Vietnam War Dictionary


Civilian Irregular Defense Group – The CIDG program began in late 1961 as a counterinsurgency experiment in the central highlands of South Vietnam. Under the direction of the CIA, U.S. Special Forces began working with the Montagnard tribesman of Buon Enao village in Darlac province. They fortified the hamlet, constructed shelters and established an early warning system to warn of approaching Viet Cong. A 30-man strike force was also created to patrol the village and to conduct ambushes to ward off insurgents. As a result of these measures the enemy was denied access to its source of food, intelligence and manpower.

Following this successful trial, Special Forces began expanding the perimeter beyond Buon Enao to encompass nearby hamlets, and by the end of 1962 the program had secured several hundred villages in Darlac province.

Despite the obvious achievements of the CIDG program under the CIA, by July 1963 control had been transferred to MACV as part of Operation Switchback. Following the change of command the program’s emphasis switched from defensive counterinsurgency to offensive warfare. Rather than gradually growing the village defense system as the CIA had done, MACV rapidly expanded the program and began establishing CIDG camps along the Cambodian and Laotian borders. These served as bases for offensive operations, from which Special Forces and CIDG Camp Strike forces conducted border surveillance, ambushes and attacks against the Viet Cong and infiltrators from North Vietnam. As part of MACV's strategy of attrition, Special Forces and the CIDG provided vital intelligence for conventional units on enemy infiltration, movements and the order of battle.

In late 1965 the CIDG became a two tiered force, with Mobile Strike Forces created in addition to the existing Camp Strike Forces. Located in each of the four corps areas (CTZ) and with another at Nha Trang, Mike Forces were organized to rapidly reinforce any CIDG camp under attack. Trained to a higher standard than the regular CIDG Strikers, Mike Force troops also conducted long-range patrols, raids and small-scale conventional combat operations.

From 1967 Special Forces gradually began to hand over control of CIDG camps to their Vietnamese counterparts, Luc Luong Dac Biet (LLDB). Both Camp and Mobile Strike Forces were also increasingly used in conjunction with regular US, ARVN and Free World forces and participated in both the urban fighting during the Tet Offensive and the 1970 Cambodian Incursion.

In 1969 MACV deemed that the Vietnamese Army was able to takeover the missions of border surveillance and interdiction. The 37 CIDG camps not already closed or converted to Regional Forces status were transfered to the ARVN Rangers in late 1970, as were the Camp Strike Forces. The Civilian Irregular Defense Group program officially ended on 31 December 1970.