Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Friday, January 26, 2007


This is coolbert:

Here is another Asian people that have demonstrated a marked martial ability.

The Nungs of Vietnam.

Were widely employed as mercenaries by American forces during the Vietnam War [2nd Indo-China War].

Recruited and organized into Mobile Strike Forces [MSF]. Battalion sized units that had an extraordinary fighting capacity and ability. Recruited, selected, organized, trained, led, by American Special Forces [SF] troops. The "Green Berets".

[these Mobile Strike Forces were called MIKE FORCES. "MIKE" of course in the phonetic alphabet stands for the letter "M". For Mobile. But better understood as being named after Mike Healey, the five time commander of SF troops in Vietnam. The brainchild of General Healey. Created to fill a gap that the General perceived existed.]

The Nungs have been studied by anthropologists and ethnologists and are recognized as an ethnic Chinese populace living among the Vietnamese but still following their own peculiar Chinese cultural customs. A distinct population following an agrarian live style. Persons who are KNOWN for having an excellent reputation as fighters and soldiers. It is this reputation that made them attractive to the SF.

[the Nung to me resemble the Ghurkha in many respects. People that make good soldiers because of "national" characteristics. Persons small in stature [Ghurkhas are more robust?], slightly built, but still making good fighters.]

As I have said, the Nungs were recruited, selected, organized, trained, and led into combat by American SF troops. SF soldiers are the MOST HIGHLY TRAINED SOLDIERS IN THE WORLD!! MUST BE SO! Have an extremely difficult mission. Deploy to a combat zone anywhere in the world with an insurgency/counter-insurgency mission. Work with the indigenous population, creating and employing battalion sized guerilla forces in furtherance of U.S. interests.

[each Nung Mike Force was commanded by a U.S. SF "A" team. A twelve man self-contained combined-arms force commanded by a Captain.]

A total of five [?] Mike Force battalion sized units were employed by U.S. SF in Vietnam. Were used with effectiveness all throughout the major part of American involvement in the conflict.

Battalion sized units of about 600 Nungs. Consisting of a fighting force of 500 troops and 100 civilian Nung service personnel.

[I quote here from a SF a MIKE Force after-action report concerning originally classified C O N F I D E N T I A L [at least in 1966 it was!]]

The "A" team SF was expected to:

* "train and employ in combat operations a MIKE (Nung) Force of up to 600 Chinese (Nung) soldiers."

* "500 man Nung Reaction Force and the 100 man civilian service sec-tion."

[That 500 man reaction force was the actual fighting unit. Evidently the 100 other Nungs were support and service personnel.]

* "From these resources are drawn personnel for the Guard Platoon of the Nung Force, Cooks, Clerks, and drivers."

The martial abilities of the Nung were well appreciated by the American SF.

"The Nungs have a long and glorious history which makes the present members of the Force proud. This history alone is a source of pride. Good pay, adequate food and living conditions, strict discipline and fair treatment tended to raise them morale and efficiency of the Nung Soldiers."

Not only did the SF get good fighters when they decided to use their Nungs as mercenaries, they got them on the cheap too.

"The Nung Reaction Force was authorized to spend a total of 3,100,000$VN ($27,000.00 USD) monthly under cost code 904, which is a spe-cial cost code for Nung Forces under the CIDG Finance program. The main expenditures were the three [four?] following categories:

* Nung Civilian Payroll.

* subsistence.

* Nung Payroll [Reaction Force?].

* Necessary local purchases."

[that works out to $45/per man/per month!! Cheap price but good quality!! Hard to beat that!!]

The missions of the MIKE Force were:

* Reinforcement of a threatened CIDG Camp area or to a CIDG area under attack.

* Relief of a besieged CIDG Force.

* Temporary replacement for combat ineffective units.

* Reconnaissance to locate Viet Cong targets.

* DZ/LZ selection, marking and securing to infiltrate of exfiltrate other units.

* Act as an immediate reaction combat force.

* Act as security during initial stages of camp development.

These were rough, hard, dangerous missions. MOST pertinent was the immediate reaction mission. This is primarily what General Healey had in mind when he conceived of the Nung MIKE Force. A unit, commanded and led by American SF, that would be able to rescue American advisors or troop units who found themselves in DIRE circumstances. Those "last stand" type of battles I have described in a prior blog entry. Desperate fights, quite often battles at remote SF camps, where overwhelming numbers of the enemy sought to destroy and annihilate an American or American led unit.

Read here, and here about MIKE Force and Nung combat actions in Vietnam. It seems that NOT ONLY American SF were in command of MIKE units. Also seems that Australian officers had their own command too. To give aspiring young talented Australian infantry officers combat experience.


"An initial four (4) weeks basic training phase was conducted followed by an ad-vanced training phase which included actual combat operations and a retraining phase conducted as a result of the deficiencies noted on actual operations."

