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25th Division

Organized July 1, 1962
(Decree 601-OP/ND of April 9, 1962)
(JGS Order 624/TTM/1/1/K of April 16, 1962)

The 25th Division was one of the two ARVN divisions -- the other was the 9th Division -- formed in 1961 as part of a program to increase regular army strength by 30,000 men. The newly activated South Vietnamese Army 9th Infantry Division began a 22-week training program in March 1961, and in July the 25th Infantry Division was activated and undertook a similar course. The division was entirely new and went through an organization and training phase which was completed on April 1, 1963.

The 25th Division operated in the area west and south of Saigon for many years. However, it was originally formed in Quang Ngai Province in Central Viet Nam. The first headquarters of the division was at Thuan Hoa, south of the Tra Khuc River and ten kilometers west of Quang Ngai City.

Three new infantry regiments were formed with the division. The 49th Regiment was initially located at the Thuan Hoa headquarters. The 50th Regiment was formed at Duc Pho, 40 kilometers south of Quang Ngai City on National Highway 1. The 51st Regiment was formed at Ba Gia, on Provincial Highway 5 about 20 kilometers northwest of Quang Ngai City. Activation dates of the regiments are not available.

The 25th Division operated in Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh Provinces following the completion of training. Until November 1963 both provinces were part of II Corps Tactical Zone. In that month, Quang Ngai was transferred to the I Corps Tactical Zone. Because of the need for additional troops in the Saigon area, the 25th Division on April 8, 1964 received orders to move to the South. The official date of transfer was October 8, 1964. A new headquarters was set up at Cay Diep, near the Quang Trung Training Center west of Saigon on National Highway 1 in Gia Dinh Province. The division was a part of III Corps since that time.

Only the 49th and 50th Regiments came to the South. The 51st Regiment left the division and remained in Central Viet Nam as an independent unit (it is now part of the 1st Division). To replace the 51st Regiment, the 46th Independent Regiment was brought into the division. This regiment was originally a regional forces regiment, one of eight formed in the old 1st Military Region (present-day Military Region's 3 and 4) on August 1, 1955. It is believed to have been upgraded to regular Army status in the early 1960s.

No army ever is as good as its best units, and the ARVN had the 25th Division as well as its First Division. Until 1968 year, by the candid acknowledgement of a JGS general at Saigon's Camp Tran Hung Dao, the 25th was "the worst division ever to enter any battlefield east of Suez." Working out of Duc Hoa in Rau Nghia province west of Saigon and extending into Long An provice South of the capital, the 25th operated like most divisions operated in the Orient during the 1930's: it shunned combat to conserve resources. In the warlord days of pre-Pacific War China and neighboring states, a division commander would put himself out of a job if he spent his manpower and equipment resources in combat.

The 25th ARVN Infantry Division therefore carried out the traditional role of preparing and holding strong fortified positions near major population centers and road routes, but did not commit troops to offensive patrolling except at the stern and insistent direction of higher headquarters. And as the 25th improved its intelligence network, learning more about enemy dispositions, it improved its ability to march its troops in the opposite direction. Thus month after month the 25th would find itself on the bottom of the list of divisions rated by the number of enemy contacts per operation. But with the wholesale house-cleaning launched by General Thieu after his election to the presidency came the inevitable sacking of the mandarin general commanding the 25th Division, despite his political and social connections.

In January 1968 Brigadier General Nguyen Xuan Thinh took command with the announcement that "I am cultivating aggressiveness." And with the new command there did come a new sense of aggressiveness on the part of 25th Division troopers. Launching joint operations with their 'brother" division in the area, the 25th U.S. Infantry Division from Hawaii, the men of the 25th ARVN Division showed what capable soldiers can do when given capable leadership. By 1969 the 25th stood firm in blocking position across a major enemy infiltration route from the Cambodian border to Saigon. It pulled its weight there in Hau Nghia, and conducted an important pacification operation in Long An as well. But it had a long way to go before it matched the effectiveness of the First Division.

The headquarters of the 25th Division moved twice since first being established in the South. On December 23, 1964, it was moved to the Duc Hue District in Hau Nghia Province. Almost six years later, on December 13, 1970, headquarters was transferred to a large base camp at Cu Chi, also in Hau Nghia, previously occupied by the U.S. 25th Infantry Division. The division also maintained a semi-permanent command post at another former American base, Tay Ninh West, a few kilometers west of Tay Ninh City.

The Western tier of provinces of Military Region 3 was the 25th Division's general area of responsibility since coming to the south in 1964. The division also operated in Binh Duong Province on occasion. Of the three ARVN Divisions in III CTZ, by 1969 the 25th Infantry Division had made the most significant progress in combat effectiveness duning the 10 months since June 1968. This was attributable to an improved quality of leadership. The desertion rate, which was the highest in III Corps in October 1968, had decreased to the lowest in March 1969.

In mid-1972, the division participated in an attempt to reopen National Highway 13 to the Binh Long Province headquarters town of An Loc. In April 1970, elements of the 25th Division crossed into Cambodia as part of a coordinated South Vietnamese-American effort to eliminate Communist cross-border areas. Units of the division entered the "Parrot's Beak" area and advanced down Highway 1 through the town of Svay Rieng to Kampong Trabek. Other division elements operated in the area of the French rubber plantations at Krek and Chup. Operations in Cambodia continued until late 1971.

Although the majority of the officers and men with the 25th Division were from the South, by 1972 there were still personnel with division who had been in it since it was formed in Central Viet Nam in 1962.

Near the end of March 1974, the 83d Ranger Battalion at Duc Hue Base near the Cambodian border was surrounded by the NVA 5th Division. A valiant, month-long effort by the ARVN 25th Division - attacking, as expected, from east to west inside Viet Nam - failed to break the siege. Even aerial resupply and medevac missions were cut off. The relief of the 83d Ranger Battalion at Duc Hue by III Corps Armor Brigade [ATF] proved to be the last major ARVN offensive of the war.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:36:53 ZULU