Family Tree Friday: An overview of Vietnam War-era records
As I’ve been reviewing pertinent records over the past several weeks relating to 20th-century military service, it’s finally time to say a few words about those that document the Vietnam War. Instead of focusing on any one specific series, a general overview seems to offer the best approach to highlight these records, especially since they have been organized into their own record group: RG 472, Records of the United States Forces in Southeast Asia, 1950-1975. Among a variety of headquarters and administrative records relating to such high-level military organizations as the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) Vietnam and the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), RG 472 holds records of the records of subordinate commands of the United States Army Vietnam (USARV) for 1965-73, including army corps, combat divisions and brigades, and some company-level tactical organizations (although, as a rule, it is usually difficult to locate company records for standard combat units). Here’s a complete breakdown of available records:
- Corps-sized organizations: Correspondence, daily journals, reports, issuances, and publications of I Field Force Vietnam, II Field Force Vietnam, and the Capital Military Assistance Command, 1965- 72.
- Combat divisions: Correspondence, daily journals, reports, issuances, and organizational histories, 1965-72, of the 1st, 4th, 9th, 23d (Americal), and 25th Infantry Divisions; 1st Cavalry (Airmobile); and 101st Airborne.
- Combat brigades: Correspondence, daily journals, reports, issuances, and organizational histories, 1965-72, of the 11th, 196th, 198th, and 199th Infantry (Light) Brigades; 1st Brigade of the 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized); 3d Brigade of the 82d Airborne Division; and 173d Airborne.
- Combat support brigades: Correspondence, daily journals, reports, issuances, and organizational histories, 1967-72, of the 1st Aviation, 18th and 20th Engineer, 44th Medical, 18th Military Police, and 1st Signal Brigades.
- Logistical support units: Correspondence, daily journals, reports, issuances, and organizational histories, 1965-73, of the 1st Logistical Command; U.S. Army Support Commands, Cam Ranh Bay, Da Nang, Qui Nhon, Saigon, and Vung Tau; U.S. Army Depots, Cam Ranh Bay, Da Nang, Long Binh, and Qui Nhon; Logistics Data Service Center; U.S. Army Inventory Control Center, Vietnam; U.S. Army Procurement Agency, Vietnam; U.S. Army Property Disposal Agency, Vietnam; and U.S. Army Mortuaries, Saigon and Da Nang.
- Tactical units: Correspondence, daily journals, operational and intelligence reports, issuances, and organizational histories, 1965-72, of groups, battalions, detachments, and company-level units, arranged by branch (armor and cavalry; artillery; aviation; infantry; engineer; military police; signal; adjutant general; chemical; civil affairs and psychological operations; finance; maintenance; medical; military history; military intelligence; ordnance; public information; quartermaster; service, supply, and support; and transportation), and then by unit designation.
An example of the type of unit records you can find in RG 472 is the combat after action report of the Battle of Dak To for the 173rd Airborne Brigade (ARC ID 305331), which is part of the brigade’s operations file on Dak To in the series “After Action Reports, 1965-71″ (ARC ID 305329). The report essentially documents in considerable narrative detail a search and destroy mission against two NVA units conducted by the 4th Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry on November 6, 1967.
For anyone interested in unit combat during the Vietnam War, the Records of United States Forces in Southeast Asia (RG 472) should be a definite starting point.