The Beginning BY Ricardo Fonseca
Between 1955 and 1960, the North Vietnamese with the assistance of the southern communist Vietcong, tried to take over the government in South Vietnam, and in November 1963 President Diem was overthrown and executed. The following year, the North Vietnamese began a massive drive to conquer the whole country aided by China and Russia.
In the 1950's, the United States began to send troops to Vietnam, during the following 25-year period, the ensuing war would create some of the strongest tensions in US history. Almost 3 million US men and women were sent thousands of miles to fight for what was a questionable cause.
Fearing a communist takeover of the entire region, the United States grew more and more wary of the progress of Ho Chi Minh and the Vietcong. Communism had become the evil menace in the United States and with expansion of Soviet rule into Eastern Europe, Korea and Cuba, the Americans were bent on stopping communism from spreading any further.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail, an Vietcong transport route snaking through thousands of miles of dense foliage, somehow endures the American saturation bombing campaign, and men and armaments continue to reach southern forces down this vital supply line.
As the United States sought to shore up the government of South Vietnam against its Communist foes in the early 1960's, its first moves were slightly indirect: advisors, Special Forces, and local air support. After the widely-publicized Tonkin Gulf Incident in August, 1964, President Johnson stepped up the American effort. Navy strike aircraft hit targets in North Vietnam, American ground forces landed in March, 1965, and almost without realizing it, the United States military was committed again to another land war in Asia.
Helmets, rifles and jungle boots tell a grim tale of the action fought by the 1st Brigade, 101st airborne paratroopers in Operation Wheeler near Chu Lai. This battlefield memorial honors the soldiers killed during the offensive between September 11th and November 25th, 1967.
Vietnam. The word itself still stirs powerful emotions among adult Americans. The war in Southeast Asia was the longest in our nation's history--July 1957 to May 1975--and, except for the Civil War, the most divisive. Of nearly 2.7 million Americans serving in the war zone, over 58,000 men and women were killed; 300,000 were wounded; and 75,000 were permanently disabled. There are still 2,266 persons listed as missing in action. More than a million enemy Vietnamese were killed in action.