Vietnam Period 1847 - 1964
UNDER FRENCH RULE
Beginning of 1954 - American aid to France's military campaign now totals $US1.1 Billion. Australia gives small amounts of military and economic aid. France has lost 74,000 troops with another 190,000 bogged down.
January - Operation "Atlante" begins. It is designed to clear the coastal areas of Viet Minh. The operation ends in failure in March.
March . Navarre has a dozen battalions dug in around Dien Bien Phu including two groups of 75mm guns, 28 X105mm, four 155 guns, including mortars, and 10 light tanks. Six Grunman fighters armed with napalm are on alert on the airfield. Three main bastions form the defense of the larger airstrip, while the main stronghold included the village itself. Four smaller outposts formed the outer defense. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was about to begin. The French hope that Giap will hurl his army to destruction.
8 April - Australian - R.G Casey
"The United States of America is on our side. It is on the side of democracy, decency and right, and the forces of darkness opposed to it are very apparent and very powerful. The world may have a showdown at any time between our form of life and the forces of darkness".
Austraian - Sir Paul Hasluck - [The conflict in Indo-China is] "part of a world wide struggle... The French are defending liberty".
April . Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies states;
"If communist forces again come on the march and a great war ensues, the farther north the lines of defense are drawn, the better for those communities of Viet Nam, and Laos, and Cambodia, and Thailand, and Burma, and Malaya, and the Philippines, and Indonesia and all the rest of us who wish to retain control of our own future and govern ourselves in our own way".
May 7 - The remnants of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu surrender, depriving France of any bargaining power at Geneva.
May 8. Geneva conference on Indochina opens.
July 7 - Ngo Dinh Diem newly chosen Premier of South Vietnam, completes the organization of his cabinet. His regime proves to be oppressive and inhumane.
July 20-21 - The Geneva Agreements are signed, partitioning Vietnam along the 17th Parallel and setting up an International Control Commission to supervise compliance with the Agreements
American Response to The Geneva Declarations
AGREEMENT ON THE CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES IN VIET-NAM, JULY 20, 1954 (The Geneva Accords)
MISSION OF THE SPECIAL UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE IN VIET-NAM: Statement Issued by the White House, November 3, 1954
Letters from Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy to Diem, 1954 and 1961
August - Australian Prime Minister - Robert. G Menzies, in Parliament
"It is therefore foolish, superficial, and dangerous to speak of the conflict in the world as a contest between two economic systems, capitalism and communism. Nor can the cynics dispose of it as an old-fashioned struggle for military or physical power, with territory and resources as the prizes of victory. It is desperately important that the world should see this as a moral contest, a battle for the spirit of man. There can be no easy or enduring compromise between peoples who affirm the existence of a divine authority and the compulsion of a spiritual law and those others who see nothing beyond an atheistic materialism".
September 8 - An agreement is signed at Manila establishing a South East Asia Treaty Organization(SEATO), aimed at checking Communist expansion.
September 1954. The Australian Minister for Defence,Sir Philip Mc Bride, outlined the Australian government's fears upon which Australian foreign policy was predicated for the following twenty years.
"It is a matter of vital importance to maintain the gap between Australia and the present high-water mark of the southward flow of communism. Should this gap narrow, the nature and scale of attack on Australia would become intensified as distance shortened. Finally, should the tide of communism lap on our shores, we would face an intolerable defense burden and a scale of attack which would be beyond our capacity to repel alone. There is, therefore, every reason strategically and economically why Australia should co-operate to keep aggressive Communism within its present boundaries, and to stem its onward flow".
See The Domino Theory
October 5 - The last French troops leave Hanoi.
October 11 - The Viet Minh formally assume control over North Vietnam.
October 23 - President Dwight D. Eisenhower advises Diem that the US will provide assistance directly to South Vietnam, instead of channeling it through French authorities.
US Entry into South Vietnam
January 1. Direct US aid to South Vietnam begins.
February 12. US advisers begin training South Vietnamese troops.
March 29 - Diem launches his successful campaign against the Binh Xuyen and the religious sects.US Ambassador Collins advises Washington to consider a change of leadership. Bao Dai, from Paris accuses President Diem of "selling the blood of Vietnamese". Diem is advised by the CIA to conduct a plebiscite and let the people decide.
Diem is warned by the Lansdale(CIA) "not to rig the elections", "... I don't want to suddenly read that you have won by 99.99%"
June. Hanoi asks for formal talks to prepare for the international supervised elections scheduled for
October. Diem holds the plebiscite and wins by 98%. CIA knows the plebiscite was rigged. President Diem places family members in key positions.
Much later, Diem's last military Chief of Staff, General Tran Van Don was to say of Diem's Government, "They resorted to arbitrary arrests, confinement in concentration camps for undetermined periods of time without judicial guarantees or restraints, and assassinations of people suspected of Communist leanings. Their use of Gestapo-like police raids and torture were known and decried everywhere. had they confined themselves to known Communists or proven Communist sympathizers, one could understand their methods. The repression, however, spread to people who simply opposed their regime, such as head or spokesmen of other political parties, and against individuals who were resisting extortion by some of the government officials".
April - Australian Prime Minister - R.G Menzies, Parliament
"...there is no country in the world more completely British than Australia, nor...more devoted to the throne and person of Her Majesty the Queen. We are a proud member of a Crown Commonwealth, and will ever continue to be so. But we would be strangely blind if we did not see that...the rise of the United States to supremacy in industrial power, her vast population, her intellectual and moral influence are all such that she has become...vital to the existence of the free world...[her]friendship and cooperation are vital to our safety".
May 10 - South Vietnam formally requests US instructors for Armed Forces.
