Vietnam War References Vietnam War Chronology 2 III Corps Tactical Zone 11 Typical U.S. Infantry Division Organization 13 Communist Party Dominance in Enemy Organization 14 Number of US Casualties 15 Comparative US Casualties 16 Key US Leaders 17 Glossary of Military Terms 22 Vietnam War Chronology
This chronology is based on the more detailed chronology in Harry Summers Vietnam WarAlmanac supplemented by First Division information from J. S. Wheeler The Big Red One
January Vietnam war begins—North Vietnam issues resolution changing its strategy toward South Vietnam from ‘political struggle’ to ‘armed struggle
4 April President Eisenhower makes his first commitment to maintain South Vietnam as a separate national state
8 July First American servicemen killed by Viet Cong attack at Bien Hoa
31 December Approximately 760 U.S. military personnel in Vietnam. South Vietnamese Armed Forces (SVNAF) total 243,000 personnel
April North Vietnam imposes universal military service and begins infiltrating cadres into South Vietnam
31 December Approximately 900 U.S. military personnel in Vietnam. SVAF strength still 243,000
9 June President Ngo Dinh Diem requests U.S. troops for training the South Vietnamese Army
3 November General Maxwell Taylor (military advisor to President Kennedy) reports that prompt U.S. military, economic, and political action can lead to victory without a U.S. takeover of the war. He recommends sending 8,000 combat troops.
31 December 3,205 U.S. military personnel are now in Vietnam. SVNAF strength still 243,000
6 February U.S. Military Assistance Command (MACV) formed. Major buildup of American advisors and support personnel begins.
October Cuban Missile Crisis
U.S. Air Force deploys Second Air Division to Vietnam
31 December 11,300 U.S. military personnel in Vietnam. SVNAF strength still 243,000
January First major defeat of Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) by units of the Viet cong at Battle of Ap Bac
1 November Military coup topples government of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu assassinated
22 November U.S. President John F. Kennedy assassinated
31 December 16,300 U.S. military personnel in Vietnam. SVNAF strength still 243,000
7 February President Johnson orders the withdrawal of American dependents from South Vietnam
April North Vietnam begins infiltration of Regular Army units (People’s Army of Vietnam—PAVN) into South Vietnam
June General William Westmoreland replaces General Paul Harkins as MACV Commander
2 August U.S. destroyer Maddox reports attack by North Vietnamese patrol boats in Tonkin Gulf
7 August U.S. Congress passes Tonkin Gulf Resolution empowering President Johnson to “take all necessary measures to repel an armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.”
October China explodes its first atomic bomb
30 October Viet Cong attack Bien Hoa Air Base, destroying six U.S. bombers and killing five U.S. servicemen
24 December Viet Cong terrorists bomb U.S. billets in Saigon; two U.S. servicemen killed
31 December 23,300 U.S. military personnel in Vietnam. SVNAF strength increases to 514,000
7 February Viet Cong attack American military installations in South Vietnam
February USAF conducts Operation Flaming Dart, an air reprisal in the southern panhandle of North Vietnam for attacks on U.S. bases in South Vietnam
2 March USAF begins Operation Rolling Thunder to strike targets in North Vietnam and interdict flow of supplies to the south
8-9 March First U.S. combat troops land in Vietnam: U.S. Third Marine Regiment deployed from Okinawa to defend Da Nang airfield
6 April President Johnson authorizes use of U.S. ground combat forces for offensive operations in South Vietnam
26 April Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara states that Vietnam war effort costs the U.S. about $1.5 billion a year.
May U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade deploys from Okinawa for combat operations in III Corps (the area around Saigon)
June Australia deploys First Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment for combat operations in III Corps
Arc Light campaign begun by USAF, using B-52 bombers to strike enemy targets in South Vietnam
July U.S. Army Vietnam (USARV) headquarters formed at Long Binh near Saigon to support Army operations in Vietnam
Second Brigade, U.S. First Infantry Division deploys to Vietnam from Fort Riley, Kansas, for combat operations in III Corps
First Brigade, U.S.101st Airborne deploys to Vietnam from Ft. Cambell, Kentucky for combat operations in III Corps
September U.S. First Cavalry Division (Airmobile) deploys to Vietnam from Ft. Benning, Georgia, for operations in the central highlands
15-16 October Protests against U.S. policy in Vietnam are held in some 40 U.S. cities
October Remainder of First Infantry Division deploys to Vietnam
Republic of Korea deploys ROK Capital Division and Marine Brigade to Vietnam for combat operations in the central highlands
10-18 November First Infantry Division Conducts Bushmaster I to begin clearing approaches to Saigon 14-16 November First major engagement of the war between US forces and regular North Vietnamese (PAVN) units in the Ia Drang Valley
