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This Month in the Vietnam War: May 1961 -1972


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May 1961: Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson visits President Diem in South Vietnam and hails the embattled leader as the 'Winston Churchill of Asia.'

May 1961: President Kennedy sends 400 American Green Beret 'Special Advisors' to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers in methods of 'counter-insurgency' in the fight against Viet Cong guerrillas. The role of the Green Berets soon expands to include the establishment of Civilian Irregular Defense Groups (CIDG) made up of fierce mountain men known as the Montagnards. These groups establish a series of fortified camps strung out along the mountains to thwart infiltration by North Vietnamese.




May 1962: Viet Cong organize themselves into battalion-sized units operating in central Vietnam.

May 1962: Defense Secretary McNamara visits South Vietnam and reports "we are winning the war."


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May 1963: Buddhists riot in South Vietnam after they are denied the right to display religious flags during their celebration of Buddha's birthday. In Hue, South Vietnamese police and army troops shoot at Buddhist demonstrators, resulting in the deaths of one woman and eight children. Political pressure now mounts on the Kennedy administration to disassociate itself from Diem's repressive, family-run government. "You are responsible for the present trouble because you back Diem and his government of ignoramuses," a leading Buddhist tells U.S. officials in Saigon.


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May 1964: President Johnson's aides begin work on a Congressional resolution supporting the President's war policy in Vietnam. The resolution is shelved temporarily due to lack of support in the Senate, but will later be used as the basis of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.




May 3, 1965: The first U.S. Army combat troops, 3500 men of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, arrive in Vietnam.

May 11, 1965: Viet Cong over-run South Vietnamese troops in Phuoc Long Province north of Saigon and also attack in central South Vietnam.

May 13, 1965: The first bombing pause is announced by the U.S. in the hope that Hanoi will now negotiate. There will be six more pauses during the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign, all with same intention. However, each time, the North Vietnamese ignore the peace overtures and instead use the pause to repair air defenses and send more troops and supplies into the South via the Ho Chi Minh trail.

May 13, 1965: Viet Cong attack the U.S. special forces camp in Phuoc Long. During the fighting, 2nd Lt. Charles Williams, earns the Medal of Honor by knocking out a Viet Cong machine-gun then guiding rescue helicopters, while wounded four times.

May 19, 1965: U.S. bombing of North Vietnam resumes.


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May 2, 1966: Secretary of Defense McNamara privately reports the North Vietnamese are infiltrating 4500 men per month into the South.

May 14, 1966: Political unrest intensifies as South Vietnamese troops loyal to Prime Minister Ky over-run renegade South Vietnamese Buddhist troops in Da Nang. Ky's troops then move on to Hue to oust renegades there. Ky's actions result in a new series of immolations by Buddhist monks and nuns as an act of protest against his Saigon regime and its American backers. Buddhist leader Tri Quang blames President Johnson personally for the situation. Johnson responds by labeling the immolations as "tragic and unnecessary."




May 1, 1967: Ellsworth Bunker replaces Henry Cabot Lodge as U.S ambassador to South Vietnam.

May 2, 1967: The U.S. is condemned during a mock war crimes tribunal held in Stockholm, organized by British philosopher Bertrand Russell.

May 9, 1967: Robert W. Komer, a former CIA analyst, is appointed by President Johnson as deputy commander of MACV to form a new agency called Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) to pacify the population of South Vietnam. Nearly 60 percent of rural villages in South Vietnam are now under Viet Cong control. $850 million in food, medical supplies, machinery, and numerous other household items, will be distributed through CORDS to the population in order to regain their loyalty in the struggle for the "hearts and minds" of common villagers. CORDS also trains local militias to protect their villages from the Viet Cong.

May 13, 1967: In New York City, 70,000 march in support of the war, led by a New York City fire captain.

May 18-26, 1967: U.S. and South Vietnamese troops enter the Demilitarized Zone for the first time and engage in a series of fire fights with NVA. Both sides suffer heavy losses.

May 22, 1967: President Johnson publicly urges North Vietnam to accept a peace compromise.




May 5, 1968: Viet Cong launch "Mini Tet," a series of rocket and mortar attacks against Saigon and 119 cities and military installations throughout South Vietnam. The U.S. responds with air strikes using Napalm and high explosives.

