Thursday, September 24, 2015

42nd Anniversary of the ARVN Victory in the Seven Mountains 1973

An ARVN (QLVNCH) outpost near the Seven Mountains, pre-1973 photo.

            Forty-two years ago this month, from July to October 1973, the 44th Special Task Force, mainly comprising the 7th Ranger Group and 4th Armored Group of the Republic of Vietnam, launched an offensive to drive out the 1st North Vietnamese Division from the Seven Mountains region ( Bảy Núi ). The Seven Mountains area is a region in An Giang Province, along the border with Cambodia. Prior to the Republic of Vietnam offensive, the area had become a growing base of operations for Communist infiltration into the republic.

A modern view of Thiên Cẩm Sơn ("Heaven's Forbidden Mountain")
the tallest of the Seven Mountains.
Map showing the location of the Seven Mountains.
            The terrain of the Seven Mountains consists of rocky slopes covered with vegetation and plains that are often prone to flooding, making the area ideal for defensive positions. Nevertheless, gradually over the summer weeks of 1973 the Republic of Vietnam forces pushed forward. By October 1973, the North Vietnamese 1st Division was virtually destroyed with many of its units down to only fractions of their former strength. Aside from battlefield casualties, the offensive cut supply lines to the Communist forces, resulting in an upsurge of disease and malnutrition among the Communist ranks. By contrast, the Republic of Vietnam casualties were significantly less.
A road leading up Thiên Cẩm Sơn, one of the Seven Mountains.
            When the Republic of Vietnam rangers supported by armor units finally cleared the Seven Mountains of Communist forces, the republic achieved a great victory, and the area became free from major Communist attacks until the end of the republic in 1975. In the aftermath of the battle, the 1st North Vietnamese division retreated into Cambodia, and due to its immense losses the unit was disbanded. The Republic of Vietnam had carried the day.
Republic of Vietnam rangers riding atop an armored unit.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

VNAF Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs in flight Photo

VNAF Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs off the coast of Vietnam, 1960-70s, RVNHS Archive.
              From the RVNHS Archive, an original period photo of Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs in formation flying off the coast of Vietnam. The photograph appears to have been taken from an accompanying aircraft. These planes were commonly used for aerial reconnaissance, target spotting, and other reconnoitering operations. They could be operated by a one or two person crew, and became a mainstay of the VNAF. Please see our August 20th post on Major Lý Bửng's Flight to Freedom for one of the most famous tales of a VNAF Cessna O-1 Bird Dog.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Republic of Vietnam Regional Forces - Địa phương quân VNCH

Regional Forces unit during training, 1972, RVNHS Archive.
             The Republic of Vietnam Regional Forces were initially formed as auxiliaries for the regular army. They were charged with guarding outposts, roadways, and other vital areas. They were organized by battalions, and covered every district of the Republic of Vietnam. By the late 1960s, the regional forces had grown substantially with new battalions continually being raised through 1975.
Flag of the Regional Forces and Popular Forces.
                Regional forces personnel were often the first to face enemy attacks. As the numbers of regional forces grew, the battalions began to be used in offensive operations as well. The role of the regional forces became an essential part of the defense strategy of the Republic of Vietnam, and during its history hundreds of thousands of would serve as members of regional forces units.
Examples of Regional Forces insignia.
Top: Regional Forces sleeve patch, left - printed, right - silk woven.
Middle: Regional Forces Battalion Patches,
left to right - 102nd, 131st, 213th, and 448th Battalions.
Bottom: left to right - 504th and 513th Battalions,
747th Reconnaissance and 838th Reconnaissance, RVNHS Archive.
                   Regional forces personnel wore regular army uniforms and equipment. Insignia consisted of a beret badge (usually worn on a black beret) and sleeve patch, which could be colored or subdued. Each regional forces battalion and reconnaissance units also had unit-specific insignia, which was worn on the chest pockets. A handful of units had specific insignia for each company. Some units also had numbered tapes, which were worn above the pockets, or scrolls that were worn on the shoulders. Ranks followed the standard Republic of Vietnam Army system.
Regional Forces member with patch on left sleeve, 1969, RVNHS Archive.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

TQLC Vietnamese Marine General Bùi Thế Lân signed Holidays Card 1969

Bùi Thế Lân as a brigadier general, 1970s.
           From the RVNHS Archive, this 1969 personalized Christmas and New Year's card was given by then Colonel Bùi Thế Lân of the Vietnamese marines (TQLC). The card is in English, and was given to American advisors of which Bùi Thế Lân was acquainted. The card bears his embossed name with written signature.
1969 holidays card from then Colonel Bùi Thế Lân, RVNHS Archive.
1969 holidays card from then Colonel Bùi Thế Lân, interior view with signature,
RVNHS Archive.
          Bùi Thế Lân (1932-2014) would reach the rank of major general, and become one of the most well known members of the Vietnamese marines. He served as commander of the marine division, and was active in veterans' and memorial events in later years. He passed away in January, 2014, at the age of 82 in San Jose, California. In this posting we would like to share this holidays card from this famed Vietnamese marine, and commemorate his legacy.
Bùi Thế Lân with President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, 1970s.
Bùi Thế Lân in later years.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

VNAF 255th Helicopter Squadron - Phi đoàn 255 Xà Vương

VNAF 255th Helicopter Squadron patch, hand embroidered, 1960s, RVNHS Archive.
             The Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) 255th Helicopter Squadron was based in Soc Trang. It was part of the 84th Tactical Wing of the 4th VNAF Air Division, and flew Bell UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" helicopters. Like other VNAF helicopter squadrons, the 255th served a variety of functions in support of ground operations. These included fire support, target spotting, transport of material and personnel, evacuation of wounded, and any number of support actions as needed.
A VNAF Bell UH-1 Iroquois in flight, like those flown by the 255th Squadron, 1960s-70s.
              Bell UH-1 Iroquois could carry up to twelve additional personnel in addition to the two front crew. The crews of squadrons like the 255th provided a vital role on the battlefields and in the military logistics of the Republic of Vietnam. The casualties they suffered stand as testament to this. In this post, we would like to highlight the history of units like the 255th, and pay homage to the those who gave their lives flying the essential missions demanded of the helicopter squadrons.
VNAF 4th Air Division patch, of which the 255th belonged, machine embroidered,
RVNHS Archive.
VNAF 4th Air Division patch, variant with Arabic number 4 embroidered over an earlier Roman numeral IV, machine embroidered, uncut, RVNHS Archive.
VNAF Bell UH-1 Iroquois parked on a runway, like those flown by the 255th, 1960s.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Early Vietnamese Airborne Sleeve Patch ARVN Nhay du

Early Vietnamese airborne sleeve patch, silk woven, circa early 1960s, RVNHS Archive.
            Like most Vietnamese military units, airborne branch insignia changed at different points in history. There were three main incarnations of the standard airborne patch. Shown here is the short-lived second pattern insignia. Some date this insignia as first appearing in the late 1950s, other say it did not appear until 1960. Contemporary photographs of this insignia in use are scarce.
A rare contemporary photograph of this insignia in use, November 18, 1960.
       What is certain is the insignia was only briefly used, and by the mid-1960s had been replaced with the third, and more common version of the airborne patch. Both the second and last version also share some basic elements in common, which include an eagle surmounting a parachute canopy against a red frame.
Last version of the Vietnamese airborne sleeve patch, silk woven, 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
Vietnamese airborne officers with the last version of the airborne sleeve patch.