1-9 December First Infantry Divisions Conducts Bushmaster II in Michelin plantation 25 December President Johnson suspends bombing of North Vietnam (Rolling Thunder) to induce North Vietnam to negotiate
31 December 184,300 US military personnel in Vietnam. 636 US military personnel KIA. 22,400 Free World military personnel in Vietnam. SVAF strength 514,000
January First Infantry Division, 173rd Abn Bde, and 3 ARVN Divisions conduct operation Buckskin to clear Hau Ngha province
4 February Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins televised hearings on the war
21-27 February First Infantry Division conducts operation Mastiff in the Bo Loi Woods 24 February Battle of Tan Binh—successful defense of 1st Bde, First Infantry Division base camp March U.S. II field Force Vietnam deploys to Vietnam from Ft. Hood, Texas, to coordinate Army operations in III Corps and IV Corps
May U.S. First Aviation Brigade organized in Vietnam to provide Army aviation support for U.S. forces in throughout Vietnam
1 April MG William DePuy assumes command of the First Infantry Division 23 April-16 May First Infantry Division participates in operation Birmingham to clear Tay Ninh province and War Zone C 2 June-3 September First Division conducts operations El Paso II/III—search and destroy in Binh Long province
14 September Operation Attleboro initiated by U.S. 196th Light Infantry Brigade in War Zone C (Tay Ninh Province, III Corps). By early
November U.S. First Infantry Division; Third Brigade, Fourth Infantry Division; 173rd Airborne Brigade and several ARVN battalions are involved
23 September U.S. military command in Vietnam announces that it is using defoliants to destroy Communist cover
24 November Operation Attleboro ends; 1,106 enemy casualties in largest U.S. operation to date
31 December 385,300 U.S. military personnel in Vietnam; 6,644 U.S. military KIA to date. 52,500 Free World military personnel in Vietnam. SVNAF increase to 735,900 personnel with 47,712 SVAF KIA to date
8-26 January Operation Cedar Falls conducted jointly by U.S. First Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Division, 173rd Airborne Brigade and 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment along with ARVN units against Viet Cong headquarters in the Iron Triangle, III corps; 720 known enemy dead
February Major General John Hay assumes command of the First Infantry Division 22 February Operation Junction City, largest operation in Vietnam to date, begun by 22 U.S. battalions and four ARVN battalions, including elements of the U.S. First, Fourth and 25thInfantry Divisions, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and 173rd Airborne Brigade in Tay Ninh and bordering provinces, III Corps
15 April 100,000 antiwar protesters rally in New York; 20,000 in San Francisco
11 May Rocket/Mortar attack on Bien Hoa airbase destroys 49 aircraft
14 May Operation Junction City ends; 865 known enemy casualties
17-25 May First Infantry Division conducts Operation Dallas to clear route 16 12-26 June First Infantry Division conducts Operation Billings east of Song Be River 7 July Congress’ Joint Economic Committee issues a report stating that the Vietnam war created “havoc” in the U.S. economy in 1966 and predicting that the war will cost $4 to $6 billion more in 1967 than the $20.3 billion requested by President Johnson
12-21 August First Infantry Division conducts Operation Portland to clear Route 13 from the Saigon River to the Song Be River 1 September First Infantry Division relocates headquarters from Di An to Lai Khe 29 Sep-19 Nov First Infantry Division conducts Operation Shenandoah II to clear the Long Nguyen secret zone 17 October Battle of Ong Thanh—LTC Terry Allen, Jr. killed 21 October “March on the Pentagon” by estimated 50,000 antiwar demonstrators
31 December 485,600 U.S. military personnel in Vietnam; 16,021 U.S. KIA to date; 59,300 Free World military personnel in Vietnam; SVAF strength 798,000 with 60,428 KIA to date
30 January Tet offensive by Vietcong and PAVN units throughout Vietnam
31 January Attack on U.S. embassy in Saigon repulsed
1-25 February Vietcong and PAVN massacre 2,800 civilians in Hue.
10-17 February All-time high weekly rate of U.S. casualties: 543 killed in action; 2,547 wounded in action
25 February Battle of Hue ends with recapture of city by U.S./ARVN forces; 5,113 known enemy casualties
March MG Keith Ware assumes command of the First Infantry Division 11 March Operation Quyet Thang, largest operation to date, initiated in Saigon area and five surrounding provinces, III Corps, by elements of U.S. First, Ninth and 25thDivisions and ARVN Fifth and 25th Divisions—a total of 22 U.S. and 11 ARVN battalions
31 March President Johnson announces de-escalation of the war, states he will not run for re-election
8 April Operation Toan Thang—42 U.S. and 37 ARVN battalions—sets out to destroy Vietcong and PAVN units in III Corps and Capital Military District. U.S.First Infantry Division heavily engaged
3 May President Johnson announces that the U.S. and North Vietnam have agreed to begin formal peace talks in Paris
13 September MG Ware, Commanding General U.S. First Infantry Division, and his command group killed when their helicopter was shot down. Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Orwin Talbott, takes command.