May 16 - The United States agrees to furnish military aid to Cambodia, which becomes an independent state on 25 September.
July 20 - South Vietnam refuses to take part in the all-Vietnam elections called for by the Geneva Agreements, charging that free elections are impossible in the Communist North.
October 23 - A national referendum deposes Bao Dai in favor of Diem, who proclaims the Republic of Vietnam.
February 18- While visiting Peking, Cambodia's Prince Norodom Sihanouk renounces SEATO protection for his nation.
March 31. Prince Souvanna Phouma becomes Prime Minister in Laos.
April 28 - An American Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) takes over the training of South Vietnamese forces. The French Military High Command disbands and French troops leave South Vietnam.
June. Le Duan, "Duong Loi Cach Mang Mien Nam," [The Path of Revolution in the South], circa 1956
UNITED STATES POLICY WITH RESPECT TO VIETNAM: Address by the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, Walter S. Robertson, Washington, June 1, 1956. Delivered to the American Friends of Vietnam at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC.
August 5 - Souvanna Phouma and the Communist Prince Souphanouvong agree to a coalition government in Laos.
January 3 - The International Control Commission declares that neither North Vietnam nor South Vietnam has carried out the Geneva Agreements.
March. Australia announces a new defense policy providing for closer co-operation with America in South East Asia. Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies states, " Though this is a wholeheartedly British nation this is not a hearsay. It merely recognizes the facts of war".
May 29- Communist Pathet Lao attempt to seize power in Laos.
June. The last French training missions leave South Vietnam.
September - SVN President Ngo Dinh Diem visits Australia and the Government reaffirms support for Diem. Diem is successful in South Vietnamese general election.
January - Communist guerrillas attack a plantation north of Saigon.
March7. President Diem receives a letter from North Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, proposing a discussion on troop reductions and trade relations as a renewed step towards reunification.
April 26. President Diem rejects any discussion until North Vietnam has established "democratic liberties" similar to those in the South.
President Sukarno of Indonesia survives a CIA backed rebellion. This disturbs the Australian Government who now believe they are becoming increasingly isolated.
In 1959 North Vietnam initiated a long-term campaign aimed at destroying the government of South Vietnam through political subversion and armed action. The goal was to unify Vietnam under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh. To achieve this end, the North Vietnamese directed Communists in the South to spark unrest, infiltrated guerrilla reinforcements, and began preparing a logistical line of communication, soon labeled the Ho Chi Minh Trail, through neighboring Laos. To ease the threat to this supply system, the North Vietnamese exacerbated existing political tensions in Laos. They supported with troops and supplies the indigenous Pathet Lao Communists, who were attempting to overthrow the pro-Western Royal Laotian Government.
During 1959 several detachments from naval mobile construction battalions (NMCB), known as Seabees, improved strategically important roads and the country's main airfield, Wattay, at the capital of Vientiane
April - A branch of the Lao Dong (Worker's Party of Vietnam), of which Ho Chi Minh became Secretary-General in 1956, is formed in the South, and Communist underground activity increases. THE IMPORTANCE TO THE UNITED STATES OF THE SECURITY AND PROGRESS OF VIET-NAM: Address by President Eisenhower, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, April 4, 1959 (Excerpt)
May - The US Commander in Chief, Pacific, begins sending the military advisers requested by the South Vietnamese government.
May 6 - President Diem SVN passes oppressive laws on his countrymen.
June-July - Communist Pathet Lao forces attempt to gain control over northern Laos, receiving some Vietnamese Communist assistance.
July 8 - Communist South Vietnamese wound American advisers during an attack on Bien Hoa.
During September 1959, in the autumn of 1960, and again in January 1961, the Seventh Fleet deployed multiship carrier task forces into the South China Sea as a deterrent to further Communist guerrilla attacks on pro-American forces in Laos and as reassurance to friendly governments of U.S. resolve to stand by them.
December 31 - General Phoumir Nosavan seizes control in Laos.
Between 1959 and 1964, poor leadership constituted the greatest hindrance to an effective Vietnamese Navy. Political intrigue, cultural differences, and seemingly petty personal disputes troubled the officer corps. Because of the navy's short existence, senior officers were relatively young and inexperienced. Its small size in comparison with the Vietnamese Army and the consequent domination by the ground force stifled the naval command's initiative. In the enlisted ranks, lack of motivation, low pay, austere living conditions, and inadequate training for navy life caused some to desert. Poor maintenance of obsolete World War II-vintage ships and craft and the inefficient repair and supply systems reflected a lack of modern technological heritage in South Vietnam. All of these factors resulted in the mediocre operational performance of the naval service. Many of the problems identified by Rear Admiral Henry S. Persons during his inspection of the Vietnamese Navy in November 1961 for the Commander in Chief, Pacific remained when Captain Phillip S. Bucklew made a similar visit in early 1964. Indeed, the disruption in the officer corps caused by the coup d'etat against President Diem in November 1963 and the Communist exploitation of the subsequent political and military chaos in South Vietnam even lessened the Vietnamese Navy's ability to carry out its mission at the end of 1964.
Recognizing that the sea was a likely avenue of approach for Communists infiltrating from North Vietnam or moving along the South Vietnamese littoral, in April 1960 the navy established the paramilitary Coastal Force. In line with its emphasis on counterinsurgency warfare, the Kennedy administration wholeheartedly endorsed the development of this junk fleet, providing the force with American naval advisors, boat design and construction funds, and stocks of small arms. By the end of 1964, the 3,800-man, 600-junk force patroled the offshore waters from 28 bases along the coast. To coordinate the operations of these 28 separate divisions, U.S. advisors helped set up coastal surveillance centers in Danang, Cam Ranh, Vung Tau, and An Thoi, the respective headquarters of the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th Coastal Districts.
