to
General Lam’s unexpected demand to have on hand 15 days of supply, as opposed to
seven, of 105 mm and 155 mm ammunition, and caused the transportation woes
described by Colonel Morton (see above). 209 In addition, the ARVN I Corps’ expected
ammunition supply rate for these calibers tripled the US rate for 105 nun and nearly
doubled the US rate for 155 mm. 210 The ARVN’s inordinate amount of ammunition
proved lethal during the operation when on 18 February, a NVA sapper attack destroyed
700 tons of ammunition at Ammunition Supply Point 101. 211 After a similar incident on 8
March that killed one soldier, wounded three, and destroyed 1,600 mortar rounds and
over 391,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, Abrams decided to send a note to the
Chief of the RVNAF JGS reviewing the losses sustained over the previous month due to
poor ammunition storage. 212 This was among a number of the issues that presented
challenges for the RVNAF logisticians as they transitioned to the redeployment phase.
208 ORLL, USASC Da Nang, quarterly period ending April 1971, DTIC, CARL,
209 Khuyen, 203.
210 US XXIV Corps AAR, 10-D-2.
211 US XXIV Corps AAR, 3-D-1; Nolan, 222.
212 Sorley, Vietnam Chronicles, 558.
Operational level redeployment in the GTSR cycle consists of two major
components; the evacuation from the battlefield of damaged and destroyed materiel (to
include wounded and killed soldiers), and the retrograde of soldiers and materiel that
were built up in support of major operations. The RVNAF performed abysmally at the
former, but relatively well at the latter. Their reliance on the US persisted. As discussed
above, though, the Lam Son 719 example included a fiercely contested withdrawal all the
way to the Vietnamese-Laotian border.
Among the most enduring images of the operation, and the war, related directly to
this phase of the GTSR cycle. In multiple instances, journalists embedded with the
ARVN caught and published pictures of South Vietnamese soldiers clinging to the skids
of American helicopters as they lifted out of landing zones throughout the area of
operations. 213 The helicopters in these cases and throughout the operation served as the
only means of evacuating wounded and dead soldiers from the battlefield. After landing
to drop supplies, the men on the ground would load as many casualties as possible until
the antiaircraft fire forced them to leave.
The initial prohibition against evacuating killed ARVN soldiers by helicopters
created some problems according to the XXIV Corps AAR. But the fact that aerial
evacuation became the sole means of evacuating those bodies, they adjusted. The AAR
attributed some of these problems to a natural aversion of the South Vietnamese to handle
dead bodies. 214
213 Willbanks, A Raid Too Far, 98-99.
214 US XXIV Corps AAR, 10-D-2.
Their performance with respect to evacuating equipment proved equally
deplorable. The tale of ARVN’s losses in vehicles is staggering. These include: 87 Ml 13
Annored Personnel Carriers, 54 M41 tanks, 70 105 mm Howitzers, 17 D7 Bulldozers,
and 139 2-1/2 Ton Trucks. 215 The numbers from the AAR conflict with what Abrams
received on 23 March. The briefer told Abrams that an advisor personally counted at the
border that the ARVN went in with 62 tanks and came out with 35. 216 In A Better War,
Sorley made a disturbing claim that most of these losses were not due to heavy combat,
but that ARVN units simply abandoned them when they broke down or ran out of gas. 217
Khyen later wrote that the vehicle were left behind, “due to tactical expediency, rough
terrain, and the lack of evacuation resources.” 218 Apart from the indictment on tactical
sustainment, this reflects the lack of operational redeployment in the ARVN
The other component of redeployment phase of the operational level GTSR cycle
is the retrograde from the battlefield of the men and equipment that have been built up for
a large operation. This process is delicate, as it often must begin while units continue to
conduct combat operations. While it is best to have multiple days of supply on hand
while units are in contact, logisticians prefer to expend those days of supply as the
operation comes to a close. Meanwhile combat units will have to account for equipment
215 Ibid., 6-D-l.
216 Sorley, Vietnam Chronicles, 566.
217 Sorley, A Better War, 260.
218 Khuyen, 208.
and turn in supplies in such a way to allow logisticians to transport the materiel out
efficiently and effectively.
