Infiltration: A significant number of enemy soldiers are NVA
rather than VC. When hostilities in South Vietnam resumed in 1957, enemy
forces were entirely VC; but since at least 1960, NVA personnel have
played an ever-increasing role. The first NVA
infiltrators into South Vietnam were native South
Vietnamese--former Viet Minh who had regrouped to the North following the
Geneva Accords of 1954. These “regroupees” were sent south
to act as military cadre, political officers, and technicians in VC
units. By 1963, the supply of regroupees was almost depleted and native
North Vietnamese were being sent to bolster VC Main Force units: however,
the first NVA tactical units to be sent south still had at least 20%
southern-born cadre. The first regimental- sized NVA unit to be deployed
arrived in December 1964. In June 1966, the first complete NVA division
crossed the DMZ. As of August 1969, 67% of all Main Force battalions in
South Vietnam were NVA.
Ratio: In August 1969, 53% of all enemy nonguerilla combat soldiers were in NVA
units. Excluding IV Corps, and including those NVA in VC unite, NVA
soldiers constituted at least 76% of the Main Force (MW) and Local Force
(LF) combat units in I, II, and III Corps. Although the average number of
NVA in all VC units in those three corps areas could be documented at only
38%, VC MF units that have experienced heavy contact may be NVA units for
all practical purposes. For example, in August 1969, the 9th VC Division
was at least 76% NVA; two of its regiments (271st and 272nd) were 85% NVA
and its third regiment was the 88th NVA Regiment. In the same time frame,
the 268th VO Regiment was 80% NVA, with its 3d Battalion being 92% NVA. In
May 1969, the 273d VC Regiment
was identified in IV Corps.
It was followed in August by at least the 18B NVA Regiment. An officer
rallier (Ho Thanh San; see section II, paragraph 4) claims the 273d to be
90% NVA. The deployment of these units marks the first significant North
Vietnamization of the war in the Delta. In 1969, NVA also were beginning
to be found in Local Force units.
Physical. Moat NVA/VC soldiers are ethnic Vietnamese. Very few are
montagnards, Chinese, Khmer or Chain, The typical Vietnamese is small--61
or 62 inches tall--weighs about 120 pounds. He has straight black hair,
light to medium brown skin, round head, broad face; high cheekbones, and
dark eyes with Mongolian single fold of the eyelid.
In combat, it rarely is possible to distinguish NVA from VC by their
clothing or equipment, and officers are difficult to identify except by
their actions and the fact that they normally carry pistols. Their
clothing is uniformly nondescript- A common field uniform is shirt and
trousers or shorts of green, gray, blue or khaki material, without
insignia, and worn either with no headgear or perhaps with a pith helmet.
VC, particularly local forces and guerillas may wear black pajamas or
black shorts and items of civilian clothing, but NVA tapers may also wear
black shorts or nothing at all.
Most NVA recruits who
infiltrated into Vietnam in 1968 were inducted
between the ages of 27 and
23, with 17-19 year aids comprising the largest group. Very few were 16 or younger. By comparison, only half of the VO recruits
in 1968 were between 17 and 25 years old and about one-fifth were
13 to 16 years old. Village guerillas range in age from 15 to 32 and
hamlet guerillas from 14 to 5O.
The typical NVA soldier is well educated by Asian standards. One study
found that 36% had seven or more years of school and only 10% had three
years or less. In contrast only 4% of the VC had seven or more years of
school and 73% had three years or less. Thirty-five percent had none.
Whether NVA or VC most soldiers are from the poor farmer or middle farmer
class Less than half are married. Most, if they admit to having a
religion, are Buddhist.
affiliation: A 1966 study
of 370 NVA soldiers showed that 27% were members of the Lao Dang
(Communist Party) and 61% were members of the Labor Youth Group. The
percentage of Lao Dang members among enlisted men had practically doubled
since 1965 and virtually all officers were members. The average VC
enlisted man, being younger and less well educated, is 1ess likely to be a
BACKGROUND: The greatest source of NVA soldiers is the draft. North
Vietnam instituted universal conscription in 1958. Since 1964, normal
discharges from the army have been halted, and the term of service has
become indefinite. All young men are subject to conscription with few deferments
granted. The normal draft age is 17-19. Enlistees also are found in
the NVA. They normally will have entered the service at a younger age than
the draftees. "Recallees" or
“re-enlisted draftees’ also comprise a substantial
proportion of NVA
infiltrators. They are older
men who completed their
military service and
returned to civilian life before the indefinite term of service was
established. In theory, the VC relies on recruitment. However, since 1964,
they increasingly have had to rely an forced rather than voluntary
recruitment- - either through coercion or abduction. The typical VC
recruit is first assigned to a guerilla unit and later
"upgraded" to a MF or LF unit.
typical infiltrated NVA unit is composed of both experienced well-trained
soldiers and soldiers with little or almost no training. Members who have
been in the army for a year or more before infiltration usually have had
basic military and political training, periodic training while part of a
regular unit, and a full pre-infiltration course.
