by General Donn A. Starry
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
WASHINGTON, D. C., 1989
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Starry, Donn A 1931-
Mounted combat in Vietnam.
1. Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975-Campaigns. 2. United States Army. Armored Force-History. 3. Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975-United
States. I. Title. II. Series.
DS558.9.A75S73 959.704'342 78-12736
First Printed 1978-CMH Pub 90-17
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402
The United States Army met an unusually complex challenge in Southeast Asia. In conjunction with the other services, the
Army fought in support of a national policy of assisting an emerging nation to develop governmental processes of its own choosing,
free of outside coercion. In addition to the usual problems of waging armed conflict, the assignment in Southeast Asia required
superimposing the immensely sophisticated task of a modern army upon an underdeveloped environment and adapting them to demands
covering a wide spectrum. These involved helping to fulfill the basic needs of an agrarian population, dealing with the frustrations
of antiguerrilla operations, and conducting conventional campaigns against well-trained and determined regular units.
It is still necessary for the Army to continue to prepare for other challenges that may lie ahead. While cognizant that
history never repeats itself exactly and that no army ever profited from trying to meet a new challenge in terms of an old
one, the Army nevertheless stands to benefit immensely from a study of its experience, its shortcomings no less than its achievements.
Aware that some years must elapse before the official histories will provide a detailed and objective analysis of the experience
in Southeast Asia, we have sought a forum whereby some of the more salient aspects of that experience can be made available
now. At the request of the Chief of Staff, a representative group of senior officers who served in important posts in Vietnam
and who still carry a heavy burden of day-to-day responsibilities have prepared a series of monographs. These studies should
be of great value in helping the Army develop future operational concepts while at the same time contributing to the historical
record and providing the American public with an interim report on the performance of men and officers who have responded,
as others have through our history, to exacting and trying demands.
The reader should be reminded that most of the writing was accomplished while the war in Vietnam was at its peak, and the
monographs frequently refer to events of the past as if they were taking place in the present.
All monographs in the series are based primarily on official records, with additional material from published and unpublished
secondary works, from debriefing reports and interviews with key participants, and from the personal experience of the author.
facilitate security clearance, annotation and detailed bibliography have been omitted from the published version; a fully
documented account with bibliography is filed with the U.S. Army Center oŁ Military History.
The story of mounted combat in Vietnam was written at Fort Knox between 1973 and 1976 by a task force under the direction
of Major General Donn A. Starry, then commander of the Armor Center and commander of the Armor School. General Starry has
been involved in the planning or direction of armored operations and development since he was graduated from the U.S. Military
Academy in 1948 as a second lieutenant of cavalry. After serving in command and staff positions from platoon to battalion
in armored units in Europe until 1953, he became a staff officer in the Eighth Army in Korea and then an instructor in combined
arms and nuclear weapons employment at the U.S. Army Intelligence School. He later served as an armored battalion commander
and staff officer in U.S. Army, Europe. In 1966 he assumed duties in the G-3 Section, U.S. Army, Vietnam, and was a member
of the Mechanized and Armor Combat Operations, Vietnam, study group which evaluated armored operations in Vietnam. After serving
in assignments with the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and the Secretary of Defense, he returned to Vietnam to join the plans
office of J-3, Headquarters, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and in 1969 assumed command of the 11th Armored Cavalry
Regiment in Vietnam. In 1970 he returned to the United States and served successively as Deputy Director of the Operations
I Directorate and Director of Manpower and Forces. After two and j one-half years as the commander of the Armor Center, he
assumed command of V Corps, U.S. Army, Europe, in 1976. Promoted to full general, in July 1977 General Starry became commander
of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Virginia.
Washington, D. C.