31 October President Johnson announces complete halt to bombing of North Vietnam
5 November Richard Nixon defeats Hubert Humphrey in election for President
31 December 536,100 U.S. military personnel in Vietnam; 30,610 U.S. military KIA to date; 65,600 Free World military forces in Vietnam; SVAF strength 820,000 with 88,343 KIA to date
22 January Richard Nixon replaces Lyndon Johnson as President
30 April U.S. military personnel in Vietnam peak at 543,400
15 November Antiwar demonstrations in Washington, D.C., draw about 250,000 demonstrators—largest rally to date
16 November My Lai massacre revealed (the killing of civilians in the village of My Lai by U.S. soldiers had taken place in March 1968)
1 December First draft lottery since 1942 is held at Selective Service System headquarters
31 December U.S. military personnel in Vietnam decline to 475,200; 40,024 U.S. military KIA to date; Free World military personnel in Vietnam 70,300; SVNAF strength 897,000 with 110,176 KIA to date
January Maj. Gen. A. E. Milloy assumes command of the First Infantry Division
20 February Henry Kissinger begins secret peace talks in Paris
15 April U.S. First Infantry Division withdraws from Vietnam 29 April 13 major ground operations begin in Cambodia (two of which involve U.S. ground combat units) to clear North Vietnamese sanctuaries
4 May Four students killed at Kent State University in Ohio by National Guardsmen during antiwar protest inspired by the Cambodian incursions
22 December U.S. Congress prohibits U.S. combat forces or advisers in Cambodia and Laos
31 December U.S. military personnel in Vietnam decline to 334,600 with 44,245 U.S. military KIA to date; Free World military personnel decline to 67,700; SVAF strength increases to 968,000 with 133,522 SVNAF KIA to date
8 February Operation Lam Son 719 begun by ARVN with operations in Laos supported by U.S. aviation, airlift, and firepower
29 March Lt. William Calley found guilty of premeditated murder at My Lai by U.S. Army court martial
6 April Operation Lam Son 719 ends; 19,360 known enemy casualties
20 April Antiwar demonstrators in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco urge congress to end war in Indochina
2 May II Field Force Vietnam disestablished
August U.S. ends 20-year opposition to China presence in United Nations
12 November President Nixon announces that U.S. ground forces in Vietnam now in defensive role; offensive operations now undertaken entirely by South Vietnamese
31 December U.S. military strength declines to 156,800; U.S. military KIA 45,626 to date; Free World military personnel decline to 53, 900; SVNAF strength increases to 1,046,250 with 156,260 KIA to date
21 February U.S. strategy in Pacific changes dramatically as President Nixon arrives in Beijing for talks with People’s Republic of China
30 March North Vietnamese launch Easter Offensive
15 April USAF resumes bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong after four-year lull
15-20 April Hundreds of antiwar demonstrators arrested as the escalation of the bombing provokes a new wave of protests
8 May North Vietnamese ports mined by U.S. Navy
29 June U.S. 196th Infantry Brigade, the last U.S. Army combat brigade in Vietnam, withdraws
7 November President Nixon defeats Senator George McGovern and is re-elected President of the United States
11 November U.S. logistical base at Long Binh turned over to the South Vietnamese, ending direct U.S. Army participation in the war
18-29 December Operation Linebacker II, so-called “Christmas bombing,” of Hanoi and Haiphong conducted by USAF
31 December U.S. military strength in Vietnam declines to 24,200 with 45,926 U.S. military personnel KIA to date; Free World military forces decline to 35,500; SVNAF strength increases to 1,048,000 with 195,847 KIA to date
27 January Peace pact signed in Paris by U.S., South Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and North Vietnamese
End of the U.S. military draft announced
29 March Withdrawal of all American troops from South Vietnam and release of 590 U.S. war prisoners held by the communists completed
31 December Size of U.S. military contingent in Vietnam limited to 50; U.S. military KIA 46,163; no Free World military forces remain; SVNAF forces estimated strength 1,110,000 with 223,748 KIA to date
9 August Richard Nixon resigns as President; Vice President Gerald Ford becomes President of the United States
20 August U.S. Congress cuts aid to South Vietnam from $1 billion to $700 million
16 September President Ford signs a proclamation offering clemency to Vietnam war-era draft evaders and military deserters
8 January North Vietnamese Politburo orders major offensive to “liberate” South Vietnam by cross-border invasion
19 March Quang Tri province falls to North Vietnamese attack
26 March City of Hue falls to North Vietnamese attack
1 April Cities of Qui Nhon, Tuy Hoa and Nha Trang are abandoned by the South Vietnamese, yielding the entire northern half of the country to the North Vietnamese
14 April U.S. airlift of homeless children to the U.S. from South Vietnam ends after a total of about 14,000 children are evacuated
29 April North Vietnamese attack on Saigon begins
29-30 April U.S. Navy evacuates all U.S. personnel and selected South Vietnamese from Vietnam
30 April North Vietnamese capture Saigon
Vietnam war ends
III CORPS TACTICAL ZONE
With headquarters at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam's III Corps was responsible for the approaches to and the defense of Saigon, the republic's capital. Major assigned units included the South Vietnamese Army's Fifth, 18th (formerly the 10th) and 25th Divisions.
The North Vietnamese Army (NV A) saw Saigon as the ultimate objective of its conquest. Using the Ho Chi Minh Trail to establish base areas in Cambodia to the west, as well as in the Iron Triangle and War Zones C and D to the north, the NVA plan was to keep Saigon under a state of siege so that South Vietnamese forces could not be diverted to meet attacks elsewhere in South Vietnam.
