United States Army Support, Thailand
Many Army Veterans stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War years are aware of USARSUPTHAI. However not many know of the reasoning for creating this major command, its overall mission or the turmoil it caused at the time at the highest echelons of the Royal Thai Government.
The following excerpts are from AD394097 – Operational Report - Lessons Learned, Headquarters, United States Army Support, Thailand ending 31 Jan 1967.
The inception of Headquarters, United States Army Support, Thailand extends back to late 1965 and a proposal by Major General Richard G. Stilwell, Commanding General United States Military Assistance Command, Thailand in a letter to USARPAC on 16 January 1966, General Stilwell officially enumerated his reasons for having a "small U S Army control Headquarters to which all Army units ... may be assigned." COUSMACTHAI was concerned over the lack of an Army component headquarters in the event of expanded U.S. military operations in Thailand and Laos. On his own authority, General Stilwell had a proposed TD forwarded from his headquarters to USARPAC and called for a meeting in Bangkok on 28 January 1966 of representatives of 9th Logistical Command (B), STRATCOM-T, USARSYS and IX Corps (USARPAC gave immediate concurrence to Genera! Stilwell's request as evidenced by their rapid response in the tasking of IX Corps Headquarters on Okinawa to prepare to assume the mission. The meeting in Bangkok constituted the initial planning for development of a ground component headquarters to be called United States Army Control, Thailand (USARCONTHAI).
Headquarters IX Corps had been assigned to Okinawa since February 1956. Ten years later, at reduced strength, it provided USARPAC with the nucleus for a Corps-level headquarters to execute contingency operational missions as required with priority to unilateral and SEATO operations in the Thailand/Laos area. It was in the right part of the world at the right time and, perhaps most important, it was the right size with regard to personnel space authorizations. IX Corps was reorganized to virtually zero strength, and 133 of its spaces were employed to organize Headquarters and Headquarters
Company, USARCONTHAI, by USARPAC General Orders 88 and 89, effective 25 April 1966, and Colonel Francis W. O'Brien, then IX Corps Chief of Staff, assumed command. The new headquarters met its readiness date of 15 June 1966.
The delay from organization in April to deployment in October revealed some interesting political sidelights with regard to employment of U.S. troops in Southeast Asia at that time. Ambassador
Graham Martin concurred in the need for a control headquarters in January and reaffirmed his approval in April but wanted the Royal Thai Government's concurrence and instructions from our State Department before he would grant in-country clearance. State responded favorably in April, but the Thais seemed reluctant. This reluctance was not entirely bureaucratic red-tape but extended all the way to the Prime Minister level. Clearance was finally received on 23 September 1966 with instructions that the organization be redesignated United States Army Support, Thailand (USARSUPTIHAI). The reason for hesitancy on the part of the Royal Thai Government in granting country clearance was never absolutely determined. The general opinion among U.S. officers, however, was that Thai authorities objected to the word "Control" in the new organizations title and feared that it might appear to the public that the United States was taking over operations in their own country.
Upon approval by Department of the Army, the final movement directives were prepared by USARPAC and USARYIS with a closure date for the unit of 15 November 1966. The first echelon, consisting of eleven officers and twenty-eight enlisted men, arrived in Korat on 17 October 1966. A sea movement of vehicles and equipment departed on 19 October 1966; the second echelon departed Okinawa by air on 10 November 1966 while the rear detachment met the 15 November closure date.
USARPAC General Order 247, dated 27 October 1966, assigned USARSUPTHAI to USARPAC effective 1 November 1966 with operational control vested in COMUSMACTHAI.
With the organization on such an austere strength basis, the Headquarters had certain limitations which hampered the assumption of all Army component responsibilities. In order to assume all command responsibilities, significant augmentations were required in sections such as the Adjutant General, Inspector General, G-4, Comptroller, Chaplain, Provost Marshal, and Special Services. A plan for a modest thirty-man augmentation in some of these areas was developed and forwarded to Department of the Army.