May 5 - US MAAG strength is increased from 327 to 6850 members.
June and July , Men of US Naval Beach Group 1 and Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) 12 pushed 430 miles up the unpredictable, rapid-strewn Mekong River to deliver ten landing craft to the Laotian armed forces.
5 - Captain Kong Le's paratroopers sieze Vietiane, the administrative captial of Laos.
9 - Kong Le acussing the United States of colonialism and urges restoration of a neutral Laos under Prince Souvanna Phouma . This is opposed by Phoumi Nosavan and Boun Oum supported by the United States and Thailand.
August - Malayan Emergency ends.
October 1960 - The US Navy formed the River Transport Escort Group as protection for the vital foodstuffs being convoyed through the Mekong Delta to Saigon. Later in the period, the navy created the River Transport Group to move army forces in the delta.
November 11-1 2 - In South Vietnam a military coup against Diem fails.
December 16 - The forces of Phoumi Nosavan capture Vientiane and Kong Le flees to north-central Laos and links up with the communist Pathet Lao, who are supported by the Soviet Union. The United States increases aid to Phoumi Nosavan. US Special Forces train the Royal Army and the North Vietnamese match this by sending Viet Cong cadre to Pathet Lao units.
December 20 - The Communist National Liberation Front (NLF) of South Vietnam is formed.
Temporarily deployed American mobile training teams complemented the advisory effort. These small detachments accomplished such specialized tasks as helping to develop a full-fledged intelligence department on the Vietnamese Naval Staff, reactivating an old French boat repair yard adjacent to the Saigon Naval Shipyard, and teaching courses in radar technology. In addition, the mobile training teams instructed Vietnamese Air Force mechanics in the maintenance of 63 Douglas A-1H Skyraiders and 15 North American T-28 Trojan aircraft that were transferred to the allied air service from 1960 to 1964. Also during this period, many Vietnamese naval personnel received training at U.S. facilities in the United States, including the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Other Vietnamese sailors served short tours in Seventh Fleet ships or benefited from combined antisubmarine warfare exercises with U.S. submarines Bluegill (SS 242), Queenfish (SS 393), and Capitaine (AGSS 336).
In the spring of 1961 their offensive appeared on the verge of overwhelming the pro- American Royal Laotian Army. Once again the fleet sortied into Southeast Asian waters. By the end of April most of the Seventh fleet was deployed off the Indochinese Peninsula preparing to initiate operations into Laos. The force consisted of Coral Sea (CVA 43) and Midway (CVA 41) carrier battle groups, antisubmarine support carrier Kearsarge (CVS 33), one helicopter carrier, three groups of amphibious ships, two submarines, and three Marine battalion landing teams. At the same time, shorebased air patrol squadrons and another three Marine battalion landing teams stood ready in Okinawa and the Philippines to support the afloat force. Although the administration of President John F. Kennedy already had decided against American intervention to rescue the Laotian government, Communist forces halted their advance and agreed to negotiations. The contending Laotian factions concluded a cease-fire on 8 May 1961, but it lasted only a year
January 4 - Prince Boun Oum organizes a pro-Western government in Laos; North Vietnam and the USSR send aid to the Pathet Lao communist insurgents.
January 19 - Outgong US President Eisenhower briefs in coming US President Kennedy , the emphasis is on Indochina, Eisenhower states that Laos is the key to South East Asia and must not be lost to the communists.
January 20. John Fitzgerald Kennedy takes the office of President of the United States of America.
April 9. President Diem is re-elected as President of South Vietnam.
US Ambassador Frederick Nolting reveals that Diem, "did not want combat troops in Vietnam".
April 10 - First defoliation test mission is flown in Vietnam
Exercise Pony Express, conducted on the northern coast of Borneo by 60 ships and 26,000 personnel from SEATO member states between late April and early May 1961, prominently displayed U.S. naval power and allied military solidarity. Throughout this period, the Navy took other steps to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to friendly governments. Heavy cruisers Toledo (CA 133) in October 1959 and Saint Paul (CA 73), the flagship of Commander Seventh Fleet, in October 1960 visited Saigon to participate in Vietnamese Independence Day celebrations
May 5. President Kennedy at a press conference declares that if necessary the use of US forces would be considered "to help South Vietnam resist communist pressures". The President also decides not to send troops to Laos.
May 8. A task force of US sub-cabinet officials makes a recommendation that US forces in South Vietnam be increased from a few hundred to several thousand. President Kennedy authorises an increase of 100 advisers and 400 Special Forces troops to train South Vietnamese.
May 11-1 3 -Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson visits South Vietnam for talks with Diem. Johson is briefed by the president to proclaim America's solidarity.
May 16. A 14 nation conference in Geneva affirms Lao's neutrality.
May 23. Vice President Johnson returns to the United States from a visit to Southeast Asia and gives a report to Kennedy on his trip. He states that the US must either help the countries of Southeast Asia or pull back its defenses to San Francisco.
June 16. Following a meeting between South Vietnam's President Diem and Kennedy, the United States agrees to increase the number of American advisors in Vietnam from 340 to 805. The commitment places the prestige of the Kennedy Adminstration behind the efforts in Vietnam.
July. Australia is "distressed" by Britain's announcement that they will seek to join the EEC.
August - Conditions in in Laos are deteriorating and US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk states at a White House meeting that the US should be ready to defend Indochina under a SEATO plan, which calls for the dispatch of 30,000 combat troops supplied by Great Britain, France and the United States. Both Britain and and France have already made it clear that they had no intention of sending troops.