In the case of Lam Son 719, two complimentary factors influenced this aspect
redeployment phase; the failure to properly plan for the retrograde, and the unexpected
acceleration by General Lam to conclude the operation. The US XXIV Corps AAR
stated, “One of the most serious and overlooked areas during [the withdrawal] phase was
the retrograde and backhaul of equipment. A letter of instruction covering the retrograde
operations was published by [USASC Da Nang] on 11 March. It should have been part of
the original plan.” 219 While significant coordinated efforts resulted in the eventual
successful retrograde of the equipment, they experienced confusion and some
inefficiencies. 220 In fact, the 1st RVNAF ALC only learned of Lam’s decision to curtail
the operation through American channels. 221 In one case, a US advisor had to convince
his ARVN advisees to retrieve 170 truckloads of equipment from an abandoned base. 222
The ARVN logisticians seem to have taken on a fair share of the transportation
requirement during the retrograde. Traffic monitors reported that the ARVN executed
621 convoys with 22,858 vehicles along Route 9 during the withdrawal phase, with the
last element leaving Khe Sanh on 9 April. 223 It can be assumed though that, like in the
219 US XXIV Corps AAR, D-6.
220 Ibid., D-4, D-6.
221 Khuyen, 208.
222 Clarke, 475.
223 Khuyen, 208; US XXIV Corps AAR, D-8.
transport phase, the Americans had to assume much of the coordination and management
of this effort. The US XXIV Corps AAR gives credit for coordination and “an
outstanding effort by the 26th GSG.” 224
This review of the RVNAF’s operational level GTSR cycle demonstrates the
extent to which they relied on the Americans for the execution of upper echelon logistics
in support of a major combat operation. Operation Lam Son 719 presented a very
difficult challenge for the fledgling army and its logistics infrastructure. It included
complex combined arms delivered in tough terrain against a detennined enemy. While
they were capable of executing some tasks in the GTSR cycle at this level, they struggled
to manage and synchronize each phase.
The planning and execution of Operation Lam Son 719 revealed MACV’s
persistence in missing opportunities to develop the RVNAF’s operational level logistics,
and the extent to which the RVNAF relied on the Americans to perform these critical
capabilities. The decisions related to operational security during planning of the
operations indicated that MACV misunderstood or underestimated the role of the 1st
RVNAF ALC in supporting the operation. Furthermore, it implied that despite what
should have been 18 months of close coordination through the CLIP, CLOP, and
BUDDY Project, the RVNAF’s operational level logistics infrastructure still proved
adolescent. The review of their reliance on the Americans during the execution of Lam
Son 719 provides a more nuanced understanding of the state of RVNAF self-sufficiency.
224 US XXIV Corps AAR, D-4.
The US and GVN leaders did not expect that the RVNAF to be self-sufficient at
this time. The year 1973 remained their goal for this realization. Nonetheless, the
coordinated, often ad hoc, efforts to support this operation do not reflect well on the
effectiveness of the MACV plans to improve the RVNAF logistics infrastructure writ
large. While the operation provided the RVNAF logisticians with invaluable experience
in supporting dynamic large-scale operations, the costs may have outweighed the
The political outcome of the operation restricted the extent to which the plans and
programs discussed in chapter 3 would carry forward. President Nixon used the best
aspects of the operation to claim his Vietnamization program a success, and accelerated
his withdrawal timelines. In turn, the USASCs increasingly diverted their attention to the
very difficult task of supporting the strategic redeployment phase of the US GTSR cycle.
While the greatest test of the Vietnamization policy would come the following year with
the NVA Easter Offensive, the state of RVNAF operational level logistics in the first
months of 1971 revealed the difficulty of the quest toward self-sufficiency, and the
consequences of MACV’s late start at addressing these capabilities.
You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even
wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics. That can be
demonstrated from any number of different situations. Your main problem will be
to make your account readable and interesting both to soldiers and laymen.
