Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, near the Cambodian border, in March of 1965.

Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, near the Cambodian border, in March of 1965.


On May 07, 1954, Viet Minh forces won the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and ended French involvement in Indochina. This victory led to the Geneva Conference where the French and Viet Minh negotiated a ceasefire agreement. Under the terms of Geneva Accords, France agreed to withdraw its troops from Indochina while Vietnam was temporarily divided into North and South Vietnam, led by Ho Chi Minh and Bao Dai respectively, at the 17th parallel. Civilians were able to move freely between two states for a 300-day period. General elections were to be held within two years, by July 1956, to unify the country.

However, the accords apparently did not please the United States. First, they feared that the general elections would not be fair and free under the communists’ influence. Second and most importantly, if the communists won in Vietnam, communism could spread throughout Southeast Asia and become a greater threat to the U.S. In a letter to Ngo Dinh Diem – the new Prime Minister of the Bao Dai government on October 23, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower promised American support to his government to ensure a non-communist Vietnam. Following through on that commitment, American aid to South Vietnam began as early as in January, 1955. The Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), Indochina was also re-organized into MAAG, Vietnam to train South Vietnamese army.

An American officer serving with the South Vietnam forces poses with group of Montagnards in front of one of their provisionary huts in a military camp in central Vietnam on November 17, 1962. They were brought in by government troops from a village where they were used as labor force by communist Viet Cong forces. The Montagnards, dark-skinned tribesmen numbering about 700,000, live in the highlands of central Vietnam. The government was trying to win their alliance in its war with the Viet Cong.

An American officer serving with the South Vietnam forces poses with group of Montagnards in front of one of their provisionary huts in a military camp in central Vietnam on November 17, 1962. They were brought in by government troops from a village where they were used as labor force by communist Viet Cong forces. The Montagnards, dark-skinned tribesmen numbering about 700,000, live in the highlands of central Vietnam. The government was trying to win their alliance in its war with the Viet Cong.

By early 1955, Diem had consolidated his power and control over South Vietnam. He also launched many political repression and anti-communist campaigns across the country, in which 25,000 anti-government activists and communists were arrested and more than 1,000 killed as claimed by the communists. In return, communist insurgents also assassinated hundreds of South Vietnamese officials. In July 1955, Diem rejected the national election, claiming South Vietnam was not bound by the Geneva Accords. In October, he easily ousted Bao Dai and became President of the new Republic of Vietnam (ROV).

Nevertheless, Diem’s political repression and attacks on Buddhist community made him more and more unpopular among ordinary South Vietnamese people. Realizing the increasingly unpopularity of Diem regime, Hanoi established the National Liberation Front (NLF), better known as the Viet Cong, on December 20, 1960, which consisted of all anti-government activists – both communists and non-communists, as a common front to fight against Diem.

Vietnamese airborne rangers, their two U.S. advisers, and a team of 12 U.S. Special Forces troops set out to raid a Viet Cong supply base 62 miles northwest of Saigon, on August 6, 1963. As the H-21 helicopters hovered six feet from the ground to avoid spikes and wires and under sniper fire, the troops jumped out to attack.

Vietnamese airborne rangers, their two U.S. advisers, and a team of 12 U.S. Special Forces troops set out to raid a Viet Cong supply base 62 miles northwest of Saigon, on August 6, 1963. As the H-21 helicopters hovered six feet from the ground to avoid spikes and wires and under sniper fire, the troops jumped out to attack.

In May 1961, Kennedy sent 400 U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) troops into South Vietnam’s Central Highlands to train Montagnard tribesmen in counterinsurgency tactics. He also tripled the level of aid to South Vietnam. A steady stream of airplanes, helicopters, armored personnel carriers (APCs), and other equipment poured into the South. By the end of 1962, there were 9,000 U.S. military advisers under the direction of a newly‐created Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), commanded by U.S. Army Gen. Paul Harkins. Under U.S. guidance, the Diem government also began construction of “strategic hamlets.” These fortified villages were intended to insulate rural Vietnamese from Vietcong intimidation and propaganda.

