Operation Masher (24 January—6 March 1966) was in early 1966 the largest search and destroy mission that had been carried out in the Vietnam War up until that time. It was a combined mission of the United States Army, Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), and Republic of Korea Army (ROK) in Bình Định Province on the central coast of South Vietnam. The People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 3rd Division, made up of two regiments of North Vietnamese regulars and one regiment of main force Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas, controlled much of the land and many of the people of Bình Định Province, which had a total population of about 800,000.:201 A CIA report in 1965 said that Binh Dinh was "just about lost" to the communists.
The name "Operation Masher" was changed to "Operation White Wing", because President Lyndon Johnson wanted the name changed to one that sounded more benign. Adjacent to the operational area of Masher/White Wing in Quang Ngai province the U.S. and South Vietnamese Marine Corps carried out a complementary mission called Operation Double Eagle.
The 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was the principal U.S. ground force involved in Operation Masher and that operation was marked as a success by its commanders. Claims are made that the PAVN 3rd Division had been dealt a hard blow, but intelligence reports indicated that a week after the withdrawal of the 1st Cavalry PAVN soldiers were returning to take control of the area where Operation Masher had taken place.:214-5 Most of the PAVN/VC had slipped away prior to or during the operation, and discrepancy between weapons recovered and body count led to criticisms of the operation.
Allegations that there were a reported six civilian casualties for every reported PAVN/VC casualty during the Fulbright Hearings prompted growing criticism of US conduct of the war and contributed to greater public dissension at home. During Operation Masher, the ROK Capital Division were alleged to have committed the Bình An/Tây Vinh massacre on 26 February 1966. The operation would create almost 125,000 homeless people in this province, and the PAVN/VC forces would reappear just months after the US had conducted the largest search and destroy in the war up to that point.
Bình Định Province was a traditional communist and VC stronghold. Binh Dinh consisted of a narrow, heavily cultivated coastal plain with river valleys separated by ridges and low mountains reaching into the interior. The vital artery of Highway 1 ran north and south ran through Binh Dinh. The area of Operation Masher was about 30 miles (48 km) north to south and reached a maximum of 30 miles (48 km) inland from the South China Sea. The U.S. Marine's Operation Double Eagle extended northward from Masher and the ROK's Operation Flying Tiger extended southward. South Vietnamese forces participated in all three operations.:205
The First Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was selected by U.S. Commander William Westmoreland to carry out the operation. The 1st Cavalry had borne the brunt of the combat during the Siege of Plei Me and the Battle of Ia Drang in October and November 1965, and some battalions of the 1st Cavalry had sustained heavy casualties. More than 5,000 soldiers in the division were recent arrivals in Vietnam with little combat experience. The South Vietnamese 22nd Division stationed in Binh Dinh had also suffered heavy casualties in recent fighting and was on the defensive.:201-2
The opposition to the American and South Vietnamese units participating in Operation Masher/White Wing was the PAVN 3rd Division consisting of approximately 6,000 soldiers in two regiments of North Vietnamese regulars who had a recently infiltrated into South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh trail and one regiment of VC guerrillas who had been fighting the South Vietnamese government since 1962. The majority of the population of Binh Dinh was believed to be supportive of the communist forces.:201-2
The plan of Operation Masher was for the U.S., South Vietnamese and ROK soldiers to sweep north and for the U.S. and South Vietnamese marines to sweep south catching and killing the communist forces between the allied forces. Orders for the U.S. forces in Operation Masher were to "locate and destroy VC/NVA units; enhance the security of GVN [Government of South Vietnam] installations in [provincial capital] Bong Song, and to lay the groundwork for restoration of GVN control of the population and rich coastal plain area." The primary metric for judging the success of the operation would be the body count of PAVN/VC soldiers killed.
Operation Masher officially began on 28 January, but preliminary movements began on 25 January as the 1st Cavalry moved by land and air from its base at Camp Radcliff to the village of Phu Cat and to establish a division forward headquarters near the provincial capital of Bồng Sơn which was securely held by the ARVN.:203-4 That first day of movement, however, was marred when a C-123 carrying troops of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry from Camp Radcliff to Bong Son in preparation for the operation crashed into mountains near An Khe, killing all 4 crewmen and 42 passengers on board.:13
On 28 January three Project DELTA U.S. Special Forces teams consisting of 17 personnel were inserted in the An Lao Valley for reconnaissance. The teams ran into immediate trouble and when rescued a day later seven had been killed and three wounded. Project DELTA Commander Major Charles Beckwith was seriously wounded while extracting the teams. Beckwith was criticized for going into the An Lao valley, under VC control for 15 years, without South Vietnamese counterparts and ground intelligence and in poor weather.
