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Republic of Vietnam Navy

Republic of Vietnam Navy

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The Republic of Vietnam Navy (Hải quân Việt Nam Cộng hòa) (VNN) was the naval force of the former Republic of Vietnam (or South Vietnam) from 1955 to 1975. The early fleet consisted of boats from France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. After 1955 and the transfer of the armed forces to Vietnamese control, the fleet was supplied from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. With assistance from the U.S., the VNN became one of the world's largest navies with 42,000 men and women and 672 amphibious ships and craft, 20 mine warfare vessels, 450 patrol craft, 56 service craft, and 242 junks.


The origins of the Viet Nam Navy (VNN) began in 1952 with the French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

. In 1954, in accordance with the Elysee Accords
Elysee Accords
The Élysée Accords were an agreement made in 1949 which would give Vietnam greater independence from France. The agreement was intended to increase U.S. support for France’s actions in Indochina as well as to convince ex-emperor Bảo Đại that France would give Vietnam greater independence...

, the French handed control of the armed forces to the Vietnamese, but at the request of the Vietnamese government, continued to be in charge of the Navy until 20 August 1955. By this time the Navy numbered about 2,000 personnel, with 22 vessels. The Vietnamese then received assistance in the development of the VNN from the United States Military Assistance Advisory Group
Military Assistance Advisory Group
Military Assistance Advisory Group is a designation for American military advisers sent to assist in the training of conventional armed forces of Third World countries. Before and during the Vietnam War, there were three of these groups operating in Southeast Asia...


Coastal Force

In 1956, the North Vietnam
North Vietnam
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam , was a communist state that ruled the northern half of Vietnam from 1954 until 1976 following the Geneva Conference and laid claim to all of Vietnam from 1945 to 1954 during the First Indochina War, during which they controlled pockets of territory throughout...

ese began infiltrating men and arms into the Republic of Vietnam's territory by sea. In response the VNN created the Coastal Junk Force of junks
Junk (ship)
A junk is an ancient Chinese sailing vessel design still in use today. Junks were developed during the Han Dynasty and were used as sea-going vessels as early as the 2nd century AD. They evolved in the later dynasties, and were used throughout Asia for extensive ocean voyages...

 manned by Regional Irregular Forces
South Vietnamese Regional Force
During the Vietnam War, the South Vietnamese Regional Forces were roughly akin to militias. Recruited locally, they fell into two broad groups - Regional Forces and Popular Forces . During the early 1960's the Regional Forces manned the country-wide outpost system and defended critical points, such...

 and local fishermen recruited for the occasion, to patrol the waters around the Demilitarized Zone
Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone
The Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone was established as a dividing line between North and South Vietnam as a result of the First Indochina War.During the Second Indochina War , it became important as the battleground demarcation separating North Vietnamese territory from South Vietnamese territory.-...

. The force later came to be known as Coastal Groups , and patrolled the entire 1200 miles (1,931.2 km) coastline. This force was under the control of the regional military zone commands rather than the Navy, and was not incorporated into the VNN until 1965, by which time it numbered over 100 vessels.

Expansion of the VNN

Growth of the VNN
Year Personnel Vessels
1955 2,000 22
1961 5,000 220
1964 8,100 ?
1967 16,300 639
1973 42,000 1,400

In the late-1950s the Vietnam Navy was being modernized and developed, receiving ships and training from the United States Navy. By 1961 the VNN had a force of 23 ships, the largest of which were LSMs, 197 boats, and 5,000 men. This was insufficient to counter the growing threat of enemy infiltration and the years 1962-1964 were marked by a rapid expansion; training facilities, repair bases, and support facilities were established; communications equipment and networks improved; and organization and administrative procedures strengthened. The number of ships increased to 44 and number of personnel to 8,100.

This process continued and by the end of 1967 the personnel strength of the VNN had increased to 16,300, with 65 ships, along with 232 vessels of the River Assault Group (RAG), 290 junks, and 52 miscellaneous craft. Throughout 1968 the VNN gave priority to the improvement and expansion of their training programs in anticipation of gaining increased responsibility in the war effort as well as additional assets from the US. By the end of 1968 plans for the turnover of the majority of the United States Navy assets in Vietnam had been formulated.


In early 1969, President Richard M. Nixon formally adopted the policy of "Vietnamization
Vietnamization was a policy of the Richard M. Nixon administration during the Vietnam War, as a result of the Viet Cong's Tet Offensive, to "expand, equip, and train South Vietnam's forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, at the same time steadily reducing the number of U.S....

