Checking with Corps this morning, I found out that the last airphibious
operation, beginning last Saturday, has been more successful than the previous
series of assaults undertaken by the Marine choppers on October 15.
This time, according to Maj. Wagner, the American operations adviser at I
Corps, the Arvin discovered a couple of supply dumps that belonged to the VC
and near there killed three VC, captured two prisoners, and recovered two trip
grenades set up as booby traps, which fortunately were not detonated. In the
fighting in that vicinity, one of the Arvin troopers was wounded and one of
our automatic rifles was captured by the VC.
Maj. Wagner introduced me to the Vietnamese Deputy Chief of Operations in
this Corps Area, Maj. Nguyen Van Hieu, a slight, alert, well-scrubbed individual whom Wagner, in an aside to me, characterized as "very bright."
The Vietnamese operations chief spoke highly of the strategic hamlet program:
"In each tactical area, the Army is responsible for support, barbed wire, and
weapons, and we are making progress. Elections are being held in many of the
Thursday, November 8:
This morning in the ready room I found out from OOD Joe Baranowski that
there wasn't much doing so far in the way of mission: "There are a lot of
little frags...some resupply, one bunch of five aircrafts going to Mang Buk
and stopping at Quang Ngai, where there's also a lift of 4,000 pounds of cargo
and four passengers into the coal mine area, and two aircrafts going to Miet
Xa with passengers and freight."
I went back to the barracks and started talking to Rathbun about the
favorite subject of the officers hereabouts: how our side can win this war. He
said, "One of the main things is you have to have the support of the people,
we have to do that." I told him that at Corps HQ, Wagner and his opposite
number, Nguyen Van Hieu, had been trying to get some of the
static and useless outposts disbanded and some troops made into a mobile
reserve. I also told him that Wagner had suggested that he'd like to have
three or four helicopter companies in this Corps instead of one. I also
mentioned that junior strategists at the O Club were talking about the
firehouse concept of a Tiger Force standing by with the helicopters all the
Airmobility 1961-1967 by General John Tolson (1972) The
Peak Year 1967
The large PERSHING area of operation was left with only one thin brigade
during this period. I was glad we had spent so much time working with the 22d
Army of the Republic of Vietnam Division on airmobile tactics, since the 22d,
under the able leadership of Colonel Nguyen Van Hieu, would have
to bear the major burden in Binh Dinh Province for a time.
55 Days - The Fall of South Vietnam by Alan Dawson (1975)
Digging A Last Ditch.
Although the battle for Saigon was already under way, most people realized
it only on April 9, the day after the bombing of Thieu's palace. When
realization came, Saigon was in an uproar. Thieu had yet to name his new
cabinet. The old was holding out in a caretaker status. Enraged by the attack
on his palace and the lack of response, Thieu had ordered the Tan Son Nhut air
force commander arrested, then released only hours later. The deputy commander
of the III Corps area around Saigon, two-star General Nguyen Van
Hieu, was dead. The story was he had committed suicide at his Bien Hoa
office after arguing with his boss, three-star General Nguyen Van Toan, about
defense of the capital area.
Certain History - How Hanoi won the war by Denis Warner (1978)
Thanks to my friend Bui Anh Tuan, I had been introduced to the Dai Viet
fraternity that ran the civilian government in Tongking. In principle, the Dai
Viet was a clandestine party, with its members sworn to absolute secrecy, on
pain, literally, of death. When it got authority, however, the party, in
common with political grouping everywhere, liked to have its own men running
thing. Nguyen Van Huong was Dai Viet, head of the Surete and a friend. He was
a tiny man, very proud of his brilliant elder son.
[in footnote] Twenty two years later the son, Major General
Nguyen Van Hieu, was deputy commander of the Third Military
Region in South Vietnam. The night before North Vietnam opened the battle for
Saigon, he was shot and murdered at his desk in headquarters at Bien Hoa. Bui
Anh Tuan borrowed General Tran Van Don's jeep and we went together to the
chapel where his body lay in state to give an envelope containing some money,
the custom of the country, to his widow. I spoke to Huong on the phone, but
did not see him again.