Phase One: Bong Son (See also Battle of Bong Son) Operation Masher began officially on 28 January 1966 with the helicopter insertion of 1st Cavalry units at several landing zones west of Highway One, 5 miles (8.0 km) to 10 miles (16 km) north of the town of Bong Son and on the coastal plain which consisted mostly of rice paddies separated by scattered forests and hamlets. The ARVN operated east of Highway One toward the coast. Bad weather hampered the movement. U.S. troops on the ground were attacked by a reinforced PAVN battalion. Several helicopters were damaged or shot down and were unable to land their complement of soldiers. Tactical air strikes by the U.S. Air Force the next morning assaulted the communist positions with napalm and other bombs and opposition tapered off. The engagement at Landing Zone 4 is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Cu Nghi.:14Search and destroy operations by the Americans for the next few days found few PAVN/VC soldiers and the Bong Son operation was terminated on February 4.:204-8
Casualties on both sides were substantial. The U.S. claimed that it killed 566 PAVN/VC soldiers at a loss of 123 American dead (counting the 46 lost in the airplane crash). Two helicopters were shot down and 29 damaged.:204-8
Phase Two: An Lao valley. The An Lao river valley, 10 miles (16 km) to 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Bong Son and the surrounding highlands were the next target of the 1st Cavalry. Bad weather delayed the beginning of the operation from 4 February to the 6th. The U.S. Marines blocked the northern entrance of the valley, the ARVN blocked the southern entrance, and three battalions were landed in the valley, however the PAVN/VC forces had withdrawn. The 1st Cavalry discovered large caches of rice and defensive works, but reported killing only 11 PAVN/VC soldiers at a loss to American forces of 49 wounded.:209
The U.S. offered to assist the inhabitants in the An Lao valley to leave the valley and escape from PAVN/VC rule and 4,500 of 8,000 occupants did so. The U.S. reported that 3,000 people were moved by U.S. helicopter, the others leaving the valley on foot.
Phase Three: Kim Son Valley. The Kim Son Valley consisted of seven small river valleys about 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Bong Son. Three American battalions were deployed to the valley. On 11 February the 1st Cavalry established ambush positions in the highlands at the exits to each of the valleys and on 12 February began a sweep up the valley and outward, hoping to catch the PAVN/VC as they retreated. Initially unsuccessful, on 17 February three companies of the 1st Cavalry found a PAVN anti-aircraft artillery battalion and decimated it with air strikes and artillery, claiming 127 PAVN killed in the battle.
On 18 February, two platoons of Americans came across a heavily defended area in the eastern part of the Kim Son Valley. They called the area the "Iron Triangle" (not to be confused with the better-known Iron Triangle near Saigon). The area was assaulted by 1st Cavalry units, artillery, and B-52 air strikes. On 22 February the area was secured at a cost of 23 American deaths and an estimated minimum death toll of 313 PAVN/VC killed. Illustrating, however, that the VC were still in the area a force of 15 to 20 ambushed an American patrol on 28 February, killed 8 Americans, and captured their weapons.:211-4
Phase Four: Cay Giap mountains. The final phase of Operation Masher, 1-6 March, was in the Cay Giap mountains, 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Bong Son. American intelligence indicated that a PAVN battalion was hiding in the mountains. An ARVN division surrounded the mountains and stationed a fleet of small vessels off shore to prevent the PAVN/VC from escaping by sea. A heavy land, air, and sea bombardment of the mountains was followed by a three battalion sweep by the 1st Cavalry. The ARVN claimed to have killed about 50 PAVN/VC, but most of the PAVN had left the area before the assault.:214
With the completion of Operation Masher on 6 March, the 1st Cavalry withdrew from Binh Dinh Province, returning to its base at Camp Radcliff.
