Vietnam Veterans of America
50 Years Ago
August 1: B-52s bomb enemy supply depots in the Fishhook area inside Cambodia.
August 3: Col. Sar Hor, a Cambodian military officer, says U.S. Phantom jets have been bombing enemy forces on Kirirom Plateau in support of his troops, killing 200 of the enemy. A U.S. command spokesman insists U.S. planes are only flying interdiction missions. Three American soldiers are killed from enemy booby traps, 13 miles southwest of Saigon. Robert Sam Anson of Time magazine is captured in Cambodia by enemy soldiers.
August 4: Cary Donham, a senior at West Point whose discharge as a conscientious objector was rejected, files suit against the Army in federal court.
August 5: Sim Var, a Cambodian deputy and close adviser to Premier Lon Nol, says his government will only last six months without economic and military aid from the United States, which is “morally and materially responsible” for Cambodia’s present situation. Seven American planes give direct air support to Cambodian troops outside Skoun, 40 miles northeast of Phnom Penh. At Kham Duc, two Americans and 15 enemy soldiers are killed in a two-hour clash.
August 6: Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird says U.S. planes are not giving close air support to Cambodian troops, despite eyewitness accounts saying otherwise. Laird reiterates that the missions are part of an interdiction campaign. The Defense Department announces a draft call of 39,000 for the last four months of 1970—bringing the year’s total draftees to 163,500, the lowest count since 1964. David Bruce represents the U.S. at the Paris peace negotiations.
August 8: A House Government Operations subcommittee urges Secretary of State William Rogers to devalue South Vietnam’s currency. Two Americans are killed 87 miles north of Saigon after their helicopter is shot down.
August 9: The results of a U.S. Information Agency poll taken in countries in Europe and Asia are made public and disclose that the countries polled, except Australia and the Philippines, showed a significant decline in confidence in the U.S. since the invasion of Cambodia in May.
August 10: Cambodian diplomat Isoup Ghantip and a group of Cambodian students take over the Cambodian Embassy in Czechoslovakia on behalf of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. The American command acknowledges that Cambodians are flying on U.S. observation planes to help spot targets for bombing strikes inside Cambodia.
August 11: On Block Island, R.I., FBI agents arrest fugitive Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, convicted in April of destroying draft records at an anti-Vietnam War rally. Three Americans are killed in a clash 40 miles northwest of Saigon. Capt. Ernest Medina, charged with the murder of civilians in Song Me in March 1968, says two of those murders were committed by South Vietnamese national police. The New York Times reports the U.S. Army has changed its longstanding rules for infantry troops who reenlist—front-line soldiers, sent to rear areas who reenlist, now must spend their full year in combat.
August 12: South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu says only his country and Thailand can send troops to help Cambodia fight communist insurgents, and the time to send them is now. In Georgia, a military judge rejects a constitutional challenge by lawyers for Sgt. Esequiel Torres, charged in the Song Me incident. Berrigan begins his three-year prison term.
August 13: The final stage of resettling South Vietnamese refugees living in Cambodia begins. North Vietnam announces it will send Xuan Thuy, chief delegate at the peace talks who has been in Hanoi since May, back to Paris. Thai Premier Thanom Kittikachorn says the U.S. has agreed to help finance Thai troops in Cambodia; the State Department says no agreement has been reached.
August 14: The State Department confirms there is a tentative agreement with Thailand to help aid a 5,000-man Thai force in Cambodia. Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) calls the arrangement “another instance of the abuse that flows from unchecked executive power.” Near Quang Ngai, 14 U.S. 198th Infantry Brigade soldiers are wounded by enemy fire after trying to help four men maimed by booby traps.
August 15: South Vietnamese troops at a Vietcong base 45 miles south of Danang report killing 125 VC and capturing more than a hundred. In Danang, PFC Samuel G. Green, Jr., an 18-year-old Marine, is sentenced to five years in prison for the February murders of South Vietnamese women and children.
August 16: The U.S. command reports B-52s have carried out their heaviest raids in two years after NVA shellings of five allied bases near the DMZ. An American Red Cross worker, in Vietnam only two weeks, is found stabbed to death.
August 17: Vice President Spiro Agnew, at a VFW convention, says the Senate proposal to fix a withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Vietnam is “a blueprint for the first defeat in the history of the United States.” Two Americans and three South Vietnamese are killed in four clashes near Fire Base O’Reilly and Fire Base Barnett close to the DMZ. Eighteen NVA are reported killed. The U.S. command announces three helicopters have been lost in Laos.