Brigadier General Edwin F. Black arrived on 11 December 1966, assumed command of Headquarters, USARSUPTHAI and almost immediately met with representatives from USARPAC, USARYIS, 9th Logistical Command (B) and USARSUPTHAI staff members in Korat to discuss the transfer of functions from the various Army commands to Headquarters, USARSUPTHAI responsibility. On 1 January 1967 USARSUPTHAI formally assumed command and/or operational control of all Army troops in Thailand by General Order #4.
As stated above, USARSUPTHAI was commanded directly by CINCUSARPAC, with operational control vested in COMUSMACTHAI. The major subordinate units over which the Commanding General, USARSUPTHAI assumed direct command were Headquarters, 9th Logistical Command (B); Headquarters, 44th Engineer Group, and Headquarters, 428th Medical Battalion. In addition, operational control of the 29th Signal Group was given to CG, USARSUPTHAI while the 1st Signal Brigade in the Republic of Vietnam retained command. Company D, 1st Special Forces Group was attached from USARYIS to USARSUPTHAI with MACTHAI exorcising operational control.
MISSION: The missions of USARSUPTHAJ are as follows:
a. Tactical: Provide the U.S. Army nucleus for a unilateral, bilateral or combined tactical headquarters to conduct ground combat operations in Thailand.
b. Training: Conduct continuing OJT (on-the-job training) of assigned Army units.
c, Planning: Conduct U.S. Army planning to support joint operational plans for current operations and contingency U.S. unilateral, bilateral and, SEATO oplans.
d, Management: Exercise command management supervision of U.S. Army construction programs, logistic operations, real property, facilities and project stocks.
a. Logistical and Administrative: Provide (1) logistical support to U.S. Air Force operations in North Vietnam and Laos end (2) U.S. Army, and joint service support as directed.
When the Headquarters was reorganized from IX Corps to United States Army Control, Thailand, under TDA P6-1000-00, with authorized strength of 131 (a final two-space deletion from 133 was effected during re-organization), the assigned strength was 97. An emergency requisition was immediately submitted to bring the unit up to TDA strength. The response to this requisition was favorable, with personnel arriving during the period May-August 1966. At the same time, all personnel actions were frozen, including cases of personnel who were past their DEROS and who had reassignment orders for CONUS. Numerous messages between this Headquarters, USARPAC and Department of the Army resulted in the decision that those who had school assignments would comply with orders and that the others would deploy with the unit.
The foregoing actions were taken during the months of May, June, and July, but during the months of August and September, it became evident that the long delay in deployment was causing serious moral problems. Discussions between the G1 of this Headquarters and USARPAC eventually resulted in recommending to Department of the Army a personnel policy for the unit which would be applicable regardless of the deployment date of the unit and which would, in effect, regularize personnel actions on the same basis as though the unit were not alerted. Events overtook the action, as the unit did receive clearance to move to Thailand late in September, and Department of the Army policy message was received which spelled out a personnel policy that was wholly consistent with current Department of the Army personnel procedures. Although there were individual cases of disappointment, the policy was in general well received, and the morale of the Headquarters substantially increased by the sure knowledge that the unit would deploy during the months of October and November.
A concurrent action was developed early in the planning of unit deployment with regard to travel of dependents to Thailand, COMUSMACTHAI and the Commanding Officer jointly developed a plan for designating fifty of the spaces in the unit table of distribution as "key" spaces, the incidents of which would be authorized to transport their dependents to Thailand. Those dependents would reside in Bangkok while their sponsors were assigned to Korat; however, the original plan stipulated that under those circumstances, the sponsor would receive housing allowances based on the Bangkok rate. The sponsor would also be required to complete a two-year tour in Thailand as is the case for other accompanied personnel in-country. Despite some misgivings, the total concept was generally agreed upon and approved at USARPAC, USARYIS, MACTHAI and this Headquarters.
Upon request from MACTHAI to USRSYIS that preliminary actions be taken to approve the travel of certain dependents, the real problems, allowances and order issuing authority came to a head.
