The Nam: Paint it black
Three tier VC military formation: The VC/PLAF military formations were generally grouped into 3 echelons.3
VC Main-Force Units. The elite of the VC were the chu luc or Main Force Units, made up of full-time fighters. These units generally reported to one of the Interzone headquarters or were controlled directly by COSVN. Many of the soldiers were southern-born and had been trained in the north before re-infiltrating back to serve the Revolution. A majority of main-force fighters were party members, wore the pith helmet common to the NVA, carried the same weapons, and could operate in battalion or even regimental size strengths. A typical battalion was similar to a NVA one, with 400–600 men organized into 3 infantry companies backed by a fire support company. Recon, signals, sapper and logistics units rounded out the formation.94
The Regional Forces. Regional or territorial units were also full-time soldiers but they generally served within or close to their home provinces. They did not have the degree of literacy of the main-force personnel, and did not have the percentage of Party members present in their ranks. They were not as well armed as the chu luc and usually operated in units that seldom exceeded company strength.
Village guerrillas. Village, hamlet or local guerrillas were part-time fighters and helpers, carrying out minor harassment operations like sniping or mine/booby trap laying, building local fortifications or supply caches, and transporting supplies and equipment. Mostly peasant farmers, these militia style units were under the control of low level NLF or Front leadership.
Transitions. Although manpower shortages sometimes intervened, a hierarchical promotion system was generally followed between the 3- levels. Promising guerrilla level operatives were moved up to the Regional Forces, and promising Regional Force fighters were promoted to the full-time Main Force units. This ensured that the Main Forces received the best personnel, with some seasoning under their belts.3
NVA structure and organization
The PAVN High Command retained control of NVA regular formations. Individual NVA might be used as replacement fillers for VC Main Force units
Organization of VC/NVA units in the field
The typical NVA division had a strength of approximately 10,000 men grouped into three infantry regiments, with a supporting artillery regiment or battalion, and signals, engineers, medical and logistic formations. The artillery units were generally armed with mortars although they might use heavier weapons in an extended set-piece operation. The regiments were generally broken down into 3 foot-soldier battalions of 500–600 men each, along with the supporting units. Each battalion in turn was subdivided into companies and platoons, with heavy weapons units augmenting the small arms of the line troops.96
Both the VC and NVA formations operated under a "system of three" – three cells to a squad, three squads to a platoon, 3 companies to a battalion etc. This could vary depending on operational circumstances. Small-arms dominated the armament of typical infantry battalions, which deployed the standard infantry companies, logistical support, and heavy weapons sub-units of modern formations. Heavier weapons like 82 mm mortars or recoilless rifles and machine guns were at the battalions combat support company. Members of the combat support unit were also responsible for placing mines and booby traps. Special detachments or platoons included sappers, recon, signals, etc. and were directly responsible to the battalion commander.
A cell consisted of 3 men.
A Squad = 9 men (3 Cells)
A Platoon = 27 men (3 Squads)
A Company = 81 men (3 Platoons)
A Battalion = 243 men (3 Companies)