U.S. and South Vietnamese leaders were cautiously optimistic that increased U.S. assistance finally was enabling the Saigon government to defend itself. On 2 January 1963, however, at Ap Bac on the Plain of Reeds southwest of Saigon, a Vietcong battalion of about 320 men inflicted heavy damage on an ARVN force of 3,000 equipped with troop‐carrying helicopters, new UH‐1 (“Huey”) helicopter gunships, tactical bombers, and APCs.

Ap Bac represented a leadership failure for the ARVN and a major morale boost for the antigovernment forces. The absence of fighting spirit in the ARVN mirrored the continuing inability of the Saigon regime to win political support. Indeed, many South Vietnamese perceived the strategic hamlets as government oppression, not protection, because people were forced to leave their ancestral homes for the new settlements.

A South Vietnamese Marine, severely wounded in a Viet Cong ambush, is comforted by a comrade in a sugar-cane field at Duc Hoa, about 12 miles from Saigon, on August 5, 1963. A platoon of 30 Vietnamese Marines was searching for communist guerrillas when a long burst of automatic fire killed one Marine and wounded four others.

A South Vietnamese Marine, severely wounded in a Viet Cong ambush, is comforted by a comrade in a sugar-cane field at Duc Hoa, about 12 miles from Saigon, on August 5, 1963. A platoon of 30 Vietnamese Marines was searching for communist guerrillas when a long burst of automatic fire killed one Marine and wounded four others.

While Vietcong guerrillas scored military successes, leaders of Vietnam’s Buddhist majority protested against what they saw as the Diem regime’s religious persecution. In June, a monk dramatically burned himself to death at a busy Saigon intersection. The “Buddhist crisis” and dissatisfaction with Diem by top Vietnamese Army leaders made U.S. officials receptive to the idea of a change in South Vietnam’s leadership. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) did not interfere as a group of ARVN officers plotted a coup.

On 1 November 1963, the generals seized power, and Diem and his unpopular brother Ngo Dinh Nhu were murdered. Three weeks later, President Kennedy was assassinated, and U.S. policy in Vietnam was again at a crossroads. If the new government in Saigon failed to show progress against the insurgency, would the United States withdraw its support from a lost cause, or would it escalate the effort to preserve South Vietnam as an anticommunist outpost in Asia?

Lyndon B. Johnson inherited the Vietnam dilemma. As Senate majority leader in the 1950s and as vice‐president, he had supported Eisenhower’s and Kennedy’s decisions to aid South Vietnam. Four days after Kennedy’s death, Johnson, now president, reaffirmed in National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 273 that the U.S. goal was to assist South Vietnam in its “contest against the externally directed and supported communist conspiracy.” U.S. policy defined the Vietnam War as North Vietnamese aggression against South Vietnam.

Napalm air strikes raise clouds into gray monsoon skies as houseboats glide down the Perfume River toward Hue in Vietnam on February 28, 1963, where a battle for control of the old Imperial City ended with a Communist defeat. Firebombs were directed against a village on the outskirts of Hue.

Napalm air strikes raise clouds into gray monsoon skies as houseboats glide down the Perfume River toward Hue in Vietnam on February 28, 1963, where a battle for control of the old Imperial City ended with a Communist defeat. Firebombs were directed against a village on the outskirts of Hue.

North Vietnam infiltrated troops and matériel into South Vietnam by sea and along the so‐called Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. Throughout his administration, Johnson insisted that the only possible negotiated settlement of the conflict would be one in which North Vietnam recognized the legitimacy of South Vietnam’s government. Without such recognition, the United States would continue to provide Saigon as much help as it needed to survive.

The critical military questions were how much U.S. assistance was enough and what form it should take. By the spring of 1964, the Vietcong controlled vast areas of South Vietnam, the strategic hamlet program had essentially ceased, and North Vietnam’s aid to the southern insurgents had grown. In June, Johnson named one of the army’s most distinguished officers, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, then commandant of West Point, as commander U.S. MACV.

Westmoreland immediately asked for more men, and by the end of 1964 U.S. personnel in the South exceeded 23,000. Increasingly, however, the U.S. effort focused on the North. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and other key White House aides remained convinced that the assault on South Vietnam originated in the ambitious designs of Hanoi backed by Moscow and Beijing.

Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street on June 11, 1963, to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. President Ngo Dình Diem, part of the Catholic minority, had adopted policies that discriminated against Buddhists and gave high favor to Catholics.

Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street on June 11, 1963, to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. President Ngo Dình Diem, part of the Catholic minority, had adopted policies that discriminated against Buddhists and gave high favor to Catholics. Read more about this picture.

Throughout 1964, the United States assisted South Vietnam in covert operations to gather intelligence, disseminate propaganda, and harass the North. On the night of 2 August, North Vietnamese gunboats fired on the USS Maddox, a destroyer on an intelligence‐collecting mission, in the same area of the Gulf of Tonkin where South Vietnamese commandos were conducting raids against the North Vietnamese coast. Two nights later, under stormy conditions, the Maddox and another destroyer, the Turner Joy, reported a gunboat attack.

Although doubts existed about these reports, the president ordered retaliatory air strikes against the North Vietnamese port of Vinh. The White House had expected that some type of incident would occur eventually, and it had prepared the text of a congressional resolution authorizing the president to use armed force to protect U.S. forces and to deter further aggression from North Vietnam. On 7 August 1964, Johnson secured almost unanimous consent from Congress (414–0 in the House; 88–2 in the Senate) for his Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which became the principal legislative basis for all subsequent military deployment in Southeast Asia.

Flying low over the jungle, an A-1 Skyraider drops 500-pound bombs on a Viet Cong position below as smoke rises from a previous pass at the target, on December 26, 1964.

Flying low over the jungle, an A-1 Skyraider drops 500-pound bombs on a Viet Cong position below as smoke rises from a previous pass at the target, on December 26, 1964.

Johnson’s decisive but restrained response to the Gulf of Tonkin incidents helped him win the 1964 election, but Saigon’s prospects continued to decline. The president wanted to concentrate on his ambitious domestic program, the Great Society, but his political instincts told him that his leadership would be damaged fatally if America’s client state in South Vietnam succumbed. Instability mounted in South Vietnam as rival military and civilian factions vied for power and as Vietcong strength grew.

A consensus formed among Johnson’s advisers that the United States would have to initiate air warfare against North Vietnam. Bombing could boost Saigon’s morale and might persuade the North to cease its support of the insurgency. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) favored a massive bombing campaign, but civilians in the State and Defense Departments preferred a gradual escalation.

Using as a pretext a Vietcong attack on 7 February 1965 at Pleiku that killed eight American soldiers, Johnson ordered retaliatory bombing north of the Demilitarized Zone along the 17th parallel that divided North and South Vietnam. Within a week, the administration began ROLLING THUNDER, a gradually intensifying air bombardment of military bases, supply depots, and infiltration routes in North Vietnam. Flying out of bases in Thailand, U.S. Air Force fighter‐bombers—primarily F‐105 Thunderchiefs and later F‐4 Phantoms—joined U.S. Navy Phantoms and A‐4 Skyhawks from a powerful carrier task force located at a point called Yankee Station, seventy‐five miles off the North Vietnamese coast in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Partially covered, a dying Viet Cong guerrilla raises his hands as South Vietnamese Marines search palm groves near Long Binh in the Mekong Delta, on February 27, 1964. The guerrilla died in a foxhole following a battle between a battalion of South Vietnamese Marines and a unit of Viet Cong.

Partially covered, a dying Viet Cong guerrilla raises his hands as South Vietnamese Marines search palm groves near Long Binh in the Mekong Delta, on February 27, 1964. The guerrilla died in a foxhole following a battle between a battalion of South Vietnamese Marines and a unit of Viet Cong.

In 1965, U.S. aircraft flew 25,000 sorties against North Vietnam, and that number grew to 79,000 in 1966 and 108,000 in 1967. In 1967 annual bombing tonnage reached almost a quarter million. Targets expanded to include the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and factories, farms, and railroads in North Vietnam.

From the beginning of the bombing, American strategists debated the effectiveness of air power in defeating a political insurgency in a predominantly agricultural country. Despite the American bombs, dollars, and military advisers, the Vietcong continued to inflict heavy casualties on the ARVN, and the political situation in Saigon grew worse. By June 1965, there had been five governments in the South since Diem’s death, and the newest regime, headed by General Nguyen Van Thieu and Air Marshall Nguyen Cao Ky, inspired little confidence.

As U.S.

