THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE IN VIETNAM 1954-1980

  • Eisenhower and the Advisory Period (1955-1961).

    Eisenhower and the Advisory Period (1955-1961).
    The Vietnam War is the longest war partaken by the USA. The war left lasting impressions on the global dynamics of the struggle between communism and democracy, and brought into existence a unified, communist Vietnam.
  • Beginning of the U.S. presence in Vietnam

    Beginning of the U.S. presence in Vietnam
    The French officially turned control in Vietnam over to the United States when the last 10,000 French troops left Saigon. It was the end of the French colonial empire in Vietnam and the beginning of the U.S. presence in Vietnam.
  • President Diem visited the United States

    President Diem visited the United States
    Hailed as the “Winston Churchill of Southeast Asia.” He was more popular in America than in his own country. Instead of instituting social reforms for his people, Diem decided to build a dictatorial state that was corrupt (bribery, secret accounts, extortion).
  • United States-backed anticommunist group (rightist faction) forced the (royalist faction) under Prince Souvanna Phuoma (Prince Souphanouvong imprisoned) to resign and a new government was formed.

    United States-backed anticommunist group (rightist faction) forced the (royalist faction) under Prince Souvanna Phuoma (Prince Souphanouvong imprisoned) to resign and a new government was formed.
    The Pathet Lao (Neo Laio Hak Sat or Lao Patriot Front/Laotian Communists) were purged from the new government and launched a guerrilla war against the Laotian government. Ho Chi Minh sent cadres to train/equip the Pathet Lao. The U.S. backed government of Sananikone was inept, corrupt (most of the U.S. aid went into the pockets of the officials) and unpopular
  • Eisenhower delivered a speech

    Eisenhower delivered a speech
    He linked American vital national interests (domino theory) to the survival of a non-Communist state in South Vietnam
  • National Liberation Front

    National Liberation Front
    The Mat Tran Dan Toc Gai Phong Mien Nam Viet Nam or National Liberation Front (NLF) was created, at a secret location in Saigon, to give political direction to the military operation of the Viet Cong guerrillas. It was the reincarnation of the Viet Minh Front and adapted to southern Vietnamese politics. Although it was communist-controlled, its Central Committee included representatives from the sects (Cao Dai/Hoa Hao), Catholics, Buddhists, labor, students, intellectuals (scholars), women, peas
  • First National Security Council Meeting on Vietnam War

    First National Security Council Meeting on Vietnam War
    ), Kennedy convened the National Security Council to discuss the situation in Vietnam. Brigadier General Edward Geary Lansdale, former head of the Saigon Military Mission (SMM) until 1956, friend and confident of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, and deputy assistant for special operations to the secretary of defense, had just returned from a 12-day fact-finding mission to Vietnam, and was asked by Kennedy to brief the NSC. Kennedy had read Lansdale’s memorandum, and the news was not goo
  • President Kennedy in a televised press conference discussing the arrival of American military advisers in Vietnam, 1961

    President Kennedy in a televised press conference discussing the arrival of American military advisers in Vietnam, 1961
    Kennedy followed that up by sending 500 SF troops and military advisers to South Vietnam in 1961, long before the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964. Two A-Teams were sent to the Central Highlands in 1961, working with the CIA, to recruit and train local villagers to fight against the enemy, outside the South Vietnamese Regular Army. Kennedy would ramp up the total number of US military advisers there to 16,000 before he died. By 1964, the 5th SFG was assigned primary responsibility for Army spec
  • Walt Rostow and Maxwell Taylor were sent to South Vietnam on a fact-finding mission.

    Walt Rostow and Maxwell Taylor were sent to  South Vietnam on a fact-finding mission.
  • Eisenhower and Kennedy (Clark Clifford was the chief adviser in the transition period) held their last formal briefing.