A Joint Chiefs of Staff memo reported by The Wall Street Journal in 1966 urged President Johnson to "expand" the use of non-lethal chemicals in South Vietnam. The use of 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate or Agent BZ was alleged in Operation White Wing by journalist Pierre Darcourt in L'Express news magazine. The allegation concerned an offensive and the 1st Cavalry Division in March 1966 during Operation "White Wing."
Operation Double Eagle, carried out by U.S. and South Vietnamese marines, was a complementary mission to Operation Masher in neighboring Quảng Ngãi Province adjoining Binh Dinh province to the north. Operation Double Eagle was carried out over an area of about 500 square miles (1,300 km2) about 25 miles (40 km) north to south and extending as much as 20 miles (32 km) inland from the South China Sea. 6,000 regular troops and 600 guerrillas were believed to be operating within this area. U.S. Marines dedicated to the operation would number more than 5,000 plus several thousand South Vietnamese soldiers of the ARVN 2nd Division.
Operation Double Eagle began on 28 January with the largest amphibious assault of the Vietnam War and the largest since the Korean War. Bad weather hampered the early days of the operation, but the Marines pushed slowly inland. The plan was for the Marines to push southward into Binh Dinh province where they would meet the 1st Cavalry advancing northward in Operation Masher, trapping PAVN/VC forces between them. In reality, the Marines found few PAVN/VC soldiers in their operating area, the main force PAVN regiments having withdrawn from the area a few days prior to the amphibious landing. The Marines claimed to have killed 312 PAVN/VC soldiers and captured 19 at a loss of 24 Marines killed.:23-4
Marine Corps Commandant General Victor Krulak later said that Operation Double Eagle had failed because the PAVN and VC had been forewarned. He also said that Operation Double Eagle was a failure because it showed the people of the region that the Marines "would come in, comb the area and disappear; whereupon the VC would resurface and resume control.":35-6
Operation Masher was carried out in heavily populated rural areas. The fighting resulted in the displacement, voluntary or involuntary, of a large number of people.:180 The 1st Cavalry listed as a success of the operation that "140,000 Vietnamese civilians volunteered to leave their hamlets in the An Lao and Son Long valleys to return to GVN control.": The "voluntary" nature of the departure or flight of many of the civilians from their land is questionable.
Operation Masher demonstrated that a consequence of large unit military operations and heavy utilization of artillery and aerial bombardment was the generation of refugees from the fighting and, inevitably, civilian casualties. The U.S. evacuated thousands of civilians by helicopter from combat areas and more thousands walked out to safety in the larger towns near the coast. The 1st Cavalry counted more than 27,000 people displaced by the operation. While many people fled the fighting, others remained for fear that if they abandoned their homes, the VC would confiscate their land and redistribute it to more dedicated supporters.:203-5
Although the U.S. Army maintained that the refugees were fleeing communism, an Army study in mid-1966 concluded that U.S. and South Vietnamese bombing and artillery fire, in conjunction with ground operations, were the immediate and prime causes of refugee movement into South Vietnamese government controlled cities and coastal areas. The U.S. considered that meeting the humanitarian needs of refugees was the responsibility of South Vietnam, but the response of the South Vietnamese government was often deficient.
An American journalist visited a camp housing 6,000 refugees from Operation Masher a week after their displacement. He found them packed 30 to a room, receiving inadequate food and medical treatment for diseases and wounds, and in a sullen and depressed mood.:204-5
Operation Masher-White Wing was considered a success by the Americans, demonstrating the capability of the helicopter-borne 1st Cavalry to conduct a sustained campaign against PAVN and VC forces and "to find, fix, and finish" the enemy. The U.S., as it had in the earlier Battle of Ia Drang, relied on the massive use of firepower. 171 B-52 strikes hit suspected PAVN/VC positions and 132,000 artillery rounds were expended—100 for each PAVN/VC soldier killed. In addition, tactical air support was provided by 600 sorties by fixed-wing aircraft.:222:202-3 228 1st Cavalry soldiers were killed and another 46 died in an airplane crash; 834 were wounded. 24 U.S. Marines were killed and 156 wounded in Operation Double Eagle and several additional Americans from other units were killed. 11 ROK were reported killed; South Vietnamese casualties are not known. The U.S. claimed to have killed 1,342 PAVN/VC. The ARVN and ROK forces reported they had killed an additional 808 PAVN/VC. Further claims of 300-600 PAVN/VC were taken prisoner and 500 defected and an additional 1,746 were estimated killed. 52 crew-served weapons and 202 individual weapons were captured or recovered.:214-5
An unknown number of people killed were civilians, and under the standard operating rules at the time those who did not 'voluntarily' leave free-fire zone were generally regarded as VC. Total number of civilians killed are largely unknown, but estimates are that 6 civilians were killed for every VC, with indiscriminate firepower distinctions between enemy combatants and non-combatants oftentimes were not made.These issues were raised in the Fulbright Hearings. ROK troops of the Capital Division were alleged to have killed civilians in the Bình An/Tây Vinh massacre.
