Nguyễn Văn Hiếu

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In this Vietnamese name, the family name is Nguyễn, but is often simplified to Nguyen in English-language text. According to Vietnamese custom, this person should properly be referred to by the given name Hiếu.
Nguyễn Văn Hiếu
Portrait of MG Nguyen Van Hieu
Born 23 June 1929
Tientsin, China
Died 8 April 1975 (aged 45)
Biên Hòa, Vietnam
Allegiance  South Vietnam
Service/branch Army of the Republic of Vietnam
Years of service 1950-1975
Rank Lieutenant general

Vietnam War

Major General Nguyễn Văn Hiếu (23 June 1929, Tientsin, China – 8 April 1975, Biên Hòa, Vietnam) was a general in the South Vietnamese army. As a youngster he lived in Shanghai. He later emigrated with his ethnic Vietnamese parents to Saigon when the Chinese Communists took over China in 1949.[1] He attended Aurore University in Shanghai, China. In 1950, he attended the Vietnamese Military Academy, graduating second in his class in 1951. In 1963, he graduated from Command and General Staff College, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

His assignments included G3/Joint General Staff,G3/1st Corps, Chief of Staff of 1st Division, Chief of Staff of I Corps, Chief of Staff of II Corps, Commander of 22nd Division, Chief of Staff of II Corps, Commander of 5th Division, Deputy Commander of I Corps, Minister of Anti-Corruption under Vice-President Trần Văn Hương, Deputy Commander of III Corps, Commander of Forward HQ III Corps, and MG Deputy Commander of III Corps. He was found dead on 8 April 1975 at III Corps Headquarters, Biên Hòa, and theories that he had been assassinated emerged. Two days later, he was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant General.

Military operations[edit]

Quyết Thắng 202 (Đỗ Xá), 1964[edit]

Hiếu, II Corps Chief of Staff, designed and executed Operation Quyết Thắng (Sure Win) 202[2] aiming directly at the impenetrable VC stronghold at Đỗ Xá, embedded deeply in the Annamite Mountains, at the junction of Kon Tum, Quảng Ngãi and Quảng Tin provinces, from 27 April to 27 May 1964. Units of 50th Regiment of 25th Division participated under the command of Major Phan Trong Trinh, four Ranger battalions under the command of Major Son Thuong and one Airborne battalion under the command of Captain Ngô Quang Trưởng.

Troops were ferried to two landing zones by three helicopters squadrons: USMC HMM-364 Squadron, 117th and 119th squadron of US Army 52nd Aviation Battalion. The Viet Cong attacked the helicopters at the landing zones during the two first days, and then vanished into the mountains, avoiding contacts with the invading troops. Operation Đỗ Xá achieved the following results: a communication network of the Viet Cong command composed of five stations was destroyed, one of which was used to communicate with North Vietnam, and the other four to link with provincial Viet Cong units; the enemy lost 62 killed, 17 captured, two 52 caliber machine guns, one 30 caliber machine gun, 69 individual weapons, and a large quantity of mines and grenades, engineer equipment, explosives, medicine, and documents; in addition, 185 structures, 17 tons of food and 292 acres (1.18 km2) of crops were destroyed.[citation needed]

Thần Phong II[edit]

In 1965, the Viet Cong attacked all over the Highlands belonging to II Military Region. Early July 1965, three NVA regiments (for sure the 32nd, and perhaps the 33rd) isolated completely the Highlands. ARVN units could not use National Route 1, 11, 14, 19 and 21, and all resupplies to the Highlands had to be performed by air. On 8 July 1965 Hiếu, II Corps Chief of Staff, was entrusted with the design and execution of a plan to reopen National Route 19.[3]

Contrary to the general practice of a road-clearing operation which consists in concentrating necessary troops to destroy in gradual steps the ambushes set up by the enemy along the highway, Hiếu intended to interdict the enemy to set up ambushed locations in resorting to diversionary tactic. From D-6 to D+2, he ordered the 22nd Division and the 3rd Armored Squadron to attack from Qui Nhơn to Tuy Hòa along National Route 1; the 2nd Airborne Task Force together with Regional Forces and Civilian Irregulars Defense Group Forces to retake Lê Thành District; to VNMC Alpha Task Force and the 42nd Regiment to attack from Pleiku up north to Đak Sut on National Route 14; and to the 20th Engineer Group to attack from Phú Bổn to Tuy Hòa to repair Interprovincial Route 7.