Four weeks of “brisk” basic training. Cut-out all the “bullshit” and concentrate on what counts and is necessary. Further advanced training learned WHILE ON THE JOB!! Remedial training administered when deficiencies observed in the field. Sounds tough and rough. But evidently worked. Everyone of those Nungs had signed on to FIGHT and FIGHT they would.

All training encompassed the following subject:

* Immediate action drill.

* Scouting and patrolling techniques including night training.

* Land navigation and map reading.

* Evasion and Escape.

* Securing DZs and LZs.

* Combat intelligence.

* Demolitions.

* Search operations.

* conduct of raids.

* Occupation of clandestine assembly areas.

* LMGs and Mortars.

* Conduct of hasty defense and withdrawal.

* Communications (including air to ground).

* Heliborne operations.

* Infiltration techniques.

* Selection and marking of DZ and LZs.

* Terminal guidance for air drop and air landed operations.

Additional training of a specialized nature was given to:

* Two squad size elements were trained in reconnaissance and surveillance type work.

These special elements within the MIKE Force were expected to:

* The mission of these elements were to find enemy forces, their bases caches and routes they used, for the Reaction Force to disrupt and destroy.

* Due to these elements’ unique mission they were well rehearsed in route, zone and area reconnaissance and the proper detailed reporting methods.

Those squads specially trained in reconnaissance, long-range-patrolling, intelligence gathering sounds quite similar, if not identical to what is described by Hans Wagenmuller in the book, “Devil’s Guard”.

"Gruppe Drei was our advance guard, the "Trailblazers", the unit on which our existence depended. It consisted of only thirty men but they were specially trained. Every member of the group had completed a rigorous six-month training schedule that included bomb detection and demolition, trap detection, tracking, and general woodsmanship."

The MIKE Force carried a variety of weapons, to include:

* US Carbine, cal 30 M2. The M2 carbine was a World War Two [WW2] style weapon based on the Garand design. Favored by the SF. Originally came with a fifteen round magazine. Later was equipped with a thirty round magazine and an automatic capability.

* BAR. Browning Automatic Rifle. The squad level automatic weapon. Heavy, but with a powerful round.

* Machine gun, cal 30. This was the Browning thirty caliber machine gun and NOT the M60?

* Pistol, cal 45.

* M-79 Grenade Launcher. The M79 grenade launcher was just coming on line at the time and being issued to U.S. troops as well. A squad level weapon.

* 60mm Mortar.

* M-16 Rifle.

MIKE Force units wore the distinctive "Tiger suit" style camouflage uniform. With the floppy "boonie" hat.

The MIKE Force did NOT have to possess heavy weaponry. If the mission was as a reaction force, rescuing embattled GI’s, light weight was an asset [while still having a pretty good organic firepower capability]. Move into the area by heliborne air assault, form up, assault and rescue the endangered GI’s, get out of the area as quickly as possible. I would assume the MIKE Force would be given priority to have on-call a whole host of firepower to support them. Helicopter gunships, AC-47 “Puff the Magic Dragon” gunships, artillery, close-air-support, etc.

Nungs were also used extensively in what were euphemistically called Studies & Observation Group [SOG] military operations.

Vietnam War border incursions by allied forces. Reconnaissance, intelligence, long-range-patrols into what was called “denied” territory. Cross-border operations from South Vietnam into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam. Border crossings that were generally precluded for all U.S. personnel. U.S. troops by regulation, policy, or rules-of-engagement normally could not cross over into those nations, regardless of reason. “Indigenous” personnel, such as the Nungs, WERE NOT prohibited from border-crossing operations, and were used by SOG command for risky missions, primarily gathering intelligence. These missions, again, were highly risky, and quite often resulted in a high casualty rate!

It may very well be that those special Nung MIKE Force squads trained for long-range-patrolling missions WERE the ones that carried out the bulk of those cross-border operations. Of this I cannot be sure.

The Nung MIKE forces were disbanded in 1971. Having served their purposes, no longer required in the aftermath of American withdrawal from Indo-China. With communist victory, I cannot but think that the fate of the Nungs was anything but good. Those troops that had actually served in the MIKE forces would have either been outright executed or worked to death in a forced labor camp. The Nung people as a whole would have become pariahs. Considered to be traitors and a suspect group who had to be suppressed and "watched".



Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband an army helicopter pilot during 1967-1968 flew Nung mercenaries across the border into Loas.

12:25 PM

Anonymous said...

Was attached to 5thSFG HQ Nha Trang 1963-64. One resp was sec of radar globe NE new camp across new runway. Had pltn of Nungs, a squad per 8-hr, these guys were best sold. I ever saw, bar none. Only ones I trusted, including the Yards (Montagnards).

12:02 PM


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