Wednesday, November 24, 2010



(S) To exercise operational command over forces and personnel assigned or attached in the execution
of special operations or in the conduct of unconventional warfare as directed by the Joint General Staff/Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (JGS/RVNAF).

(TS) Because of increased communist activities in the Republic of Vietnam after the 1954 Geneva
Accords, a secret special service was established in 1958 under the control of the President Republic of Vietnam. The mission of this secret agency was to obtain intelligence on communist activities north of the DMZ, and to locate strategic targets for destruction in the event of  open hostilities with the North. In 1963, the secret service was re-designated the Vietnamese Special Forces Command.

The forerunner of the present Strategic Technical Directorate (STD) was organized under the name Special Branch (SB) within the Special Forces Command. The SB consisted of two sections.
One section was responsible for in-country support sites. These support sites were located in Saigon for Airborne Operations, in Hue for cross-DMZ operations, and in Da Nang for  Seaborne operations. The second section was responsible for out-of-country support sites, which were established in Vientiane, Laos, Savannakhet, Laos, Bangkok, Thailand and Paris, France. The out-of-country support sections recruited potential agents for training in clandestine intelligence and interdiction operations. Because of funding problems, however, the out-of country program was eventually eliminated.
(TS) By 1964, the situation in RVN had become so critical that the SB was unable to handle escalating
special operations requirements. Because of this situation, the SB was reorganized as an independent unit, separate from Special Forces Command. In April 1964 the SB officially became the Special Exploitation Service (SES) and was placed under the command control of the JGS. Concurrent with the formation of SES, its counterpart US organization, Studies and Observation Group (SOG) was created. SOG assumed the responsibility for the support of SES special and unconventional warfare operations.
(TS) SES was organized with a Headquarters element in Saigon, the Coastal Security Service (CSS) in Da Nang, the Airborne Training Camp at Long Thanh, and attached VNAF elements. The VNAF elements included several special aircrews operating in close coordination with the MACSOG First Flight Detachment in Nha Trang.

(S) During the latter part of 1964, the NVA increased its infiltration of troops and supplies into
RVN via the Ho Chi Minh trail. In response, SES was again enlarged in early 1965. Activated in
April 1964 under the aegis of JGS to conduct reconnaissance in Laos and Cambodia, the previously
autonomous Liaison Service (LS) was assigned to SES in January 1965. The SES was subsequently re-designated the Strategic Technical Service (STS). For the first time one agency was responsible to JCS for all special and UW operations supporting the RVN counterinsurgency program.

(S) By September 1967 the STS had grown considerably. To accommodate its new status, STS was re-designated the Strategic Technical Directorate (STD). The Director STD reported directly to the Chief of the JGS. At this time, the major subordinate units were the Liaison Service, the Coastal Security Service, the Special Task Force, the Airborne Training Center, and the Coordination and Liaison Detachment. Also, the STD Psywar Division was greatly enlarged to meet the growing needs of UW and Special Operations.
(S) In mid-1970, because of the deactivation of the US 5th Special Group, STD absorbed the Vietnamese Special Forces Command, which was re-designated the Special Mission Service (SMS). The resulting organization is shown in Figure 1.1 and has remained essentially unchanged to the present.

(S) STD was organized into two major field units, the Liaison Service and the Special Mission Service. LS was given the mission of conducting operations in Cambodia and the Republic of Vietnam south of the tri-border area; and SMS of conducting operations in Laos in SVN north of the tri-border area. In addition to general intelligence collection, LS and SMS teams were trained to conduct wiretaps, prisoner snatch operations, road and trail mining, and to direct TACA1R and artillery on lucrative targets.

(S) The Liaison Service was organized (Figure 1.2) with three task forces, along with combat service support elements. The capabilities of LS were somewhat reduced after May 1972 as a result of the deactivation of its Special Commando Unit (SCU) exploitation and security companies.
(S) The Special Mission Service was authorized five operational groups, but only four were assigned.
The organization of SMS operational units was similar to a Special Forces “A” Detachment, and was developed to facilitate the conduct of unconventional warfare operations in North Vietnam and Laos. SMS was organized as shown in Figure 1.3.
(TS) Additionally, STD had two autonomous subordinate units assigned, Group 11 and Group 68 located in Da Nang and Saigon, respectively. Group 11 consisted of nine 12-man STRATA teams, so called because of their mission: Short Term Reconnaissance and Target Acquisition.
These teams were trained in the conduct of road and trail recon, wiretaps, reconnaissance of selected
enemy installations, and target acquisition for airstrikes. Group 68 was responsible for two clandestine agent operations. The first of these, the Earth Angel program, employed NVA ralliers in three and four man intelligence collection teams. These personnel, carefully screened and recruited from Chieu Hoi Centers, were required to pass a polygraph examination before being accepted into the program. The second program was codenamed Pike Hill, and referred to Ethnic Khmer Intelligence Collection Operations. Pike Hill personnel were South Vietnamese citizens of Cambodian ancestry organized into three and five man teams for long term reconnaissance/ intelligence operations in Cambodia. For security purposes Group 68 headquarters was located in Saigon, while the operational teams were billeted and trained at Camp Yen The near Long Thanh, RVN.

(TS) Until early 1972, STD was tasked with cross-border operations only; however, the NVA offensive in April 1972 necessitated a reorientation of STD operations so as to concentrate on in-country tactical reconnaissance operations in support of the hard-pressed Military Regions (MR’s) This change in employment of STD was also due in part to the loss of US air assets, and the detachment on 5 May 1972 of the VNAF, 219th HELO Squadron. These events considerably reduced STD’s capability to respond independently to cross-border reconnaissance missions as deve1oped at the MACV and JGS intelligence targeting levels. Though the strategic role of  STD atrophied to a marked degree, tactical reconnaissance operations (in excess of 200 separate reconnaissance team (RT) missions) in support of the MR’s were instrumental in producing intelligence vital to RVNAF efforts to counter the NVA invasion and kept the RT’s of LS and SMS in a high state of preparedness for their primary mission of intelligence collection operations in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

(TS) Upon the deactivation on 30 April 1972, of MACSOG (see 1971-72 MACV Command History, Annex B, p. B-1), which had carefully nurtured STD through the improvement and modernization programs of the past two years, a jointly staffed advisory agency was formed from residual MACSOG personnel, and designated the Strategic Technical Directorate Assistance Team-158 (STDAT-158). Consisting of a total of 152 Army, 6 Navy, and 2 Air Force personnel, STDAT-158 was organized as shown in Figure 1.4. STDAT-158 was chartered under a Secret missions and functions letter directive, dated 30 April 1972, signed by the MACV Chief of Staff. STDAT was activated on 1 May 1972 and was charged with providing advice, assistance, and limited financial and material support to STD; with developing, within capabilities, combined plans for special operations and unconventional warfare; and with maintaining direct liaison between STD and MACV agencies concerned with intelligence collection and related operational matters. STDAT was also directed to keep MACJ2 and J3 (later MACDI & DO) informed as to STD activities, to exert all possible efforts to insure that STD operations best served the objectives of the US MACV, and to encourage STD to consider intelligence collection
requirements specified by MACDI. As a parallel to the direct command relationship existing
between STD and JGS, STDAT-158 Cmdr/SA reported directly to C/S MACV. As a cover,
STDAT-158 was shown on the MACV organizational chart as a subordinate element of Army
Advisory Group. Finally, STDAT-158 was charged by C/S MACV with serving as the MACV
point of contact STDAT-158 was later directed, in addition to its advisory missions, to organize, equip, train and employ a Special Mission Force (SMF) and Coastal Recovery Force (CRF), whose organizational details and operational activities are described more fully in later chapters. Until mid-November 1972, STDAT-158 maintained field advisory elements at each of the STD locations depicted in figure 1.5. MACV drawdown Increment 14 required a reorganization of STDAT158 and a reduction in personnel to 42 Army, 1 Navy, and 1 Air Force. The resulting organization is shown in Figure 1.6. Effective 1 December 1972, STDAT continued in its advisory and assistance role, its capabilities greatly reduced in relation to what they were under its previous organization. Owing directly to the impact of the NVA offensive in April and the continued reduction of US forces in RVN, STDAT, for its part in the overall advisory effort, directed the majority of its energies and talents to the following:

