Week of July 20

Week of July 20

This week we revisit the very beginning of the United States’ involvement in Southeast Asia, the Office of Strategic Services’ (OSS) Deer Mission, which occurred during the waning days of World War II. In 1940, Nazi Germany occupied France and set up a puppet government in the city of Vichy. Within France’s colonial possessions, colonists and military forces split between those who joined the Free French, a political and military movement that fought for the Allies, and those who remained loyal to the Vichy regime and collaborated with the Axis powers. In Indochina, the colonial French authorities collaborated with the Japanese in exchange for autonomy. Indochina’s rubber plantations provided a valuable resource to the Japanese military, and, in exchange, Tokyo allowed French landowners to keep their lands and privileges. Meanwhile, the Việt Minh, a Vietnamese Communist movement led by Hồ Chí Minh and Võ Nguyên Giáp, conducted an insurgency against the French in hopes of liberating the country from imperial rule. After the Allies liberated Paris in 1944, and as the war in the Pacific came to a close, the Japanese grew suspicious of their French partners in Indochina. The following year, the Japanese detained French forces in Indochina and set up pseudo-independent states led by indigenous rulers in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The Japanese hoped that by granting the peoples of Indochina independence from French imperialists, Tokyo would win support from the indigenous populations if the British or Americans brought the war to Southeast Asia. The Việt Minh responded by targeting the Japanese occupying forces in hopes of liberating Vietnam and winning support from the United States, which was deeply involved in supporting the Nationalist Chinese government in its war against the Japanese.

Thus, a relationship developed between the United States and the Việt Minh in the closing days of World War II based on shared interests and complementary needs. United States military commanders believed that the war would continue until mainland Japan was occupied, and they made contingency plans to land an expeditionary force in southern China named Operation CARBANADO to engage Japanese forces in the area. The Việt Minh needed the support of an industrial power to supply arms and supplies for their insurgency against foreign occupiers, and they offered intelligence on the Japanese military presence in Indochina and help rescuing downed American airmen. To advance this relationship based on mutual dependence, the OSS parachuted a small team of agents into the village of Kim Lung (later renamed Tân Trào, or “New Tide,” by the Vietnamese Communists, based on the success of this mission), which served as a Việt Minh headquarters in northern Vietnam.

Major Allison K. Thomas, a veteran of OSS missions behind enemy lines in France, headed the mission. His team included an interpreter, a medic, a radio operator, and a weapons instructor. This group also took enough arms and supplies to outfit one hundred guerrillas. Thomas’s mission was to destroy rail and road bridges between Hà Nội and Lạng Sơn, in case Operation CARBANADO began and the Japanese attempted to move troops from Indochina to southern China, and to gather intelligence on Japanese targets for the Fourteenth Air Force. His secondary mission was to establish a rapport with the Việt Minh and determine whether this organization would make a useful ally of the United States.

When the Deer Mission team arrived in Kim Lung, Hồ Chí Minh suffered from an illness, and the team’s medic, Paul Hoagland, treated him, possibly saving his life. Hồ and Giáp presented a warm affinity for their American guests and convinced Thomas that they were not Communists, but romantic nationalists instead. When asked about politics, Hồ masterfully dodged the questions, stressing his eagerness to participate in the American war against the Japanese and noting that, in Indochina, “politics will have to wait until after liberation.”1 Although the Deer Mission’s objective was to target the Hà Nội-Lạng Sơn transportation network, Hồ persuaded his guests to concentrate on the defense of the Thái Nguyên area, a region to the north of Hanoi without strategic importance and virtually ignored by the Japanese.

The war in the Pacific ended on 16 August 1945, and the Deer Mission’s members withdrew from Indochina via Hà Nội the next month. As soon as the Japanese surrendered in Indochina, the Việt Minh seized control in Sài Gòn and other key cities in northern Vietnam with the help of the arms provided by the Deer Mission. Meanwhile, the French returned military forces to key port cities of Huế, Sài Gòn, and Hải Phòng. Over the next several months, developments in Europe caused the wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union to come to an end and the Cold War to begin. In Southeast Asia, anxiety over the spread of communism prompted President Harry Truman to discontinue the wartime dialogue with the Việt Minh and support the restoration of French imperial rule in Indochina.2

1Arthur J. Dommen, The Indochinese Experience of the French and Americans (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 97.