Recognizing the strategic importance of III Corps, in March 1966, the U. S. Army’s II Field Force Vietnam was deployed to the area to provide combat assistance to III Corps and to control U.S. combat operations. It established headquarters at Bien Hoa, constructed major logistical facilities at nearby Long Binh and expanded port facilities at Saigon. The jet-capable airfield at Bien Hoa was the home base for the U.S. Air Force's Third Tactical Fighter Wing and extensive Air Force operations were based at Tan Son Nhut in the suburbs of Saigon.
To guard the approaches to Saigon, the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade was deployed to Bien Hoa Air Base in May 1965, followed by the U.S. First Infantry Division in October 1965, the 25th Infantry Division in March 1966, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in September 1966, and the Ninth Infantry Division and 199th Light Infantry Brigade in December 1966.
Major U.S. combat operations were conducted in III Corps, especially in the long-time Viet Cong base areas in Hau Ngia Province, in the Iron Triangle and in War Zones C and D. During the Tet Offensive of 1968, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) attempts to capture Saigon were repulsed, and in March 1970 the U.S.-South Vietnamese "incursion" into Cambodia was launched from III Corps.
In October 1967 the 173rd Airborne Brigade was deployed to II Corps. In May 1969, however, the First Cavalry Division (Airmobile) deployed from II Corps to III Corps. As the U.S. draw-down
began, the initial unit to depart was the Ninth Infantry Division, which departed Vietnam in August 1969. It was followed by the First Infantry Division in April 1970, the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in October 1970 and the 25th Infantry Division, minus its Second Brigade, in December 1970. In March 1971 the 11th Armored Cavalry Division, minus its Second Squadron, was withdrawn from Vietnam followed by the Second Brigade, 25th Infantry Division and the First Cavalry Division (Airmobile), minus its Third Brigade, in April 1971. In April 1972 the Second Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment was withdrawn from Vietnam, and the last major U.S. ground combat unit in Vietnam, the Third Brigade, First Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was withdrawn in June 1972. Meanwhile, II Field Force Vietnam had been disbanded on May 2, 1971.
With the majority of American units withdrawn, the North Vietnamese launched their Eastertide Offensive in March 1972, striking at Quang Tri in I Corps, Kontum in II Corps and An Loc in III Corps. Some 65 air miles north of Saigon, An Loc was attacked by three divisions beginning on April 5, 1972. The assault continued for 95 days. Although driven back, the South Vietnamese Army's Fifth Infantry Division, supported by U.S. Air Force tactical fighter-bombers and B-52 strategic bombers, held its positions, and on July 11, 1972 the North Vietnamese withdrew to their base areas in Cambodia.
At the time of the Paris Accords in January 1973, the NV A had 24,600 troops in III Corps, including its Seventh, Ninth and 95C Infantry Divisions, six separate infantry regiments plus two armor battalions and six battalions of artillery. Reinforcements were close at hand from the nearby Ho Chi Minh Trail. On December 13, 1974 the N VA made the preliminary move that would lead to the Final Offensive in 1975. Preceded by a massive artillery barrage, its tank-supported Thirdand Seventh Divisions launched an attack on theprovince of Phuoc Long and on January 6, 1975 captured the first provincial capital in South Viet~ nam since the cease-fire two years before. When the United States did not react as promised to this flagrant violation of the Paris Accords, the North Vietnamese knew that the time had come for their Final Offensive to conquer South Vietnam.
After the fall of II Corps in March 1975, the North Vietnamese Army concentrated its entire force on III Corps. After a heroic battle at Xuan Loc from March 17 to April 15, 1975, South Vietnamese defenses were pushed in by this blitzkrieg, and on April 30, 1975 Saigon was surrendered. Before the fall the South Vietnamese Air Force flew some 132 aircraft-including 26 F-5 and 27 A-37 jet fighter-bombers-to U Tapao Royal Air Force Base in Thailand and the Commanding General of the Fifth Infantry Division committed suicide rather than surrender.
