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"By Christmas it will be all over". (American General Paul Harkins, April 1963)

  • Ngo Dinh Diem anti-communist, pro-U.S. in south; Ho Chi Minh pro-USSR in north 
  • National Liberation Front organized in south Dec. 20, 1960, by anti-Diem groups
  • infiltration from north began 1961, communist People's Revolutionary Party gained leadership of NLF by 1962
  • JFK sought "limited partnership" with Diem, flexible response, counter-insurgency, nation-building, reform without revolution
  • CIA recruited Meo (Hmong) tribesmen in Laos, Montagnards in Central Highlands to fight Pathet Lao and Viet Minh
  • Maxwell Taylor and Green Berets May 1961 
  • Operation Ranch Hand Nov. 1961 - 18m gals herbicides (2/3 was Agent Orange) on 8% land area by 1971


  • MAAG (Truman's Military Advisory and Assistance Group) replaced by MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) Feb. 12, 1962, under Gen. Paul Harkins and Project Beef-Up - 11300 advisors sent during 1962, with 300 aircraft, automatic rifles, napalm, penicillin - 16000 advisors by Nov. 1963
  • Operation Sunrise - strategic hamlet program - 6800 built by Nov. 1963
  • Texas group awarded $2b to construct bases at Saigon, Danang, Cam Ranh Bay, Qui Nonh


  • Battle of Ap Bac Jan. 2, 1963 in Mekong Delta -  350 VC attacked by 2 ARVN battalions with 5 new HU-1 Iroquois helicopters, but ARVN reluctant to fight, all helicopters shot down, 3 U.S. pilots killed - Lt. Col. John Vann led 13 M113 armoured personnel carriers into village after ARVN refused to advance - battle revealed weakness of popular support for the Diem Catholic urban mercantile elite government that had abolished the village electoral system in 1956, failed to implement land reform, followed anti-Buddhist repression
  • JFK State of Union speech Jan. 14 declared that "aggression blunted in Vietnam"
  • JCS sent investigation team Jan. 18 - Joe Mendenhall said VC getting stronger
  • infiltration from NV grew from 850 per month to 1700 per month, with new Russian heavy weapons imported by fishing boats - 81mm mortars with 2-mile range, 75mm recoiless rifle - launched major offensive in Delta that destroyed strategic hamlets and captured 200,000 U.S. weapons by Nov.
  • Buddhist riots May 8 led by Tri Quang - Diem's troops fired into Buddhist crowd and killed 8 - immolation suicide of Quang Duc June 11
  • Diem assault on Buddhist pagodas Aug. 20 - martial law - 1400 arrested
  • JFK feared that the U.S. would "lose" Vietnam like Truman lost China in '49 - replaced Nolting with new ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in Aug. - Rusk cable to Lodge Aug. 24 to encourage SV generals planning coup to overthrow Diem - JFK approved on Oct 5 the selective suspension of aid to Diem - Rusk cable to Lodge Oct. 6 "while we do not wish to stimulate a coup," the U.S. would support a more popular government - Diem assassinated Nov. 2
  • JFK approved on Nov 20 McNamara's Plan 34A, covert operations in NV including commando raids, kidnapping, mercenaries, parachute sabotage teams, U.S. Navy intelligence-gathering DeSoto patrols
  • JFK assassinated in Dallas Nov. 22
Westmoreland 02.jpg (27671 bytes)
Gen. William Westmoreland

Born 1914.
Graduated West Point 1936
Served with distinction in WWII
Superintendent West Point in 1960
Commander US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) 1964-1968.

General Westmoreland took command in Vietnam in June 1964 replacing Gen. Paul Harkins. He was instrumental in raising the level of US forces deployed in Vietnam and in developing the strategies implemented in the region.
 Westmoreland continuously requested for an increase in manpower in Vietnam and President Johnson, who had his own troubles at home, refused to send more troops and finally recalled Westmoreland after he successfully stopped the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive in 1968. He was replaced by General Creighton W. Abrams

Upon his return to the US, Westmoreland was appointed as Chief of Staff of the US Army. His biggest challenge was to withdraw the troops from Vietnam and ready them for duty in other regions of the world. He was successful in restructuring the Army at a difficult time, but his tactics in Vietnam had become unpopular with some groups in the US. He maintained for many years that the policy in Vietnam had been the right one. General Westmoreland retired in 1972.
Click to enlarge

Creighton Williams Abrams, Jr.
General, United States Army

  • Creighton Williams Abrams, Jr., 

    • born in Springfield, Massachusetts, 15 September 1914; 

    • graduated from the United States Military Academy, 1936; 

    • married Julia Harvey, 1936; 

    • was commissioned a second lieutenant and served in the 1st Cavalry Division, 19361940.

