Week of May 2

Week of May 2

Week of May 2

On April 29, 1975, American leaders initiated Operation FREQUENT WIND, the final American evacuation of Vietnam. The North Vietnamese Army was at last closing in on Saigon, and United States Embassy personnel and a number of Vietnamese urgently boarded aircraft for evacuation to U.S. Navy vessels stationed off the coast. About 800 U.S. Marines helped facilitate the evacuation. Four of them were killed in the line of duty while doing so. These four men were the last American casualties in Vietnam.

With American combat forces gone since 1973, the North Vietnamese Army had used the ensuing two years to rebuild their strength. For the fourth time since 1968, they launched a massive spring offensive against the South in 1975. Many South Vietnamese troops fought bravely, but they had little success in stopping or even slowing the Communist advance. South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu ordered a partial retreat and the formation of a new defensive line further to the south, but shortly afterward South Vietnam’s lines disintegrated and North Vietnamese tanks, trucks, and troops streamed toward Saigon in mid-April. It was clear they would take the city.

The United States recognized the imminent collapse and began Operation FREQUENT WIND, the plan to emergently evacuate remaining Americans and many South Vietnamese civilians and officials from Saigon. Just weeks earlier, they had performed a similar evacuation from Cambodia, known as Operation EAGLE PULL, in time to avoid the arrival of the Communist Khmer Rouge in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Many of the same pilots and security forces who had been instrumental in safely evacuating personnel from Cambodia were on standby in Vietnam to do the same—to be the last lifeline out for thousands of Americans and Vietnamese.

Initially, U.S. officials directed everyone to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, just outside Saigon. Fixed-wing aircrafts could transport large numbers of people at once, as opposed to helicopters, which were limited by weight restrictions to just a handful of people per trip. But the North Vietnamese understood the importance of Tan Son Nhut in this respect as well, and they sent a splinter force to attack and overrun the air base. Approximately 800 Marines were all that was left of U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1975. They were there to provide security for and protect the U.S. Embassy and its contingent in Saigon. They were called upon for that duty during FREQUENT WIND, and a number of Marines were sent to Tan Son Nhut.

Two of those Marines were Corporal Charles McMahon, Jr., and Lance Corporal Darwin Judge, both from Company E of the Marine Corps Security Guard Battalion. McMahon was from Woburn, Massachusetts, and was less than a month away from his 22nd birthday. He had been in Vietnam for 10 days. Lance Corporal Judge was just 19, having graduated from Marshaltown High School, in Iowa, less than a year earlier. Lance Corporal Judge had been just 9 years old when American combat forces first deployed to Vietnam in 1965, and now he was there for the end. McMahon and Judge were operating a security checkpoint at Tan Son Nhut when, at about 4:00 am, the North Vietnamese began shelling the air base. One North Vietnamese mortar struck their checkpoint dead-on, and both Marines were killed instantly. They became the last Americans to die on the ground in Vietnam.

The North Vietnamese attack on Tan Son Nhut succeeded in cratering the base’s runways, making further evacuation by fixed-wing aircraft impossible. The only way out of Saigon on April 29, 1975, was in a boat or a helicopter. U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps helicopters spent the next 24 hours attempting to get thousands of people out of the city to Navy vessels waiting just off the coast.

During the evacuation, some Vietnamese military and civilian pilots managed to commandeer unused helicopters and fly themselves out. As Saigon slouched into panic, anyone with flying experience boarded any aircraft they could find in an attempt to escape. Most managed to reach the U.S. Seventh Fleet, but some of them—either because they were low on fuel or had no experience landing on the deck of a pitching aircraft carrier, were forced to ditch in the sea.

In order to rescue these people from the water, the U.S. assigned so-called Angel Flights to circle in the area around the carriers, in position to make an immediate rescue attempt. Among the Angel Flight aviators that day were two Marines from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 164, based aboard the USS Hancock: Captain William Nystul and First Lieutenant Michael Shea. Nystul was from Coronado, California. At 29 years old, he had been pulled from his duty station in Pensacola, Florida, where he served as a fixed-wing flight instructor, to come help with FREQUENT WIND. First Lieutenant Shea, Nystul’s copilot that day, was a 25-year-old from El Paso, Texas. He was an experienced helicopter pilot, though he had completed very few flight hours in the tandem-rotor CH-46 Sea Knight that he and Nystul were flying.

