July 18, 2024

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.

6 thoughts on “The Enemy

  1. Additionally whilst on Long Son Island with 1 ARU around Mar/Apr ’70 we were advised that the local enemy included elements of D67 Engineer battalion that I believe 5RAR had dealings with around August ’69.

  2. noticed there is no mention of the vc 275regiment,this supports my theory that it became dysfunctional after the hiding it copped at long tan,only time I have come across 275 regiment post long tan(apart from operation bribie) is during the tet offensive when it reared its head in bien hoa,which 7rar I thought would have engaged during operation coburg ?,it is likely the reason why the 33 NVA regiment sent a detachment to phouc tuy was to regain the initiative that was taken from enemy forces in phouc tuy after their defeat at long tan,the 33NVA regiment witnin the vietnamese own military history you will find will be one of their highest decorated units,you remember Mel Gibson movie ‘Once were Soldiers’,it based on true story,that was the 33 NVA Rgt along with the 32NVA Rgt & reinforced by the newly arrived 66 NVA Rgt,they the 325 NVA Div,they were fighting big unit conventional warefare battles with the Americans way out the back of the Ia Drang valley from the outset of arrival of Americans,no long tan veteran or anyone else for that matter has ever acknowledged the full significance of our resounding victory at long tan,275 Rg t became dysfunctional,it did not recover from psychological blow,its contribution to battle fought at operation bribie would have been an infiltration group keen for action so it was allocated to D445 for the battle

  3. Good morning Troy, Yes, you are correct about both the 275th VC Regiment and 33rd NVA Regiment. On the 33rd Regiment, I have written and published two books – ie in 2014 and 2017 (having interviewed their veterans in Vung Tau, Baria, and Ho Chi Minh City – ie post-War). I covered the 275th VC Regiment in a 54-page Annex O to my 2016 book on D445 Battalion. At present, I’m completing a discrete book on the 275th VC Regiment which will be more comprehensive. The 2nd Battalion of the 275th attacked the RF post at Lo Gom on Route 44 on 20/21 March 1967 – but, in my view, was not involved at “Bribie”. However, its 3rd Battalion (the former NVA D605 Battalion) had planned to attack Xuyen Moc – and had left its packs in a concentration area, but that attack was aborted. If you’d like me to email to you a “gratis” copy of my annex on Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) aspects of the Battle of Long Tan, let me know.

    1. Dear Mr Chamberlain, I sensed you were a Vietnam veteran, I just googled your name out of curiosity, to my astonishment you served as an intellegence officer with 1ATF and you rose to the rank of brigadier before retiring,am very humbled, honoured and privileged to have had a supportive response to my comment from a person of your status that I will value for the rest of my life as I am only an amateur historian although I have been reading about it all my adult life which is 35 yrs of reading the last 20 of which has been intensive reading, I intend to seek copies of all books you have written about Vietnam,gee it would be great to have a veteran like you that I could liaise with and get accurate advice and opinions, I spend many hours reading my books over and over again over the years only to find out some things I read turn out to be incorrect
      Kindest regards
      Troy McVerry

  4. Good morning Ernest,yes I am aware of that battle at Lo Gom,think I read about it Vol.2 official history but don’t recall it mentioning elements of 275 rgt other than it was a battalion attack???.Am appreciative that you have gone to the effort to inform me, apparently that fort(might have been old French fort?),was manned by only 33 SVN soldiers living there with their families and recently had assistance from 1fld sqn RAE to improve its defences,attack was amazingly repelled,a brave little SVN Lt and his soldiers repelled a battalion size attack, sadly it is about the only performance of this kind I have come across so far involving SVN forces(probably Catholic Vietnamese,they feared communism & appeared to genuinely want to resist communist invasion as you would already know).As for Bribie I left out an important word “unconfirmed” when mentioning 275 rgt, the way the battle was fought does have overtures of enemy “mainforce” support plus it has been suggested as possible in one of my books but can’t off hand recall which one (probably official history but don’t quote me) & I met an A Coy vet yrs ago and he told me 275 rgt participated when I asked him but his body language wasn’t exactly convincing?, but in saying that I have to say from what I have read the VC D445 acquited itself well on the battlefield & man for man was no less formidable than it’s mainforce counterparts just wasn’t equipped as well.As for Sig Intl Long Tan that would be great, I give 7RAR Assoc webmaster permission to fwd you my current email address

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