North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong Order of Battle (1965 - 1975) - Section One


ORDER of BATTLE (1965 - 1975)
SECTION 1
Submitted by Richard A. Rinaldi © 1999


NOTES on DESIGNATIONS

Since much of this is based on MACV intelligence, the way that they classified units is worth quoting.

North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Units: A unit formed, trained and designated b North Vietnam as an NVA unit and composed completely or primarily of North Vietnamese.

Viet Cong (VC) Units: A unit formed and trained in South Vietnam…whose original personnel composition consisted primarily of people residing in South Vietnam.

Main Force (MF) Units: Those VC or NVA military units which are directly subordinate to Central Office South Vietnam (COSVN), a Viet Cong military region, military sub-region, or front.

Local Foce (LF) Units: Those VC or NVA military units which are directly subordinate to province and district party committees and normally operate within the territorial jurisdiction of their respective control headquarters.

Guerillas were noted as being separate from all of the units listed in the enemy order of battle, usually organized into platoons and squads and directly subordinate to the party apparatus at village and hamlet levels.


COMMAND 1965-1972

Formally the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and People’s Liberation Armed Force (PLAF), these two are known to Americans as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC). The NVA had four Military Regions (1-4) in North Vietnam, and established numbers for regions in South Vietnam. The VC had a separate numbering system.

Military Region 5 covered the northern half of South Vietnam (the ARVN I CTZ and II CTZ south to Dar Lac and Khanh Hoa provinces). It organized the 1st, 2nd and 3rd VC Regiments; the 1st was engaged against the Marines in Quang Ngai Province in Aug 1965 during Operation Starlite. In fall 1965 it reorganized its forces into 2nd and 3rd Divisions and 10th Regiment. MR 5 was roughly the same for the NVA and VC. The lowlands from Da Nang to Nha Trang was the B-1 Front or B-1 Theater.

  • Tay Nguyen Front was subordinate to MR 5, and established Sep 1964. It covered the central highlands parallel to the Ho Chi Minh trail. This is also shown as the B-3 Front or B-3 Theater. (It also roughly corresponded to part of the VC’s MR 10 and part of MR 1.)
  • Tri-Thien-Hue Military Region was carved out in Apr 1966 (Quang Tri and Thua Thien provinces). It was in control of the B-4 Front and the B-5 Front (established Jun 1966; the latter along Route 9 and the former the rest of the area). By the end of 1966 the region as such stopped trying to control the two fronts, which remained separate until Mar 1972. (B-5 front then operated under the control of Military Region 4, the southernmost region in North Vietnam.) The B-4 and B-5 Fronts were combined in Nov 1972.

70 [or 70B?] Corps was established Oct 1970 to coordinate Divisions 304, 308, 320 and other units along Route 9 and in Laos. It was still active in Mar 1972, in the Quang Tri area.

Southern Regional Headquarters controlled Military Regions 6 to 9 and the Saigon-Gia Dinh Special Zone. These were known collectively as the B-2 Theater.

Military Region 6 covered the rest of ARVN’s II CTZ and the very northern part of III CTZ (Quang Duc, Tuyen Duc, Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Lam Dong, and Binh Tuy provinces). (The westernmost elements of this and MR 7 fell into the VC’s MR 10.)

Military Region 7 (or Eastern Nam Bo Region) covered the ARVN’s III CTZ, roughly from Saigon to the north (Phuoc Long, Long Khanh, Phuoc Tuy, Binh Long, Binhy Dong, Bien Hoa, Tay Ninh, and Hau Nghia provinces). In Oct 1967 this region took over the Saigon-Gia Dinh Special Zone. (This was roughly the VC’s MR’s 1 and 4.)

Military Region 8 was southwest of Saigon, running from Cambodia to the South China Sea (Long An, Kien Tuong, Sa Dec, Dinh Tuong, Go Cong and Kien Hoa provinces). (This was largely the VC’s MR 2.)

Military Region 9 covered the southernmost part of South Vietnam (Ghau Doc, An Giang, Vinh Long, Vinh Binh, Phong Dinh, Ba Xuyen, Kien Giang, Bac Lieu and An Xuyen provinces). (This was largely the VC’s MR 3.)

 


DIVISIONS ACTIVATED in the SOUTH

At the beginning of 1965, the Viet Cong had 47 Main Force battalions, including those in five regiments (note 1). Expansion (including NVA regiments) allowed the activation of divisions beginning in Sep 1965. A complete list of known VC regiments and battalions for the period through late 1971 is Attachment A. A summary of NVA and VC strength (in battalions) for the period Dec 1966 to Jan 1972 is Attachment D.