— General Dwight D. Eisenhower, as quoted in For Want of a Nail
On 12 August 1969, US Defense Secretary Laird approved the plan for the
expansion, improvement, and modernization of the RVNAF with a force structure by the
end of fiscal year 1971 numbering 992,837 men. Multiple plans that sought to address the
new expectation for the RVNAF to face both internal and external threats as the US
began withdrawing from the country influenced Laird’s decision. American and South
Vietnamese leaders understood the challenges associated with helping the RVNAF
achieve self-sufficiency, and by 1970, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff knew that their
counterparts still had a long way to go. 225 This work explained how, and evaluated how
well, MACV and the RVNAF approached this goal. The conclusions from this research
shed more light on the challenges of the Vietnamization policy and its implementation,
provide a new framework that can aid in thinking about military logistics generally, and
portray themes with contemporary value related to warfare and military affairs.
While the Americans developed a multi-faceted plan to Vietnamize operational
level logistics, they did a poor job implementing the concept from 1968-1971. This was
225 Willard Webb, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Ear in Vietnam: 1969-1970
(Washington, DC: Office of Joint History Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, 2002), 126-129.
despite encouraging efforts by the 1st Log Qnd throughout the country. The lack of
synchronization between MACV and its major logistical commands, and their failure to
recognize the natural potential in leveraging logistical units resulted in an over-reliant
RVNAF to defeat the NVA and the VC. Some argued that Operation Lam Son 719
indicated a certain level of readiness. When analyzed through the lens of the GTSR cycle,
these perceptions proved to be superficial.
While this aspect of Vietnamization did not go well, the conditions in which the
logisticians and advisors operated complicated the overall effort. The American logistical
system still reeled from the early decisions to surge in combat troops early, while
assuming risk in the logistical organization. 226 General Joseph Heiser, Jr., received a
mandate to fix the system during his tenure with the 1st Log Cmd. The 1st Log Cmd, a
source of great advisory potential, fell under USARV. This led to organizational friction.
Finally, the demands of the withdrawal timeline had two major consequences. Tough
decisions about which troops should be sent home to meet troop reduction levels led to
the disestablishment of the critical 1st Log Cmd Headquarters just when its subsequent
commanders could have provided command influence to continue Heiser’s programs.
Furthermore, the removal of US equipment and the painful process of transferring
equipment to the RVNAF consumed the logisticians’ attention, thereby relegating their
potential to achieve effective Vietnamization of the RVNAF operational-level logistical
capability to a low priority.
226 Westmoreland, 185-188.
Notwithstanding the challenges inherent in the theater, and some initial resistance,
MACV eventually produced plans aimed at improving the RVNAF logistics systems at
all levels. Each had some potential but myriad problems plagued the process. The CLOP
took on some short term tasks, and more importantly, established a combined reporting
mechanism to evaluate progress. The minutes of their meetings presented in chapter 3,
though, imply questionable commitment between the advisors and their advisees,
particularly by the leaders’ comments on the lack of coherent measures of effectiveness.
The CLIP seems to have had a more comprehensive approach to improving the
RVNAF logistical capability, with tasks spread across the services, subordinate tasks, and
realistic deadlines. On its surface, the existence of a short-term and a long-term plan
implies that MACV possessed a coherent collection of plans. A closer review, however,
exposes a lack of synchronization in the Master Plan. Neither plan referred to the other,
and the more comprehensive CLIP fell strangely subordinate to the CLOP in the
reporting regimen. It seems that the MACV-J4 lacked sufficient personnel to influence
Unfortunately, the CLOP and CLIP failed to take advantage of the natural
potential in the US Army’s theater logistics command for providing training to improve
the RVNAF’s logistical system, particularly with a strong, forward-looking leader such
as LTG Joseph Heiser. The 1st Log Cmd had been perfonning OJT for civilians and
RVNAF soldiers alike for years. Theater logistics organizations exist in locations that
inspire connections as they operate ports, coordinate convoys, and plan trains. Each of the
subordinate commands had for years developed programs to improve relations with
civilians in their neighborhood, to include dealing with local politics on occasion.
General Heiser proved how the right individual with the right experience can
make a dramatic impact. His prescience and proactive approach presented an opportunity
to cultivate a program that, if properly funded and supported with command emphasis,
could have resulted in a more capable RVNAF logistics network for the tests that would
come from 1971. Despite bureaucratic friction, he created a program that proved to be a
talking point for to senior commanders, and to the US Congress. While this is not to say
that unreserved support for Hesier’s Project Buddy would have meant victory, it should
be considered among critical opportunities missed in the US Anny’s efforts to establish a
self-sufficient RVNAF capable of defending itself from internal and external threats.