2Dixee R. Bartholomew-Feis, “The Men on the Ground: The OSS in Vietnam, 1944-1945,” (PhD diss., The Ohio State University, 2001), 195-263; Arthur J. Dommen, The Indochinese Experience of the French and Americans (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 92-107; Spencer C. Tucker, ed. The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History, 2nd ed. (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 270.

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December 7
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November 16
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September 28
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August 31
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August 17
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August 3
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Week of July 20 Week of
July 20
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July 13
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February 16
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February 2
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January 12
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Week of January 5 Week of
January 5
In the autumn of 1962, United States advisers from the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) and South Vietnamese military officials received intelligence that several companies of Communist insurgents (Viet Cong) were operating freely in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam. Hoping to score an easy victory against an inferior foe, chief military...
Week of December 22 Week of
December 22
In March 1972, after the majority of United States military forces had returned home under Richard Nixon’s Vietnamization policy, North Vietnam launched the Easter Offensive, a massive invasion of South Vietnam using conventional forces. On the ground, South Vietnamese forces fought tenaciously to defend key towns such as An Lộc, while...
Week of December 15 Week of
December 15
Beginning in December 1953, even before the Geneva Accords divided French Indochina into three countries, the Vietnamese Communist Party undertook a series of land reforms designed to foment nationalist and socialist revolutions in the countryside of Vietnam’s northern provinces. This campaign sought to remove French and wealthy Vietnamese...
Week of December 8 Week of
December 8
This week in Vietnam War history we remember the beginning of the Marine Corps operation HARVEST MOON on December 8, 1965. The objective of Operation HARVEST MOON was to engage and if possible destroy the 1st Viet Cong Regiment in the Phuoc Ha Valley, northwest of Chu Lai. The Marines conducted HARVEST MOON in conjunction...
Week of December 1 Week of
December 1
Fifty-two years ago this week, on December 1, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson made one of the most fateful decisions along the United States’ road to war in Vietnam. Johnson had been wrestling for months with how to stabilize the South Vietnamese government, and his advisers warned him that the Saigon regime and the South Vietnamese armed forces...
Week of November 24 Week of
November 24
On November 21, 1970, a joint team of U.S. Air Force Special Operations and Army Special Forces personnel conducted one of the most daring and dramatic missions of the Vietnam War when they executed a raid on the Son Tay Prison compound, about 23 miles north of Hanoi, North Vietnam. Their objective was to rescue as many as 55 American prisoners...
Week of November 17 Week of
November 17
In mid-November, 1967, the United States military initiated the top-secret anti-infiltration program codenamed IGLOO WHITE. This joint Department of Defense-Air Force operation used small electronic sensors combined with state-of-the-art computer analysis to detect and identify Communist troops and convoys moving down the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos...
Week of November 10 Week of
November 10
This week in Vietnam War history, we remember the November 1967 battle of Dak To. In a rugged part of the Central Highlands, an area that had seen heavy fighting since June of 1967, at least four regiments of the of North Vietnamese Army 1st Division attacked an outpost and Special Forces camp near the village of Dak To. The camp was located in...
Week of November 3 Week of
November 3
On October 31, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson officially ordered a full halt to the bombing campaign against North Vietnam known as Operation ROLLING THUNDER. Johnson hoped ending the bombing completely would spur more productive peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese government. The bombing campaign, which Johnson had restricted...
Week of October 27 Week of
October 27
On October 28, 1966, the United States Coast Guard activated a Long Range Aid to Navigation (LORAN) station at Con Son Island, which made the brand new TIGHT REIGN navigation system in Vietnam operational for the first time.
Week of October 20 Week of
October 20
The United States’ road to war in Vietnam began as early as 1945 and proceeded slowly and step by step, decision by decision, until 1965 when U.S. combat troops began fighting for the first time—a span of twenty years encompassing four presidents. American civilian and military leaders assumed that each step and decision they took brought them closer...
Week of October 13 Week of
October 13
This week in Vietnam War history, October 1968, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., launched a major new riverine warfare initiative known as SEALORDS (Southeast Asia Lake, Ocean, River, and Delta Strategy). The goals for SEALORDS were to halt the flow of Communist supplies and reinforcements surging into South Vietnam via rivers and to extend...
