Tuesday, October 31, 2017

I have been writing this blog for a time, nearly nine years, now. during my travels I have come upon a number of memorial sites that try to tell the history of the war and our involvement. a few of these seem to have political agendas, specifically trying to blame JFK for our participation in it. I have been aware and have stated many times on this site that Richard Fitzgibbon was killed in 1956 in "Nam. However Marc Leepson has presented us with a thorough recounting of our history in Vietnam and the buildup of American forces there.

This article originally appeared in the VVA's magazine, The Veteran and is reprinted here with the permission of the magazine and the author.

(Note: some graphics, including a great timeline, would not transfer on to this site.)

When did the Vietnam War start...

                                                     ...and end?


Are you a member of Vietnam Veterans of America? If so, you are a veteran of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard who served on active duty during the Vietnam War.
However, if you are a veteran who served in Vietnam before February 28, 1961, or elsewhere around the world before August 5, 1964—or if your service began after May 7, 1975—you are not eligible to be a VVA member by virtue of the eligibility dates the organization has used since 1999.
This is notwithstanding the fact that thousands of service members put in time in Vietnam in wartime conditions before February 28, 1961, and that more than three dozen Marines lost their lives in the May 15, 1975, Mayaguez incident near Cambodia, which is widely considered the last engagement of the Vietnam War.
Which brings us to the question at hand: How do you determine the start and end of a conflict such as the American war in Vietnam when there was no official declaration of war? And this corollary: Should former military personnel who served in wartime conditions in Vietnam before February 28, 1961, and after May 7, 1975, be considered Vietnam veterans?
There is no easy answer to either question. For starters, the federal government recognizes at least four sets of “official” beginning and ending Vietnam War dates:
  • January 1, 1960, to April 30, 1975: the Department of Defense’s Vietnam Service Medal eligibility beginning and ending dates.
  • February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975: the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 dates that define Vietnam War in-country veterans eligibility for veterans preference. Those dates are also in the 1996 Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act and are part of Title 38 of the U.S. Code, the official compilation of American laws.
  • January 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975: the Department of Veterans Affairs’ dates used to determine in-country veterans who are eligible to be compensated for exposure to Agent Orange.
  • August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975: the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 and 1996 Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act dates that define Vietnam-era veterans (those who served outside Vietnam).
But wait, there’s more. The Pentagon’s U.S. Vietnam War Commemoration recognizes Vietnam veterans as those who served in country from November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975.
And there’s even more: The earliest date of a name listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is June 8, 1956, the date of the death of USAF Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon, Jr.
To complicate matters even more, just three of the beginning dates correspond to something significant that happened in the war:
  • November 1, 1955, the date used by the Commemoration, is when the Military Assistance Advisory Group-Vietnam began operations.
  • February 28, 1961, the beginning date used by the Readjustment Assistance and Veterans Benefits Improvement Acts for Vietnam veterans, is the approximate date that American military advisers began working directly with the South Vietnamese.
  • August 5, 1964, the beginning date used by the Readjustment Assistance and Veterans Benefits Improvement Acts for era veterans, is three days after North Vietnamese PT boats fired on the U.S.S. Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, and two days before Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which is generally regarded as tantamount to a Declaration of War.
Nothing significant in the war effort took place on January 1, 1960, or on January 2, 1962.