1 August 1962, US Minesweeping Division 71 sailed from the area, thus ending the 7-month-long combined patrol. Other Seventh Fleet ships gathered information on the suitability of South Vietnamese beaches for amphibious landings. During January 1962, high-speed transport Cook (APD 130) conducted beach surveys along the South Vietnamese coast from Quang Tri in the north to Vung Tau in the south. In February and March of the following year, Weiss (APD 135) made a similar transit along the South Vietnamese littoral. On several occasions, the Viet Cong fired on shore parties from the ship. Fleet units also transported American support forces to South Vietnam.
27 August - US 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.
September 1-4 - Viet Cong forces carry out a series of attacks in Kontum Province, South Vietnam.
September 18 - A Viet Cong battalion seizes the provincial capital of Phuoc Vinh some 55 miles (89km) from Saigon.
October 8 - The Lao factions agree to form a neutral coalition headed by Souvanna Phouma, but fail to agree on the apportionment of cabinet posts.
October 11 - President John F. Kennedy announces that his principal military adviser General Maxwell D. Taylor , USA, will go to South Vietnam to investigate the situation.
After the fact-finding mission General Maxwell Taylor, the Kennedy administration, responded by: 1) increasing military aid and the number of advisors in-country, 2) adopting specialized counterinsurgency measures, and 3) deploying American support forces to Southeast Asia. The U.S. Navy played an important role in each of these three major programs. Paralleling the overall rise in MAAG strength, the Navy Section increased from 79 men in 1959 to 154 in early 1964. In addition, the naval advisors began to accompany South Vietnamese ships, river assault groups, and other units on combat operations. Another small naval contingent served on the staff of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), established on 8 February 1962 to coordinate the total U.S. effort in the Republic of Vietnam. The command function was centralized when the MAAG was disestablished on 15 May 1964, and its resources were absorbed by MACV. Thereafter, the Naval Advisory Group (NAG) continued the work of the old Navy Section. By the end of the year, 235 naval personnel were assigned to the 4,889-man military assistance command.
The Kennedy administration concluded early that in addition to providing military aid and advice to friends in their fight against Communist "wars of national liberation," specially trained American units might be necessary to combat the enemy's political-military offensive. The Taylor mission to South Vietnam in October 1961 invigorated the American effort to develop specialized counterinsurgency units in the U.S. Armed Forces.
October 11 - US Secretary of Defence - McNamara's report to President Kennedy
November - Colonel S.C Graham, Australian Director of Military Intelligence tours Vietnam and concludes that; "...the war in Vietnam had already reached a stage similar to that which existed before Dien Bien Phu".
November 15. President Kennedy has doubts about US involvment in Vietnam.
November 16 - As a result of the Taylor mission, President Kennedy decides to increase military aid to South Vietnam, without committing US combat troops .
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/03/06 Foreign Relations, 1961-63, Vol XXIII, Southeast Asia, Office of the Historian
NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 111, November 22, 1961
December - Indonesia proclaims that they would reclaim Dutch New Guinea by the end of 1962.
11 December 1961, aircraft ferry Core (T-AKV 13) of the Navy's Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) arrived in Saigon and offloaded two Army helicopter transportation companies. At the end of January 1962, Card (T-AKV 40) carried another such unit to Subic Bay. There, it was transferred to amphibious assault ship Princeton (LPH 5), LST 629, and LST 630 for the last leg of the journey to Danang.
14 - US President Kennedy's Letter to President Ngo Dinh Diem
31 - US military personnel total 3,200.
During the 1961 spring crisis, antisubmarine support carrier Bennington (CVS 20) carried 14 Sikorsky H-34 helicopters to the Gulf of Siam where they were flown off and transferred to friendly forces in Laos, then preparing to meet the next Pathet Lao assaults. However, relative calm settled over the country during the latter half of 1961 and early 1962. This lull was shattered when the Communists overran the pro-American defenders of Nam Tha on 6 May 1962, renewing fears for the survival of a non-Communist Laotian government.
Among the ships and craft provided between 1961 and 1964 by the United States to the Vietnamese Navy's Sea Force were an additional 5 escorts (PCE), 12 motor gunboats (PGM), 3 medium landing ships (LSM), and 3 tank landing ships (LST), 1 fuel barge (YOG), and 12 minesweeping launches (MLMS). These vessels gave the oceangoing force a greater capability to carry out its responsibility for patrol and transport along the 1,200-mile coastline, gunfire support of troops ashore, amphibious landings, minesweeping, and open sea operations.
As a result of President Kennedy's decision in November 1961 to expand the use of American support units in South Vietnam, in "limited partnership" with the South Vietnamese Armed Forces, the U.S. Navy deployed major fleet units to the increasingly hostile region. Beginning in December 1961, Seventh Fleet and Vietnamese Navy units conducted combined surface and air patrol operations from the 17th parallel eastward to the Paracel Islands. The purpose of the patrols was to train the South Vietnamese Sea Force in open sea deployments and to determine the extent of any waterborne infiltration of munitions from North Vietnam. Aided in their surveillance mission by Martin SP-5B Marlin seaplanes based on Taiwan, five minesweepers of Minesweeping Division 73 carried out the first patrols. Faster and more seaworthy destroyer escort ships soon relieved the minesweepers on patrol.
