Chapter 2 U. S. Organization for the Cease-Fire
Enhance and Enhance Plus
Projects ENHANCE and ENHANCE PLUS were undertaken in 1972 to accelerate the delivery of equipment and improve the combat capabilities of South Vietnam's armed forces (RVNAF), but the force structure basis for those projects was developed four years earlier. In May 1968 the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) submitted a plan to Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) for the Consolidated RVNAF Improvement and Modernization Program (CRIMP). CRIMP was intended to provide an improved balance in the combat forces and increase the fire power, mobility, and logistics of RVNAF. It came to be the basis for later force structure changes and Vietnamization.
The RVNAF force structure subsequently approved by the Secretary of Defense under CRIMP called for just over a million men in the armed forces in fiscal year 1971, for about 1,090,000 in fiscal year 1972, and for 1,100,000 in fiscal year 1973. In October 1971 CINCPAC directed a review of the fiscal year 1973 force structure. MACV's review resulted in a plan approved by CINCPAC and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in February 1972. The most important capabilities added to the RVNAF were the new 3d Infantry Division and the 20th Tank Regiment for Military Region 1.
Project ENHANCE was undertaken following the Nguyen Hue offensive to compensate for the heavy materiel losses during that campaign and to deliver replacements before expected cease-fire conditions might curtail the deliveries. In essence, ENHANCE was undertaken to accelerate programs already planned under CRIMP. It provided new units and equipment for the Army, Air Force, and Navy. The following lists summarize the major items of equipment delivered under Enhance.
Army: 3 artillery battalions, 175-mm. gun; 2 tank battalions, 90-mm., M48; 2 air defense artillery battalions, .50-caliber and 40-mm.; 100 TOW (tube launched, optically tracked, wire guided) antitank weapons, to be provided to 26 infantry regiments, 3 airborne brigades, 3 Marine brigades, and 7 Ranger groups.
Air Force: 32 UH-1 helicopters; 5 F-5A fighters; 2 A-37 squadrons (Light Bombers); 12 RC-47 photo-reconnaissance airplanes; 1 AC-119K squadron (gunships); 1 C-7 squadron (cargo airplane); 1 C-119G squadron (maritime patrol); 2 CG-47 squadrons (cargo airplane).
Navy: 3 high endurance cutters (WHEC).
ENHANCE was designed to bring the force structure up to planned levels before the cease-fire. In summary, by January 1973 the structure for the ARVN, supported by the ENHANcE shipments, was as follows: 11 infantry divisions (35 regiments, 105 battalions): 1 airborne division (3 regiments, 9 battalions); 7 Ranger groups (21 battalions); 7 armored cavalry squadrons (nondivisional); 3 M-48 tank squadrons (1 deployed, 2 in training); 3 3 border defense Ranger battalions; 41 105-mm. artillery battalions (36 divisional, 5 nondivisional); 15 155-mm. artillery battalions (11 divisional, 4 nondivisional); 204 105-mm. artillery platoons (2 howitzers each); 4 air defense artillery battalions (1 deployed, 1 in training, and 2 to be activated); 17 miscellaneous battalions (military police, engineers, reconnaissance, etc.).
ENHANCE PLUS was a program to augment and modernize the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF). ENHANCE Plus provided the following additional aircraft and units: 2 additional CH-47 squadrons to provide medium helicopter lift for each of the four military regions; 3 additional A-37 squadrons; 2 additional F-5A squadrons; the early activation of 3 F-5E squadrons; 3 additional UH-1 squadrons to bring the total to 19 squadrons and increase the size of the existing squadrons; 10 additional EC-47 airplanes (electronic reconnaissance); 35 0-2 aircraft to replace the existing O-1's; 2 squadrons of C-130 cargo airplanes to replace the C-123's; 1 additional AC-119K squadron.
ENHANCE and ENHANCE PLUS provided additional aircraft to VNAF as follows: UH-1 (286); CH-47 (23); AC-119K (22); A-1 (28); C-130A (32, resulted in turn-in of all C-123, C-47, and C-119K); A-37 (90, brought total strength up to 249); C-7 (4); F-5A and B (118 brought total strength to 153); EC-47 (23 added to 10 already in service); T-37 (24); O-2 (35, 1 for 1 exchange with O-1's.)
