Reserve Forces in Vietnam and South East Asia

The purpose of this research effort is to document the contribution of the reserve forces in the Vietnam Conflict.

We are attempting to list the reserve force units that were activated and deployed to Vietnam and to other locations in Southeast Asia.

The time period for the Vietnam Conflict is generally considered to be 1963 – 1975 (Death of Diem to the Fall of Saigon).

The year 2005 was the 40th anniversary of the military ground buildup of that conflict when the 3000 U. S. Marines of the Fourth Marine Regimental Landing Team landed on the beaches just south of Da Nang at Chu Lai on 8 March 1965.

The general public, and even some current elected officials, may be uninformed and understand that the Reserve Forces were not used in Vietnam. But all of the services, except the Coast Guard Reserve, had at least some units or individuals that were activated and served. Also, many trained personnel in the reserve component volunteered as individuals and served full time with the active forces.

Others of the reserve forces served while in reserve status as pilots and navigators or serving on board aircraft, either on annual training duty orders or on special training duty orders, either directly in the combat zone or in South East Asia.

See a general summary, but not an all inclusive summary, of major reserve force deployments to Vietnam and Southeast Asia below.

We are attempting to document deployed units here. The description of the contributions of individuals may be done at a future date.

‘Form to Complete to List a Reserve Unit and its Duty – form here (click to open)

The most complete accurate entry is probably best made by a deployed unit member or unit commanding officer.

Results of Reserve Units Listed To Date – table here

General History of the Deployment of Reserve Forces in Southeast Asia

Although no single reference of history of the reserve forces exists some of the highlights of service by the organized reserve forces in Vietnam and South East Asia, with source references, are:

Army and Air National Guard

The National Guard units that were recalled and deployed directly to Vietnam were:

· In August 1965 ANG units began flying aero medical evacuation flights to and from Hawaii and Southeast Asia (Japan and the Philippines). The flights picked up casualties evacuated from Republic of Vietnam by Regular Air Force or Navy aircrews. The units flew on ADSW (active duty special work) order status. Air National Guard aircraft and crews, in ADSW status, flew a large number of support missions to the Republic of Vietnam. Between January 1966 and July 1967, Air Guardsmen flew an average of 150 support missions each month to Southeast Asia. (National Guard, Doubler and Listman, p. 146).

· On April 11, 1968, Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford announced that President Johnson ordered the call-up of 24,500 military reservists and National Guardsmen including 1,028 Naval Reservists. (New York Times, April 12, 1968, p. 5).

· In May and June 1968 four F100c squadrons deployed to Vietnam. The 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron (Colorado) arrived at Phan Rang Air Base and by June 1, all of the 120th’s pilots were flying combat missions. Iowa’s 174th, New Mexico’s 188th and New York’s 138th tactical fighter squadrons deployed to Vietnam. Before they returned home in April 1969, Air Guard pilots and aircraft flew nearly 30,000 sorties while accumulating 50,000 combat flying hours. (National Guard, Doubler and Listman, p. 147).

· Two ANG fighter squadrons – the 166th (Ohio) and the 127th (Kansas) – deployed to South Korea to help stabilize the situation there during the USS Pueblo crisis. (National Guard, Doubler and Listman, p. 147).

· Two ARNG infantry brigades were called up – Hawaii’s 29th [To maintain a strategic reserve in the Pacific for contingencies other than Vietnam after the 25th departed for Vietnam, the 29th Infantry Brigade of the Hawaii National Guard was called to Federal service and stationed at Schofield Barracks. In 1969 the 29th was released from Federal service and the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division was constituted and activated at Schofield Barracks on 6 December 1969 under command of United States Army Pacific (25th Infantry Division History).] and Kansas’s 69th. The 650th Medical Detachment (Alabama) was the first to reach Vietnam (mobilized May 1968, deployed late July 1968). Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry from Indiana served (deployed December 1968 until December 1969, the last unit to return). On December 12, 1969, the last Guardsman returned home, after more than 9,000 ARNG soldiers served in Vietnam (The National Guard, Doubler and Listman, p. 112).

