US Army Special Forces
Special Forces Advisors
Republic of Vietnam
US Army Special Forces, Vietnam, Provisional 1962-64
Flash Color Represents
Yellow - 1st SFG
The U.S. Army Special Forces, Vietnam (Provisional) was formed at Saigon in 1962 to advise and assist the South Vietnamese government in the organization, training, equipping and employment of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) forces.
Total personnel strength in 1963 was 674, all but 98 of whom were TDY from 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa and 5th and 7th Special Forces Groups at Ft. Bragg.
USSF Provisonal was given complete charge of the CIDG program, formerly handled by the CIA, on July 1, 1963.
The USSF Provisional/CIDG network consisted of fortified, strategically located camps, each one with an airstrip.
The area development programs soon evolved into combat operations, and by the end of October 1963, the network also had responsibility for border surveillance.
Two of the Provisional/CIDG camps were at Hiep Hoa (Detachment A-21) and Tan Phu (Detachment A-23), Republic of Vietnam. Their isolated locations, in the midst of known heavy enemy presence, made the camps vulnerable to attack.
On October 29, 1963, CPT "Rocky" Versace, 1LT "Nick" Rowe, and SGT Daniel Pitzer were accompanying a CIDG company on an operation along a canal. The team left the camp at Tan Phu for the village of Le Coeur to roust a small enemy unit that was establishing a command post there. When they reached the village, they found the enemy gone, and pursued them, falling into an ambush at about 1000 hours. The fighting continued until 1800 hours, when reinforcements were sent in to relieve the company. During the fight, Versace, Pitzer and Rowe were all captured. The three captives were photographed together in a staged setting in the U Minh forest in their early days of captivity.
The camp at Hiep Hoa was located in the Plain of Reeds between Saigon and the Cambodian border. In late October 1963, several Viet Cong surrendered at the camp, claiming they wished to defect. Nearly a month later, on November 24, Hiep Hoa was overrun by an estimated 400-500 Viet Cong just after midnight. Viet Cong sympathizers in the camp had killed the guards and manned a machine gun position at the beginning of the attack. The Viet Cong climbed the camp walls and shouted in Vietnamese, "Don't shoot! All we want is the Americans and the weapons!" 1LT John Colbe, the executive officer, evaded capture. CPT Doug Horne, the Detachment commander, had left earlier with a 36 man Special Forces/CIDG force. The Viet Cong captured four of the Americans there. It was the first Special Forces camp to be overrun in the Vietnam War.
The Civilian Irregular Defense Groups (CIDG, pronounced sid-gee) were originally created by the US mission in Saigon with the aim of forming a paramilitary force from the minority groups of South Vietnam.
The two main aims of the project were to strengthen and broaden the counterinsurgency efforts of the South Vietnamese government.
The other aim was to prevent the Montagnards and other minority groups, from being influenced by communist propaganda and fighting for the Viet Cong.
This would have given the communists complete control over large strategic areas of land that were owned by the
The proposition that the US made to the tribal leaders was that if they (the Rhade) would declare their allegiance to the south, and participate in a village defense program, then in return they would be supplied with weapons and the training on how to use them.
The outcome of these discussions was that the villagers agreed to support the South Vietnamese government. They would also build a fence around Buon Enao for their own protection, and to show that they had chosen to take part in the new program. They also agreed to dig shelters within the village so as to give protection to women and children in case of attack; construct housing for use as a training center, to build a hospital, and set up an intelligence network to control movement within the village and to provide early warning of an attack.
After this was done the program was extended to another 40 Rhade villages within a 15 kilometer radius of Buon Enao.
The chiefs and sub-chiefs of these villages were sent to Buon Enao for training in village defense techniques.
As the program grew, half of a Special Forces "A
Team" (A-35 of the 1st Special Forces Group) and 10 members of the Vietnamese Special Forces LLDB (Luc Luong Dac Biet), with a Vietnamese detachment commander, were sent to help out in the training of the village defenders and the full-time strike force.
With the experiment at Buon Enao a success, the decision was made to expand the program to other Rhade hamlets in which the 5th Special Forces "A Teams" were already operating.
At this point it was decided to turn the whole CIDG program over to the
5th Special Forces Group, working in co- management with the Vietnamese Special Forces.
These strike forces also conducted patrols to disrupt the
Viet Cong from their bases.
Given support they could perform just as well against Main Force VC and Viet Cong Units.
The CIDG program under the control of the 5th Special
Forces Group eventually expanded to 84 "A" camps, with over 42,000 CIDG
With the majority of the CIDG units being converted to Vietnamese Ranger Companies and Battalions, those CIDG units that were situated along the border infiltration routes were renamed as Border Ranger units.
This transfer had been completed by the time the 5th SFG departed Vietnam in 1971.