    Eisenhower and Kennedy (Clark Clifford was the chief adviser in the transition period) held their last formal briefing.
    Clifford took notes. Eisenhower instructed Kennedy that Southeast Asia was the greatest danger to peace in the world and Laos was the biggest crisis in Southeast Asia. He told Kennedy to first call on SEATO for help and elaborated on the “Domino Theory” (the danger of South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand falling like dominos to Communism). Kenn
  • Kennedy gradually escalated U.S. involvement in Vietnam

    Kennedy gradually escalated U.S. involvement in Vietnam
    The New York Times reported that the United States now had 3200 military advisers operating in battle areas within Vietnam. The insurgency (Viet Cong) benefited from North Vietnam’s (Ho Chi Minh) assistance. The number of “infiltrators” from North Vietnam totaled 26,000 between 1961 and 1963 (compared to 4500 from 1959 to 1960). Most of them were “regroupees” those that had gone to North Vietnam in 1954), who were very familiar with South Vietnam. They would help the insurgents build a strong re
  • Kennedy allowed U.S. military advisers to fire on the enemy, but only after being fired upon.

    Kennedy allowed U.S. military advisers to fire on the enemy, but only after being fired upon.
    The Headway Reports from MAC-V (Harkins) on the situation in Vietnam praised the (1) steady progress of the ARVN against the Viet Cong and (2) the heavy enemy casualties (body count/kill ratio), were false (they were simply made up the numbers trio make the military situation look good) and conflicted with the reports from Kennedy’s staff (that had visited South Vietnam), U.S. Ambassador Frederick Nolting and newspaper accounts from Saigon. The reporters called Harkins “General Blimp,” because h
  • The Battle of Ap Bac

    The Battle of Ap Bac
    The U.S. was trying to wage a conventional war and the Viet Cong/NVA were waging a guerrilla or jungle war. At Ap Bac, the United States had 3 advisors killed/6 wounded and lost 5 helicopters/11 damaged. The ARVN lost 65 men and the Viet Cong 12. General Paul Harkins (MACV-Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) reported that Ap Bac was a great victory for the ARVN. Vann tried to give a true account of the battle but Harkins threatened to court-martial him for spreading defeatist nonsense. A frust
  • The National Security Council met on Vietnam

    The National Security Council met on Vietnam
    Paul Kattenberg, who had a working group on Vietnam, recommended that the United States “get out while the getting is good.” General Paul Harkins continued top report that everything was fine in Vietnam, and McNamara, Rostow, Taylor and Rusk agreed with him. Kattenberg was transferred to Guyana.
  • Assassinassion/Coup of Diem and Nhu

    Assassinassion/Coup of Diem and Nhu
    On November 2, “All Souls Day” (Day of the Dead), Diem and Nhu are hiding in St. Francis Xavier Church. One of his aides tells the generals where they are. They phone General Don and offer an unconditional surrender in return for safe conduct and he accepts. General Duong Van Minh sends his personal bodyguard Captain Nhung with 2 jeeps and an armored personnel carrier to get Diem. He had secret instructions from Minh to kill them. He ties their hands behind their backs and puts them in the back
  • John F. Kennedy assassination

    John F. Kennedy assassination
    Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald. In his speech at the Dallas Trade mart, he was going to reaffirm his support of the South Vietnamese government (military junta of Duong Van Minh). Vietnam was Kennedy’s great failure in foreign policy (his policies/decisions would eventually put the United States on course for a major war in Southeast Asia.
  • President Johnson Takes Office

    President Johnson Takes Office
    President Johnson made three crucial decisions that would change him and change America: The first major decision was to stay the course (continue the policies of Kennedy) Vietnam. The second major decision was to launch a graduated, sustained bombing campaign (Operation Rolling Thunder) against North Vietnam. The program was supposed to save South Vietnam. The third major decision was the large-scale commitment of U.S. ground troops to South Vietnam.
  • McNamara’s Second Visit to South Vietnam