Operation Lam Son 719 demonstrated the lack of synchronization in MACV’s
planning, and its apparent misunderstanding of the role of the operational logistical
commands. While numerous histories of the operation showed the extent to which the
RVNAF relied on the Americans for airpower, firepower, mobility, and tactical resupply,
the analysis of their operational level logistics using the GTSR cycle in chapter 4 exposed
the depths of this reliance in the first months of 1971.
Areas for Further Research
This study leaves much yet to be discovered both with the question at hand and as
it applies to a larger picture. While the MACV records have largely been digitized and
made readily available, the relation between MACV and the 1st Log Cmd as they
wrestled this problem could be better understood with a deeper analysis of the key
commands’ primary sources. Jeffrey Clarke, in Advice and Support: The Final Years,
1965-1973, indicates such files exist in the Southeast Asia Branch of the Center for
Military History, and at the Washington National Records Center in Crystal City. 227
While Operational Lam Son 719 represented a significant milestone to evaluate of
operational level logistics, the years following provide another opportunity for research.
While the elements of the USASCs redirected their attention almost exclusively on
withdrawing the men and materiel from the country, MACV continued its efforts to
improve the RVNAF system. A GTSR cycle analysis of the RVNAF in their reaction to
the NVA’s 1972 Easter Offensive and in the final campaign would be useful. This study
should certainly include Khuyen’s monograph, the 1972 Report to Congress on
“Logistics Aspects of Vietnamization—1969-72,” and any other available primary
Finally, this study provides only partial insight into the logistics problems
associated with the Vietnam War. While General Heiser’s contribution to the Vietnam
Studies Monograph Series in the years immediately following the war provides
tremendous understanding of this monumental challenge, the widespread and availability
and declassification of the MACV records and surviving veterans offer an incredible
resource for historians in the midst of the 50th Anniversary of America’s involvement.
The definitive history of military logistics in the Vietnam War has yet to be written.
227 Clarke, 430n.
228 Comptroller General of the United States, “Logistic Aspects of
V ietnamization— 1969-72,” 1972.
This study provides contemporary value in two major ways. Chapter 4 proved that
the GTSR Cycle is a viable construct for thinking academically and critically about
military logistics. While chapter 4 addressed mainly the RVNAF’s operational level
logistics in one major operation, the construct can further serve to help think about the
challenges of generating, transporting, sustaining, and redeploying troops and materiel, at
the tactical and strategic level in any conflict. This presents options for courses that wish
to teach the art and science of logistics in warfare by providing a common framework
with which to analyze battles, campaigns, and wars throughout military history.
In addition, the study should help militaries that conduct Security Force
Assistance (SFA) activities, particularly for those hose nations in the midst of a civil war
or insurgency, evaluate their target audience’s true capabilities. US Joint Doctrine defines
SFA as the Defense Department’s “contribution to a unified action effort to support and
augment the development of the capacity and capability of foreign security forces and
their supporting institutions to facilitate the achievement of specific objectives shared by
the US Government.” 229 The doctrine provides a framework for assessing security force
assistance and seven imperatives. The comprehensive framework for assessment ensures
that the advising force considers the organization, training, equipping, rebuilding and
building, and advice and assistance to the host nation. The penultimate imperative in the
229 US Department of Defense, Foreign Internal Defense (Washington, DC: US
Joint Staff, 12 July 2010), 1-16.
doctrine is “Sustain the Effort,” which includes sustainment of the support effort, and the
host nation’s ability to reach self-sufficiency. 230
Chapters 2 and 3 provide some lessons that may aid US forces engaged in SFA.
Chapter 2 describe how the Americans helped the Vietnamese develop the framework
with which they would generate, transport, sustain, and redeploy their military power
beyond that which the French established under the aegis of colonialism. Chapter 3 lays
out MACV’s approach to improving the logistical capability of the Vietnamese with
some examples of tasks, and reporting and tracking mechanisms. These could provide a
starting point for those charged with establishing a way ahead for host nation militaries
seeking military self-sufficiency.