Shipments under ENHANCED PLus were made by sea and air. The first cargo aircraft arrived at Tan Son Nhut Airbase on 23 October 1972, and the last shipment arrived at Newport, near Saigon, on 12 December. Nearly 5,000 short tons came by air and 100,000 short tons by sea. Not part of either ENHANCE or Enhance PLus were 31 amphibious vehicles delivered to the Vietnamese Marine Corps in November.
While the United States was rushing equipment to Vietnam to avoid the constraints expected to be imposed by the cease-fire agreement, the Communists were also shoving great quantities of materiel including field guns, tanks, and antiaircraft weapons down the roads into South Vietnam, including SA-2 air defense missiles on their way to Khe Sanh in Quang Tri Province. As later demonstrated, the Communists were not concerned about any restrictions a cease-fire might impose on shipments to South Vietnam; the surge of shipments was instead in response to the heavy losses the NVA suffered during the Nguyen Hue offensive and the ARVN counteroffensive.
Based upon clearly reliable data, MACV estimated that North Vietnam sent nearly 148,000 replacements into South Vietnam during 1972. This estimate included individual replacements to make up for the staggering losses incurred during the campaign but not the organized divisions, regiments, and battalions sent to join the offensive. Although the estimates of enemy losses are based on less reliable information, the NVA probably lost over 190,000 men during 1972. Of these about 132,000 were killed in action, another 46,000 probably died of wounds or were permanently disabled, 2,500 were prisoners of war, and 10,000 turned themselves in to South Vietnamese authorities as ralliers. As was the case with materiel shipments, the North Vietnamese showed no urgency in transporting replacements prior to the cease-fire. Those replacements methodically crossed the border from Laos and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) without inspection or control, a condition that persisted until the end.
Planning for the coming cease-fire at the headquarters of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, involved consideration of at least seven distinct functions, and new organizations had to be devised to accomplish some of them. First, MACV and all American and third country forces had to be withdrawn within 60 days of the cease-fire. Second, a small U.S. military headquarters was needed to continue the military assistance program for the RVNAF and supervise the technical assistance still required to complete the goals of Vietnamization. This headquarters was to become the Defense Attache Office, Saigon. Third, that headquarters was also to report operational and military intelligence through military channels to U.S. National Command authorities. Fourth, an organization was required to plan for the application of U.S. air and naval power into North or South Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos, should either be required and ordered. Called the United States Support Activities Group & Seventh Air Force (USSAG/7th AF), it was located at Nakhon Phanom in northeast Thailand. In this regard United States air support operations into Cambodia continued until the autumn of 1973. Fifth, a United States delegation to a Four-Party Joint Military Commission (US, SVN, DRV, PRG) had to be organized. The commission was to serve as a forum for communication among the Four Parties, assist in the implementation of the agreement, and help verify compliance with the agreement. Sixth, planning for the support of the International Commission of Control and Supervision had to be accomplished. And seventh, efforts to recover Americans still missing in action had to continue. For that purpose, the Joint Casualty Resolution Center was established as a successor to MACV's Personnel Recovery Center.
Since the purpose here is to examine the North Vietnamese invasion, the South Vietnamese response, and the United States reaction to the invasion, organizations not directly connected with the events or outcome of the third Indochina war will be mentioned only in passing.
The Defense Attache Office
DAO (Defense Attaché Office) Saigon was organized according to requirements established by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CINCPAC, and Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and was activated on 28 January 1973 by Maj. Gen. John E. Murray. DAO Saigon was a unique organization. It performed the traditional functions of a defense attaché, managed American military affairs in Vietnam after the cease-fire including the programs for the support of South Vietnam's armed forces, administered procurement contracts in support of the RVNAF, and furnished housekeeping support to Americans remaining in Vietnam after the ceasefire. Aside from the support of the RVNAF, it reported on operational matters, such as violations of the cease-fire, and produced intelligence information on which subsequent decisions concerning the Military Assistance Program and American interests in Southeast Asia could be based. The DAO occupied the offices turned over to it by the MACV at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, outside of Saigon, and most of its employees and officials conducted their work from those offices. Small field offices were located in Da Nang, Pleiku, Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, Bien Hoa, Long Binh, Nha Be, Dong Tam, Binh Thuy, and Can Tho.
To perform the traditional representational and information-collecting functions of military attaches, five professional attaches - two Army, two Air Force, and one Navy - were assigned to the DAO with offices in the American Embassy in Saigon. The senior member of this group was the assistant defense attaché, an Army colonel who relieved General Murray of much of his representational functions and who reported to the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington through attache channels. The attaches made frequent visits to the field where they observed RVNAF units and activities and reported those observations to the defense attaché and to Washington.