". The naval part, called ACTOV ("Accelerated Turnover to the Vietnamese"), involved the phased transfer to Vietnam of the U.S. river and coastal fleet, as well as operational command over various operations. In mid-1969, the VNN took sole responsibility for river assault operations when the U.S. Mobile Riverine Force
Mobile Riverine Force
In the Vietnam War, the Mobile Riverine Force , initially designated Mekong Delta Mobile Afloat Force, and later euphemistically the Riverines, were a joint US Army and US Navy force that comprised a substantial part of the Brown Water Navy...

 stood down and transferred 64 riverine assault craft to the VNN. By the end of 1970, the U.S. Navy ceased all operations throughout South Vietnam, having transferred a total of 293 river patrol boats and 224 riverine assault craft to the VNN.

During 1970 and 1971 the United States also relinquished control of the coastal and high seas patrols to the VNN. The U.S. naval command also transferred four Coast Guard cutters, a destroyer escort radar picket ship, an LST, and various harbor control, mine craft, and support vessels. By August 1972, the VNN took responsibility for the entire coastal patrol effort when it took over the last 16 U.S. coastal radar installations.

In addition to ships and vessels, the U.S. transferred support bases. The first change of command occurred in November 1969 at Mỹ Tho, and the last in April 1972 at Nhà Bè, Bình Thủy
Binh Thuy
Bình Thủy is a district of Can Tho in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. As of 2003 the district had a population of 87,665. The district covers an area of 69 km².-Administrative divisions:The district is divided into 8 wards :...

, Cam Ranh Bay
Cam Ranh Bay
Cam Ranh Bay is a deep-water bay in Vietnam in the province of Khánh Hòa. It is located at an inlet of the South China Sea situated on the southeastern coast of Vietnam, between Phan Rang and Nha Trang, approximately 290 kilometers / 180 miles northeast of Hồ Chí Minh City / Saigon.Cam Ranh is...

, and Đà Nẵng
Da Nang
Đà Nẵng , occasionally Danang, is a major port city in the South Central Coast of Vietnam, on the coast of the South China Sea at the mouth of the Han River. It is the commercial and educational center of Central Vietnam; its well-sheltered, easily accessible port and its location on the path of...

. By 1973, the Vietnam Navy numbered 42,000 men and over 1,400 ships and vessels.

The end

In 1973 and 1974, as a result of the Paris Peace Accords
Paris Peace Accords
The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 intended to establish peace in Vietnam and an end to the Vietnam War, ended direct U.S. military involvement, and temporarily stopped the fighting between North and South Vietnam...

, the United States drastically cut its financial support for the Vietnamese armed forces. The VNN was compelled to reduce its overall operations by half, and its river combat and patrol activities by 70%. To conserve supplies, over 600 river and harbor craft and 22 ships were laid up.

On 19 January 1974, four VNN ships fought a battle with four ships of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy
People's Liberation Army Navy
The People's Liberation Army Navy is the naval branch of the People's Liberation Army , the military of the People's Republic of China. Until the early 1990s, the navy performed a subordinate role to the PLA Land Forces. Since then, it has undergone rapid modernisation...

 over ownership of the Paracel Islands, 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) due east of Đà Nẵng. The VNN ship Nhựt Tảo (HQ-10)
USS Serene (AM-300)
USS Serene was an built for the United States Navy during World War II. She served in the Pacific Ocean and was awarded six battle stars. She was decommissioned and placed in reserve in 1946. In January 1964, the former Serene was transferred to South Vietnam as RVNS Nhật Tảo in the Republic of...

 was sunk, Lý Thường Kiệt (HQ-16)
RVNS Ly Thuong Kiet (HQ-16)
RVNS Lý Thường Kiệt was a South Vietnamese frigate of the Republic of Vietnam Navy in commission from 1972 to 1975. She and her six sister ships were the largest South Vietnamese naval ships of their time....

 was heavily damaged, and both Trần Khánh Dư (HQ-4)
USS Forster (DE-334)
USS Forster was launched 13 November 1943 by Consolidated Steel Corp., Orange, Texas; sponsored by Mrs. E. W. Forster, widow of Machinist Forster; and commissioned 25 January 1944. She served as an escort in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during World War II...

 and Trần Bình Trọng (HQ-5)
USCGC Castle Rock (WAVP-383)
USCGC Castle Rock , later WHEC-383, was a Casco-class United States Coast Guard cutter in service from 1948 to 1971.-Construction and U.S. Navy service:...