As U.S. “Eagle Flight” helicopters hover overhead, South Vietnamese troops wade through a rice paddy in Long An province during operations against Viet Cong guerrillas in the Mekong Delta, in December of 1964. The “Eagle Flight” choppers were loaded with Vietnamese airborne troops who were dropped in to support ground forces at the first sign of enemy contact.

To stave off defeat, the JCS endorsed Westmoreland’s request for 150,000 U.S. troops to take the ground offensive in the South. When McNamara concurred, Johnson decided to commit the forces. The buildup of formal U.S. military units had begun on 8 March 1965, when two battalions of Marines landed at Da Nang. In June, Marine and army units began offensive unit operations—“search and destroy” missions. On 28 July, Johnson announced that 50,000 U.S. troops would go to South Vietnam immediately. By the end of the year, there were 184,300 U.S. personnel in the South.

Although Johnson’s actions meant that the United States had crossed the line from advising the ARVN to actually fighting the war against the Vietcong, the president downplayed the move. The JCS wanted a mobilization of the reserves and National Guard, and McNamara proposed levying war taxes. Such actions would have placed the United States on a war footing. With his ambitious social reform program facing crucial votes in Congress, the president wanted to avoid giving congressional conservatives an opportunity to use mobilization to block his domestic agenda. Consequently, he relied on other means. Monthly draft calls increased from 17,000 to 35,000 to meet manpower needs, and deficit spending, with its inherent inflationary impact, funded the escalation.

A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle on March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border.

A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle on March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border.

With U.S. bombs pounding North Vietnam, Westmoreland turned America’s massive firepower on the southern insurgents. Johnson’s choice of gradual escalation of bombing and incremental troop deployments was based upon the concept of limited warfare. Risks of a wider war with China and the Soviet Union meant that the United States would not go all out to annihilate North Vietnam. Thus, Westmoreland chose a strategy of attrition in the South. Using mobility and powerful weapons, the MACV commander could limit U.S. casualties while exhausting the enemy, that is, inflicting heavier losses than could be replaced.

Escalation of the air and ground war in 1965 provoked Hanoi to begin deploying into the South increasing units of the regular North Vietnamese Army (NVA), or People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), as it was called. In October, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the PAVN commander, launched a major offensive in the Central Highlands, southwest of Pleiku. Westmoreland responded with the 1st Air Cavalry Division (Air Mobile). Through much of November, in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley, U.S. and North Vietnamese forces engaged each other in heavy combat for the first time.

Marines wade ashore with heavy equipment at first light at Red Beach near Da Nang in Saigon on April 10, 1965.

Marines wade ashore with heavy equipment at first light at Red Beach near Da Nang in Saigon on April 10, 1965.

The Americans ultimately forced the NVA out of the valley and killed ten times as many enemy soldiers as they lost. Westmoreland used helicopters extensively for troop movements, resupply, medical evacuation, and tactical air support. USAF tactical bombers and even huge B‐52 strategic bombers attacked enemy positions. The battle convinced the U.S. commander that “search and destroy” tactics using air mobility would work in accomplishing the attrition strategy. Soon after the PAVN departed the battlefield, however, so too did the American air “cavalry.” Clearly, control of territory was not the U.S. military objective.

During 1966 Westmoreland requested more ground troops, and by year’s end the U.S. ground force level “in country” reached 385,000. These were organized into seven divisions and other specialized airborne, armored, special forces, and logistical units. With U.S. aid, the ARVN also expanded to eleven divisions, supplemented by local and irregular units. While MACV was getting men and munitions in place for large‐unit search and destroy operations, army and marine units conducted smaller operations. Although the “body count”—the estimated number of enemy killed—mounted, attrition was not changing the political equation in South Vietnam. The NLF continued to exercise more effective control in many areas than did the government, and Vietcong guerrillas, who often disappeared when U.S. forces entered an area, quickly reappeared when the Americans left.

In 1967, Westmoreland made his big push to win the war. With South Vietnam’s forces assigned primarily to occupation, pacification, and security duties, massive U.S. combat sweeps moved to locate and destroy the enemy. In January, Operation Cedar Falls was a 30,000‐man assault on the Iron Triangle, an enemy base area forty miles north of Saigon. From February through April, Operation Junction City was an even larger attack on nearby War Zone C. There was major fighting in the Central Highlands, climaxing in the battle of Dak To in November 1967.

