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Vietnam People's Ground Forces

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Vietnam People's Ground Forces

Vietnam People's Army
Quân đội Nhân dân Việt Nam

Flag of Vietnam People's Army. Slogan translates as "Determined to win."
Founded December 22, 1944
Service branches Coast Guard
Headquarters Hanoi, Vietnam
Chairman of Central Military Commission
General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng
President Trương Tấn Sang
Minister of Defence General Phùng Quang Thanh
Chief of Staff Colonel General Đỗ Bá Tỵ
Military age 18–25 years old
Conscription 18 months, none enforced
Active personnel Ground Forces: 412,000[1]
Air Forces, Navy, Border Defence Force, Marine Police: unknown
Deployed personnel Paramilitary: 40,000
Budget US $4 billion (Military Balance2007)
Percent of GDP 2.5% (2009 est.)
Domestic suppliers Hong Ha shipbuilding company (Z173)

Ba Son trust-company

Foreign suppliers  India
 South Korea
Annual imports  United States
Related articles
History Military history of Vietnam
Ranks Vietnamese military ranks and insignia

The Vietnam People's Army (VPA; Vietnamese: Quân Đội Nhân Dân Việt Nam), also known as the Vietnamese People's Army and the People's Army of Vietnam, is the armed forces of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The VPA includes: Ground Force (including Strategic Rear Forces), Navy, Air Force, Vietnam Border Defense Force, and Vietnam Coast Guard. However, Vietnam does not have a specific separate Ground Forces or Army branch. All of the ground troops, army corps, military districts, and specialized arms belong to the Ministry of Defence (Vietnam), directly under command of the Central Military Commission, Minister of Defence, and General Staff (Vietnam People's Army).

The military flag of the Vietnam People's Army is the flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam with the words Quyết thắng (Determination to Win) added in yellow at the top left.

During the French Indochina War (1946–1954), the VPA was often referred to as the Việt Minh. In the context of the Vietnam War (1959–1975), the army was referred to as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). This allowed writers, the U.S. military, and the general public, to distinguish northern communists from the southern communists, or Viet Cong. However, both groups ultimately worked under the same command structure. According to Hanoi's official history, the Vietcong was a branch of the VPA.[3] In 2010 the Vietnam People's Army undertook the role of leading the 1,000th Anniversary Parade in Hanoi by performing their biggest parade in Vietnam's history.



The Vietnam People's Army was first conceived in September 1944 at the first Revolutionary Party Military Conference as "armed propaganda brigades" to educate, recruit and mobilize the Vietnamese in order to create a main force to drive the

The group was renamed the "Vietnam Liberation Army" in May 1945.[5] In September, the army was again renamed the "Vietnam National Defence Army."[5] At this point, it had about 1,000 soldiers.[5] In 1950, it officially became the People's Army of Vietnam.

Vo Nguyen Giap went on to become the first full General of the VPA on May 28, 1948, and famous for leading the VPA in victory over French forces at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and being in overall command against US backed South Vietnam at the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.

French Indochina War

Main article: First Indochina War

On January 7, 1947, its first regiment, the 102nd 'Capital' Regiment, was created for operations around Hanoi.[6] Over the next two years, the first division, the 308 Division, later well known as the Pioneer Division formed by the 88th Tu Vu Regiment and the 102nd Capital Regiment. By late 1950 the 308 Division had a full three infantry regiments, when it was supplemented by the 36th Regiment. At that time, the 308 Division was also backed by the 11th Battalion that later became the main force of the 312th Victory Division. In late 1951, after launching three campaigns against three French strongpoints in the Red River Delta, the VPA refocused on building up its ground forces further, with five new divisions, each of 10–15,000 men, created: the 304 Glory Division at Thanh Hoa, the 312th Victory Division in Vinh Phuc, the 316th Bong Lau Division in the northwest border region, the 320th Delta Division in the north Red River Delta, the 325th Binh Tri Thien Division in Binh Tri Thien province. Also in 1951, the first artillery Division, the 351st Division was formed, and later, before Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, for the first time in history, it was equipped by 24 captured 105mm US howitzers supplied by the Chinese People's Liberation Army. The first six divisions (308th, 304th, 312nd, 316th, 320th, 325th) became known as the original VPA 'Steel and Iron' divisions. In 1954 four of these divisions (the 308th, 304th, 312nd, 316th, supported by the 351st Division's captured U.S. howitzers) defeated the French Union forces at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, ending 83 years of French rule in Indochina.