The deputy defense attaché was Brig. Gen. Ralph J. Maglione, U.S. Air Force, previously the MACV J-1. General Maglione was also chief of the Operations and Plans Division, DAO. In addition to having a small plans branch to perform customary military planning functions, Operations and Plans Division had an operations branch that manned the Operations Center and conducted liaison with the RVNAF Joint General Staff and with Headquarters, USSAG, on operational and reporting matters. The training section of the Operations Branch was responsible for training provided to the RVNAF under the Military Assistance Program.
The largest element in the Operations and Plans Division was the Intelligence Branch. The Chief of the Intelligence Branch was responsible for American military intelligence activities in the Republic of Vietnam. He reported directly to the ambassador and the defense attache, coordinated with RVNAF intelligence agencies and other U.S. intelligence activities in South Vietnam, and, in intelligence channels, reported simultaneously on most matters to USSAG, CINCPAC, and the Defense Intelligence Agency Because DAO Saigon was subordinate to USSAG in operational and intelligence fields, the normal now of tasking and reporting was through USSAG to CINCPAC and the JCS in Washington.
The Communications and Electronics Division had functions which, like those of the Operations and Plans Division, included support of U.S. military activities as well as continued military assistance to RVNAF. The Communications and Electronics Division supervised a contract which provided communications for DAO, the American Embassy, and other U.S. agencies. The division also gave technical support, through contractors, to RVNAF military communications systems. It also provided liaison and assistance to the RVNAF Joint General Staff and the ARVN Signal Department.
Three divisions within DAO managed the complex military assistance programs for the ARVN, the VNAF, and the Vietnamese Navy: the Army, Air Force, and Navy Divisions.
Despite its broad responsibilities, DAO was authorized only 50 military and 1,200 civilians. It was also told to plan for an early reduction in strength and disestablishment, the latter expected to occur within a year.
To accomplish its mission while planning on phasing out, DAO had to employ contractors to perform many functions. The contracts, however, were also to be reduced in number and scope throughout the year. When DAO Saigon became operational upon the disestablishment of MACV in late January, no fewer than 383 separate contracts were on the books with a total value of $255 million. Slightly fewer than 250 of these were performed in South Vietnam; the others were off-shore. In January 1973, over 23,000 people were employed by contractors in South Vietnam, of whom over 5,000 were Americans, 16,000 were Vietnamese, and the remainder were third-country nationals. By mid-year of 1973 the total was reduced by half.
More than half the American contract employees were involved in training programs for the RVNAF. Of these, more than half were involved in aircraft maintenance, another large group was in communications and electronics, and the rest worked in technical fields ranging from vehicle repair and overhaul to ship overhaul and maintenance. Although most contract employees were located in the Saigon region, sizable groups were at the air bases at Da Nang, in Military Region 2 at Pleiku, Phu Cat, and Phan Rang, and at Binh Thuy, the VNAF air base near Can Tho in MR 4. Two years later, as the final Communist offensive gained momentum, the safety of those Americans in the outlying bases became a matter of major concern, even though their numbers by that time were greatly reduced.
The cease-fire agreement in Vietnam signaled the end of the American advisory effort in that country. The senior officials of DAO scrupulously avoided any offer of operational advice to the Vietnamese with whom they worked intimately and continuously. The technical assistance provided by the military and senior civilian officials of DAO and by the contractors was essential to the RVNAF's modernization and expansion, but the South Vietnamese military would get no advice on military operations, tactics, or techniques of employment. The war belonged to the Vietnamese, and they were going to fight it. The RVNAF knew what to do but had to be provided the means. What they could not control was the steady buildup of North Vietnamese military power within their borders, a buildup which culminated in the final offensive of 1975.
Note on Sources
The MACV Official History was consulted for information concerning ENHANCE and ENHANCED PLUS as were messages sent by MACV to CINCPAC recovered from Defense archives. Concerning the organization and functions of DAO Saigon, the major sources consulted were the MACV Official History, Volumes I and II, and DAO Saigon's Quarterly Review and Analysis, 1st Quarter, FY 74. The author, who was present during the final days of MACV and participated in organizing DAO, has also referred to his own notes and recollections.