August 18: Pathet Lao radio reports its leader, Prince Souphanouvang, has accused the Laotian government of introducing South Vietnamese forces into the country. In Hanoi, at the invitation of the North Vietnamese, a ten-member American Black Panther delegation, led by Eldridge Cleaver, celebrates an “international day of solidarity with the black people of the United States.”
August 20: NVA and VC soldiers attack the outer defenses of Phnom Penh. The U.S. agrees to provide Cambodia with $40 million in new military supplies, including small arms, ammunition, and jeeps. The Senate votes to limit allowances paid to allied troops—they can no longer be in excess of the pay to American soldiers. Thieu announces a shake-up of his country’s military high command. Armed forces surveys presented in congressional testimony report three out of ten GIs have used drugs.
August 21: The Senate votes to prohibit the use of funds to pay for foreign troops in Laos and Cambodia. Enemy shells hit one mile from Phnom Penh’s royal palace.
August 22: Agnew leaves for a tour of four Asian nations to assure them, as Nixon says, that the U.S. “is not withdrawing from Asia.” A South Korean Defense Ministry official says if the U.S. cuts off troop allowances, “we will be compelled to withdraw our troops” from South Vietnam. In Fort Pierce, Mary Campbell, the mother of black soldier Spec.4 Pondextuer E. Williams, killed in Vietnam, is given a plot in Hillcrest Memorial Gardens. The board of the all-white cemetery refuses to allow the burial of Williams. Campbell vows to fight, “forever if necessary,” to get her son buried in Hillcrest. Sources report U.S. pilots are free to go anywhere inside Cambodia and attack enemy troops and supply lines if they pose a threat to South Vietnam.
August 23: Agnew says it will be impossible for the U.S. to pull out of South Vietnam if Cambodia’s government is overthrown by the communists. Communist soldiers release Robert Sam Anson from captivity in Cambodia.
August 24: At his pretrial hearing, defense attorneys for 1st Lt. William Calley, Jr., accused in the 1968 Song My massacre, ask that key classified documents be disclosed that may help shed light on the case. The U.S. government backs a suit against Hillcrest Cemetery brought by Williams’ family, the NAACP, and Mr. and Mrs. John Diehl, who donated the cemetery plot. Five of the nine-member panel of the Selective Service System’s Youth Advisory Committee resign in protest over Nixon’s policies regarding the draft and America’s youth.
August 25: The Senate votes against an amendment to raise the pay of enlisted men—an attempt to create an all-volunteer armed forces. John M. Sweeney, 21, arrives in Stockholm from Moscow with a North Vietnamese passport, asking for political asylum—he says he deserted the U.S. Marines and fought for the VC. In Bangkok, seven American airmen are killed after their bus is struck by an express train.
August 26: The Senate rejects an amendment to stop the Army from using herbicides in Vietnam. Attorneys for Capt. William Lanham, accused in the Song My incident, ask that his trial be moved from “this antiseptic courtroom” to My Lai 4, the hamlet in Song My where the alleged crimes took place. While closing Kham Duc Base, a U.S. helicopter crashes into an American position after it is shot down near Camp Judy by an NVA rocket. Two soldiers are killed, and 30 are listed as missing.
August 27: The U.S. command reports 52 Americans were killed in action in Southeast Asia last week, the lowest weekly toll in three-and-one-half years. A federal district court in Miami orders the all-white Hillcrest Memorial Gardens to bury Williams, the black Vietnam veteran.
August 28: While in South Vietnam, Agnew praises the South Vietnamese people for “suffering so much in freedom’s cause,” and he pledges “there will be no lessening” of U.S. support. He then flies to Phnom Penh, where he tells Lon Nol his country will get U.S. money and arms but no troops. The State Department reports Thailand will withdraw 11,000 troops from South Vietnam because they are needed to protect Thailand’s borders. Thieu hands out the first land titles to peasants as part of a land-reform bill signed five months earlier. In the Central Highlands, a 4th Infantry Division convoy is ambushed near An Khe on Highway 19, leaving six Americans dead. American soldiers accidentally shell a hamlet located 40 miles east of Saigon, killing three civilians.
August 30: Mary Campbell watches as her son is buried in Hillcrest Memorial Gardens. In Danang, Pvt. Randell Herrod is acquitted of the murders of 16 women and children in a February incident in Son Thang village. Agnew, on his way home from Asia, reports that more than half of Cambodia’s communist forces “have been eliminated.” In Portland, Ore., 1,000 march in a “Victory to the Vietnamese People” parade and in protest of the convention of the American Legion, which supports Nixon’s war policies.