The specific helicopter the two Marines piloted that day had been in the air continuously—landing only every few hours to refuel—for seven hours by the time they relieved the previous crew. Nystul and Shea would keep it flying for an additional 10 hours. Two additional men filled out the CH-46’s crew: crew chief Corporal Stephen Wills and mechanic Corporal Richard Scott.

For the rest of the afternoon and into the night, Nystul and Shea circled the Hancock amid the flurry of air traffic moving to and from Saigon and elsewhere. According to the crew chief, Stephen Wills, they had already experienced several near-mid-air collisions by then. Late in the afternoon, Captain Nystul saw the helicopter’s low-fuel light come on, and he radioed for clearance to land and refuel. No one is sure exactly what happened over the following few seconds, but a nearby aircraft unexpectedly lurched too close to the helicopter’s tail. As Nystul turned to avoid a collision, the Sea Knight suddenly lost altitude and plunged into the water. Corporal Wills—who later could not recall the actual crash but remembered regaining consciousness underwater—managed to inflate his emergency life vest, as did Corporal Scott. After 45 minutes of waiting in the water through several aborted rescue attempts, Wills and Scott, severely wounded, were finally pulled to safety. Captain Nystul and Lieutenant Shea were never found. It is likely they never escaped the sinking wreckage of their CH-46. They were the last American casualties in Vietnam.

During the two days of Operation FREQUENT WIND, U.S. helicopters managed to evacuate over 7,000 people from Saigon before the North Vietnamese Army overran the city. The evacuees were transported to ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet offshore, including the USS Okinawa, Hancock, Dubuque, Denver, Duluth, Mobile, Peoria, and Vancouver, among others. Operation FREQUENT WIND ended on April 30, 1975, though U.S. vessels remained on-station and continued to pick up thousands of refugees escaping Vietnam by sea in the following days. The departure of the Seventh Fleet thereafter marked the conclusion of three decades of American involvement in Vietnam.

The remains of Lance Corporal Darwin Lee Judge and Corporal Charles McMahon, Jr., were repatriated to the United States in 1976. Judge, who was an Eagle Scout, has been memorialized with a scholarship established in his name for Eagle Scouts in his hometown of Marshaltown, Iowa. McMahon, a well-liked fixture at his local Boys and Girls Club of Woburn, Massachusetts, was also memorialized with a $1,000 scholarship for the Top Boy or Top Girl at the club. The remains of Captain William Craig Nystul and First Lieutenant Michael John Shea were never recovered. Those who served with them have made attempts to fund an effort to retrieve them from where they sank in the South China Sea in April 1975. All four men are also memorialized on Panel 1W, Line 124, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.1


1George R. Dunham, The Bitter End, 1973–1975, U.S. Marines in Vietnam (Washington, D.C.: Marine Corps History and Museums Division, 1990); Edward J. Marolda, By Sea, Air, and Land: An Illustrated History of the U.S. Navy and the War in Southeast Asia (Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, 1994); Spencer C. Tucker, ed., The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History (2nd edition; Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011); Mai Việt Hà, Steel and Blood: South Vietnamese Armor and the War for Southeast Asia (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2008); Alan H. Barbour, “YT-14: The Last Helicopter Lost in the Republic of Vietnam,” Yankee-Tango 14 Recovery Project (accessed 4/24/19); Jim Kavanagh, “Buddies, Hometowns Honor Last Two Marines Killed in Vietnam War,” CNN, April 29, 2010 (accessed 4/24/19); “Wall of Faces,” Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (accessed 4/24/19).


 