Vietnam War

Main article: Vietnam War

Soon after the 1954 Geneva Accords, the 330th and 338th Divisions were formed by southern Vietminh members who had moved north in conformity with that agreement, and by 1955, six more divisions were formed: the 328th, 332nd, and 350th in the north of the DRV, the 305th and the 324th near the DMZ, and the 335 Division of soldiers repatriated from Laos. In 1957, the theaters of the war with the French were reorganized as the first five military regions, and in the next two years, several divisions were reduced to brigade size to meet the manpower requirements of collective farms.

By 1958 it was becoming increasingly clear that the South Vietnamese government was solidifying its position as an independent republic under Ngo Dinh Diem who staunchly opposed the terms of the Geneva Accord that required a national referendum on unification of north and south Vietnam under a single national government, and North Vietnam prepared to settle the issue of unification by force.

In May 1959 the first major steps to prepare infiltration routes into South Vietnam were taken; Group 559 was established, a logistical unit charged with establishing routes into the south via Laos and Cambodia, which later became famous as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. At about the same time, Group 579 was created as its maritime counterpart to transport supplies into the South by sea. Most of the early infiltrators were members of the 338th Division, former southerners who had been settled at Xuan Mai from 1954 onwards.

Regular formations were sent to Southern Vietnam from 1965 onwards; the 325th Division's 101B Regiment and the 66th Regiment of the 304th Division met U.S. forces on a large scale, a first for the VPA, at the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in November 1965. The 308th Division's 88A Regiment, the 312th Division's 141A, 141B, 165A, 209A, the 316th Division's 174A, the 325th Division's 95A, 95B, the 320A Division also faced the US forces which included the 1st Cavalry Division, the 101st Airborne Division, the 173d Airborne Brigade, the 4th Infantry Division, the 1st Infantry Division, and the 25th Infantry Division. Those VPA formations were seen as extremely brave forces by the US forces. Many of those formations later became main forces of the 3rd Division (Yellow Star Division) in Binh Dinh (1965), the 5th Division (1966) of 7th Military Zone (Capital Tactical Area of ARVN), the 7th (created by 141st and 209th Regiments originated in the 312th Division in 1966) and 9th Divisions (first Division of National Liberation Front of Vietnam in 1965 in Mekong Delta), the 10th Dakto Division in Dakto – Highland in 1972 south of Vietnam.

General Tran Van Tra one time commander of the B2 Front (Saigon) HQ confirms that even though the VPA and the NLFV were confident in their ability to defeat the regular ARVN forces, US intervention in Vietnam forced them to reconsider their operations. The decision was made to continue to pursue "main force" engagements even though "there were others in the South — they were not military people — who wanted to go back to guerrilla war," but the strategic aims were adjusted to meet the new reality.

"We had to change our plan and make it different from when we fought the Saigon regime, because we now had to fight two adversaries — the United States and South Vietnam. We understood that the U.S. Army was superior to our own logistically, in weapons and in all things. So strategically we did not hope to defeat the U.S. Army completely. Our intentions were to fight a long time and cause heavy casualties to the United States, so the United States would see that the war was unwinnable and would leave."[7]

During the Vietnamese Lunar New Year Tết Holiday starting on January 30th of 1968, the VPA launched a general offensive in more than 60 cities and towns throughout south of Vietnam against the US Army and Army of the Republic of Vietnam-(ARVN), beginning with operations in the border region to try and draw US forces and ARVN troops out of the major cities. In sequential coordinated attacks, the US Embassy in Saigon, Presidential Palace, Headquarters of ARVN and ARVN's Navy, TV and Radio Stations, Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Saigon were attacked and invaded by commando forces known as "Dac Cong".

This offensive became known as the "Tet Offensive."

The offensives caught the world's attention day-by-day and demoralized the US public and military, both at home and abroad. The VPA sustained heavy losses of its main forces in southern military zones. Some of its regular forces and command structure had to escape to Laos and Cambodia to avoid counterattacks from US forces and ARVN, while local guerrillas forces and political organizations in South Vietnam were exposed and had a hard time remaining within the Mekong Delta area due to the extensive use of the Phoenix Program and were never restored.