Recallees and re-enlistees may have received better basic and unit
training during their first term of service but may receive only
abbreviated pre-infiltration training or join their unit only during its
final stages of training. New recruits may have received one to three
months basic training followed by full pre-infiltration training. However,
many are assigned after basic training to a unit about to depart; others
go directly to their unit without basic training but undergo all or part
of its pre-infiltration course; and some have arrived in the south with no
training exce4 for what they learned along the infiltration route. By late
1968, the NVA training cycle had been compressed to the point that
infiltration training, if given at all, was conducted concurrently with
basic training. However, the NVA infiltrator is still usually better
trained than the VC recruit. The typical NVA recruit is assigned to a
guerilla unit, where he receives about 10 days of informal military
training and political indoctrination, although this period may vary from
one day to three months. If recruited directly into a MF or LF unit, he
may receive from 15-60 days of training more sophisticated than that
conducted at village level. By late 1968 the norm for MF and LF training
was reduced drastically and probably lasts no more than 15 days. If time
does not permit formal training, older members of the unit give the NVA
recruit on-the-job training. If the NVA recruit receives basic training,
he will have received small arms (SKS and AK-47) familiarization, bayonet,
grenade, explosives, hand-to-hand combat, first aid, field sanitation, and
squad and platoon tactics. The village-trained VC normally will have had
familiarization with his assigned weapon, grenade, mines and booby traps,
raid and ambush tactics, rudimentary combat movement, and hand-to-hand
combat. If he was trained by LF or MF, he also probably fired the
machinegun, RPG, or mortar and was taught squad and platoon tactics.
General. The psychology of the NVA/VC soldier is a composite of his
traditional Vietnamese values and attitudes and of others brought by the
French or taught by the Communists.
Traditional Vietnamese values and attitudes are a product of centuries of
Chinese influence. Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism from China provide
the two fundamental characteristics of traditional Vietnamese values:
fatalism and group loyalty. Each of these religions or systems of thought
is fatalistic. Destiny determines everything. Man can do little to change
the natural order. Progress and change are ordained by destiny. However,
if a change appears to be predetermined, it may become the people’ a
duty to help bring it about. Group loyalty, particularly within the
family, stresses the subordination of individual interests to those of the
group or family. This trait makes most Vietnamese responsive to authority
and regimentation. The individual should accept the role that his status
in life has assigned him. Many of these roles relate to the traditional
importance of the family. Economic security far
the family is essential. To the rural Vietnamese this means
ownership of land.
influence: Many NVA/VC are
strongly nationalistic. French colonialism both brought the Western
concept of nationalism to Vietnam and served as the target against which
the Viet Minh, in 1946-54 rallied the nationalism of other Vietnamese.
Today, the NVA/VC again attempt to rally Vietnamese nationalism by linking
the US presence in Vietnam with that of the French.
influence: Attitudes of
NVA/VC cadre and party members reflect those of the Lao Dong or its
South Vietnamese affiliate, the People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP}.
Soldiers receive constant political and ideological training and guidance
from higher Party echelons. The NVA/VC hear little else but the Party
line. A primary Party dogma is faith in ultimate Communist victory: the
concept of protracted war maintains this faith despite temporary military
setbacks; “in the long run, the GVN and its allies will be worn down.”
At that time the two Vietnams will be reunified. They interpret the
bombing halt in North Vietnam and the existence of the Paris Peace Talks
as political victories forced on the US by superior NVA/VC power. The
NVA/VC leadership further states that political dissent in the United
States will force the eventual disengagement of US force’s from the
conflict. At that time, facing only GVN forces, the ultimate Communist
victory will be attained.
MOTIVATION AND MORALE:
The motivation and morale of the NVA/VC soldier is a product of his
psychology, civilian background and military experiences. The background
of most soldiers contributes to their susceptibility to the intensive
political indoctrination, which is the key NVA/VC method for maintaining
troop motivation and morale. Working to lower morale are the hardships and
realities of facing a superior allied force in the field. NVA recruits
generally begin their service with high morale. Mostly from peasant
backgrounds, life in the army is an improvement over the village regular
meals, better medical care, and more entertainment and comradeship. The
same cannot be said of the NVA recallee or the forcibly recruited VC. The
latter, in fact, never knows anything but the hardships, which the NVA
infiltrator soon comes to experience.