During the 1961 fall crisis, planes from Ticonderoga (CVA 14) conducted photographic reconnaissance over the Central Highlands. In September and October, Douglas A3D-2P Skywarriors and Vought F8U-IP Crusaders flew random missions over suspected infiltration routes
1 January 1962 - The US Navy established in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets 60-man naval special warfare units called SEAL teams (the name reflects a capability to fight on the sea, in the air, and on land). Their chief purpose was to carry out guerrilla and antiguerrilla operations in rivers, canals, harbors, and on adjacent land areas. The units were also charged with training American and allied forces for special operations
12 - The US Air Force launches Operation Ranch Hand to deny the Vietcong the use of the road and trails. Using a defoliating herbicide named Agent Orange, over 10% of the vegetation in Vietnam is destroyed during the course of the war. The defoliant also causes severe disabilities among Vietnam veterans and the population of Vietnam.
13 - The US Joint Chiefs of Staff urge President Kennedy to authorise the deployment of troops to Vietnam to prevent 'Vietnam's loss'.
3 - The "Strategic Hamlet" program begins in South Vietnam.
5 - Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara reports: " The actions which the South Vietnamese Government has taken to counter the very serious threat of subversion and aggression, covert aggression, in that nation, are beginning to be effective...'.
7 - American military strength in South Vietnam reaches 4,000, with the arrival of two additional Army aviation units.
19 February 1962, US Admiral George W. Anderson, the Chief of Naval Operations, authorized establishment of another type of unit designed to counter Communist insurgencies through civic action programs. The 13-man Seabee Technical Assistance Teams (STAT), formed to help win the support of indigenous populations for their governments, also constructed traditional military posts for American and friendly forces.
27 - President Diem escapes injury when two South Vietnamese aircraft attack the Presidential Palace.
Seeking to verify any Communist infiltration of arms and supplies from Cambodia into the Ca Mau Peninsula and adjacent areas, U.S. and South Vietnamese naval forces mounted a similar effort in the Gulf of Siam. Training the Vietnamese Navy in blue-water surveillance operations also became a goal in this area. Destroyer escorts Wiseman (DE 667) and Walton (DE 361) initiated the combined patrol when they steamed into the gulf on 27 February 1962. For the next three months, U.S. ships' radar vectored South Vietnamese ships toward suspicious contacts for boarding and search. Nonetheless, the gulf's shallow waters precluded combined operations by U.S. and Vietnamese ships, thus allowing little opportunity for training. At the same time, the forces found no appreciable infiltration. Accordingly, U.S. participation in the gulf patrol was ended on 21 May, when the ships of Escort Division 72 departed South Vietnamese waters for their scheduled return to the United States.
31 - President Diem writes to Prime Minister Menzies, drawing his attention to, "the grave threat to peace in Vietnam".
Australian Army Colonel Ted Serong and future Commanding Officer of the Australian Training Team Vietnam(AATTV) visits Vietnam and concludes "Vietnam was one of restrained optimism".
'Get Me Ten Years': Australia's Ted Serong in Vietnam, 1962-1975."
ANZUS Council meeting in Canberra. US Secretary of State Dean Rusk states that the US wants more support in Vietnam from its allies and asks Sir Garfield Barwick, Australian Minister for External Affairs for a contribution of instructors.
6 - Phoumi Nosavan having refused to co-operate in forming a coalition cabinet in Laos masses troops on China's border area. North Vietnamese troops invade Laos. 5,000 defenders flee in panic. Nosavan agrees on a coalition goverment with Pathet Lao and rightist elements, headed by Souvanna Phouma. The North Vietnameses now have protection on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the main supply route into Vietnam.
Determined to preserve the status quo and at the same time reassure American allies, President Kennedy again ordered the Seventh Fleet into the South China Sea. The Hancock (CVA 19) carrier group and the Bennington submarine hunter-killer group steamed to a position off Danang, and the fleet's Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) carried the Marine Special Landing Force (SLF) into the Gulf of Siam. Then, in mid-May, U.S. ground, air, and naval forces deployed to Thailand. On the 17th, the Amphibious Ready Group landed a Marine ground-air team, which quickly moved forward to Udorn on the Thai-Laotian border. Other units, including elements of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 10, joined this force in succeeding days to form the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade. With the forces in the area now more in balance, political compromise was possible.
15 - Australian Cabinet resolves that military assitance to South Vietnam can only be undertaken at the request of the Republic of Vietnam(RVN), but should such a request be made, Australia was willing to send a small force of advisers and instructors.
23 - Australian Government announces that the No 79 Squadron RAAF, equipped with Sabre Jet fighters is to be stationed in Ubon, Thailand.
24 - Australian Minister for Defence, Athol Townley announces that 30 Army Instructors are to be sent to Vietnam and states; "If the communists were to achieve their aims in Vietnam, this would gravely affect the security of the whole of Southeast Asia and ultimately Australia".
NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 162, June 19, 1962
23 July 1962, the various Laotian parties formally agreed at the Geneva Conference to form a coalition government headed by the neutralist, Prince Souvanna Phouma.
23 - Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara reports: "Our military assistance to Vietnam is paying off. The South Vietnamese are beginning to hit the Viet Cong insurgents where it hurts most - in winning the people to the side of the government....".
COMUSMACV General Paul Harkins: "There is no doubt we are on the winning side".
CIA Director John McCone late wrote that MACV and the Embassy: "... had been grossly misinformed by the South Vietnamese provoince and district chiefs ..... The province and district chiefs felt obliged to 'create statistics' which would meet the approbation of the Central Government".
This was a period of disinformation or highly exagerated reports by the South Vietnamese goverment. SVN officers disgruntled by the situation leaked sensitive information to the press in hope that some of the truth would reach Washington.
3 - 30 Advisors from the Australian Army Training Team(AATTV)arrive in South Vietnam and are met by the Australian Ambassador. They become the first Australian troops involved in the Indochina war.