 suffered light damage. The Chinese captured and occupied the islands.
In the spring of 1975, North Vietnamese forces occupied all of northern and central South Vietnam, and finally Saigon fell
Fall of Saigon
The Fall of Saigon was the capture of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by the People's Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front on April 30, 1975...

 on 30 April 1975. However Captain Kiem Do
Kiem Do
Kiem Do, a native of Hanoi, was a captain in the South Vietnamese Navy and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations when Saigon fell in 1975. During his twenty-one years in the Navy, he served as District Commander, Chief of Staff of the Mobile Riverine Force, and Commandant of the Vietnamese...

 had secretly planned and then carried out the evacuation of a flotilla of thirty-five Vietnam Navy and other vessels, with 30,000 sailors, their families, and other civilians on board, and joined the U.S. Seventh Fleet
United States Seventh Fleet
The Seventh Fleet is the United States Navy's permanent forward projection force based in Yokosuka, Japan, with units positioned near Japan and South Korea. It is a component fleet force under the United States Pacific Fleet. At present, it is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets, with...

 when it sailed for Subic Bay
Subic Bay
Subic Bay is a bay forming part of Luzon Sea on the west coast of the island of Luzon in Zambales, Philippines, about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila Bay. Its shores were formerly the site of a major United States Navy facility named U.S...

, Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

. Most of the Vietnamese ships were later taken into the Philippine Navy
Philippine Navy
The Philippine Navy is the naval arm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines . Its official name in Filipino is Hukbong Dagat ng Pilipinas, literally, "Sea Force of the Philippines"....

, though the LSM Lam Giang (HQ-402), fuel barge HQ-474, and gunboat Kéo Ngựa (HQ-604) were scuttled after reaching the open sea and transferring their cargo of refugees and their crews to other ships.

Fleet Command

VNN Fleet Command was directly responsible to the VNN Chief of Naval Operations for the readiness of ships and craft. The Fleet Commander assigned and scheduled ships to operate in the Coastal Zones, Riverine Areas, and the Rung Sat Special Zone
Rung Sat Special Zone
Rung Sat Special Zone, also known as the "Forest of Assassins" was an area of approximately 1256 square km of tidal mangrove swamp including over 4800 km of interlocking streams located approximately 36 km south-southeast of Saigon...

. All Fleet Command ships were home ported in Saigon and normally returned there after deployments. When deployed, operational control was assumed by the respective zone or area commander, and the ships operated from the following ports:
  • I Coastal Zone - Da Nang
    Da Nang
    Đà Nẵng , occasionally Danang, is a major port city in the South Central Coast of Vietnam, on the coast of the South China Sea at the mouth of the Han River. It is the commercial and educational center of Central Vietnam; its well-sheltered, easily accessible port and its location on the path of...

  • II Coastal Zone - Nha Trang
    Nha Trang
    Nha Trang is a coastal city and capital of Khanh Hoa province, on the South Central Coast of Vietnam. It is bounded on the North by Ninh Hoà district, on the East by the South China Sea, on the South by Cam Ranh town and on the West by Diên Khánh district...

    /Qui Nhơn
    Qui Nhon
    Qui Nhơn , also Quy Nhơn, is a coastal city in Binh Dinh province in central Vietnam. It is composed of 16 wards and five communes with a total of 286 km². Quy Nhon is the capital of Bình Định province. As of 2009 its population was 280,900. Historically, the commercial activities of the city...

  • III Coastal Zone - Vũng Tàu
    Vung Tàu
    Vũng Tàu is a city in southern Vietnam. Its population in 2005 was 240,000. The city area is including 13 urban wards and one village. It is the capital of Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, and is the crude oil extraction center of Vietnam. It is also known as one of the most beautiful cities of tourism...

    /Cần Thơ/Châu Đức
  • IV Coastal Zone - An Thoi/Phú Quốc
  • Rung Sat Special Zone - Nhà Bè


The VNN was organized into two flotillas: a patrol flotilla and a logistics flotilla. Flotilla I was composed of patrol ships, organized into four squadrons. The patrol types included LSSLs and LSILs
Landing Craft Infantry
The Landing craft, Infantry or LCI were several classes of sea-going amphibious assault ships of the Second World War utilized to land large numbers of infantry directly onto beaches. They were developed in response to a British request for a vessel capable of carrying and landing substantially...

