1965 South Vietnamese coup
On February 19, 1965, some units of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam commanded by General Lâm Văn Phát and Colonel Phạm Ngọc Thảo launched a coup against General Nguyễn Khánh, the head of South Vietnam's ruling military junta. Their aim was to install General Trần Thiện Khiêm, a Khánh rival, sent to Washington D. C. as Ambassador to the United States to prevent him from seizing power. The attempted coup reached a stalemate, although the trio did not take power, a group of officers led by General Nguyễn Chánh Thi and Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, hostile to both the plot and to Khánh himself, were able to force a leadership change and take control themselves with the support of American officials, who had lost confidence in Khánh. Although Khánh had seized power in January 1964 in alliance with Khiêm, the pair had soon fallen out over policy disputes along religious lines, the Catholic Khiêm began to plot against Khánh. Khiêm was believed to have helped plan a failed coup in September 1964, Khánh exiled him as a result.
While in Washington, Khiêm continued to plot alongside his aide Thảo, a communist agent bent on trying to foment infighting at every opportunity. Aware of Thảo's plans, Khánh summoned him back to Vietnam in an apparent attempt to capture him, Thảo responded by going into hiding and preparing for his attack. In the meantime, Khánh's hold on power was slipping as his military support dwindled, he became reliant on the support of civilian Buddhist activists who favored negotiations with the communists and opposed escalation of the Vietnam War; the Americans—most notably Ambassador Maxwell Taylor—were opposed to this and had been lobbying various senior Vietnamese officers such as Kỳ to overthrow Khánh, who knew that American-sponsored moves to depose him were afoot. However, the Americans were not counting on Thảo and his fellow Catholic Phát trying to seize power on an explicitly religious platform, claiming fidelity to slain former Catholic President Ngô Đình Diệm and promising to recall Khiêm from the US to lead the new regime.
This caused alarm among the Buddhist majority, who had campaigned against Diệm's discriminatory religious policies in the months leading up to his ouster in November 1963. Although they wanted Khánh gone, the Americans did not want Thảo and Phát to succeed, so they sought out Kỳ and Thi in an attempt to have them defeat the original coup and depose Khánh. During the initial attack, Thảo and Phát tried to capture both Khánh and Kỳ, but both men escaped narrowly, although some of their colleagues in the Armed Forces Council were arrested. Although the rebels were able to take control of Tan Son Nhut Air Base, the largest in the country and the military headquarters of South Vietnam, Kỳ was able to regroup and retain control of the nearby Bien Hoa Air Base, using it to mobilize air power and stop the rebel advance with threats of bombing. Late in the night, Thảo and Phát met Kỳ in a meeting arranged by the Americans, where an agreement was reached for the coup to be ended in return for Khánh's ouster.
By early next morning, the bloodless military action was over as Thảo and Phát went into hiding, the junta voted to sack their leader Khánh, absent on a military inspection tour, thinking that Kỳ and Thi were on his side. When Khánh heard of his ouster, he declared it to be illegal. After defying his colleagues and travelling around the country for a day in a fruitless attempt to rally support for a comeback, Khánh went into exile after being named to fill the meaningless post of Ambassador-at-Large and allowed an elaborate ceremonial military send-off to save face. Phát and Thảo were sentenced to death in absentia. Thảo was hunted down and killed in July 1965, while Phát remained on the run for several years before turning himself in and being pardoned. General Nguyễn Khánh had come to power in January 1964 after surprising the ruling junta of General Dương Văn Minh in a bloodless coup. However, due to American pressure, he kept the popular Minh as a token head of state, while concentrating real power in his hands by controlling the Military Revolutionary Council.