With the persuasion of a Viet Cong-made spear pressed against his throat, a captured Viet Cong guerrilla decided to talk to interrogators, telling them of a cache of Chinese grenades on March 28, 1965. He was captured with 13 other guerrillas and 17 suspects when two Vietnamese battalions overran a Viet Cong camp about 15 miles southwest of Da Nang air force base.

With the persuasion of a Viet Cong-made spear pressed against his throat, a captured Viet Cong guerrilla decided to talk to interrogators, telling them of a cache of Chinese grenades on March 28, 1965. He was captured with 13 other guerrillas and 17 suspects when two Vietnamese battalions overran a Viet Cong camp about 15 miles southwest of Da Nang air force base.

U.S. forces killed many enemy soldiers and destroyed large amounts of supplies. MACV declared vast areas to be “free‐fire zones,” which meant that U.S. and ARVN artillery and tactical aircraft, as well as B‐52 “carpet bombing,” could target anyone or anything in the area. In Operation RANCH HAND, the USAF sprayed the defoliant Agent Orange to deprive the guerrillas of cover and food supplies. Controversy about the use of Agent Orange erupted in 1969 when reports appeared that the chemical caused serious damage to humans as well as to plants.

Late in 1967, with 485,600 U.S. troops in Vietnam, Westmoreland announced that, although much fighting remained, a cross‐over point had arrived in the war of attrition; that is, the losses to the NVA and Vietcong were greater than they could replace. This assessment was debatable, and there was considerable evidence that the so‐called “other war” for political support in South Vietnam was not going well. Corruption, factionalism, and continued Buddhist protests plagued the Thieu‐Ky government.

Despite incredible losses, the Vietcong still controlled many areas. A diplomatic resolution of the conflict remained elusive. Several third countries, such as Poland and Great Britain, offered proposals intended to facilitate negotiations. These formulas typically called upon the United States and DRV to coordinate mutual reduction of their military activities in South Vietnam, but both Washington and Hanoi firmly resisted even interim compromises with the other. The war was at a stalemate.

Thousands attend a rally on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington on April 17, 1965, to hear Ernest Gruening, a Democratic senator from Alaska, and other speakers discuss U.S. policy in Vietnam. The rally followed picketing of the White House by students demanding an end to Vietnam fighting.

Thousands attend a rally on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington on April 17, 1965, to hear Ernest Gruening, a Democratic senator from Alaska, and other speakers discuss U.S. policy in Vietnam. The rally followed picketing of the White House by students demanding an end to Vietnam fighting.

A nurse attempts to comfort a wounded U.S. Army soldier in a ward of the 8th army hospital at Nha Trang in South Vietnam on February 7, 1965. The soldier was one of more than 100 who were wounded during Viet Cong attacks on two U.S. military compounds at Pleiku, 240 miles north of Saigon. Seven Americans were killed in the attacks.

A nurse attempts to comfort a wounded U.S. Army soldier in a ward of the 8th army hospital at Nha Trang in South Vietnam on February 7, 1965. The soldier was one of more than 100 who were wounded during Viet Cong attacks on two U.S. military compounds at Pleiku, 240 miles north of Saigon. Seven Americans were killed in the attacks.

Flag-draped coffins of eight American Servicemen killed in attacks on U.S. military installations in South Vietnam, on February 7, are placed in transport plane at Saigon, February 9, 1965, for return flight to the United States. Funeral services were held at the Saigon Airport with U.S. Ambassador Maxwell D. Taylor and Vietnamese officials attending.

Flag-draped coffins of eight American Servicemen killed in attacks on U.S. military installations in South Vietnam, on February 7, are placed in transport plane at Saigon, February 9, 1965, for return flight to the United States. Funeral services were held at the Saigon Airport with U.S. Ambassador Maxwell D. Taylor and Vietnamese officials attending.

Injured Vietnamese receive aid as they lie on the street after a bomb explosion outside the U.S. embassy in Saigon, Vietnam, on March 30, 1965. Smoke rises from wreckage in background. At least two Americans and several Vietnamese were killed in the bombing.

