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Republic of Vietnam Navy - Hai Quon

The Vietnamese Navy (VNN) was organized in 1954 when the French relinquished their control of the country to the Vietnamese. After 1955 and transfer of republican forces to South Vietnam, the fleet was supplied from the United States. With assistance from the U.S., the VNN became one of the world's largest navies with 42,000 men and women and 672 amphibious ships and craft, 20 mine warfare vessels, 450 patrol craft, 56 service craft, and 242 junks.

The Vietnamese Navy was ultimately organized into six operational forces, four coastal forces, and four area commands. The Vietnamese Navy, which grew from a force of 8,242 men, 44 ships, and 200 other vessels in early 1965 to one of 17,574 personnel, 65 ships, 300 junks, and 290 other craft in mid-1968, underwent several organizational changes as well. In April 1965 the Joint General Staff (JGS) decided to enhance their control of the Vietnamese Marine Corps by making it a separate service within the armed forces. In addition, the JGS redesignated the I, II, III and IV Naval Zones as Coastal Zones and, along with the newly created III and IV Riverine Areas, placed them under the operational control of the army commanders of the I, II, III, and IV Corps Tactical Zones. Because of its special riverine characteristics, the Rung Sat remained in the navy's charge. Thus, with the exception of ships steaming outside of territorial waters, most of the navy's combat forces came under army direction.

Administrative responsibility for the navy, however, remained with the Chief of Naval Operations. Another significant reorganization occurred in July 1965 when the JGS formally integrated the 3,500-man, paramilitary Coastal Force into the navy. Thereafter, the command's divisions and the old coastal district designations were dropped and the coastal zones became the operational sectors. In a similar move, in October the following year, the Vietnamese Navy was assigned administrative responsibility for the headquarters and training center of the 24 paramilitary Regional Force Boat Companies and maintenance responsibility for their 192 vehicle and personnel landing craft (LCVP).

On 1 January 1966, the Sea Force was renamed the Fleet Command and reorganized along functional lines. Flotilla I, comprised the submarine chasers (PC) and escorts in Squadron 11, the motor gunboats in Squadron 13, and the large support landing ships (LSSL) in Squadron 15. The minesweepers in Squadron 17 were responsible for sea patrol, inshore patrol, river patrol, and minesweeping duties, respectively. Flotilla II controlled Squadrons 22 and 24, which consisted of the Vietnamese Navy's landing ships and craft, coastal oilers, and other vessels providing logistic support.

Throughout the late 1960s, the Vietnamese Navy continued to suffer from serious deficiencies. Perhaps the greatest was the careerism and interservice political activity of many naval officers, which hamstrung coordination and cooperation in operations and lowered the morale and motivation of naval personnel. The emphasis on politics disrupted the training of sailors, many already educationally unprepared in the technical skills essential for the operation of complex vessels, weapons, and equipment. Aside from the political factor, training in gunnery, seamanship, and communications skills was hurt by the Vietnamese stress on instruction at shore-based schools, rather than on board ships. Unfortunately, few Vietnamese sailors were released from operational duty to receive training ashore. At the same time, the Recruit Training Center at Cam Ranh Bay, the Advanced Training Center in Saigon, and the Naval Training Center at Nha Trang, which included the Naval Academy, were hard-pressed to handle the great number of men entering the service during this period. Some relief was afforded by the training of Vietnamese officers and men on board U.S. naval vessels and in the United States. The quality of training improved somewhat as a result of these measures and the hard work of many Vietnamese sailors and American advisors.

The material condition of the navy raised even more serious concerns. Officers and men in the operational units often showed little regard for the maintenance of their ships and craft. Compounding the problem was the inability of the ship and boat repair facilities to cope with the growing backlog of work orders generated by the increased tempo of the war and the doubling in size of the navy. The lack of skilled workmen severely hampered operations at the Eastern Repair Facility at Cuu Long near Saigon and the Western Repair Facility at Can Tho, which handled River Force and Coastal Force work. The same condition existed at the smaller establishments at Danang, Cat Lo, Qui Nhon, An Thoi, and Rach Gia, which supported the Coastal Force exclusively. A number of these repair operations barely functioned. The situation was not much different at the larger Saigon Naval Shipyard, the country's main industrial facility and ship repair yard.

Between 1965 and 1968, the 1,500-man skilled labor force lost 640 workers to other higher paying wartime enterprises and to the draft. As a result, ship overhauls fell from 23 in 1965 to 6 in 1967. Tasked to build Yabuta junks for the Coastal Force, the yard completed 90 in 1965, 39 in 1966, and only 15 in 1967. The repair crisis was partially eased by the dispatch to the yard of American naval technicians, improved management procedures by U.S. naval advisors, and the use of the Ship Repair Facility on Guam for major overhauls.

The Vietnamese Navy, which grew from 18,000 men in the fall of 1968 to 32,000 men at the end of 1970, instituted organizational changes to accommodate the new personnel, material, and operational responsibilities. Lines of command had been clarified and operational control of the various forces delegated to Force commanders. Additionally, the country was divided for organization and simplicity into four coastal zones and two riverine areas, each under a zone or area commander.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:37:48 ZULU