Week of October 6 Week of
October 6
After the U.S. entered the war in 1965, the nation’s intelligence agencies struggled to quantify how many Communist reinforcements and supplies were infiltrating South Vietnam from the Ho Chi Minh Trail, across the borders with Laos and Cambodia. Despite the fact that United States forces routinely inflicted far greater casualties on Viet Cong and...
Week of September 29 Week of
September 29
Beginning in October 1961, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Army Special Forces began an experimental program in the rural Highlands village of Buon Enao, in Dak Lak Province. The experiment eventually widened into the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) program. In order to further stem the infiltration of Communist reinforcements...
Week of September 22 Week of
September 22
On September 21, 1966, Private First Class (Pfc.) Billy Lane Lauffer earned the Medal of Honor by saving his company from being decimated by an ambush. Lauffer and Company C, 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division were on foot in Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnam, when they walked into an ambush from two concealed bunkers. The men...
Week of September 15 Week of
September 15
In 1965 and 1966 the United States greatly increased its presence and involvement in the Vietnam War, deploying hundreds of thousands of troops and greatly escalating ground, air, and sea operations. By September 1966, however, Operation ROLLING THUNDER—the bombing operation over North Vietnam—and B-52 Arc Light bombing strikes against...
Week of September 8 Week of
September 8
In September 1967 the United States Air Force conducted the first ever test missions for the prototype Lockheed AC-130 Gunship. The AC-130 was a modified version of one of the workhorse transport planes in the U.S. armed forces, the C-130 Hercules. The new gunship variety, however, was a fearsome aircraft. It was equipped with 20-millimeter...
Week of September 1 Week of
September 1
On September 2, 1945, activist and political leader Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese Independence League (known as the Viet Minh) declared Vietnamese independence. The declaration, which Ho read from the northern city of Hanoi, asserted that Vietnam was no longer subject to French colonial rule, and that the nation would thenceforth be known...
Week of August 25 Week of
August 25
This week in Vietnam War history, on August 24, 1965, the U.S. Marine Corps officially ended Operation STARLITE. STARLITE was the first major confrontation between American troops and a major Viet Cong force—the 1st Viet Cong Regiment boasted some 2,000 soldiers—and marked a crucial turning point for the United States in Vietnam as the...
Week of August 18 Week of
August 18
In mid-August 1966, it had become clear to U.S. military leaders that the ROLLING THUNDER bombing campaign required better guidance in order to accurately find and hit targets in far northern North Vietnam. The Central Intelligence Agency helped solve this technological challenge by establishing a secret tactical air control and navigation...
Week of August 11 Week of
August 11
When the Geneva Accords established a temporary division of Vietnam into North (Communist) and South (non-Communist), it also granted a ten-month period of free movement between these two “regroupment zones.” During these months, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese Catholics, who lived primarily in the Red River Delta, decided to...
Week of August 4 Week of
August 4
By 1964, hostilities between North and South Vietnam were at an all-time high, and the United States was fully committed to supporting South Vietnam with money, equipment, weapons, training, and a series of secret espionage and special warfare programs. Still, the U.S. had not yet sent combat troops, nor had it directly attacked North Vietnam.
Week of July 21 Week of
July 21
When American troops arrived in Southeast Asia in the 1960s, the millennia-old nation of Vietnam was split into two separate countries—Communist North Vietnam, and non-Communist South Vietnam. The division of the two was established by the agreement that ended the First Indochina War between Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh and France.
Week of July 14 Week of
July 14
On July 11, 1969, Specialist Fourth Class Gordon R. Roberts—a rifleman in Company B, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division—was with his platoon moving to attack a complex of Viet Cong bunkers in Thua Thien Province, in northern I Corps. Viet Cong troops had just pinned down another nearby company with heavy machine guns and grenades...
Week of July 7 Week of
July 7
On July 8, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Commander in Chief of the U.S. armed forces, signed Executive Order 11231, which officially created the Vietnam Service Medal. The medal’s ribbon has become highly recognizable, featuring a yellow background and three red stripes (referencing the South Vietnamese flag), flanked by two green stripes...
Week of June 30 Week of
June 30
On July 1, 1970, North Vietnamese Army troops attacked elements of the 101st Airborne Division defending Fire Support Base (FSB) Ripcord, on hills adjacent to the A Shau Valley, west of Hue. The fight for FSB Ripcord would turn out to be the last major battle between American and North Vietnamese ground forces in the Vietnam War.