    McNamara’s Second Visit to South Vietnam
    Johnson sent McNamara to South Vietnam to rally the people (make the U.S. commitment clear to the people) and show U.S. unity with the Khanh government (Khanh would stand between McNamara and Taylor while they raised his arms triumphantly in the air). His small stature made him look insignificant and inconsequential (just another puppet of the United States). On March 16, McNamara issued his report: (1) The conditions in South Vietnam were getting worse as the Communists increased their control
  • The First Gulf of Tonkin Incident

    The First Gulf of Tonkin Incident
    Shortly after a South Vietnamese raid on the northern coast of North Vietnam, Captain John Herrick and the USS Maddox, an American destroyer, conducting ELINT (electronic intelligence) on North Vietnamese radar installations/ship movements in the Gulf of Tonkin (It was located only 30 miles out so North Vietnam assumed the U.S. navy a part of the raid), reported a torpedo attack by 3 North Vietnamese patrol boats. Jets from the U.S. Ticonderoga destroyed the patrol boats. The incident only laste
  • Anti-War Movement

    Anti-War Movement
    There was still very little opposition to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The War Resisters League (WRL) in their radical magazine (Liberation), had been calling for a de-escalation since 1963. They were skeptical of the Gulf of Tonkin incident/opposed the bombing of North Vietnam and organized a formal protest movement against the war. On May 16, 1964 they sponsored an event in New York City where 12 men burned their draft cards. In December 1964, they sponsored the first nation-wide demonstra
  • Pleiku Incident

    Pleiku Incident
    Based on the lack of response by Johnson to Viet Cong attacks in late 1964, Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnam thought the United States would limit its support of South Vietnam. They were wrong. The U.S. did react to several Viet Cong attacks on American military bases in South Vietnam. On February 6, the Viet Cong overran the U.S. base/barracks of American advisors at Pleiku (Central Highlands), killing 8 and wounding 130 Americans. In response to the attacks, Johnson ordered 132 planes to make ret
  • The Anti-War Movement

    The Anti-War Movement
    The first “Teach-In” is held at the University of Michigan. The “teach-ins” were patterned after the civil rights “sit-ins” and more than 3500 students attended the teach-in, where faculty members discussed the Vietnam War. On April 17, 1965 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) hold an antiwar rally (20,000) in Washington, D.C. and issue the “We Won’t Go” anti-draft statement. From 1965-66, SDS membership increased from 2000 to 30,000 members. On May 15, 1965 a National Teach-In was held on 1
  • Johnson authorized the use of napalm in Vietnam

    Johnson authorized the use of napalm in Vietnam
    Napalm became notorious in Vietnam where it was used in three capacities. Possibly its most visual use was being dropped from aircraft in large canisters which tumbled sluggishly to earth. Exploding on impact, it engulfed large areas in flame, sucking up all the oxygen and emitting intense heat, thick black smoke, and a smell which no one exposed to it will ever forget. Dropping napalm from high-speed jet aircraft was not very accurate, resulting in numerous instances of "friendly" (Allied) and/
  • The Casualties of the War

    The Casualties of the War
    KIA/WIA/MIA/POW. There were 1363 killed, 7645 wounded and 150 MIA/POW’s in 1965. An estimated 11,100 South Vietnamese soldiers were killed, 22,600 wounded (7400 MIA) and 34,585 Viet Cong/NVA were killed and 5746 captured
  • Halt Agent Orange

    Halt Agent Orange
    22 U.S. scientists (7 Nobel laureates) urge Johnson to halt the use of anti-crop chemical weapons (Agent Orange).
  • Lunar New Year’s truce (TET Truce)

    Lunar New Year’s truce (TET Truce)
    All the fighting cannot stop during a truce and there will be many violations of the truce by both sides. North Vietnam claimed that U.S. planes and warships are bombing residential areas (Vinhlin, Nghean, Thanhhoa, Quangtrac) resulting in the death of many civilians. The New York Times (Harrison Salisbury) reported air raid damage in the residential areas of Phuly and Namdinh (50 miles southeast of Hanoi). Asst. Secretary of Defense Arthur Sylvester responded by saying that only military target
  • Hanoi Hilton