From Harry Summers, Vietnam War Almanac (New York: Facts on File, 1985)
William C. Westmoreland
William Childs Westmoreland was born in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, on
26 March 1914; graduated from the United States Military Academy, 1936; was commissioned a second lieutenant, June 1936, and served with the 18th Field Artillery at Fort Sill, 1936-1939; was promoted to first lieutenant, June 1939; was a battery officer and commander and a battalion staff officer of the 8th Field Artillery at Schofield Barracks, 1939 -1941; was promoted to temporary major (February) and lieutenant colonel (September), 1942; was operations officer of the 34th Field Artillery Battalion, 9th Infantry Division, in the United States and North Africa and a battalion commander in operations in Tunisia and Sicily, 1942-1944; was executive officer of the 9th Division Artillery in Western European operations, 1944; was promoted to temporary colonel, July 1944; was chief of staff of the 9th Infantry Division in the closing operations of World War II in Germany, 1944-1945; transferred to the Infantry; commanded the 60th Infantry, 1945-1946; was promoted to permanent captain, June 1946; was chief of staff and later commander of the 71st Infantry Division, 1946; received airborne training at the Infantry School, 1946; commanded the 504th Parachute Infantry, 82d Airborne Division, 1946-1947; married Katherine S. Van Deusen, 1947; was chief of staff of the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, 1947-1950, receiving his promotion to permanent major in July 1948; was instructor at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, 1950-1951, and the Army War College, 1951-1952; commanded the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in operations in Korea, 1952-1953; was promoted to temporary brigadier general, November 1952, and permanent lieutenant colonel, July 1953; was deputy assistant chief of staff, G-1, for manpower control, 1953-1955; attended the advanced management program at Harvard Business School, 1954; was secretary of the General Staff, 1955-1958; was promoted to temporary major general, December 1956; was commander of the 10Ist Airborne Division and Fort Campbell, 1958-1960; was superintendent of the United States Military Academy, 1960-1963; was promoted to permanent ranks of colonel, June 1961, and brigadier general, February 1963, and to temporary lieutenant general, July 1963; was commander of the Strategic Army Corps and XVIII Airborne Corps, 1963-1964; was successively deputy commander and acting commander of United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, 1964; was promoted to temporary general, August 1964, and permanent major general, August 1965; was commander of United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and United States Army, Vietnam, at the peak of the Vietnam War, 1964-1968; was chief of staff of the United States Army, 3 July 1968-30 June 1972; supervised the Army’s disengagement from Vietnam, the transition from the draft to an all-volunteer footing, and the employment of troops in a period of active civil disturbance; centered attention upon efforts to improve service life, officer professionalism, job attractiveness, and public understanding; retired from active service, July 1972.
Creighton W. Abrams, Jr.
Creighton Williams Abrams, Jr., was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on
15 September 1914; graduated from the United States Military Academy, 1936; married Julia Harvey, 1936; was commissioned a second lieutenant and served in the 1st Cavalry Division, 1936-1940; was promoted to first lieutenant, June 1939, and to temporary captain, September 1940; was briefly a tank company commander in the 1st Armored Division, 1941; was a battalion commander in the 37th Armored Regiment, 1942-1943; was promoted to temporary major (February) and lieutenant colonel (September), 1943; commanded the 37th Tank Battalion and Combat Command B, 4th Armored Division, in Allied operations across Europe, 1943-1945, earning fame for his role in the relief of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge; was promoted to temporary colonel, April 1945; served on the Army General Staff, 1945, and in the War plans section of the Army Ground Forces headquarters, 1945-1946; was director of tactics of the Armored School at Fort Knox, 1946-1948; was promoted to permanent ranks of captain, June 1946, and major, July 1948; graduated from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, 1949; commanded the 63d Tank Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, United States Army, Europe, 1949-1951; was again promoted to temporary colonel after postwar reversion, June 1951; commanded the 2d Armored Cavalry, United States Army, Europe, 1951-1952; graduated from the Army War College, 1953; was successively chief of staff of the I, X, and IX Corps, United States Army Forces, Far East, Korea, 1953-1954; was chief of staff of the Armor Center at Fort Knox, 1954-1956; was promoted to temporary brigadier general, February 1956; was deputy assistant chief of staff for reserve components, 1956-1959; was assistant division commander of the 3d Armored Division, 1959-1960, and deputy chief of staff for military operations, United States Army, Europe, 1960; was promoted to temporary major general, June 1960, and permanent colonel, June 1961; was commander of the 3d Armored Division, 1960-1962; was assistant deputy chief of staff and director of operations, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, 1962-1963; was assistant chief of staff for force development, 1963; commanded V Corps in Germany, 1963-1964; was promoted to permanent brigadier general (February) and temporary lieutenant general (August), 1963; was acting vice chief of staff and vice chief of staff of the United States Army, August 1964-April 1967; was promoted to general, September 1964, and permanent major general, August 1965; was deputy commander and then commander of United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, 1967-1972; was chief of staff of the United States Army, 12 October 1972- 4 September 1974; supervised the Army in the closing stages of the Vietnam War, including withdrawal of American troops from the war zone, overall reductions in Army strength, elimination of the draft, transition to a volunteer status, and execution of a major reorganization; died of cancer in Washington, D.C., on 4 September 1974.