In August, the Vietnam War continued to escalate following the Gulf of Tonkin incident, a disputed encounter between communist and American naval vessels off the North Vietnamese coast. Khánh saw the tense situation as an opportunity to increase his authority. On August 7, he declared a state of emergency, increased police powers, banned protests, tightened censorship and allowed the police arbitrary search and imprisonment powers, he drafted a new constitution, which would have augmented his personal power at the expense of the already-limited Minh. However, these moves only served to weaken Khánh as large demonstrations and riots broke out in the cities, with majority Buddhists prominent, calling for an end to the state of emergency and the abandonment of the new constitution, as well as a progression back to civilian rule. Fearing he could be toppled by the intensifying protests, Khánh made concessions, repealing the new constitution and police measures, promising to reinstate civilian rule and remove Cần Lao Party—a secret Catholic organization used to infiltrate and spy on society to maintain President Ngô Đình Diệm's regime—members from power.
General Trần Thiện Khiêm claimed "Khánh felt there was no choice but to accept since the influence of Trí Quang was so great that he could not only turn the majority of the people against the government but could influence the effectiveness of the armed forces". Many senior officers the Catholic Generals Khiêm and Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, decried what they viewed as a handing of power to the Buddhist leaders, they tried to replace Khánh with Minh, bu
Cao Văn Viên
Cao Văn Viên was one of only two, South Vietnamese 4 star Army Generals in the history of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He rose to the position of Chairman of the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff. Considered one of "the most gifted" of South Vietnam's military leaders, he was called an "absolute key figure" and one of "the most important Vietnamese military leaders" in the U. S.-led fighting during the Vietnam War. Along with Trần Thiện Khiêm he was one of only two four-star generals in the entire history of South Vietnam. Viên was born to Vietnamese parents in Vientiane, Laos, in December 1921, his father was a merchant. Hearing rumors of a gold rush in the Mekong Delta, he moved to what was called Cochinchina to become a prospector. Although he became a follower of Ho Chi Minh and fought as a guerrilla against French colonial rule, he soon concluded that Hồ's movement was more communist than nationalist, joined independent fighter groups, he was captured by the French and enrolled at the University of Saigon where he obtained a bachelor's degree in French literature.
His schoolmate was Lâm Quang Thi. Viên attended the French-run Cap Saint Jacques Military School, graduating with a commission in the Vietnamese National Army as a second lieutenant in 1949, he rose through the ranks, becoming a battalion commander in 1953 and major in 1954. He attended the Vietnamese National Military Academy as a lieutenant, where he met and became friendly with many of South Vietnam's military leaders, he twice served in military intelligence, twice as a military logistics officer. After the formation of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in 1955, he was appointed chief of military logistics for the ARVN Joint General Staff, he graduated from the United States Army Command and General Staff College in 1957. By 1960, he had completed parachute training with both the Vietnamese and American military, earned his Vietnamese combat pilot's license, earned his American combat helicopter pilot's license. Viên was promoted to lieutenant colonel and appointed Chief of Staff of the Special Military Staff in the office of the President of the Republic in 1956.
He and his family moved to a modest home in the Cholon neighborhood of Saigon. He was promoted to colonel in 1960 and named Commander of the Vietnamese Airborne Division in November 1960; this came after Colonel Nguyễn Chánh Thi and Lieutenant Colonel Vương Văn Đông, the two highest-ranking paratroopers led a failed coup attempt against Diem and fled into exile in Cambodia. Based on his experiences, Viên concluded in 1961 that the Viet Cong were no longer acting alone but were being led and reinforced by regular units of the People's Army of Vietnam. Viên refused to participate in the 1963 coup against South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diệm, he was one of several military leaders. When called to a lunchtime meeting with other senior officers and informed of the coup d'état, he broke down in tears and resigned, refusing to go along with the putsch. Vien was not aware of the plot, the generals had discussed whether to assassinate him during their planning phase because they knew he was a Diem admirer.