    Hanoi Hilton
    Hanoi Hilton was the U.S. POW nickname for Hoa Lo prison the former French colonial jail near the center of Hanoi). It was the most renowned of the North Vietnamese prisons that together housed more than 700 U.S. prisoners of war (POWs) between 1964 and 1973. John McCain was shot down over Hanoi and held prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton Prison (Hao Lo Prison) for five and a half years. The prisoners of war will suffer from social isolation (kept alone in a cell for years) and some peripheral nerve i
  • Vietnam War Statistics

    Vietnam War Statistics
    The U.S. military now totaled 485,600 troops in Vietnam. There have been 16,021 U.S. military personnel killed since 1961. After three years, the U.S. (Westmoreland) had failed in its attrition strategy (Kill Ratio/Body Count) to inflict such heavy casualties on the VC/NVA to force them to abandon the war
  • TET Offensive

    TET Offensive
    Tet was the celebration of the beginning of the lunar New Year in Vietnam. It is the most important Vietnamese holiday, and was customary for both sides to observe a 36-hour cease fire (Tet Truce) during Tet. On January 27, the supposed seven-day ceasefire for Tet began. On January 29, the Allied ceasefire began in all of South Vietnam except in I Corps Tactical Zone. Shortly after midnight on January 30, General Giap broke the Tet truce and launched a massive, pre-dawn, surprise attack (general
  • The My Lai Massacre

    The My Lai Massacre
    , Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry of the 23rd Infantry (Americal Division), led by Lt. William Calley, massacred 504 unarmed innocent civilians (The U.S. government/military does not support this number) in a hamlet (one of several hamlets in Song My village) called My Lai in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. There were also several rapes (sodomy) and destruction of dwellings and livestock. The causes included (1) weak company and platoon leadership, (2) inadequate training, (3)
  • Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
    King had turned against Johnson and the Vietnam War. In 1967, he gave a powerful anti-war speech (The Casualties of War) and called the war” immoral.” After the speech, Army intelligence sent a top secret unit to keep King under surveillance. Martin Luther King Jr. was supposedly shot and killed by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee. The King family believed his death was a government conspiracy. The Pentagon rejected Westmoreland’s request for 206,000 troops. Hanoi declared its readiness to o
  • Statistics of the Vietnam War

    Statistics of the Vietnam War
    U.S. military personnel in Vietnam reached its peak in 1968 (536,100). It was the highest year for U.S. soldiers being killed and wounded in Vietnam. 30,610 U.S. military personnel have been killed since 1961 (The Marines had 4618 killed and 29,320 wounded). The U.S. Marines inflicted a total of 31,691 combat deaths on the NVA/VC. There are 65,600 Allied troops serving in Vietnam. One of the casualties in 1968, was Marine lieutenant Lewis B. Puller Jr., son of the legendary Marine Corps General
  • Nixon Elected

    Nixon Elected
    Nixon conceded that winning the Vietnam War was no longer a possibility, and he would now concentrate on ending American involvement in the war (he called it winning the peace by ending the fighting, while avoiding defeat, or “Peace with Honor”)
  • Vietnamization

    Vietnamization
    The Nixon policy announced on June 8, 1969 that phased out U.S. forces and turned war responsibilities over to South Vietnam. Vietnamization (the phrase was coined by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird) was under the direction of Laird and included (1) maximizing military material assistance to South Vietnam and (2) intensifying pacification (Hearts and Minds) programs. The U.S. hoped South Vietnam could successfully oppose the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong without the U.S. support. Vietnamizati
  • Vietnam Statistics

    Vietnam Statistics
    U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam (475,200 troops in Vietnam-The lowest troop level in 2 years). Troop level by military branches: Army (331,100), Navy (30,200), Marine Corps (55,100), Air Force (58,400), Coast Guard (400) There were 9414 Americans killed in action in 1969. From 1961-1969, the total KIA’s for the Vietnam War was 40,000/260,000 WIA’s/1400 MIA/POW. The soldier’s morale was declining 117 convictions for mutiny in 1969 (82 in 1968).
  • Vietnam War Statistics