Army Guard Units in Vietnam
Contributed by John W Listman, National Guard Bureau
StateUnitAssigned ToStationed
AL650th Medical Detachment (DS)14th Medical Brigade, Long Binh and FSB “Bearcat”Long Binh
ID116th Engineer BN35th Engineer Group, 18th Engineer BrigadeII Corps Tactical Area
IL126th Supply and Service Company (Direct Support)80th Support Group, 23rd Americal ID Support and Transp. BNDaNang
INCompany D., 151st Infantry (Long Range Patrol, later Ranger)Headquarters, II Field ForceLong Binh
KY2/138th Field Artillery BNProvisional Corps, Vietnam Artillery, XXIV Corps Artillery (support 101st ABN Div.)Phu Bai
NH3/197th Field Artillery BN23rd Artillery Group (support 82nd ABN Div. & ARVN) (also furnished elements of 2/13th FA BN, “D” Battery)Phu Loi
RI107th Signal Company36th Signal BN, 1st Signal Brigade (various arrangements for II Field Force, IV Corps, 199th Infantry Brigade)Long Binh, Can Tho
VT131st Engineer Company (Light Equipment)577th Engineer BN, 35th Engineer Group, 18th Engineer BrigadeTuy Hoa

On May 13, 1968, 12,234 Army National Guardsmen in 20 units from 17 states were mobilized for service during the Vietnam War. Eight units deployed to Vietnam and over 7,000 Army Guardsmen served in the war zone. Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry, Indiana Army National Guard arrived in Vietnam in December 1968. As part of the II Field Force, the Indiana Rangers were assigned reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering missions. Operating deep in enemy territory, Ranger patrols engaged enemy units while conducting raids, ambushes and surveillance missions. “Delta Company” achieved an impressive combat record during its tour in Vietnam; unit members were awarded 510 medals for valor and service. The gallant record of Company D, 151st Infantry symbolizes the Army National Guard’s performance in Vietnam. (National Guard Bureau web site, Image Galleries). The only ground combat maneuver unit from the reserve components to serve in Vietnam, D Company 151st Infantry from Indiana, was also the only LRRP unit in the National Guard. It served nearly a year “in country”, mostly in II Field Force, during which it suffered two men killed in action and over one hundred wounded. (“Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War”, by Dunnigan and Nofi, 1999, page 218).

Of the Air National Guardsmen activated as a result of the Pueblo crisis, about 2,000 (eight tactical fighter squadrons plus a tactical reconnaissance squadron) were mobilized and four tactical fighter squadrons (plus elements of the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron) were sent to Vietnam beginning in June of 1968. Those ANG activations began in January 1968. In Vietnam these guardsmen undertook over 24,000 combat sorties, for nearly 39,000 combat hours. Furthermore, individual Air Guardsmen serving with the active Air Force’s 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron, undertook approximately 6,000 combat sorties, logging 11,000 combat hours, so the Air National Guard made about 30,000 combat sorties, for about 50,000 combat hours, in Vietnam. The performance of the Air National Guard was widely hailed by senior air force personnel, one of whom observed that the Air National Guard F-100 squadrons were all “rated higher than other F-100 squadrons in the same zone.” (“Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War”, by Dunnigan and Nofi, 1999, page 218).

On July 28, 1970, two EC-121 Lockheed “Super Constellations” from the 193d Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron took off from Olmsted State Airport, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. United States forces were fighting in Vietnam, and the EC-121s were headed for Korat in the neighboring country of Thailand, 12,000 miles away, where the United States Air Force was operating from a Royal Thai Air Force base. Korat Air Base would be home for 252 Air Guardsmen for the next six months. The men were rotated as part of Operation Commando Buzz, with approximately 60 officers and airmen at a time serving tours of duty of from 30 to 90 days. In addition to the aircrews and technicians, an additional 75 officers and airmen supported Commando Buzz by flying materiel and personnel from Olmsted to Southeast Asia and back. The Pennsylvania Air Guard’s EC-121s were laden with electronic equipment, and their mission was to act as flying radar stations and airborne control platforms. They possessed search and identification radar, interception equipment, and a battery of communications gear. The range of the EC-121s extended over all of North Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin, and they were a key element in Seventh Air Force control of tactical air operations. The final group of Air Guardsmen rotated during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays of 1970, and early in January 1971, the mission was completed. (National Guard Bureau web site, Image Galleries)

Army Reserve

For the Army Reserve forty-two Army Reserve units were recalled of which 35 were sent overseas. (The 2000 Reserve Forces Almanac, p. 139).

USAR Units Mobilized (“Annual Historical Summary” Office of the Chief, Army Reserve, 1 July 1967 – 30 June 1968)
Type UnitNumberTotal Authorized Strength
Infantry Battalion1782
Military Intelligence Det264
AG Units4190
Composite Service Units81,552
Medical Units11667
Finance Units140
Ordnance Units2313
Quartermaster Units3457
Transportation Units101,814
Total425,869 * (* total = 5,879)

About 10,500 army reservists were called up, in forty-two administrative, medical, logistical, engineer, and headquarters units. Of these units, thirty-five served in Vietnam, but many were partially filled with active duty personnel. (“Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War”, by Dunnigan and Nofi, 1999, page 218).