Although the VPA lost militarily to the US forces and ARVN in the south, the political impact of the war in the United States was strong.[8] Public demonstrations increased in ferocity and quantity after the Tet Offensive. Onwards from 1970, the 5th, 7th, and 9th divisions had fought in Cambodia against US forces, ARVN, and Cambodian Prime Minister Lon Nol's troops but they had gained new allies: the Khmer Rouge and guerrilla fighters supporting deposed Prime Minister Sihanouk. In 1975 the VPA were successful in aiding the Khmer Rouge in toppling the Lon Nol's US-backed regime, despite heavy US bombing.

Nearly two years after the United States' withdrawal from Indochina in accord with the terms of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, the VPA launched a Spring Offensive aimed at uniting Vietnam. Without direct support of its US ally, and suffering from stresses caused by dwindling aid, the ARVN was ill prepared to confront the highly motivated VPA, and despite numerical superiority of the ARVN in tactical aircraft, armored vehicles and overwhelming three to one odds in regular troops, the VPA quickly secured victory within two months and captured Saigon on April 30, 1975, effectively ending the 70 years of conflict stemming from French colonial invasion of the 19th century and unifying Vietnam.

Military activities (1975–1990)

Main article: Sino-Vietnamese conflicts 1979–1990

Towards the second half of the 20th century the armed forces of Vietnam would participate in organized incursions against the neighboring Indochinese countries of Laos, Cambodia and China.

  • The VPA had forces in Laos in order to secure the Hochiminh Trail and to militarily support the Pathet Lao. In 1975 the Laotian forces succeeded in toppling the Royal Laotian regime and installing a new, and pro-Hanoi government, the Lao People's Democratic Republic,[9] that rules Laos to this day.
  • Parts of Sihanouk's neutral Cambodia were occupied by troops as well. A pro US coup led by Lon Nol in 1970 led to the foundation pro-US Khmer Republic state. This marked the beginning of the Cambodian Civil War. The VPA aided Khmer Rouge forces in toppling Lon Nol's government in 1975. In 1978, along with the FUNSK Cambodian Salvation Front, the Vietnamese and Ex-Khmer Rouge forces succeeded in toppling Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea regime and installing a new government, the People's Republic of Kampuchea. Unlike in Laos, the PRK/SOC state would not be recognized by the United Nations, despite the genocidal record of the regime that had been overthrown.[10]
  • During the Sino-Vietnamese War and the Sino-Vietnamese conflicts 1979-1990, Vietnamese forces would conduct cross-border raids into Chinese territory in order to destroy artillery ammunition. This greatly contributed to the outcome of the Sino-Vietnamese War, as the Chinese forces ran out of ammunition already at an early stage and had to call in reinforcements.
  • While occupying Cambodia, Vietnam launched several armed incursions into Thailand in pursuit of Cambodian guerillas that had taken refuge on the Thai side of the border.

Both in Cambodia and in Laos, the heavily armed and battle-hardened Vietnam People's Army were a valuable ally to the Pathet Lao and the Khmer Rouge forces, providing economic and military aid, also with new weapons, technologies and intelligence. Some claimed that just like the US Army's relationship with the ARVN, Kingdom of Laos and the Khmer Republic, the VPA was the real power standing behind them and played key roles in bringing both the Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao to power.


During peaceful periods, the VPA has actively been involved in Vietnam's workforce to develop the economy of Vietnam, to coordinate national defense and the economy. The VPA has regularly sent troops to aid with natural disasters such as flooding, landslides etc. The VPA is also involved in such areas as industry, agriculture, forestry, fishery and telecommunications. The VPA has numerous small firms which have become quite profitable in recent years. However, recent decrees have effectively prohibited the commercialisation of the military. A conscription is in place for every male, age 18 to 25 years old, though females can volunteer to join.

International presence

The Foreign Relations Department of the Ministry of National Defense organizes international operations of the VPA.

Apart from its occupation of half of the disputed Spratly Islands, which have been claimed as Vietnamese territory since the 17th century, Vietnam has not officially had forces stationed internationally since its withdrawal from Cambodia and Laos in early 1990.

The Centre for Public Policy Analysis and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as Laotian and Hmong human rights organizations have provided evidence that since the end of the Vietnam War, significant numbers of Vietnamese military and security forces continue to be sent to Laos, on a repeated basis, to quell and suppress Laotian political and religious dissident and opposition groups including the peaceful 1999 Lao Students for Democracy protest in Vientiane in 1999 and the Hmong rebellion.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21] Rudolph Rummel has estimated that 100,000 Hmong perished in genocide between 1975 and 1980 in collaboration with Vietnam People's Army.[22] For example, in late November 2009, shortly before the start of the 2009 Southeast Asian Games in Vientiane, the Vietnamese army undertook a major troop surge in key rural and mountainous provinces in Laos where Lao and Hmong civilians and religious believers, including Christians, have sought sanctuary.[23][24]


The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is the President of Vietnam, though this position is nominal and real power is assumed by the Central Military Commission of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam. The secretary of Central Military Commission (usually the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam) is the de facto Commander and now is Nguyễn Phú Trọng.