    Vietnam War Statistics
    .S. forces were down to 280,000. Both sides were avoiding big-unit confrontations. U.S. casualties were mainly due to (1) booby traps, (2) snipers and (3) mortar attacks. 4204 U.S. soldiers were killed in 1970 (44,200 since 1961). South Vietnamese forces reported 20, 914 killed in 1970. An estimated 60,000 troops experimented with drugs in 1970 and there over 200 incidents of “fragging.”
  • Vietnam War Stats

    Vietnam War Stats
    U.S. troop strength was 156,800 (about 20,000 constituted combat forces). The U.S. had 1380 combat deaths in 1971 (45,626 since 1961), the lowest since 1965. Allied military forces in Vietnam declined to 53,900. Draft calls in the lottery draft were low and draftees were no longer being sent to Vietnam for combat duty. In a poll, 50% of the American people approved of Nixon’s Vietnamization policy. The morale of U.S. troops continued to decline and the Paris peace talks stalled.
  • Nixon 8-point plan

    Nixon 8-point plan
    President Nixon announced a proposed eight point peace plan for Vietnam and also revealed that Kissinger was secretly negotiating with the North Vietnamese. Hanoi rejected his peace plan.
  • Operation Linebacker II-The Christmas Bombing

    Operation Linebacker II-The Christmas Bombing
    Nixon orders the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong over Christmas. It is the most concentrated air offensive of the war aimed at destroying North Vietnam’s will to fight. The United States dropped 15,247 tons of bombs along the 60-mile Hanoi/Haiphong corridor. The bombing was so close the prisoners of war being held in the Hanoi Hilton could see some of the planes being shot down (15 B-52’s, 11 other aircraft were shot down, 93 pilots/crew were killed or captured.
  • Treaty and the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam (Paris Accords)

    Treaty and the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam (Paris Accords)
    Nixon announces that all four sides (NV, SV, US, NLF) signed the treaty and the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam (Paris Accords) will go into effect at 7:01p.m. EST on January 27, 1973. Secretary of State William Rodgers signed for the United States. John Negroponte, a Kissinger aide said “We bombed the NVA into accepting our concessions.”
  • The last U.S. troops (5200) withdraw from Vietnam

    The last U.S. troops (5200) withdraw from Vietnam
    North Vietnam releases the last of the U.S. prisoners of war (POW’s) from Hanoi. The United States will keep a small contingent of civilians (about 8500) at the Defense Attache Office (Tan Son Nhut Airport) and the U.S. Embassy (Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker). A group of 159 Marines remain to guard the contingent of civilians.
  • President Nixon resigned as president

    President Nixon resigned as president
    Vice President Gerald Ford became the thirty-eighth President of the United States. Ford pardoned Nixon for all crimes related to the Watergate scandal.
  • Vietnam Statistics

    Vietnam Statistics
    The number of U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam was 50. South Vietnamese Command reports that 80,000 persons have been killed in fighting throughout the country in 1974 (highest total for any year of the war since 1945).
  • The Evacuation and Fall of Saigon

    The Evacuation and Fall of Saigon
    Evacuation of Vietnamese, Americans and third-country nationals began in early April. Buses were moving through the city and picking up people at designated spots. By April 19, the total evacuated was 5000 (The U.S. had forecasted 170,000).
  • The Pathet Lao controlled Laos

    The Pathet Lao controlled Laos
    Old U.S. war material was melted down and used for reconstruction of towns and factories. The Soviet Union provided three billion in reconstruction aid to Vietnam. An estimated 1.5 million former Saigon government officials and supporters were relocated to rural development areas. An estimated 400,000 senior officials and military offers (Duong van Minh) were sent to “re-education” camps. Saigon ceased to exist on the maps (renamed Ho Chi Minh City).