December 18, 1969
ACTOV - The U.S. Navy's Accelerated Turnover Program
America's Brown Water Navy in Vietnam is now the process of turning over most of its operating craft to the Vietnamese, training them in maintenance, logistics, and related fields, and serving as advisors to an emerging navy which has doubled in size in the space of one year.
At mid-1970, the U.S. Navy's in-country force will have relinquished most of its 500 patrol craft and gunboats and almost all naval operations to the Vietnamese Navy, through a program that will ensure continued success in the naval interdiction effort against communist infiltration and aggression.
That program is called ACTOV (Accelerated Turnover to the Vietnamese), and its task of training a well-drilled and competent force of 30,000 Vietnamese Navy Men, started last November, is in progress.
For the U.S. Navy, this means training the Vietnamese in riverine and coastal naval warfare, and turning over available surface craft and other assets. Before ACTOV ends, the Navy will train its Vietnamese counterparts in many fields from photography to PBR driving and will turn over craft as small as LCMs and as large as LSTs.
Vice Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam, and Chief, Naval Advisory Group, and his staff have seen ACTOV throughits planning stages and successfully launched the concept in November 1968.
While U.S. Navy advisors, both officer and enlisted, worked in the field side by side with Vietnamese sailors, ACTOV experts at the Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam, headquarters in Saigon coordinate the transfer of Navy assets. ACTOV is represented at each major U.S. and Vietnamese Navy task force base to guarantee on-the-scene coordination.
It is the effort; however, of the individual boat crews and advisors who make ACTOV work for it is their job to see that the Vietnamese sailors are properly trained before the turnover of the craft can be completed.
Training is the key to the success of ACTOV and both navies operate several scholls for Vietnamese sailors.
Vietnamese Naval Training Centers (NTC) located at Saigon, Cam Ranh Bay, and Nha Tranh offer curricula similar to U.S. Navy specialty schools. Nha Tranh NTC offers "A" school or special training courses for electronics technicians, quartermasters, radiomen, engine men, electricians mates, and damage control men; Nha Tranh also houses the Vietnamese Naval Academy. Cam Ranh Bay NTC offers "A" school courses for commissary men, boatswain's mates, yeomen and gunner's mates. Saigon NTC offers lesser specialty short courses in its "C" school.
The U.S. Navy small Boat School is the first step in the training of Vietnamese sailors who will man the boats in the field. Using the audiolingual method of instruction, the students learn conversational English language patterns from American instructors. Then duplicate these sounds in a pronunciation drill, and begin to build sentences. The students then apply the English words to boat-oriented terms and equipment in each naval course.
The 12-week Small Boat school instruction also includes limited "laboratory" training aboard a River Patrol Boat (PBR) or a Swift boat (PCF) in the Saigon safe area.
Upon graduation, the Vietnamese sailor leaves for a three-month, on-the-job training tour under combat conditions with American sailors on river or coastline patrol.
After this, he becomes a regular crewmember aboard an American boat, replacing an U.S. Navy Man. The ACTOV process ends when Vietnamese sailors have completely replaced the Americans and the boat has been turned over to the Vietnamese Navy.
About half of the 500 boats which will eventually complete the Vietnamese Navy this summer have already been turned over. Thirteen "Swift" boats (PCFs), used mainly for coastal surveillance and patrol, were the latest assets to be transferred, and later turnovers in 1970 will be programmed as the ACTOV training schedule provides the qualified officers and men.
When all the boats in an American naval unit have been turned over, the Vietnamese also take charge of that unit's area of operations.
After all the boats are turned over, a big job still remains in the development of a successful support operation. Under the supervision of an ACTOV sub-unit called ACTOVLOG (for Logistics), many of the U.S. Navy river and coastal bases from the Cua Viet River near the Demilltarized Zone to the Ca Mau Peninsula, Vietnam's southern tip, will be gradually turned over.
Working concurrently with the turnover of craft but expected to take sometime longer, most of the bases will first be co-manned by American and Vietnamese sailors, then turned over completely when the Vietnamese can perform their own maintenance and logistics responsibilities.
The naval base at Beb Luc, some twenty miles southeast of Saigon, is now co-manned and will be turned over completely to the Vietnamese in the near future. A former Vietnamese Navy junk base at My Tho in the Mekong Delta was recently improved by U.S. Navy engineers and turned over in November 1969.
At the end of ACTOV's first year, the Vietnamese Navy has grown in size from 8,000 officers and men to more than 30,000. When the program has been completed the Vietnamese Navy will stand as the 14th largest naval force in the world.
To date, the ACTOV program has made possible the transfer of 242 boats and craft from the U.S. Navy to the Vietnamese Navy. The latest transfer of 13 Swift boats, the PCF, marks the half-way point in the turnover program. Subsequent turnovers in early 1970 will be programmed as the training schedule provides the qualified officers and men.
Most importantly, as the boats and craft are turned over, the Vietnamese Navy assumes responsibility for the areas of operations (AO's) previously under the control of U.S. Navy units. Initial accomplishments leave little doubt that the Vietnamese Navy is a viable and professional one.
The U.S. Navy through ACTOV is shaping the Vietnamese Navy into a formidable riverine and coastal force to eventually replace the Americans in Vietnam. The VNN will inherit a tactically successful interdiction operation on the rivers and an effective blockade along the coast. ACTOV is the pivotal program with the imporant function to see that this is done as smoothly as possible.
From the Cua Viet river in I Corps to the tip of the Ca Mau Peninsula in IV Corps, the "Great Green Fleet" carrying the colors of the Republic of Vietnam has come to do a job and in the end, just a few months hence, will force the "Brown Water Navy" into the annals of American history.