Week of June 23 Week of
June 23
On June 20, 1966, U.S. and South Vietnamese troops concluded Operation HAWTHORNE after nearly three weeks of heavy fighting. It was an operation in Kontum Province during a year of the war in which U.S. forces broadly took the offensive against Communist troops for the first time. The original goal of Operation HAWTHORNE was to relieve a garrison...
Week of June 16 Week of
June 16
Much like the ground war, air combat in Vietnam was qualitatively different from air warfare in previous American conflicts. In World War II and the Korean War, fighter pilots engaged in dogfights at close range, primarily with machine guns. In Vietnam, however, a recently-introduced primary weapon, the air-to-air missile, allowed fighters to...
Week of June 9 Week of
June 9
On June 10, 1965, the first Australian combat troops arrived in South Vietnam by sea aboard the HMAS Sydney. These soldiers belonged to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR). The remainder of the 1RAR arrived by air in the following days and weeks. At the time, the 1RAR consisted of approximately 1,400 men, including one...
Week of June 2 Week of
June 2
On May 31, 1967, the Central Intelligence Agency’s newly developed spy plane, the Lockheed-built A-12 reconnaissance aircraft (codenamed OXCART), flew its first covert surveillance mission over North Vietnam. This flight was the beginning of the top secret Operation BLACK SHIELD. Its primary mission was to observe and photograph sites of...
Week of May 26 Week of
May 26
The National League of Families was founded in 1969. Its official incorporation on May 28, 1970, was the culmination of numerous smaller movements started throughout the United States in the 1960s by the families of prisoners of war (POWs) and those missing in action (MIA). At that time, many families were frustrated by what they felt was a lack of focus...
Week of May 19 Week of
May 19
This week we recognize the contributions and service of all Vietnam-era medics and corpsmen with the account of Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class Donald E. Ballard’s actions on May 16, 1968.
Week of May 12 Week of
May 12
On May 10, 1966, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Point Grey was patrolling the waters off the Ca Mau Peninsula, at the southern tip of South Vietnam, when it encountered a large steel-hulled trawler. As the Point Grey turned to overtake and inspect the trawler, the suspicious vessel veered off course and attempted to escape. In the attempt, however, the trawler...
Week of May 5 Week of
May 5
On May 2, 1968, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, serving with U.S. Special Forces near Loc Ninh, earned the Medal of Honor with an astounding series of courageous actions, saving eight men from an ambush and a six hour firefight in which he himself was wounded six times.
Week of April 28 Week of
April 28
At the end of April 1969—just over four years after U.S. combat units deployed to Vietnam—the number of U.S. forces in Southeast Asia reached its peak. That month, approximately 549,500 Americans were stationed in the region. The vast majority of them served in South Vietnam, but American men and women also served in Thailand...
Week of April 21 Week of
April 21
On April 18, 1962, the U.S. Army 8th Field Hospital became operational. Attached to the hospital was the 57th Medical Detachment, the first helicopter ambulance unit in Vietnam. The 8th Field Hospital and the 57th Medical Detachment were based at Nha Trang, on South Vietnam’s south-central coast. The Nha Trang hospital remained the primary treatment...
Week of April 14 Week of
April 14
On April 10, 1967, a handful of U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortresses landed at U-Tapao Air Base, Thailand, after flying sorties in support of Operation JUNCTION CITY—the operation to locate and destroy the headquarters of South Vietnam’s Communist insurgency. Those B-52s that landed in Thailand became the first to be permanently based in Southeast Asia...
Week of April 7 Week of
April 7
On April 3, 1965, as part of Operation ROLLING THUNDER, the U.S. Air Force launched a strike against the Thanh Hoa Bridge. A combination rail and highway bridge, it spanned the Song Ma River in North Vietnam, approximately 70 miles south of Hanoi. The Thanh Hoa Bridge was a crucial choke point along one of the most important North Vietnamese...
Week of March 31 Week of
March 31
On April 1, 1968, the last fighting of the Communist Tet Offensive subsided as the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division and the U.S. Marine Corps 3d Division commenced Operation PEGASUS. The joint force’s objective was to reach and relieve the Marine garrison at Khe Sanh, which had been under attack from surrounding North Vietnamese Army forces...
Week of March 24 Week of
March 24
On March 23, 1961, U.S. Army Major Lawrence R. Bailey became the first American prisoner of war in Southeast Asia since World War II when he survived the downing of his C-47 aircraft and was captured by Laotian Communist insurgents known as the Pathet Lao. Bailey was held and interrogated in Laos for a year and half before he was finally...