May 10, 1968: An NVA battalion attacks the Special Forces camp at Kham Duc along the border of Laos. The isolated camp had been established in 1963 to monitor North Vietnamese infiltration. Now encircled by NVA, the decision is made to evacuate via C-130 transport planes. At the conclusion of the successful airlift, it is discovered that three U.S. Air Force controllers have accidentally been left behind. Although the camp is now over-run by NVA and two C-130s have already been shot down, Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson pilots a C-123 Provider, lands on the air strip under intense fire, gathers all three controllers, then takes off. For this, Jackson is awarded the Medal of Honor.

May 10, 1968: Peace talks begin in Paris but soon stall as the U.S. insists that North Vietnamese troops withdraw from the South, while the North Vietnamese insist on Viet Cong participation in a coalition government in South Vietnam. This marks the beginning of five years of on-again off-again official talks between the U.S. and North Vietnam in Paris.


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May 1969: The New York Times breaks the news of the secret bombing of Cambodia. As a result, Nixon orders FBI wiretaps on the telephones of four journalists, along with 13 government officials to determine the source of news leak.

May 10-May 20, 1969: Forty-six men of the 101st Airborne die during a fierce ten-day battle at 'Hamburger Hill' in the A Shau Valley near Hue. 400 others are wounded. After the hill is taken, the troops are then ordered to abandon it by their commander. NVA then move in and take back the hill unopposed.
The costly assault and its confused aftermath provokes a political outcry back in the U.S. that American lives are being wasted in Vietnam. One Senator labels the assault "senseless and irresponsible." It is the beginning of the end for America in Vietnam as Washington now orders MACV Commander Gen. Creighton Abrams to avoid such encounters in the future. 'Hamburger Hill' is the last major search and destroy mission by U.S. troops during the war. Small unit actions will now be used instead. A long period of decline in morale and discipline begins among American draftees serving in Vietnam involuntarily. Drug usage becomes rampant as nearly 50 percent experiment with marijuana, opium, or heroin which are easy to obtain on the streets of Saigon. U.S. military hospitals later become deluged with drug related cases as drug abuse causalities far outnumber causalities of war.

May 14, 1969: During his first TV speech on Vietnam, President Nixon presents a peace plan in which America and North Vietnam would simultaneously pull out of South Vietnam over the next year. The offer is rejected by Hanoi.




May 1, 1970: May Day, the traditional Communist holiday. A combined force of 15,000 U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers attack NVA supply bases inside Cambodia. However, throughout this offensive, NVA and Viet Cong carefully avoid large-scale battles and instead withdraw westward, further into Cambodia, leaving behind their base camps containing huge stores of weapons and ammunition.

May 1, 1970: President Nixon calls anti-war students "bums blowing up campuses."

May 2, 1970: American college campuses erupt in protest over the invasion of Cambodia.

May 4, 1970: At Kent State University in Ohio, National Guardsmen shoot and kill four student protesters and wound nine.
In response to the killings, over 400 colleges and universities across America shut down. In Washington, nearly 100,000 protesters surround various government buildings including the White House and historical monuments. On an impulse, President Nixon exits the White House and pays a late night surprise visit to the Lincoln Memorial and chats with young protesters.

May 6, 1970: In Saigon over the past week, 450 civilians were killed during Viet Cong terrorist raids throughout the city, the highest weekly death toll to date.


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May 3-5, 1971: A mass arrest of 12,000 protesters occurs in Washington.




May 1, 1972: South Vietnamese abandon Quang Tri City to the NVA.

May 4, 1972: The U.S. and South Vietnam suspend participation in the Paris peace talks indefinitely. 125 additional U.S. warplanes are ordered to Vietnam.

May 8, 1972: In response to the ongoing NVA Eastertide Offensive, President Nixon announces Operation Linebacker I, the mining of North Vietnam's harbors along with intensified bombing of roads, bridges, and oil facilities. The announcement brings international condemnation of the U.S. and ignites more anti-war protests in America. During an air strike conducted by South Vietnamese pilots, Napalm bombs are accidentally dropped on South Vietnamese civilians, including children. Filmed footage and a still photo of a badly burned nude girl fleeing the destruction of her hamlet becomes yet another enduring image of the war.

May 9, 1972: Operation Linebacker I commences with U.S. jets laying mines in Haiphong harbor.

May 15, 1972: The headquarters for the U.S. Army in Vietnam is decommissioned.

May 17, 1972: According to U.S. reports, Operation Linebacker I is damaging North Vietnam's ability to supply NVA troops engaged in the Eastertide Offensive.