After sowing confusion among the enemy troops with the above-mentioned simultaneous big operations, Colonel Hiếu "press[ed] the Viet Cong from three directions with movements launched from Pleiku and Qui Nhơn and a vertical envelopment from north of An Khê. These maneuvers were executed by a task force of the Pleiku sector departing from Pleiku, two task forces of the 22d Infantry Division departing from Qui Nhơn, and a task force of two airborne battalions heliborne into northern An Khê and attacking south with Task Force Alpha of the marines brigade conducting the linkup." These actions resulted in the free flow of cargo convoys during 5 days from D+3 to D+7, "allowing an initial buildup of 5,365 tons of supplies in Pleiku". Later, operational units withdrew to their camps during D+8 and D+9. As a result of Operation Thần Phong, "the convoys transfused new life into the Highlands. Along with an immediate drop of 25 to 30 percent in the price of food and commodities, the population regained their feelings of security, confidence, and hope. Schoolboys in Pleiku voluntarily helped the troops in unloading the cargoes, and people who had started to evacuate now returned to their homesteads." [4]

Pleime, 1965[edit]

After the unsuccessful attempt to overcome the Special Force camp of Duc Co in August 1965, General Võ Nguyên Giáp launched the Winter Spring Campaign aiming at slicing South Vietnam into two pieces, from Pleiku in the Highlands to Qui Nhơn in the coastal regions. The plan of General Chu Huy Man, VC Field Commander was as following:[5]

  1. 33rd Regiments NVA feigns to attack camp Pleime to entice II Corps to dispatch relief column from Pleiku;
  2. 32nd Regiment NVA sets an ambush to destroy the relief column (an easy target without artillery support nearby);
  3. after destroying the relief column, 32nd Regiment NVA joins force with 33rd Regiment NVA in overcoming camp Pleime;
  4. in the meantime, with the defense of Pleiku weakened by the troops sent out to rescue camp Pleime, 66th Regiment NVA initiates a preliminary attack against II Corps HQ, awaiting 32nd and 33rd Regiments NVA to overcome camp Pleime and to join forces to attack and occupy Pleiku.

Hiếu consulted with US 1st Cavalry Division and came up with the following plan:

  1. II Corps feigns biting the bait by reinforcing camp Pleime with a unit of ARVN Airbone Rangers;
  2. and dispatches a task force from Pleiku to rescue camp Pleime;
  3. US 1st Cavalry Division lends a brigade to reinforce the defense of Pleiku;
  4. and heli-lifts artillery batteries to several locations near the ambush site to support the relief column when under attacked.

This plan neutralized the 66th Regiment NVA, which remained inactive in the Chư Prông area, destroyed the 33rd Regiment NVA at the ambush site, and the 32nd Regiment NVA had abandoned the siege of camp Pleime and withdrew into the surrounding jungles. [6]

Liên Kết 66[edit]

42nd Regiment of 22nd Division, reinforced by 3rd Airborne Task Force establishing a blockage position on the mountain side, joined force with the armored squadron of M113s in sweeping the enemy from National Route 1 into the mountains at Phù Cũ Pass in Bình Định province. Infantrymen in front line formation followed M113 armored vehicles launched fierce assaults, after a salvo of artillery firing. Airborne Task Force Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Nguyễn Khoa Nam observing the battle from the mountainside with binocular stated: “Colonel Hiếu conducts his troops like a seasoned 'armor officer', and combatants of 22nd Division fought as elegantly as our paratroopers.”[citation needed]

Đại Bàng 800[edit]

In February 1967, Colonel Hiếu launched Operation Đại Bàng 800.[7] For three days prior to Vietnamese operation, units of US 1st Cavalry Division were unsuccessful in discovering the enemy in their operational areas. Hiếu lured the enemy by dispatching a reduced regiment to set up an overnight camp in Phù Mỹ, knowing that enemy spies amongst the indigenous farmers would report the status of the operational troops. Hiếu positioned a motorized infantry battalion and an armored unit 10 kilometers away, out of enemies screen radar. Thinking they had an easy target, the enemy attacked the camp with a regiment belonging to 3rd Division NVA at 2:00 a.m. Alerted by the regiment's commander, Hiếu sent in the reserve forces to cut off the enemy's retreat and join forces with the defenders. After a three-hour fierce battle, the enemy reportedly left behind more than 300 dead and numerous weapons scattered all over the battleground.[citation needed]

Toàn Thắng 46[edit]

DCAT 70 reported:[8]

  • Background. From May to July 1970, 5th Division participated in the military excursion into Cambodia with Operation Total Victory 46 in the Fish Hook area, north of Lộc Ninh.
This base area was considered to be used by the 5th NVA Division as a headquarters location and training area, and the 70th Rear Service Group which moved supplies down the Serges Jungle Highway. Elements of the 5th NVA Division were identified along with elements of the 70th Rear Service Group and its affiliated hospitals.
  • Mission. To attack and destroy the 70th and 80th Rear Service Groups: one hospital and one training center. Division elements will locate and destroy or evacuate enemy foods, ammunition, weapons and medical caches in the operational area.
  • Planning. In preparation for the Cambodian operation Commanding General Hiếu of the 5th Division with his G3, the CDAT commander, and the DCAT G3 made the initial area coordination with Commanding General Casey of the 1st Cavalry Division and his G3. Upon completion of this initial coordination the Assistant Division Commander of the 5th Division, Commanding Officer of the 9th

Regiment, and the DCAT G3 effected direct coordination with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (US). During the operation coordination was made by the 9th Regimental Commander and his DCAT Commander for the joint occupation of Fire Support Base Gonder by elements of the 9th Regiment and the 1st Cavalry Division.