Week of March 17 Week of
March 17
In March 1954, one of the most significant battles of the twentieth century began in a remote, mountainous region of northern French Indochina. There, on March 13, just outside the small Vietnamese town of Dien Bien Phu, a large force of Vietnamese revolutionaries surrounded and attacked a far smaller group of French and colonial...
Week of March 10 Week of
March 10
On March 10, 1962, members of the newly formed Navy Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) Team 1 arrived in Saigon. From 1962 to 1964, before American combat troops officially deployed to Vietnam, the SEAL team’s mission was to train South Vietnamese naval commandos in covert maritime operations and counterinsurgency warfare.
Week of March 3 Week of
March 3
This week, we remember four Vietnam veterans, each of whom gave their lives within nine days of each other in early 1967. All four of them earned the Medal of Honor for their courage and sacrifice in defense of their comrades and their nation.
Week of February 25 Week of
February 25
On February 24, 1968, U.S. Naval Forces Vietnam officially activated Task Force Clearwater in I Corps. Made up of river patrol boats, helicopter gunships, landing craft, armored assault boats, minesweepers, and ground forces, Task Force Clearwater was assigned to patrol the Cua Viet River and the Perfume River in northern I Corps.  These rivers and...
Week of February 18 Week of
February 18
On February 19, 1962, the U.S. Navy established a new type of unit, composed of Navy Construction Battalion (Seabee) teams, with the goal of countering Communist insurgents in South Vietnam with civic action construction and rural infrastructure projects. These teams became known as Seabee Technical Assistance Teams, or STATs.
Week of February 11 Week of
February 11
In the dark early morning of February 7, 1965, a team of Viet Cong insurgents quietly breached the perimeter fence of the U.S. Army advisory facility near Pleiku, in the South Vietnamese Central Highlands. At the same time, just a few miles away, a second team of insurgents, carrying mortars, entered the aircraft parking area of Camp Holloway...
Week of February 5 Week of
February 5
This week in history, at the end of January 1968, Viet Cong and other Communist forces launched hundreds of simultaneous attacks on cities, towns, and military installations throughout South Vietnam. The attacks became known as the Tet Offensive, which lasted through all of February and into March. Tet ultimately proved to be a major...
Week of January 28 Week of
January 28
On January 27, 1973, in Paris, France, representatives of four groups officially signed an “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam,” otherwise known as the Paris Peace Accords. Those signing included the United States, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), and the...
Week of January 21 Week of
January 21
The besieged Marines at Khe Sanh were cut off by land, forcing them to rely on Marine, Navy, Army, and Air Force aircraft for air support, supplies, and casualty evacuations. In Operation NIAGRA, U.S. aircraft and artillery carried out a round-the-clock barrage of North Vietnamese positions, and helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft worked feverishly...
Week of January 14 Week of
January 14
On January 15, 1965, Major Kathleen I. Wilkes and Sergeant Betty L. Adams of the U.S. Women's Army Corps (WAC) arrived in Saigon. They were the second and the third women to serve in Vietnam as part of the WAC, and the first since 1963.
Week of January 7 Week of
January 7
On January 7, 1966 U.S. and Australian Army forces launched Operation CRIMP, a massive, joint search and destroy operation in a region about 25 miles northwest of Saigon. Their objective was to locate and destroy the Viet Cong headquarters and stronghold believed to be in the area. When allied forces located their objective, they discovered it actually was...
Week of December 24 Week of
December 24
From December 16–19, 1966, elements of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division began arriving in Vietnam. General William C. Westmoreland intended to use the division to increase U.S. presence around the Mekong Delta to improve security and enhance the South Vietnamese Army’s pacification programs already underway.
Week of December 17 Week of
December 17
In December 1965 the U.S. Marine Corps fought its second large-scale engagement against a main force Viet Cong unit: Operation HARVEST MOON. By mid-November, the 1st Viet Cong Regiment had recovered from the losses it sustained in Operation STARLITE, its first engagement with U.S. Marines in August 1965. The Communist regiment took advantage...
Week of December 10 Week of
December 10
On December 6, 1968, the U.S. Navy launched Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT, with the goal of eliminating Communist infiltration of South Vietnam along the Vam Co Dong and Vam Co Tay rivers, near the Cambodian border—a region known as the “Parrot’s Beak,” where part of Cambodia juts into South Vietnam. The operation was an extension of the Southeast...
