Popular Forces and Rifle Forces
Units of the PF/RF were rated poorly by everyone in terms of fighting effectiveness, with a grade nearing zero. Nevertheless, General Hieu held them in high-esteem and deftly inserted them into his overall strategy.
According to the 1969 Assessment Report on the 22nd Division, "the division training center provides leadership training for ARVN/RF company commanders and executive officers." And "due to the release of regular forces from pacification and the employment of RF and PF instead, - country-wide, the 22nd Division spent the least time on security," and "spent more time on combat operations than any other division in the country during the period of 1st quarter 1969." As a result, "the highest number of contacts per battalion in the Corps were made in this division, and the number of enemy KIA nearly tripled from the previous quarter." The Report further added: "Increased assumption of pacification and territorial security responsibility by the RF/PF has enabled the 22nd Division to free more of its battalions to conduct sustained mobile offensive operations."
Then when General Hieu took command of the 5th Division, in August 1969, it took him only 4 months to strengthen the PF/RF units within the 5th Division operational areas (Binh Duong, Binh Long and Phuoc Long Provinces) to the point which allowed him to entrust these units the main role of protecting these territories, so that the main forces could be freed to conduct crossover operations into Kampuchea. Indeed, going into 1970, the Communists were no more capable of launching attack at the battalion level within this side of the border in the 5th Division operational areas, and General Hieu entirely wrestled with the enemy in the neighboring Kampuchia's territories.
When General Hieu launched the 9th Regiment on a crossover border assault recon operation into Kampuchea into Fish Hook area northwest of Loc Ninh for 10 days on January 4, 1971, he assigned to Binh Long Sector the tasks of "conducting operation inside the country during the period TF9 performed across the border operation" and to "coordinate with TF9 in providing security for the supply route to the area of operation in the above-mentioned period."
When he executed the across border Total Victory 4/B/5 Operation, General Hieu assigned to:
In the battle of Svay Rieng, General Hieu had "two RF battalions pushed north from Moc Hoa, establishing blocking positions on the southwestern edge of the 5th Division's logistical base and assembly area."
General Hieu had the opportunity to lay out his concept and his position pertaining to PF/RF units in a discussion session with General McAuliffe:
He emphasized the following major points:
Even when he was still a Major, G3 Head of Corps 1, around 1963, General Hieu showed respect to the weakest force unit - the Paramilitary Force - and "spoke highly of the strategic hamlet program" to an American Marine Corps: "In each tactical area, the Army is responsible for support, barbed wire, and weapons, and we are making progress. Elections are being held in many of the strategic hamlets."
General Hieu was very meticulous in the selection of his associates. When he was assigned to the command of the 22nd Division in June 1966, General Hieu requested General Vinh Loc to appoint Colonel Le Khac Ly, who had just returned from the United States after his graduation at the U.S. Army College of High Command and General Staff, his divisional Chief of Staff. Later on, Colonel Ly proved to be the most competent ARVN Chief of Staff. When he assumed the command of the 5th Division in August 1969, a short period afterwards (in June 1970), General Hieu brought over Lieutenant Colonel Bui Thach Dzan, the hero of the battle of Eagles Claw 800, from the 22nd Division to assist him in the command of the 8th Regiment. Tran Hoai Thu recounted how General Hieu had put his heart into the selection of his Commander for the 405th Scout Rangers Company.
Although he wanted to have capable associates working with him, General Hieu did not fall into partisanship, and usually employed the existing personnel staff he found when taking over a new command post. A typical instance was when he was called by General Do Cao Tri to take over the command of the 5th Division, he did not follow the general practice of taking along his Chief of Staff, Colonel Le Khac Ly.
Toward his staff, General Hieu required efficiency and did not pay attention to their private life, although he might be keenly aware of an individual's weaknesses, such as alcoholism, gambling, philandering, etc...In a particular instance, a spouse of a Captain working at the 5th Division Headquarters came to General Hieu's father for help because her husband was having an affair with a female staff member of his. General Hieu's father took the pain to go to Binh Duong to intercede his son for the lady. General Hieu listened attentively but did not make any promise. It was not known if he did take any action against that Captain at all, but it appeared that the adulterous relationship did not stop, because the spouse was seen coming back to General Hieu's father several more times afterwards.
It was the same toward his General ranking peers. General Hieu drew a clear-cut line between the two military and private life areas. This explains why he was able to maintain his integrity and virtue while working with other corrupt and low moral Generals. A typical example was the close relationship that spanned two decades between General Do Cao Tri - an exceptionally competent warrior but who was tainted by a cavalier attitude and a reputation of alleged corruptions - and General Hieu.
Everybody agreed with Colonel John Hayes, 5th Division Senior Advisor's assessment that General Hieu had "good qualities include dedication, experience as a combat leader, ability to stimulate and maintain morale, and ability to control those in his command; he is quite religious and patriotic, and demands high standards of conduct and discipline." However, no one had ever witnessed General Hieu admonished anybody on the issue of virtue. He only spoke by his actions and good examples.