The Minister of National Defense oversees operations of the Ministry of Defence, and the VPA. He also oversees such agencies as the General Staff and the General Logistics Department. However, military policy is ultimately directed by the Central Military Commission of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.

  • Ministry of Defence: is the lead organization, highest command and management of the Vietnam People's Army.
  • General Staff Department: is leading agency all levels of the Vietnam People's Army, command all of the armed forces, which functions to ensure combat readiness of the armed forces and manage all military activities in peace and war.
  • General Political Department: is the agency in charge of Communist Party affairs – political work in the People's Army, which operates under the direct leadership of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Central Military Party Committee.
  • General Military Intelligence Department: is an intelligence agency of the Vietnamese government and military.
  • General Logistical Department: is the agency in charge to ensure the full logistical and military unit.
  • General Technical Department: is the agency in charge to ensure equipped technical means of war for the army and each unit.
  • General Military Industry Department: is the agency in charge guide task to defense perform and production.

Service branches

The Vietnamese People's Army is subdivided into the following service branches:

  • Vietnam People's Ground Forces (Lục quân Nhân dân Việt Nam)
  • Vietnam People's Navy (Hải quân Nhân dân Việt Nam)
  • Vietnam People's Air Force (Không quân Nhân dân Việt Nam)
  • Vietnam Border Defense Force (Biên phòng Việt Nam)
  • Vietnam Coast Guard (Cảnh sát biển Việt Nam)

The Vietnamese People's Army is a "triple armed force" composed of the Main Force, the Local Force and the Border Force. As with most countries' armed forces, the VPA consists of standing, or regular, forces as well as reserve forces. During peacetime, the standing forces are minimized in number, and kept combat-ready by regular physical and weapons training, and stock maintenance.

Vietnam People's Ground Forces

In the Vietnam People's Army, Ground Forces haven't been established as a full Command, thus all of the ground troops, army corps, military districts, specialized arms belong to the Ministry of Defence (Vietnam), under directly command of the General Staff (Vietnam People's Army). The Vietnam Strategic Rear Forces (Lực lượng dự bị chiến lược) is also a part of the Ground Forces.


Infantry Tank & Armored Artillery Commando Armored Infantry Sapper Medical Corps Information
Transport Technology Chemistry Ordnance Military Court Ensemble Military Sports Military Bands

Military Districts

Main force

The main force of the VPA consists of combat ready troops, as well as support units such as educational institutions for logistics, officer training, and technical training. In 1991, Conboy et al. stated that the VPA Ground Force had four 'Strategic Army Corps' in the early 1990s, numbering 1–4, from north to south.[26] 1st Corps (Vietnam People's Army), located in the Red River Delta region, consisted of the 308th (one of the six original 'Steel and Iron' divisions) and 312th Divisions, and the 309th Infantry Regiment. The other three corps, 2 SAC, 3 SAC, and 4 SAC, were further south, with 4th Corps (Vietnam People's Army), in what was South Vietnam, consisting of two former PLAF divisions, the 7th and 9th.

The IISS Military Balance 2008 attributes the Vietnamese ground forces with an estimated 412,000 personnel.[1] Formations, according to the IISS, include nine military districts, 14 corps headquarters, 10 armoured brigades, three mechanised infantry divisions, and 67 infantry divisions whose strengths range from 5,000 to 12,500. The 2008 IISS estimate of 14 corps headquarters appears to be too high. Vietnamese World Heritage Encyclopedia entries suggest that a number of other corps headquarters, including the 5th, 14th, and 68th, have indeed existed in the past, but now have been disbanded.

Smaller formations include 17 independent infantry regiments, one airborne brigade, various đặc công brigades and battalions of both of land combat – Đặc công bộ, urban combat – Đặc công biệt động and water-based combat – Đặc công nước (special task force units with unique high-level guerrilla offensive combat tactics, sometimes incorrectly identified as "Sappers"; previously there had been a commando hunting force of this branch during Vietnam war, which has now evolved into an anti-terrorist force), more than 10 brigades of field artillery, eight divisions and more than 20 independent brigades of engineers, and 10–16 economic construction divisions.

