VIETNAM WAR: 1959-1975

"The Vietnam War was a struggle fought from 1959 to 1975. It began as a determined attempt by Communist guerrillas (the so-called Vietcong) in the South, backed by Communist North Vietnam, to overthrow the government of South Vietnam. The struggle widened into a war between South Vietnam and North Vietnam and ultimately into a limited international conflict. The United States and some 40 other countries supported South Vietnam by supplying troops and munitions, and the USSR and the People's Republic of China furnished munitions to North Vietnam and the Vietcong. On both sides, however, the burden of the war fell mainly on the civilians."

"The war intensified in 1960, the year in which North Vietnam proclaimed its intention 'to liberate South Vietnam from the ruling yoke of the U.S. imperialists and their henchmen.' U.S. economic and military assistance to the South Vietnamese government increased significantly and in December 1961 the first U.S. troops, 400 uniformed army personnel, arrived in Saigon." [On 27 August 1961, Commander Mine Division 93, with ocean minesweepers Leader (MSO 490) and Excel (MSO 439), made the first official visit by ships of the U.S. Navy to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.]

July, 2003 entry...An important part of "Sweep" history went down in 1961/62. I served on the "Conquest MSO 488" at that time and we were deployed to Vietnam for military operations; we established control in the "Tonkin Gulf" (as Advisors, maintaining stations and using Vietnese Liaison Officers). We swept/secured the Saigon River, allowing larger Naval traffic up to Saigon. If my memory isn't failing, we were part of Mine Division 073." Our operational orders issued by the Commodore of the Division were quite unique......

Being in CIC, I smiled then and still do now when I reflect on navigational chores with French maps. Even Danang on the map was called Tourane.

John Pearson, July, 2003

A year later, U.S. military strength in Vietnam stood at 11,200 and by 1969 it peaked at over 541,000. Although 1,766,910 men were drafted during the Vietnam War, not all of them served in Vietnam. "Unlike conventional wars, the war in Vietnam had no defined front lines. Much of it consisted of hit-and-run attacks, with the guerrillas striking at government outposts and retreating into the jungle," followed by search and destroy missions by the U.S. and South Vietnamese armies. To many, it was a war in which the enemy was at times difficult to identify.

"In the United States, as military involvement increased, the war became increasingly controversial." The Vietnam War was the first in which live footage, showing the horrors of war, was broadcast on national television, bringing the war to the masses. "A peace movement developed and gathered momentum, organizing marches and moratoriums against the war. In addition, a major reinterpretation of U.S. involvement in the war was spurred by the controversial publication in 1971 of the so-called Pentagon Papers. This collection of classified U.S. government documents cast a new, and to many, a dismaying light on the U.S. handling of the war and of the peace negotiations through the 1960's."

"On January 27, 1973, in Paris, delegations signed an agreement ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam. By the end of March 1973, all U.S. fighting forces had been withdrawn. Although President Nixon had apparently assured the South Vietnamese government that U.S. forces would step in to support them in the event of a major treaty violation, further military assistance to South Vietnam became politically impossible. One of the reasons for this was the concurrent outbreak of the Watergate scandal. Fighting between Vietnamese antagonists renewed and on April 30, 1975, the capital of Saigon was captured and South Vietnam surrendered unconditionally to the communist North."

One out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty. "Less measurable but still significant costs were the social conflicts within the U.S. that were engendered by the war - the questioning of U.S. institutions by the American people and a sense of self-doubt." Unlike their portrayal by the media and in the movies, the majority of veterans of the Vietnam conflict were much like their counterparts from previous wars. They may not have wanted to go to Vietnam, but they did so out of a feeling of duty for their country. They were the unfortunate victims of an unpopular war, a war in which success was difficult to measure. Generally accepted accounts portray the U.S. involvement in Vietnam as "the war that couldn't be won" and through inference, "the war we lost". Perhaps a good counter point to this view is that American military forces never lost one battle to the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) or Vietcong (VC) troops. When Vietnam vets returned home to the U.S. there were few ticker tape parades and little thanks for their sacrifice. Vietnam was the most prolonged conflict ever fought by America GI's.

      Country   Mobilized    Fatalities   Wounded
       U.S.     2,590,000     58,169      304,000
    Of those wounded, 75,000 were classified disabled.

All of the sentences in the above summery enclosed in quotes were taken verbatim from Microsoft's Encarta Encyclopedia. All other sentences were written by the editor of Clan Coulthart based on information obtained from other sources.

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