The Vietnam War continues to provide abundant lessons about war, warfare, and
those who fight. The terrain, weather, enemy, and the war’s protracted character
demanded much of those who sustained the conflict. Thorough analysis of the sustainers’
challenges reveals the art and science of logistics in war, beholden to the influences of
leadership, planning, morale, and will, as much as to formulae and capacity calculations,
headers of all branches in the US Anny must consider the tyranny of logistics if they
want to leverage its benefits in pursuit of objectives, and avoid the pitfalls that can very
well lead to failure and defeat.
230 Ibid., VI-32-VI-33.
COMBINED LOGISTICS OFFENSIVE PLAN EXCERPT
UNITED STATES MIL
SUBJECT: Logistics Offensive
2 2 JUL 1969
1. The United States Government has invested extensively in laproving
the Combat Capability of KVNAF. We must now concentrate our efforts
on inproving HVNAF logistics support to complement the increased combat
2. The MACV staff in conjunction with the RVNAF JGS hae developed the
attached Combined logistics Offensive Plan to initiate the actions
necessary to improve logistics support. To achieve the deelred results
it is necessary that cosmanders and advisors at all echelons demonstrate
a positive and determined attitude toward logistics improvement. Aggres¬
sive execution, first hand knowledge of the plan by US advisors, and a
combined staff capability to measure progress will assure the success of
the Logistics Offensive.
3. The plan has been approved by both headquarters for execution. How¬
ever, formal signing of the plan is being deferred while arrangements
for dissemination of information pertaining to the launching of the log¬
istics offensive are being coordinated. To preclude delay in implement¬
ing the plan, all echelons of the US Advisory Effort are to lmaedlately
initiate those tasks which are a US responsibility.
.ted States Any
ma m s r a ma
Thi# lnclocur* contain* 121 aarrle* problca*. Individual problaa sheet*
were written bacad upon In pit fra* field advisory clcacnt*. Torty-thr**
par cant of th* total ITOr problaa* apply to two or nor* service*.
That a coaaon problaa* «r* identified by aarrlca on th* following Index
of Comoo Problaa*.
N unbare an th* chart rapraaeot • coaaon problaa appUcabl* to too or
aor* aarvlcaa. Tha*« mabari further ehow whether or not • Individual
problca ah eat ha* bean praparad for that aonrle*.
Coaaon problaa* that axlit In a aarrlca for which no problaa cheat mi
prepared by that service ar* Indicated with aa X. In thla eaaa, the
nuaber appearing In a a Is ter ocrrlee eolunn indicate* th* applicable
problca cheat which con be used a* a guide to foraulatc specific
problaa* and eorraetlv* action.
Th* Index of Coaaon Problca* 1* followed by a llat of Caucec of Problca*
which arc uced on the service spread sheet*. Th* separate Amy, Mavy
and Air Pore* sections hav* separate Problaa Spread Shasta which identify
th* cause of th* problaa and In th* Amy'* ess* th* lavel affected within
th* logistic structure.
imx or gag nomwa
wn tw n±£ a£l
5 W 8 U 8 T
TOTAL SXR 71 CS F 806 LEXS
TOTAL OOHCa F 80 SLBO
ntOBLQlS TOM* TO ALL sari css
PBCELQC 5 com* TO ASTI AS) not
PSDBLWS oom* TO AJtTV AJD YIAF
ft. tb* Bolivian ■-pjlj r*lo* 4ESS'*)
sn at mf octri.
\S. HFI Imi Hi 41*1 rib-, t* imIUu
■ vrwln in-ufs-r^'-lnn laftraUw.
5f. hi!'El CBftEfeBlM art bLn UlM U
*.ffc-rl Jit-2 b*»*FT* vTllti.
4£, TS( ■.-Uir-rtM.Vlna *b4
•‘7-.1 j*rn 1 iH tj dll Lb b4
4-1. 1b* TWrTall-r# bLlLBiuci- I'ri-.p-BB
h*« M-t Hr: HiWB*4 j
IV* £•*[&>* H-wi* ud Uijiplj
■■pp’.:™.hli to- tool liflii t^iil or* toa
ife}. Sliort **ppH-i i-ialti Act *oa Inm
*±Ocfh ■IeLbPxi flotl OHot*.