Despite this operation being the biggest search-and-destroy operation in the war up to that point, most of the PAVN/VC forces had slipped away and re-appeared in the region a few months later. An estimated 125,000 people within the Binh Dinh province had lost their homes as a result of Operation Masher/White Wing.
The positive results cited by the Americans appear to have been only transitory. The 1st Cavalry cited among the favorable consequences of Operation Masher that it had give the local population "a chance to be freed from VC domination by moving to areas which are under government control" and stated that the South Vietnamese government "intends to reestablish civil government in the area." PAVN/VC influence, however, continued to be extensive in Binh Dinh province. Two months later, in Operation Crazy Horse, the 1st Cavalry was back sweeping part of the same area covered by Operation Masher and in October 1966 Operation Thayer began an extended effort by the 1st Cavalry once again to "fully pacify" Binh Dinh province.:
The 1st Cavalry Division ("First Team") is a combined arms division and is one of the most decorated combat divisions of the United States Army. It is based at Fort Hood, Texas. It was formed in 1921 and served during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, with the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the Iraq War, in the War in Afghanistan and in Operation Freedom's Sentinel. As of October 2017, the 1st Cavalry Division is subordinate to III Corps and is commanded by Major General Paul T. Calvert.
The unit is unique in that it has served as a Cavalry (horse) Division, an Infantry Division, an Air Assault Division and an Armored Division throughout its existence.22nd Division (South Vietnam)
The 22nd Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was part of the II Corps that oversaw the region of the central highlands north of the capital Saigon. The 22nd Division was based in Ba Gi near the south central coast.3rd Division (Vietnam)
The 3rd Infantry Division also known as the Yellow Star Division is a division of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), first formed from Viet Cong (VC) and PAVN units in September 1965.Battle of Bong Son
The Battle of Bồng Sơn was the second major battle for the US 1st Cavalry Division, an airmobile unit of divisional strength, during the Vietnam War. The battle was part of Operation Masher, also known as Operation Whitewing. A month earlier in 1965, in the Battle of the Ia Drang, the 1st Cavalry used all the division infantry, but one brigade at a time. One of the realizations that affected Bong Son was that with adequate helicopter lift, the traditional need to keep a strong reserve was less required—the least involved unit usually could break away and go where it was needed.
At the operational level, it was begun as a pursuit of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 2nd, 18th, and 22nd Regiments (forming the 3rd Division) by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 22nd Division, commanded by Brigadier General Nguyen Thanh Sang and assisted by the Republic of Korea Capital Division. The PAVN fought back strongly and Sang asked for reinforcements by two ARVN airborne battalions, which still were not enough.During the Battle of the Ia Drang, 1st Cavalry commander Major General Harry Kinnard had considered operations on the Binh Dinh plain, part of the area involved in Bong Son. He now had time to implement those ideas. Even through the ARVN needed help, the Cavalry prepared systematically.Bruce P. Crandall
Bruce Perry Crandall (born February 17, 1933) is a retired U.S. Army officer who received the Medal of Honor for his actions as a pilot during the Battle of Ia Drang on November 14, 1965 in South Vietnam. During the battle, he flew 22 missions in an unarmed helicopter into enemy fire to evacuate more than 70 wounded and bring ammunition and supplies to US forces. By the end of the Vietnam War, he had flown more than 900 combat missions. He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel and worked several jobs in different states before settling down with his wife in his home state of Washington.Bình An/Tây Vinh massacre
The Bình An / Tây Vinh massacre (Korean: 타이빈 양민 학살 사건) was a series of massacres alleged to have been conducted by the ROK Capital Division of the South Korean Army between February 12, 1966 and March 17, 1966 of 1,200 unarmed citizens in the Go Dai village and other areas in the rural commune of Bình An/ Tây Vinh area, Tây Sơn District of Bình Định Province in South Vietnam.The massacre was reported to have occurred over the course of three weeks, in which 1,004-1,200 civilians were massacred. Like other massacres occurring throughout the region, the targets were primarily women, children, elderly men and infants. They were conducted as part of Operation Maeng Ho which formed a part of Operation Masher, and were reported as "enemy KIA" and occurred alongside separate massacres in the region possibly totalling 1,600 people.Documents and testimonies on the massacre was internally investigated but not publicly disclosed until the news of the massacre and its outcome was uncovered by a Korean graduate student Ku Su-Jeong and reported in the Korean media. The Asian Human Rights Commission had reported on the massacre and sent a letter to Kim Dae-jung for justice on the matter, with Kim Dae-jung expressing regret for war-time atrocities on a state visit to Vietnam.John Laurence