 which normally operated only in Riverine Areas or the Rung Sat Special Zone; though occasionally they were assigned the four coastal zones. Operational commitments required that half of the patrol flotilla be deployed at all times, with a boat typically spending 40 to 50 days at sea on each patrol. Fleet Command patrol ships assigned to the riverine areas provided naval gunfire support
Naval gunfire support
Naval gunfire support is the use of naval artillery to provide fire support for amphibious assault and other troops operating within their range. NGFS is one of a number of disciplines encompassed by the term Naval Fires...

 as well as patrolling the main waterways in the riverine areas. One river patrol unit was assigned as convoy escort on the Mekong
The Mekong is a river that runs through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is the world's 10th-longest river and the 7th-longest in Asia. Its estimated length is , and it drains an area of , discharging of water annually....

 River to and from the Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

n border.

Flotilla II was composed of logistic ships, divided into two squadrons, supporting the naval units and bases throughout South Vietnam. Logistic ships were under the administrative control of the Fleet Commander, and under the operational control of the VNN Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics who acted upon orders from the Central Logistics Command of the Joint General Staff.


The VNN training establishment consisted of a Training Bureau located at VNN Headquarters, with Training Centers located in Saigon, Nha Trang
Nha Trang
Nha Trang is a coastal city and capital of Khanh Hoa province, on the South Central Coast of Vietnam. It is bounded on the North by Ninh Hoà district, on the East by the South China Sea, on the South by Cam Ranh town and on the West by Diên Khánh district...

, and Cam Ranh Bay
Cam Ranh Bay
Cam Ranh Bay is a deep-water bay in Vietnam in the province of Khánh Hòa. It is located at an inlet of the South China Sea situated on the southeastern coast of Vietnam, between Phan Rang and Nha Trang, approximately 290 kilometers / 180 miles northeast of Hồ Chí Minh City / Saigon.Cam Ranh is...


Saigon naval shipyard

The 57 acres (230,671 m²) Saigon Naval Shipyard, located on the southwest bank of the Saigon River
Saigon River
The Saigon River is a river located in southern Vietnam that rises near Phum Daung in southeastern Cambodia, flows south and south-southeast for about 140 miles and empties into the Nha Be River, which in its turn empties into the South China Sea some 20 km north-east of the Mekong Delta.The...

 about 30 miles (48.3 km) from the South China Sea
South China Sea
The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around...

, represented the largest single industrial complex in South East Asia. The shipyard had been created by the French in 1863 as a major repair and resupply base. In 1969, 1,800 men were employed there, repairing and overhauling vessels, enabling the VNN to maintain its continuous patrols of the coast.

Commanders of the VNN

  • Lieutenant Colonel (later Colonel) Lê Quang Mỹ, 1955–1957
  • Lieutenant Colonel Trần Văn Chơn, 1957–1959
  • Colonel Hồ Tấn Quyền, 1959–1963
  • Colonel (later Commodore) Chung Tấn Cang, 1963–1965
  • Colonel Trần Văn Phấn, 1965–1966
  • Lieutenant General Cao Văn Viên
    Cao Van Vien
    Cao Văn Viên was a Vietnamese soldier who served in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and rose to the position of Chairman of the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff...

    , September – November 1966
  • Colonel (later Commodore) Trần Văn Chơn, 1966–1974
  • Commodore Lâm Ngươn Tánh
    Lam Nguon Tanh
    Rear Admiral Lam Nguon Tanh last was Chief of Naval Operations of the Republic of Vietnam Navy during the Vietnam War. In 1974, he took part in the Battle of Hoang Sa between China...

    , 1974–1975
  • Vice Admiral Chung Tấn Cang, 24 March – 29 April 1975

See also

  • Ships of the Republic of Vietnam Navy
    Ships of the Republic of Vietnam Navy
    This list of ships of the Republic of Vietnam Navy, commonly known as the Vietnam Navy , includes all ships commissioned into service from its foundation in 1955, until its dissolution in 1975.-Hull numbers:...

  • Army of the Republic of Vietnam
    Army of the Republic of Vietnam
    The Army of the Republic of Viet Nam , sometimes parsimoniously referred to as the South Vietnamese Army , was the land-based military forces of the Republic of Vietnam , which existed from October 26, 1955 until the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975...

  • Republic of Vietnam Air Force
  • Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps
    Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps
    The Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps ) was part of the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam . It was established by Ngo Dinh Diem in 1954 when he was Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam, which became the Republic of Vietnam in 1955. The longest-serving commander was Lieutenant General Le...

External links