WilliamE. DePuy, was born and raised in North Dakota. He moved with his family to South Dakota where he joined the National Guard, became a squad leader, graduated from South Dakota State, and accepted his ROTC commission in the Infantry. DePuy joined the 20th Infantry regiment in 1941 at Fort Leonard Wood. As a platoon leader, he walked 500 miles to the Louisiana Maneuvers and back--he said he learned to "soldier" in that six months. In 1942, he joined the 90th Division, the first of four divisions in which he would serve. He would train with, deploy with, and fight with this division for the next three years. Bill landed on Utah Beach at noon on the 8th of June 1944, D+2. He was the S3 of the 1st Battalion, 357th Infantry. He fought through the hedgerows of Normandy, through the Falaise Gap, and on the Moselle River as both the battalion and regimental operations officer (on the 4th of December 1944). After six months in combat, Bill DePuy was given command of an infantry battalion, the 1st Battalion of the 357th Infantry. In the next six months, he would lead his battalion in heavy combat across the Moselle, through the Siegfried Line, and on to Czechoslovakia at war's end—earning the Distinguished Service Cross, three Silver Stars, and two Purple Hearts. DePuy came home from Europe in 1945 and went to Fort Leavenworth, and then to Washington for the first of five assignments. He was integrated into the Regular Army--he could have returned to his father's bank, but he loved the military. He then studied Russian language because be thought it would be important in the years ahead. He was posted to Hungary as an attache, the first of several appointments in the intelligence arena. His Hungarian tour over, he joined the Central Intelligence Agency working in China operations. In 1953 he returned to Germany. It was the third of four periods of service in Europe. After a year on the V Corps staff in Frankfurt, DePuy became the commander of the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, in the 4th Division. He returned to Washington for his third assignment, this time in the chief of staff’s office-writing "learned papers" for three years, he said. He returned to Europe, this time to England to attend the Imperial Defence College. From there, on to Schweinfurt, Germany, where DePuy commanded the 1st Battle Group, 30th Infantry, in the 3d Division. DePuy returned to Washington in 1962 for two years on the Army staff. He served in the special operations business when that field was emerging as an important element of our Army. In May, 1964, he was transferred to Vietnam, and for two years, he was the operations chief for MACV [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam]. He then took command the 1st Division for a year before returning to Washington-now his fifth tour blending his skills in combat operations, intelligence, and special operations. He served on the joint staff as the special assistant for counterinsurgency. He then moved back to the Army staff and became the first assistant to the vice chief of staff. In this role, he became the counselor to secretaries of the Army, as well as the assistant to the chief of staff. He promoted the Big 5 weapon systems-the Apache, Abrams, Bradley, Patriot, and Blackhawk that performed so magnificently in Operation Desert Storm. He led the charge to streamline the continental Army which brought about the formation of TRADOC (U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) and FORSCOM (U.S. Army Forces Command]. He then moved to Fort Monroe and took command of TRADOC in July 1973. He retired in 1977.
Orwin Clark Talbott was born in San Jose, California, on 18 June 1918, the son of Ernest O. and Violet S. Talbott. Attending the University of California he was commissioned and called to active duty in 1941. Assigned to the 40th Division he was commissioned in the Regular Army in 1942 an immediately assigned to the 90th Infantry Division, which was activated and trained in Texas. Talbott remained with this unit throughout World War II, rising from platoon leader to battalion commander. Among his World War II decorations are three Purple Hearts and five campaign stars.
During the Normandy invasion he was a rifle company commander in the 359th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 4th Infantry Division as a part of the assault force for UTAH Beach. He was on the USS Susan B. Anthony AP-72 which was the largest ship sunk in the Normandy invasion. He landed in the morning of D+ 1 and ended the war in Czechoslovakia.
In addition to the Normal command, staff, and school assignments, Talbott was military assistant to two Secretaries of the Army and Executive Officer to an Army Chief of Staff, staying as his Executive Officer when the latter became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then Supreme Allied Commander-Europe (SACEUR).
In the Vietnam War he commanded the First Infantry Division (The Big Red One), serving as a general officer in combat with that famous unit longer than any other officer in Vietnam. This was followed by command of Ft. Benning, the Army's world-famous Infantry School, again serving longer than anyone in thirty years. His final active duty was as the first Deputy Commander of Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). In this position among other duties he was in charge of the Army's schools, training centers and ROTC. He retired as Lt. General in 1975.
Glossary of Military Terms and Acronyms Agent Orange Herbicide sprayed primarily from U.S. cargo aircraft in operations designed to deprive enemy soldiers of concealment in forests near borders and along highways and rivers. The defoliations campaign intensified in 1965 but was curtailed rapidly after 1970 when the dioxin in the herbicide was recognized as a danger to human health.
Air Cavalry Performance of traditional cavalry roles of reconnaissance, security, and economy of force operations using helicopters and helicopter gunships.
Airmobile Operations Use of Helicopters to transport soldiers, weapons, and supplies to a battle area, with helicopters providing the bulk of the initial fire support as well as sustainment logistical support and medical evacuation.
AK-47 A Soviet assault rifle developed by M.T. Kalashnikov, firing a 7.62 mm bullet as a semi-automatic or fully-automatic weapon. Easy to maintain and simple to operate, it is an extremely effective battlefield weapon. Communist forces in Vietnam were often armed with Chinese-made copies.
APC Armored Personnel Carrier. A fully-tracked vehicle with aluminum armor that could stop small-arms fire and resist some mines and shell fragments. Early deploying units brought few APC’s, but their use by armored cavalry units proved that they could operate in difficult terrain, leading to a deployment of greater numbers as the war progressed.