August 31: Sen. J.W. Fulbright (D-Ark.) says the Paris peace talks are stalemated because Nixon refuses to make two “key concessions”—to “take away from President Thieu the veto he presently exercises over American policy” and “to commit ourselves to a phased but total American military withdrawal from Vietnam to be completed by a specific date.” Buddhist factions are reported to have won ten of the thirty contested Senate seats in South Vietnam. The Defense Department says deserter John Sweeney has been returned to New York. The International Committee of the Red Cross assails both North and South Vietnam for poor attitudes toward Red Cross inspections of prison camps.
September 1: Fourteen senators send a letter to President Nixon, urging him to propose “an overall cease-fire by all parties throughout Vietnam” at the Paris peace talks. The Senate, by a vote to 55 to 39, defeats the Hatfield-McGovern Amendment to end the war. Two American soldiers are killed in a clash near Xuan Loc, 40 miles east of Saigon. Agnew says the Cambodian government “has at least a fighting chance for survival” because of U.S. and South Vietnamese assaults on enemy sanctuaries there. Cambodian foreign minister Koun Wick says he envisions no solution to the war in his country short of total enemy withdrawal.
September 2: The U.S. command announces the disbanding of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade and the Third Brigade of the Ninth Infantry Division, a total of 10,000 men. At the American Legion convention in Portland, Agnew tells the delegates the “real peace lobby today is composed of those who maintain the peace, not those who disturb it.” The U.S. transfers an Army company of 31 UH-1 helicopters to the South Vietnamese Air Force and Navy. Three Americans are killed and 14 are wounded after a Marine Phantom jet catches fire and explodes at Danang Air Base.
September 3: In Paris, North Vietnamese chief negotiator Xuan Thuy returns to the peace talks after nine months, ending his boycott. The courts deny Cary Donham, a senior at West Point, an order that would direct the Army to release him as a conscientious objector. Australian minister for external affairs William McMahon calls a New York Times article labeling Australian soldiers as “mercenaries—paid, transported, equipped, and commanded by Americans,” as scurrilous and inaccurate. The New York Times issues an apology. South Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky says he will speak at a “Parade for Victory” to be held in Washington.
September 4: In Saigon, 40 disabled veterans are barricaded inside an apartment house after exchanging gunfire with the police and military in an effort to receive better benefits from the government. Three U.S. Army MPs are among the nine wounded. In a televised speech, police warn the veterans they will be killed or sentenced to death if they persist to “attack, resist, or interfere with” the police and the military. One murder charge against Cpl. Kenneth Schiel in the alleged Song My village massacre is dismissed, while Sgt. Charles Hutto is ordered to go before a court-martial for assault with intent to murder. Reports claim the South Vietnamese Embassy in Washington has advised its government in Saigon that Ky’s address at the forthcoming rally in October would not be advisable.
September 5: A U.S. Army signal unit evacuates its base overlooking Qui Nhon after Gen. Creighton Abrams expresses concerns about the possible desecration of two ancient temples.
September 6: The U.S. turns six new UH-1 helicopters over to Cambodia.
September 8: Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird directs the armed services to meet future emergencies with a call-up of reserves, not a reliance on draftees. A joint Thailand-U.S announcement says 9,800 American troops will be withdrawn from Thailand by July 1, 1971. Staff Sgt. David Mitchell, accused in the Song My incident, has one charge of assault with intent to murder dropped. Ky is said to be reconsidering his plan to attend the Parade for Victory rally on October 3 because of “new facts” brought to his attention.
September 9: South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu tells elected city and provincial councilmen that decisions made by the appointed province chief must now be approved by the city or province council. Sgt. Esequiel Torres, charged in the Song My affair, says Gen. William Westmoreland must shoulder the blame for whatever happened at Song My because of his dereliction of duty. Ky says he is still planning to visit the U.S. in October, despite attempts to discourage him.
September 10: Two Thai officials say their government will not be sending troops to Cambodia. This decision is precipitated by the Jakarta Conference, which calls for all foreign troops to withdraw from Cambodia.
September 12: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee discloses it has cost the U.S. $1 billion in the last five years to send 50,000 South Korean troops to South Vietnam. Emory Swank arrives in Phnom Penh. He is the first U.S. ambassador to Cambodia since 1965.