Injured Vietnamese receive aid as they lie on the street after a bomb explosion outside the U.S. embassy in Saigon, Vietnam, on March 30, 1965. Smoke rises from wreckage in background. At least two Americans and several Vietnamese were killed in the bombing.

Four

Four “Ranch Hand” C-123 aircraft spray liquid defoliant on a suspected Viet Cong position in South Vietnam in September of 1965. The four specially equipped planes covered a 1,000-foot-wide swath in each pass over the dense vegetation.

A Vietnamese battalion commander, Captain Thach Quyen, left, interrogates a captured Viet Cong suspect on Tan Dinh Island, Mekong Delta, in 1965.

A Vietnamese battalion commander, Captain Thach Quyen, left, interrogates a captured Viet Cong suspect on Tan Dinh Island, Mekong Delta, in 1965.

A strategic air command B-52 bomber with externally mounted, 750-pound bombs heads toward its target about 56 miles northwest of Saigon near Tay Ninh on November 2, 1965.

A strategic air command B-52 bomber with externally mounted, 750-pound bombs heads toward its target about 56 miles northwest of Saigon near Tay Ninh on November 2, 1965.

General William Westmoreland talks with troops of first battalion, 16th regiment of 2nd brigade of U.S. First Division at their positions near Bien Hoa in Vietnam, in 1965.

General William Westmoreland talks with troops of first battalion, 16th regiment of 2nd brigade of U.S. First Division at their positions near Bien Hoa in Vietnam, in 1965.

Flares from planes light a field covered with the dead and wounded of the ambushed battalion of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division in the Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, on November 18, 1965, during a fierce battle that had been raging for days. Units of the division were battling to hold their lines against what was estimated to be a regiment of North Vietnamese soldiers. Bodies of the slain soldiers were carried to this clearing with their gear to await evacuation by helicopter.

Flares from planes light a field covered with the dead and wounded of the ambushed battalion of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division in the Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, on November 18, 1965, during a fierce battle that had been raging for days. Units of the division were battling to hold their lines against what was estimated to be a regiment of North Vietnamese soldiers. Bodies of the slain soldiers were carried to this clearing with their gear to await evacuation by helicopter.

A Viet Cong fighter in Vietnam in an undated photo.

A Viet Cong fighter in Vietnam in an undated photo.

A U.S. Marine, newly arrived in South Vietnam on April 29, 1965, drips with perspiration while on patrol in search of Viet Cong guerrillas near Da Nang air base. American troops found 100-degree temperatures a tough part of the job. General Wallace M. Greene Jr., a Marine Corps commandant, after a visit to the area, authorized light short-sleeved uniforms as aid to troops’ comfort.

A U.S. Marine, newly arrived in South Vietnam on April 29, 1965, drips with perspiration while on patrol in search of Viet Cong guerrillas near Da Nang air base. American troops found 100-degree temperatures a tough part of the job. General Wallace M. Greene Jr., a Marine Corps commandant, after a visit to the area, authorized light short-sleeved uniforms as aid to troops’ comfort.

In Berkeley-Oakland City, California, demonstrators march against the war in Vietnam in December of 1965.

In Berkeley-Oakland City, California, demonstrators march against the war in Vietnam in December of 1965.

A Vietnamese litter bearer wears a face mask to keep out the smell as he passes the bodies of U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers killed in fighting against the Viet Cong at the Michelin rubber plantation, about 45 miles northeast of Saigon, on November 27, 1965.

A Vietnamese litter bearer wears a face mask to keep out the smell as he passes the bodies of U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers killed in fighting against the Viet Cong at the Michelin rubber plantation, about 45 miles northeast of Saigon, on November 27, 1965.

Pedestrians cross the destroyed Hue Bridge in Hue, Vietnam, in an undated photo.

Pedestrians cross the destroyed Hue Bridge in Hue, Vietnam, in an undated photo.

Wounded and shocked civilian survivors of Dong Xoai crawl out of a fort bunker on June 6, 1965, where they survived murderous ground fighting and air bombardments of the previous two days.

Wounded and shocked civilian survivors of Dong Xoai crawl out of a fort bunker on June 6, 1965, where they survived murderous ground fighting and air bombardments of the previous two days.

A U.S. Air Force Douglas A-1E Skyraider drops a white phosphorus bomb on a Viet Cong position in South Vietnam in 1966.