Division 3 activated 2 Sep 1965 with Regiments 2, 12 and 22. The 2nd was one of the original VC regiments, the 12th had been Regiment 18 of NVA Division 312 (entering the south Feb 1965), and the 22nd was formed of northern and local troops. The division also had mortar, AA, and engineer battalions on formation. The division was largely dispersed after Tet 1968 until reassembled in Jun 1971, with Regiment 21 replacing the 22nd. In Jun 1973 NVA Regiment 141 replaced the 21st.

Division 9 activated 2 Sep 1965, the first all-VC division organized in the South (probably 271 and 272 Regiments and one regiment was newly-formed for the activation of the division [note 2]). It was reorganized over time, gaining Regiment 3B (the old Regiment 88 of NVA Division 308); that regiment was replaced 1969 by Regiment 95C [of NVA Division 325C], which took the designation at some point as 3rd. In Mar 1972 the division had VC Regiments 271 and 272, NVA Regiment 95C, 22nd VC Artillery, 24th VC Air Defence and T28 VC Recon Battalions (all in Tay Ninh except Binh Long for the air defence battalion).

Division 2 activated 20 Oct 1965 in Quang Nam province, around 1st VC and NVA 21st Regiments and Battalion 70. The 1st was one of the original VC regiments from around 1962, and the 21st was a newly-arrived northern unit. NVA Regiment 31 joined in 1966. The division retreated to Laos in 1970, where it fought until Mar 1971, receiving NVA Regiment 141 in place of 21. The Mar 1972 list showed it with HQ in Quang Tin, VC Regiment 1 Quang Tin, NVA Regiments 21 (Quang Ngai) and 31 (Quang Tin), along with 10 NVA Sapper Bn, 12 NVA Art Bn and GK40 NVA Engr Bn (all Quang Tin), In spring 1972 it was back in the Tay Nguyn area and received Regiment 52 (from Division 320). A reorganization mid 1973 gave the division Regiments 31, 38 and 141; in late 1974 it gained also NVA Regiment 36 and Artillery Regiment 368.

Division 1 formed 10 Dec 1965 with Regiments 33, 66, and 320 (all of which had entered SVN earlier, and served in the Central Highlands under Division 325). Regiment 33 later left as a separate unit, and the division was joined by Regiment 88, which itself left in late 1967. It may have been reorganized before Dec 1972.

Division 5 activated 23 Nov 1965 in Ba Ria base area with Regiments 4 and 5. This unit operated at regiment strength until perhaps 1971. In Mar 1972 HQ was at Phuoc Long, with VC Regiment 275; NVA Regiment 174 was in Tay Ninh and VC Regiment 6 in Binh Long. Other division elements were 22 NVA Artillery Bn, 24 NVA Air Defence Bn, 27 VC Recon Bn and 28 VC Sapper Bn (all Binh Long)..

Division 7 activated 13 Jun 1966 in the Phuoc Lon area, with Regiments 16 [formerly NVA Regiment 101 of Division 325], NVA Regiments 141 and 165 (formerly of Division 312]. The 16th was soon replaced by Regiment 52 [of NVA Division 320]. In Mar 1972 the division had NVA 141, 165 and 209 Regiments, along with K22 Artillery, 24 Air Defence, 28 Engineer, and 95 Recon Sapper Bns (all in Tay Ninh).

Division 10 activated 20 Sep 1972 in the Tay Nguyen Front, with Regiments 28, 66 and 95B. Regiment 24 was incorporated spring 1973 and Regiment 95B transferred to Division 320 in spring 1975.

Division 711 organized 29 Jun 1971 in Binh Dinh province. Dissolved in late 1973, with personnel going to form Brigade 52.

 


69th ARTILLERY DIVISION

This is shown as 69 VC Artillery Division in III CTZ with an established/operational date of Aug 1962 for the division and its HQ and support units. This date is not believable. In Mar 1972 the division controlled 96 NVA Artillery Regiment (which included one VC battalion, also with the Aug 1962 established date) and 208B BVA Rocket Regiment. Both regiments are shown as entering III CTZ in 1971. The division also had a VC air defence bn (established 1964) and VC mortar bn (established Nov 1965). Various units were in Tay Ninh and Binh Long.


