South Vietnam - Special Forces - Luc Luong Dac Biet (LLDB)
As the Viet Cong threat grew in intensity from 1957 on, the need developed for counter-insurgency troops which could meet the guerrilla in his own jungle and swamp lairs. The Luc Luong Dac Biet (LLDB), the Vietnamese Special Forces were created and patterned after the U.S. Special Forces, adopting their distinctive green berets. Assisted by a handful of U.S. Special Forces advisers, the LLDB command the CIDG companies -- 45,000 specially trained warriors, most of them minority-group tribesmen from the jungled mountains -- now manning small, scattered border outposts along the infiltration trails and deep inside the uncultivated backcountry.
In August 1960 the U.S. Departments of Defense and State approved the JCS outline plan for counterinsurgency operations in Vietnam and Laos, and the Country Team in South Vietnam proceeded to prepare a more detailed plan based on this initial guidance. The final Counterinsurgency Plan was approved on 6 February 1961. The Vietnamese Special Forces were to be more than tripled with a 500-man increase. These units had been trained by U.S. Army Special Forces teams to carry out unconventional warfare operations behind enemy lines and by early 1961 were being employed to conduct long-range reconnaissance operations; search out, organize, and direct anti-Viet Cong elements including ethnic and religious groups; recruit and organize tribal (Montagnard) border watchers; and establish intelligence nets along the Cambodian and Laotian borders.
The Luc Luong Dac Biet (LLDB) or Special Forces, was formed on 15 March 1963. 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 United States Special Forces (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 II 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 paratrooper 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 to providing advisory support to the CIDG Program and to the sectors and subsectors assigned to them by the MACV commander, the U.S. Army Special Forces provided advisory support to five other endeavors: the Apache Force program, the Mike Force, the Delta Force, the CIDG motivational program, and special intelligence missions.
The Apache Force involved the use of small, highly mobile teams of indigenous personnel. Teams were commanded by a U.S. Special Forces officer, but worked with regular U.S. units and remained under the control of a U.S. unit commander; their mission was to find and fix enemy forces until larger and stronger units could be brought in. They also secured drop zones and landing zones, located enemy lines of communication, and provided intelligence to the U.S. commander. Each team consisted of four pathfinder, reconnaissance, and combat teams to find the enemy, and three CIDG companies to fix him in place. When U.S. Forces were committed, the Apache Force came under the operational control of the U.S. Commander for the duration of the operation. At the end of the year the program had not been officially implemented, but troops had been recruited in all four corps tactical zones, and CIDG units in the II Corps Tactical Zone were giving this type of support on an informal basis to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
Mike Forces were companies of indigenous tribal personnel recruited and held in reserve by each of the C detachments and at the 5th Special Forces Group headquarters at Nha Trang to provide reaction forces in support of CIDG units within the corp tactical zone. These units were not a part of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group but were recruited and paid by U.S. Army Special Forces.
Delta Forces were similar in concept to the Apache units. The force was advised by a U.S. Special Force detachment and consisted of twelve ten-man hunter-killer teams (each composed of two U.S. Special Forces men and eight Vietnamese Special Forces volunteers) and four South Vietnam Army airborne/ranger companies with U.S. Special Forces advisers down to platoon level. This force was supported by four Vietnamese Air Force H-34 helicopters and two Vietnamese C-47 aircraft. The mission of the Delta Force was to infiltrate Viet Cong controlled territory within the borders of South Vietnam and gather intelligence. The airborne/ranger elements permitted the force to exploit lucrative targets immediately; these hunter-killer teams were also used successfully in gathering target intelligence and in assessing B-52 air strikes.
In addition, the LLDB Command directly controlled the Delta Operations Center with its Delta teams and the four company 91st Airborne Ranger Battalion, both were used by Project Delta, a special reconnaissance unit of the US Military Assistance Vietnam Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG), which operated deep in VC/NVA sanctuaries.
The CIDG motivational program consisted of two groups of approximately fifty Viet Cong defectors recruited, trained, and equipped by U.S. Special Forces; in I and IV Corps Tactical Zones the groups moved into areas under pacification, provided their own security, performed civic action, and furnished motivational indoctrination to the indigenous population. Each team had eight U.S. Special Forces advisors.
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 91st 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 91st Airborne Ranger Battalion were brought together with six Delta teams and renamed 81st Airborne Ranger Battalion. In early June the new battalion prepared for urban operations in Saigon after a second surge of Communist attacks pushed government 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 81st 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.
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