The story of the Vietnamese Airborne Advisory Detachment is in many ways a study of America’s best efforts to support the democratic state of South Vietnam. The detachment, later known as the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) Team 162, became famous as the “Red Hats” during their long service in Vietnam. In fact, the Red Hats were the longest serving group of U.S. advisors in the conflict, arriving in 1962 and finally departing in 1973. It was created as a result of President John F. Kennedy’s decision to expand American military advice and support to the South Vietnamese government of President Ngo Dinh Diem in its fight against the Communist-led Viet Cong insurgents.
Team 162 constituted the largest U.S. advisory effort of the Vietnam War. Some 1,200 soldiers were assigned to Team 162 during its 11 years of service. Airborne experience was a prerequisite for assignment. Most team members had served with the 11th, 82nd or 101st Airborne Divisions. In addition, the team included U.S. Air Force forward air controllers. They were called “Red Markers” for their ability to mark targets during battle.
The Vietnamese parachute units advised by the Americans were among the best fighting units in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), with a long tradition of service with the French Army. Several Vietnamese paratroopers rose to the highest levels of ARVN leadership, including Tran Van Don, Cao Van Vien and Do Quoc Dongollater. American advisors were, themselves, and elite group. They were all volunteers and brought the Vietnamese units a high level of military skill and fighting spirit.
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