1st Corps Binh đoàn Quyết thắng (Corps with Determination to Win):

First organized on October 24, 1973 during the Vietnam War, 1st Corps had a major role in the Ho Chi Minh Campaign that ended the war. Stationed in Tam Điệp District, Ninh Binh. The combat forces of the corps include:

  • 390 Division
  • 308 Division
  • 312th Infantry Division
  • 320 Infantry Division
  • 367th Air Defence Division
  • 202nd Tank Brigade
  • 45th Artillery Brigade
  • 299th Engineers Brigade

Perfume River):

First organized on May 17, 1974 during the Vietnam War, 2nd Corps had a major role in the Ho Chi Minh Campaign that ended the war. Stationed in Lang Giang District, Bac Giang. The combat forces of the corps include:

  • Battle of Ia Drang)
  • 306th Infantry Division
  • 325th Infantry Division
  • 673rd Air Defence Division
  • 203rd Tank Brigade
  • 164th Artillery Brigade
  • 219th Engineers Brigade

Central Highlands)):

First organized on March 26, 1975 during the Vietnam War, 3rd Corps had a major role in the Ho Chi Minh Campaign and the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. Stationed in Pleiku, Gia Lai. The combat forces of the corps include:

  • 10th Infantry Division
  • 31st Infantry Division
  • 320th Division
  • 312th Air Defence Regiment
  • 273rd Tank Regiment
  • 675th Artillery Regiment
  • 198th Special Force Regiment
  • 29th Signal Regiment
  • 545th Engineers Regiment


First organized July 20, 1974 during the Vietnam War, 4th Corps had a major role in the Ho Chi Minh Campaign and the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. Stationed in Dĩ An, Bình Dương. The combat forces of the corps include:

  • 9th Infantry Division
  • 7th Infantry Division
  • 324th Infantry Division
  • 71st Air Defence Regiment
  • 24th Artillery Regiment
  • 429th Special Force Regiment
  • 550th Engineers Regiment

Local forces

Local forces are an entity of the VPA that, together with the militia and "self-defense forces," act on the local level in protection of people and local authorities. While the local forces are regular VPA forces, the militia consists of rural civilians, and the self-defense forces consist of civilians who live in urban areas and/or work in large groups, such as at construction sites or farms. The current number stands at 3–4 million part-time soldiers.

Vietnam People's Navy

Main article: Vietnam People's Navy

Vietnam People's Air Force

Main article: Vietnam People's Air Force

Vietnam Border Defense Force

Main article: Vietnam Border Defense Force

Vietnam Coast Guard

Main article: Vietnam Coast Guard

As mentioned above, reserves exist in all branches and are organized in the same way as the standing forces, with the same chain of command, and with officers and non-commissioned officers.

Ranks and insignia

  • The Highest ranks – General Officers:
Ranks Translation Ground Forces Air Force Navy Border Defense Marine Police
Đại tướng General
Thượng tướng/
Đô đốc
Colonel General/
Trung tướng/
Phó Đô đốc
Lieutenant General/
Vice Admiral(Navy)
Thiếu tướng/
Chuẩn Đô đốc
Major General/
Rear Admiral(Navy)


From the 1960s to 1975, the Soviet Union was the main supplier of military hardware to North Vietnam. After the latter's victory in the war, it remained the main supplier of equipment to Vietnam. The United States had been the primary supplier of equipment to South Vietnam; some of the equipment abandoned by the United States Army and Army of the Republic of Vietnam came under control of the re-unified Viet Nam's government. The PAVN captured large numbers of South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) weapons on April 30, 1975 after Saigon was merged (integrated).

  • 3,000+ tanks: 990 T-55 (to be upgraded to T-55M3) 220 T-62,480 T-72, 360 Type 59 and an unknown number of PT-76B light tanks.
  • 4,000+ APC: details below, ex Soviet and ex US origin
  • 24300 Artillery
  • 200 Helicopters



  • Conboy, Bowra, and McCouaig, 'The NVA and Vietcong', Osprey Publishing, 1991.
  • Military History Institute of Vietnam,(2002) Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People's Army of Vietnam, 1954–1975, translated by Merle L. Pribbenow. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-1175-4.


External links

  • Ministry of Defence Vietnam
  • Vietnamese People's Army English Edition
  • Center for Public Policy Analysis, Washington, D.C.

bn:ভিয়েতনামের সামরিক বাহিনী

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