His loyalty to the conspirators now suspect, a rifle was thrust into his back and he was moments from being killed. But Major General Tôn Thất Đính had spoken with General Dương Văn Minh during the planning for the coup and convinced Minh to save Viên's life. Dinh played mahjong with Vien's wife, had convinced Minh that Vien would not oppose the coup. Vien had planned with Diem to allow the president to take refuge at his home in the event of a coup, but the offer could not be taken up because the rebels surrounded Vien's house after taking him into custody. Another account has him accepting the coup after being informed of it. General Lâm Quang Thi recalled that Viên was a Diem loyalist, but remained neutral during the coup. Viên was imprisoned and stripped of his command, but reinstated a month later. Col. Viên was a critical supporter of the 1964 South Vietnamese coup in which President Dương Văn Minh was toppled by General Nguyễn Khánh, plotting with him to overthrow Minh and ordering his Airborne Division troops to help secure the capital.
By March 14, Viên had been promoted by the new regime to brigadier general. Viên was named Commander of III Corps. While commanding troops during action in Kiến Phong Province in March 1964, his unit was ambushed and surrounded on three sides. Viên was wounded in the upper arm and shoulder, was decorated by the United States with the Silver Star and by the Republic of Vietnam with the National Order of Vietnam; the Silver Star citation said that while leading his men in an anti-communist assault, despite "the confusion and inferno of enemy fire" from both sides and an arm and shoulder wound, Vien "continued to exercise command vigorously and until the enemy had been routed". Viên was the first senior South Vietnamese military officer, his actions won him widespread respect from American military officers. Viên was appointed Chief of Staff of the Joint General Staff on September 11, 1964, after President Khanh dismissed General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu in order to win Buddhist support for his government.
As Chief of Staff of the JGS, he controlled troop movements around the capital and assigned officers to a few critical positions. He supported Khanh and helped suppress a counter-coup by Major General Dương Văn Đức on September 14, 1964, he helped put down another coup on September 27. Along with General Nguyễn Chánh Thi, Air Commodore Ngu
Pleiku Air Base
Pleiku Air Base is a former air force base in Vietnam. It was established by the Republic of Vietnam Air Force in 1962 at an undeveloped airstrip, was used by the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War in the II Corps Tactical Zone of South Vietnam, it was abandoned for many years. Today, the facility has been redeveloped as Pleiku Airport. In January 1962, the U. S. Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam requested the Department of Defense contract construction agent, the U. S. Navy Officer in Charge of Construction RVN, to design and construct a 6,000-foot runway at Pleiku; the MAAG wanted the air field to be operational as a top priority by 1 July 1962. Although the design had not yet been started, the OICC tasked RMK-BRJ, the construction contractor, to begin work on 19 January, they installed 6,000 feet of pierced steel plank runway with over-runs, a parallel taxiway, aprons at a cost of $2.7 million. The airfield was completed on 20 June 1962. RMK-BRJ returned in 1964 to replace the PSP runway with three-inch asphalt pavement.
The RVNAF staged 1st Fighter Squadron staged AD-6 Skyraiders at Pleiku AB from late 1961 and this force was increased to 4 A-1s and a C-47 flareship. In December 1962 Pleiku Air Base was activated by the RVNAF as Air Base 62 and in March 1964 Air Base 62 became the RVNAF 62d Tactical Wing; the RVNAF 1141st Observation Squadron moved to Pleiku from Da Nang Air Base in January 1965. The 62d Wing and a detachment of the 516th Fighter Squadron moved to Nha Trang Air Base. Pleiku Air Base was managed by the RVNAF 92d Base Support Group and the base was used as a staging and emergency airfield; as North Vietnamese infiltration increased within and along the Laotian and Cambodian borders the importance of Pleiku Air Base increased, base facilities were expanded and improved by American Army and Air Force civil engineering units. The base was jointly used for both RVNAF and USAF air activities, but never reached the saturation and population proportions of the major air bases of the coastal lowlands.