Week of December 3 Week of
December 3
On December 2, 1965, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) became the first nuclear-powered carrier in history to engage in combat operations when the ship, at Dixie Station off the coast of southern South Vietnam, launched 21 aircraft to conduct a strike against a concentration of Viet Cong installations near Bien Hoa, just outside Saigon.
Week of November 26 Week of
November 26
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald shot Kennedy from the Texas schoolbook depository, along the presidential motorcade’s route through Dallas’s Dealey Plaza. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson later took the Presidential Oath of Office aboard Air Force One.
Week of November 19 Week of
November 19
During the 1965 Pleiku Campaign in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam, the men of the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division dropped into the Ia Drang Valley on November 14, 1965. At the first landing zone, LZ X-Ray, they engaged a numerically superior force of North Vietnamese Army soldiers, which virtually surrounded the cavalrymen.
Week of November 12 Week of
November 12
On November 12, 1965, U.S. Army forces began searching for the North Vietnamese Army troops who were operating in South Vietnam’s rugged Central Highlands. Following a Communist attack on a Special Forces camp near Plei Me, intelligence indicated that a sizeable North Vietnamese regular force remained in the area, and that they were being...
Week of November 5 Week of
November 5
On November 4, 1965, photojournalist Dickey Chapelle, one of the few woman journalists in Southeast Asia, accompanied a U.S. Marine platoon on a search-and-destroy patrol near Chu Lai, on South Vietnam’s north-central coast. Someone in the group inadvertently tripped an enemy landmine, and the resulting explosion of shrapnel wounded six of the Marines and...
Week of October 29 Week of
October 29
On October 26, 1966, on Yankee Station, a sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA 34) accidentally ignited a magnesium parachute flare inside the flare locker of Hanger Bay 1, just below the flight deck. The lit flare ignited hundreds of others in the locker, creating an explosion that blew out the locker’s steel bulkhead and sprayed burning...
Week of October 22 Week of
October 22
On October 23, 1972, after five months of intensive bombing, President Richard M. Nixon ordered an end to the air campaign over North Vietnam known as Operation LINEBACKER, as a peace agreement between North Vietnam and the United States appeared imminent.
Week of October 15 Week of
October 15
Paul Hellstrom Foster was born in April 1939 in San Mateo, California. He joined the Marine Corps in San Francisco at the age of 22, in November 1961. Foster deployed to Vietnam at the end of 1966 and eventually was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, as the artillery liaison operations chief.
Week of October 8 Week of
October 8
During the first two weeks of October 1967, some of the heaviest fighting of Operation WHEELER took place in I Corps, as elements of the 23d Infantry Division (Americal) engaged multiple regiments of the North Vietnamese Army 2nd Division west of Tam Ky.
Week of October 1 Week of
October 1
On October 1, 1965—exactly 50 years ago, this week—the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) became operational in South Vietnam. The 1st Cavalry Division was the first airmobile unit in the Army, and represented an innovative new approach to infantry tactics. Composed of 16,000 personnel and equipped with helicopters such as the UH-1 Iroquois...
Week of September 24 Week of
September 24
On September 21, 1971, nearly 200 U.S. Air Force fighter and fighter-bomber aircraft launched an airstrike against three gasoline storage facilities just south of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. Despite terrible weather, the strike was highly successful—U.S. pilots destroyed between 150,000 and 350,000 gallons of fuel without losing a single aircraft—thanks to...
Week of September 17 Week of
September 17
In late 1969, 27-year-old Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris was commanding a Mobile Strike Force team from the U.S. Army 5th Special Forces near Chi Lang, in southern South Vietnam. Born in Oklahoma, Morris was one of the first U.S. "Green Berets" after President John F. Kennedy ordered the establishment of the Army Special Forces. He also...
;Week of September 10 Week of
September 10
Between September 4 and September 12, 1967, multiple North Vietnamese Army regiments laid siege to the vital U.S. Marine Corps base on Con Thien, a hill just two miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Over the following two months, North Vietnamese artillery brought down thousands of heavy explosive shells on the several Marine battalions...
Week of September 3 Week of
September 3
On September 5, 1961, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara informed the service secretaries that he planned to establish a new command, under the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, that would experiment with counterinsurgency and anti-guerrilla tactics in Southeast Asia. As part of this new command, John F. Kennedy ordered the air...