A U.S. Air Force Douglas A-1E Skyraider drops a white phosphorus bomb on a Viet Cong position in South Vietnam in 1966.

A Vietnamese girl, 23 years old, was captured by an Australian patrol 30 feet below ground at the end of a maze of tunnels some 10 miles west of the headquarters of the Australian task force (40 miles southeast of Saigon). The woman was crouched over a World War II radio set. About seven male Viet Cong took off when the Australians appeared—but the woman remained and appeared to be trying to conceal the radio set. She was taken back to the Australian headquarters where she told under sharp interrogation (which included a

A Vietnamese girl, 23 years old, was captured by an Australian patrol 30 feet below ground at the end of a maze of tunnels some 10 miles west of the headquarters of the Australian task force (40 miles southeast of Saigon). The woman was crouched over a World War II radio set. About seven male Viet Cong took off when the Australians appeared—but the woman remained and appeared to be trying to conceal the radio set. She was taken back to the Australian headquarters where she told under sharp interrogation (which included a “waterprobe”; see her wet clothes after the interrogation) that she worked as a Viet Cong nurse in the village of Hoa Long and had been in the tunnel for 10 days. The Australians did not believe her because she seemed to lack any medical knowledge. They thought that she may have possibly been the leader of the political cell in Long Hoa. She was being led away after interrogation, clothes soaked from the “waterprobe” on October 29, 1966.

Left: Pilot Leslie R. Leavoy in flight with other jets in the background above Vietnam in 1966. Right: Army nurse 2nd Lieutenant Roberta “Bertie” Steele in South Vietnam, on February 9, 1966.

Left: Pilot Leslie R. Leavoy in flight with other jets in the background above Vietnam in 1966. Right: Army nurse 2nd Lieutenant Roberta “Bertie” Steele in South Vietnam, on February 9, 1966.

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai, about 20 miles west of Saigon, on January 1, 1966. Paratroopers, background, of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade escorted the South Vietnamese civilians through a series of firefights during the U.S. assault on a Viet Cong stronghold.

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai, about 20 miles west of Saigon, on January 1, 1966. Paratroopers, background, of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade escorted the South Vietnamese civilians through a series of firefights during the U.S. assault on a Viet Cong stronghold.

A napalm strike erupts in a fireball near U.S. troops on patrol in South Vietnam in 1966.

A napalm strike erupts in a fireball near U.S. troops on patrol in South Vietnam in 1966.

A Marine, top, wounded slightly when his face was creased by an enemy bullet, pours water into the mouth of a fellow Marine suffering from heat during Operation Hastings along the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam on July 21, 1966.

A Marine, top, wounded slightly when his face was creased by an enemy bullet, pours water into the mouth of a fellow Marine suffering from heat during Operation Hastings along the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam on July 21, 1966.

Left: A Vietnamese child clings to his bound father who was rounded up as a suspected Viet Cong guerrilla during “Operation Eagle Claw” in the Bong Son area, 280 miles northeast of Saigon on February 17, 1966. The father was taken to an interrogation camp with other suspects rounded up by the U.S. 1st air cavalry division. Right: The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter in War Zone C, Vietnam, in 1966.

Left: A Vietnamese child clings to his bound father who was rounded up as a suspected Viet Cong guerrilla during “Operation Eagle Claw” in the Bong Son area, 280 miles northeast of Saigon on February 17, 1966. The father was taken to an interrogation camp with other suspects rounded up by the U.S. 1st air cavalry division. Right: The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter in War Zone C, Vietnam, in 1966.

The singing group the

The singing group the “Korean Kittens” appear on stage at Cu Chi, Vietnam, during the Bob Hope USO Christmas show, to entertain U.S. troops of the 25th Infantry Division.

A grim-faced U.S. Marine fires his M60 machine gun, concealed behind logs and resting in a shallow hole, during the battle against North Vietnamese regulars for Hill 484, just south of the demilitarized zone, on October 10, 1966. After three weeks of bitter fighting, the 3rd battalion of the 4th Marines took the hill the week of October 2.

A grim-faced U.S. Marine fires his M60 machine gun, concealed behind logs and resting in a shallow hole, during the battle against North Vietnamese regulars for Hill 484, just south of the demilitarized zone, on October 10, 1966. After three weeks of bitter fighting, the 3rd battalion of the 4th Marines took the hill the week of October 2.