  • Execution. Operation Total Victory 46 was conducted in 5 phases. Phase I was the attack phase. Phase II, III and IV were search and destroy phases. Phase V was the withdrawal phase.

Toàn Thắng 8/B/5[edit]

DCAT 70 reported:[9]

  • Background: The 5th Division was notified by 3rd Corps Headquarters on 14 October 1970, to prepare for limited combat operations in the Snoul area of Cambodia, for the purpose of destroying enemy forces, installations, and obtaining enemy information. Operation Total Victory 8/B/9 was conducted from 23 October to 10 November 1970.
  • Enemy:
    1. NVA 5th Division: 174 Regiment, 275 Regiment, Z27 Recon Battalion;
    2. Rear Service Group 86, C11 (medical);
    3. C1/K2 Guerilla force, northwest of Snoul;
    4. Guerilla force, Snoul Town Market;
    5. Guerilla force, K'bai Trach, southwest of Snoul.
  • Mission. To destroy enemy force, enemy installations, and to obtain information about the enemy in the vicinity of Snoul.
  • Planning.
    1. Commanding General of 5th Division, Major General Hiếu together with his G3 Staff, was in charge of planning the details of the whole operation.
    2. The operational Task Organization was composed of 3 Task Forces: TF1 (Commanded by CO, 1st ACR), TF9 (Commanded by CO, 9th Regiment) and TF333 (Commanded by CO, 3rd Ranger GP). TF333 was entrusted the protection and security of the main supply route. The Division Operation Plan was approved by 3rd Corps on 21 October 1970. A final coordination meeting was conducted on 22 October 1970, by Commanding General 5th Division at Lai Khê, and was attended by all commanders involved.
  • Execution: Operation Total Victory 8/B/5 was composed of 3 phases. Phase I: movement to contact and contact in the vicinity of Snoul. Phase II: movement north of Snoul. Phase III is the withdrawal phase.

Toàn Thắng TT02 (Snoul 1971)[edit]

In the end of 1970, General Hiếu planned to lure the enemy with a regiment placed in Snoul deep in Cambodian territory, north of Lộc Ninh on National Route 13. The Communists had 3 Divisions (5th, 7th and 9th) operating in that area. III Corps was ready to commit all of its 3rd Division (5th, 18th and 25th) in the event the Viet Cong engaged one, two or all three divisions into the battlefield. General Tri died unexpectedly in a helicopter accident at the end of February 1971. General Minh, who replaced General Tri, did not want to follow through with the luring plan, when 8th Task Force was succeeding in attracting the enemy who gathered two Divisions (5th and 7th) around Snoul. The beleaguered troops of 8th Task Force, when neither rescue column nor B-52 bombers were in sight, were about to raise the white flag to surrender to the enemy. However, Hiếu executed his withdrawal plan in time to bring his troops back to Lộc Ninh. The troops' withdrawal was executed in three phases:[10]

  1. on 29 May 1971, 1/8th Battalion pierced through enemy blocking line at the northern outpost to rejoin the 8th Task Force Command Post located at Snoul market;
  2. on 30 May 1971, 8th Task Force using 1/8th Battalion as the spear-head to pierce enemy blocking line, followed behind by 2/8th Battalion, Task Force Command Post, 1st Armored Squadron with 2/7th Battalion acting as rear cover, to withdraw from Snoul to the location defended by 3/8th Battalion, 3 kilometers Southeast of Snoul on National Route 13;
  3. on 31 May 1971, 3/8th Battalion replaced 1/8th Battalion as the spear-head in piercing enemy blocking line, followed by 3/9th Battalion, 2/7th Battalion, Task Force Command Post, 1st Armored Squadron with 1/8th Battalion acting as rear cover, allowing 8th Task Force to reach the border on a 3 kilometer stretch and to return to Lộc Ninh.