Previous This Week in History Articles
 

Sergeant Donald Sidney Skidgel, U.S. Army Week of
September 12
On September 14, 1969, Sergeant Donald Skidgel was helping provide security for a U.S. Army convoy on Highway 311 outside Song Be, South Vietnam, when his unit was ambushed by two North Vietnamese Army companies. Through over two hours of intense combat, Skidgel repeatedly exposed himself to fire in order to assist his fellow soldiers. Three separate times, he sprinted or drove...
Lance Corporal Bobby Gene Kinkle Week of
September 5
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Private First Class George C. Kilbuck, U.S. Arm Week of
August 29
On August 27, 1965, Private First Class George Kilbuck was with A company, 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division on a search-and-clear operation in South Vietnam. When his company reached a waypoint on top of a hill, they unknowingly walked into a minefield that had been placed there by South Vietnamese Army troops days earlier. Those soldiers...
SSG Talmadge Horton Alphin, Jr., Special Forces, MACV-SOG Week of
August 22
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Specialist 4 Johhny Jacob Cureton, Jr., U.S. Army Week of
August 15
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Lieutenant JG Richard Christian Sather, U.S. Navy Week of
August 8
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Data Systems Tech 2nd Class Stephen Louis Hock, U.S. Navy Week of
A
ugust 1
July 29th, 1967, was one of the deadliest days of the Vietnam War for American service people. Nearly 200 U.S. troops were killed on that single day. 134 of them died at sea, in the Gulf of Tonkin, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. The carrier had accidentally caught fire after a rocket misfired below the flight deck, igniting a fuel tank. The eventual conflagration...
Lieutenant Colonel Roscoe Henry Fobair, U.S. Air Force Week of
July 25
On July 24, 1965, two decorated veteran U.S. Air Force pilots were shot down over North Vietnam by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). The weapons officer, Captain Roscoe H. Fobair, was killed. Roscoe’s pilot, Captain Richard P. Keirn, successfully ejected and survived. He spent nearly eight years as a prisoner of war. Fobair and Keirn’s F-4 Phantom II tactical fighter/bomber was destroyed...
Lieutenant Colonel Andre C. Lucas, U.S. Army Week of
July 18
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Master Sergeant Chester M. Ovnand, U.S. Army Week of
July 11
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Private First Class Melvin E. Newlin Week of
July 4 
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Private First Class Oscar Reina Juarez, U.S. Marine Corps Week of
June 27
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Specialist 4 William R. Bonner Week of
June 20
On June 20, 1970, the men of a reconnaissance platoon from the 198th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division of the U.S. Army, were on a night patrol in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam, searching for signs of Communist forces. As the platoon silently worked their way along their designated route, Specialist 4 William Bonner triggered a booby trap. The...
Specialist 5 Johnny Arthur Week of
June 13
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Photo of Captain Jackie Lee Dickins Week of
June 6
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Sergeant Charles C. Fleek Week of
May
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This Memorial Day week, exactly 50 years ago, two men earned the Medal of Honor on the same day in South Vietnam. In Binh Duong Province, Sergeant Charles C. Fleek was in command of a squad that was ordered to take part in an ambush of some North Vietnamese troops. Instead, the Communist forces spotted the Americans first, and in the ensuing fire fight Sergeant Fleek...
Sergeant Alfred Lee

