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Advisory from Disability Compensation Branch

No 7/2000

This is an advisory note only.  Disability Compensation Branch and Legal Services Group have agreed this policy view.  It is not a Repatriation Commission Guideline or a Departmental Instruction.   The advice is not intended to conflict with the proper application of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 or the judgements of the Courts.  It may be subject to change as a result of further interpretation by the Courts of the legislation.  Nevertheless it represents a considered view that should be taken into account by all delegates.





What was the status of the National Police Field Force (NPFF) and the Regional Force (RF) and Popular Force (PF)?  Were they auxiliary forces or elements of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN)?  Other forces involved in the conflict also examined.


Following an inquiry from a State Office as to the status of the PF and RF, the National Office policy area re-considered a report by Professor Grey

[4] and consulted with Legal Services Branch.  In addition views were obtained from various former members of the ADF who served in Vietnam.

Status of forces within Vietnam

The status of the Popular Forces (PF), Regional Forces (RF) and National Police Field Force (NPFF) of the Republic of Vietnam has been an outstanding matter for some time.

The relationship between the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) and various paramilitary groups depends on from whose point of view the answer is sought.  From the point of view of the former Republic of Vietnam all efforts directed at fighting a revolutionary war might be seen to be auxiliaries.  However, the perspective required is an Australian one.  In that regard only the legislation can determine what maters are to be taken into account.

A report was commissioned from Dr Jeffrey Grey

[5] as part of the Department of Veterans' Affairs preparation for a review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of a former member of the South Vietnamese forces.

National Police Field Force (NPFF)

“Expansion of the National Police began in 1964, and the National Police field Force was created in January 1965.  It was designed as a lightly armed, highly mobile formation that could attack the Viet Cong in the villages.  It received both military and civil police training at an NPFF Training Centre, usually located in the regional capital.  The National Police organisation was divided into six main 'blocks' for functional purposes: the NPFF constituted a separate and discrete block within the organisation, and it is apparent from a number of sources that a delineation was made between the NPFF and the National Police more generally, of which they were a part.  thus one Australian report notes that 'some confusion exists between their activities and those of the RF, RD National Police and other organisations.  Hunt describes them as 'a separate police branch',, and notes that their function was to fill the gap in operational terms between the ARVN and 'regular police forces'; Andrade describes them in similar terms.  McNeil admits to the ambiguity of their position, located between the regular military and the regular police.

There is no question that the NPFF was never a formal part of the RVNAF, although it is worth noting that the GVN certainly gave consideration to this option.  It is equally clear that NPFF companies were regularly used as though they were part of the ARVN command structure, despite the complaints and protests of American advisers who wanted them used to attack the VCI, as they were intended to do.  That the NPFF was used in conventional combat is underlined by the award of a posthumous Silver Star Medal for gallantry to National Policeman Vu Viet Thu, who was killed defending a machine gun position against an attack by two battalions of Viet Cong in Hau Nghia province in May 1966.  The recommendation was made from the relevant US Army Advisory Team (Team 43) through US Army channels.  The citation emphasises the confusion in distinction between ARVN and NPFF: 'His unimpeachable valor in close combat against superior enemy forces is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit and the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam.  Whilst it is possible to award the Silver Star to a civilian, in practice very few have been made, and while the language of the citation is formulaic to some extent, it is clear that no distinction was being made between Vu Viet Thu and an ARVN other rank.

The biggest problem which the NPFF faced was attracting recruits of sufficient calibre and in sufficient numbers, because eligible men of the right quality were directed first to the ARVN under the draft laws and regulations.  Overall the National Police expended dramatically between 1964-70, from a total of 19,000 to 88,000, and the NPFF expanded also, not least in line with its additional responsibilities under the Phoenix program.  The ARVN was ordered to make a compulsory transfer of personnel to boost the size of the police.  In pursuance of the General Mobilisation Law in 1968, between 6,000 and 9,000 men aged between 18-20 (ie within draft age) were sent to the NPFF and not to the ARVN.  Further, all personnel within the National Police aged between 21-33 (within draft age) were gradually to be transferred to the NPFF with the agreement of the Ministry of Defence.  In other words, in terms of personnel policy and in keeping with the requirements of the laws governing the draft, the NPFF was treated as an extension of the armed forces, specifically the ARVN.  In December 1969 total assigned strength was 15,184, a shortfall of 2816 below the projected target of 18,000.  At first the NPFF struggled to meet its enlistment targets because the ARVN proved reluctant to make further block transfers of its own personnel, although brief mention has been found of continuing transfers of ARVN personnel to the RF/PF and NP, but by the end of 1970 the NPFF seems to have been meeting its manpower targets through these mechanisms.”


Regional Forces/Popular Forces

“The original Regional Forces/Provincial Forces were created late in the French war for pacification tasks, and by 1 January 1954 numbered over 144,000 men, larger than the French-created Vietnamese National Army.  They were revived under Diem as the Civil Guard (CG), which in turn was split in 1956 to create the Self-Defence corps (SDC).  In 1960 Diem had them incorporated directly into the defence budget.  In 1964, after Diem's ouster and murder, the CG was redesignated the Regional Forces while the SDC became the Popular Forces.  At the same time, they were integrated into the RVNAF and placed under the command of the JGS (Joint General Staff).