NORTH VIETNAMESE DIVISIONS

Division 325 began moving south Nov 1964 (Regiments 33, 95 and 101). It served in the Central Highlands with Regiments 95, 101 and 320 (Regiment 18 had gone to Tay Nguyen Front). The division was dissolved by late 1965, with elements going to VC Division 1 or becoming separate regiments.

Division 304 (Regiments 9, 24, 66) sent south Aug 1965; Regiment 9 initially served in Laos and Regiment 66 with Division 1 in Dec 1965. Returned north Jun 1968, but served in Laos spring 1971 and in northern South Vietnam from 1971.

Division 308 initially contributed one of three battalions, which became Regiment 320 ca. 1964. Its Regiment 88 infiltrated south in 1966 and the rest of the division Sep 1967 (Regiments 36, 88, 102).

Division 312 sent a battalion south in spring 1963 and another in 1964. Its Regiments 141 and 165 went to the B2 front in 1966, to serve as the nucleus of VC Division 7. The division went south in Sep 1967 and was regrouped after Tet back in North Vietnam, with Regiments 141, 165, and 209. It served in Laos 1969 – 71. Its regiments served with other divisions 1972, then were withdrawn back north. In spring 1975 the division was sent south again.

Division 316 (Regiments 98, 174 and 176) sent Regiment 174 to the Tay Nguyen highlands in 1967, but mostly operated in Laos. It participated in the central highlands (Ban Me Thuot) spring 1975.

Division 320 sent a mortar battalion to the south in Aug 1965, then Regiment 64 in Feb 1966 and Regiment 52 later that year. The entire division was in South Vietnam Sep 1967, but withdrew to the North in Oct 1968. (However, shown by Marines as still in I CTZ Jan 1969, with Regiments 48, 52 and 64.) It came south again in Oct 1970, serving in Laos in 1971. It went North yet again, but appeared in Tay Nguyen Front Jan 1972.

Division 320B (which included Regiments 48B and 64B) served in the 1972 Easter offensive and withdrew to the north Sep 1973.

Division 325B came south in spring 1966 (included Regiments 95B, 101B). Regiment 101B combined with Regiment 101C. Later operated with Regiments 24, 33, and 95B, which also served as independent regiments. The division was dissolved ca. late 1966.

Division 324 was formed Jun 1965 and moved south in late 1966 (included Regiment 3).

Division 325C (Regiments 18C, 95C, and 101D) began moving south late 1966. Following Tet, the regiments stayed behind and the division headquarters went north to form Division 325D.

Division 304B moved south of the DMZ early 1968 (Regiments 9B, 24B, 66B?); no other known service. In Mar 1972 it had Regiments 9, 24B, and 66B and 20 Sapper Bn (all in Quang Tri).

Division 325D (included Regiments 18D and 95D) was formed ca. 1967 and essentially a training and reserve unit, even though Regiment 18D went to Laos and Regiment 95D to Route 9 in early 1969. The division played a major role in the 1972 Easter Offensive, at which time it dropped the "D" and became Division 325.

Division 324B is shown in I CTZ in Mar 1972. At that time it had HQ and Regiment 812 in Quang Tri, with Regiments 29 and 803 in Thua Thien.


NORTH VIETNAMESE ARMY and VIETCONG Jan 1968

In Jan 1968, month of the Tet offensive, the number of confirmed battalions was shown by MACV as:

  • I CTZ: 16 VC and 53 NVA maneuver battalions
  • II CTZ: 15 VC and 35 NVA maneuver battalions
  • III CT: 39 VC and 20 NVA maneuver battalions
  • IV CTZ: 29 VC maneuver battalions

Somewhat earlier, in Mar 1967, sapper units had included Brigade 305, Regiment 426, and nine battalions under control of the Sapper Branch (note 3), and there may have been other sapper units under B-2 Front.

By Jan 1969 68B and 368B Rocket Regiments were in I CTZ.


NORTH VIETNAMESE ARMY and VIETCONG ca. March 1972

A complete list of identified units is included as Attachment B


NORTH VIETNAMESE ARMY and VIETCONG December 1972 (note 4)

