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This Month in the Vietnam War: November 1963 -1973


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November 1, 1963 - Lodge has a routine meeting with Diem from 10 a.m. until noon at the presidential palace, then departs. At 1:30 p.m., during the traditional siesta time, the coup begins as mutinous troops roar into Saigon, surround the presidential palace, and also seize police headquarters. Diem and his brother Nhu are trapped inside the palace and reject all appeals to surrender. Diem telephones the rebel generals and attempts, but fails, to talk them out of the coup. Diem then calls Lodge and asks "...what is the attitude of the United States?" Lodge responds "...it is four thirty a.m. in Washington, and the U.S. government cannot possibly have a view." Lodge then expresses concern for Diem's safety, to which Diem responds "I am trying to restore order." At 8 p.m., Diem and Nhu slip out of the presidential palace unnoticed and go to a safe house in the suburbs that belongs to a wealthy Chinese merchant.

November 2, 1963 - At 3 a.m., one of Diem's aides betrays his location to the generals. The hunt for Diem and Nhu now begins. At 6 a.m., Diem telephones the generals. Realizing the situation is hopeless, Diem and Nhu offer to surrender from inside a Catholic church. Diem and Nhu are then taken into custody by rebel officers and placed in the back of an armored personnel carrier. While traveling to Saigon, the vehicle stops and Diem and Nhu are assassinated.
At the White House, a meeting is interrupted with the news of Diem's death. According to witnesses, President Kennedy's face turns a ghostly shade of white and he immediately leaves the room. Later, the President records in his private diary, "I feel that we must bear a good deal of responsibility for it."
Saigon celebrates the downfall of Diem's regime. But the coup results in a power vacuum in which a series of military and civilian governments seize control of South Vietnam, a country that becomes totally dependent on the United States for its existence. Viet Cong use the unstable political situation to increase their hold over the rural population of South Vietnam to nearly 40 percent.

November 22, 1963 - President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as the 36th U.S. President. He is the fourth President coping with Vietnam and will oversee massive escalation of the war while utilizing many of the same policy advisors who served Kennedy.

November 24, 1963 - President Johnson declares he will not "lose Vietnam" during a meeting with Ambassador Lodge in Washington. By year's end, there are 16,300 American military advisers in South Vietnam which received $500 million in U.S. aid during 1963.


Elke-Sommer-7.jpgElke Sommer


November 1, 1964 - The first attack by Viet Cong against Americans in Vietnam occurs at Bien Hoa air base, 12 miles north of Saigon. A pre-dawn mortar assault kills five Americans, two South Vietnamese, and wounds nearly a hundred others. President Johnson dismisses all recommendations for a retaliatory air strike against North Vietnam.

November 3, 1964 - With 61 percent of the popular vote, Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson is re-elected as President of the United States in a land-slide victory, the biggest to date in U.S. history, defeating Republican Barry Goldwater by 16 million votes. The Democrats also achieve big majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate.


Elke-Sommer-1.jpgElke Sommer


November 14-16, 1965 - The Battle of Ia Drang Valley marks the first major battle between U.S. troops and North Vietnamese Army regulars (NVA) inside South Vietnam. American Army troops of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) respond to the NVA threat by using helicopters to fly directly into the battle zone. Upon landing, the troops quickly disembark then engage in fierce fire fights, supported by heavy artillery and B-52 air strikes, marking the first use of B-52s to assist combat troops. The two-day battle ends with NVA retreating into the jungle. 79 Americans are killed and 121 wounded. NVA losses are estimated at 2000.

November 17, 1965 - The American success at Ia Drang is marred by a deadly ambush against 400 soldiers of the U.S. 7th Cavalry sent on foot to occupy nearby Landing Zone 'Albany.' NVA troops that had been held in reserve during Ia Drang, along with troops that had retreated, kill 155 Americans and wound 124.

November 27, 1965 - In Washington, 35,000 anti-war protesters circle the White House then march on to the Washington Monument for a rally.

November 30, 1965 - After visiting Vietnam, Defense Secretary McNamara privately warns that American casualty rates of up to 1000 dead per month could be expected.