John Laurence (also known as Jack Laurence) is an American television correspondent, author, and documentary filmmaker. He is known for his work on the air at CBS News, London correspondent for ABC News, documentary work for PBS and CBS, and his book and magazine writing. He won the George Polk Memorial Award of the Overseas Press Club of America for "best reporting in any medium requiring exceptional courage and enterprise abroad" for his coverage of the Vietnam War in 1970.List of Korean battles
This is a partial list of battles on the land or water of Korea.List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (1966)
This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War in 1966, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States and their allies.List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (M–S)
This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War, a war fought by the United States to try to stop communism in Southeast Asia, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the United States and allies consisting of Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, South Korea, and the Philippines. This is not a complete list. Operations are currently listed alphabetically, but are being progressively reorganised as a chronology.Operation Double Eagle
Operation Double Eagle was a US Marine Corps and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) operation that took place in southern Quảng Ngãi Province, lasting from 28 January to 17 February 1966, during the Vietnam War. The operation was mounted in conjunction with Operation Masher in northern Bình Định Province. The operation was inconclusive as the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the Vietcong (VC) had largely slipped away.Operation Thayer
Operation Thayer (13 September 1966 – 1 October 1966), Operation Irving (2 October 1966 – 24 October 1966) and Operation Thayer II (24 October 1966 – 11 February 1967) were related operations with the objective of eliminating communist People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and Viet Cong (VC) influence in Bình Định Province on the central coast of South Vietnam. The operations were carried out primarily by the United States 1st Cavalry Division against PAVN and Viet Cong regiments believed to be in Binh Dinh. South Korean and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces also took part in the operation.
The sustained operations were deemed a success by the United States, which claimed that more than 2,500 alleged PAVN/VC soldiers were thought to have been killed by American forces at a loss of about 300 American dead. Many areas under PAVN/VC influence were abandoned by the rural population as non-combatants fled the fighting or were forced by American and South Vietnamese forces to leave their homes. Though Operation Thayer was praised publicly, the US Military historian S.L.A. Marshall took a contrasting view privately, declaring that Operation Thayer was a "complete bust", that artillery was shooting at "clay pipes" and that the enemy was "either not there or so adroit and clever" as to completely avoid US search-and-destroy. The PAVN/VC were able to break up into smaller units and evade open-battle against an overwhelming air-land-sea deployment of US forces, and much like in Operation Masher which preceded it, they were able to return and contest the region once the operation had died down.Outline of the Vietnam War
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Vietnam War:
Vietnam War – Cold War-era proxy war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States, Philippines and other anti-communist allies. The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle.Role of the United States in the Vietnam War
The role of the United States in the Vietnam War began after World War II and escalated into full commitment during the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1973. The U.S. involvement in South Vietnam stemmed from 20 long years of political and economic action. These had the common incentive of ending the growing communist domination in Vietnam. At the time, French forces, allies of the U.S., were backed by America — President Harry S. Truman provided progressively increasing amounts of financial and military assistance to French forces fighting in Vietnam. From the spring of 1950, their involvement increased from just assisting French troops to providing direct military assistance to the associated states (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia). Eventually, U.S. missions were carried out at a more constant rate by sending out increasing number of military assistance from the United States. Their main intent was to restrict the Communist domination that was present in the government of Vietnam as it would soon lead to a chain of neighbouring countries adopting the same. This would have resulted in a change in balance of power throughout Southeast Asia. The U.S. foreign policy establishment saw national security interests being disturbed due to the rise of this communist expansion and strived to take any measure to end it. Their actions came to be questioned by other segments of government and society, however, including the US congress..
Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 966,000 to 3,812,000. The conflict also resulted in 58,318 US soldiers dead.USS Barry (DD-933)
USS Barry (DD-933) was one of eighteen Forrest Sherman–class destroyers of the United States Navy, and was the third US destroyer to be named for Commodore John Barry. Commissioned in 1954, she spent most of her career in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Mediterranean, but also served in the Vietnam War, for which she earned two battle stars. Another notable aspect of her service was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Decommissioned in 1982, she became the "Display Ship Barry" (DS Barry), a museum ship at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., in 1984.
Renovation of DS Barry to allow her to continue as a museum ship has been deemed too expensive, and the planned construction of a fixed-span bridge to replace the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, a swing bridge, would trap her at the Washington Navy Yard. An official departure ceremony for the ship took place on 17 October 2015, and she was towed away on 7 May 2016 to be scrapped in Philadelphia.Vietnam War
The Vietnam War (Vietnamese: Chiến tranh Việt Nam), also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America (Vietnamese: Kháng chiến chống Mỹ) or simply the American War, was an undeclared war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war from some US perspectives. It lasted some 19 years with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973 following the Paris Peace Accords, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, resulting in all three countries becoming communist states in 1975.
American military advisors began arriving in what was then French Indochina in 1950 to support the French in the First Indochina War against the communist-led Viet Minh. Most of the funding for the French war effort was provided by the U.S. After the French quit Indochina in 1954, the US assumed financial and military responsibility for the South Vietnamese state. The Việt Cộng, also known as Front national de libération du Sud-Viêt Nam or NLF (the National Liberation Front), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, initiated a
guerrilla war against the South Vietnamese government in 1959. U.S. involvement escalated in 1960, and continued in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy, with troop levels gradually surging under the MAAG program from just under a thousand in 1959 to 16,000 in 1963.By 1964, there were 23,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam, but this escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which a U.S. destroyer was alleged to have clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft. In response, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave President Lyndon B. Johnson broad authorization to increase U.S. military presence, deploying ground combat units for the first time and increasing troop levels to 184,000. Past this point, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) engaged in more conventional warfare with US and South Vietnamese forces. Every year onward there was significant build-up of US forces despite little progress, with Robert McNamara, one of the principal architects of the war, beginning to express doubts of victory by the end of 1966. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes. The U.S. conducted a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam. The Tet Offensive of 1968, proved to be the turning point of the war; despite years of American tutelage and aid the South Vietnamese forces were unable to withstand the communist offensive and the task fell to US forces instead. The Tet Offensive showed that the end of US involvement was not in sight, increasing domestic skepticism of the war. The unconventional and conventional capabilities of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) increased following a period of neglect and became modeled on heavy firepower-focused doctrines like US forces. Operations crossed international borders; bordering areas of Laos and Cambodia were used by North Vietnam as supply routes and were heavily bombed by U.S. forces.
Gradual withdrawal of U.S. ground forces began as part of "Vietnamization", which aimed to end American involvement in the war while transferring the task of fighting the communists to the South Vietnamese themselves and began the task of modernizing their armed forces. Direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 as a result of the Case–Church Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress. The capture of Saigon by the NVA in April 1975 marked the end of the war, and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 966,000 to 3.8 million. Some 275,000–310,000 Cambodians, 20,000–62,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict, and a further 1,626 remain missing in action. The Sino-Soviet split re-emerged following the lull during the Vietnam War and confllict between North Vietnam and its Cambodian allies in the Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea, and the newly-formed Democratic Kampuchea begun almost immediately in a series of border raids by the Khmer Rouge and erupted into the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, with Chinese forces directly intervening in the Sino-Vietnamese War. The end of the war and resumption of the Third Indochina War would precipitate the Vietnamese boat people and the bigger Indochina refugee crisis, which saw an estimated 250,000 people perish at sea. Within the US the war gave rise to what was referred to as Vietnam Syndrome, a public aversion to American overseas military involvements, which together with Watergate contributed to the crisis of confidence that affected America throughout the 1970s.
Easter Offensive (1972)
Post-Paris Peace Accords (1973–1974)