The USAF forces stationed at Pleiku were under the jurisdiction of the Seventh Air Force, United States Pacific Air Forces. The APO for Pleiku was APO San Francisco, 96318; the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron, code named Farm Gate began operations in South Vietnam in 1961. In 1962 a detachment of Farm Gate B-26 Invaders began operations from Pleiku AB and by February 1963 this had grown to 6 B-26s and 1 C-47. In March 1962 the II Air Support Operations Center became operational at the base. In June 1962 Detachment 1, 6220th Air Base Squadron was activated at the base. In December 1962 Detachment 3, 8th Aerial port Squadron was activated at the base. In late 1964 a detachment of 2 HH-43Bs were stationed at the base for rescue and local search and rescue. On 15 September 1965 this detachment was redesignated as Detachment 9, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On 16 February 1970 Detachment 9 was moved from Pleiku AB to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. In mid-1965 Pleiku AB became a forward operating location for 4 AC-47 Spooky gunships of B Flight, 4th Air Commando Squadron.
By December 1969 B Flight had been reduced to 2 AC-47s as the aircraft was phased out of USAF service. In September 1965 the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron equipped with 30 O-1 Bird Dogs began operating from Pleiku AB; the 633d Combat Support Group was activated at the base on 14 March 1966 taking over the duties of the provisional 6234th Air Base Squadron which had managed construction and other activities at the base after the RVNAF moved to Nha Trang. The A-1 equipped 1st Air Commando Squadron moved to Pleiku on 1 January 1966 from Bien Hoa Air Base where it had operated as part of Farm Gate; the 1st Air Commando Squadron moved to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB in early 1967. During 1966 USAF personnel assigned to the base increased from 150 to over 2500. In September 13 barracks housing 900 men were completed and in October a further 10 barracks were completed; the 9th Air Commando Squadron was activated at Pleiku on 25 January 1967 flying special operations missions using modified C-47s and O-2B Skymasters.
During its active service, the 9th ACS flew combat missions, including air support for ground forces, air cover for transports and night interdiction, combat search and rescue support, armed reconnaissance, forward air control. The squadron relocated to Nha Trang Air Base on 1 November 1967. In late October 1967, some of the 604th Air Commando Squadron Combat Dragon A-37A Dragonflys moved to the base from Bien Hoa AB to perform armed and visual reconnaissance missions and night interdiction flights in the Tiger Hound operational area over southeastern Laos. From 1968 to 27 June 1972 the 362d Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron flying specially-equipped EC-47s were assigned to Pleiku; these aircraft were equipped with various electronic warfare components. The 633rd Special Operations Wing was activated at Pleiku on 15 July 1968, its mission was to provide close air support and night interdiction, visual and photo reconnaissance. The only unit assigned to the 633d Special Operations Wing was the 6th Special Operations Squadron equipped with 20 A-1E/H which deployed to Pleiku on 29 February 1968.
During the stay at Pleiku, the squadron maintained a forward SAR alert unit at Da Nang Air Base from 1 April 1968 – 1 September 1969. The squadron was inactivated in place on 15 November 1969. With the departure of its personnel in late 1969, a small group remained at Pleiku for a short period of time to advise the RVNAF; the 633d Wing inactivated on 15 March 1970. For its actions at Pleiku Air Base, the wing was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award – with Combat "V" Device and the Republic Of Vietnam Gal
Tan Son Nhut Air Base
Tan Son Nhut Air Base was a Republic of Vietnam Air Force facility. It was located near the city of Saigon in southern Vietnam; the United States used it as a major base during the Vietnam War, stationing Army, Air Force and Marine units there. Following the Fall of Saigon, it was taken over as a Vietnam People's Air Force facility and remains in use today. Tan Son Nhat International Airport, has been a major Vietnamese civil airport since the 1920s. Tan Son Nhat Airport was built by the French in the 1920s when the French Colonial government of Indochina constructed a small unpaved airport, known as Tan Son Nhat Airfield, in the village of Tan Son Nhat to serve as Saigon's commercial airport. Flights to and from France, as well as within Southeast Asia were available prior to World War II. During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army used Tan Son Nhat as a transport base; when Japan surrendered in August 1945, the French Air Force flew a contingent of 150 troops into Tan Son Nhat. After World War II, Tân Sơn Nhất served domestic as well as international flights from Saigon.