September 13: The U.S. command reports three South Vietnamese civilians were killed and 14 captured for interrogation after U.S. helicopter gunships fired on 21 civilians in a restricted zone near Phan Thiet, 85 miles east of Saigon.
September 14: Nguyen Thi Binh, the Provisional Revolutionay Government’s (PRG) chief negotiator in Paris, says she is still ready for “private talks with the American delegation.”
September 15: Swank presents his credentials to Cambodian Chief of State Cheng Heng.
September 16: At Kansas State University, Nixon tells his audience a “cancerous disease of terror” has spilled onto campuses across the country, causing education its “greatest crisis.”
September 17: The U.S. command reports that in the last six days enemy gunfire has destroyed nine helicopters and damaged eight, killing four U.S. soldiers and wounding six. In Paris, the PRG, with the support of North Vietnam, offers a new plan calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. and foreign troops from South Vietnam by June 30, 1971. In return, the communists promise not to attack the withdrawing forces. The U.S. Navy reports plans to deactivate 58 ships, including the Shangri-La, an aircraft carrier operating off the coast of Vietnam.
September 18: The South Vietnamese foreign ministry dismisses the PRG peace plan as “old, oft-repeated, and absurd.” The South Vietnamese Senate votes to allow Thieu to devalue the piaster for some transactions, but it vetoes the president’s request for other special economic powers.
September 19: Binh says she put forth her peace proposal after contact with other groups in South Vietnam, including South Vietnamese government and Army officials.
September 20: Nixon mails a letter to 900 university administrators and trustees, reiterating their responsibility for restoring “order and discipline.” Eleven Americans are reported killed after two encounters south of the DMZ.
September 22: The Centers for Disease Control attributes the rise in malaria in the U.S. to “a greater number of military cases imported from Vietnam.” Nixon asks Congress to authorize federal intervention into campus arson and bombing incidents. Former astronaut Frank Borman pleads in front of a joint meeting of Congress for greater attention to the plight of American POWs. The Justice Department urges the Supreme Court not to rule on the constitutionality of the Vietnam War, warning of the disastrous military and diplomatic consequences should it rule against the war’s constitutionality.
September 23: Before the UN General Assembly, Thai Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman proposes that the Big Four—France, Britain, the USSR, and the U.S.—help restore peace to Southeast Asia. The Pathet Lao break off peace talks with the Laotian government.
September 24: The Defense Department announces plans to cut three Army divisions over the next nine months to trim defense spending. Former U.S. negotiator W. Averell Harriman says Nixon should consider the PRG’s new peace plan. Donham, who resigned from West Point as of September 16, departs as an enlisted man.
September 25: Henry Kissinger flies to Paris to meet with Ky in an attempt to dissuade him from speaking at Rev. Carl McIntire’s October rally in Washington. Prince Norodom Sihanouk proclaims most members of his government-in-exile are part of the Khmer Rouge, “and the power already belongs to the Cambodian communist party.” The Senate votes to extend veterans’ educational and home-loan benefits to wives and children of POWs and MIAs.
September 26: During a Face the Nation taping, Ky announces he will not attend the Parade for Victory. A Gallup poll shows a majority of U.S. citizens favor the Hatfield-McGovern plan to withdraw all troops from Vietnam by the end of 1971. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) calls for the creation of an international relief organization to help Southeast Asia cope with the “regional crisis of people” resulting from the fighting. In a news conference, 28 members of the Concerned Officers Movement—commissioned officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines—announce they are “morally and politically” against the Vietnam War.
September 27: Two members of Nixon’s Commission on Campus Unrest call the May killings of students at Kent State University and Jackson State University “completely unjustified.” In Washington, D.C., Ky says a cease-fire is “the first step” toward peace for his country.
September 28: At Kent State University, 6,000 people gather in memory of the four students slain by National Guardsmen in May. They end the ceremony by burning draft cards.
September 29: The U.S. Marine base at An Hoa is turned over to the South Vietnamese Army. The South Vietnamese National Assembly sends a bill to Thieu, allowing him to devalue the piaster. Ngo Cong Duc, a national assemblyman, renews his call for a provisional government as a step toward peace.
September 30: Draft boards receive new rules stating those over 26 cannot be inducted unless they had been issued a previous induction before their 26th birthday. In Vung Tau, during a ceremony to honor Australian troops in Vietnam, Gen. Creighton Abrams collapses due to a viral infection.
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