1. Planning and coordinating its own draw down imposed reorganization.
2. Fulfilling its responsibility to place STD in as sound an operational and logistics posture as time would allow.
3. Developing the SMF, and CRF as rapidly as possible into forces operationally ready to perform their assigned missions.
4. At the direction of C/S MACV, in response to an urgent request from the Commander Second Military Region Assistance Command, forming and deploying a Special Training Team (STT). STT was organized and supported from STDAT resources, and was tasked with the conduct of a ranger training program for selected MR II reconnaissance and ranger companies. The objective of the STT training program was to upgrade II Corps capability to conduct deep penetration operations (ambush, raid, reconnaissance) in enemy rear areas. (TS) Meeting the first of these four general tasks complicated efforts to realize the other three. Careful planning, in particular, was required in order to support the STT right up to the time that Increment 14 draw down necessitated its deactivation, turnover of its equipment, reassignment of its personnel, and turnover of responsibility for conduct of the training to ARVN training cadre.
(TS) The most serious advisory problem encountered during the period covered by this history concerned STDAT’s endeavors to influence the employment of STD forces following the stabilization
of the tactical situation in the aftermath of the NVA Invasion in April. This problem had its focus in efforts to reverse the JGS concept for employing STD forces. The invasion caused a shift in emphasis in the prevailing JGS concept from strategic to tactical intelligence collection, as already mentioned. In April 1972, MR-I, MR-II, and MR-III, and the Capital Military District (CMD) were given operational control over STD forces, and began to employ them in the respective Corps and CMD areas of tactical responsibility. The detachment in May of STD’s dedicated 219th HELO Squadron made STD completely dependent on Corps air assets for its operations and thus firmly lodged STD into a tactical as opposed to a strategic intelligence collection role. Although STD played an important part in the overall RVNAF effort to counter the NVA offensive, the tactical situation had stabilized enough by October to justify STDAT efforts to influence, by direct liaison with STD and though the MACV command chain, a redirection in STD’s operational emphasis from a tactical to a strategic role. Even though no formal change in STD’s commitment in support of the MR’s was announced or directed as a result of STDAT’s
liaison/advisory activities directed to this end, a de facto situation recognizing such a change was
apparent. The MR’s seemed to become aware of the dangerous inertia which had developed
with respect to strategic reconnaissance. In mid-November they began to make air assets available
and to encourage targeting of operations in the Laos and Cambodia base areas. As of this writing ten cross-border operations have been conducted following this renewal of strategic interest.
(TS) Another major advisory undertaking, concerned the planning, training, and coordination of
STD support of special, notional, and psywar operations developed in connection with CINCPAC CONPLAN 1508 (CINCPAC Message 060333Z June 72), the sensitivity of which exceeds the security classification of this document. The professional manner in which STD elements responded to the requirements of this plan gave direct evidence of the viable counterpart relationship that had been developed between STD and STDAT.
(TS) In response to the President’s order to halt all US military activities against the DRV and in anticipation of the cease-fire, on 15 January 1973, JCS cancelled all STDAT authorities for special
operations against the DRV. With the signing of the Peace Treaty on 28 January 1973, STDAT prepared to stand down and transferred House 50* supplies to STD. On 12 March 1973,
STDAT was deactivated.
(S) The chapters which follow present in more detail the advisory and, in the case of SMF and CRF, the operational efforts of STDAT-158. For the most part, the history of STDAT was bound up part and parcel with that of its STD counterpart. In some areas, control and support of SMF and CRF and logistical and administrative support of its organic agencies and personnel, the two organizations functioned quite separately. In the case of the STT mission and in the targeting and conduct of operational missions, the history of one generally coincided with that of the other. The RT operations portion of subsequent chapters, therefore, describe events jointly significant to STDAT and STD.
* Logistics Support Facility located at #50 Plantation Road.
(TS) Added: On 9 February 1973, Cmdr/SA met with COMUSMACV and Chief/Vietnamese Joint
General Staff (Chief/JGS) to discuss the impact of the deactivation of Team 158 on the operational
capabilities of STD. The following specific areas of impact were identified and discussed:

1. (TS) All funding support of STD special operations and UW training/operations would
be terminated. Group 68 would, as a result, be deactivated. Earth Angels were to be discharged
and Pike Hills drafted into ARVN and left assigned to STD.
2. (C) The limited contract airlift support of STD would terminate.
3. (S) STD‘s access to MACDI‘s aerial reconnaissance mechanisms for acquiring intelligence
for mission planning would terminate.
4. (S) Although STD would inherit a sizeable logistics facility and inventory from Team 158, STD would no longer have access, through its assistance team, to a special equipment acquisition system. It was estimated that in most commodity areas present special equipment stocks would sustain STD in excess of one year at its current level of operations.
(S) Discussion also focused on those measures necessary to reestablish STD in its primary role of strategic intelligence collection. Chief/JGS stated that the 219th HELO Squadron would be returned to dedicated support of STD. Finally Chief/JGS was informed that a US liaison officer assigned to the residual US military element, Defense Attache Office, would be the point of contact for coordination of the employment of STD forces in the conduct of post cease-fire casualty resolution activities.

On 19 July 1972 the Golf-5 Security Company (GSC) moved
from Ban Me Thuot to the Team 36 Compound north of Pleiku City. Upon relocation of its 150
indigenous troops and 14 US personnel, the GSC was officially redesignated the Special Mission
Force (SMF). The genesis of the Golf 5 Security Company is amplified on page 62.
(S) MISSION: Comprised of indigenous mercenaries led by a 21 man US contingent, Special
Mission Force was tasked to conduct on order, PW/escape/evadee recovery operations, crash
site inspection (CSI), and to assist Sea Air Rescue (SAR) forces, as requested, in RVN, and on a
case by case basis in other SEASIA countries, and to conduct limited intelligence collection missions
in RVN in support of prisoner recovery operations.
(C) PERSONNEL: Special Mission Force indigenous soldiers were primarily ethnic Montagnards
(98%) from three main tribes; Rhade, Sedang, and Jarai. In addition to the Montagnard
tribesmen, there were a few Nungs (soldiers of Chinese extraction) and some Vietnamese. Most
of the indigenous members of SMF had fought with US commanded Special Forces elements for
five or six years. As a result of this long association, most of SMF’s indigeous soldiers had acquired
a basic proficiency in English that enabled them to comprehend simple military instructions
and obviated the need for an interpreter in most cases. Whenever subjects required more
detailed explanations a separate interpreter was required to translate the information for each of
the three separate tribes. An additional interpreter was sometimes required in order to converse
with the few Vietnamese members of SMF who, as a general rule, did not speak or understand
any of the Montagnard dialects. The majority of SMF’s soldiers had been expertly trained during
previous SF employ not only in the basic military skills but also in the more sophisticated techniques of special operations, which required unique and extensive training. Prior to their assignment to SMF most of the soldiers were members of highly trained Reconnaissance Teams (RT) with Command and Control Central (CCC). These special mission teams operated as subordinate elements advised by LSAD. Using six or seven men each, RT’s, trained for and executed small unit operations. The RT members also participated in various specialized training programs which included basic airborne training, High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) airborne
training, long range patrolling, extensive night movement, helicopter rappelling, air mobile operations, and the use of the STABO personnel harness for inserting.and extracting individuals
from inaccessible areas by helicopter. Prior to their assignment to SMF the majority of the SMF
indigenous soldiers were well qualified as individuals to conduct small unit combat operations.
The US personnel commanding the indigenous force came to SMF with a background in special
operations techniques. Many of the senior NCO’s had served in Vietnam for as long as three
years during which time they, had participated in Special Forces related operations.

RELATIONSHIP: SMF’s US contingent was not an advisory element but, uniquely at this stage of
theVN war, actually commanded and led this force of indigenous soldiers. SMF was organized into
three platoons under a force headquarters element and an administrative section (see figure 13.1).
Each US platoon leader had an indigenous counterpart platoon leader. All command decisions, however, both in the rear area and in the field were the responsibility of the US platoon leader. Including a Commander and First Sergeant, indigenous JTD positions were basically titular since final operational decisions were prerogatives of Commander SMF and others in.the US chain of command. In the cantonment area, by contrast, indigenous leaders were given maximum latitude to influence the actions of their personnel at platoon, squad, and fire team level. In most instances the US Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant issued orders through their counterparts, but by way of defining US command responsibility, it was not unusual, if the situation dictated, for US Platoon Leaders to give specific guidance to individual riflemen. Because there were only two US assigned to each platoon the judgment of indigenous leaders inevitably influenced decisions in the field. This was the rule rather than the exception since many combat operations employed squads performing as independent elements.
The level of expertise and training of the individual indigenous soldier generally assured him to
be of sound judgment, in some cases able to issue actions and orders as effective as those that might
have been expected from US leadership in similiar situations. The indigenous TD established a force
of 219 personnel; approximately 140 combat soldiers with the remainder being considered support
personnel. The US JTD provided for a force of 21 personnel. A US platoon leader and his platoon
sergeant commanded each of the three separate platoons even though the indigenous platoon had an internal chain of command, i.e., fire team leaders, squad leaders, platoon sergeant, and platoon leader. A US major (O-4) commanded SMF and was backed by a Montagnard counterpart who was the titular indigenous commander, and a highly respected former tribal chieftain. SMF did not experience the attrition trends among indigenous troops one would expect to find in a similar US unit. Personnel retainability was unique in that there was no ETS* concept for indigenous soldiers. A Montagnard soldier’s assignment with SMF would normally terminate only as a result of AWOL status, or a personal desire to quit. It was a rare instance when a man’s services were terminated as a result of inefficient job performance. The Montagnard soldiers responded to orders with a degree of alacrity rarely found in US soldiers serving even in the most ideal of circumstances. With morale problems virtually nonexistent, SMF’s soldiers proved themselves outstanding jungle warriors in every sense of the word.

