Military


South Vietnam - National Police

Statisticians listed the National Police as paramilitary forces (without listing U.S. police in comparative military establishment figures) because in Vietnam the police are in the front rank of initial reaction forces. Usually the police are the first to be informed of a Viet Cong raid and the first to rush to the scene. In provincial towns the traveler recognizes the police station by the green and white jeep parked in front, usually with one or two bullet holes in the windshield.

The National Police organization of the Republic of Vietnam emerged by national decree in June 1962 from a conglomerate of smaller internal sacurity agencias. Integral to the National Police are the National Police Field Force (NPFF), the Marine Police, and the Special Police Branch for civilian intelligence, in addition to the major component, the Uniform Police. In their neceeearily rapid expansion from a force of approximately 16,000 in 1963 to 90,000 in 1971, the National Police, like other Government of the Republic of Vietnam (GRVN) security forces, underwent major transitions and encountered unavoidable problems in training, leadership development, and over-all management. In general, however, their improvement was positive and held considerable promise if provided with continued support at required levels.

Although centrally organized underthe Ministry of Interior,the National Police were operationally decentralized to the 44 provinces, 250districts, and six autonomous cities. Operational control was vested in the province and district chiefs, as well as the mayors of the autonomous cities. All of the province chiefs and most of the district chiefs were military officers at present. Internal support for logistice, finance, personnel, and matters of police management and policy emanated centrally from the Director General, National Police, to four regional police directors in the Military Regions, and the Director, Saigon Municipal Police; and thence to province, district, and city police chiefs, or, in the case of Saigon, the precinct police chiefe.

The National Police were responsible for the maintenance of law and order, the performance of normal police functions, the conduct of security control, and the performance of civil tasks required in connection with counterinsurgency activities. In the latter area of responsibility were the efforts of the National Police Field Force, the Special Police Branch, the Marine Police, and those police assigned to the villages. In nation huilding, the National Police aimed at extending and improving the legal influence and services of a civil police body oriented toward constitutional procesees of law enforcement in a civil administration. In this function, it was most active in the relatively secure areas which were the areas of highest population density.

Below the provincial level, National Police operations were centered in the district towns. During 1969, police services were extended to the villages. Originally confined to the urban areas, the National Police had, since 1969, extended their servicee into the rural areas and provided cervices to villages.

Studies conducted since 1962 conclnded that there would be a requirement for many more National Police for pacification and law enforcement in the Republic of Vietnam. In 1968, the National Police were urnable to exceed the strength of 80,000 men due to attrition, mobilization restrictions, and restricted GRVN funding. During the Tet offensivea of 1968, the National Police sustained 818 killed and 1,620 wonnded in combat actions. This wae particularly detrimental to the required development of the Marine Police, the Special Police Branch, and the National Police Field Force, those elements most directly involved in anti-Viet Cong Infrastructure activities. In order to alleviate the situation, President Nguyen van Thieu, in mid-1969, directed the Army Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) to transfer 13,000 men from the military forces to the National Police. The planned force level objective for the end of calendar year 1970 was for a total force strength of 105,000, with recruitment from the Rural Development Cadre, category II military personnel, and certain military draft eligibles authorized. As the level of violence diminished in the Republic of Vietnam, and tbe mission and tasks assigned to the police expanded, the requirement in terms of both numbers and capability increased. With the trend toward civilianization of the government, along with the law enforcement problems which are the normal aftermath of any war, the role of the police in the Republic of Vietnam continueto grow in importance.

The Marine Police were established in 1965 to provide a waterborne law enforcement capability to assist in countering Viet Cong activity on the more than 3,000 miles of navigable inland waterway. This effort was directed primarily at the Mekong Delta area. The Marine Police had responsibility for control and maintenance of security on navigable waterways and ports in the Republic of Vietnam, the support of resources control, the enforcement of civil and maritime law, and assistance in other police activities. The force etrength has been increased from 350 men operating three bases in the delta and patrolling 40 miles of waterways in 100 boats at the end of calendar year 1966, to a force of 2,404 men and 22 bases in all of the four Military Regions patrolling 440 miles in 380 boats.

The Police Special Branch was the core of Operation Phung Hoang, a nationwide pooling of intelligence data to flush out the VCI, the Viet Cong Infrastructure. The VCI were the leadership elements who run the communist political apparatus, control the guerrilla bands, collect taxes, order assassinations, set up front organizations, draft men and women as soldiers, guerrillas and laborers, disseminate propaganda and direct terror campaigns. About 80,000 cadres originally were estimated to hold VCI jobs.

In the first 11 months of a campaign that jumped off at the beginning of 1968, Operation Phung Hoang resulted in 13,404 of these cadres being rooted out of their underground positions in the communists' shadow government. Under Phung Hoang the National Police and other government intelligence agents man district centers which collect data on the VCI, check information against files and dossiers, and where warranted, arrange for operations.