Other Combat and Service Units
General Hieu had the opportunities to collaborate with the majority of other combat and service units in his military operations, typically with: Special Forces and Airborne Rangers (Pleime-1965, Phuoc Long-1975), Paratroopers (Do Xa-1964, when General Ngo Quang Truong was a Captain and received a battle field promotion to Major at this campaign, Duc Co-1965, Lien Ket 66-1966, when General Nguyen Khoa Nam was still Major, 5th Airborne Battalion Commander, Eagles Claw 800-1967), Rangers (Do Xa-1964, Total Victory 8/B/5-1970, Snoul-1971, Svay Rieng-1974), Popular Forces (Svay Rieng-1974).
General Hieu's specialty was Armor, because his unique combat style consisted in the use of the Tandem Infantry Armor Formula, coupled with the use of Artillery's fire power to support tanks and armored vehicles.
General Hieu always relied on the Air Force for troops transportation and air tactical fire power supports and air reconnaissance.
Because he liked to be in the attack posture and always lunged at the heart of enemy sanctuaries, he constantly needed the help of Engineer units to clear the terrains.
The service unit that General Hieu did not have the occasion to make use of was the Navy. Nevertheless, he had entrusted Major Sidney Linver, G3 Advisor of the 5th Division, the task of designing the use of River Patrol Boats in the 5th Division operational areas.
Furthermore, General Hieu had collaborated closely with the US 1st Cavalry Division, the Korean Tiger Division, the US 173rd Airborne, the US 4th Infantry Division, the US 1st Infantry Division, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 3rd Brigade/82nd Airborne Division, the 3rd Squadron/17th Air Cavalry, The 174th Assault Helicopter Company, the 7/15th Field Artillery Battalion, The 19th Engineer Combat Battalion, and to a certain degree with the US 1st Marine Division prior to 1963, along with the USMC HMM-364 (Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364) and the 52nd Aviation Battalion in the Do Xa Campaign.
However, General Hieu did not overly depend on the Allied Armed Forces. The American military high authority was amazed by the fact that in a short period which followed the transfer of the two Provinces of Binh Long and Phuoc Long by the US 1st Infantry Division over to the 5th Division in August 1970, General Hieu had ascertained better security for these two Provinces than ever before and could afford to jump over to Kampuchia in the pursuit of the NVA 5th Division.
General Hieu always fraternized with soldiers of other combat units and acquired the technical knowledge pertaining to each combat unit.
General Staff And Operational Meetings
Soldiers noticed that a Commander who was only good in tactics and weak in strategy, would only preside a meeting and let his general staff officers do the presentation and would not utter any comments or give out on the spot oral orders. It was the opposite in General Hieu's case: he always took over the center stage in strategy meetings - like the one he held with his Lieutenants of the 5th Division -, in operational meetings - like the one he held with the Command of the US 1st Infantry Division -, or in one-to-one discussion meetings - like the one he held with General McAuliffe.
One former officer recalled when he was still a young Lieutenant, and was part of a team that the central military authority dispatched to different field combat units to be briefed on the newly established joint Vietnamese American operational protocol. This team came to the 22nd Division to give instruction to its general staff in the presence of General Hieu. In his presentation, our young Lieutenant touched upon the use of strategic B-52 bombers and tactical F-5 combat jets. General Hieu intervened and requested for clarification on the distinction between strategy and tactics. After getting a fuzzy explanation attempt, General Hieu stood up and provided to the audience a better understanding of the two notions, and told our young Lieutenant: "You are still young, and have ample opportunities for more advanced studies." Our young Lieutenant still recalled that he did not feel intimidated by General Hieu - as he did while facing General Ton That Dinh - because General Hieu demonstrated a demeanor more of a debonair professor than of a towering army general.
Many other people felt the same way:
The image of a martial arts master befits General Hieu, because he excelled in many aspects, even frivolous ones. Colonel Le Khac Ly had mentioned General Hieu's expertise in mahjong. Richard Peters, the American Consul General at Bien Hoa, admired General Hieu's skills in both western and oriental chess games. Let's add another anecdote: Colonel Ta Thanh Long revealed that General Hieu was an accomplished dancer and recounted that when he was Chairman of the 4-Party-2-Side Committee in 1974, he used to organize night dancing parties to entertain the different foreign military delegations and always invited General Hieu to join in with him. General Hieu gladly accepted the invitation each time. Meanwhile, it was known that a certain General classmate of General Hieu, even when he had reached the rank of General still did not know how to dance and had to quietly ask an officer under his command to give him private dancing lessons: "I learned to jump parachute in one shot; I just let the instructor push me out of the airplane and got it. Why are these dancing steps so difficult to learn!"