Arc Light B-52 bombing missions in support of ground tactical operations and for interdiction of movement of personnel and supplies into South Vietnam. Modified to carry conventional bombs, each B-52 could deliver more than 50 750-pound bombs or more than 100 500-pound bombs. Releasing their bombs from 30,000 feet, the bombers were seldom seen or heard from the ground, but their results could be devastating.
ARVN Army of Vietnam. The “regular army” of South Vietnam, composed largely of draftees, but the best led and best equipped of the Vietnamese forces. Originally organized by the French into infantry divisions and elite units, they rapidly adopted U.S. Army equipment, doctrine, and organizational structure. By late 1965, the U.S. Army had advisory teams with ARVN infantry units down to battalion level—a system of advice and support that became even more important as ARVN units bore greater battlefield burdens under “Vietnamization.”
Body Count An outgrowth of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s belief that success could be quantified, the practice of reporting enemy killed may have resulted in some inflated counts and certainly contributed to many Americans’ rejection of the Vietnam war’s methods and grisly results.
Chieu Hoi Literally “open arms”—an amnesty program designed to attract Viet Cong fighters to the Saigon regime. From 1963-1973 the program brought in nearly 160,000 Viet Cong deserters.
Chinook The CH-47 Chinook helicopter is a twin-engine aircraft with rotor blades fore and aft. It was designed to transport cargo, equipment, or troops. It can carry up to 33 passengers and can transport large items, such as artillery pieces, as sling loads suspended beneath the aircraft.
CINCPAC Commander in Chief Pacific Command—the joint theater command, with headquarters in Hawaii, with overall responsibility for operations in Vietnam and in the waters adjacent and skies overhead.
Claymore mine A shaped anti-personnel mine which when detonated propels small steel cubes in a fan-shaped pattern to a distance of about 50 yards.
COMUSMACV Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam—the joint commander of U.S. operations in support of the Government of South Vietnam
CORDS (Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support)—a U.S. program initiated in 1967 to unify various military, State Department, Agency for International Development, U.S. Information Agency, and Central Intelligence Agency assets into civil-military advisory teams in all of South Vietnam’s districts and provinces. It improved performance of local defense forces and virtually eliminated the guerrilla threat in large areas.
COSVN (Central Office for South Vietnam)—The North Vietnamese control headquarters for Viet Cong military forces. Located in a corner of Tay Ninh Province, III Corps, near the Cambodian border, it was the focus of operation Junction City in 1967 and the Cambodian Incursion of 1970. It was small, highly mobile, and moved frequently to avoid being targeted.
DEROS (Date Eligible to Return from Overseas)—Americans serving in Vietnam were on a one-year (or 13 month) tour of duty. These fixed tours, designed to improve morale, ultimately had the opposite effect, resulting in “short timers’ attitudes.”
Dustoff Derived from the radio call sign of medical evacuation helicopter pilot Major James L. Kelly, who was killed in action on July 1, 1964, “Dustoff” was the nickname for medical evacuation helicopters as well as for the process of using those helicopters to remove wounded soldiers from a battlefield. By 1968, the U.S. Army had deployed 116 air ambulances to Vietnam and their operations were an important factor reducing the number of soldiers who died from wounds.
Field Forces The designation used for U.S. Army headquarters performing the tactical control function of a corps. Since they were inserted into a situation where Vietnam was divided into “Corps Tactical Zones” commanded by Vietnamese generals, this designation helped reduce confusion.
Fire Support Bases There were no “front lines” in Vietnam, so bases had to be established to provide artillery support when large infantry operations were launched.
Guns and ammunition often had to be delivered by helicopters. Infantry was sometimes detailed to supplement the gunners in providing security against ground attack of these bases by Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army units.
Free Fire Zones Areas totally under enemy control (and usually very thinly populated) designated for attack of any available target—or for the disposal of ordnance—without coordination with political or military authorities.
Grenade Launcher The M-79 grenade launcher was a shoulder-fired, shotgun-style weapon firing a 40-mm explosive grenade-type round. It replaced rifle grenades used in earlier wars, giving infantrymen a portable fire support weapon that could accompany the smallest patrol.
Ho Chi Minh Trail The strategic logistics route used by the North Vietnamese to support military operations in South Vietnam. It had been opened shortly after the French were defeated, and by the time the U.S. Army began to deploy large formations in 1965, it enabled the North to build up their battlefield and logistics assets rapidly. The main route ran through Laos and Cambodia, but it was supplemented by another route from the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville. The Americans attempted to interdict the trails with bombardment aviation, and as early as 1967 General Westmoreland sought authorization to conduct large-scale ground operations across borders to cut the trail.
Huey Helicopter The UH-1 Huey helicopter was the workhorse of all U.S. military forces in Vietnam. It transported troops and supplies, conducted medical evacuations, and served as a fire support platform when rigged with rockets and machine guns.
Kit Carson Scouts Former Viet Cong soldiers who agreed to live under the laws of the South Vietnamese government and serve on the front line with U.S. military forces. they often led U.S. units to Viet Cong caches, camps, and paths.
LAW (Light Assault Weapon)—The M72 LAW was a high-explosive antitank weapon that was used for “bunker busting” by both U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers. It consisted of a one-shot, disposable launcher-container loaded with a shaped charge and fired from the shoulder. It replaced the “bazooka” of World War II, and had greater range and penetrating power.