Svay Riêng, 1974[edit]

In 1974, as Deputy Commander of Operations/III Corps, assistant to General Pham Quoc Thuan, Hiếu applied Blitzkrieg (lightning war) tactic to alleviate the pressure exerted by 5th Division NVA originating from Svay Rieng Province in the Parrot's Beak area inside Kampuchea territory aiming at Đức Huệ base camp. Hiếu employed twenty mobile battalions to surround the Parrot's Beak area.[11] Secondly, on April 27, he launched 49th Infantry Regiment and 7th Ranger Group through the swamp lands around Đức Huệ towards the Kampuchean border, and had VNAF airplanes attack positions of 5th Division NVA units. In the meantime, he relied on two Regional Force battalions belonging to IV Corps to move from Mộc Hóa up north to establish blocking positions on the southwestern edge of the 5th Division NVA's logistical base and assembly area. On 28 April, General Hiếu launched eleven battalions into the battleground to conduct preliminary operation in preparation of the main offensive.

The next morning, three armored squadrons of the III Corps Assault Task Force rushed across the Kampuchean border from Gò Dầu Hạ, aiming directly at 5th Division NVA HQ. Meanwhile, a task force composing of infantry and armor of IV Corps, originating from Mộc Hóa, maneuvered across the Kampuchean border into Elephant's Foot area to threaten the retreat of 275th Regiment NVA. The three armored squadrons continued their three-pronged advance 16 kilometers deep into the Kampuchean territory before they veered south toward Hậu Nghĩa, and helicopters debarked troops unexpectedly on enemy positions, while other ARVN units conducted rapid operations into the region between Đức Huệ and Gò Dầu Hạ. On 10 May, when the last ARVN units returned to their base camp, enemy communications and supplies networks were seriously disrupted. The Communists suffered 1,200 deads, 65 prisoners, and tons of weapons captured; while, due to speed, secrecy and coordination factors of a multi-faced operation, the ARVN only suffered less than 100 casualties. [12]

Anticorruption czar[edit]

Vice President Trần Văn Hương appointed General Hiếu anticorruption czar on 10 February 1972. He occupied this position until October 1973. At that time corruption was rampant among the ARVN leadership, in the army, the administration, the police, the power authority, Air Vietnam, customs, etc. General Hiếu chose to attack first the Military Pension Fund. After a five-month investigation, he presented his findings in detail on the national television on 14 July 1972.[13]

As a result, the Defense Minister, General Nguyễn Văn Vy and seven colonels were ousted and the Military Pension Fund disbanded. Hiếu was not allowed to move on to other corruption targets. President Thiệu limited Hiếu's investigative authority and prior presidential approval was necessary to commence an investigation at the level of chief of province. These limitations disappointed General Hiếu who sought to return to the military and declared, "Either we correct our faults or the Communists will correct them for us." [14]

Unanswered questions concerning his death[edit]

On 8 April 1975, news came out of III Corps headquarters in Biên Hòa that General Hiếu was dead in his office. General Nguyễn Văn Toàn, III Corps Commander, was immediately suspected since he had the reputation of being corrupt, while General Hiếu was very clean, and furthermore, had held the position of anticorruption czar under Vice President Trần Văn Hương. The next day, after attending the military press conference, UPI correspondent sent out the following dispatch:[15] SAIGON (UPI) - The deputy commander of South Vietnamese troops defending the Saigon area was found shot to death Tuesday night following an argument with his superior over tactics. Military sources said he apparently committed suicide. The sources said Maj. Gen. Hiếu was found with a bullet wound in his mouth at his III Corps office at the edge of Biên Hòa airbase, 14 miles (23 km) northeast of Saigon. It was not known whether Hiếu's death was connected with the Tuesday morning bombing of the Presidential palace of Nguyễn Văn Thiệu.[16]


  1. ^ My Life
  2. ^ Đỗ Xá Campaign
  3. ^ Road-Clearing Operation
  4. ^ Major General Vinh Loc, Road Clearing Operation, Military Review, April 1966
  5. ^ The Truth about the Pleime Battle
  6. ^ Intelligence Aspects of Pleime/Chupong Campaign, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Assistant Chief of Staff, J2
  7. ^ Operation Eagles Claw 800
  8. ^ Operation Total Victory 46
  9. ^ Operation Total Victory 8/B/5
  10. ^ The Truth of a Forgotten Battlefield
  11. ^ Elephant's Foot and Angel's Wing
  12. ^ Samuel Lipsman and Stephen Weiss, The False Peace, page 123-124, The Vietnam Experience, Boston Publishing Company
  13. ^ Military Pension Fund
  14. ^ Airgram, Saigon 12125, AMEMBASSY SAIGON, August 17, 1972, Subject: Pending Special Decree on Corruption
  15. ^ General Kills Self In Saigon Dispute
  16. ^ Final Report on the death of General Hiếu

Notable ARVN Generals[edit]

External links[edit]