22nd Infantry Division Commander

General Hieu was appointed Commander of 22nd Infantry Division twice: the first time, on 09/10/1964, from the position of II Corps Chief of Staff under the command of General Do Cao Tri, to replace Brigadier General Linh Quang Vien; and the second time, on 06/23/1966 also from the position of II Corps Chief of Staff under the command of General Vinh Loc, to replace Brigadier General Nguyen Thanh Sang. In the first time, General Hieu only remained as 22nd Division Commander merely five weeks and returned to his II Corps Chief of Staff position. In the second time, General Hieu held his position as 22nd Division Commander for the duration of three years. During this period, General Hieu was promoted twice, from Colonel to Brigadier General in 1967, then to Major General in 1968. In the end of February 1968, General Vinh Loc was replaced by General Lu Lan as II Corps Commander. On 08/14/1969, General Hieu left the command of the 22nd Division and went to Binh Duong to assume the position of 5th Infantry Division Commander.

General Hieu's close associates at the 22nd Division comprised:

* Lieutenant Colonel Vy Van Binh, 47th Regiment Commander. He belonged to the Nung ethnic tribe, and served previously at the 3rd Division under the command of Colonel Vong A Sang.

* Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Ba Thin, alias Long, 40th Regiment Commander. He graduated first of 8th Class of the Dalat Military Academy. He commanded with Colonel Rattan, Commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st American Cavalry Division the battle of Tam Quan, which lasted from 6 to 20 December 1967. In this battle, two battalions of the VC 22nd Regiment, 3rd (Yellow Star) Division were decimated by the allied force which comprised units of the US 1st Cavalry Brigade, the US 1/50th Mechanized Infantry Battalion and the ARVN 40th Regiment. General Tolson, US 1st Cavalry Division Commander, commented that, in this battle "elements of the 40th Army of the Republic of Vietnam Regiment joined the fight and distinguished themselves by their aggressive manner." Subsequently, Colonel Long was assigned Kontum District Chief.

* Lieutenant Colonel Bui Trach Dzan, 41st Regiment Commander. He lend a hand to General Hieu in the implementation of a baiting tactic that lured a regiment of the VC 3rd (Yellow Star) Division down the mountains in the night battle of Eagles Claw 800. Subsequently, Colonel Dzan followed General Hieu to the 5th Infantry Division as 8th Regiment Commander.

* Major Trinh Tieu, G2 (Intelligence Bureau) Chief. He was the one who succeeded in extracting the news of Tet 1968 Offensive from a VC prisoner. General Hieu relayed this intelligence information to Brigadier General Tran Dinh Tho at the Joint General Staff the day preceding the general attack. Subsequently, Colonel Trinh Tieu was transferred to the command of G2's II Corps. A few years following his resettlement in the United States under the status of HO political asylum, Colonel Trinh Tieu was the first one to reveal General Hieu to the public with his article, "Portrait of a Competent and Virtuous General".

* Lieutenant Colonel Le Khac Ly, Division Chief of Staff. Subsequently, he went on to become Forward I Corps Chief of Staff under the command of General Lam Quang Thi, in 1972, and then, II Corps Chief of Staff under the command of General Pham Van Phu in 1974. Colonel Ly revealed many anecdotes pertaining to General Hieu in the article, "22nd Division Commanding General Hieu".

While at the helm of the 22nd Division, General Hieu often performed joint operations with the following American and Korean allied units: US 1st Cavalry Division, ROK Tiger Division, US 4th Infantry Division, US 173rd Airborne Brigade, US 1st Battalion/50th Mechanized Infantry, ROK 9th Marine Corps Regiment, US 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion, US 174th Assault Helicopter Company, US 7/15th Field Artillery Battalion and 19th Engineer Combat Battalion.

General Tolson, US 1st Cavalry Division, mentioned Colonel Hieu in his book entitled Airmobility 1961-1971: "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."

In addition, some American veterans still remembered General Hieu as following:

* We often flew the Commander of the 22nd ARVN Division to and from joint planning conferences with the ROK forces. The call sign of our helicopter was Pelican 844. If my recollection is correct the Commander had visited a house next to the American PX in Qui Nhon and I seem to recall him having a young Lt for an aide and there were children playing in front of the residence often. I assumed that he had lived there or that there might have been family there. In fact he often met with the CO of the Tiger Division and we often flew him. I believe there were several occasions where we took him to Tuy Hoa just South of Qui Nhon where the Republic of Korea 9th Marine Rgt was based. It has been a long time since I have been in Vietnam. However, my best memory of him is that he was a very proud man who was respected by his troops. (Jason Kaatz, 161st Assault Helicopter Company, 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion)

* I do remember meeting him at a staff briefing of some sort. He was certainly spellbinding. My recollection is that he was observing, listening, with only a question or two to offer for clarification. (Robert Reilly, Engineer Liaison Officer, US 4th Infantry Division)

* I fought with General Hieu when I was in the First Cavalry Division in 1967 and 1968. I commanded a platoon of CH-47 helicopters and I remember this Eagle Claw battle well and the coordination with Vietnamese and Korean units. We fought on The Bong Son Plain and into the An Lao Valley. I am greatly disappointed that I never met General Hieu. The First Cavalry Commander I knew very well. When he commanded the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker Alabama, I arranged and taught class on aerial artillery adjustment which General Tolson asked me to prepare. When he and then Colonel Putnam went to Viet Nam, they asked that I go with them. This Universe is a big place but it is small enough that I served beside such a hero. (Carle "Gene" Dunn, LTC (retired), US 1st Cavalry Division)

* I served with the 174th Assault Helicopter Company and had participated in four operations conducted by General Hieu at the time he was Commander of the 22nd Infantry Division. I did not know him well. Remember, he was a general and I was just a major at the time. I can say, without reservation, that I had a great amount of respect for him. He took on some tough assignments and the proof of his dedication and commitment was that he always met with success. (Jim Shrader, Major, US 174th Assault Helicopter Company)

Under the able leadership of General Hieu, the 22nd Division achieved high results as noted in the 1st Quarter 1969 Assessment reported by the American advisors of II Corps:

The 22d Division spent more time on combat operations than any other division in the country during the period. Time spent supporting pacification amounted to only about 10 percent of the total available battalion days. This is due to a II Corps directive which releases regular forces from pacification and employs RF and PF instead. Countrywide, the 22d Division spent the least time on security. The highest number of contacts per battalion in the Corps were made in this division, and the number of enemy KIA nearly tripled from the previous quarter.

In the tactical operational areas of 22nd Infantry Division, besides small guerrilla units, the enemy operated with its 3rd Yellow Star NVA Division, comprising the three 2nd, 18th and 22nd NVA Regiments.

Nguyen Van Tin
21 April 2003

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