In mid-1956 construction of a 7,200-foot runway was completed and the International Cooperation Administration soon started work on a 10,000-foot concrete runway. The airfield was run by the South Vietnamese Department of Civil Aviation with the RVNAF as a tenant located on the southwest of the airfield. In 1961, the government of the Republic of Vietnam requested the U. S. Military Assistance Advisory Group to plan for expansion of the Tan Son Nhut airport. A taxiway parallel to the original runway had just been completed by the E. V. Lane company for the U. S. Operations Mission, but parking aprons and connections to the taxiways were required. Under the direction of the U. S. Navy Officer in Charge of Construction RVN, these items were constructed by the American construction company RMK-BRJ in 1962. RMK-BRJ constructed an air-control radar station in 1962, the passenger and freight terminals in 1963. In 1967, RMK-BRJ constructed the second 10,000-foot concrete runway. In late 1951, the French Air Force established the RVNAF 312th Special Mission Squadron at Tan Son Nhat Airfield equipped with Morane 500 Criquet liaison aircraft.
In 1952 a heliport was constructed at the base for use by French Air Force medical evacuation helicopters. In 1953, Tan Son Nhut started being used as a military air base for the fledgling RVNAF, in 1956 the headquarters were moved from the center of Saigon to Tan Son Nhut, but before that time and Vietnamese military aircraft were in evidence at Tan Son Nhut. On 1 July 1955, the RVNAF 1st Transport Squadron equipped with C-47 Skytrains was established at the base; the RVNAF had a special missions squadron at the base equipped with 3 C-47s, 3 C-45s and 1 L-26. The 1st Transport Squadron would be renamed the 413rd Air Transport Squadron in January 1963. In June 1956 the 2nd Transport Squadron equipped with C-47s was established at the base and the RVNAF established its headquarters there, it would be renamed the 415th Air Transport Squadron in January 1963. In November 1956, by agreement with the South Vietnamese government, the USAF assumed some training and administrative roles of the RVNAF. A full handover of training responsibility took place on 1 June 1957 when the French training contracts expired.
On 1 June 1957 the RVNAF 1st Helicopter Squadron was established at the base without equipment. It operated with the French Air Force unit serving the International Control Commission and in April 1958 with the departure of the French it inherited its 10 H-19 helicopters. In October 1959 the 2nd Liaison Squadron equipped with L-19 Bird Dogs moved to the base from Nha Trang. In mid-December 1961 the USAF began delivery of 30 T-28 Trojans to the RVNAF at Tan Son Nhut. In December 1962 the 293rd Helicopter Squadron was activated at the base, it was inactivated in August 1964. In late 1962 the RVNAF formed the 716th Composite Reconnaissance Squadron equipped with 2 C-45 photo-reconnaissance aircraft. In January 1963 the USAF opened an H-19 pilot training facility at the base and by June the first RVNAF helicopter pilots had graduated. In January 1963 the 211th Helicopter Squadron equipped with UH-34s replaced the 1st Helicopter Squadron. In December 1963 the 716th Composite Reconnaissance Squadron was activated at the base, equipped with C-47s and T-28s.
The squadron would be inactivated in June 1964 and its mission assumed by the 2nd Air Division, while its pilots formed the 520th Fighter Squadron at Bien Hoa Air Base. In January 1964 all RVNAF units at the base came under the control of the newly established 33rd Tactical Wing. By midyear, the RVNAF had grown to thirteen squadrons; the RVNAF followed the practice of the U. S. Air Force, organizing the squadrons into wings, with one wing located in each of the four corps tactical zones at Cần Thơ Air Base, Tan Son Nhut AB, Pleiku Air Base and Da Nang Air Base. In May 1965 the Douglas A-1 Skyraider equipped; as the headquarters for the RVNAF, Tan Son Nhut was a command base, with most operational units using nearby Biên Hòa Air Base. At Tan Son Nhut, the RVNAF's system of command and control was developed over the years with assistance from the USAF; the system handled the flow of aircraft from take-off to target area, return to the base it was launched from. This was known as the Tactical Air Control System, it assured positive control of all areas where significant combat operations were performed.