Week of August 27 Week of
August 27
On August 23, 1966, the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division launched Operation AMARILLO, a search-and-destroy and road security operation in III Corps, covering parts of Bien Hoa and Binh Duong Provinces. The 1st Division had been in Vietnam for ten months and were part of the United States' campaign to stem the tide of Communist successes in....
Week of August 20 Week of
August 20
On August 18, 1966, near the Australian army base at Nui Dat, southeast of Saigon, 108 Australians from Company D of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR) were on a patrol in the Long Tan rubber plantation. Suddenly, they stumbled directly into a reinforced Viet Cong regiment of between 1,500 and 2,500 troops on its way to attack...
Week of August 13 Week of
August 13
Between August 9 and 11, 1968, U.S. Army Sergeant Robert Woods and his team of "tunnel rats" from the 1st Infantry Division achieved one of the most important successes for tunnel rats during the war. In support of the 11th Armored Cavalry and the South Vietnamese 5th Division, Sergeant Woods and his specially trained men descended into dark, narrow...
Week of August 6 Week of
August 6
In August of 1966 Naval aviators of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron One (HC-1)began flying UH-1 “Huey” helicopters in III Corps and IV Corps over the twisting waterways of the Mekong River Delta, replacing U.S. Army flight crews. From heavily armed gunships, they provided Navy Riverine Task Force 116 in Operation GAME WARDEN with reconnaissance...
Week of July 30 Week of
July 30
On July 29, 1967 the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV-59) was on Yankee Station in the South China Sea off the coast of North Vietnam. Her crew was preparing a second strike of the day against enemy targets. The ship had more than 5,000 men aboard, and 27 aircraft were on the flight deck, fueled and loaded with ordnance, some starting their engines.
Week of July 23 Week of
July 23
On July 24, 1965, F-105 Thunderchiefs were attacking an explosives factory in North Vietnam. A flight of four F-4C Phantoms provided air cover while and EB-66 Destroyer provided electronic surveillance and support. The EB-66 picked up signals from an SA-2 "Fang Song" guidance radar system and tried to warn the Phantoms. One missile...
Week of July 16 Week of
July 16
The area around Da Nang, especially military installations, was subject to rocket attacks since that February. The area the rockets were fired from was called the "Rocket Belt". It wrapped around the base and city. The area was around 200 square miles, and the 140mm rockets had a range of over 6 miles. The Rocket Belt was kept under surveillance from...
Week of July 9 Week of
July 9
As units from the 1st Infantry Division continued to hunt the Viet Cong in the Binh Long province of the III Corps Tactical Zone, General William E. DePuy gave Colonel Sidney B. Berry of the 1st Infantry Brigade a special assignment to trick the enemy into ambushing an American convoy that seemed to be vulnerable and destroy them. Col. Berry decided that...
Week of July 2 Week of
July 2
Operation Thor, the joint mission to attack and destroy North Vietnamese long-range artillery facing the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), coast artillery batteries, antiaircraft positions, and staging areas for infiltration, supplies and transport, took place July 1 - 7, 1968. The targets were in the Cap Mui Lay sector, the furthest southern coastal area...
Week of June 25 Week of
June 25
In 1967 this was the first full week of Operation GREELEY in the Central Highlands of II Corps. Two battalions of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 503rd Infantry Regiment, were sent to Dak To to stave off attacks on a Special Forces camp. On June 17, the North Vietnamese 24th Regiment had attacked Dak To; and for the first...
Week of June 18 Week of
June 18
On June 18, 1965, the first ARC LIGHT Mission was flown by 30 U.S Air Force B-52 Bombers. It was flown against Viet Cong targets near Ben Cat north of Saigon. ARC LIGHT missions were distinguished from other missions by their need for a high degree of accuracy to hit well defined targets in support of the ground war. Using strategic bombers in a...
Week of June 11 Week of
June 11
On June 9, 1965 at 11:30P.M. elements of the Viet Cong 762nd and 763rd Regiments totaling at least 1,500 men attacked a Special Forces camp of the 5th Special Forces Group at Dong Xoai, and the adjacent district headquarters. The Defenders included eleven advisers of U.S. Special Forces Team A-342, 24 men of U.S. Seabee Team 1104, and...
