Republic of Vietnam Marine Division

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Republic of Vietnam Marine Division
Sư Đoàn Thủy Quân Lục Chiến
Republic of Vietnam Marine Division SSI.png
Shoulder sleeve insignia
Disbanded30 April 1975
Country South Vietnam
TypeMarine corps
RoleAmphibious and expeditionary warfare
Part of Republic of Vietnam Navy
Nickname(s)"Sea Tigers"
Motto(s)Mạnh như sóng thần (English: As Strong As A Tsunami)
EngagementsVietnam War
Flag of the Republic of Vietnam Marine Division.svg

The Republic of Vietnam Marine Division (RVNMD, Vietnamese: Sư Đoàn Thủy Quân Lục Chiến [TQLC]) was part of the armed forces of South Vietnam. It was established by Ngo Dinh Diem in 1954 when he was Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam, which became the Republic of Vietnam in 1955. The longest-serving commander was Lieutenant General Le Nguyen Khang. In 1969, the VNMC had a strength of 9,300, 15,000 by 1973.,[1] and 20,000 by 1975.[2]

The Marine Division trace their origins to French-trained Commandos Marine divisions recruited and placed under the command of the French Navy but officially incorporated in 1960.[3] From 1970 onwards, the South Vietnamese marines and Airborne Division grew significantly, supplanting the independent, Central Highlands based Vietnamese Rangers as the most popular elite units for volunteers. Along with the Airborne the Marine Division formed the General Reserve with the strategic transformation under Vietnamization, with elite and highly-mobile units meant to be deployed in People's Army of Vietnam attacking points and incursions.[4] By then, the level of training had improved considerably and U.S. General Creighton Abrams who oversaw Vietnamization stated that South Vietnam's Airborne and Marines had no comparable units to match it in the PAVN.[5]

This division had earned a total of 9 U.S. presidential citations, with the 2nd Battalion "Crazy Buffaloes" earning two.[6]


The Vietnamese Marine Corps had its origins during French rule of Indochina. The 1949 Franco-Vietnamese Agreement stated that the Vietnamese Armed Forces were to include naval forces whose organization and training would be provided by the French Navy.[7]

Organization of the Republic of Vietnam Marine Division

In March 1952, the Navy of Vietnam was established. In 1953, the French and Vietnamese governments agreed to increase the size of Vietnamese National Army, so an increase in the size of the Vietnamese Navy was also deemed necessary. As they debated whether the Army or Navy would control the river flotillas, French Vice Admiral Philippe Auboyneau proposed for the first time the organisation of a Vietnamese Marine Corps. When the French withdrew from Vietnam in 1954, the Vietnamese Marine Corps was a component of the Vietnamese Navy. The Marine Corps consisted of a headquarters, four river companies, and one battalion landing force. On October 13, 1954, Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem signed a government decree formally creating within the naval establishment a section of infantry, then of brigade strength, later to be designated as the Marine Corps (VNMC).[7]

One of the most notable battles during the early phase of the war was the Battle of Binh Gia, which witnessed for the first time several helicopter transports downed by AA and ground-fire with the 4th Marine Battalion suffering 60% casualties . A few months later with the onset of U.S intervention, the 1st and 3rd Battalion participated against a now Soviet and Chinese supplied 9th Viet Cong Division, and were tasked with the Battle of Ba Gia. Upon capturing the hamlet the 9th Division sprung an ambush, with both sides suffering heavy casualties.

Following the departure of U.S. Marine forces, the South Vietnamese marines were assigned responsibility in defending the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone. The most significant urban-battle in the war was experienced by the South Vietnamese marines during the Easter Offensive. A massive armored pushed across the DMZ and nearly destroyed this unit alongside I Corps in the city of Quảng Trị. Two months later this South Vietnamese marines spearheaded the re-taking of Quảng Trị, with 3,658 KIA in the process. This would be the single longest, most intense and bloody battle in the entire war.

Prior to the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, the Marine Division attempted to retake the Cửa Việt Base abandoned by U.S. Marines in 1969 in the Battle of Cửa Việt. The PAVN units widely deployed the experimental 9M14 Malyutka man-portable guided anti-tanks, with the division losing 26 M48 Pattons in the counter-attack.

Learning from the Easter Offensive failure, PAVN tanks rolled across not only across the DMZ, but well-disguised series of armoured attacks across the Central Highlands were launched during the Hue–Da Nang Campaign, completely encircling and destroying most of the I Corps that many Marine Division battalions was assigned to. Remnants of the division, drastically short on supplies, held out and made a final stand near Saigon during the Battle of Xuân Lộc before succumbing to defeat.


Divisional Units [1]

  • Headquarters Battalion
  • Amphibious Support Battalion
  • Signal Battalion
  • Engineer Battalion
  • Medical Battalion
  • Anti-tank Company
  • Military Police Company
  • Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Company

147th Marine Brigade (Brigades were numbered after the battalions they contained) [8]

  • 1st Marine Battalion - "Wild Birds"
  • 4th Marine Battalion - "Killer Sharks"
  • 7th Marine Battalion - "Grey Tigers"
  • 1st Marine Artillery Battalion - "Lightning Fire

258th Marine Brigade

  • 2nd Marine Battalion - "Crazy Buffaloes"
  • 5th Marine Battalion - "Black Dragons"
  • 8th Marine Battalion - "Sea Eagles"
  • 2nd Marine Artillery Battalion - "Divine Arrows"

369th Marine Brigade

  • 3rd Marine Battalion - "Sea Wolves"
  • 6th Marine Battalion - "Divine Hawks"
  • 9th Marine Battalion - "Ferocious Tigers"
  • 3rd Marine Artillery Battalion - "Divine Crossbows"

A 4th brigade, the 468th, was added to the VNMC in December, 1974.[9]

  • 14th Marine Battalion
  • 16th Marine Battalion
  • 18th Marine Battalion
  • 4th Marine Artillery Battalion - "Tan Lap"



Generally, the VNMC weapons and personal equipments were mostly (if not all) supplied by the United States Marine Corps during the war. However, certain equipment were also routed from the Army as well. The VNMC rarely had any equipment that was RVN genuine, because the unit was US-advised. However, their tigerstripe camouflage uniform was considered genuine and is still a valuable collector's item.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Vietnam Marines 1965-73 (Elite) by Charles Melson (Author), Osprey Publishing (November 26, 1992) ISBN 185532251X
  2. ^ Tran Ngoc Thong, Ho Dac Huan, Le Dinh Thuy (2011). History of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam. ISBN 978-1855322516
  3. ^
  4. ^ Joes, Anthony James (2014-10-16). Why South Vietnam Fell. Lexington Books. pp. 134–139. ISBN 9781498503907.
  5. ^ Asprey, Robert (2002). War in the Shadows: The Guerrilla in History, Volume 2. Doubleday & Co. pp. 1021–1022.
  6. ^ See List of Non-US Presidential Unit Citations in Vietnam.
  7. ^ a b Brush, Peter (1996). "The Vietnamese Marine Corps". Viet Nam Generation: A Journal of Recent History and Contemporary Issues. Vol. 7 :1-2. pp. 73–77. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  8. ^ Vietnam Marines 1965-73 (Elite), Charles Melson (Author), Paul Hannon (Illustrator), Osprey Publishing, November 26, 1992, ISBN 1-85532-251-X, ISBN 978-1-85532-251-6
  9. ^