15 September 1977
JAMES C. PENNINGTON
Brigadier General, USA
The Adjutant General iv
This monograph is an account of the operations of armored units of the United States Army in the Republic of Vietnam. The
term armored units as used here is generic and includes tank and mechanized infantry battalions and companies, armored
cavalry squadrons and troops, and air cavalry squadrons and troops-all forces whose primary modus operandi was to fight
Of necessity the story begins not with the arrival of the first U.S. armored units in Vietnam in 1965 but with armor in
Vietnam during the years immediately after World War II. The generally unsuccessful experience of French armored forces in
Southeast Asia from the end of World War II to 1954 convinced American military men that armored units could not be employed
in Vietnam. It was widely believed that Vietnam's monsoon climate together with its jungle and rice paddies constituted an
environment too hostile for mechanized equipment; it was further agreed that armored forces could not cope with an elusive
enemy that operated from jungle ambush. Thus at the outset of American participation in the conflict and for some time thereafter,
Army planners saw little or no need for armored units in the U.S. force structure in Vietnam. At the same time, however, extensive
American aid that flowed into Vietnam after the French left the country was directed in part to developing an armored force
for the newly created Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
It was not until 1967, however, when a study titled Mechanized and Armor Combat Operations, Vietnam, conducted by General
Arthur L. West, Jr., was sent to the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Army, that the potential of armored forces was fully
described to the Army's top leaders. Despite the study's findingsthat armored cavalry was probably the most cost-effective
force on the Vietnam battlefield-there was little that could be done to alter significantly either the structure of forces
already sent to Vietnam or those earmarked for deployment. By that time, constraints on the size of American forces in Vietnam
had been imposed by Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and decisions on force deployment extending well into 1968 had already
been made. The armored force of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, meanwhile had been successful enough in fighting the
elusive Viet Cong that U.S. armored units had been deployed in limited numbers, usually as part of their parent divisions.
From early March 1965 until the cease-fire in January 1973, U.S. armored units participated in virtually every large-scale
offensive operation and worked closely with South Vietnamese Army and other free world forces. After eight years of fighting
over land on which tanks were once thought to be incapable of moving, in weather that was supposed to prohibit armored operations,
and dealing with an elusive enemy against whom armored units were thought to be at a considerable disadvantage, armored forces
emerged as powerful, flexible, and essential battle forces. In large measure they contributed to the success of the free world
forces, not only in close combat, but in pacification and security operations as well. When redeployment began in early 1969,
armored units were not included in the first forces scheduled for redeployment, and indeed planners moved armored units down
the scale time and again, holding off their redeployment until the very end.
In almost equal parts this study has drawn from official war records of armored units and personal interviews with men
of those units. The monograph makes no attempt to document every armored unit in every battle. Nor does it list in detail
the lessons that may be learned from the Vietnam conflict, although it does call attention to some. In so doing it sometimes
isolates and focuses on the mounted combat aspects of operations that actually included many different American and other
free world units. The reader should keep in mind that the author's intent is to tell the story of mounted units, and not to
describe battles in their entirety.
Documenting this story of mounted combat in Vietnam was not a one-man job. Of the many people who helped, several deserve
special thanks. Lieutenant Colonel George J. Dramis, Jr., director of the monograph task force, developed the first topical
outline, assessed the historical significance of each bit of the wealth of information available, and ran the task force from
day to day.
The members of the monograph task force, Vietnam veterans with firsthand experience, whose collective knowledge contributed
to the continuity of the story were armor officers Major John G. Russell, Major Thomas P. Barrett, Captain Robert M. Engeset,
Captain John L. Hagar, Captain Gerald A. McDonald, Captain Maurice B. Parrish, Captain Jeffrey A. Stark, Captain Calvin Teel,
Jr., and Sergeant Major Christopher N. Trammell; infantry officers Captain Robert P. Antoniuc and Captain John J. Strange;
and Captain Dennis M. Jankowski of the (quartermaster Corps. The contributions of the Infantry School, particularly those
of Lieutenant Colonel Wayne T. Boles, were invaluable. Without the good work of the administrative staff, Mrs. Pege R. Bailey,
istrative assistant, Mrs. Jeanne Meyer, typist, and many temporary typists, this volume would not have been completed.
Specialist 5 Elmer R. Adkins, Jr., and Specialist 4 Jack D. Travers, who repeatedly typed the final drafts, deserve special
mention. Not to be forgotten are the many lieutenants on temporary assignment with the task force who painstakingly researched
articles and located officers and enlisted men who had served in Vietnam.
This monograph is an accounting of the stewardship of the tank crewmen, mechanized infantrymen, armored cavalrymen, and
air cavalrymen who had a hand in some of the more significant events in the Vietnam War. It was their devotion, professionalism,
valor, and dedication that brought American arms to the conclusion decided upon and ordered by their commander in chief. In
the end they left us a large legacy. The monograph is their story - it is dedicated to them.
Fort Monroe, Virginia
15 September 1977
DONN A. STARRY
General, U.S. Armyvii
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