The Enemy

There were four levels of enemy in Phuoc Tuy Province. 274 Viet Cong Main Force Regiment, 1200 to 1500 strong, was based in the area of the border between Bien Hoa, Long Khanh and Phuoc Tuy Provinces and operated in all these areas. It was the most capable and best equipped enemy unit. There were two Viet Cong Local Force Infantry Battalions: D440, 350 to 400 strong, based in the Phuoc Tuy–Long Khanh border area astride Route 2; and D445, of about the same strength, based in the south–east of Phuoc Tuy. There were also three substantially district– based Viet Cong Local Force Companies: C23, the XuyenMoc District Company, 30 strong; C25, the Long Dat District Company, 110 strong; and C41, the Chau Duc District Company, also 110 strong.

The lowest level of enemy was found in numerous village guerilla units from eight to 20 strong. 274 Regiment had been bolstered by some North Vietnamese Army (NVA) reinforcements and at times there was evidence of North Vietnamese Army in D440 and D445. Village and local forces frequently included female soldiers who shared all military duties. There were occasional forays into Phuoc Tuy by regular units such as 33 North
Vietnamese Army Regiment, particularly at times of general enemy offensives. From time to time, units from other provinces seeking recruits or supplies were contacted. The enemy was armed with a wide array of weaponry. Main Force and Local Force units had Chinese or Soviet 7.62 mm AK47 assault rifles and SKS rifles as their standard weapons. Officers often carried 7.62 mm K54 pistols. The most common machine gun was the Chinese or Soviet 7.62 mm RPD. It was quite common for many small arms weapons, particularly those used by village guerillas, to have been captured fro m the allies. Perhaps the most effective Viet Cong weapons were the rocket propelled grenades – the RPG2 (often called B40 by the Viet Cong) and RPG7 (B41), which each had the capacity to inflict a mass of shrapnel wounds with single shots and had considerable anti–armoured personnel carrier capability.

Some small calibre recoilless rifles were also used. The Viet Cong were experts at the art of improvisation: many of their mines were fashioned from captured allied explosives. A semi–standard product was the D10 directional above–ground minemade of explosives and shrapnel. Many
ground–emplaced mines were similarly manufactured. The Viet Cong carried a variety of communist hand grenades that had stubby throwing sticks. There were limited numbers of 12.7 mm heavy machine guns with an anti–aircraft capability to 1500 m. The enemy had no anti–aircraft missiles. Each large unit might be equipped with small and medium calibre mortars with limited ammunition. However, the Viet Cong were not able to call on artillery support in Phuoc Tuy.

The enemy had quite a few advantages in their quest to dominate the province. Firstly, their intimate knowledge of the area enabled them to move with great facility,using either known routes or local guides. They were familiar with the large array of signs that were used to mark water, camps, letterboxes, mines, caches and safe routes. Their mastery of fieldcraft was excellent. They had been trained in the arts of camouflage and movement to a degree probably much greater than their Australian counterparts. For example, they had been trained in the art of crossing ground
covered with dry leaves noiselessly and this training was conducted over several days. They were also expert in digging with a speed that amazed westerners. Viet Cong bunkers were elaborate, well sited and often only found when fire was opened. The enemy also gained several advantages from the attitude of the local population. It could be said that a further advantage was gained from the fact that, for most Vietnamese, the village was the centre of their existence. This perception meant that, far from identifying government with Saigon, most equated government with their
village. But the Viet Cong in Phuoc Tuy could never compensate for the allied advantages of artillery, naval and air support, of seemingly limitless resources of manpower and ammunition, of relatively secure bases, better tactical mobility by helicopters and armoured personnel carriers and, not least, the easy supply of food.

A large number of the enemy lived constantly in the jungle and carried many documents with them. These documents included personal items such as diaries and letters and often included military items such as commendation certificates, nominal rolls and even plans. These documents were frequently captured on prisoners or found on enemy bodies or in packs that had been abandoned. The documents were always treated as valuable sources of information. Viet Cong diaries were a constant source of interest apart from any tactical value. The handwriting was always neat and the text frequently illustrated with drawings of plants, insects and birds. Little poems were popular, and there were often touching
references to family and village life. These diaries were crafted by a quite cultured group of men and women.

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