  • 1st NVA Inf Div
    • 52nd, 101DNVA; 44th Sapper NVA
  • 2nd NVA Inf Div
    • 1st, 141st NVA; 52nd VC
  • 3rd NVA Inf Div
    • 2nd, 12th, 21st NVA
  • 5th VC Div
    • E-6, 174th, 205th, 275th NVA
  • 7th VC Inf Div
    • 141st, 165th, 209th NVA
  • 9th VC Div
    • 95C, 271st, 272nd NVA
  • 304th NVA Inf Div
    • 9th, 24B, 66th NVA
  • 308th NVA Inf Div
    • 36th, 88th, 102nd NVA
  • 312th NVA Inf Div
    • 141st, 165th, 209th NVA (note 5)
  • 320th NVA Inf Div
    • 48th, 64th NVA
  • 320B NVA Inf Div
    • 48B, 64B NVA
  • 324B NVA Inf Div
    • 29th, 803rd, 812th NVA (note 6)
  • 325C NVA Inf Div
    • 18C, 95C, 101D NVA
  • 711th NVA Inf Div
    • 3rd, 38th, 270th NVA
  • B-3 Front ( Central Highlands) (note 7)
    • 28th, 66th, 95B NVA; 40th NVA Art
  • B-5 Front ( DMZ)
    • 27B, 31st, 246th, 270B NVA; 38th, 84th NVA Art
  • MR 3 ( Delta)
    • D-1, D-2, D-3 VC, 18B, 95th NVA
  • MR 2
    • DT-1 VC, 86th NVA
  • MR 7
    • 33rd NVA; 274th VC; 74th NVA Art (?)
  • MR Tri-Thien-Hue
    •   4th?, 5th, 6th NVA
  • Independent
    • 24th, 101st, 271st NVA

A South Vietnamese source shows the following units available in Jan 1973, grouped by ARVN CTZ.

  • I CTZ: 7 infantry and 1 AA divisions; 6 infantry, 3 sapper, 6 artillery, 2 armor, and 12 AA separate regiments
  • II CTZ: 3 infantry divisions; 5 infantry, 1 sapper, 2 artillery and 1 armor separate regiments
  • III CTZ: 2 infantry, 1 sapper and 1 artillery divisions; 8 infantry, 2 sapper, 2 artillery and 1 armor regiments
  • IV CTZ: 2 infantry divisions and 11 separate infantry regiments

Units identified included M26 Armor Brigade, 75th Artillery Division, 377th AA Division, 5th Engineer Division and 27th Sapper Division.

Artillery was estimated at 430 122mm and 130mm guns. Armored vehicles of all types were estimated at 655 (including APC’s and artillery tractors; this total also includes items such as the 152mm D20 gun-howitzer and 10mm T12 anti-tank gun).

The source indicates that the NVA introduced "20 more" AA regiments following the cease-fire.

Sapper units under direct control of B-2 Front (Southern Regional Headquarters) prior to the 1975 spring offensive included 12 regiments or equivalents and 36 battalions. These were apparently in addition to any units under control of the Sapper Branch.


TANK BRIGADES

Tank Brigade 202 first saw action 1971 in Laos (Battalion 397). It participated in the Easter Offensive 1972 and the spring 1975 final offensive.

Tank Brigade 203 also saw action in Laos early 1971 (Battalions 198 and 297) and served in the 1975 spring offensive.


CORPS used in the FINAL PHASE of the WAR

2nd Military Corps established 17 May 1974 in Tri Thien Front (Divisions 304, 324, 325; AA Division 367; Tank Brigade 203; Artillery Brigade 164, Engineer Brigade 219). Following the collapse of the ARVN in I CTZ in 1975 it pushed elements down the coast.

4th Military Corps established 20 Jul 1974 (Divisions 5, 7, 9; Artillery Regiment 24; AA Regiment 71; Engineer Regiment 25; Sapper Regiment 429). This led the attack on Saigon from the northwest; shifting Division 5 and gaining Division 341. This corps grew out of Group 301, established 18 Mar 1971 (Divisions 5, 7 and 9 and Artillery Regiment 28) to control forces operating against the ARVN invasion of Cambodia that year..

3rd Military Corps established 26 Mar 1975 utilizing the command staff of the Tay Nguyen Front (Divisions 10, 316, 320; Artillery Regiments 40 and 675; AA Regiments 234 and 593; Tank Regiment 273; Engineer Regiment 7). It controlled the push on Saigon through eastern South Vietnam in the final offensive.

1st Military Corps established in the north 24 Oct 1973 (Divisions 308, 312, 320B; AA Division 367; Artillery Brigade 45; Tank Brigade 202; Engineer Brigade 299), and moved to the south late Mar 1975 for the final push on Saigon.


DIVISIONS FIRST APPEARING 1973-1975

Division 4 formed (possibly 1973 or 1974) from previously separate Regiments D1, 18B and 95A, it first served in the 1975 spring offensive.

Division 6 formed (possibly 1973 or 1974) from previously separate Regiments 24, DT1, and 207, it first served in the 1975 spring offensive.