Without this system, it would not have been possible for the RVNAF to deploy its forces where needed. The TACS was in close p
French Indochina known as the Indochinese Union after 1887 and the Indochinese Federation after 1947, was a grouping of French colonial territories in Southeast Asia. A grouping of the three Vietnamese regions of Tonkin and Cochinchina with Cambodia was formed in 1887. Laos was added in 1893 and the leased Chinese territory of Guangzhouwan in 1898; the capital was moved from Saigon to Hanoi in 1902 and again to Da Lat in 1939. In 1945 it was moved back to Hanoi. After the Fall of France during World War II, the colony was administered by the Vichy government and was under Japanese occupation until March 1945, when the Japanese overthrew the colonial regime. After the Japanese surrender, the Viet Minh, a communist organization led by Hồ Chí Minh, declared Vietnamese independence, but France subsequently took back control of French Indochina. An all-out independence war, known as the First Indochina War, broke out in late 1946 between French and Viet Minh forces. In order to create a political alternative to the Viet Minh, the State of Vietnam, led by former Emperor Bảo Đại, was proclaimed in 1949.
On 9 November 1953 the Kingdom of Cambodia proclaimed its independence. Following the Geneva Accord of 1954, the French evacuated Vietnam and French Indochina came to an end. French–Vietnamese relations started during the early 17th century with the arrival of the Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes. Around this time, Vietnam had only just begun its "Push to the South"—"Nam Tiến", the occupation of the Mekong Delta, a territory being part of the Khmer Empire and to a lesser extent, the kingdom of Champa which they had defeated in 1471. European involvement in Vietnam was confined to trade during the 18th century, as the remarkably successful work of the Jesuit missionaries continued. In 1787, Pierre Pigneau de Behaine, a French Catholic priest, petitioned the French government and organised French military volunteers to aid Nguyễn Ánh in retaking lands his family lost to the Tây Sơn. Pigneau died in Vietnam but his troops fought on until 1802 in the French assistance to Nguyễn Ánh; the French colonial empire was involved in Vietnam in the 19th century.
For its part, the Nguyễn dynasty saw Catholic missionaries as a political threat. In 1858, the brief period of unification under the Nguyễn dynasty ended with a successful attack on Da Nang by French Admiral Charles Rigault de Genouilly under the orders of Napoleon III. Diplomat Charles de Montigny's mission having failed, Genouilly's mission was to stop attempts to expel Catholic missionaries, his orders were to stop the persecution of missionaries and assure the unimpeded propagation of the faith. In September 1858, fourteen French gunships, 3,000 men and 300 Filipino troops provided by the Spanish attacked the port of Tourane, causing significant damage and occupying the city. After a few months, Rigault had to leave the city due to supply illnesses. Sailing south, de Genouilly captured the poorly defended city of Saigon on 18 February 1859. On 13 April 1862, the Vietnamese government was forced to cede the three provinces of Biên Hòa, Gia Định and Định Tường to France. De Genouilly was criticised for his actions and was replaced by Admiral Page in November 1859, with instructions to obtain a treaty protecting the Catholic faith in Vietnam, but refrain from territorial gains.
French policy four years saw a reversal, with the French continuing to accumulate territory. In 1862, France obtained concessions from Emperor Tự Đức, ceding three treaty ports in Annam and Tonkin, all of Cochinchina, the latter being formally declared a French territory in 1864. In 1867 the provinces of Châu Đốc, Hà Tiên and Vĩnh Long were added to French-controlled territory. In 1863, the Cambodian king Norodom had requested the establishment of a French protectorate over his country. In 1867, Siam renounced suzerainty over Cambodia and recognised the 1863 French protectorate on Cambodia, in exchange for the control of Battambang and Siem Reap provinces which became part of Thailand.. France obtained control over northern Vietnam following its victory over China in the Sino-French War. French Indochina was formed on 17 October 1887 from Annam, Tonkin and the Kingdom of Cambodia; the federation lasted until 21 July 1954. In the four protectorates, the French formally left the local rulers in power, who were the Emperors of Vietnam, Kings of Cambodia, Kings of Luang Prabang, but in fact gathered all powers in their hands, the local rulers acting only as figureheads.