(C) LOGISTICS: There are few instances in the military when a unit has virtually every supply
request filled promptly by its supporting agency, but the logistics section of STDAT-158, provided
SMF with 95% of the items it requisitioned. Such responsive support insured maximum
combat readiness for operations requiring, special equipment. Items which required immediate
delivery were shipped on a priority basis using STDAT contract aircraft. personnel. The US JTD provided for a force of 21 personnel. A US platoon leader and his platoon sergeant commanded each of the three separate platoons even though the indigenous platoon had an internal chain of command, i.e., fire team leaders, squad leaders, platoon sergeant, and platoon leader.
A US major (O-4) commanded SMF and was backed by a Montagnard counterpart who was the
titular indigenous commander, and a highly respected former tribal chieftain. SMF did not experience the attrition trends among indigenous troops one would expect to find in a similar US unit. Personnel retainability was unique in that there was no ETS* concept for indigenous soldiers. A Montagnard soldier’s assignment with SMF would normally terminate only as a result of AWOL status, or a personal desire to quit. It was a rare instance when a man’s services were terminated as a result of inefficient job performance. The Montagnard soldiers responded to orders with a degree of alacrity rarely found in US soldiers serving even in the most ideal of circumstances. With morale problems virtually nonexistent, SMF’s soldiers proved themselves outstanding jungle warriors in every sense of the word.

(C) LOGISTICS: There are few instances in the military when a unit has virtually every supply
request filled promptly by its supporting agency, but the logistics section of STDAT-158, provided
SMF with 95% of the items it requisitioned. Such responsive support insured maximum
combat readiness for operations requiring, special equipment. Items which required immediate
delivery were shipped on a priority basis using STDAT contract aircraft.

(C) ADMINISTRATION: Indigenous administrative matters to include awards and decorations,
leaves and passes, hiring and firing, messing, billeting, limited family assistance, and pay disbursement were a US responsibility. Cmdr SMF had carte blanche authority to hire and terminate indigenous personnel and thereby exercised an exceptionally potent brand of command leverage. SMF’s soldiers considered their jobs lucrative ones in that wages were above average and
the continuing departure of US units accentuated the scarcity of jobs, especially for Montagnards.
SMF continuously received applications from indigenous personnel, special warfare qualified, seeking job vacancies. Drawing from a large pool of applicants SMF was able to select
well qualified, highly trained soldiers, many of whom spoke and understood English. The soldier
working for SMF realized that he could be replaced by someone of equal training and ability at
any time. More than 50 per cent of the indigenous families lived within the compound area. The
individual soldier’s concern for the safety of his family had a profound effect on his willingness
to defend the compound since the protection of the compound directly involved the safety of his
family. Both soldiers and families enjoyed, by their standards, excellent living facilities. A Montagnard mess hall provided a well-balanced diet of well prepared food. Low sick call rates and
the few patients in the dispensary indicated the good health and vitality of the troops. Financial
records accounting was done by SMF; however, headquarters STDAT-l58 maintained the personnel records on indigenous employees, thus minimizing the need to maintain detailed administrative records.

1. (C) GENERAL BACKGROUND: The initial emphasis, following the reorganization of GSC, was
to train SMF personnel to perform the missions they had been tasked to execute on a contingency basis. One of these missions was to perform crash site inspections. Prior to activation of SMF the Golf- 5 Security Company had been tasked with crash site inspections and remains recovery missions on two separate occasions, following the crash of a China Air Lines contract C-46 flight carrying 32 personnel on board and that of a Cathay Pacific flight carrying 82 personnel. There were no survivors in either crash. Many of the techniques and procedures of SMF’s crash site SOPs were derived from the methods used by GSC during these missions. (Most of the personnel assigned to the Golf-5 Security Company, as has been previously mentioned, subsequently formed the nucleus of SMF). The contract C-46 (identified as Echo Mike-2) was flying a routine passenger haul for STDAT-158. The plane was enroute from Ban Me Thuot to Pleiku on 5 June when radar contact was lost. After it was apparent that the plane had crashed, a force of 16 US and 55 indigenous personnel rappelled from HELOs onto the crash site. Severe weather conditions hampered the initial search efforts, but recovery work began on 9 June and continued through 16 June, during which time all of the bodies were recovered:
11 US, 15 VN, and 6 Chinese. The Cathay Pacific recovery operation began on 16 June when a force
of 3 US and 25 indigenous personnel located and recovered 65 bodies. Crash site inspections and
body recovery missions are difficult to simulate. Even though the task of body recovery and aircraft
inspection is a grisly task invaluable lessons were learned from these CSI missions. SMF personnel by virtue of this actual experience became qualified and trained to perform CSI missions. Once this experience was analysed SMF was able to develop equipment lists and operations SOPs for future operations.

19.July – 16 Aug 1972: In order to insure that the level of combat training and special operations techniques were consistent throughout the Force, SMF began an intensive two week training program as soon as the Pleiku compound was occupied and the personnel organized under the new JTD. The initial training concept was to launch a program designed to teach fundamental, conventional infantry tactics and the use of individual and crew served weapons at the lowest echelon, i.e., the squad. Such a program required ranges and areas of operations; enough real estate to accommodate a 140 man force. In addition to the required training area, there were other considerations; lesson plans, qualified instructors, safety personnel, and all of the other support necessary to conduct an effective basic training operation. Some of these requirements constituted serious obstacles to the program. The Forces Armed National Khmer (FANK) Training Command was conducting squad, platoon and company level training at Camp Enari. Cmdr SMF arranged for SMF to participate in a two week training cycle as a contingent attached to a three company Border Ranger Battalion. Approximately 128 SMF personnel attended the training each day. The training cycle did, in fact, provide an excellent background for all subsequent SMF training. Prior to the formal two week FANK training cycle, which began on 29 July, SMF troops were given a new and complete issue of clothing and TA 50 equipment. Weapons were technically inspected and the necessary repairs were made. After numerous inspections, it was apparent that indigenous soldiers had a professional concern for the care and maintenance of both individual and crew served weapons. The logical progression for the next phase of training was to simulate various aspects of contingent missions and to develop reflexive reactions to specific tactical situations. From the very beginning of training, air assets were difficult to obtain. This lack of HELO support detracted from the realistic simulation and practice of contingent missions since practica1ly any mission SMF was expected to execute required a HELO lift capability.

3. (C) 17 Aug - 23 Aug: During this period SMF trained on those particular subjects and operational techniques which were expected to be most beneficial on actual operations. A priority
requirement existed to teach the indigenous personnel mission essential communication procedures
and basic radio maintenance. Much of the training conducted during this period was given
on a formal basis in the classroom. The relatively complicated instruction on long range night
operations, land navigation, and immediate action drill exemplified the exasperating experiences
SMF periodically encountered in an attempt to insure that all three Montagnard tribes, Chinese,
and VN received the subject matter translated and delivered in terms they understood. The results
of practical exercises indicated that the important points were being conveyed with some
degree of accuracy. Also during this period considerable emphasis was given to the important
subject of night defensive positions (NDP).

4. (C) 23 Aug - 30 Aug:
a. Training up to this time had been conducted in relatively secure areas under simulated
combat conditions. From this point on most of the training was conducted on actual operations
where the eneny threat was real and the possibility of contact imminent. During the period
231300 to 251300H Aug, SMF conducted a live training exercise east of Pleiku. After a day of
uneventful patrolling, a platoon intercepted and pursued two armed VC on 25 August. Following
the VC to the east, the platoon discovered a small, recently vacated base camp at AR
980558. Leaving its heavy equipment and rucksacks secured by one squad, the platoon (-) followed
fresh trails leading east. After passing through an abandoned VC way station, the platoon
leader dispatched a six-man recon team to the north whete it encountered and wounded one of
the fleeing VC. Three more men were spotted running toward the north and were fired upon
with unknown results. The wounded VC was revived and medevaced to SMF Compound where
he received first aid. Interrogation disclosed that he was a local force VC running a waystation
for small NVA units moving south. The operation terminated without further incident on the
morning of the 26th.
b. On 26 August at approx 1300 hrs SMF was tasked to perform a crash site/remains recovery
mission for a C-123 that crashed into Dragon Mountain south of Pleiku City, killing all
aboard. SMF was at the location of the crash site by 1500 where the eight victims were recovered
and their remains transferred to the Camp Holloway Graves Registration (GR) detachment.

All personal effects and bodies were sent to Saigon by C-130. The entire operation was accomplished without incident, and remains identification by Saigon GR turned out to be a comparatively easy task because of the thorough recovery of personal effects, which later accompanied the remains to.the mortuary. Every effort was made to recover as much physical evidence as possible so as to meet the corroborative legal requirements for verification of deceased status.

5. (C) 31 Aug - 10 Sep 1972: Since effective support in the field was a function of timely requests
clearly and accurately transmitted to the SMF Tactical Operations Center (TOC), communications
training continued to be emphasized: To facilitate displacement of the operational
launch site or forward CP out of thePleiku area, a MRC-108 radio set (AF Combat Control
Team Jeep with radio) was hand receipted from II Corps DASC1 on 10 Sep for use during a
training operation 11-15 Sep. This exercise tested the concept of using the MRC-108 as a compact
radio system at a launch site, or forward CP. The MRC-108 can be loaded internally in a
CH-47 helicopter, or moved as a two piece sling load. Figure 13.2 depicts SMF communications
net. Pleiku Province allocated their daily work helicopter to SMF on 7 Sep for rigging and rappelling training in which a refresher class on helicopter rappelling was given to the personnel of
two platoons. The landing pad inside the SMF compound proved to be large and safe enough
for this training purpose. During this period SMF also established a training area south of Pleiku,
easily accessible by road in the vicinity of coordinates AR 7943. The training in this area included
live raid drills, live fire hasty withdrawals, immediate action drills, and practical application
in the deployment and placement of mechanical ambushes. Practical exercises were the key
to this training.