[Huong] was dismayed by what was happening in Tongking. Navarre, he said,
was wrong about Viet Minh intentions in Laos. They did not intend to capture
either the royal capital of Luang Prabang, or Vientiane, the administrative
capital. They had invaded Laos for psychological reasons and had left behind
sufficient men in Sam Neua province only to establish a 'government'. But in
Hanoi itself the Viet Minh had an underground army, with street committees
already organized, regional guards and 5,000 police ready to surface at the
[...]For the next two weeks there were repeated rumors of a coup. Late one
night I was phoned in my room at the Continental by a staff officer on the
Joint General Staff who told me that the coup was in process and that I could
safely write that Ky would take over before morning. My contact was so
absolutely reliable that I got out of bed and started to write the story.
Then, after second thoughts (or a cowardly unwillingness to face the troops in
the streets without a curfew pass), I tore it up and went back to bed. Which
was just as well.
Ky had, indeed, made plans for a coup, using the air force, paratroops, and
special forces. He held his hand at the last minute only because he believed
Ambassador Martin had agreed to put pressure on Thieu to resign. Whether
General Hieu, the deputy commander of Military Region 3 (the
Saigon front) was involved in the coup plans I do not know, but on the evening
of 7 April he was shot and killed at his desk in Bien Hoa. According to
General Dung, his murderer was the Thieu loyalist and Hieu's immediate
superior, the commander of Military Region 3, General Nguyen Van Toan.
Precisely at 8:22 a.m. the following morning, when the rue Catinat was full
of bustle, an arrow-like F5E fighter, piloted by Lieutenant Nguyen Thanh
Trung, of the South Vietnamese Air Force, streaked over the city and down
toward the presidential palace.
Fall Of South Vietnam: Statements by Vietnamese Military and Civilian
Leaders by Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen and Brian M. Jenkins
I [General Tran Van Don] was an opponent of Vietnamization.... I will tell
just one story. I visited (some units in the field) and tried to understand
the program of Vietnamization of the war...it was in the headquarters of 5th
Division. I discussed the question with the commander of the division, General
Nguyen Van Hieu, a most honest general, and capable, too. I was
surprised by his answer; it opened my eyes. I asked him, 'What do you think of
Vietnamization?' He said to me, 'It's impossible to be implemented.' 'Why?' He
said, 'The 5th Division covers an area where there were two other divisions,
Americans, and now with the departure of the two American divisions I have
only my division to cover the whole area. I have three regiments for this area
and must use one regiment to replace one division. How can I face the enemy
like this? I have become weaker.' He looked very disappointed. I was
surprised; he was a quiet man, a polite man, and he tried to do his best. But
he said to me that this was impossible. 'How can I cover a bigger area with
less units?' So the Vietnamization of the war means that we are becoming
Day N+ by Hoang Khoi Phong (1988)
[April 21, 1975]
[...] Thieu, Ky, Khiem, Vien and many other..."famous generals", have shed
South Vietnam populace's blood all over the mountains and hills, rice paddies,
rivers and canals. Why should one have to value and save blood? One should
fire all 105 mm battery ammo so that madame Khiem could obtain shell cases to
sell them to Japan; one should protect at all costs South Vietnam ancient
imperial tombs, so that madame Thieu could collect our ancestors' antiques;
blood should be spilled profusely to live up to the reputation of Vien, a
famous general versed in both academic and military fields, who is at the top
of the army's hierarchy, who stands amidst political power struggles, Vien is
honest all right, but what about madame Vien? Isn't she sponsoring her close
cronies? Are any of them lurking at the back door entrance of her official
[...] It's natural that we have ended up at this current situation: in all
my twelve year military service, I have yet to meet a commander that I respect
in my heart, at the tip of my tongue. The army is a big group, and yet in my
unit, a unit that enforces military discipline and good manner and justice;
our unit holds discipline that constitutes the strength of an army, I have to
sadly admit that in all these past twelve years I had only met just three
honest individuals who were qualified to be decent commanders. It's
unfortunate that honesty is not sufficient in this war.