French troops landed in Vietnam in 1858 and by the mid-1880s they had established a firm grip over the northern region. From 1885 to 1895, Phan Đình Phùng led a rebellion against France. Nationalist sentiments intensified in Vietnam during and after World War I, but all the uprisings and tentative efforts failed to obtain sufficient concessio
Republic of Vietnam Navy
The Republic of Vietnam Navy was the naval branch of the South Vietnamese military, the official armed forces of the former Republic of Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. The early fleet consisted of boats from France. After 1955 and the transfer of the armed forces to Vietnamese control, the fleet was supplied from the United States. With assistance from the U. S. the VNN became the largest Southeast Asian navy, with 42,000 personnel, 672 amphibious ships and craft, 20 mine warfare vessels, 450 patrol craft, 56 service craft, 242 junks. The origins of the Viet Nam Navy began in 1952 with the French Navy. In 1954, in accordance with the Elysée Accords, the French handed control of the armed forces to the Vietnamese, but at the request of the Vietnamese government, continued to be in charge of the Navy until 20 August 1955. By this time the Navy numbered about 2,000 personnel, with 22 vessels; the Vietnamese received assistance in the development of the VNN from the United States Military Assistance Advisory Group.
In 1956, the North Vietnamese began infiltrating men and arms into the Republic of Vietnam's territory by sea. In response the VNN created the Coastal Junk Force of junks manned by Regional Irregular Forces and local fishermen recruited for the occasion, to patrol the waters around the Demilitarized Zone; the force came to be known as Coastal Groups, patrolled the entire 1,200-mile coastline. This force was under the control of the regional military zone commands rather than the Navy, was not incorporated into the VNN until 1965, by which time it numbered over 100 vessels. In the late 1950s the Vietnam Navy was being modernized and developed, receiving ships and training from the United States Navy. By 1961 the VNN had a force of 23 ships, the largest of which were LSMs, 197 boats, 5,000 men; this was insufficient to counter the growing threat of enemy infiltration and the years 1962-1964 were marked by a rapid expansion. The number of ships increased to 44 and number of personnel to 8,100; this process continued and by the end of 1967 the personnel strength of the VNN had increased to 16,300, with 65 ships, along with 232 vessels of the River Assault Group, 290 junks, 52 miscellaneous craft.
Throughout 1968 the VNN gave priority to the improvement and expansion of their training programs in anticipation of gaining increased responsibility in the war effort as well as additional assets from the US. By the end of 1968 plans for the turnover of the majority of the United States Navy assets in Vietnam had been formulated. In early 1969, President Richard M. Nixon formally adopted the policy of "Vietnamization"; the naval part, called ACTOV, involved the phased transfer to Vietnam of the U. S. river and coastal fleet, as well as operational command over various operations. In mid-1969, the VNN took sole responsibility for river assault operations when the U. S. Mobile Riverine Force stood down and transferred 64 riverine assault craft to the VNN. By the end of 1970, the U. S. Navy ceased all operations throughout South Vietnam, having transferred a total of 293 river patrol boats and 224 riverine assault craft to the VNN. During 1970 and 1971 the United States relinquished control of the coastal and high seas patrols to the VNN.
The U. S. naval command transferred four Coast Guard cutters, a destroyer escort radar picket ship, an LST, various harbor control, mine craft, support vessels. By August 1972, the VNN took responsibility for the entire coastal patrol effort when it took over the last 16 U. S. coastal radar installations. In addition to ships and vessels, the U. S. transferred support bases. The first change of command occurred in November 1969 at Mỹ Tho, the last in April 1972 at Nhà Bè, Bình Thủy, Cam Ranh Bay, Đà Nẵng. By 1973, the Vietnam Navy numbered over 1,400 ships and vessels. In 1973 and 1974, as a result of the Paris Peace Accords, the United States drastically cut its financial support for the Vietnamese armed forces; the VNN was compelled to reduce its overall operations by half, its river combat and patrol activities by 70%. To conserve supplies, over 600 river and harbor craft and 22 ships were laid up. On 19 January 1974, four VNN ships fought a battle with four ships of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy over ownership of the Paracel Islands, 200 nautical miles due east of Đà Nẵng.
