by Dorsey Edward Rowe
About the Author:
Colonel Dorsey Edward Rowe, U.S. Army, a graduate of West Point, Class of 1962, has retired in 1992 after 30 years of service in the United States Army. While in Vietnam he served as a District Advisor and Sector S-3 in Quang Ngai Province, and aboard the Emergency Command Post Afloat and in his last tour of duty in Vietnam, Major Dorsey E. Rowe served as the Advisor to the Military Instruction Directorate of the Vietnamese National Military Academy in Dalat from 1972 - 1973.
The Vietnamese National Military Academy is located in the pineforested highland of II Corps, at an altitude of 5,000 feet, near the city of Dalat.
The mission of the Vietnamese National Military Academy is to instruct and train cadets so that each graduate shall have the potentialities essential to his progressive and continuous development throughout a career as an officer in the regular Army, as demonstrated by:
2. A profound military background.
3. A broad education consisting of technical knowledge equivalent to that of engineer graduates from civil colleges, enriched by a liberal amount of the social sciences.
Inherent in this mission are the following objectives:
1. Mental: Provide a university level education in the arts and sciences and develop the powers of analysis so that the mind may reason to a logical conclusion.
2. Moral: Develop in the cadet a high sense of duty and the attributes of character, discipline, and motivation essential to the profession of arms.
3. Physical: Develop in the cadet those physical attributes essential to the lifetime career as a regular officer of the Armed Forces of Vietnam.
In order to accomplish its mission, the academy is organized into a headquarters and three major sub-units:
(1) The Academic College (2) The Military Instruction Directorate (MID), and (3) The Staff and Support Group.
The Academic College is charged with teaching all academic subjects. Although VNMA employs some civilians in the Academic College, most instructors are RVNAF commissioned officers possessing at least a bachelor's degree from a Vietnamese or foreign university. The academy offers selected instructors the opportunity to pursue graduate studies at certain foreign universities.
The Military Instruction Directorate teaches all military subjects and physical education and is responsible for the command, discipline, and the morale of the cadet regiment. Officers assigned to MID are mostly combat veterans and usually graduates of VNMA.
The Staff coordinates all administrative, logistical and other support which is furnished primarily by the Support Group.
The Superintendent, Major General Lam Quang Tho, is serving his second tour of duty in this capacity and has been closely associated with the development and growth of VNMA. He has also Superintendent from 1965-1966, which has a critical time in the Academy's development when it was converting to a four-year curriculum. The Supe is also a member of Class 3 which graduated on July 1, 1951. He attended the Armor Officer Advanced Course at Fort Knox in 1956 and graduated from the Command and General Staff Course at Ft. Leavenworth in 1964.
The Academy is housed primary in structures that were built beginning in 1961. Cadets live either two or three to a room in four 100-room barracks. They eat in a messhall which has a single-sitting capacity of 1200. The cadets are organized into a Cadet Regiment consisting of two battalions. Each battalion has five companies. There is a Cadet Chain of Command as well as a "plebe" system similar to those at West Point. The cadets of VNMA have a close contact with West Point through a former member of their present senior class. Class 25 is very proud of the fact that one of its members, Cadet Pham Minh Tam, was selected to be the first Vietnamese cadet to attend West Point. Cadet Tam is a member of the USMA Class of 1974.
Unlike U.S. academies, there are no direct appointments to VNMA. To be eligible for admission, candidates must meet the following requirements:
1. Be between 17 and 22 years of age.
2. Possess Vietnamese citizenship.
4. Have an unblemished record.
5. Be physical fit and have a minimum height of 1.60 meters (5'4").
6. Possess a Baccalaureate II Diploma in Sciences or Mathematics or an equivalent foreign diploma.
7. Pass VNMA entrance examination.
The history of the Academy dates back to December of 1948 when the French founded the Vietnamese Regular Officers' School in Hue. In 1950, this school was moved to Dalat and renamed "Ecole Militaire Inter-Armes." Until 1954, all commanders of the school were French officers, as were the instructors. The Vietnamese gradually assumed control after the Geneva Accords and the name was changed to "Truong Vo Bi Lien Quan, Da Lat" which is a translation of the early French name.