There is no shortage of blood among us. I am addressing to you all, "famous
generals" of South Vietnam, you, Thieu, Khiem, Ky, Vien, Quang, Toan and other
famous generals. Have you ever paid attention to this statement: "A general
reaches the pinnacle in detriment of million of dried up skeletons". Why
should you have paid attention, right? Furthermore, you did not ...attack
fortresses, you merely defended them. Because of your last ten years'
defensive posture, million of skeletons had dried up. And when fortresses are
cracked open, you are only concerned of saving your own lives; you are unable
to bring along with you houses, mansions, ancestors' tombs, you leave them
behind without much worries because you have nicer houses somewhere else; your
luggage are very compact, you don't even bother putting up a show by scooping
up along with you a handful of the motherland's dirt like general Khanh did at
Thieu announces his resignation and the army will gain another fighter,
another "famous general". How about the other "famous generals"? Those who
have been praised by the media as honest generals, like Thang, Chinh, Truong,
where are you? General Toan's lackeys have already dispatched general
Hieu, another honest general, to his final resting destination
in company of general Thanh. General Phu is lying in a hospital bed, but where
are Thang, Chinh, Khang, Truong? You should show up at this moment to salvage
the breaking up of the army. You are not majors, colonels, you are generals;
even if the army has maltreated you, you have attained the rank of general,
but then had the army really maltreated you? Khang was a lieutenant colonel in
63, in 67 although with lesser power in hands had attained the rank of
lieutenant general; why are you letting Ky run around without lending him a
hand at this moment? Ky is a General with a big mouth with no action, not as
astute as Thieu, not as greedy as Quang, not as corrupt as Toan.
The economic market in Viet Nam was mainly controlled by the Chinese,
henceforth the growth of the Military Savings Fund would come into collision
with their interests. Chinese tycoons were clever in their endeavors to bribe
for the favors of those in power, in finding out and satisfying their
appetites, including inviting them to go on overseas travel tours. The leader
of the Chinese tycoons was Ly Long Than, believed to be Thieu's and Khiem's
finance advisor. I knew they were good friends but was not certain about the
role of advisor. The Americans were also opposed to this Military Savings Fund
and wanted it disbanded because it deducted soldiers' salaries without prior
consulting them. On its side, the government suspected corruption among the
managers of the Fund; therefore, Nguyen Van Thieu entrusted vice-president
Tran Van Huong the task of forming an investigative committee. This committee
comprised Tran Khanh Van who wanted to build a name for him, but there was
also General Nguyen Van Hieu who was straightforward.
Tears Before The Rain - An oral history of the fall of South Vietnam
by Larry Engelmann (1990)
(Chapter XV) Colonel Le
Khac Ly - "Only I am Left To Tell You The Story"
When I got to Saigon, Phu was there. I went home. The next day, I was
urinating blood and was not well. I went to my doctor and he gave me some
medicine and told me to rest. I went to work.
I tried to communicate with General Phu again about what to do. And the
first thing he told me, was, "Ly, we are betrayed!" I said, "By who?" He said,
"By Thieu. Thieu has trapped us. He threw everything to us. He says everything
is our fault." Phu wanted to prepare a report to prove that it was not our
fault and describe how we conducted operation, why we didn't take Ban Me
Thuot, and why we withdrew.
So I prepared a very thick report for Phu.
I visited Phu and General Ngo Quang Truong [Commander of MR1], who was now
there in the hospital. Truong embraced me and cried. He said, "Ly, we've lost
everything." Of course, Truong loved his country, and his troops, and his I
Corps. And now it was all gone.