The VNN ship Nhựt Tảo was sunk, Lý Thường Kiệt was damaged, both Trần Khánh Dư and Trần Bình Trọng suffered light damage. The Chinese occupied the islands. In the spring of 1975, North Vietnamese forces occupied all of northern and central South Vietnam, Saigon fell on 30 April 1975; however Captain Kiem Do had secretly planned and carried out the evacuation of a flotilla of thirty-five Vietnam Navy and other vessels, with 30,000 sailors, their families, other civilians on board, joined the U. S. Seventh Fleet when it sailed for Subic Bay, Philippines. Most of the Vietnamese ships were taken into the Philippine Navy, though the LSM Lam Giang, fuel barge HQ-474, gunboat Kéo Ngựa were scuttled after reaching the open sea and transferring their cargo of refugees and their crews to other ships. VNN Fleet Command was directly responsible to the VNN Chief of Naval Operations for the readiness of ships and craft; the Fleet Commander assigned and scheduled ships to operate in the Coastal Zones, Riverine Areas, the Rung Sat Specia
South Vietnamese Regional Force
During the Vietnam War, the South Vietnamese Regional Forces were Army of the Republic of Vietnam militia. Recruited locally, they fell into two broad groups - Regional Forces and the more local-level Popular Forces. In 1964, the Regional Forces were integrated into the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and placed under the command of the Joint General Staff. Fielded as village-level or province-level defence forces, these units were militia-men while working part or full-time. Given the worse equipment available, they served as a front-line force against armed attacks but were marginalised and demoralised during the American-intervention, as ARVN Regular Forces were relegated to guarding duty. Following Vietnamization these units once again came back to prominence as they became better trained and tasked with carrying out wider area operations despite lacking artillery and air support, they would serve as front-line provincial defence units while Regular Forces were deployed against conventional People's Army of Vietnam forces, grew to number 250,000 by 1974.
The concept of Regional and Popular Forces is in-line with countering the Local Force and Main Force structure of the Viet Cong as they lacked firepower support, while the ARVN Regular Forces fought the PAVN. Local militia came to play a effective role in the war, as the style of small-unit warfare was better suited for guerrilla conflicts with most more familiar with the region and terrain. Despite being poorly paid, these forces were much more capable at detecting infiltration and holding civilian areas. Accounting for an estimated 2-5% of war budget, they were thought to have accounted for 30% of casualties inflicted upon VC/NVA throughout the entire war. Part of this derives in these units being more capable of engaging in small-unit, highly-mobile tactics which proved difficult for slow-moving equipment-heavy units. During the early 1960s the Regional Forces manned the country-wide outpost system and defended critical points, such as bridges and ferries. There were half of them in the Mekong Delta region.
Regional Forces played a key role in regional security in the early phase of the war, while RF/PF members were marginalised and side-lined during the American-intervention as Regular Force Army of the Republic of Vietnam Units were relegated to guarding bases and areas, badly affecting morale and purpose. When U. S. forces began to withdraw from South Vietnam during 1969 and the ARVN began the task of fighting the communist main force units, Regional Forces took on a new importance. For the first time, they were deployed outside their home areas and were sometimes attached to ARVN units. By 1973 the Regional Forces had grown to 1,810 companies, some of which were consolidated into battalions. Charged with local defense under provincial government control, they were too armed and equipped, marginally trained, lacked the unit cohesion to withstand attack by regular People's Army of Vietnam units supported by tanks and artillery. Most forces were subdued, retreated or were destroyed during the Easter Offensive