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21 juillet 2008 1 21 /07 /juillet /2008 07:41

The People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF), more popularly known as the Viet Cong (VC), was the military arm of the National Liberation Front (NLF). Established at the end of 1960, the VC was created by the North Vietnamese communists to escalate the armed struggle in South Vietnam. In the early 60's they grew rapidly and by 1964, totaled over 30,000 soldiers.

The Viet Cong were organized into three levels: regular forces operating under the command of the southern communist leadership, full time guerrillas organized into companies serving under provincial leadership and finally, a part time self-defense militia, composed of units organized into squads and platoons used primarily for village defense.

Primarily, the VC were guerrillas, and it has been said that no one has ever developed an adequate defense against guerrilla warfare. They wore no uniforms, dressed in the same type of clothing as the local peasants, and blended into the landscape when their mission was complete.

The VC would periodically launch hit-and-run attacks on government installations, military outposts and even district towns in the South. Its most celebrated victory was at the village of Ap Bac in early 1963, when VC soldiers inflicted heavy casualties on the Southern Vietnamese units. The VC also played a primary role in the Tet offensive in early 1968, where they attacked villages, towns and cities in the South. Eventually, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) superseded the VC's combat role and by the end of the war in 1975, the Viet Cong's participations were only minor. After the war, the remaining VC were integrated into the PAVN.


The organisation detailed below is, in effect, a VC Main Force Company, although you could take elements of this organisation for Regional forces. Local forces were not organised to this level, being an assortment of combatants and arms.

Similarly, other than Main Force units, the weapons carried by Regional and Local forces would be an incredible assortment of old and relatively new. A lot of SKS carbines, old WWII vintage rifles, SMG's etc. Very few AK-47- T56 s would be evident, even in Main Force units until later in the war.

One very important point to remember when researching these units (and regular NVA) is the critically short amount of ammunition available. Every bit had to come down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Also remember that, following the Tet offensive of February 1968, the VC virtually ceased to exist as a coherent fighting force, having been almost destroyed in depth by the allies. Engagements with VC units after this date  involved confronting substantial numbers of regular NVA cadre troops within the ranks of the VC and a commensurate increase in the quality of weaponry and support fire!

VC Local Guerrillas

These were the archetypal 'farmers by day, soldiers by night', comprising those either too old or too young to fight in the regular VC units and dressed as local peasant farmers.

Whilst their primary activities consisted of intelligence gathering, sniping and emplacing booby traps, these troops were employed in the support of VC Regional and Main Force units operating in their locality as porters, scouts and guides.

Force size was dependent on the size of the local village or hamlet and ranged from a single 3 man cell to a platoon of 3-4 squads. Generally operated at the squad level of 12 men.

VC Regional Guerrillas

The  Regional units of the Vietcong more often than not operated as independent companies but often split up and dispersed into platoons, squads and cells. These soldiers were full-timers and were better equipped and trained than the local guerrillas. The personnel of these units were often local to the area in which they served.

Generally these units operated within their home region and fought as fully formed units.

NVA Main-force Regulars                      

Known as 'hard hats' since they wore the ubiquitous pith helmet, these forces operated and were organised along traditional military lines. Organised into battalions consisting of 3 Rifle Company's and a Combat Support Company these troops were, on the whole, well trained, aggressive and well led.

On larger operations they could be organised and deployed as regiments of 2-3 battalions.


In the course of the war, the Viet Cong created very extensive underground complexes. Whenever troops would uncover a tunnel, Tunnel Rats were sent in to kill any buried enemy and to plant explosives to destroy the tunnels.

A Tunnel Rat was equipped with only a semiautomatic M1911 (.45 caliber) pistol and a flashlight, although most tunnel rats were allowed to choose another pistol to arm themselves with. The tunnels were very dangerous, with numerous booby traps and enemies lying in wait. Often there were flooded U-bends in the tunnels to trap gas.

Guards manned holes on the sides of tunnels through which spears could be thrust impaling a crawling intruder. Not only were there human enemies to deal with, but also different creatures such as snakes, spiders, scorpions, ants, and bats.

Due to the confined space, the tunnel rats disliked the massive muzzle blast of the M1911 pistol, which would often leave them temporarily deaf, and it was not uncommon that they used whatever alternative handgun they could come across.

The Soviet-made pistols the enemy carried were particular favorites, but they were extremely rare, and the soldiers would often have someone at home send them a civilian pistol or revolver. Among the favorites were the German Luger and Walther pistols, many of which were brought home by returning American troops. Others would trade their pistols for revolvers used by other personnel. Many used improvised suppressors on their pistols to further reduce the noise.

Tunnel Rats were generally men of smaller stature and, almost exclusively White or Hispanic soldiers, and the majority were Puerto Rican and Mexican .


Type 56 assault rifle (PR China)

Type 56 assault rifle with stamped steel receiver

During the early post-WW2 period, the newly established Peoples Republic of China was a close "friend" to the Soviet Union, so it was natural for the much less advanced country to adopt the weapons of a more advanced ally. In 1956, the Chinese military adopted two Soviet designs, both carrying the same Type 56 designation, and both being chambered for Soviet 7.62 x 39 ammunition. One was the semi-automatic Simonov SKS carbine, the other was the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle.

Both weapons were made in large numbers and used by the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army of China), as well as exported into various countries. The original Type 56 assault rifle was an almost exact copy of the Soviet AK-47, with its milled receiver. Later on, Chinese designers switched to AKM-type stamped receivers, under the same Type 56 designation. The only notable differences were the markings in Chinese instead of Russian, and the folding non-detachable spike-shaped bayonets, which replaced the original detachable knife-bayonets of Soviet origin. 

During early 1980s PLA adopted a new assault rifle of domestic origin, known as Type 81, which gradually replaced Type 56 rifles in front-line service. Despite of that fact, Type 56 rifles are still manufactured by Chinese state arms factories in a variety of versions, for export purposes. NORINCO corporation also sells "civilian" versions of the Type 56 rifles, semi-automatic only and in several calibers, including 7,62x39 M43 and 5.56x45 / .223 Remington.

Another interesting note is that Chinese designers produced a compact version of the Type 56 rifle, known as Type 56C. It is apparently still in service with PLA, despite the fact that its full-size "brothers" have long been retired from general PLA service.

Type 56 is a gas operated, selective fire weapon. The receiver is machined from steel in early versions, the two lugged bolt locks into receiver walls. Later models, however, were made with stamped-steel AKM-type receivers, but retained the same Type 56 designation. The Type 56 has AK-47-style controls with a reciprocating charging handle and a massive safety / fire selector lever on the right side of the receiver.

The furniture is made from wood, and a compact version with an underfolding metal buttstock is also available (designation is Type 56-1). Alternatively, a version with side-folding buttsock is produced as Type 56-2. The only visible difference from the Soviet AK-47 is a permanently attached spike bayonet, which folds under the barrel when not in use. 

Some sources said that quality of those guns was worse than of Soviet original ones. Most notably, at least some Type 56 rifles lacked the chrome plating in the barrel and gas system area, and thus were much less resistant to corrosion.

Caliber: 7.62x39 mm
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 874 mm
Barrel length: 414 mm
Weight: 3.80 kg
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Rate of fire: 650 rounds per minute

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