6. (C) 10 Sep - 17 Sep 1972. SMF conducted another live training exercise northeast of Pleiku
from 11-15 Sep. HELO resupply being unavailable, SMF troops carried unusually heavy subsistence loads. Thistraining demonstrated the physical stamina and psychological temperament required to conduct protracted field operations with minimum logistical support. SMF troops
stood up well to long distance movement through rough terrain in inclement weather. The key
to their durability may have been that many of the meals prepared in the field were supplemented
by a variety of edible jungle plants. SMF troops displayed their native skill for quiet, undetected
movement through the jungle. However, when the unit was preparing the NDP, many of the
soldiers talked too loud and too much and required a special leadership effort to eliminate this
practice. During this mission a SMF soldier was taken ill by the reactivation of a dormant malaria
virus, which is carried by most of SMF’s indigenous personnel, and, although immediate
hospitalization was required, SMF experienced a two hour delay in receiving a medivac HELO.
The malarial soldier was eventual1y extracted from the field and treated. Such slow response to
a dangerous medical problem obstructed operational effectiveness and once again emphasized
the scarcity of air assets. During this period two platoons made enemy contacts from which
valuable lessons were derived. Moving through dense underbrush, the point man of one of the
platoons encountered two enemy before a cooking fire at a distance of less than ten feet. Armed
with an M-79, the point man realized that his round would not arm at this distance. Taking advantage of his momentary hesitation, the startled enemy bolted down the hill and vanished into a
tangle of vines and bushes. The lesson learned in this incident was the advisibility of using a
buckshot cartridge in the M-79 when carried by the pointman. In a concurrent engagement another
platoon lost its chance to kill or capture enemy they observed at close range because of an
inaccurate radio transmission. As a result of this incident, radio communication training was
given added emphasis.

7. (C) 17 Sep - 1 Oct 1972: During this training week SMF continued to receive limited helicopter
support from Province and was able to conduct rappelling with personnel wearing full
combat loads. All personnel successfully completed this training using the STABO harness. SMF
also conducted a limited reconnaissance mission from 23-28 Sep in support of a 23rd ARVN
Division operation. Several problems were experienced during the course of this reconnaissance
effort. Commanded by the SMF XO, the entire force deployed by truck into an AO 15 km
southwest of Pleiku near Thanh An. Platoon areas of operation were assigned daily and individual
platoons directed to employ a cloverleaf movement from patrol bases established at suitable
points. These tactics allowed squads, whose heavy gear was dropped at the base, to cover a
wider area more quietly and with less fatigue. Initial area of operation (map sheet 65361) was
north of QL 19. Local coordination with the ARVN regimental advisor was made on the afternoon
of the 23rd. On 24 September SMF moved north into its AO within which platoons were
released for independent movement. During the day one platoon discovered fresh bunkers containing medical supplies and blood traces. On the morning of 26 Sep SMF moved into a new
AO. Immediately upon entry and for the remainder of the next day, 27 Sep, SMF discovered in
an old tea plantation numerous bunkers that gave evidence of being less than 3 weeks old and of
having been inhabited as recently as the last 3-4 days. The bunkers were large enough to accommodate a regimental HQs and contained trails and commo wire within 900 meters of the
road. No enemy was encountered, but there was evidence that he had just evacuated his defensive
positions. On the afternoon of 27 Sep SMF operations were suspended to allow ARVN
units to pass through the eastern half of the AO, and to prepare for a change in mission. Intelligence received 27 Sep indicated the possibility of enemy infiltration from the South and Southeast and the location of enemy mortar sites at grid intersection 1632. Three ambush positions
were established after dark on 27 Sep. One ambush was initiated (ZA175319) about 280450 Sep
against an estimated 10 enemy with unknown results. VC/NVA encountered were moving NE
to SW alonng a major road and were apparently evading south to rejoin their main force. On 28
Sep all platoons reassembled then proceeded into a third AO along the Ia Tok and Ia Tang
streams. Several well beaten trails were found running eastwest toward a tea plantation in the
area, but no enemy contact was made. All platoons were picked up and returned to SMF compound 281600 Sep 72. Several problems were experienced during this operation. The area of
operation, distinctly identified by prominent terrain features, was assigned exclusively to SMF.
As the operation progressed it became apparent that very little information concerning SMF’s
locations was being coordinated between the two ARVN Bns involved in the overall operation.
Although Cmdr SMF had established control and coordinating measures at every ARVN command
level, on several occasions ARVN troops moved unannounced through the SMF AO.
Fortunately there were no incidents involving US and ARVN troops as a result of this obvious
lack of communcations through ARVN channels. The operation graphically illustrated the control
problems inherent in joint operations involving units from two separate command headquarters.
Finally, the lack of enemy contact generated a lapse of enthusiasm which resulted in
tactica1 carelessness among indigenous personnel.

8. (C) 2 Oct - 8 Oct 1972. A Special Training Team (STT) consisting of 15 US personnel and
15 VN arrived in Pleiku where it was billeted in the SMF compound for the conduct of a two
month reconnaissance training program in support of II Corps. The instructor personnel were
detached from STDAT and STD counterpart units. During the week two SMF platoons, the 2nd
and 3rd, stood by as a reaction force while 1st platoon conducted operations in the An Khe area,
undertaken at the request of Second Regional Assistance Command (SRAC) to support Saigon
Graves Registration (SGR) personnel in a remains recovery mission. Two days prior to the execution of this operation, 1st platoon leader conducted a VR to include a brief stop at the An Khe
airfield to coordinate the operation, with the District Senior Advisor (DSA), An Tuc District.
On 3 Oct.the 1st platoon was air lifted by helicopter (CH-47) from Pleiku to An Khe vicinity of
AN 455473. The HELO then flew to the An Khe airfield where the District Senior Advisor was
awaiting the arrival of Cmdr SMF and an accompanying representative of the SGR. The three
personnel moved by vehicle to the location where a skeleton had first been discovered in 1972.
The 1st platoon soon joined the Cmdr SMF, SGR, and DSA, and for the next thirty-six hours
conducted an extensive search for skeletal remains thought to have been overlooked at the time
of the initial collection effort. No further skeletal remains could be located. The search was discontinued after SGR personnel concluded that any additional effort appeared futile. At the conclusion of this mission the 1st platoon conducted an additional search in the vicinity of the Song
Ba river adjacent to the north end of the An Khe air field. SGR records indicated that two US
bodies had not been recovered from the site of a 1966 crash of a C-123. The ensuing search
failed to locate the remains. Even though no remains were recovered in the search, SGR was
able to determine conclusively that any future attempt to recover remains on these particular
cases, i.e., the crash site of 1966 or the skeletal remains found in March 1972, would not be
worthwhile. From 6 October the entire unit was on a 45 minute standby alert as a reaction force
for an STT training operation which was being conducted northeast of Pleiku.

9. (C) 9 Oct - 15 Oct 1972. During 10 through 12 October, 3rd platoon of SMF conducted operations north of Pleiku in support of STT, which was working with two reconnaissance Com
panies from the 22nd and 23rd ARVN Divisions. Primary mission of the 3rd platoon was to
provide a radio relay between STT recon companies and rear STT TOC. Insertion of the 3rd
PLT was made by VNAF helicopter about 101030 Oct 72. After establishing the relay site the
small patrols were sent out, OP’s were established, and mechanical ambushes were withdrawn
pending return of patrols. At about 1000 hrs one OP fired claymores at 2 VC. The main body of
the platoon quickly opened up with M-79. The Commander of the Third Platoon followed blood
trails with two squads for about 500 meters down the hill before losing the trails in a stream. No
further contact was made. An OP then reported VC dressed in black pajamas moving south to
north armed with one AK-47 and ammo chest pack but carrying no other equipment. The radio
relay site was moved about 900 meters on 111230. No further enemy contact was made. Beginning
121130 October 3rd platoon moved to a pick up zone and extracted by VNAF helicopter
without further contact. The techniques of mechanical ambushes, OP’s, small patrols, and
manned ambushes were emphasized during the operation. The 1st platoon later conducted a reconnaissance in Phu Nhon district from 13 to 15 Oct. The following is an account of the execution
phase of this operation narrated by the Platoon Leader: MISSION: Locate and verify the size of an estimated 70 man VC force. (Suspected location vicinity AR 853076 period.)