When I saw Phu again he was angry. It was the first time I had ever seen
him so angry about the President. After I prepared the report for him, he
signed it, and the final day I went to see General Khuyen and had the report
sent to Thieu and Cao Van Vien. I never saw or heard of that report again. I
asked General Khuyen, "What should we do next? Have we lost everything?" He
said, "No. We will redeploy and draw the line, and you will have your II Corps
back again." But I said to myself, I think this general is not telling the
truth. The truth is now that we cannot do that. If you had said that when I
was in Pleiku I could do that. But right now I can't command anybody. There is
no army for me. And the enemy is everywhere. He asked me, "If you were in my
position, what would you do?" The big shock was that I could not think of any
solution now to our problem.
When I went home, my wife and I heard airplanes taking off every night, and
we knew that DAO was flying people out, and a lot of information was coming to
us every day telling us who was leaving. I went to see a friend of mine,
commander of the Second Division. And he and I tried to reorganize the
Twenty-second and Twenty-third Divisions and collect the men.
Then suddenly we heard all the news of losses. And I visited my good old
commanding officer, General Hieu, who was a really honest
officer in the Army. I asked him about the situation in Military 3. He said we
had to reorganize and try to block the enemy armor advances. And a couple of
days later he was killed.
Jean Cassaigne, la lepre & Dieu by Louis & Madeleine
Raillon (1993) Jean Cassaigne, the leprosy & God
In Saigon, in the beginning of 1972, people learned that Mgr Cassaigne was
very sick. Time had gone by. Since seventeen years, the loyalty of this former
bishop at the service of the pariahs, the most destitute ever in this world,
was felt as an out of the ordinary example.
The vice-president of the Republic, Mr. Tran Van Huong, took the initiative
of conferring the 4th Class of the National Medal of Honor, reserved for
military officers, to him. Father Dozance, regional Superior of the Foreign
Missions in Saigon, was approached and he went to Di-Linh to see Mgr
Very tired, he later objected with an exhausted demeanor:
- "My greatest wish is to be forgotten, you know damned well, forgotten!
- "Medals!... I cannot even stand up! Haven't you described to them my
- "Yes", responded Father Dozance. "They will come to see you, that's all".
And so, on April 12, 1972,
at 9:30 a.m., general Nguyen Van Hieu, assistant to the
vice-presidency of the Republic, Lieutenant Colonel, chief of Lam Dong
Province, as well as Father Dozance and Father Quang, the pastor of Di-Linh,
entered Mgr Cassaigne's room. Mr. Nguyen Thach Van, minister, bent down onto
the patient's bed, and proceeded to bestow the medal. With great emotion, Mgr
Cassaigne thanked each one who was present. He did not wish to be decorated.
People was too good to him.
- "I thank Mr. the Vice-President, with the heart of a missionary. In
response, I can only pray, pray for Vietnam, that's what I have been doing
every day; for Vietnam, where I have been living since 48 years and that I
love more and more every day. Vietnam is my country. God so wanted. My dream
is about to be accomplished: I have held on, I have suffered here, I am going
to die and want to be buried near my children,
in the Montagnard Country."
The Hidden History of the Vietnam War by John Prados (1995)
Profile: Generals and Politics in South Vietnam.
Five of the men who rose to the rank of general in the ARVN were born
outside Vietnam altogether. These included Cao Van Vien, a corps commander and
longtime chief of the Vietnamese Joint General Staff, who was born in Laos.
Two generals, Tran Van Don and Le Van Kim, were born in France.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Don and Kim grew up to be brothers-in-law, and
both were principal planners of the military moves taken in the November 1963
coup d'etat that overthrew Ngo Dinh Diem.
One ARVN general, Nguyen Van Hieu, was born in China, where
his father was an official of the French Surete in Shanghai, and later in
Hanoi. Hieu studied to become a priest but ended up in the ARVN
instead, commanding two different divisions. He headed the investigation of
corruption within the army savings fund, contributions to which were mandatory
for ARVN soldiers, which forced the 1972 resignation of Thieu ally and defense
minister General Nguyen Van Vy. In 1975 Hieu was deputy
commander of the ARVN military region which included Saigon; he committed
suicide when the collapse of South Vietnam became apparent.
