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pockets of Binh Xuyen resistance in the Rung Sat. As a result of these and similar actions being fought simultaneously by loyal Army units, organized resistance to Premier Diem gradually collapsed.*

The sect crisis of 1955 proved to be the turning point in Diem's political fortunes. At the height of the crisis, Emperor Bao Dai attempted to remove Diem as premier by ordering him to France for "consultations." Electing to remain in Saigon and direct his government efforts to quell the rebellion, the premier declined Bao Dai's summons. The Vietnamese military forces proved loyal to the premier, having faithfully executed Diem's commands throughout the emergency. Having successfully met the armed challenge of the sects and the Binh Xuyen and having openly repudiated Bao Dai's authority, Premier Diem had imposed at least a measure of political stability on South Vietnam.

An epilogue to the sect crisis was written on 23 October when a nationwide referendum was held in South Vietnam to settle the issue of national leadership. In the balloting, since criticized as having been rigged. Premier Diem received 98.2 percent of the total vote against Bao Dai. Three days later, on 26 October, South Vietnam's new president proclaimed the Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

The Vietnamese Marine Corps benefited greatly from Premier Diem's successful confrontation with his political rivals. On 1 May, in preparation for the 1st Landing Battalion's deployment to combat, Major Trong had established a small Marine Corps headquarters in Saigon. Shortly thereafter. Diem had appointed a Vietnamese officer, Captain But Pho Chi, to replace Captain Delayen as commander of the landing battalion. The French commando officer, who was a member of TRIM, remained at Nha Trang as an advisor to the VNMC. Then, on the last day of June, Diem removed the remaining French officers from command positions throughout South Vietnam's naval forces. The combined effect of these actions was to reduce French influence throughout the nation's naval establishment while making the Vietnamese Marine Corps more responsive to the central government.

The burdens of demobilization also were lightened somewhat as a result of the sect crisis when a new force level was approved by the United States in mid-summer of 1955. The new agreement, dictated in part by the requirement to integrate portions of the sects' armies into the national forces, raised the force level to 150,000 men and placed the personnel ceiling of the Vietnamese naval forces at 4,000 men. This revision enhanced the prospects for a corresponding increase in the authorized strength of the VNMC.

The 1st Landing Battalion's performance against the sect forces in the Mekong Delta and the Rung Sat, moreover, tempered much of the previous opposition to a separate VNMC. Heretofore, U.S. and Vietnamese Army officers had opposed the existence of a Vietnamese amphibious force apart from the National Army. Until the sect uprising, Lieutenant Colonel Croizat had used the influence afforded by his position as naval advisor to the general staff to advocate the continuation of the VNMC. But during the sect battles the Vietnamese Marines had firmly established their value to the new government. By displaying loyalty, discipline, and efficiency in combat, they had spoken out in their own behalf at a critical juncture in their corp's existence.

Shortly before the 1st Landing Battalion deployed to fight the rebellious sect forces, two additional U.S. Marine advisors-an officer and a noncommissioned officer-arrived in South Vietnam for duty with the MAAG. Both Marines were assigned to TRIM. Croizat dispatched the officer, Captain James T. Breckinridge, to Nha Trang where he soon replaced Captain Delayen as advisor to the 1st Landing Battalion. As State Department policy prohibited U.S. military personnel from participating in combat activities with indigenous forces, Breckinridge was forced to await the battalion's return from the field. During its absence he divided his time between Nha Trang and Saigon where he assisted Colonel Croizat with planning and logistics matters. The noncommissioned officer, Technical Sergeant Jackson E. Tracy, initially remained in Saigon but later moved to Nha Trang. There, serving principally as a small unit tactics instructor to the Vietnamese Marines, Tracy impressed Breckinridge as a "first-

*Some sources contend that remnants of the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai armies survived to operate alongside the Viet Cong guerrillas who began threatening the Diem government in the late 1950s. (Kahin and Lewis, The U.S. in Vietnam, p. 111.)

 

 

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