Responding to South Vietnamese reports of air intrusions by unidentified aircraft in August 1962, the US Navy dispatched an AD-5Q (EA-IF) Skyraider detachment of Air Early Warning Squadron 13 to Tan Son Nhut Airfield near Saigon.
9 - Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara reports: "I think it is too early to say that the tide has turned or to predict the final outcome....".
November 1962 to February 1963, Douglas RA-3B Skywarriors of Heavy Photographic Squadron 61 photographed large segments of the country for use in a crash mapmaking program.
Sir Garfield Barwick, Australian Minister for External Affairs
"The courageous people of Vietnam [are in the] front line struggle against communist aggression ... Recruits are obtained by kidnapping and other coercive measures, and sent to North Vietnam for training and indoctrination. Later they come back to form new Viet Cong units".
See Australia's Military Involvement in Vietnam The Political Dimension
The worsening situation in South Vietnam during 1963 prompted measures to evacuate Americans in the event of a general emergency. Saigon street demonstrations by Buddhists and other Vietnamese disaffected with the Diem government occurred throughout the summer. The public self-immolation of several Buddhist monks drew world attention, as did the government's heavy-handed counteractions.
2 - Battle of Ap Bac. ARVN forces with 51 US advisers are defeated by the 514th Viet Cong Battalion(400 men). With superior numbers and firepower5 US helicopters are destroyed and 11 damaged. 65 ARVN are killed with 3 US Advisers.
This battle showed the unwillingness of ARVN troops to fight even when the advantage was on their side. This was mainly a result of Diem's poilcy of reprimanding senior officers who suffered heavy casualties in their units. Reports from the battle causes an angry outcry in the United States where the calls for reform by Diem are wanted. Diem ignores the contoversy and allows events to continue as usual.
6 - COMUSMACV General Paul Harkins tells Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara: "... we are continuing to make progress in the war".
McNamara directs the military to prepare a plan for the phasing US forces beginning with the withdrawal of 1,000 advisers by years end.
8 - South Vietnamese troops, enforcing a ban on the Buddhist multicolored flag, fire upon 20,000 Buddhists at Hue. The attack begins a series of intensifying protests by Buddhists against the government.
3 - Budhist monks protest in Hue and the government responds by sending out troops. Nine Budhists are killed. Rioting spreads from Hue to Siagon.
11 - After the riots in Hue, South Vietnam, a Buddhist monk commits suicide by setting himself alight. Diem's wife outrages the world by referring to the act as a "barbecue".
The US Joint Chiefs of Staff have delayed the withdrawal plan until the current crisis has subsided.
When the political turmoil in the capital reached a peak at the end of August 1963, the Seventh Fleet deployed the Amphibious Ready Group and the Marine Special Landing Force to a point off Vung Tau, where they prepared to take out the 4,600 American noncombatants in the Saigon area. Although the crisis in the capital abated, the relief was only temporary.
21 - Diem's brother Nhu orders an elite military unit to raid the Budhists pagodas in the early hours. Several hundred are arrested(1,400). President Kennedy denounces the attacks.
23 - Two South Vietnamese Generals contact the US Embassy in Siagon and 'feel out' what the US attitude would be in the event of a coup.
24 - The US take this opportunity to move against the Diem Regime.
A cable is drafted to the new US Ambassador in Siagon, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr: " ....Ambassador and country team should urgently examine all possible alternative leadership and make plans as to how we might bring about Diem's replacement if this should become necessary". US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Averell Harriman approves the cable. President Kennedy agrees provided his senior advisers concur. They concur and the cable is sent. General Maxwel Taylor the President's military adviser is shocked by the news knowing that this represented a major change in Vietnam policy. Later he is to state that the cable would never have been approved had not the anti-Diem faction in Washington made what he called an "egregious end run" during the absence of high-level officials". Bobby Kennedy recalls later that the President(his brother) regretted the decision and viewed the cable as a "major mistake".
25 - Ambassador Lodge in Siagon having seen the cable as an order from the President to encourage the South Vietnamese military to launch a coup, calls a meeting to consider how to organise a coup and puts the CIA in charge of the operation. The CIA contact General Tran Thiem and General Nguyen Khanh and tell them that the Nghu's(Diem's brother and sister-in-law) have to go and leave the question of retaining Diem up to them.
27 - CIA Vietnam expert, William Colby, describes the situation in Siagon as quiet and said unrest had not spread to the countryside.
9 - President Kennedy at a news conference, when asked about the Domino Theory states: "...I beleive it. China is so large, looms so high just beyond the frontiers, that if South Vietnam went, it would not only give them an improved geographical position for a guerrilla assault on Malaya, but would also give the inpression that the wave of the future in Southeast Asia was China and the Communists. So I believe it ".
President Kennedy's Television Interviews on Vietnam, September 2 and 9, 1963
TIM WEINER, "Kennedy Had Plan for Early Vietnam Exit," New York Times, December 23, 1997
17 - President Kennedy sends Ambassador Lodge in Siagon, a 'conciliatory' cable outlining reforms under which the United States would accept continuing rule by Diem.
23 - Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara and General Maxwell visit Vietnam on fact finding and discussions to assess the situation and report back to President Kennedy.
29 - Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara and General Maxwell meet with Diem and express concern over South Vietnam's political unrest and that the unrest and repression it had triggered endangered the war effort and the US support. Therefore the repression must stop and the unrest be resolved. Diem flatly rejects these assertions blaming the press for attacking his government. A report is drafted for the President on the visit.
2 - Meeting between the President, McNamara and Maxwell: They brief the President on the trip to South Vietnam(SVN) and discuss the removal of 1,000 advisers from SVN. The President convenes the National Security Council on the matters contained in the report and stresses that the US needed to find effective ways of persuading Diem to change the political atmosphere in Siagon. The President endorses the withdrawal of 1,000 advisers from Vietnam by December 31, 1963.