EXECUTION: “1st platoon (SMF) conducted an air move from Pleiku to firebase 43 (AR
851147). The platoon was shuttled by truck from Firebase 43 to AR 879088 at 131330 Oct 72,
entered the AO immediately thereafter, and moved to vicinity of AR 864076 for NDP. No enemy
activity during the night. The following morning (14 Oct), after conducting a cloverleaf patrol
outside the NDP and withdrawing the ambush set out the previous night, I moved the platoon
east to AR 867075. My reasoning was that if I had been compromised during the night, it
would now look as though we were moving toward the road and not toward the target area. At
1230 hours, after moving by bounds throughout the morning we heard someone chopping wood
off to our right. As soon as I had set up a perimeter vicinity AR854067, I dispatched two 5 man
RTs. One (1st squad) was ordered to recon west and northwest approximately 400 meters. In
the event contact was made by an RT, the plan was for all elements to move to the point of
contact. If both RT’s made contact they were to break contact and return to the patrol base. At
1330 hours the RT on recon to the northwest made contact. Enemy was NVA (good uniforms
with fairly new web equipment). First he attempted to draw us into his bunker complex by trying
to appear as a very small force. Later he exposed his full strength (approximately 300) and
showed that he was determined to flank us. He would not return the fire from the 4th squad, but
continued to maneuver for a flanking advantage. He was well armed (approximately 20-30 B-
40’s landed on or near our positions). I learned later that 2 B-40 rounds landed in our headquarters
but did not explode. I called in artillery on the enemy complex and on the area west of
it to try to prevent us from being flanked. While we waited for gunship support, the enemy assaulted the 1st squad with B-40’s and AW fire. When gunships arrived, I had them work the
north side of our position and then the west side. As the 1st squad fell back behind the headquarters, I decided that the only way to prevent a suicidal withdrawal to the east was for headquarters to remain in place so as to encourage the remaining indigenous troops to hold their
ground. When the gunships had expended all but two remaining runs (ordnance), I had them
make a final run on my southern flank and radioed all but 4th squad to withdraw due east to the
road. I ordered 4th squad to remain as a delaying force and then directed it to drop rucksacks
and follow due east. I learned later that 4th squad never cleared the original patrol base, but instead moved into the center portion of it when it became completely flanked. The squad leader
intended this movement to confuse the enemy force and to give the platoon (-) the extra time
needed to carry out our wounded. The NVA pursued us approximately 1000 meters to the east.
I could not use the gunships to cut them off because I didn’t know how far behind the 4th squad
was. One man was wounded during pursuit. A MEDEVAC was conducted in vicinity 867068.
The platoon finally reached the road vicinity 882078 from was trucked to Phu Nhon.
The province Senior Advisor and the II Corps Commanding General concluded that the aggressive
action by the 1st platoon prematurely precipitated a large scale enemy attack in the Phu
Nhon district. Known results of the operation were: enemy - 2 KIA, 1 WIA; SMF - 2 KIA, 5

10. (C) 16 Oct - 20 Oct 1972: Training was limited during the period because of the requirement
to retain SMF as a standby force for an STT raid mission. SMF displaced to Camp Enari during
the STT mission to act as a reserve and to provide guards in the event prisoners were captured.
SMF was not committed during the STT airmobile reconnaissance/raid operation. Following the
action on14 Oct, the recovery of the KIA’s and MIA’s lost during the contact was given top
planning priority. The unstable tactical situation in Phu Nhon district, however, postponed this
operation until late November. The unpredictable enemy situation in the Pleiku Area at this time
continued to curtail SMF operations and make planning for future operations uncertain.

11. (C) 21 Oct - 27 Oct 1972: The SMF second platoon conducted a point reconnaissance mission
in Pleiku province during 23-25 Oct. During this recon, contact was made with what
seemed to be a platoon or larger size enemy force. As a result of this contact one the SM ndjgeqpus
personnel was KIA and two indigenous WIA. One US adviser suffered a bullet wound in
the arm and was later evacuated to the United States. The operation was conducted in the hills
west of Pleiku. On the afternoon of 23 Oct, the platoon moved north into assigned AO to locate
suspected NVA rocket (122m) artillery elements and launch sites. Although some local intelligence
was gained.from Montagnards concerning a village meeting conducted by NVA representatives
the day before, no signs of enemy were located. On the morning of 24 Oct, the platoon
moved west to check the reported meeting area -- no fresh traces were found. The platoon
then moved to a reported rocket launching site. A few fresh trails leading NW-SE were found
late in the afternoon. The platoon leader determined to wait until the next day to contiinue because
of approaching darkness. About 0745 on the morning of 25 Oct, three squads moved
down the slope SW from the NDP. More fresh trails were encountered. At ZA 161518 the platoon
encountered evidence of tree cutting and immediately afterward observed a large (6 ft high)
bunker-like structure concealed under trees. The platoon leader brought the platoon on line to
check the area. About two minutes later (appr. 0830) voices were heard, and the Platoon Sergeant
opened fire on the first of four NVA/VC moving toward the bunker. He killed three NVA
and wounded another. The platoon maneuvered forward about 30 meters, encountering six or
more bunkers and surprising the NVA occupying this area. Fighting broke out close to the bunker
entrances. An estimated 10 NVA were killed in this area. One SCU RTO was killed. The
Platoon Leader and a rifleman were wounded. The p1atoon received RPD and B-40 fire from
ridgelines to the SW and north as they withdrew to the east to a hasty LZ, where the wounded
were evacuated and artillery and gunships called in against the fortified enemy positions. The
platoon then rejoined its remaining squad and continued moving east to vacate the target area
for air strikes. The air strikes resulted in several secondary explosions. The platoon later moved
to a truck pickup point from which it returned without further incident to the SMF compound.

12. (C) 28 Oct - 3 Nov 1972: The tactical situation indicated the increased presenceof large
numbers of enemy forces in the proximity of Pleiku City. Both ARVN and NVA Forces were
attempting to control as much territory as possible in case of a cease-fire. Air assets remained
heavily committed and therefore SMF was unable to launch planned operations. Because helicopter
gunships were unavailable, SMF had to be especially careful to avoid training in areas
where contact was likely. SMF used this time to good advantage by catching up on compound
maintenance, and brushing up on techniques that could be taught in the compound or in a relatively secure training area south of Pleiku City at Camp Enari.

13. (C) 4 Nov - 10 Nov 1972. SMF was involved with training in the local area while on standby
for STT. This training, conducted for the most part on the SMF compound, emphasized hand
and arm signals, ambush techniques, and first aid. On 7 November, 35 SMF troops and one US
advisor departed for Da Nang to assist SMSAD secure Camp Fay during SMSAD’s deactivation,
and to prevent equipment losses between the time SMSAD made its final inventory and the
time SMS signed for Camp Fay. When the compound was transferred, the SMF element returned
to Pleiku. SMF continued as the standby force for STT until it finished its second training
cycle. This responsibility kept SMF from engaging in other than minor training operations. After
coordinating tasking procedures directly with Cmdr/SA, STDAT-158, G-3 informed Cmdr SMS
of six crash sites within Pleiku province for planning purposes. SRAC had fairly complete information
on the sites and indicated that airlift support would-be provided for the operations.

14. (C) 11 Nov - 17 Nov 1972. Special Mission Force had made two separate attempts to identify
and locate crash sites in response to missions generated by JPRC. It was evident that the
crash site archives maintained by JPRC contained considerable sketchy and unsubstantiated information
concerning aircraft crashes which occurred during the early stages of the war, i.e.,
between 1964 and 1967. Experience gained from investigations near An Khe and south of
Pleiku, indicated that it was very difficult to locate vestiges of the crash site and traces of bodies
not recovered (BNR). The elements, in conjunction with the lush jungle growth, completely
obliterated or obscured any visible trace of the crashes. An initial ground reconnaissance into
supposed crash site areas proved to be a time consuming, arduous task. Experience on the
ground proved to be the only way to develop reliable methods for crash site inspections. SMF
was able to make the following observations relative to CSI: After a crash site inspection mission
has been proposed by JPRC, the recovery team leader must make a thorough map reconnaissance
and accurately pinpoint any villages or habitations in the proximity of the crash. Depending
on its size, the recovery force should canvass as many villages as possible for information
concerning possible crash sites. Interpreters are essential to minimize the confusion caused
by the language barrier. Information collected from separate sources should be compared when,
the team reassembles and an analysis made concerning the reliability of data furnished by JPRC.
From the information collected from these various sources the recovery team leader should be
able to decide upon a viable course of action.