These operations may be as small as the sending of a lone policeman on his bicycle to arrest a man identified by VCI defectors as a hamlet tax collector for the communists. Or the operation can be so large that it entails the deployment of two or three battalions of troops for a week-long sweep and screening mission covering an entire district. Without the local knowledge of the policemen engaged in these sweeps, many more of the VCI would slip through the cordons.

One tribute to the effectiveness of the National Police is the fact that enemy attacks in both urban and rural areas usually are directed first against police headquarters and substations. During February 1968, at the height of the communists' Tet offensive, 239 policemen were killed and 298 wounded. Last year 827 of the 79,000 National Police died defending their posts. Now 10,000 new policemen are being recruited.

The National Police Field Force [NPFF] was created in January 1966, with the mission of providing the National Police with an arm capable of extending GRVN civil preeence into the turbulent rural areas of the countryside. It was highly mobile and lightly armed, with both civil police and paramilitary capability for maintaining security in recently liberated rural areas. Tbe National Police Field Force also supported the resources control program and the pacification and development programs. It served as the primary riot-control organisation of the National Police. The provincial NPFF units had one company headquarters of 24 men in each of the 44 provinces of Vietnam. Each of these provincial companies had a number of 40-man platoons corresponding to the number of districts in the province. These varied from two to 13. Two autonomous cities, Da Nang and Vung Tau, which had police services separate from the province in which they were located, and provided with an NPFF company of four platoons. To provide supervision and support to these provincial and city NPFF companies, an NPFF Regional Headquarters and Service Company was located at each of the Military Regione.

In addition, the 5th NPFF Battalion was assigned to the Saigon Municipal Police Directorate which was charged with the internal security and internal defense of the nation's capital city. The 5th NPFF Battalion had, in addition to ite heedquarters, 14 companies of four platoons each. The 222d NPFF Battalion, based in Saigon, with six companies, was the National Reserve of the NPFF. Its units had been employed at various times in Hue, Da Nang, Binh Dinh, Tuyen. Due, Gia Dinh, Long An, Bin Hoa, and Phu-quoc Island.

As of 1 August 1970, the aesigned strength of the National Police Field Force was 16,000 men. It was lightly armed by military standards, but heavily armed by conventional police standards. Its primary weapon was the M16 rifle. In addition, each platoon had an M79 grenade launcher and a caliber .30 machinegun. Twenty-four shotguns were available in the company weapons pool. The NPFF had no mortars or other indirect fire weapons.

The National Police Field Force received both police and paramilitar training. Each man received the 12-week basic training of a National Policeman. Following this, he received eight weeks' NPFF paramilitary training. Platoons were returned periodically to the NPFF Training Centerfor six weeks of unit retraining. Specialists such as drivers, radio-operatore, medics, mechanics, and clerks were trained in various National Police and Army Republic of Vietnam schools. Leaders received special training at the NPFF Training Center, the ARVN Infantry School, and the ARVN Noncommissioned Officer Academy. Many leaders were graduates of the Malaysian Police Field Force Training Center.

Command of the NPFF company was held by an inspector who came under the operational command of the province chief of police. The NPFF units were under the operational control of the chief of the police service to which assigned. For example, the NPFF platoon assigned to a district was under full operational control of the district chief of police who, in turn, was under the full operational control of the district chief. These officials employed them, according to the situation, on these types of missions:

  • Operations against the local VietCong in reaction to intelligence and targeting of the Special Police Branch.
  • Resourcee control operations.
  • Operation in support of the pacification program which included any type of police operation appropriate to the capability, training, and firepower of the National Police Field Force.
  • Operations to control riots andother civil disturbances.

In the past, a fairly high percentage of NPFF operation were combined with United States, Free World, and Army Republic of Vietnam military forcee. However, with the improved security situation, by 1970 one-half of the NPFF operations were independent and the remainder primarily combined with the Regional and Popular Forcee. When on combined operations with military forces, the NPFF unit was placed in support of the force by the appropriate chief of police. It provided knowledge of local conditions and culture which greatly increased the search capability and effectiveness of the force. Military unite needing NPFF support requested it from the appropriate local chief of police.

Considering that the nation was at war, and that the National Police have only a brief history, agreat deal had been accomplished. The fate of the National Police was bound to the struggle of the nation in seeking a national identity and overcoming a history of war and outside domination of its peoplee. Elements of the struggle included the uniting of population components divided by religioue, ethnic, and regional differences; personal values strongly influenced by the rapidly changing fortunes of war that had divided family loyaltiee; and the massive input of technology, commodities, and finances from abroad. All of these contributed to the disruption of the old standards and realities. In many ways, the National Police were a microcosm reflecting the turmoil of life in Vietnam.



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