General Le Nguyen Vy
An Exceptional Regimental Commander
Brigadier General Le Nguyen Vy was the last Commanding General of the 5th Division. He committed suicide rather than faced the humiliation of surrending to the enemy at the Headquaters of the 5th Division in Lai Khe on April 30, 1975.
He was appointed to the 5th Division Command in October 1973, upon his return to the country after attending the College of High Command and General Staff, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Prior to going to the United States, he was Deputy Commander of the 5th Division, as an assistant to General Le Van Hung. During the An Loc siege in 1972, he distinguished himself as the one who knocked down the first Viet Cong tank among the first wave of T-54 tanks that had reached the central area where General Hung's command post bunker was located.
Prior to his position of 5th Division Deputy Commander, as Colonel, he was one time an exceptional competent Commander of the 8th Regiment under 5th Division Commanding General Nguyen Van Hieu. Following are some documents pertaining to his performance and point of views as a Regimental Commander as recorded by the American Advisors of the 5th Division.
Colonel Le Nguyen Vy, DOR 20-12-68, 19 years service. Colonel Vy is an above average commander. He is proficient and aggressive and exercises initiative in contact and training. (Colonel John G. Hayes, Senior Advisor, 7 February 1970).
Colonel Le Nguyen Vy, CO, 8th Regt, 5th Inf Div: A highly competent officer. Extremely dedicated, very professional and a real doer. He has great potential. A nationalist. Qualified for promotion. (Lieutenant Colonel Roy E. Couch, Deputy Senior Advisor, 4 February 1970).
Colonel Le Nguyen Vy, CO, 8th Regiment -- Best Regimental CO in III Corps; potential division commander. (3rd Corps Advisors).
Colonel Vy's Views on Vietnamization
To: General Ewell
(1) General Kinnard
(2) General Roberts
(3) Mr. Whitehouse
Forwarded for your information is Colonel Hayes's MFR on General Haig's visit to the 8th ARVN Regiment, 24 January 1970. I think you will find of interest Colonel Vy's view on:
a. ARVN artillery support -- insufficient when US artillery is withdrawn.
b. RF/PF effectiveness -- serious reservations about relying on RF/PF to defend populated areas.
c. US Battalion advisors -- inexperienced.
d. ARVN logistical support -- shaky.
Brigadier General, USA
Deputy Senior Advisor, 3rd Corps ARVN
General Haig's Visit to Units of 8th Regiment
BG Haig visited the 8th Regiment CP at Ben Cat at 1315 hours this date (24 January 70). He was briefed by Colonel Vy on current intelligence, to include NVA, main force and VC activities throughout the 8th Regiment area. Colonel Vy also presented a summation of the Dong Tien Program that the 8th Regiment had participated in with the 1st Infantry Division. He mentioned what he considered the areas of major benefit to his Regiment; i.e., Combat Support in the form of CAS. Artillery, gunships, hunter/killer teams, and mobility through the use of Combat Assault Helicopter Companies. Colonel Vy concluded by presenting the vital statistics of enemy eliminated versus friendly casualties.
General Haig asked the following questions and received comments from Colonel Vy as noted:
a. Does the Regiment have sufficient direct support artillery subsequent to withdrawal of US 1st Infantry Division? Colonel Vy stated emphatically, no! Colonel Vy said he needs at least one artillery battalion in support of his Regiment if his battalions are to have proper fire support when they assume the responsibility of a much larger area of operations. General Haig asked how much artillery is presently in support of the 8th Regiment, and Colonel Vy replied two batteries of 105mm and two 155mm at Chanh Luu, two tubes 105mm at Thoi Hoa, and two tubes 105mm with two tubes 155mm at Ben Cat. He explained that this disposition points out another requirement the RF/PF need artillery to support their operations because the ARVN artillery is presently tasked to furnish artillery support ARVN and RF/PF units throughout the AO. Colonel Vy pointed out that this problem will be much more accentuated when the battalions all move out, away from the populated areas. Until more tubes are made available, either ARVN or Rf/PF will not have proper artillery support.
b. How many and what types of ambushes are conducted by the 8th Regiment? Colonel Vy stated that each battalion puts out "many" ambushed every night, and the majority were the mechanical claymore type. He showed the results realized on a graphic chart compared with all other enemy KIA: over 50% of all recent kills have been with mechanicals. General Haig commented that such ambush results spoke highly of the unit.
c. Do you have any problems with your communications? Colonel Vy stated that he experienced no problems and had good communications throughout the Regiment.
d. What are the sources of your recruits? Colonel Vy said that the soldiers are primarily draftees, but that he does get some enlistees. General Haigh asked if most of the soldiers assigned to the 8th Regiment came from III Corps. Colonel Vy said no, they were from all over South Vietnam.
e. What is your evaluation of the combat effectiveness of the RF/PF in this area? Colonel Vy stated that this is the big problem area in the present plans to turn over the security of GVN controlled areas to RF/PF to allow the ARVN battalions to become mobile. He said the RF/PF is poor, very weak and is not capable of fulfilling the responsibilities inherent in these plans. He stated that the RF/PF cannot be relied on to properly man positions at night and do not have confidence in their ability to even stand and fight in their prepared positions. General Haig said he was surprised to hear this because in the Delta, the RF/PF were doing most of the fighting and were doing very well. Colonel Vy replied that he was speaking of the RF/PF in his AO and that he was giving a frank and honest appraisal of them. General Haig asked what could be done to improve this. Colonel Vy enumerated the following:
(1) Replace district chief with an officer who has served successfully as a battalion commander.