The NVA/VC soldier is well indoctrinated. All NVA have lived in a
Communist state, with its highly organized propaganda apparatus, Labor
Youth Groups, and other Party organizations. The NVA recruit has been
through a Party-controlled school system. The rural VC will have been
exposed to some Party influence, the amount depending on the degree of VC
control in his home area. In the army, political indoctrination comprises
a major portion of training and is an important feature of life in
all-military units. The units’ Military Party Committee, headed by the
Political Officer, controls the political indoctrination conducted by the
Propaganda, Training, and Indoctrination Section Emphasis in the
indoctrination program is on the liberation of the South, reunification of
the two Vietnams, and equality of the social classes, rather than on
abstract Communist theory. Major themes are the revolutionary situation in
the South, international situation, and anti-Americanism. NVA p
re-infiltration indoctrination tells the soldier that two-thirds to
four-fifths of the territory of South Vietnam already is liberated and
that the vast majority of the South Vietnamese people will welcome him as
a savior from the US invaders. The US soldier is said to be weak and
unable to fight in the jungle. The NVA/VC have two techniques that are
particularly effective in keeping troop motivation and morale high.
The three-man cell is formed
during training and, except for transfers and casualties, remains intact
throughout the individual’s service. Each nine-man squad is divided into
three cells. A squad leader, assistant squad leader, or senior combat
veteran heads each cell. When a soldier’s morale is low, his cell
comrades are there to talk to. They support one another in combat. The
cell has the psychological effect of making the soldier feel that he is
part of a unit and reduces his susceptibility to hardships and
homesickness. The cell also insures that two individuals always are in a
position to detect any wavering in the resolution or enthusiasm of the
Unit political officers make
frequent use of criticism and self-criticism sessions to impress upon the
individual the knowledge that he must be correct in his conduct, diligent
in his duty, and prepared to endure sacrifices. The sessions provide an
outlet for emotional tensions and frustrations. Accomplishments are
recognized and mistakes and transgressions publicly aired. The individual
is both praised and humiliated and compelled to become a more loyal and
factors: The recalled NVA
veteran and the forcibly recruited VC begin their service with low
motivation. The indefinite term of service has an adverse effect on all
NVA soldiers. With no rotation policy, the NVA infiltrator’s hope of
ever returning home is remote; and the VC, although closer to home, is
granted few leaves or passes. All are underpaid. The VC LF sometimes are
not paid at all. The abbreviation of training in recent years has deprived
the newer soldiers of the confidence that comes from the knowledge that he
is well trained. There frequently is marked dissension among Northerners
and Southerners, particularly in VC units having substantial numbers of
NVA fillers. The NVA soldier is initiated to the hardships of fatigue,
malnutrition and hunger, disease, homesickness, and fear of B-52 strikes
and air attacks while on the infiltration route. These hardships continue
when he arrives in the South. On the battlefield, the NVA/VC are exposed
to these rigors more or less continuously, to which may be added Allied
artillery and sweep operations and the prospect of death without burial or
at best in an unmarked grave in a strange place. Disillusionment between
the picture painted by the political officer and the reality of the war
can be profound.
Some enemy soldiers lost
their motivation sufficiently to rally to the GVN. Others would rally, but
for fear of the bad treatment their cadre have told them to expect from
the GVN and its Allies, or fear of the consequences of discovery of their
attempt by the NVA/VC. Still others, despite the hardships,
disillusionment, and failures on the battlefield, continue to fight with
courage and loyalty.
VIET CONG CODE
I will obey
the orders from my superiors under all circumstances.
I will never take
anything from the people, not even a needle or thread.
I will not put
group property to my own use.
I will return
that which is borrowed, make restitution for things
I will be polite
to people, respect and love them.
I will be fair
and just in buying and selling.
When staying in
people's houses, I will treat them as I would treat my own
I will follow the
slogan: ALL THINGS OF THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE.
I will keep unit
secrets absolutely and will never disclose information even to closest
friends and relatives.
I will encourage
the people to struggle and support the Revolution.
I will be alert
to spies and will report all suspicious persons to my superiors.
I will remain
close to the people and maintain their affection and love.
FROM NATIONAL ARCHIVES
|Jane Fonda in N. Vietnam
||Fonda at NVA anti-aircraft
Viet Cong soldier inside of a bunker with SKS assault rifle
||NVA overrunning outpost along Rt.
||Viet Cong soldiers setting punji
sticks in place
||RPG being fired
||Machine gun position
||Troops waiting in ambush
|Troops on the march
|Class room instructions
|Class room instructions,
destroyed APC in the background
U.S. pilot captured - This
radiophoto, monitored in Tokyo, was released by the Vietnam News
Agency in Hanoi with caption stating that it shows U.S. 1st LT.
Thomas Mitchell McNish about to be captured after he bailed out
of his F-105 during a raid north of Hanoi.
AP Wire Photo September 7, 1966
|Recovering a US bomb
|Constructing a punji pit
|Digging out a tunnel