STRATEGIC TECHNICAL DIRECTORATE
(A Brief History)
This article is a brief introduction and history of the Vietnamese top secret unit which had been the counterpart of the U.S. MACV-SOG. In the early of the year 1960, the CIA funded and directed several units to operate beyond 17 parallel, Laos and Cambodia for collecting intelligent information.
Strategic Technical Directorate was the covert name for that Vietnamese commando unit, the name sounded like a department which repaired automobile. It was the last name for that unit until the fall of South Vietnam. The commando unit had changed its name many times during the war according to the events caused by the changing of political or military.
Unconventional Warfare Command was first operated under the name Geographic Deployment Department. This department was commanded by Colonel Le Quang Tung and operated in both inside and outside of South Vietnam. Office 45 or (E) of the department was specialized in intelligent collecting beyond the 17 parallel. At that time the office was commanded by Captain Binh (covert name), and his commando teams were usually inserted into North Vietnam via a third country (Laos, Thailand). Office E later was called North Office.
Geographic Deployment Department in 1963 was developed into the Special Forces Command with two principle units the 77th and the 31st Groups. The North Office was renamed Deployment Office and separated from the Special Forces Command. The first commander of the Deployment Office was Colonel Tran Van Ho, this office worked closely with the U.S. counterpart MACV-SOG.
Commando teams from the North Office operated in North Vietnam under two long and short-term plans. Teams in the long-term plan stayed deep in the North meanwhile operations in the short-term plan were carried out by the 68th and 11th Group. A Training Center was established in Long Thanh to train teams operated along the border Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia to search for Communist sanctuaries. The name “Lightning Tiger” appeared during this time. The “Lightning Tiger” commandos unit was commanded by Colonel Ho Tieu and the unit was called the Liaison Office. The highest operation of their time was the period between 1966 to 1972. The Liaison Office included three groups:
· The 1st Group located in Da Nang (I-Corps)
· The 2nd Group based in Kontum (II-Corps)
· The 3rd Group was in Ban Me Thuot (II-Corps)
(Before 1972, all Liaison Office teams operated out of South Vietnam)
In 1965, the Deployment Department worked under the Joint General Staffs and renamed as Strategic Technical Department then rose to a higher level Directorate. The Directorate controlled the following offices:
· Liaison Office
· Special Mission Service (former of the 68th, 11th Groups)
· Air Attachment Office
· Coastal Defense Office
· Quyet Thang Training Center
· Psycho-Logical Warfare Office
The Special Mission Service Office was formed last from the 68th and 11th groups then with newly formed groups 71st, 72nd and the 75th. The Office Headquarters located in Nha Trang, the 11th, 71st and 72nd Groups were in Da Nang, the 75th in Kontum, and the 68th Group based in Saigon near the STD headquarters.
The Coastal Defense Office included Maritime commandos and the Frog-men (SEAL) attacked the Communist Naval bases or military installations along the coast of North Vietnam. This office operated directly under the control of the Strategic Technical Directorate even its commander was a naval officer Cmdr. Ho Van Ky Thoai.
The Psycho-Logical Warfare Office employed many civilians to operate two secret radio stations which broadcasted toward North Vietnam for propaganda against the Communist regime.
Vietnamese Arms Forces Day 1997 (06/19)
Hieu D, Vu