In July of 1959, the President of South Vietnam signed a Decree establishing "Truong Vo Bi Quoc Gia (The Vietnamese National Military Academy) as a university-level institution. Although this theoretically put VNMA on the same educational level as the University of Saigon, Hue and Dalat, the program of instruction was only three years and equal status was not realized. A four-year curriculum was approved in October of 1961, but was in effect less than a year since in August, 1962, due to the shortage of junior officers, VNMA was placed on a wartime program of two years. Realizing the need for men who could help build a nation, Premier Ky, on 13 December 1966, signed a Decree which reestablished a four-year curriculum and placed VNMA on equal terms with any other four-year college level school in Vietnam.
The current VNMA curriculum is generally modeled after that of West Point. However, VNMA does triple-duty as it now serves as the Vietnamese equivalent of not only West Point, but also Annapolis and the Air Force Academy. Class 25, which will graduate on 15 December, will be the first class to have undergone tri-service training which was initiated in 1970. The basic concept of tri-service training is that for the first two years all cadets receive identical academic and military programs of instruction. At the end of the second year, the cadet class is divided into three services: Army, Navy, and Air Force, with 1/8 of the class strength going Navy, 1/8 to the Air Force and 3/4 for the Army. During their last two years, the Navy and Air Force cadets will receive a modified academic POI and will undergo military training seasons with their respective services. As at West Point, the school year is divided into two periods : the academy year and the military training season. At VNMA the academy year runs from mid-March until mid-December and is divided into two semesters. The military training season, during which the cadets are granted a two-week leave, runs from mid-December until mid-March. The months of December, January, February, and March provide the best weather for overall military training in the Dalat area, which is the reason for the different from the schedule cycle used in the United States.
The academic curriculum is comprised of courses in the pure sciences, the applied sciences and the humanities. In the pure sciences-mathematics, physics, and chemistry- the cadets learn to think logically, to separate the essential information from the non-essential, and to reason to a logical conclusion. The courses provide the background for the cadet to move on to the applied sciences which will prepare him for his mission as a nation builder. Courses such as civil engineering, highway and airfield engineering, mapping, and surveying are designed to develop skilled technicians who can accurately map the country, survey and build new roads and railroads, develop and maintain port facilities, and construct and repair bridges. In electrical engineering, the cadets in addition to learning the electrical functioning of radios, vehicles, and weapons, gain knowledge that will enable them to assist in rural electrification.
To balance out the academic curriculum, approximately 40% of the POI is devoted to the social sciences and the humanities. Some of the courses will have a direct and practical value, while others are designed to deepen his understanding of the world and to contribute to his cultural development. Shown below is a breakdown of the 1972 curriculum by class. Class 25 will graduate in December 1972, Class 26 in December 1973, etc...
Military training accounts for about 50% of the four-year program of instruction. Each cadet participates in an active physical training program to include four years of Taekwondo, the Korean form of judo-karate. All Army cadets are required to attend the ARVN airborne and ranger courses. The MacArthur theory that constant competition and emphasis on athletic excellence will instill an aggressiveness and determination to win that will serve well on the battlefield is very much in evidence at VNMA.
The cadets also receive training in fundamental military knowledge and skills. At the same time, through courses in psychological warfare, military history, and leadership, they are equipped with a professional background to prepare them to higher command and staff position.
The resolve of the graduates of VNMA to reconstruct their country, to protect their land, and to heighten the prestige of their nation is embodied in the Academy Crest. The crest, pictured earlier, consisted of a blue shield with the map of Vietnam superimposed in white. Encircling Vietnam is a golden dragon, outlined in red, clutching a sword in his teeth. The blue represents the high spirit of the cadets, while the red represents the blood sacrificed by the Vietnamese in defense of their country. The dragon represents the legendary father of the Vietnamese race and the sword represents the possession of arms and the way in which Vietnam is prepared to defend itself.
VNMA already has produced many of the present leaders of Vietnam. President Nguyen Van Thieu graduated with Class 1 in 1948, when the school was located in Hue. President Thieu has also served two terms as Superintendent (1955-1956 and 1957-1959), a distinction shared only by the present Superintendent.
