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Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Vietnam War and America

By Rocky Wilson
Author of Sharene:
Death: A Prerequisite For Life

The Vietnam War and America

It’s easy for those in the United States to look at the Vietnam War and America as one all-inclusive package. However, the war itself began years before the U.S. first sent combat troops there in 1965, and lasted after the last U.S. troops were sent home in 1972.

During the course of the conflict between Communist-backed North Vietnam and a long series of pro-allied South American governments, the U.S. sent about 2.6 million people to serve in and around Vietnam, about 500,000 of them as combat soldiers, and more than 58,000 U.S. men and women lost their lives there.

The U.S. dumped more than four times the bomb tonnage it did in World War II--about eight million tons--in an undeclared war that, as such, had no official start date. Hence, the Vietnam War was a war of undetermined length.

Key dates and events:

* 1941 Exiled Communist activist Ho Chi Minh returns after 30 years and allies with U.S. to fight Japanese

* 1945 Allies divide Vietnam along 16th Parallel; famine in Hanoi kills two million people, opening doors to Minh’s quest for power

* May 7, 1954 After 56-day siege, French surrender at Dien Bien Phu Air Base; their rule in Vietnam ends

* Jan. 1955 First direct shipment of U.S. military aid arrives in South Vietnam

* July 1955 Minh negotiates agreement to receive Soviet military aid

* March 1959 Minh declares People’s War to unite Vietnam under his leadership

* May 1961 U.S. sends 400 Green Berets to train South Vietnamese soldiers

* Nov. 22, 1963 U.S. President John F. Kennedy is assassinated

* Aug. 4, 1964 U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson orders first U.S. bombing of North Vietnam

* March 8, 1965 First U.S. combat troops (3,500 Marines) arrive in Vietnam, joining 23,000 U.S. military advisors

* Jan. 31, 1968 Viet Cong, North Vietnamese Army launch Tet Offensive against about 100 South Vietnamese villages

* Mar. 16, 1968 More than 300 Vietnamese civilians massacred by U.S. Army soldiers at My Lai

* April 30, 1969 Peak U.S. troop levels in Vietnam, 543,000

* Sept. 2, 1969 Minh dies of heart attack, age 79

* Nov. 15, 1969 Largest anti-war rally in U.S. history, 250,000 in Washington D.C.

* May 4, 1970 U.S. National Guardsmen shoot and kill four demonstrating students at Kent State University, Ohio

* Aug. 23, 1972 Last U.S. combat troops leave Vietnam

* June 19, 1973 U.S. Congress passes Chase-Church amendment forbidding further military involvement in SE Asia

* April 30, 1975 Viet Cong flag flies over Saigon, South Vietnam; war officially ends

The Vietnam War and America never will encompass the entirety of a war the U.S. wasn’t destined to win, yet when the U.S. withdrew troops, then its funding to South Vietnam, it took the Viet Cong less than two years to achieve what Ho Chi Minh had set out to accomplish 16 years earlier.

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