_ 1* ~
it. B»cllj» t-r fHimitl
*r*cr*> 1* r,-.t *rr*>-“jT*,
(rf-. kM^lrad HlllMUH CJL f* il 1J ll
bill ttjeli 1* Kt know.
14, ktnuP 4o** wl p?***«* tW t ■ r*Jri lltr
10 pram* nlld LV1 llHlf nrt*lT had
(allbHtlae m i*iLlx.l*e.*siB t+it
E - JiWiC
i - Ti r*«1 ~i 1 Stj-riea
1 - C+rjo-HLC
i - JXTT Pnlt
1 * WfTT
PROBLEM: Required maintenance capacity at base depot! la not
known. Maintenance and Improvement of facilities at the 80th «B£>
have been severely Halted for several years. The resultant deterior¬
ation of buildings and utilities has adversely affected vorking con¬
ditions and backlog of 212 aejor engineer terms presently exists at
the 40th BD. This total has been on the Increase. Recently, a US
quick reaction team of 13 people vea furnished by USAMC to assist the
depot. With the service of this team the backlog has declined slightly.
S0UJTI0H ; Determine required maintenance capability and develop a
master plan for upgrade of facilities and equipment. JGS consider
approval of 80th ORBD request for construction and maintenance projects.
JGS/CLC/OCE should reviov and be prepared to support the recommendation
of the current depot master planning vhlch la underway at the 40th EBD.
Consideration of ultimate workload will determine facilities required.
1. High level approval for construction and maintenance projects
for the 80th ORBD.
Principal Action Agency: JGS/CLC Completion Date: 1 October 1969
2. JGS support recommendations of master planning group soon to
be forthcoming from 40th £BD and expand program to all maintenance
Principal Action Agency: JGS/CLC Completion Date: 1 December 1969
PROBLEM S RVNAF does not possess the capability to provide valid and
tlnely repair and calibration of maintenance test equipment. "A"
type calibration Is now provided by the OS Army from Okinawa. Type
*C» calibration is almost completely neglected or arranged by Indivi¬
dual advisors. A very limited capability exists. Howevor, consider¬
able Improvement is necessary In the equipment area and the training
SOLOTION i Develop an effective calibration system within RVNAF.
1. Allocate equipment and train personnel within the RVNAF to
provide an organic "C* calibration capability at division level and
at the ALCs.
Principal Action Agencys JGS/CLC Completion Dates 1 December 1969
2. Program the formation of snobile calibration teams to provide
"A" calibration capability.
Principal Action Agencys JGS/CLC Completion Dates 1 March 1970
In coordination withs MACMA
Source : MACV Plan, Logistics: Logistics Advisory Directorate - Combined Logistics
Offensive - Record of MACV Part 1, 22 July 1969, Folder 0423, Box 0026, TTUVVA,
accessed 17 May 2016, http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?
item=F015800260423, Cover letter, i-ii, A-l-7, A-l-83, A-l-84.
COUNTRY LOGISTICS IMPROVEMENT PLAN EXCERPT
Project No. 8-1
Project Title: Transportation Training Improvement (OJT with U.S. Units)
Date Established: 1 April 1969 Completion Date: 1st QTR FY71
Host Country: Director of Defense Transportation
U.S.: HQ HACV J46 (Transportation Advisory Division)
PROJECT OBJECTIVE : To train a selected group of ARVN TC personnel to
operate and maintain LCUs, tug boats, and equipment aboard the Floating
Maintenance Ship (FMS). The personnel trained with US units will form a
nucleus that will enable ARVN to operate and maintain Its floating craft
with maximum efficiency.
BACKGROUNO/CURRENT SITUATION : The ARVN Transportation Corps fleet is Increasino
more than 6001 between 1488 and 1970. No formal training program exists within
ARVN to train boat operators and maintenance personnel. While the Vietnamese
Navy has made training capability available to ARYN, that capability is not
sufficient to meet all requirements. Off-shore training is being utilized to
the maximum that qualified personnel can be obtained. Currently 10 ARVN
Aspirants are undergoing tugboat training with the 4th Terminal Command. At
Vung Tau, an ARVN 1LT is undergoing OJT as harbormaster, 18 Aspirants and
enlisted men are undergoing ICU training, while 6 Aspirants and enlisted
men are undergoing training aboard the FMS located at Vung Tau. ARVN students
training at Vung Tau are training with the 159th Transportation Battalion
(Terminal) and Detachment 2 United States Army Marine Maintenance Activity
COURSES OF ACTION :
8-1-1 Determine the capabilities of the existing training program with
emphasis directed towards the shortcomings and problem areas.