Lieutenant Commander Donald D. Sheppard, of Coronado, California, aims a flaming arrow at a bamboo hut concealing a fortified Viet Cong bunker on the banks of the Bassac River, Vietnam, on December 8, 1967.

Lieutenant Commander Donald D. Sheppard, of Coronado, California, aims a flaming arrow at a bamboo hut concealing a fortified Viet Cong bunker on the banks of the Bassac River, Vietnam, on December 8, 1967.

A U.S. Marine CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter comes down in flames after being hit by enemy ground fire during Operation Hastings, just south of the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam, on July 15, 1966. The helicopter crashed and exploded on a hill, killing one crewman and 12 Marines. Three crewmen escaped with serious burns.

A U.S. Marine CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter comes down in flames after being hit by enemy ground fire during Operation Hastings, just south of the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam, on July 15, 1966. The helicopter crashed and exploded on a hill, killing one crewman and 12 Marines. Three crewmen escaped with serious burns.

A man brews tea while a U.S. Marine examines a pinup in Vietnam in September of 1967.

A man brews tea while a U.S. Marine examines a pinup in Vietnam in September of 1967.

A trooper of the U.S. 1st cavalry division aims a flamethrower at the mouth of cave in An Lao Valley in South Vietnam, on April 14, 1967, after the Viet Cong group hiding in it were warned to emerge.

A trooper of the U.S. 1st cavalry division aims a flamethrower at the mouth of cave in An Lao Valley in South Vietnam, on April 14, 1967, after the Viet Cong group hiding in it were warned to emerge.

Sergeant Ronald Payne, 21, of Atlanta, Georgia, emerges from a Viet Cong tunnel holding his silencer-equipped revolver with which he fired at guerrillas fleeing ahead of him underground. Payne and others of the 196th light infantry brigade probed the massive tunnel in Hobo Woods, South Vietnam, on January 21, 1967, and found detailed maps and plans of the enemy. The infantrymen who explored the complex are known as “Tunnel Rats.” They were called out of the tunnels on January 21, and nauseating gas was pumped in.

Sergeant Ronald Payne, 21, of Atlanta, Georgia, emerges from a Viet Cong tunnel holding his silencer-equipped revolver with which he fired at guerrillas fleeing ahead of him underground. Payne and others of the 196th light infantry brigade probed the massive tunnel in Hobo Woods, South Vietnam, on January 21, 1967, and found detailed maps and plans of the enemy. The infantrymen who explored the complex are known as “Tunnel Rats.” They were called out of the tunnels on January 21, and nauseating gas was pumped in.

Military police, reinforced by Army troops, throw back anti-war demonstrators as they tried to storm a mall entrance doorway at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on October 21, 1967.

Military police, reinforced by Army troops, throw back anti-war demonstrators as they tried to storm a mall entrance doorway at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on October 21, 1967.

Rick Holmes of C company, 2nd battalion, 503rd infantry, 173rd airborne brigade, sits down on January 3, 1966, in Vietnam.

Rick Holmes of C company, 2nd battalion, 503rd infantry, 173rd airborne brigade, sits down on January 3, 1966, in Vietnam.

U.S. Navy Douglas A-4E Skyhawks from Attack Squadrons VA-163 Saints and VA-164 Ghost Riders attack the Phuong Dinh railroad bypass bridge, 10 kilometers north of Thanh Hoe, North Vietnam, on September 10, 1967. Note the attacking Skyhawk in the lower right and one directly left of the explosions on the bridge.

U.S. Navy Douglas A-4E Skyhawks from Attack Squadrons VA-163 Saints and VA-164 Ghost Riders attack the Phuong Dinh railroad bypass bridge, 10 kilometers north of Thanh Hoe, North Vietnam, on September 10, 1967. Note the attacking Skyhawk in the lower right and one directly left of the explosions on the bridge.

U.S. troops of the 7th and 9th divisions wade through marshland during a joint operation on South Vietnam's Mekong Delta, in April of 1967.

U.S. troops of the 7th and 9th divisions wade through marshland during a joint operation on South Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, in April of 1967.

(Photo credit: U.S. Navy / AP).