USARPAC queried Department of the Army, and the decision was announced from Department of the Army that the plan was acceptable and tacit agreement was applied that USARPAC could put the plan into effect; however, DA stated that sponsors moving under those circumstances would be authorized to receive only the Korat rate for his housing allowance, By early October, the long delay in deployment, uncertainty as to the unit's status, and the troublesome question of allowance rates combined to cause most of the originally interested sponsors to lose interest in the dependent travel plan, and most had, in fact by this time sent or arranged for sending their dependents home. MACTHAI therefore, sent a message to USARPAC on 4 October, with the concurrence of the Commanding Officer of this organization, effectively delaying any further implementation of the dependent travel program until the unit could arrive in-country and the entire action be completely restudied.
Another concurrent action was taken during the period in question regarding an augmentation for the Headquarters. Personnel both in MACTHAI and this Headquarters felt that any component command in-country would require comptroller, inspector general and provost marshal personnel on the staff. To retain the austere posture of the unit, it was agreed that such an augmentation should be limited to thirty spaces. Tentative decisions as to the staffing of these thirty spaces were greed upon at USARPAC level, and CINCAP had the augmentation group included in the JCS approved troop list for Thailand. The augmentation was subsequently deferred, then deleted, then restored to the approved troop list revised TDA to include the thirty additional spaces was submitted to USARPAC along with emergency requisitions for personnel fill and action was still progressing at the close of the reporting period. Since the TDA has not yet been approved by ACSFGR, the requisitions remain 1) in USARPAC for submission as soon as approval is received.
Early in the life of the new organization, it was decided that a distinctive unit insignia should be adopted. Such an insignia was designed and submitted to the Institute of Heraldry Department of the Army, in June. The design was approved on 16 September and requisitions have been submitted for the insignia.
From June until the unit's deployment during October and November, numerous liaison visits and conferences were held between representatives of this Headquarters and their counterparts in USARPAC, USARSYS, and MACTHAI concerning the mission of the unit after its transfer and the corresponding transfer of functions between this Headquarters end USARYIS. These actions finally culminated in a single joint conference at the new Headquarters in Korat during the period 11 – 13 December. At that conference it was decided that the USARSUPTHAI commander would assume full responsibility for personnel actions and reports no later than the close of the third quarter of the fiscal year (most functional transfers took place on 1 January 1967). One noteable exception, insofar as personnel actions are concerned,, had to be made in the case of those actions which require general court-martial action for decision; since GCM jurisdiction had to remain with USARYIS, the final decision on certain elimination actions will have to remain for the foreseeable future with USARYIS.
g. During the late stages of the unit's deployment to Thailand, the decision was made to re-designate the unit United States Army Support, Thailand. the official re-designation was accomplished on 23 September 1966 and the first echelon of troops deployed for Korat on 15 October. From mid-October to 1 January, the target date for assumption of command of all Army units in Thailand by USARSUPTHAI, daily planning and coordination were effected regarding the many individual responsibilities that would have to be assumed. 'Personnel of the G-1 Section - two officers and two enlisted men -- planned for assuming supervisory control of the operations of the Adjutant General, Chaplain, Provost Marshal, Surgeon, Civilian Personnel Office, Education Advisor, and Special Services Office. It was decided to completely amalgerate the Adjutant General sections of this Headquarters and that of the 9th Logistical Command Chaplain and Provost Marshal with performing similar functions for this Headquarters in a “two-hat” situation; and to designate the Commanding Officer of the 428th Medical Battalion (which was to be detached from the 9th Logistical Command and assigned to USARSPUTHAI as the command surgeon.
During the reporting period, directives and other guidance in his area of responsibility were initiated by the G-1. A close liaison was maintained with his MACTHAI counterpart in planning for the transfer of functions being performed by the letter which properly belong to USARSUPTHAI. Personnel inadequacies in the G-1 section have been delayed substantially the implementation of a full personnel program and the small staff has been mainly concerned with expedient actions. A great deal of emphasis was given during the month to the problems incident to the high venereal disease rate in-country, and a great amount of time was devoted to formulating a program for the control of venereal disease.