Nguyễn Văn Hiếu

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Nguyễn Văn Hiếu
Born 23 June 1929
Tientsin, China
Died 8 April 1975 (aged 45)
Biên Hòa, Vietnam
Buried Biên Hòa Military Cemetery
Allegiance South Vietnam
Service/branch Army of the Republic of Vietnam
Years of service 1950–1975
Rank Trung Tướng-Army 2.png Lieutenant General (Trung Tướng)

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 child he lived in Shanghai. He later emigrated with his ethnic Vietnamese parents to Saigon when the Chinese Communist Party 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 0.51 caliber machine guns, one 0.30 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.[3]

Thần Phong II[edit]

In 1965, the Viet Cong attacked all over the Central Highlands in the II Military Region. In early July 1965, three NVA regiments (including 32nd and possibly the 33rd) completely isolated the Central Highlands. ARVN units could not use National Routes 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.[4]

Contrary to the general practice of a road-clearing operation by concentrating troops to progressively destroy the ambushes set up by the enemy along the highway, from D-6 to D+2, Hiếu 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; VNMC Alpha Task Force and the 42nd Regiment to attack from Pleiku up north to Đak Sut on National Route 14; and the 20th Engineer Group to attack from Phú Bổn to Tuy Hòa to repair Interprovincial Route 7.

After sowing confusion among the enemy, 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." [5]

Pleime, 1965[edit]

After the unsuccessful attempt to overcome the Đức Cơ Special Forces camp in August 1965, General Võ Nguyên Giáp launched the Winter Spring Campaign aiming at cutting South Vietnam in two, from Pleiku in the Central Highlands to Qui Nhơn in the coastal regions. The plan of General Chu Huy Man, VC Field Commander was as following:[6]

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

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

  1. II Corps feigns biting the bait by reinforcing Plei Me with a unit of ARVN Airborne Rangers and dispatches a task force from Pleiku to relieve Plei Me;
  2. 1st Cavalry Division lends a brigade to reinforce the defense of Pleiku 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 NVA Regiment, which remained inactive in the Chư Prông area, destroyed the 33rd NVA Regiment at the ambush site, and the 32nd NVA Regiment abandoned the siege of Plei Me and withdrew into the surrounding jungle.[7]

Liên Kết 66[edit]

42nd Regiment of 22nd Division, reinforced by 3rd Airborne Task Force established a blocking position on the mountain side, joined force with an armored squadron of M113s in sweeping the enemy from National Route 1 into the mountains at Phù Cũ Pass in Bình Định Province. Infantrymen following the M113s launched fierce assaults, after an initial salvo of artillery. 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."[8]

Đại Bàng 800[edit]

In February 1967, Colonel Hiếu launched Operation Đại Bàng 800.[9] For three days prior to Vietnamese operation, units of the 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. Thinking they had an easy target, the enemy attacked the camp with a regiment belonging to 3rd NVA Division 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.[10]

Toàn Thắng 46[edit]

DCAT 70 reported:[11]

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 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. 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:[12]

  • Background: The 5th Division was notified by III Corps Headquarters on 14 October 1970, to prepare for limited combat operations in the Snuol District 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 Guerrilla force, northwest of Snuol;
    4. Guerrilla force, Snuol Town Market;
    5. Guerrilla force, K'bai Trach, southwest of Snuol.
  • Mission. To destroy enemy force, enemy installations, and to obtain information about the enemy in the vicinity of Snuol.
  • 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 III 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 (Snuol 1971)[edit]

In the end of 1970, General Hiếu planned to lure the enemy with a regiment placed in Snuol 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 three Divisions (5th, 18th and 25th) in the event the North Vietnamese engaged one, two or all three divisions into the battlefield. General Trí the III Corps Commander died in a helicopter accident at the end of February 1971. General Minh, who replaced General Trí, 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 Snuol. 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:[13]

  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 Snuol 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 Snuol to the location defended by 3/8th Battalion, 3 kilometers Southeast of Snuol on National Route 13;
  3. on 31 May 1971, 3/8th Battalion replaced 1/8th Battalion as the spearhead 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 Phạm Quốc Thuần, Hiếu applied Blitzkrieg (lightning war) tactics to alleviate the pressure exerted by 5th NVA Division originating from Svay Rieng Province in the Parrot's Beak area of Cambodian territory aiming at Đức Huệ base camp. Hiếu employed twenty mobile battalions to surround the Parrot's Beak area.[14] Secondly, on April 27, he launched 49th Infantry Regiment and 7th Ranger Group through the swamp lands around Đức Huệ towards the Cambodian border, and had VNAF airplanes attack positions of 5th NVA Division 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 NVA Division'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 Cambodian border from Gò Dầu Hạ, aiming directly at 5th NVA Division HQ. Meanwhile, a task force composing of infantry and armor of IV Corps, originating from Mộc Hóa, maneuvered across the Cambodian border into the Elephant's Foot area to threaten the retreat of 275th NVA Regiment. The three armored squadrons continued their three-pronged advance 16 kilometers deep into the Cambodia before they veered south toward Hậu Nghĩa, and helicopters dropped 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 1,200killed, 65 prisoners, and tons of weapons captured; while, due to speed, secrecy and coordination factors of a multi-faced operation, the ARVN suffered less than 100 casualties.[15]

