Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Saigon Vietnam Falls

Saigon Vietnam Falls

April 30, 1975

Saigon Vietnam Falls

CBS News report of the Fall of Saigon
Saigon Vietnam Falls

A lifetime of war

For some, the Vietnam War had been their entire lifetime. For far too many, the war was the end of their life.

If you were born in the late 50s or early 60s, by 1975 you were a teenager who’d heard about Vietnam as long as you could remember. Perhaps you knew a friend or neighbor whose name would one day be on the Wall in Washington, DC.

Few understood even in 1975 that Vietnam had been a French colony promised independence after World War II; that the French had reneged on that promise and how on September 2, 1945 Ho Chi Minh had declared Vietnam’s independence.

The first lines of his speech repeated verbatim the  second paragraph of our own Declaration of Independence. (see History matters site)

Saigon Vietnam Falls

Gulf of Tonkin

The Gulf of Tonkin may have been the first time we heard the word “Vietnam” when our President Lyndon B Johnson stated that the North Vietnamese had deliberately attacked our ships. It turned out that there was no attack, but given the momentum of anti-Communist fervor and our belief in the Domino Theory, we acquiesced and approved the escalation of our participation.

Saigon Vietnam Falls

Broken promises

Johnson left office because of the war.

Richard Nixon promised he’d end the war. He did, but only after escalating the war and invading Cambodia in 1970. American college campuses erupted in protest. The Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students at Kent State University. 11 days later, police killed two students at Mississippi’s Jackson State.

Saigon Vietnam Falls

Reluctant removal

Finally, on January 23, 1973, Nixon announced that the US and North Vietnam had reached an accord to end the Vietnam War. Later that year, the Nobel committee award the Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger, our chief negotiator, and North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho. Tho refused the honor. Though the war may have ended for Americans, it hadn’t for the Vietnamese. American aid dwindled and later in 1973 the North and South resumed fighting. In January 1974, South Vietnam’s President Thieu declared the accords no longer in effect.

North Vietnam forces advanced south, and by the spring of 1975 were nearing the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon.

Saigon Vietnam Falls

A Ford at the end 

April 1975. Nixon was gone. The Watergate Scandal had destroyed his presidency. President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu asked President Gerald Ford for more financing, we turned down the request. On April 21, Thieu resigned and gave a speech accusing the United States of betraying South Vietnam and Kissinger for signing a treaty that brought about his country’s defeat.

North Vietnamese troops overran Saigon on April 30, forcing South Vietnam to surrender and bring about an end to the war. (see NYT article]

Related link >>> Fall of Saigon

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Hero Milton L Olive III

Hero Milton L Olive III

November 7, 1946 – October 22, 1965

Milton L. Olive III and fellow members of the 3rd Platoon of Company B had been making their way through the jungles to locate Viet Cong operating in the area. As the soldiers pursued the enemy, a grenade was thrown into the middle of them. Olive grabbed the grenade and fell on it, absorbing the blast with his body.

Hero Milton L Olive III

18 years old

His actions saved the lives of his platoon members. President Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to Olive’s parents on his behalf on April 21, 1966.


Milton L. Olive III was the first African-American Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War. There would be an additional twenty-one African-Americans recipients. (There were 259 total.)


Milton L Olive III
President Lyndon Johnson presents Medal of Honor, posthumously, to parents of
PFC Milton L. Olive, III for his act of gallantry in Vietnam.”
Source: Department of Defense
Hero Milton L Olive III

Citation

The citation read: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. Olive was a member of the 3d Platoon of Company B, as it moved through the jungle to find the Viet Cong operating in the area. Although the platoon was subjected to a heavy volume of enemy gunfire and pinned down temporarily, it retaliated by assaulting the Viet Cong positions, causing the enemy to flee. As the platoon pursued the insurgents, Pfc. Olive and 4 other soldiers were moving through the jungle together with a grenade was thrown into their midst. Pfc. Olive saw the grenade, and then saved the lives of his fellow soldiers at the sacrifice of his by grabbing the grenade in his hand and falling on it to absorb the blast with his body. Through his bravery, unhesitating actions, and complete disregard for his safety, he prevented additional loss of life or injury to the members of his platoon. Pfc. Olive’s extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.”


Hero Milton L Olive III

LBJ’s words

Below is a link to a sound file with President Lyndon B Johnson’s remarks at the ceremony. He began those remarks with the following words:


                 “Mr. and Mrs. Olive, members of the Olive family, distinguished Mayor Daley, Secretary Resor, General Wheeler, Members of the Senate, Members of the House, ladies and gentlemen,


               There are occasions on which we take great pride, but little pleasure. This is one such occasion. Words can never enlarge upon acts of heroism and duty, but this Nation will never forget Milton Lee Olive III.


               President Harry Truman once said that he would far rather have won the Medal of Honor than to have been the President of the United States. I know what he meant. Those who have earned this decoration are very few in number. But true courage is very rare. This honor we reserve for the most courageous of all of our sons.


               The Medal of Honor is awarded for acts of heroism above and beyond the call of duty. It is bestowed for courage demonstrated not in blindly overlooking danger, but in meeting it with eyes clearly open.


               And that is what Private Olive did. When the enemy’s grenade landed on that jungle trail, it was not merely duty which drove this young man to throw himself upon it, sacrificing his own life that his comrades might continue to live. He was compelled by something that’s more than duty, by something greater than a blind reaction to forces that are beyond his control.


Milton L Olive III

The video of the narration/music at top of this entry

Hero Milton L Olive III
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National Security Action Memorandum 328

National Security Action Memorandum 328

April 6, 1965

National Security Action Memorandum 328


              Wars rarely start without warning. Perhaps the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise, yet their aggression was not.


             War in Vietnam was not new in 1965. France had promised its colony independence after World War II. On September 2, 1945 Ho Chi Minh declared that independence. His proclamation paraphrased the U.S. Declaration of Independence: “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!


             War with the French ensued. Ho Chi Minh defeated them and the US, under President Eisenhower, stepped in in the mid-1950s. Eisenhower was sure that a Communist ruled Vietnam would lead to Communism throughout southeast Asia. The Domino Theory.


              At first we sent advisors, but as time exposed the weakness and corruption of the so-called democratic South Vietnam, the United States, now under President Lyndon B Johnson, decided to change from advisors to attackers.


National Security Action Memorandum 328


                   The US National Security Council meetings on April 1 and 2 in 1965 were about what we should do regarding Vietnam. The people of the United States found out on April 6.


President Johnson authorized the National Security Action Memorandum 328: the use of ground troops in combat operations in Vietnam.


The memorandum authorized U.S. personnel to take the offensive in South Vietnam to secure “enclaves” and to support South Vietnamese operations. The so-called “enclave strategy” called for the U.S. forces to control the densely-populated coastal areas while the South Vietnamese forces moved inland to fight the communists.


                This memorandum represented a major mission change for the American soldiers and Marines who had recently arrived in Vietnam. American forces had been limited to strictly defensive operations around the U.S. air bases, but the memorandum authorized them to go on the offensive to secure large areas of terrain, an escalation of U.S. involvement in the war.


               On July 28 that year, Johnson explained why we were in Vietnam.



Today,  there are 58,307 names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.


National Security Action Memorandum 328

National Security Action Memorandum 328

National Security Action Memorandum 328

National Security Action Memorandum 328

National Security Action Memorandum 328

National Security Action Memorandum 328

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