15. (C) 18 Nov - 24 Nov 1972. SMF conducted a recovery operation in an attempt to locate the
five SMF personnel lost in the Phu Nhon district on 14 Oct. The operation was an obvious boon
to morale since confinement to the compound had fast become boring. The operation also gave
credibility, to the avowed U.S. interest in the welfare of the indigenous soldier and respect for
his customs. Prior to the search, one of the local village inhabitants indicated to the Phu Nhon
district Senior Advisor that he knew the location of two bodies in the vicinity where the men had
been reported lost. SMF interrogated the informant and took him on the operation to the area he
designated. Two bodies were, in fact, found, but neither of the bodies proved to be SMF personnel;
one was an NVA soldier and one was a RVN militia soldier. Because of the rugged terrain,
dense undergrowth, and almost impenetable elephant grass, SMF was unable to locate the
exact area of contact. The operation was terminated and plans were made to try again as soon as
the tactical situation in Pleiku province would allow for adequate air support.
16. (C) 24 Nov - 9 Mar 1972. Continuing indications of an imminent cease-fire restricted SMF
activity to training in a secure area south of Pleiku. The force conducted field training in immediate
action drills, night movement, and zeroing weapons, and classroom sessions and later
practical application in the adjustment of artillery fire. An inclusive inventory of camp, post, and
station property and all equipment signed for by the S-4 section was conducted in order to insure
the timely and orderly transfer of equipment to the VN in the event of a negotiated ceasefire.
Restricted close-in training continued at the direction of Cmdr SA in a manner intended to
avoid casualties but insuring that SMF would be fully capable of performing immediate post
cease-fire CSI’s. During the period, SMF conducted a crash site inspection 15 KM north of Qui
Nhon of a F-4 which crashed in 1966. Previously located by aerial reconnaissance, the site had
never been inspected. Two SMF platoons were airlifted by C-130 from Pleiku to Qui Nhon and
then inserted by helicopter to the vicinity of the crash site. The force began the search on 21 December, spent the night in the area, and resumed search operations on 22 December with one
platoon utilized as a security unit while the second platoon conducted search operations. SMF’s
search of the site failed to turn up either remains or physical evidence bearing on the status of
the personnel involved in the crash. An uncorroborated report was received from a former Regional Force soldier, who stated that one of the F-4’s two crewmen was taken prisoner by Viet
Cong. District officials were requested to interrogate other local villagers in an attempt to corroborate the above assertion. Three Saigon Mortuary personnel assisted SMF on this mission.

(C) SUMMARY: Upon the activation of SMF, more than eight months ago, its single objective
was to achieve a state of readiness which would insure the accomplishment of any mission assigned
it. The unit trained and conducted combat operations in virtually every type of terrain and
environmental conditions one would expect to encounter in Vietnam. At times, harsh physical
demands tested the soldiers’ resolve to continue, often carrying to the point at which men of
lesser courage and stamina have failed to meet the challenge. In the course of the training and
operations previously described, SMF soldiers developed the expertise, durability and mental
toughness to perform their missions. Each SMF training or combat operation provided its members
with vital experience of a kind not found in military manuals. Lessons learned generally
identified basic principles which had either been overlooked or poorly executed. Precision, concerted effort and expertise in executing jungle operations were the rewards of this demanding
combat training effort. Finally, SMF’s training and combat engagements proved that it was vir
tually impossible to overtrain a combat soldier, but, to the contrary, when training was punctuated
by actual enemy engagements, the training achievement level took on the utmost importance
to every man in the unit.

(TS) Throughout the period May 1972 - February 1973, Advisory Element 68 was responsible
for implementing the Earth Angel and Pike Hill programs. In addition, a Group 68 AE assisted
STD in establishing the Thang Long Project. During this period, STDAT was tasked with several
classified contingency missions which involved Group 68 Advisory personnel. Group 68 AE
is collocated with Group 68 at Camp Nguyen Cao Vi, and at Camp Long Thanh. Group 68
agent personnel were billeted and trained at the Camp Long Thanh Isolation facility. Because of
manpower ceiling reductions, Group 68 AE was reduced to one officer and one NCO on 25
November 1972.
(TS) Earth Angel. The Earth Angels program was a low-level intelligence collection effort
which used three or four man teams made up of NVA ralliers. All Team members were airborne
qualified and were capable of insertion by parachute, helicopter, or walk-in. Selected individuals
were HALO qualified. Typical Earth Angel missions included roadwatch, riverwatch, area,
point, and linear reconnaissance. On occasion, teams were also given bomb damage assessment
missions in support of ARCLIGHT operations.

(TS) Pike Hill. The Pike Hill program used ethnic Khmer and South Vietnamese citizens of
Cambodian descent to establish low-level agent nets among the civilian population of Northeast
Cambodia. The teams normally consisted of three to four personnel and were programmed to
operate for periods of up to six months in duration. In addition, selected Pike Hill teams were
inserted into target areas to perform area reconnaissance and bomb damage assessment.
(TS) Earth Angel. Throughout the cited period, Earth Angel teams took specialized training in
demolition, aerial resupply, and CW radio communications in order to refine their capability to
operate for extended periods of time in enemy-held territory with minimal outside support. Two
cross-border missions into Cambodia were conducted during the period with mixed results. Information
reported by teams and overflight aircraft indicated that large concentration of combat
service support troops and support facilities were located in the assigned target areas. Follow up
actions included ARCLIGHT strikes and subsequent bomb damage assessment missions by Pike
Hill teams.
(TS) Pike Hill. The Pike Hill program continued to be strengthened by additional airborne,
communications, and aerial resupply training. The objective of this additional training was to enhance
operational security and to enable the teams to remain in target areas for extended periods
of time. Nine Pike Hill reconnaissance and bomb damage assessment team missions were conducted
in Cambodia during the period. Information reported during these missions was used to

select targets for ARCLIGHT strikes against the large enemy build-up in Cambodia. Selected
Pike Hill agents were being trained for possible future long range reconnaissance operations in
Northeastern Cambodia at the time of Group 68’s deactivation. It was envisioned that, the
agents would have remained in the enemy’s combat service support/logistics rear areas for periods
of up to 60 days. Information derived from these missions would have been used to develop
ARCLIGHT targets.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010




In early 1956 the French built Commando School at Nha Trang was re-established with US military assistance to provide physical training and ranger instruction for up to 100 students. Early the following year President Ngo Dinh Diem ordered the creation of a special unit to conduct clandestine external operations. Initial parachute and communication training for 70 officers and sergeants was conducted at Vung Tau; 58 of these later underwent a four month commando course at Nha Trang under the auspices of a US Army Special Forces Mobile Training Team. Upon completion, they formed the Lien Doi Quang Sat so 1 (I Observation Unit) on I November 1957 at Nha Trang. The unit was put under the Presidential Liaison Office, a special intelligence bureau controlled by President Diem and outside the normal ARVN command structure. The commander was Lt. Col. Le Quang Tung, an ARVN airborne officer and Diem loyalist. Many of the Unit's members came originally from northern Vietnam, reflecting its external operations orientation.
In 1958 the Unit was renamed the Lien Doan Quang Sat so 1, or I Observation Group, reflecting its increase to nearly 400 men in December. By that time the Group was seen as an anti Communist stay behind force in the event of a North Vietnamese conventional invasion; however, because of its privileged position the Group stayed close to Diem and rarely ventured into the field.
By 1960 it was apparent that the main threat to South Vietnam was growing Viet Cong insurgency; the Group abandoned its stay behind role and was assigned missions in VC infested areas. Operations were briefly launched against VC in the Mekong Delta, and later along the Lao border.
In mid 1961 the Group had 340 men in 20 teams of 15, with plan for expansion to 805 men. In October the Group began operations into Laos to reconnoiter North Vietnamese Army logistical corridors into South Vietnam. In November the Group was renamed Lien Doan 77, or 77 Group, in honor of its USSF counterparts. Over the next two years members were regularly inserted into Laos and North Vietnam on harassment and psychological warfare operations. Longer duration agent missions, involving civilians dropped into North Vietnam, also came under the Group's auspices.
The Group's sister unit, 31 Group, began forming in February 1963. Following criticism of 77 Group's perceived role as Diem's 'palace guard', both groups were incorporated into a new command,, the Luc Luong Dac Biet (LLDB) or Special Forces, on 15 March 1963. In theory the LLDB would work closely with the USSF in raising irregular village defense units. This cosmetic change still kept the Special Forces outside of ARVN control, however, and did little to change the performance of Col. Tung's troops. In August, LLDB members attacked Buddhist pagodas across South Vietnam in an effort to stiffle Buddhist opposition to the Diem regime. At the time LLDB strength stood at seven companies, plus an additional three 'civilian' companies used by Diem on political operations. Because of such missions the LLDB became despised and, when anti Diem military units staged a coup d'etat in November, the 'revolutionary' forces arrested Col. Tung and quickly neutralized the LLDB. (Tung was later executed.)