M-14 Rifle The replacement for the World War II M-1 Garand rifle, the M-14 employed a 20-round magazine, had an effective range of 500 yards, and could be fired on full-automatic as well as semi-automatic. It was brought into service to bring U.S. forces to a NATO standard, and it fired a 7.62 mm cartridge. The weapon weighed 9.3 pounds, and the ammunition was heavy. The M-14 was too unwieldy for jungle fighting and was replaced by the M-16 beginning in 1966.
M-16 Rifle The replacement for the M-14 was almost two pounds lighter and five inches shorter. It fired the smaller, lighter 5.56 mm cartridge and could be fired on full automatic. Its range was roughly equivalent to that of the M-14—more than adequate for the usual engagement ranges in Vietnam.
MACV (U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam)—this successor to the original Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) was established in Saigon in February 1962 to control the buildup of advisors and support personnel that began to flow into Vietnam in ever-increasing numbers during the Kennedy administration. It evolved to perform three functions: 1) a high-level source of consultation for the U.S. Embassy, the Vietnamese Government, and higher political and military agencies in the United States government; 2) a field army headquarters controlling battlefield operations of U.S. military units in Vietnam; 3) the center of assistance to the South Vietnamese Armed Forces through a network of field advisory elements.
Military Regions The title adopted in July 1970 to designate the four geographical divisions of South Vietnam. they were synonymous with the previously designated corps tactical zones. Military Region (MR) 3 was the same as III Corps Tactical Zone, etc.
Napalm An acronym derived from NAphthenic and PALMitic acids, whose salts are used in its manufacture, napalm is jellied gasoline used in flamethrowers and bombs. Its use was widespread in World War II and Korea as well as in Vietnam. Television coverage brought the awful visual effect of napalm into American living rooms, and its use was widely condemned by anti-war protesters.
NVA (North Vietnamese Army)--Also PAVN (People’s Army of Vietnam)
PF (Popular Forces)—local security forces enlisted to provide defenses at the district level. Poorly-trained and lightly-armed, when the American assistance effort began, they were eventually strengthened and supported well enough to deter local Viet Cong attacks.
RF (Regional Forces)—local security forces enlisted to provide defenses at the province level. Only slightly superior to PF in arms and training in the early years, they became effective “fire brigades” with the help of advisors.
Rome Plow Designed for jungle clearing operations, especially to clear out ambush sites along supply routes, the Rome plow was a large caterpillar-type tractor with a specially-configured dozer blade developed for heavy-duty land clearing operations. the blade was more curved than a bulldozer blade and had a sharply-honed, protruding lower edge that curved out on one side to form a spike that could be used to split trees too large to cut with the blade. The blade could usually slice through a tree up to three feet in diameter. Bars were attached to the top of the blade to force trees away from the tractor, and the operator was protected by “headache bars” to protect him from falling debris.
RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade)—This Soviet invention is still in the headlines. The early RPG-2 was a shoulder-fired 82 mm weapon that had a range of about 200 yards and could penetrate up to 7 inches of armor. The later RPG-7, used in Vietnam and still in use, has almost twice the range and penetration.
Search-and-Destroy An operational term adopted by MACV in 1964 designed to find, fix in place and destroy enemy forces and their base areas and supply caches. Originally intended to delineate one of the basic missions performed by South Vietnamese Military Forces, the term became widely used by U.S. forces as they joined in the effort.
Tet Offensive “Tet” is the traditional Vietnamese holiday celebrating the lunar new year, and it had been customary to observe a cease-fire during the period. On January 30, 1968, the Tet holiday began, but shortly after midnight several cities in I Corps and II Corps were attacked, and by noon on January 30 all U.S. units were on maximum alert. The main attacks came at 3:00 am on January 31st, with simultaneous attacks on Hue, Saigon, and other major cities. One assault team got inside the compound of the U. S. Embassy before it was destroyed. These attacks received widespread media coverage in the United States, and although they were unsuccessful and led to the destruction of critical North Vietnamese and Viet Cong assets, they were perceived as a major set-back to the South Vietnamese and U.S. governments.
USARV (U.S. Army Vietnam)—Organized in July 1965 with headquarters in Saigon (later Long Binh), USARV grew out of existing support detachments that had been overseeing the logistics build-up in Vietnam. The MACV Commander was also the USARV commander, but day-to-day operations were run by his deputy. USARV was roughly equivalent to a “communications zone headquarters” in earlier wars, overseeing administrative and logistical units, and in 1972 it was redesignated USARV/MACV Support Command.
Viet Cong Vietnamese Communists in the South, especially those who took up arms against the Saigon government. Viet Cong forces included “main force” units organized into companies and battalions that were reinforced by North Vietnamese regular Army units. There was also what was called the Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI) made up of a party secretary, a finance and supply unit, and recruiting and social welfare elements. The Viet Cong was effectively destroyed in the Tet Offensive of 1968 and ensuing search-and- destroy operations.