In closing, one cannot help but compare the birth and development of VNMA with that of West Point. In the early and middle 1800's the United States was faced with a similar environment-the development of national resources, armed conflicts, and the extension of government control. For their contribution to nation development and military success, West Point graduates won acclaim not only as engineers and soldiers, but also as statesmen, diplomats, and industrialists. VNMA now seeks to produce such men to assume vital roles of leadership and to serve the country well and devotedly. We may be proud that the Long Gray Line has helped to point the way.
Dorsey Edward Rowe
Memory of The Vietnamese Military Academy
Memory of The Vietnamese Military Academy
I was appointed Deputy Commandant of the Military Instruction Directorate, a position that previously was only held by infantry officers. Having spent all of my Navy career as a sailor, working at this institution in the great mountains supplied me with a treasure trove of experiences and memories that will live forever in my heart.
In my first year at the Vietnamese National Military Academy, I worked with young cadets of Classes 25, 26 and 27; I felt a strong connection to their youthful idealism towards our motherland and within months, I was drawn into a patriotic environment that reflected the spirit of our country.
Time passed by like a dream, with tragic changes to my beloved homeland. Like other refugees, I tried to forget the past, but on a trip to the lakeside in my adopted country, the pines there reminded me of Đà Lạt City, and my wonderful time at the VNMA. Each time I meet a former cadet from the famously traditional school, sweet memories come to mind. In 1972, an article was written about the training program at the Vietnamese National Military Academy by Colonel Edward Dorsey Rowe, the former military advisor to the Military Instruction Directorate from 1972-1973. A Major when he wrote and researched the article, Rowe submitted the article to West Point's Association of Graduates' ASSEMBLY Magazine, and it was published in 1973. Colonel Rowe would later become my dear friend and would sponsor my family when we immigrated to the United States in 1975. I decided to translate Major Rowe's article into Vietnamese, as a reminder of wonderful memories and time-honored traditions, as well as a spiritual gift to send to former young cadets and this article in Vietnamese version was published in the website of The Vietnamese National Military Academy Alumni Association:
http://tvbqgvn.org/mywebsite/new/gioithieu.html I also posted the translation in my bilingual website “The Bearing - Định Hướng”
URL as followed: http://minhthong.tripod.com/songngu/vobi_dalat.htm
I wish the former cadets of Đà Lạt 's Military Academy all the best, and encourage them to always remember the glorious traditions of the Vietnamese National Military Academy. We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to become some of the proudest members of one of Vietnam's most famed schools. Go to The Vietnamese National Military Academy
The C47 aircraft of Hàng Không Việt Nam (The Vietnam Airlines) with a few passengers aboard was circling above the Liên Khương airport in Đà Lạt under a clear blue sky Sunday morning. Light white clouds drifted quickly outside, through the right wing of the airplane.
Lieutenant Commander Lê Bá Thông, SVN Navy was one of the passengers who came the first time to this beautiful natural setting mountainous City. Thông had just been assigned to a position at the Vietnamese National Military Academy (VNMA) in Đà Lạt.
After getting my luggage at the Hàng Không Việt Nam (The Vietnam Airlines) main officer, the jeep driver proceeded toward the Academy that I was told located about 45 minutes driving through a pines forest in the northern of Đà Lạt City, it called Lâm Viên.
The VNMA famous gate was appeared in the front distance. A yellow three red stripes flag was seen on top o the brick gate. Two VNMA cadets in tradition uniforms on duty were standing attention and saluted me when the jeep stopping by for security check. I saluted back to the young cadets and said “Good morning”.
I called Minh in the afternoon after settling myself in the narrow room. Minh was still unhappy with the moves that we had been doing to my recent assignments. Our seventh child was born a month ago when we had just moved to Saigon. Her name was Thanh Tâm and she was so beautiful and cute.
Next morning, I was preparing to report for duty to the Superintendent, Major General Lâm Quang Thơ, VN Armor at 0900am. I wore my summer white uniform and was sitting for the arrival of the Superintendent in the officer of Capt Đoàn who was the Military Assistant for General Thơ.
General Thơ was sitting behind his broad wooden desk, pleasantly looked at me when I stood and saluted him and said “ Lieutenand Commander Lê Bá Thông reported for duty, sir”. General Thơ stood up and shook my hand then asked me to sit down on the chair in front on the left of his desk.