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November 7, 1966 - Defense Secretary McNamara is confronted by student protesters during a visit to Harvard University.

November 12, 1966 - The New York Times reports that 40 percent of U.S. economic aid sent to Saigon is stolen or winds up on the black market.


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November 3-December 1, 1967 - The Battle of Dak To occurs in the mountainous terrain along the border of Cambodia and Laos as the U.S. 4th Infantry Division heads off a planned NVA attack against the Special Forces camp located there. During the fighting, the 4th Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry earns a Presidential Unit Citation for bravery. Massive air strikes combined with U.S. and South Vietnamese ground attacks result in an NVA withdrawal into Laos and Cambodia. NVA losses are put at 1644. U.S. troops suffer 289 killed. "Along with the gallantry and tenacity of our soldiers, our tremendously successful air logistic operation was the key to the victory," states General Westmoreland.

November 11, 1967 - President Johnson makes another peace overture, but it is soon rejected by Hanoi.

November 17, 1967 - Following an optimistic briefing in the White House by General Westmoreland, Ambassador Bunker, and Robert Komer, President Johnson tells the American public on TV, "We are inflicting greater losses than we're taking...We are making progress." In a Time magazine interview, General Westmoreland taunts the Viet Cong, saying "I hope they try something because we are looking for a fight."

November 29, 1967 - An emotional Robert McNamara announces his resignation as Defense Secretary during a press briefing, stating, "Mr. President...I cannot find words to express what lies in my heart today..." Behind closed doors, he had begun regularly expressing doubts over Johnson's war strategy, angering the President. McNamara joins a growing list of Johnson's top aides who resigned over the war including Bill Moyers, McGeorge Bundy and George Ball.

November 30, 1967 - Anti-war Democrat Eugene McCarthy announces he will be a candidate for President opposing Lyndon Johnson, stating, "...we are involved in a very deep crisis of leadership, a crisis of direction and a crisis of national purpose...the entire history of this war in Vietnam, no matter what we call it, has been one of continued error and misjudgment."


Elke-Sommer-3.jpgElke Sommer


November 1968 - William E. Colby replaces Robert Komer as head of CORDS.

November 5, 1968 - Republican Richard M. Nixon narrowly defeats Democrat Hubert Humphrey in the U.S. presidential election.

November 27, 1968 - President-elect Nixon asks Harvard professor Henry Kissinger to be his National Security Advisor. Kissinger accepts.

By year's end, U.S. troop levels reached 495,000 with 30,000 American deaths to date. In 1968, over a thousand a month were killed. An estimated 150,000 soldiers from North Vietnam infiltrated the South via the Ho Chi Minh trail in 1968. Although the U.S. conducted 200 air strikes each day against the trail in late 1968, up to 10,000 NVA supply trucks are en route at any given time.


Elke-Sommer-4.jpgElke Sommer


November 3, 1969 - President Nixon delivers a major TV speech asking for support from "the great silent majority of my fellow Americans" for his Vietnam strategy. "...the more divided we are at home, the less likely the enemy is to negotiate at Paris...North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that."

November 15, 1969 - The 'Mobilization' peace demonstration draws an estimated 250,000 in Washington for the largest anti-war protest in U.S. history.

November 16, 1969 - For the first time, the U.S. Army publicly discusses events surrounding the My Lai massacre.


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November 12, 1970 - The military trial of Lt. William Calley begins at Fort Benning, Georgia, concerning the massacre of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai.

November 20, 1970 - American troop levels drop to 334,600.


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November 7, 1972 - Richard M. Nixon wins the presidential election in the biggest landslide to date in U.S. history.

November 14, 1972 - President Nixon sends a letter to President Thieu secretly pledging "to take swift and severe retaliatory action" if North Vietnam violates the proposed peace treaty.

November 30, 1972 - American troop withdrawal from Vietnam is completed, although there are still 16,000 Army advisers and administrators remaining to assist South Vietnam's military forces.


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November 7, 1973 - Congress passes the War Powers Resolution requiring the President to obtain the support of Congress within 90 days of sending American troops abroad.


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