Summary Record of the 519th Meeting of the National Security Council White House, Washington, October 2, 1963
U.S. POLICY ON VIET-NAM: WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT, OCTOBER 2, 1963
5 - The President states his approval for the section of the report relating to coup planning. In essence is says, "Our policy should be to seek urgently to identify and build contacts with an alternative leadership if and when it appears". The CIA in Siagon are cabled instructions to that effect.
NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 263, October 11, 1963
25 - Lodge cables Washington that plotting amongst SVN Generals was now far advanced, "we should not thwart the coup".
1 - Transcript of the phone call between Diem and Henry Cabot Lodge.
2 - A military coup overthrows Diem and they are reported to have 'committed suicide'. Diem and his brother were placed in an APC with their hands tied behind their backs for transport to Joint General Staff HQ in Siagon. When the carrier's arrived at the HQ both Diem and his brother Nhu were dead. Both had been shot and Nhu had been stabbed several times. Diem's killing shocked the US President.
In response to the overthrow of the Diem government, U.S. naval forces again concentrated off South Vietnam and prepared to ferry evacuees by helicopter from Saigon to transport them by boat from the nearby Vung Tau Peninsula. When the political unrest in the capital once again quickly subsided, the fleet steamed from the South Vietnamese coast and resumed normal operations.
6 -General Duong Van Mingh emerges as the new President and takes over the leadership of South Vietnam.
14 - President Kennedy ,when asked; "Are we going to give up in Vietnam ?", states, "The most important program of course, is our national security, but I don't want the United States to have to put troops there".
NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO.273a, November 21, 1963
22. John F Kennedy is assassinated at Dallas, Texas. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson becomes President.
Robert McNamra reflects in his book, 'In Retrospect'; "Having reviewed the record in detail, and with the advantage of hindsight, I think it highly probable that, had President Kennedy lived, he would have pulled us out of Vietnam. He would have concluded that the South Vietnamese were incapable of defending themselves, and that Siagon's grave political weakness made it unwise to offset the limitations of of South Vietnamese forces by sending US combat troops on a large scale".
24 - President Johson makes it clear that he wants to win the war and wanted priority given to military operations, over 'so called' social reforms.
NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 273, November 26, 1963
A policy was to emerge, "to assist the people and Government of South Vietnam to win their contest against directed and supported conspiracy' through training support and without the application of overt US military force".
13 - Reports from the US Defence Intelligence Agency(DIA) state that the Viet Cong had not scored spectacular gains over the past year, however they had sustained and even improved their combat capabilities.
21 - Robert McNamara reports to the President; "The situation is very disturbing, current trends, unless reversed in the next 2-3 months, will lead to neutralization at best or more likely to a Communist controlled state".
US Advisers total 16,300 - US KIA 78
Throughout 1963 and 1964, detachments from SEAL Team 1 (the Pacific Fleet unit) deployed to South Vietnam and instructed American advisors, South Vietnamese "frogmen," or LDNN (Lien Doi Nguoi Nhai), and Coastal Force Biet Hai commandos in related skills.
General Tran Van Don, South Vietnamese Army;
"I feel that we shall achieve victory in 1964" .
General Paul D. Harkins, US Commander in Vietnam;
Despite material aid, advisory assistance, and direct support by American military units, by 1964 the failure of the counterinsurgency struggle in South Vietnam was apparent. The Communists exploited the crisis with attacks on South Vietnamese regular and paramilitary forces and with stepped-up infiltration of reinforcements and supplies, primarily through Laos. To curtail this external direction and armed support, the new administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson adopted a different strategy. Its intention: to signal the North Vietnamese leadership, through increasingly severe military pressure applied in Laos and North Vietnam, that the United States would not abide the Communist efforts against the South Vietnamese and Laotian governments.
29 - A junta headed by Major General Nguyen Khanh deposes General Duon Van Minh in South Vietnam but little is to change.
1- On recommendation, President Johnson approves a four month program, "to convince the North Vietnamese that it was in their self interest to desist from agression in the south". Operations Plan 34A(OPLAN 34A) is put into action. The initial measures was a series of maritime harassment operations in North Vietnam under Operation Plan 34A. South Vietnamese "frogmen" and boat crews carried out the action using the American PTF motor torpedo boats reactivated or bought in 1963.
6 - Five hundred Viet Cong troops cross the border and seize three strategic hamlets. They are forced to withdraw after a 14 hour gun fight with ARVN (the South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Vietnam). They lose 100 men, while ARVN loses 4.
21 - The US Joint Chiefs of Staff are asked to examine a series of actions against North Vietnam designed "to induce that government to terminate its support and encouragement of the insurrection in South Vietnam and Laos". They report back on the 2 March that; "the overriding importance to the security interest of the United States of preventing the loss of South Vietnam. To achieve this they state that the US ,"should be prepared to to destroy military and industrial targets in North Vietnam, mine its harbours, and undertake a naval blockade". They also recognise that China might intervene and this could mean the probability of the use of nuclear weapons .
Robert McNamara visits South Vietnam and is convinced that the situation in South Vietnam is deteriorating and if South Vietnam falls the rest of South East Asia will follow. He returns to Washington and recommends increased aid to South Vietnam.
17- US President Johnson orders an increase in US aid to South Vietnam of $60 million. The President also orders the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to begin planning retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam, to be launched on 72 hrs notice.
SEATO Council meeting in Manilla calls for all SEATO members to fulfill their duty under the agreement. The US is seeking further support in Vietnam.