Division 8 formed (possibly 1973 or 1974) from previously separate RegimentsZ15 and Z18, it first served in the 1975 spring offensive.

Division 303 activated 19 Aug 1974 (briefly designated Division 3), with VC Regiments 201, 205 and 271 and NVA Artillery Regiment 262.

Division 341 was reformed 1972 and sent south in Jan 1975.


AIR DEFENSE and AIR FORCE

Air Force Regiment 921 was organized Aug 1964 and Air Force Regiment 923 a year later. In 1964 there was essentially no North Vietnamese air force, and the first MiG-15 and –17 fighters appearing in Aug 1964 probably came from Communist China. By mid-Jun 1965 there were around 70 MiG-15 and –17 fighters, with the first MiG-21’s arriving in late Dec 1965. There were also 8 Il-28 jet bombers. This strength stayed stable, with fighter strength at the end of 1966 still at 70 (15 MiG-21) (note 8). In 1967, the North Vietnamese lost 75 fighters in air-to-air combat and another 15 on the ground. While these were replaced, it appears that all but about 20 fighters were withdrawn to China for retraining and regrouping. Air Force Division 371 was formed 24 Mar 1967 with Air Force Regiments 921 and 923. Fighter strength in-country remained at around 25 in the beginning months of 1968. The 8 IL-28 bombers were organized into an operational unit as late as Oct 1968.

Two further regiments were formed: Air Force Regiment 925 was formed Feb 1969 and Air Force Regiment 927 in Feb 1972. These may have come under Air Force Division 371.

The air defense force, with 6 AA and 2 radar regiments in 1963, grew rapidly from 1965 onwards. In 1964 there were about 700 AA weapons of all types and 20 early warning radar sets. Air defense was limited to key population or military sites and effective at heights of 20,000 feet or lower. The first SAM sites were under construction from Apr 1965, with the first known operational use in Jul 1965. These began in the Hanoi area, extending by the end of the year to Haiphong, the LOC area south of Thanh Hoa, and elsewhere. More than 60 sites were known by the end of the year. There was also a major expansion in AA gun and radar strength and capability (2100 AA weapons by Feb 1965, for example).

The air defense force was organized into divisions by Jun 1966.

  • AA Division 361 formed 19 May 1965 for defense of Hanoi
  • AA Division 363 formed Jun 1966 for defense of Haiphong
  • AA Division 365 established Jun 1966
  • AA Division 367 was a mobile unit established Jun 1966, and sent to MR 4 (initially with 4 AA gun and one AA missile regiments)
  • AA Division 369 was established Jun 1966

By the end of 1966, there were about 150 SAM sites in North Vietnam. Radar sites had grown to over 100, a mixture of early warning, ground-control intercept, AA fire control, and SAM-associated. Another 100 sites were discovered by the end of 1967, and the force organized into 25 SAM battalions.

Two further divisions were formed:

  • AA Division 368 was established by 1968 in MR 4
  • AA Division 377 was formed in MR 4 in 1968 with three regiments taken from other sites

By Apr 1968, the North Vietnamese had 8000 AA weapons (the majority light AA or automatic weapons, but including 100mm AA guns) (note 9). There were more than 350 radars and almost 300 SAM sites.


NOTES

  1. These numbers may or may not include such NVA units as Regiment 320, which had come south in 1964.Other NVA regiments were en route by early 1965.
  2. Regiments 271 and 272 might have originally been numbered as 1st and 2nd (duplicating numbers used further north in Division 5).The third regiment may have been numbered as 3rd, which would also be a duplicate number.
  3. Known as Sapper Command in the MACV listing.
  4. This list is largely from Stanton, who notes that numbers were often duplicated (e.g., Regiment 101, 101B, 101C, etc.) but does not always indicate variations. His allocation of units to NVA and VC is not always consistent with Webster's, which provides the only real listing of divisions I have ever seen in English. The Military Regions appear to be the VC rather than NVA numbers.
  5. While listed in Stanton, Webster's indicates that its regiments were actually operating with other divisions in 1972 and did not rejoin it until all withdrawn to the north in 1973.
  6. This division is not included in the comprehensive listing in Webster's, so no service details are known.
  7. The three infantry regiments shown here had become part of Division 10 on 20 Sep 1972.
  8. However, 29 aircraft had been lost in combat with the Americans, so replacements were sufficient to offset losses.
  9. The first of the 100mm AA guns were introduced in Jul 1965

 

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