Week of
May 23

In the mid-morning sunlight of May 21, 1967, a column of U.S. Army armored personnel carriers (APCs) moved out from the small village of Soui Cat, in Long Khanh Province, South Vietnam. The column was on a routine supply mission, and, at first, all seemed calm as the American APCs rolled past dozens of Vietnamese civilians working in the surrounding rice fields...
Photo of the merchant ship SS Mayaguez (unknown date) Week of
May 16
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Private First Class Kenneth Michael Kays Week of
May 9
On May 7, 1970, in Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam, Private First Class Kenneth Kays earned the Medal of Honor for heroism in combat. He did so by saving the lives of three fellow soldiers during a North Vietnamese night attack on Fire Support Base Maureen, all of whom were exposed to enemy fire and grievously wounded. Incredibly, he saved all of them despite having his...
Lance Corporal Darwin L. Judge Week of
May 2
On April 29, 1975, American leaders initiated Operation FREQUENT WIND, the final American evacuation of Vietnam. The North Vietnamese Army was at last closing in on Saigon, and United States Embassy personnel and a number of Vietnamese urgently boarded aircraft for evacuation to U.S. Navy vessels stationed off the coast. About 800 U.S. Marines helped facilitate the...
Torpedoman Third Class Fuhrman Week of
April 25
In the early morning darkness of April 23, 1965, a seven-man Marine Force Reconnaissance team disembarked a landing craft and waded ashore not far from Da Nang, in Quang Nam Province. Their mission was to probe for contact with Communist insurgents and scout the area’s suitability for a future Marine Corps base. Nearly as soon as they hit the beach, the Marines were caught...
Lieutenant JG Michael Zerbe Week of
April 18
On the morning of April 15, 1966, a Navy UH-2 helicopter piloted by Lieutenant JG Michael Zerbe slowly lifted off the flight deck of the USS Kitty Hawk, somewhere in the South China Sea. He and two other crewmen were putting the UH-2 Seasprite through its paces, because its engine had just been replaced. As Zerbe attempted to hover over the deck, something...
Chief Warrant Officer Horst Week of
April 11
On April 7, 1972, the North Vietnamese Army launched an attack on the South Vietnamese city of An Loc as part of their ongoing “Easter Offensive” then raging across the country. The Communist battalion that moved toward An Loc appeared so suddenly that a number of South Vietnamese Army units and their American advisers were encircled while still outside the city. On that day,...
Major George Craig Smith Week of
April 4
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CIA Officer Barbara A. Robbins Week of
March 28
On March 30, 1965, CIA officer Barbara A. Robbins was killed when a Viet Cong car bomb exploded outside the U.S. embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam. At least 20 others were killed in the blast. Just over three years later, on July 8, 1965, Army Second Lieutenant Pamela Donovan, a nurse serving at the 85th Evacuation Hospital at Qui Nhon, died after a short illness she had...
Master Sergeant Barbara J. Dulinsky Week of
March 21
On March 18, 1967, U.S. Marine Master Sergeant Barbara J. Dulinsky arrived at Bien Hoa Air Force Base, just outside of Saigon, after an 18-hour flight. She became the first woman Marine in history to be assigned to a combat zone. Dulinsky volunteered for a Marine-standard 13-month tour, during which she worked at Ton Son Nhut Air Base as a control officer and custodian of...
A Hmong soldier Week of
March 14
This week we take a moment to honor the service and sacrifice of a group of crucial U.S. allies during the Vietnam War: the Hmong. An indigenous group from Laos and traditionally anti-Communist, the Hmong were recruited by the CIA to wage a guerrilla war against North Vietnamese and other Communist forces along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Due to the Hmong’s top secret status,...
Specialist 4 Norman Joseph Buell Week of
March 7
On March 4, 1966, in the Tuy Hoa Valley of Phu Yen Province, two U.S. Army companies from the 101st Airborne Division engaged in a firefight with North Vietnamese forces in the village of My Phu. The day of fighting resulted in the deaths of 19 Americans, one of whom earned the Distinguished Service Cross for valor. The battle of My Phu was just one of thousands of Vietnam War...
Private First Class Willie Ruff Week of
February 28
The battle of Khe Sanh is one of the most well-known battles of the Vietnam War. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, as many as 30,000 Communist Vietnamese forces surrounded roughly 6,000 U.S. marines defending a combat base on a high hill outside Khe Sanh. The battle and siege lasted for 77 days. Fewer people, though, are familiar with the story of the first marine patrol...
Private First Class Oscar Palmer Austin Week of
February 21
On February 23, 1969, North Vietnamese forces attempted to mount a second “general offensive” similar to the massive Tet Offensive of 1968. In what came to be known as “Tet 1969,” or sometimes “Mini-Tet,” Communist troops launched simultaneous artillery and infantry attacks against more than 100 population centers throughout South Vietnam. While this offensive was...
This photo of the aftermath of the explosion was taken from a French news report about the bombing, February 11, 1965. Week of
February 14
In early 1965, it seemed likely that the United States was hurtling toward a full-scale war in Vietnam. However, as of February of that year, American men and women were officially in Vietnam only as advisers to the South Vietnamese armed forces. The United States still had no combat troops in the country. But, on February 8, 1965, in retaliation for the Viet Cong bombing...
Painting of Sergeant First Class Eugene Ashley, Jr., Company C, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Week of
February 7
In the early morning darkness of February 7, 1968, the men based at the Special Forces camp near Lang Vei, South Vietnam, were on alert. The massive nationwide Tet Offensive of the previous weeks was beginning to subside, but the men on watch the previous morning had reported hearing the sounds of engines idling in the dark forest beyond. Shortly after midnight,...
Captain Harley H. Hall, U.S. Navy Week of
January 31
By the early 1970s, few people in the United States wanted to focus on the divisive Vietnam War anymore. President Richard M. Nixon had promised that Vietnamization—the term he used for the process of turning over responsibility for the war to the South Vietnamese military—“had succeeded,” and American troops were coming home by the thousands. Yet by...
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.