May 22-30, 1972: President Nixon visits the Soviet Union and meets with Leonid Brezhnev to forge new diplomatic relations with the Communist nation. Nixon's visit causes great concern in Hanoi that their Soviet ally might be inclined to agree to an unfavorable settlement of the war to improve Soviet relations with the U.S.

May 30, 1972: NVA attack on Kontum is thwarted by South Vietnamese troops, aided by massive U.S. air strikes.

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We already got you a snazzy flight jacket, Donnie.  All you have to do is put it on and settle back in your easy chair . . . and dream . . .


Second Lieutenant Donster made a slight adjustment to one engine, then settled back to enjoy a quiet ride in his A-20 back to Port Moresby.  The interphone was quiet, mainly because his gunner, Private Fick, had screamed some nonsense about an attack by armed purple elephants and bailed out shortly after takeoff.  Fick suffered from various forms of mental instability, caused mainly by drinking too much of the hooch brewed up by the Aussie ground crews.  Donster smiled at the thought of Fick standing in front of the unit CO, trying to explain this latest event.


Suddenly, the instrument panel blew apart, accompanied by a bright flash.  Bits and pieces struck Donster in the chest and head.  There was a loud bang, followed by several others.  The A-20 lurched to the right.  A dark shape zipped past not more than ten feet above his canopy.  Something wet flowed down over his face and goggles.  Blood!  My God!  I'm bleeding!  This will ruin my snazzy flight jacket!


He shoved the goggles up so he could see.  Several large aircraft loomed up, head on.  Japs!  Bombers!  He grabbed for the control yoke, but the planes roared by and out of view before he could try to evade them.  God!  Luck is still with me.  I hope.  With trembling fingers he inspected the front of his flight jacket.  The news was not good.  There were holes in the soft leather, holes wet with blood.  Anger flared.  Bastards!  I'll get them for that!  He grabbed the wheel and started a hard turn to the right.  Just then, the right engine burst into flames. 


All thoughts of revenge vanished.  Quickly, he shut the engine down and pulled the extinguisher.  The flames died down for a few seconds, then flared anew.  Damn.  Shoving the nose down, Donnie looked for a place to crash land . . . or bail out.  He saw nothing but green jungle and water.  There was a narrow beach.  Too narrow to land on.  He'd have to ditch in the ocean as close to shore as he could. 


The left engine lurched to a stop.  No choice now.  For perhaps thirty seconds everything went Donnie's way.  The fire went out and the A-20 glided smoothly toward the water.  Then he noticed the fins moving lazily around, just off the beach.  Sharks!  A sick feeling enveloped him.  Goddamn sharks.  My snazzy jacket is already torn and bloody.  Now it's going to end up as shark shit.


Then, hope filled his heart again.  Surely this was just a dream.  Any second he'd wake up.  Any second.


. . . .



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May 19, 1965: U.S. bombing of North Vietnam resumes.

The bombing resumed on my 7th birthday. (Hint hint) 

It's not until May 19th! Plenty of time for the kudos and gifts!


Three problems with that dream/story. One being Fick would be nowhere in the dream. Two, I can't swim so an ocean would be out as for a place to land. I'd take my chances with the narrow beach. Oh, and my co-pilot would be a beautiful Swedish buxom blonde babe in a bikini. :D

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Vonze again Oldt Gay haz zhe schtory inkorvekt!  Ich vas zhere but Ich did nicht bail out bekauze ofv mental inztability az Ich do nicht zuffer fvrom zutch zhings.  Ich had to bail out bekauze of zhe tokzik fumez kommink fvrom zhe fvorvard kokpit.  Herr Dumzter had partikularly bad gaz zhat day und Ich kould nicht tollervate it.


Az fvor hiz flugzeug beink schot by zhe Japaneze zhat ist nicht korvekt eizher!  He zaw ein Japaneze flugzeug in zhe diztanze und panikedt und plundjedt hiz flugzeug into zhe ozean.

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21 hours ago, Herr Soren Fick said:

Vonze again Oldt Gay haz zhe schtory inkorvekt!  Ich vas zhere but Ich did nicht bail out bekauze ofv mental inztability az Ich do nicht zuffer fvrom zutch zhings.  Ich had to bail out bekauze of zhe tokzik fumez kommink fvrom zhe fvorvard kokpit.  Herr Dumzter had partikularly bad gaz zhat day und Ich kould nicht tollervate it.


Az fvor hiz flugzeug beink schot by zhe Japaneze zhat ist nicht korvekt eizher!  He zaw ein Japaneze flugzeug in zhe diztanze und panikedt und plundjedt hiz flugzeug into zhe ozean.


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