The LLDB after President Ngo Dinh Diem

In the wake of the coup the Presidential Liaison Office was dissolved and its function assumed by the ARVN. The LLDB was put under the control of the Joint General Staff and given the mission of raising paramilitary border and village defense forces with the USSF. External operations were given to the newly formed Liaison Service, also under the JGS. The Liaison Service, commanded by a Colonel, was headquartered in Saigon adjacent to the JGS. It was divided into Task Force 1, 2 and 3, each initially composed of only a small cadre of commandos.
In 1964 the JGS also formed the Technical Service (So Ky Thuat), a covert unit tasked with longer duration agent operations into North Vietnam. Commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel, the Technical Service comprised Group 11 (Doan 11), oriented toward agent operations in Laos and eastern North Vietnam; Group 68 (Doan 68 Thang Long), another infiltration unit; and the Coastal Security Service, a maritime commando group at Da Nang attached to the Technical service with its own contingent of PT boats for seaborne infiltration.
The post Diem LLDB was restructured for its proper role as a source of counter insurgency instructors for paramilitary forces. By February 1964, 31 Group had finished training and was posted to Camp Lam Son south of Nha Trang. In May the Group became responsible for all LLDB detachments in I and 11 Corps. A second reorganization occured in September when 31 Group was renamed III Group and given responsibility for the Special Operations Training Center at Camp Lam Son. Now 77 Group, headquartered at Camp Hung Vuong in Saigon, became 301 Group. In addition, 91 Airborne Ranger Battalion, a three company fast reaction para unit, was raised under LLDB auspices in November. Total LLDB force strength stood at 333 officers, 1270 non commissioned officers and 1270 men. The LLDB command at Nha Trang was assumed by Brig. Gen. Doan Van Quang in August 1965.
By 1965 the LLDB had become almost a mirror image of the USSF. LLDB Headquarters at Nha Trang ran the nearby Special Forces Training Center at Camp Dong Ba Thin. LLDB 'C' Teams, designated A through D Company, were posted to each of South Vietnam's four Military Regions; each 'C' Team had three 'B' Teams, which controlled operational detachments at the sub regional level; 'B' Teams ran 10 to 11 'A' Teams. 'A' Teams were colocated with USSF 'A' Teams at camps concentrated along the South Vietnamese border, where they focused on training Civilian Irregular Defense Force (CIDG) personnel.
In addition, the LLDB Command directly controlled the Delta Operations Center with its Delta teams and the four company 91 Airborne Ranger Battalion, both were used by Project Delta, a special reconnaissance unit of the US Military Assistance Vietnam Studies and Observation Group (MACVSOG), which operated deep in VC/NVA sanctuaries.
On 30 January 1968 the Communists launched their TET general offensive across South Vietnam. Caught celebrating the lunar New Year, the Saigon government was initially ill prepared to counter the VC/NVA attacks. When Nha Trang was hit on the first day the LLDB Headquarters was protected by 91 Airborne Ranger Battalion, recently returned from one of its Project Delta assignments. At only 60 percent strength the Airborne Rangers turned in an excellent performance, pushing the major Communist elements out of Nha Trang in less than a day. The battle, however, cost the life of the battalion commander and wounded the four company commanders.
After a four month retraining in Nha Trang three companies from 91 Airborne Ranger Battalion were brought together with six Delta teams and renamed 81 Airborne Ranger Battalion. In early June the new battalion prepared for urban operations in Saigon after a second surge of Communist attacks pushed goverrunent forces out of the capital's northern suburbs. On 7 June the Airborne Rangers were shuttled into Saigon and began advancing toward VC held sectors around the Duc Tin Military School. After a week of bloody street fighting, much of it at night, the Airborne Rangers pushed the enemy out of the city.
Following the Tet Offensive 81 Airborne Ranger Battalion was increased to six companies, and continued to be used as the main reaction force for Project Delta; four companies were normally assigned Delta missions while two remained in reserve at LLDB Headquarters.

The Strategic Technical Directorate

In late 1968 the Technical Service was expanded into the Nha Ky thuat (Strategic Technical Directorate, or STD) in a move designed to make it more like MACVSOG, the US joint services command created in 1964 which ran reconnaissance, raids and other special operations both inside and outside South Vietnam. Despite internal opposition the Liaison Service was subordinated to the STD as its major combat arm. Like SOG, the STD also had aircraft under its nominal control, including 219 Helicopter Squadron of the Vietnamese Air Force. By the late 1960s the size of the Liaison Service had increased tremendously. Task Forces 1, 2 and 3, commanded by lieutenant colonels and larger than a brigade, were directly analogous to MACVSOG's Command and Control North, Central and South. Each Task Force was broken into a Headquarters, a Security Company, a Reconnaissance Company of ten teams, and two Mobile Launch Sites with contingents of South Vietnamese Army and paramilitary forces under temporary Liaison Service control. Although the Liaison Service was a South Vietnamese unit, all of its operations were funded, planned and controlled by MACVSOG, and recon teams integrated both MACVSOG and Liaison Service personnel.
In December 1970, in accordance with the 'Vietnamization' policy, all CIDG border camps were turned over to the South Vietnamese government and CIDG units were incorporated into the ARVN as Biet Dong Quan, or Ranger, border battalions. No longer needed as a CIDG training force, the LLDB was dissolved in the same month. Officers above captain were sent to the Biet Dong Quan; the best of the remaining officers and men were selected for a new STD unit, the Special Mission Service. At the same time 81 Airborne Ranger Battalion was expanded into 81 Airborne Ranger Group consisting of one Headquarters Company, one Recon Company and seven Exploitation Companies. The Group was put under the direct control of the JGS as a general reserve force.
During 1970 the Liaison Service had staged numerous cross border missions into Cambodia in support of major external sweeps by the US and South Vietnamese forces against Communist sanctuaries. Early the following year the Service sent three recon teams into the 'Laotian Panhandle' two weeks before the ARVN's February Lam Son 719 incursion.
In February 1971 the STD underwent major reorganization in accordance with Vietnamization and its anticipated increase in special operations responsibilities. Headquartered in Saigon, STD command was given to Col. Doan Van Nu, an ARVN airborne officer and former military attache to Taiwan. As STD commander, and a non voting member of the South Vietnamese National Security Council, Nu took orders only from President Nguyen Van Thieu and the Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam JGS.
The expanded STD consisted of a headquarters, a training center, three support services and six combat services. The training center was located at Camp Yen The in Long Thanh: Yen The, significantly, was the name of a resistance movement in northern Vietnam during the 11th century. Airborne instruction was conducted at the ARVN Airborne Division's Camp Ap Don at Tan Son Nhut. The three support services were Administration & Logistics; Operations & Intelligence; and Psychological Warfare, which ran the 'Vietnam Motherland', 'Voice of Liberty', and 'Patriotic Front of the Sacred Sword' clandestine radio stations. The combat services were the Liaison Service (Loi Ho), the Special Mission Service (Hac Long), Group 11, Group 68, The Air Support Service and the Coastal Security Service.
The Liaison Service (So lien Lac), commanded by a colonel in Saigon, was composed of experienced Loi Ho recon commandos divided among Task Force I (Da Nang), Task Force 2 (Kontum) and Task Force 3 (Ban Me thuot).
The Special Mission Service (So Cong Tac), also commanded by a colonel, was headquartered at Camp Son Tra in Da Nang. It remained in training under US auspices from February 1971 until January 1972. Unlike the shorter duration raid and recon missions performed by the Liaison Service, the SMS was tasked with longer missions into North Vietnam and Laos. It was initially composed of Groups 71, 72 and 75, with the first two headquartered at separate camps at Da Nang. Group 75 was headquartered at Plei Ku in the former LLDB B Co. barracks, with one detachment at Kom Tum to provide a strike force for operations in Cambodia and inside South Vietnam.
Group 11, an airborne infiltration unit based at Da Nang, and Group 68, headquartered in Saigon with detachments at Kom Tum, was soon integrated under SMS command. Group 68 ran airborne trained rallier and agent units, including 'Earth Angels' (NVA ralliers) and 'Pike Hill' teams (Cambodian disguised as Khmer Communists). A typical Earth Angel operation took place on 15 December 1971, when a team was inserted by US aircraft on a reconnaissance mission into Mondolkiri Province, Cambodia. Pike Hill operations were focused in the same region, including a seven man POW recovery team dropped into Ba Kev, Cambodia, on 12 February 1971. Pike Hill operations even extended into Laos, e.g. the four man Pike Hill team parachuted onto the edge of the Bolovens Plateau on 28 December 1971, where it reported on enemy logistics traffic for almost two months. Pike Hill operations peaked in November 1972 when two teams were inserted by C-130 Blackbird aircraft flying at 250 feet north of Kompong Trach, Cambodia. Information from one of these teams resulted in 48 B-52 strikes within one day.
The STD's Air Support Service consisted of 219 'King Bee' Helicopter Squadron, the 114 Observation Sqn., and C-47 transportation elements. The King Bees, originally outfitted with aging H34s, were re-equipped with UH-1 Hueys in 1972. The C-47 fleet was augmented by two C-123 transports and one C-130 Blackbird in the same year. All were based at Nha Trang.

