Wednesday, November 18, 2015

48 Years Ago Today - Battle of Đắk Tô - ARVN Capture of Hill 1416

Artillery during the Battle of Đắk Tô, November 1967.

            The Battle of Đắk Tô (November 3rd to 22nd, 1967) is considered one of the major engagements of the Vietnam War. The battle involved both US and Republic of Vietnam military forces, and saw several Communist units virtually destroyed. Today, the battle is considered to have been a prelude to the Tet Offensive, which occurred just a few months later. In this post, we would like to highlight the role of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces in the battle, and in particular the seizure of Hill 1416 that served as the climax for the ARVN forces.
Map showing the location of Đắk Tô.
Patch of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam 3rd Battalion of the 42nd Infantry Regiment, the unit which encountered the enemy forces on Hill 1416, RVNHS Archive.
           Forty-eight years ago, on November 18th, 1967, the 3rd Battalion of the 42nd Infantry Regiment (ARVN) encountered the entrenched North Vietnamese 24th Infantry Regiment on Hill 1416, which was northeast of Tan Canh. The ARVN airborne 3rd and 9th Battalions entered the action to seize the hill along with the 3rd Battalion of the 42nd Infantry Regiment. Together, they managed to capture the hill on November 20th, 1967. The fight was costly, and the Republic of Vietnam forces suffered sixty-six killed taking the hill. The Communist forces suffered several times as many casualties. Along with the capture of Hill 875 by US forces, the enemy was ultimately routed. Both the US and Republic of Vietnam units involved were commended for their gallantry.

Nguyễn Thế Nhã who commanded the 9th Airborne Battalion during the Battle of Đắk Tô, shown here in a 1970 photo from training at Ft. Benning.
Company guidon of the 9th Airborne Battalion, 1960s, RVNHS Archive.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thủ Đức Infantry School

Thủ Đức Academy honor guard, 1975.
               The Thủ Đức Infantry School was initially established on October 1, 1951, under the State of Vietnam. The school was located in the Thủ Đức district of Saigon, but in 1974 was also located in Long Thành. The mainstay of the school was infantry officer training, but other specialized instruction was also offered. Throughout its twenty-four year history, the academy would produce roughly 40,000 officers for the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces.
The ceremonial shooting of an arrow accompanied official class graduations for Republic of Vietnam cadets at different academies, as seen here in this photo from the ceremony for class 10A, 1972, at the Dong De Academy in Nha Trang.
           Graduates of the Thủ Đức Infantry School could be found in all branches of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Many high ranking generals were among the school's alumni, and the connections formed between classmates remain strong in the veterans' community today.
Thủ Đức Academy cadet visor cap and period photo, circa 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
       Cadets at the school wore distinctive insignia. The basic emblem for the school was a sword through a flame surrounded by a wreath. This insignia could be seen on visor caps, berets, and shoulder patches of the academy. As with other Republic of Vietnam military officer schools, trainees were given the rank officer cadet, Sinh Viên Sĩ Quan (SVSQ). A single bar was added to the rank to denote each year's worth of training to completed. Formal khaki and white colored dress uniforms were worn on ceremonial occasions, such as graduation ceremonies, parades, and memorial services at the National Military Cemetery at nearby Bien Hoa.
Thu Duc Academy cadet headgear insignia: Top, visor cap badge - Bottom, beret badge, circa 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
Thu Duc Academy cadet beret and period photo of cadet Nguyen Huu Thang, circa 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
Thu Duc Academy cadet epaulettes with one bar denoting one-year's training completed with period photo of Tran Van Qui, circa 1960s-70s, RVNHS Archive.
Thu Duc Academy alumni honor guard at a veterans' reunion, 2012.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

ARVN Officer Visor Cap - QLVNCH

Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) junior officer dress visor cap,
1960s, RVNHS Archive.
                  This officer's visor cap was recently acquired by RVNHS. The gold eagle device and chinstrap denote it as a cap for junior officer ranks (2nd lieutenant to captain). Officers from major and above would have had gold embroidery on the brim of the visor. Two basic versions of army dress uniforms existed. One was khaki, and the other a darker brown (like this cap). On special occasions, white uniforms also existed, but for the most part officers only wore either khaki or dark brown uniforms.
Instructor at the Thu Duc Academy (Captain) with dress visor, late 1960s, RVNHS Archive.
               This particular cap was tailor made in Saigon, and is named to the original owner. Research has determined this individual was promoted to major in 1970, thus making this cap date to the 1960s. Republic of Vietnam military visor caps are much less seldom encountered than berets, and this piece comes as a welcome attention to the RVNHS collection.
Republic of Vietnam officer sightseeing at Arlington Cemetery while training in the US, 
 note: junior officer visors, 1960s.
Vietnamese officers at a graduation ceremony alongside international military observers, note: selection of junior officer visors in wear, February, 1975.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

QLVNCH Armor Qualification Badge - Thiết giáp Việt Nam Cộng hòa

Republic of Vietnam armored vehicles on parade, 1960s.
                      Like many other armed forces around the world, the Republic of Vietnam military awarded qualification badges for particular areas of specialization. Examples include qualification badges for signals, transportation, ranger, and armor. These qualifications were awarded to personnel who completed training in these specific fields and undertook service in these areas. In this posting, we would like to look at some examples of the armor qualification badge.
Republic of Vietnam armor qualification badge, metal, RVNHS Archive.
Republic of Vietnam armor personnel with qualification badges, 1969, RVNHS Archive.
                    Qualification badges were worn on the right side of the chest above the pocket. They could take the form of either metal, embroidered, or cloth or silk woven insignia. The qualification badges demonstrated proficiency in a specialized area, and the recipients wore these badges with great pride. The armor qualification badge design also doubly served as the emblem for the armor branch.
Republic of Vietnam armor qualification badge, silk woven, RVNHS Archive.
Republic of Vietnam armor personnel,
note the silk woven qualification badge on the soldier at far left, 1967.