(2) Initiate a vigorous, well organised and supervised training program that will provide the RF/PF the capability to realistically assume the assigned responsibilities. This program could be accomplished in six months.
(3) Reconstruct all RF/PF defensive positions in accordance with 1st Infantry Division specifications to insure no weak spots exist in the position. Many of the present positions, fortifications and compounds are poorly designed and contructed and cannot stand off any type of attacks.
(4) The ARVN officers and NCO's assigned to cadre the RF/PF must be professionally competent and combat proven leaders if they are to instill confidence into the RF/PF units.
(5) Direct support artillery required for RF/PF.
f. What do you consider the biggest problem area as the withdrawal of US forces continues? Sufficient firepowers in the form of artillery, close air support and helicopter gunships in all configurations. Such firepower is necessary to fill the void created by the withdrawal of US troops.
g. General Haig then asked the undersigned what rank officer was assigned as advisor to an ARVN battalion commander and how much combat experience did these officers have. I replied that Majors were authorized and I presently have two majors and two captains assigned as battalion SA's; none of these officers have previous command experience in combat. I stated that the advisory effort must be upgraded in professional officers with combat experience if results commensurate with the effort are to be realized in the critical months ahead. General Haig replied that he agreed wholeheartedly with that view.
3. Subsequent to the briefing and open discussion mentioned above, visits were made to FSB's Kien An and Apollo where short intelligence and operational briefings were presented by US/ARVN battalion commanders. The subject matter discussed subsequent to these briefings follows:
a. What are the intentions for the 8th Regiment subsequent to 1st Infantry Division withdrawal? Colonel Vy said his Regiment headquarters will move to Lai Khe base camp. Three FSB's will be occupied by his three remaining battalions - probably at FSB's Tennessee, Gela and Dominate.
b. What will be the limits of your AO? Colonel Vy stated that he was not sure as yet but he thought it would extend from South of Ben Gat to an imaginary line running northeast from the Mushroom to Chon Thanh.
c. Can you handle that size of an AO? Colonel Vy said he was confident he could with the same type combat support that US units presently receive. He said however that if the RF/PF fail in their mission of securing the population centers, the ARVN would be required to pull back to secure these areas and then ARVN sould revert back to the posture of 1966.
d. General Haig directed the question of effectiveness of the combat service support system at the advisors. Could their present logistical organization support units in operational areas for sustained periods? A qualified yes was given, provided continued emphasis, effort and advisory assistance are devoted to perfection and utilization of existing logistical organization.
4. The final stop on the itinerary was at FSB O'Keefe where 4/8 maintains its CP. Upon arrival it was learned that the battalion minus was in contact approximately 15 km north along the highway with an enemy force that had attempted to ambush a convoy. General Haig expressed the desire to fly up over the contact and observe the action. Upon arrival over the area I established immediate communications with Major Dyer (SA, 4/8) and was able to brief General Haig on the situation. During our time on station over the contact, numerous airstrikes, gunship sorties, and hunter/killer teams and artillery were observed. General Haig's questions centered mainly on idenfication and strength of friendly forces, estimated strength of enemy, and number of friendly and enemy casualties. Upon departing this area, the helicopter proceded directly to Binh Duong Province Headquarters where General Haig was met by LTC Fleigh, the PSA. General Haig thanked Colonel Vy for an extremely informative and interesting afternoon and departed.
5. General Impressions:
a. General Haig appeared to be primarily interested in determining the effecfs that withdrawal of US troops would have upon ARVN. He was vitally interested I believe in ascertaining whether Colonel Vy was confident in ARVN's ability to assume the added responsibility. His pointed questions concerning firepower, communications and logistical support were a logical pursuit toward making an intelligent evaluation of such a capbility.
b. The lengthy discussion of RF/PF capabilities in this area and the General's remarks implied that this may have been the first time he had been told that the RF/PF were not ready to asssume the static security umbrella presently provided by ARVN.
c. General Haig appeared to be optimistic about the 8th Regiment's ability to fulfill its increased responsibility when the US forces withdraw. He seemed to be impressed with the reports he received from the US/ARVN battalion commanders concerning the effectiveness of ARVN artillery and the progress realized during Dong Tien by ARVN in the use and control of combat support resources.
6. In summary, I felt the briefing, discussions and visits indicated an honest feeling of confidence on the part of the 8th ARVN Regiment. I am quite sure that General Haig received this impression and is aware that such an attitude is base on ARVN's belief that continued US combat support will be a necessity in the forseeable future.
LTC Maurice H. Price
Senior Advisor, 8th Regiment
24 March 1999