Blind Design by Lac Hoang and Viet Mai Ha (1996)
When Huong was assigned Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Committee, assisted
by Brigadier General Nguyen Van Hieu, Thieu agreed with Huong to
review Vien's files. Huong told me in a private family dinner in Vinh Long
that he had suggested to Thieu to review Vien's files, and also Quang's files
in the near future. I explained to Huong that even if Vien was demoted, he
would have been replaced by Quang but not by Tri. Furthermore, it was very
difficult for Thieu and Huong to dismiss Vien, since there was not enough
evidence of Vien's lack of performance and loyalty, and Vien was wise enough
not to let Thieu have much evidence. Under Vien's care and protection, Khuyen
was ready to sacrifice his life for Vien. Khuyen, on the other hand was
supported by MACV because he always and totally agreed with his American
advisor to fulfill his job in supplies management, transportation, storage,
and other logistic supports important for successful military operations.
Huong began to focus his investigation on Quang but Thieu made every effort
to cover up for Quang to protect himself as his and Quang's dealings were the
same. General Hieu compiled and completed the document on Quang
and became frustrated. He asked to return to the Army.
Huong was disappointed and gave up persecuting the high ruling officials
and, instead, focused on less important civil servants.
A short time later, General Tri died in a helicopter accident during the
second military operation against the NVA in Cambodia. General Nguyen
Van Hieu, Deputy Commander of Military 3, and former assistant to the
Vice President in charge of anti-corruption, also died a suspicious death.
Hieu was young, enthusiastic, capable and honest, and the news
media speculated that his death was the work of the corrupt generals.
The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War - a Political, Social & Military
History edited by Spencer C. Tucker (1998)
Nguyen Van Hieu (? - 1975). Army of the Republic of Vietnam
(ARVN) major general. Hieu rose through the ranks to chief of staff, II
Corps/Tactical Zone 2 (1964); commander of the 22nd Infantry Division (1964
and 1966); and commander of the 5th Infantry Division (1970). Hieu was
regarded as one of the most incorruptible ARVN generals. That reputation
brought him the post of inspector general of the army under Vice-President
Tran Van Huong, who promoted an anticorruption program, which failed despite
their enthusiastic efforts. In 1974 Hieu became deputy commander of III
Corps/Military Region III at Bien Hoa. Hieu died of a pistol shot; official
reports held that he died while cleaning his pistol, but there were rumors
that he had been murdered.
Nguyen Cong Luan (Lu Tuan)
Reference: Ha Mai Viet. "Famous Generals of the Republic of Vietnam Armed
Hau Truong Chinh Tri Mien Nam 1954-1974 - Quyen I by Dang Van Nham
(1999) 1954-1975 Behind-The -Scene Political Secrets of South Vietnam
- Book I
Cuoc Chien Dang Do by General Tran Van Nhut (2002) The Unfinished Combat
Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Minh, who replaced General Do
Cao Tri who died on a helicopter accident in Tay Ninh, treated an elder honest
General who was well liked by the population, Major General Nguyen Van Hieu,
former 5th Infantry Division Commander, with disrespect and contempt, just
because the 8th Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Bui Trach Dan in 1971
suffered heavy losses in the Snoul withdrawal back to Loc Ninh and Major General
Hieu was immediately replaced by Colonel Le Van Hung.
Vietnam Chronicles by Lewis Sorley (2004) The Abrams Tapes 1968-1972
15 November 1969
The other day I was out, and I got a good briefing by General Hieu, 5th ARVN. That's the first time I've been to the 5th since he's been the division commander. And I must say it was - this doesn't have too much to do with how the division performs, but the quality of the briefing was very high, including a very frank and, I would guess, honest discussion of personnel strengths, desertions, desertions by regiment, and all this kind of stuff, including the fact that desertions are up, which - that's not a good sign, of course, but I must say it's a change of pace out there in the 5th Division to be leveling on things like that.