The Easter Offensive 1972

During the 1972 Easter Offensive the combat arms of the STD saw heavy action while performing recon and forward air guide operations. Meanwhile, 81 Airborne Ranger Group was tasked with reinforcing besieged An Loc. The Group was heli lifted into the southern edge of the city in April, and the Airborne Rangers walked north to form the first line of defense against the North Vietnamese. After a month of brutal fighting and heavy losses, the siege was lifted. A monument was later built by the people of An Loc in appreciation of the Group's sacrifices.
In October 1972, the SMS was given responsibility for the tactical footage between Hue and the Lao border. In early 1973 US advisors were withdrawn. The Air Support Service soon proved unable to make up for missing US logistical support, sharply reducing the number of STD external missions. STD personnel, as well as Lien Doan Nguoi Nhai SEALS, were increasingly pulled into President Thieu's Office for special assignments. Later in the year the Liaison Service's Task Force 1, 2 and 3 were redesignated Groups 1, 2 and 3; and Camp Yen The was renamed Camp Quyet Thang ('Must Win'.)
Following a brief respite in the wake of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, the STD was back in action against encroaching NVA elements in the countryside. In September 1973 two Liaison Service Loi Ho recon teams were inserted by helicopter into Plei Djereng, a key garrison blocking the NVA infiltration corridor down the Western highlands. They were unsuccessful in rallying the defenders after an NVA attack, however. In late 1974 the NVA increased their pressure; especially hard hit was the provincial capital of Phuoc Long in Military Region 3. After several weeks of NVA tank, artillery and infantry attacks the Phuoc Long defense started to crack. In an effort to save the city the government ordered 81 Airborne Ranger Group to reinforce the southern perimeter. After two days of weather delays one company was heli lifted east of the city on the morning of 5 January 1975; and by early afternoon over 250 Airborne Rangers were in Phuoc Long. After a day of relentless NVA assaults most of the original garrison fled; contact was lost with the Airborne Rangers as the NVA began to overwhelm the city. Early the next day Aiborne Rangers stragglers were spotted north of the city. A four day search eventually retrieved some 50 percent survivors.
By March 1975 the NVA had increased pressure on the Central Highlands, prompting Saigon to begin a strategic redeployment from the western half of II Corps. Although the Liaison Service's Groups 2 and 3 provided security for the withdrawing masses the redeployment soon turned into a rout. In the hasty withdrawal Group 2 had forgotten two recon teams in Cambodia; these later walked the entire distance back to the Vietnamese coast. After the fall of the Central Highlands government forces in I Corps began to panic, sparking an exodus to the south. In the confusion Group I of the Liaison Service attempted to provide security for the sealift to Saigon. Meanwhile, the SMS boarded boats on 30 March for Vung Tau.
With the entire northern half of the country lost, Saigon attempted to regroup its forces. 81 Airborne Ranger Group, which had arrived from II Corps in a state of disarray, was refitted at Vung Tau. The Liaison Service was posted in Saigon, with Groups I and 3 reinforcing Bien Hoa and Group 2 protecting the fuel depots. The SMS also reformed in Saigon.
On 6 April 1975 SMS recon teams sent northeast and northwest of Phan Rang discovered elements of two North Vietnamese divisions massing on the city. An additional 100 SMS commandos were flown in as reinforcements, but were captured at the airport as the North Vietnamese overran Phan Rang. A second tak force of 40 Loi Ho commandos was infiltrated into Tay Ninh to attack an NVA command post; the force was intercepted and only two men escaped. By mid April 81 Airborne Ranger Group was put under the operational control of 18th Division and sent to Xuan Loc, where the unit was smashed. The remnants were pulled back to defend Saigon. By the final days of April the NVA had surrounded the capital. Along with other high officials, the STD commander escaped by plane on 27 April. On the next day 500 SMS commandos and STD HQ personnel commandeered a barge and escaped into international waters. The remainder of the Liaison Service fought until capitulation on 30 April.


In 1960 the South Vietnamese Navy proposed the creation of an Underwater Demolitions Team to improve protection of ships, piers and bridges. Later in the year a navy contingent was sent to Taiwan for UDT training; the one officer and seven men who completed the course became the cadre for a Lien Doi Nguoi Nhai (LDNN), or Frogman Unit, formally established in July 1961. The LDNN, with a proposed strength of 48 officers and men, was given the mission of salvage, obstacle removal, pier protection and special amphibious operations.
Soon after the creation of the LDNN a second unit was formed: Biet Hai,or 'Special Sea Force', paramilitary commandos under the operational control of Diem's Presidential Liaison Office and given responsibility for amphibious operations against North Vietnam. US Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land) commando teams began deploying to South Vietnam in February 1962 and initiated in March a six month course for the first Biet Hai cadre in airborne, reconnaissance and guerrilla warfare training. By October, 62 men had graduated from the firstcycle. A planned second contingent was denied funding.
In early 1964 the LDNN, numbering only one officer and 41 men, began special operations against VC seabome infiltration attempts. Six Communist junks were destroyed by the LDNN at Ilo Ilo Island in January during Operation 'Sea Dog'. During the following month the LDNN began to be used against North Vietnamese targets as part of Operation Plan 34A, a covert action program designed to pressure the Ha Noi regime.
In February a team unsuccessfully attempted to sabotage a North Vietnamese ferry on Cape Ron and Swatow patrol craft at Quang Khe. Missions to destroy the Route I bridges below the 18th Parallel were twice aborted. In March most of the LDNN was transferred to Da Nang and colocated with the remaining Biet Hai commandos. During May North Vietnam operations resumed by LDNN teams working with newly trained Biet Hai boat crews. On 27 May they scored their first success with the capture of a North Vietnamese junk. On 30 June a team landed on the North Vietnamese coast near a reservoir pump house. Ile team was discovered and a hand to hand fight ensued; two LDNN commandos lost their lives and three 57mm recoiless rifles were abandoned, but 22 North Vietnamese were killed and the pump house was destroyed.
In July a second class of 60 LDNN candidates was selected and began training in Nha Trang during September. Training lasted 16 weeks, and included a 'Hell Week' in which students were required to paddle a boat 115 miles, run 75 miles, carry a boat for 21 miles and swim 10 miles. During the training cycle team members salvaged a sunken landing craft at Nha Trang and a downed aircraft in Binh Duong Province. Thirty-three men completed the course in January 1965 and were based at Vung Tau under the direct control of the Vietnamese Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Operations).
In 1965 the LDNN was given responsibility for amphibious special operations in South Vietnam. Maritime operations against North Vietnam were given exclusively to the Da Nang based Biet Haicommandos and Hai Tuanboat crews, both incorporated into the new seaborne component of the STD, the So Phong Ve Duyen Hai (Coastal Security Service or CSS). The CSS, a joint services unit, was headed by an Army lieutenant colonel until 1966, then by a Navy commander. CSS missions focused almost entirely on short duration sabotage operations lasting one night, and had a high success rate. The CSS relied heavily on special operations teams temporarily seconded from other services. Teams on loan from the Vietnamese Navy considered most effective, were codenamed 'Vega'. Other teams came from the Vietnamese Marine Corps ('Romulus') and Army ('Nimbus'). The CSS also controlled 40 civilian agents ('Cumulus') until the mid 1960s. Unofficialy, the term Biet Hai was used for all CSS forces, regardless of original service affiliation. CSS training was conducted at Da Nang under the auspices of US Navy SEAL, US Marine, and Vietnamese advisors. Further support was provided by the CSS's Da Nang based US counterpart, the Naval Advisory Detachment, a component of MACVSOG.
By the mid 1960s US Navy SEAL teams were being rotated regularly through South Vietnam on combat tours. Specialists in raids, amphibious reconnaissance and neutralization operations against the VC infrastructure, the SEALs worked closely with the LDNN and began qualifying Vietnamese personnel in basic SEAL tactics. In November 1966 a small cadre of LDNN were brought to Subic Bay in the Philippines for more intensive SEAL training.
In 1967 a third LDNN class numbering over 400 were selected for SEAL training at Vung Tau. Only 27 students finished the one year course and were kept as a separate Hai Kich ('Special Sea Unit,' the Vietnamese term for SEAL) unit within the LDNN. Shortly after their graduation the Communists launched the Tet Offensive most of the LDNN SEALs were moved to Cam Ranh Bay, where a fourth LDNN class began training during 1968. During the year the Vietnamese SEALs operated closely with the US Navy SEALS. The LDNN SEAL Team maintained its focus on operations within South Vietnam, although some missions did extend into Cambodia. Some missions used parachute infiltration.

LDNN after Tet
In 1971, in accordance with increased operational responsibilities under the Vietnamization program, the LDNN was expanded to the Lien Doan Nguoi Nhai (LDNN), or Frogman Group, comprising a SEAL Team, Underwater Demolitions Team, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team and Boat Support Team. Headquarters remained in Saigon. For the remainder of 1971 the SEALs operated in 12 18-man detachments on neutralization operations and raids inside South Vietnam. SEAL launch sites included Ho Anh, north of Da Nang, Hue and Tinh An.
During the 1972 Easter Offensive the SEALs were transferred to Hue to conduct operations against NVA forces holding Quang Tri; after Quang Tri was retaken some of the SEALs went to Quang Ngai to resume VC neutralization operations. After US Navy SEAL advisors were withdrawn in late 1972 the LDNN SEAL Team, now 200 strong, took over training facilities at Cam Ranh Bay; training, however, was cut in half, with only one fifth given airborne training. The SEALs had been augmented by ten graduates out of 21 LDNN officer candidates sent to the US for SEAL training in 1971.
When the Vietnam ceasefire went into effect in 1973 the SEALs returned to LDNN Headquarters in Saigon. At the same time the CSS was dissolved, with the Navy contingent given the option of transferring to the LDNN.
In late December 1973 the government reiterated its territorial claim to the Paracel Island chain off its coast and dispatched a small garrison of militia to occupy the islands. By early January 1974 the Chinese, who also claimed the islands, had sent a naval task force to retake.the Paracels. On 17 January 30 LDNN SEALs were infiltrated on to the western shores of one of the major islands to confront a Chinese landing party. The Chinese had already departed; but two days later, after SEALs landed on a nearby island, Chinese forces attacked with gunboats and naval infantry. Two SEALs died and the rest were taken prisoner and later repatriated.
During the final days of South Vietnam a 50 man SEAL detachment was sent to Long An; the remainder were kept at LDNN Headquarters in Saigon along with 200 new SEAL trainees. During the early evening of 29 April all SEAL dependents boarded LDNN UDT boats and left Saigon; a few hours later the SEALs departed the capital, linked up with the UDT boats, and were picked up by the US 7th Fleet in international waters.
By Ken Conboy