3rd DivisionOrganized October 1, 1971
(Decree 2,324-QP/TCYY/ND. of October 31, 1971)
(JGS order 4,511/TTM/P3/2/K of October 4 1971)
The 3rd Division, the newest of the ARVN infantry divisions, was formed to guard the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the Republic of Vietnam and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) following the withdraw of American troops from the area. The division was originally headquartered at a former forward headquarters of the 1st Division at the Ai Tu Base camp across the Thach Han River from Quang Tri City.
The division has scarcely reached full operational status when in late March, April, and May 1972 Communist forces, supported by armor and heavy artillery, launched a full-scale attack against it. The 3rd Division was driven from its position along the DMZ and, ultimately from Quang Tri Province. It was withdrawn to Da Nang for reorganization and refitting. Since mid-1972, the third division has operated in Quang Nam and Quang Tin Provinces, with the security of the Que Son valley and Da Nang being among its primary responsibilities.
Symbolizing the new mission, the divisional insignia was changed October 1, 1972. The original insignia featuring three stars and the words "Ben Hai" (the river passing through the DMZ) was replaced by one showing only the numeral "3". The 3rd Division was headquarter on the outskirts of Da Nang in a former U.S. base known to American troops as Freedom Hill.
The infantry regiments of the 3rd Division combine the oldest and newest in the South Vietnamese army. The 2nd Regiment, transferred to 3rd Division from the 1st Division on October 1, 1972, was originally formed as the 22nd Regiment on November 1, 1954. It assumed its present designation in November 1955 and is one of the oldest Regiments in ARVN. The 56th Regiment was activated on December 1, 1971 and was formed from one battalion drawn from the 2nd Regiment, one battalion from the 51st Regiment (then independent), and one entirely new battalion. The 57th Regiment was activated on February 1, 1972 and was formed from one battalion drawn from the 2nd Regiment, one battalion from the 6th Regiment (2nd Division) and another entirely new battalion. Some of the troops brought into the 3rd Division that time were taken from Regional and Popular Forces units in Military Region 1.
In a battle lasting from August to December 1974, the PAVN 304th Division overran the key outpost of Thuong Duc in the mountains west of Da Nang and defeated a series of determined counterattacks mounted by two ARVN divisions, the 3d and the elite Airborne Division. Thuong Duc convinced PAVN's leadership that their soldiers could now defeat even the best troops ARVN could muster.
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