One primary source of filers for mobilized units was to be found among certain Reserve Enlistment Program – 1963 (REP-63) personnel in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). Of the 4,132 REP-63 personnel who were screened for active duty orders, 1,380 were exempted from call up … Eventually, 1,692 IRR personnel were assigned to the mobilized USAR units, and 1,060 were given assignments with the active Army. Over 1,800 enlisted vacancies in the Army Reserve units were filled with active Army personnel, as were officer vacancies [“Twice the Citizen: A History of the U. S. Army Reserve, 1908 – 1995”, Currie and Crossland, GPO, 1997; page 204].

Some recalled Army Reserve units that served in Vietnam were: 737th Transportation Company (Med Truck Petr), Yakama, Wash.; 1002d Supply and Service Company, Cleveland, Ohio; 513th Maintenance Battalion, Boston, Mass.; and 231st Transportation Company, Fltg Cft, St. Petersburg, Florida. [A complete list of Army Reserve units called up, including a short narrative history of 17 units who served in Vietnam, is Ibid, Appendix C, page 593]

Naval Reserve

Some reserve pilots and air crews, such as the Navy’s C-118 squadrons (VR-772, Los Alamitos, CA), served in support of Vietnam and made grueling 8 day 15,000 mile round trip flights to Vietnam on short term training orders (serving while in reserve status as part of a unit). By June 30, 1966, the Naval Air Reserve had already air lifted 7,587,669 ton-miles of cargo to Southeast Asia and 33,753,566 passenger miles had been accumulated on return flights (Annual Report of the Secretary of Defense – Fiscal Year 1966, p.80). That kind of service continued throughout the conflict. Air reservists alone undertook nearly 1,250 such missions [missions during their annual two week training duty] during the war. (“Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War”, by Dunnigan and Nofi, 1999, page 218).

Navy fighter pilots and crew served on carriers under annual training orders and flew combat missions. CDR John Lehman, USNR, later SECNAV, was a bombardier/navigator who served flying combat missions while under training orders only. (Wings at the Ready, 75 Years of the Naval Air Reserve, Turpin and Shipman, various pages).

Some units were activated, such as six Naval Air Reserve fighter squadrons, and served on active duty in the United States proper, following the USS Pueblo incident in January 1968. President Johnson issued Executive Order No. 11392 ordering 14,787 Air Force and Naval Reservists to active duty in wake of the seizure of the USS Pueblo. (New York Times, January 26, 1968, p. 1).

The Navy’s Pueblo call-up overlapped with the broader Vietnam reserve call-up, which began in earnest in April 1968, especially for the Army and Air Force. The Air Force activated 14,000 reservists, sending 7,000 to South Korea and South Vietnam. The Army called up 19,763 Reservists in April (the ARNG and ANG plus Army Reserve reported on 13 May 1968) sending 10,000 to Vietnam more in response to the Tet offensive (of January 1968). (“U. S. Naval Reserve: The First 75 Years”, Naval War College, p. 296).

Some Navy reserve units were activated and served in Vietnam, such as the Navy’s mobile construction battalions MCB-12 (Boston, Mass.) and MCB-22 (Dallas, Texas) in 1968-1969. (Navy Times, July 17, 1968, p. 2 & Navy Times, April 16, 1969, p. 39).

On August 21, 1969, a Meritorious Unit Commendation was awarded to Naval Air Reserve Intelligence Unit 861 of Norfolk, VA. Raw information was gathered during Project Delta – the code name for penetration of enemy lines and reconnaissance raids from April 17 – June 17, 1967 and July 15 – August 16, 1967 in the I Corps region of Vietnam (Navy Times, August 21, 1968, p. 3).

The value of volunteer reservists should be emphasized. For example, as part of the USMC landings in May 1965 there were 200 Navy Seabee reservists – about 27% – making up MCB-10, an active-duty battalion, which had 24 officers and 738 enlisted men assigned. This was very early in the conflict and volunteers from the reserve continued.

Marine Corps Reserve

The Marine Corps Reserve provided the active Marine Corps with both officer and enlisted volunteers during the Vietnam war. However, Marine Corps Reserve units were not recalled.