Week of June 4 Week of
June 4
On June 1, 1967, Task Force 117, the Mobile Riverine Force, became operational. It was a joint U.S. Army-Navy task force whose goal was to search out and eliminate Viet Cong elements in the waterways of the Mekong Delta. During operations, Navy gunboats and landing crafts offloaded Army infantry units for amphibious assaults against enemy...
Week of May 28 Week of
May 28
On May 26, 1967, Operation UNION II began in the Que Son Basin in southern I Corps. The 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 5th Marine Regiments were initially supported by South Vietnamese Rangers. They drove off the entrenched 3rd North Vietnamese Army Regiment who left behind 118 dead. With the operation completed, the South Vietnamese...
Week of May 21 Week of
May 21
On May 22, 1964, the CIA-run airline known as Air America officially began to support search-and-rescue missions for downed American aviators in Laos and North Vietnam. Air America pilots flew piston-engine aircraft and helicopters for these and other covert operations throughout the Vietnam War. Their first rescue attempt occurred on...
Week of May 14 Week of
May 14
On May 10, 1969, U.S. and allied forces launched Operation APACHE SNOW, an effort to dislodge the North Vietnamese army from the A Sau Valley. The valley, adjacent to Laos, was a crucial staging point for Communist troops and supplies coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail into South Vietnam. It was the setting for some of the most intense combat of...
Week of April 30 Week of
April 30
In April 1975, South Vietnam was on the verge of collapse as the North Vietnamese army closed in around Saigon. With almost all U.S. troops having left Vietnam in 1973, the few remaining American military and civilian personnel executed Operation FREQUENT WIND, the final evacuation of Americans, foreign nationals, and thousands of Vietnamese...
Week of April 23 Week of
April 23
On April 24, 1950, President Harry S. Truman approved the contents of National Security Council Report (NSC) 64. The memorandum was drafted by the State Department and the National Security Council. NSC 64 cited Ho Chi Minh's Communist connections, regional instability, the presence of Chinese troops along the border of Indochina, and an assumed...
Week of April_16 Week of
April 16
On April 17, 1956, three U.S. Army women nurses arrived in Saigon as part of a medical training team assigned to the U.S. Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Vietnam. They were the first U.S. servicewomen to deploy to Vietnam.
Week of April 9 Week of
April 9
At the end of 1964, with direct U.S. participation in combat operations poised to begin, there were about 23,000 U.S. forces in Vietnam. In less than five years, by the first weeks of April 1969, America's commitment in Southeast Asia reached its highest level, with 543,000 U.S. men and women serving in-theater. Two months later, President...
Week of April 2 Week of
April 2
By the end of March 1972, there were fewer than 70,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam (after peaking in 1969 at over 540,000). Following President Richard Nixon's "Vietnamization" plan, which called for gradually withdrawing American forces and handing responsibility for the war over to the South Vietnamese, the defense of South Vietnam was largely in...
Week of March 26 Week of
March 26
On March 26, 1964, Air Force Captain Richard L. Whitesides and Army Special Forces Captain Floyd J. Thompson were conducting a reconnaissance mission aboard a small observation airplane near the Demilitarized Zone. While making a low pass over a forested area, their aircraft was hit by Viet Cong small arms fire and crashed. Whitesides, the...
Week of March 19 Week of
March 19
In late February 1965, a U.S. helicopter pilot spotted a 130-foot North Vietnamese vessel anchored in South Vietnam's Vung Ro Bay. Investigators discovered the ship was carrying arms, ammunition, and other war materiel intended for the Viet Cong. By March 1965, the Vũng Rô Bay incident led to the start of Operation MARKET TIME and the establishment...
Week of March 12 Week of
March 12
As the United States commenced a bombing campaign against North Vietnam, American leaders grew concerned about the possibility of Communist retaliation against U.S. installations, especially the vital air base at Da Nang. To secure the base, General William C. Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, ordered two...
Week of March 5 Week of
March 5
On March 2, 1965, U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft commenced the bombing of military, industrial, and infrastructure targets in North Vietnam. Called Operation ROLLING THUNDER, it evolved into one of the longest air campaigns in the history of warfare. It lasted—with some brief pauses—until October 1968, though...
Week of February 12 Week of
February 12
On February 12, 1973, a group of American prisoners of war (POWs) lifted off from Hanoi's Gia Lam Airport, in North Vietnam, aboard a U.S. Air Force C-141 Starlifter. These men were the first POWs to be released by North Vietnam and other Communist governments as part of Operation HOMECOMING.