8-1-2 Establish corrective guidelines by which the training program will
8-1-3 Establish the revised training schedule to include sponsoring unit,
location, material and equipment requirement and billeting and messing
8-1-4 Implement the revised training program.
8-1-5 Monitor and supervise the training program to Insure achievement of
8-1-1 Determine capabilities and defic¬
iencies of present trainino oro-
8-1-2 Establish Corrective guidelines.
8-1-3 Established revised training sched¬
w • *. . t * a-
8-1-4 lapleaent revised training schedule
8-1-5 Monitor training program.
Pi-Bjet: He, 9-t
project Tlll+J Uiter Ltfi lfl®rtw*nent
Q»c* tttablfthedi lit qtr Pf» tcwlellon Cite: It* Olr FrH>
ftf i p*v, 1L: 1 if
*«t Country; MWCtar -of Offense 1 rtnipcrtitlwi
U.i,: HO wtv, JA6 (Truwpwtetlort MrI wt Olritltn)
p-mVSFCT WJlCltrt: To bettor Utilise the »+stel uiwrweySr rt¥ * 1 '* and
cwii (ffWlTii Mwi of «ownitit1».
i^t^ftfliHQ/CiUeSeNT tITiiATtW: The «i«til wiurwiy,, rlsiii.ind **k*U
SrfflSK hliterlctllf hem the chief Hw at
the fcpubllt ** Tietntn. U.S. fdrees have WblCreh s
fleet to Uke edYantOgt at thrti mtenrtpt. The
deludes fl** t*»t upf.mlei. one he**y
uug beet teifflt. t«n nedijs hoit eeneitfly it luih&Mred l? lckh * r
Corrmtly (hue of the fin n*kun beel MM*** in W rtt*lljr 9f
fully operetloh*!. Q« MepKhj h« lSLO« - i, inether
iC*fc J s Mi third ctsopih/ hit four LO* *' hit^*
LCHd'i 1i ifl tlW ptwett '0 *■ ..
mV^ll ™?™U LCK8-1 m 4u ip and thpeld he eJ4E*Sff
uuthe mu t.f Jujfrjit Ihe fifth ned1u» belt eonpeny *n ettlnted
/julv 1%9 lti is schedule* te ewiete tti frtJMtIi*t'■Oh *i*d turning
i, «S Ew!«« <ss «»» »»
£****/ to recei ve tit eliitw ortM*. Jh* mi ht*vy *»t "MpM/
wit ectlvaWd on 1 April 1?6fl end will tcoplrte Hi orghiat 1 ^
mining bv leu October 1H4, hOwh»r. Wen 11 f» wiirdelwd dite**"
this t«U>v Mill recti** Hi nil it lea oqutowni Ten log hc-it
scheduled for eetlvetltfi during July 196® me wS11 cstop-el* orginli*,ion
and iriintng by %\ OfiMir UH* te>*tv*r, ns iLtheSulnd d*U Mt bw»
tii*hMshc4 to* the lug botli to » transferred td AByn.
masti of ACTlOd;
Eitibl Ills t dale fo* nl is ton oqulp 0 * 1 ^ 10 he transferred to »w
Aftt-K nedlt* belt twpeny. tme he»vy boil tcrtpiiV *itp thf t*"
tug boit uen.
Honiter Ihe ijttee H It dewlOibi end ntt aecetunf ctvingrt.
8-2-1 CiUbtliti d«U for tronifer of
8-2-2 Monitor tho tyitw.
Source : Report, Logistics - Country Logistics Improvement Plan (CLIP) - Record of
ACV Part 1, 31 July 1969, Folder 0707, Box 0025, TTUVVA, accessed 17 May 2016,
http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?item=FO 15800250707, Cover, 3-
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