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.[16]

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." [17]


I Corps American Advisors' evaluation report in May 1968:

He is a man who possesses potential for highest rank in the Vietnamese Army. He should be sent to a CONUS school as soon as possible, preferably Ft. Leavenworth. He should be assigned to field command jobs to give him more command experience. This officer, properly handled and developed, could well become a future competent if not eminent general officer in the Vietnamese Army. His attitude toward the United States is strong, and his language fluency would be an invaluable asset to Allied operations.[18]

Colonel John Hayes, ARVN 5th Infantry Division Senior Advisor's evaluation on 7 February 1970:

MG Nguyen Van Hieu, DOR 1-11-67, 20 years service. General Hieu is an above average commander. Good qualities include dedication, experience as a combat leader, ability to stimulate and maintain morale, and ability to control those in his command. He is quite religious and patriotic, and demands high standards of conduct and discipline. He is methodical but decisive. He is rated better than the average US Division commander in overall performance.[19]

General Trần Văn Đôn's assessment:

In February 1972, Don, who was a LTG and is currently a Deputy Prime Minister, stated to the Consul in Da Nang that Hieu was one of the most capable generals in ARVN and "the most honest general in the Army today". The latter assessment is broadly held and frequently voiced by ARVN officers. Don further stated that he would take Hieu over virtually any ARVN general he knew.[20]

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:[21] 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.[22]


  1. ^ My Life
  2. ^ Đỗ Xá Campaign
  3. ^ Colonel Trinh Tieu (1995), G2/23ID, Operation Eagles Claw 800
  4. ^ Road-Clearing Operation
  5. ^ Major General Vinh Loc, Road Clearing Operation, Military Review, April 1966
  6. ^ The Truth about the Pleime Battle
  7. ^ Intelligence Aspects of Pleime/Chupong Campaign, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Assistant Chief of Staff, J2
  8. ^ Phan Nhật Nam ̣(2005), South Vietnam Did Not Lack Heroes, Speech delivered in the Book Presentation about General Nguyen Van Hieu: General Hieu took over the command of 22nd Infantry Division in June 1966, and by the end of the year (November), the newly appointed Commander scored a battle victory at Phu Cu Pass (Phu My District). At that time, we, the attached unit (3rd Airborne Task Force-Pnn) established a blockage position on the mountain side, and witnessed our friendly unit (42nd Regiment/22nd Division) joining force with the armored squadron of M113s in sweeping the enemy from National Route 1 into the mountains. The battle unfolded just like a military World War II documentary film. Infantrymen in front line formation followed M113 armored vehicles launched fierce assaults, after a salvo of artillery firing, just like Middle Age's knights charging in combat. Airborne Task Force Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Nguyễn Khoa Nam observed the battle from the mountain side with binocular. Although he was a man parsimonious in words, he had to utter his admiration: "Colonel Hieu conducts his troops like a seasoned "armor officer", and combatants of 22nd Division fought as elegantly as our paratroopers." Those were sincere words from a combatant complimenting another combatant on the battlefield.
  9. ^ Operation Eagles Claw 800
  10. ^ Colonel Trinh Tieu, G2/23ID: "At 5:00 a.m. the Communists had to leak their wounds, disperse and withdraw into the jungle, leaving behind 300 KIA lying all over the place, numerous weapons and ammunition scattered all over the operational area." Operation Eagles Claw 800
  11. ^ Operation Total Victory 46
  12. ^ Operation Total Victory 8/B/5
  13. ^ The Truth of a Forgotten Battlefield
  14. ^ Elephant's Foot and Angel's Wing
  15. ^ Samuel Lipsman and Stephen Weiss, The False Peace, page 123-124, The Vietnam Experience, Boston Publishing Company
  16. ^ Military Pension Fund
  17. ^ Airgram, Saigon 12125, AMEMBASSY SAIGON, August 17, 1972, Subject: Pending Special Decree on Corruption
  18. ^ Biographic Data on MG Nguyen Van Hieu, Deputy Commander, III Corps, American Embassy in Saigon, Airgram A-231, November 7, 1974
  19. ^ American Advisors' Evaluation on MG Nguyen Van Hieu, on 7 February 1970.
  20. ^ Biographic Data on MG Nguyen Van Hieu, Deputy Commander, III Corps, American Embassy in Saigon, Airgram A-231, November 7, 1974
  21. ^ General Kills Self In Saigon Dispute
  22. ^ Final Report on the death of General Hiếu

Notable ARVN Generals[edit]

External links[edit]