“Before Tet, the Marine Corps had only one plan in the event of a Reserve mobilization: to activate the entire IV MEF (Marine Expeditionary Force). On 4 March (1968) the Secretary of Defense proposed to send 22,000 reinforcements to Vietnam by 15 June, including IV MEF(-), consisting of 18,100 men. The Secretary of Defense’s proposal to activate less than the entire Reserve structure caught the Marine Corps unprepared, requiring frantic planning. Creating a composite Marine Aircraft Group would have undermined the readiness of the entire 4th MAW. Task organization plans envisioned calling up detachments of combat support and combat service support, a move which would have left the Marine Corps open to serious legal challenges. Political constraints ruled out the call up of Class III Reservists, upon whom the mobilization planners had relied to fill “gaping holes” in activated Reserve units.”

“Up until the last minute, administration officials considered calling up 26,000 Marine Reservists. On 13 March, President Johnson decided to send an additional 30,000 troops to Vietnam, but his troop list did not include any Marine units. From 14 to 28 March, administration officials contemplated various proposals with even larger numbers of Reservists to be activated, but still none of them included Marines. When the President announced the call-up of 62,000 Reservists on 31 March, no Marines were activated.” (both paragraphs from “Vietnam War”, 1968: The Definitive Year, page 595).

Air Force Reserve

From January 1965, when the C-124 units extended their transpacific missions for the Military Air Transport Service to Vietnam, until June 1975, when medical personnel staffed the refugee relocation center at Elgin AFB, Florida, reservists voluntarily participated in the Air Force mission of supporting U. S. objectives in Southeast Asia while remaining on inactive duty. [“Citizen Airmen” by Gerald Cantwell, Government Printing Office, 1994, page 209]. An example of C-124 aircraft service was the 935th Troop Carrier Group from Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri, beginning in February 1965 [ibid, page 209]. This was accomplished with volunteer members on active duty for training and special active duty for training orders (up to 90 days).

Air Force reservists were recalled twice in 1968, in January and again in May. In the first instance, two military airlift wings, five groups, and an aerospace rescue and recovery squadron were ordered to active duty on January 26. On May 13, operational elements of a tactical airlift group, including three aerial port squadrons, a medical service squadron, and an aero medical evacuation squadron were recalled in response to the requirements generated by the seizure of the USS Pueblo. The 71st Tactical Airlift Squadron as the 71st Special Operations Squadron was the first Air Force Reserve squadron to engage in combat since Korea. (2000 Reserve Forces Almanac, p. 152).

The units selected for activation as a result of the Pueblo incident (January 23, 1968) for the Air Force Reserve were: the 305th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Selfridge AFB, Michigan; the 938th Military Airlift Group and its collocated 349th Military Airlift Wing, Hamilton AFB, California; the 921st Military Airlift Group, Kelly AFB, Texas; the 941st Military Airlift Group, McChord AFB, Washingon; the 918th Military Airlift Group and its collocated 435th Military Airlift Wing, Dobbins AFB, Georgia; and the 904th Military Airlift Group, Stewart AFB, New York. [“Citizen Airmen” by Gerald Cantwell, Government Printing Office, 1994, page 215]

On April 11, Headquarters USAF directed the Continental Air Command to alert certain Air Force Reserve units for recall on May 13. Coming on extended active duty on the appointed day with 755 people were the 930th Tactical Airlift Group, less certain support elements; the 34th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron; the 52d Medical Service Squadron; and the 82d, 86th, and 88th Aerial Port Squadrons. [“Citizen Airmen” by Gerald Cantwell, Government Printing Office, 1994, page 221]

Coast Guard Reserve

The Coast Guard was actively involved in Vietnam with full-time active duty units. Although the Coast Guard Reserve program was functioning as a part of the Reserve Component during the period there were no activations of Coast Guard Reserve units. A number of Coast Guard reservists volunteered for active duty and served.

Information with corrections or additions to the above will be appreciated.

The political civilian leadership of the United States at the time of the Vietnam Conflict resisted a large scale activation of the reserve for a number of reasons. The reasons given centered around a “strategic decision” by the political leadership regarding the potential use of the strategic reserve for other worldwide military obligations. The issue of multi-service recall of the reserve components was under continual review, however. Throughout the early period expanded use of the force was under consideration by the military leadership and often recommended to the political leadership. Its use was debated both by the Congress and ultimately by the political leadership through out the 1965-1968 period. In 1969 and later the use of reserve forces in any large numbers was not forthcoming due to the change in conflict’s strategic direction by the incoming administration.