May - Alan Renouf, Australian Minister in Washington
"Our objective should be....to achieve such an habitual closeness of relations... and sense of mutual alliance that in our time of need ... the United States would have little option but to respond as we would want. The problem of Vietnam is one ... where we could without disproportionate expenditure pick up a lot of credit with the United States".
See that "disproportionate expenditure" here.
15 - The CIA report the President that the situation in Vietnam remains exremely fragile and that the Viet Cong continue to erode the SVN Government's authority throughout South Vietnam. Unless the tide is arrested by the end of the year, the position in South Vietnam is likely to become untenable.
21 May - Two Chance-Vought RF-8A Crusader photo reconnaissance planes from Kitty Hawk (CVA 63) discover a Communist military presence in the Plain of Jars region, from both a photographic record and direct hit on one plane by antiaircraft fire. Between 21 May and 9 June, 130 Navy and Air Force flights over Laos confirmed the existence of a North Vietnamese infiltration system in the southern panhandle.
29 - The Australian Cabinet agrees that the AATTV should be increased.
June 8 - The Australian Army Training Team Vietnam(AATTV) is increased to 80 advisers and their role is changed to operational employment at battalion and lower levels.
The RAAF will deploy an air transport flight of Caribou aircraft .
27 - The US government announces that 5,000 additional troops are being sent to Vietnam
30 - South Vietnamese patrols boats attack two North Vietnamese islands in the Tonkin Gulf. This is a Covert Operation OPLAN 34A. mission.
2 - North Vietnamese torpedo boats attack the USS Maddox on a DESOTO patrol in the Tonkin Gulf. This attack may have been provoked by recent SVN commando raids into North Vietnam and the attack on the 30 July by SVN patrol boats. Plan DESOTO was part of a system of global reconnaissance carried out by specially equipped US ships in international waters and included intelligence gathering off North Vietnam waters. This was the closest the the US came to declaring war and was seen by many as the turning point of the war. An excuse had presented itself for escalation. Some critics saw the Johnson administration as having deliberately provoked the action in order to justify an escalation of the war and to obtain congressional authority for any escalation. This was denied by the administration.
Tonkin Gulf Incident
McNamara asks Giap: What happened in Tonkin Gulf?
4 - The USS C. Turner Joy reports a similar incident. There was some question is to the validity of this second attack. North Vietnamese Defence Minister, General Giap stated in 1995 that the attack never took place.
5 - US Seventh Fleet carrier aircraft from USS Ticonderoga and Constellation retaliate by attacking 4 naval bases and an oil storage depot used by the torpedo boats. Two US aircraft are lost and two more damaged.
6-7 The US Senate debates the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
The Tonkin Gulf Incident - President Johnson's Message to Congress
7 - US Congress adopts the Gulf of Tonkin - Joint Resolution endorsing whatever measures the President may consider necessary, .
8 - The RAAF Caribou flight(Transport Support Flight)of 3 Caribou aircraft , to be known as "Wallaby Airlines", arrives at Vung Tau and is to operate throughout South Vietnam. The flight is to have 7 aircraft by May 1965.
11 - President Johnson signs the South East Asia(Gulf of Tonkin)Resolution giving him power to take any action he deems necessary in respect to SouthVietnam.
19 - Montagnard tribesmen in SVN's Central Highlands attempt to secede in order to create an autonomous state free from discrimination from their lowland neighbours. A battle is averted by US Advisors.
3 more Caribous aircraft join the RAAF flight at Vung Ta, now totalling 6 aircraft. A seventh aircraft is added in May 1965.
1 - Tran Van Huong becomes the Premier of South Vietnam.
During the fall of 1964, the Johnson administration refrained from actions that might precipitate a broader confrontation. When the Viet Cong mortared the American military barracks at South Vietnam's Bien Hoa Airbase on 1 November, killing 4 men and wounding 72 others, a preplanned reprisal air strike against North Vietnam was not authorized. Similarly, the President denied permission for a retaliatory air strike when the enemy sabotaged the American Bachelor Officers' Quarters in Saigon's Brink Hotel on Christmas Eve. Over one hundred Americans, Australians, and Vietnamese were injured and two Americans were killed. In each of these instances, major Seventh Fleet units had sortied into the South China Sea prepared to launch air strikes, evacuate American dependents in danger, or take any number of contingent actions.
4 - President Johnson is returned to power by 61% of the vote.
10 - The Australian Government introduces selective National Service , for 20 yr olds.(Real Audio)
4 - Meeting in Washington between US Assistant Secretary of State William Bundy and Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors to discuss a proposal to send combat troops.
14 - Letter From President Johnson to Prime Minister Menzies - "Military Aid for South Vietnam"
17 - Prime Minister Menzies tells President Johnson.
While US naval forces prepared for extended combat, the Johnson administration reinvigorated its program to dissuade the North Vietnamese from supporting insurgency in Southeast Asia and chose Laos as the locus of this effort. As part of this renewed campaign, on 17 December 1964 A-1H Skyraiders escorted by McDonnell-Douglas F-4B Phantoms and followed by RF-8A photo reconnaissance aircraft from Ranger (CVA 61)) conducted the Navy's first armed reconnaissance mission over eastern Laos. In this joint Navy-Air Force program, named Barrel Roll, American aircraft flew over likely infiltration routes and attacked Communist supply vehicles or other targets of opportunity. If none was sighted, the flight was authorized to strike preselected storage buildings, antiaircraft emplacements, and related facilities of a military nature. The military objective, however, was considered secondary to the political one of sending Hanoi a message of U.S. determination to prevail in Southeast Asia
31 - US strength is now 23,300. US KIA 225. Viet Cong strength estimated at 34,000.