The construction done in 1965-68 in South Vietnam enabled the United States to deploy and operate a modern 500,000-man military force in an underdeveloped area. The ground combat force of 165,000 men was able to combat an enemy force effectively from an adequate facility base which permitted U.S. and allied forces to concentrate and operate when and where they wished.
In 1965 there was a Pacific Army plan for South Vietnam, but two significant errors in the operations plan quickly became apparent: the South Vietnamese Army was not as effective as had been anticipated during planning, and U.S. deployments had exceeded the plan. New buildup plans made between April 1965 and January 1966 set the real scale of base development requirements.
Before mid-1965, when the first U.S. engineer units arrived, the only American construction capability in Vietnam was a small civilian force under contract to the U.S. Navy. During this period, the Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks (now the Naval Facilities Engineering Command) and the Army Corps of Engineers shared worldwide responsibility for military construction, with Southeast Asia among the areas assigned to the Navy. As the military buildup proceeded, engineer and construction forces received high priority for mobilization and deployment. With the coming of contingents of Army engineers, Navy Seabees, Marine Corps engineers, Air Force Prime BEEF and Red Horse units, and civilian contractors, U.S. construction strength in Vietnam increased rapidly. Vietnamese Army engineers and engineer troops of other Free World allies handled some of the construction for their own forces, thereby furthering the over-all effort.
Although forty-two construction units of battalion strength were deployed to South Vietnam, the requirements for base development were of such magnitude that the contractor force supplied a greater construction capability than the entire military force. This was attributable to the special equipment and personnel that the contractor could mobilize for large projects. Equipment like 30-inch pipeline dredges, 30-ton dump trucks, and 400-ton-per-hour rock-crushers speeded work on big jobs.
In June 1970, the joint Chiefs of Staff Construction Board for Contingency Operations made minor modifications to the 1966 standards and suggested the following standards for construction and base development in support of contingency operations:
- Field: Cantonments for forces whose activities are such that they may be characterized as essentially transient.
- Intermediate: Cantonments for forces subject to move at infrequent intervals. Anticipated duration of occupancy: 24-48 months.
- Temporary: Cantonments for forces not expected to move in the foreseeable future.
The Road Restoration Program was the largest project of its kind ever undertaken by the U.S. military in a foreign country. It was started under USAID totally and transferred to MACV control in September of 1968. Priorities had been jointly established by military and civil authorities. The goal was to construct and upgrade 4,800 kilometers of national and interprovincial highways, replacing obsolete French standards with those of American highway engineers. When completed the system of two-lane all-weather roads passed through the delta, Saigon, northward along the coast, and into the Central Highlands.
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