He was promoted to first lieutenant, June 1939, and to temporary captain, September 1940; was briefly a tank company commander in the 1st Armoured Division, 1941; was a battalion commander in the 37th Armoured Regiment, 19421943; was promoted to temporary major (February) and lieutenant colonel (September), 1943; commanded the 37th Tank Battalion and Combat Command B, 4th Armoured Division, in Allied operations across Europe, 19431945; was promoted to temporary colonel, April 1945; served on the Army General Staff, 1945

A veteran of three wars, General Abrams rose to the Army's highest leadership position because he was pre-eminently a leader and commander of troops, particularly in wartime. From platoon to corps, he commanded at every Level and finally served as Joint Commander of all U.S. Forces in Vietnam. Commissioned in the Cavalry in 1936, General Abrams served initially with various cavalry and tank units of the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st Armoured Division. Joining the newly activated 4th Armoured Division in 1941, he remained with the Division throughout World War II. As a battalion commander, and then combat command commander, he participated in every campaign the Division fought and became widely known as one of the Army's most aggressive and successful Armour commanders. 

It was Lieutenant Colonel Abrams, in a conference on the banks of the Moselle, who pointed east and remarked: "That is the shortest way home." It was a tank unit called Task Force "Abe" that led the thrust across the Moselle; it was a tank unit commanded by Abrams that broke the German encirclement at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. It was Abrams' unit that tore from Bitburg to the Rhine including an attack of over forty miles in less than two days. Time and time again Abrams led the thrust across the German homeland and into Czechoslovakia, often at the head of the column. His World War II commander, General George S. Patton, Jr., once said: "I'm supposed to be the best tank commander in the Army but I have one peer - Abe Abrams. He's the world champion."

During the Korean War, General Abrams served successively as Chief of Staff of I, IX and X Corps. He participated in the defence against the last major Communist offensives of the war. He remained to help set up I Corps as a key link in the United Nations Command organization.

Following his duty in Korea, General Abrams served for a period as Chief of Staff of the Armour Centre at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Returning to Europe in 1959, he was assigned as Assistant Division Commander, 3d Armoured Division, and later as Commanding General of the Division. After another tour in Washington and yet another in Europe, this time as a Corps Commander, he received his fourth star and was selected as the Army's Vice Chief of Staff.

In 1967, he became Deputy Commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam; a year later, he was appointed its Commander. For the four years General Abrams commanded in Vietnam, it was his task to reduce direct U.S. military involvement and to transfer increasing defence responsibilities to Vietnamese forces, as they became capable of assuming them.  By the time he left Vietnam in 1972, that job had been virtually completed.

After his extensive service in Vietnam, General Abrams was nominated to be Chief of Staff, United States Army, and was confirmed by the Senate on October 12, 1972. Since that day, General Abrams' principal challenge was to knit together an Army that had suffered the double trauma of rapid reduction in size and massive repositioning of forces, both occasioned by the end of U.S. military operations in Vietnam. To add to the challenge, it was during this same period that authority for induction ended, and the Army shifted to an all-volunteer footing.

The major themes in the Army during those two years were Abrams themes, as plain and strong as the man who established them: the readiness mission; rethinking the Army's role; and taking care of the soldier. The actions that flowed from this guidance increased the readiness and effectiveness of the Army dramatically. At the same time, morale improved and disciplinary problems subsided, responding to the firm hand at the top. Just prior to his being stricken by lung cancer, General Abrams had set in motion a program to increase markedly the Army's combat capability without increasing its total strength. It was to be done the Abrams way, by cutting out entire headquarters, by making other headquarters - including his own - much smaller, and by making every element in the Army count toward the overall mission.


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