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Throughout its relatively brief existence the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) maintained a large military, trained and equipped largely with extensive support from the United States. Although often remembered today for being on the losing side of The Vietnam War, and for its widespread problems of corruption within its officer corps, the South Vietnamese military also had its share of capable officers and South Vietnamese frontline personnel often fought with great courage and tenacity. Despite the perception of the Vietnam War as primarily a conflict between the U.S. on the one side and North Vietnam and the Viet Cong on the other, the South Vietnamese military actually, numerically speaking, bore the brunt of the fighting on their side, at least as far as the ground war was concerned.

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Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN)

Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF)

Aircraft used by the VNAF included:

A-1 Skyraider: A large piston-engine attack aircraft, the A-1 was one of the most recognizable aircraft of the VNAF. Designed and built for the U.S. Navy as a combination dive bomber and torpedo bomber in the closing phases of World War II, the Skyraider made its first flight in spring of 1945 but didn't enter service until after World War II. During the Korean War the AD (as it was originally known) built up a formidable reputation as a close support aircraft. Although looking out of date alongside the supersonic fighters of the 1960s with its huge radial engine and four-bladed propeller, the A-1's large weapon load, durability and slow-speed maneuverability made it ideally suited for operations in the Vietnam War with the VNAF as well as the US Air Force and Navy.

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A-37 Dragonfly: A twin-engine light attack jet derived from the T-37 "Tweety Bird" trainer, the A-37 was used extensively by the VNAF. After the fall of Saigon, over 90 surviving examples were kept in service with the Vietnam People's Air Force, and saw combat against the Khmer Rouge and the Chinese in the late 70s.

F-5A Freedom Fighter & F-5E Tiger II: Familiar to moviegoers as the "MiG-28" in Top Gun, the F-5 is a lightweight supersonic fighter originally designed to be supplied to U.S. allies whose infrastructure couldn't support more complicated aircraft like the F-4 Phantom II. The F-5 was the only jet fighter and the only supersonic aircraft operated by the VNAF, but was mostly used in the ground attack role. Like the A-37, surviving F-5s were kept in service with the VPAF after the Communists overran the South and saw combat in the Cambodian-Vietnamese War and the Sino-Vietnamese War.

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Republic of Vietnam Navy (VNN)

At its peak strength, the VNN was among the largest navies in the world, with approximately 42,000 personnel and 1,400 vessels. The VNN was an archetypal "brown-water navy," specializing in littoral and riverine warfare, and never operated any submarines or surface combatants larger than frigates and destroyer escorts.

Republic of Vietnam Marine Division (RVNMD)

Nicknamed the "Sea Tigers", the RVNMD were probably the originators of the iconic "tigerstripe" camouflage pattern (although frequently worn by U.S. personnel, the tigerstripe camouflage was never actually official U.S. issue).

In fiction:

In general, expect the RVNMF to appear in works about the Vietnam War. How sympathetically they are portrayed may vary depending on the author or director's sentiments on the conflict.

  • Rising Storm 2: Vietnam added the ARVN in a 2018 update. In general, they make use of older, World War II-era weaponry such as the M1 Garand, Thompson, and M1919 alongside their more modern weapons like the M16 and M60. Fittingly, the aircraft they call in for Napalm strikes is an A-1 Skyraider in South Vietnamese Air Force colors.
  • The Green Berets went out of its way to show the ARVN as having an active role in the war effort.
  • Walter J. Boyne and Steven L. Thomson's 1986 novel The Wild Blue (not to be confused with the Stephen Ambrose nonfiction book with the same main title) features several of the major characters working with the South Vietnamese military during the Southeast Asia War.
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