Later of that first day, Captain Đoàn introduced me to Major Toàn, SVN Army who was the chief Logistic to show me my office and to meet two cadet battalion commanders, Major Yết and Captain Diêu. They told me of the tragic event happened last two months when Việt Cọng killed the former Commandant of the Military Instruction Directorate, Colonel Nguyễn Văn Sử was murdered by hand grenade throwing from outside into his room at the VNMA Headquarters when he was sleeping at night. That night, I was on duty and slept on a military cot with my M16 in the same room that still having bullet holds and some blood traces on the wall.
Standing in the front yard overlooking the hillside on opposite of the valley, I was excited for moving into this house after my family arrived from Saigon a week ago..
Early Monday morning, the chief of Advisor to the Military Academy, stopped by my office with an Army Major and introduced him to me:” Commander Lê, I would like you to meet Major Edward D Rowe who will be the Advisor of the Military Instruction Directorate and will begin working today." I cordially shook hand to my "Counterpart" who stood 5 feet 9 inches and weighed about 155 lbs, graduated from West Point Military Academy on nineteen sixty-two.
Cadet Regiment stood in formations on the parade field of the VNMA, before guests who came more than the usual parade ceremony on every Saturday afternoon.
With the help of Major Rowe, we planned to improve and updated the living quarters of the cadet Regiment and the management of cadet mess hall that we noticed in our inspection those facilities.
In about three months after our initiated inspection tours of cadets barracks and the mess hall. It was time to hold a “Graduation ceremony and party” for class 25 that graduated on July 1972 and presided by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam and Mrs. Trần Thiện Khiêm.
Three months later, a VNMA traditional “Ring ceremony” of class 26 was held in the cadet mess hall with gests from high school Bùi Thị Xuân, female students from Đà Lạt city were invited to this successful dancing party.
To introducing the culture and foods of Vietnam to Major Rowe, I used to invite him and other advisors for The Academic College to my house and have lunches with our family. We enjoyed their company and our children were very please to had opportunity to learn English, to play with the advisors.
Days after days, we received sad news from the battle fields, the war escalated and the RVN Armed forces suffered heavy casualties all over the fronts, from Laos to the Mekong River. The list of officers graduated from recent classes of VNMA kept going up. The Memorial services on Saturday nights at the parade field were held to honor the death graduates. It was so emotional with desperate and sad feeling for every members of the institution and for me to bear.
Two weeks later, Major Rowe and Major Collins came to visit my family on weekend and then told me that they got the order with other American to leave Vietnam after the spring of 1973.
General Lâm Quang Thơ invited American advisors and some VNMA officers including my wife, Minh and me to attend the New Year 1973 celebration at his residence locate not far from VNMA.
Everybody mentioned the future leaving of American advisors team and new plan to cope with the situation after the American troops withdrew from Vietnam. During the discussion and dialogue, I privately requested General Lâm Quang Thơ to see him tomorrow in his office for my person reason. He approved and would see me at 10 am next day.
About two weeks before the Lunar New Year, The year of Water Buffalo, I got the order from SVN Navy Headquarters , Personnel Department assigned me to resume duty of Commanding officer of River Assault Group 32 in Huế and as Commander Task Group 231.1 located at Thuận An. I asked to see General Lâm Quang Thơ to thank and said goodbye to an excellent and great Commanding General whom I was admired and fully respected for all my life. He shook my hand firmly and told me good luck and take good care of myself out there at the battle north frontier.
The day I left Đà Lạt City is the day blossom flowers were blooming along the roadsides and at the valley. The beautiful mountainous city was still covered by the light foggy and fresh air, birds were flying above the mimosa flower trees. They flirted around and up under blue sky to say goodbye to the sailor and his family who was still tried to keep those moments in their memories and would remember forever.
As a Naval officer, I held a military position normally assigned to Army officers. I always believed that was my destiny because thanks to this miracle, I met Major Rowe, an U.S Armor officer and we worked together only in about one year at VNMA. But then in April 30, 1975 the fall of Saigon had caused the South Vietnamese to escape to sea and on the journey toward Freedom. Millions of South Vietnamese become refugees including me and part of my family.
Commander Thong Ba Le, SVN Navy