The RF was controlled by the province chief while the PF was controlled at the district level.  Regional Forces companies were generally commanded by an ARVN officer, while the PF platoons were commanded by an NCO.  Service in both was on a full-time basis and the soldiers underwent a five-week training course at one of the two RF and 15 {F training facilities scattered around the country.  They were poorly paid and, until 1967, poorly armed and equipped.  However, Krepinevich points out that except during Tet

[7] the RFs consistently suffered a higher rate of casualties than the ARVN, while they accounted for between 12-30 percent of enemy combat deaths while consuming only 2-4 percent of the resources expended to fight the war.

As a result of two decrees signed by President Thieu on 2 July 1970, the RVNAF was reorganised and the RF/PF became components of the ARVN on a formal basis.  There was no intention of raising the RF/PF to ARVN standards of training or equipment, although when the 3rd Division was formed in the northern provinces in late 1971 the RF were used to provide a number of battalions for newly-formed regiments, while in mid-1974 the Marine Division had no less than eight RF battalions under its operational control and the Airborne Division controlled a further seven.  The combined strength of the RF/PF in 1968 was in excess of 300,000.”


Conclusions in the Grey Report

Professor Grey's report dealt with the organisational relationships between the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) and the various paramilitary units and formations.  The roles and structures of these groups were taken into account when assessing the claim to be a part of the regular forces or at least an auxiliary force.

Professor Grey reported that it was appropriate to view the NPFF as an auxiliary force of the RVNAF.  This opinion was based on the fact that the NPFF was deployed on military operations, was trained and equipped along military lines, and its functions went well beyond those of the uniformed civil police.  The Field Force operated in conjunction with units of the armed forces and this was specified as part of its operational mission.

In his report, Professor Grey outlined the direct command and control relationship between the RF/PF and the Joint General Staff (JGS).  He states that these two forces were incorporated directly into the defence budget and in 1964 were integrated into the RVNAF and placed under the command of the JGS.  As a result of two decrees signed by President Thieu on 2 July 1970, the RVNAF was reorganised and the Regional Forces and Popular Forces became components of the ARVN on a formal basis.

These findings are enough to satisfy the legislative requirements of the VEA.

The findings of the Grey Report indicate that the role of the National Police Field Force (NPFF) would also satisfy the terms of the legislation.  This finding relates only to the NPFF and not to any other branch of the Police Force.

A decision-maker should also be able to be satisfied that the Popular Forces (PF) and Regional Forces (RF) were auxiliaries of the regular Defence Forces of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN).

Other forces are not normally auxiliaries

There may be claims from Vietnamese veterans with service in:

  •                   People's Self Defence Force (PSDF)
  •                   People's Action Teams (PAT)
  •                   Revolutionary Development Cadres (RDC)
  •                   Rural Development Cadres (RDC)
  •                   Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRU) [9] .

In general these units are a mixture of service types and not considered as meeting the full test for auxiliary forces. In some cases membership of such a force merely deferred the military draft.  Other forces were funded by the United States (CIA) and/or were not under the direct control of the Ministry of Defence.

Nevertheless, any such claim must be treated on its merit.  The service of any particular Vietnamese claimant within these units could be quite distinct from another person's experience.

Service with the enemy

Decision-makers are reminded that a person may not gain access to benefits under the VEA if they served at any time with the enemy forces.  In this situation we are talking of service with the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), the Peoples' Army of Vietnam (PAVN) or the Viet Cong (VC).

During the course of the conflict many former cadres and members of the enemy forces were captured and some were recruited or turned and performed service for the Republic of Vietnam or the United States.  This was The Hoi Chanh program.  Any person who was turned, that is any one who was a member of a Hoi Chanh unit (sometimes the person is referred to as a Chieu Hoi) is prevented from accessing benefits under the VEA.

Within the program were Armed Propaganda Teams (APT), the Kit Carson Scouts (KCS), Civilian Irregular Defence Groups (CIDG) and Mobile Strike Forces (MIKE).

Members of these groups were the first to experience the extreme retribution followed by the new government of a united Vietnam.  In fact so dangerous was their position that they were amongst the first to seek escape from Vietnam.  Persons in this position are no different to those who had served with the Italian Army before joining the partisans in World War 2.

However, any suspected instance of a Chieu Hoi applicant needs to be considered in the light of the law and the decisions of the Tribunals and Courts.  In circumstances where the enemy makes compulsory conscription but the person seeks to leave that force (escape) at the earliest opportunity there may by some scope for still being able to satisfy the requirements of the VEA

[10] .

Documentation required

This advisory does not detract from any other instruction concerning the determination of claims from allied veterans.  Decision-makers are still required to ask for military and/or civilian documentation, obtain proof of identity and proof of 10-year residency.

In the absence of any documentation a Statutory Declaration is the very least that is required.

Report of Professor Grey

The original Report is held in National Office.  Selected portions have been included in this Advisory.  A complete copy may be obtained on request to National Office (Ann Donnelly on 02 6289 6439).

John R Douglas


Policy Eligibility and research

31 May 2000

'The Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam and the para militaries.' by Professor Jeffrey Grey, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, 19 May 1999.

[4] (go back)

The Vietnamese New Year based on the Lunar cycle.  Usually in late January or February.

[7] (go back)

op cit Grey report See Note 1

[8] (go back)

See also 'Service with the enemy'.  PRU were often composed of former Viet Cong members.  They would therefore be ineligible under the VEA.

[9] (go back)

see AAT case of  “Truchlik”.

[10] (go back)