Uniformed U.S. military personnel were on the ground in Vietnam starting in September 1945 when World War II (and Japan’s occupation of Vietnam) ended. American troops remained in Vietnam up to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. So the United States—as the noted Vietnam War historian George Herring put it—was “deeply involved” in military matters in Vietnam from early September 1945 until the communist takeover of all of Vietnam on April 30, 1975.
First came a huge U.S. commitment of financial and logistical support for the French in their war against the communist Viet Minh from 1945-54, known as the First Indochina War. The U.S. did not take part directly in the war, but underwrote the French effort with funds and materiel—and a handful of American service personnel on the ground.
After the French defeat in 1954, increasing numbers of U.S. military advisers began working with the fledgling non-communist government of South Vietnam. That started with thirty-five military advisers who arrived in Vietnam in 1950 under the newly created Military Assistance Advisory Group-Indochina, which was formed on August 3, 1950.
That early involvement brought with it the usual consequences of war: service members killed and wounded in action and in accidents. The first American to lose his life in Vietnam was Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey, who was shot in the head in a Viet Minh ambush while riding in a Jeep in Saigon on September 26, 1945. Dewey, an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) officer, was returning from a hospital after visiting another American, Capt. Joseph Coolidge, who had been wounded while returning from Dalat. Dewey’s name is not engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
A handful of other Americans were wounded and killed following the end of the First Indochina War in 1954. They served with the Military Assistance Advisory Group-Vietnam, which took over from the Military Assistance Advisory Group-Indochina on November 1, 1955. MAAG-V was followed by the Military Assistance Command (MACV), which began operations on February 8, 1962, under Gen. Paul Harkins. When Gen. Harkins landed at Tan Son Nhut that day, MACV already had five thousand American military personnel in country.
Most of the MACV troops were advising the Armed Forces of the Republic of (South) Vietnam. “Others, in increasing numbers, served in Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine units providing direct combat and logistical support to the Vietnamese or, in the case of the Navy, patrolling Indochinese coastal waters,” a U.S. Army historian wrote. “These Americans, especially advisers and helicopter crews, were beginning to come under, and return, Viet Cong fire.”
Other early casualties include:
  • U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr., who was shot and killed by a fellow airman in Saigon on June 8, 1956. He is the earliest casualty whose name is engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
  • Army Special Forces Capt. Harry G. Cramer, a West Point graduate, who was killed near Nha Trang on October 21, 1957, during an ARVN Special Forces training mission.
  • Army Maj. Dale Buis and Master Sgt. Chester Ovnand, who died on July 9, 1959, in an ambush as they watched a movie at the U.S. MAAG compound in Long Binh.
  • Navy Lt. Cmdr. George W. Alexander, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Roger H. Mullins, and Navy Chief Petty Officer William W. Newton, who perished in a helicopter crash in Quang Tri Province on February 17, 1960.
  • Spec.4 James T. Davis, who served as an Army Security Agency (ASA) Radio Research Unit advisor to the ARVN and was killed in an ambush along Highway 10 by Viet Cong troops on December 22, 1961.

Determining the end date of the Vietnam War is much less complicated than settling on a beginning date. American military personnel were in harm’s way in Vietnam right until the final troops left Saigon on April 30, 1975. President Ford declared the “Vietnam era” over on May 7, 1975, the reason that two federal government eligibility laws use May 7, 1975, as the end of the “Vietnam era,” and that’s the date in the U.S. Code.
However, on May 15, 1975, thirty-eight Marines, Airmen, and Navy Corpsmen lost their lives in the Mayaguez operation and three men were missing in action. That includes twenty-three USAF personnel who died in a helicopter crash en route to the staging area in Thailand. Their names are the last ones engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. May 15, 1975, also is the date that the Commemoration uses as the end of the Vietnam War.

Next time, on the 5th, we will revisit washington, so join me there at 9:00am.

To see additional memorial from any state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Pennsylvania XXI

I found this memorial while driving through the Borough of West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

It sits at an odd place in an intersection and was very difficult to photograph in the very limited time that I had.

It actually mentions on names or specific engagements on the memorial, just a tribute to all from the borough that participated in our wars.

It is emblems, among the small flags in front the Vietnam and others are actually named.

Located at Ford Street and Front Street in the borough of west Conshohocken.

Next time, on the 31st, we will take a look at the history of our involvement in Vietnam , so join me here at 9:00am., as always.

To see additional memorials from Pennsylvania, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Oklahoma VII

Gano, Oklahoma is located about 75 miles north east of Oklahoma City. My cousin Dan who lives in OK. took me there and I was stunned at the size and scope of their Veterans Memorial. I never actually saw the town so I tried to find a little info about it online. There is virtually nothing.

Anyway, here a few of the pics I took that day.

The site is quite large and has a number of stones listing names of the many that served, Medal of Honor recipients, and other interesting facts.

Also, there is huge anchor and two different tanks.

There are a couple of these citing the major battles of individual wars. Note the dates of Vietnam; 1965 to 1973, I have commented, often, on how we can't even agree on when the war was fought. As I type this I am watching the Ken Burns The Vietnam War program on PBS and in it he cites the first American killed in 'Nam (albeit in a mistaken shot) as Col. Dewey in 1945. I have often mentioned TSGT Richard Fitzgibbons as the first killed after the dividing of the county in 1954. He was killed in 1956 after a number of US solders were sent in 1955, and there were others that followed.

This one lists all those lost in various wars from the Revolution through Desert Storm. I wonder if it has been updated since. If I am ever able to find out, I will update here, too.

Next time, on the 26th, we will venture once again to Pennsylvania, so join me there at 9:00am.

To see additional memorials from Mississippi, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Monday, October 16, 2017

North Carolina XIV

The Guilford County Veterans Memorial is located in Greensboro, North Carolina.

It is a very beautiful location and honors many from the conflicts of the 20th century.

Located along some of the winding inner walls are these plaques attempting to tell the story and this map highlighting areas of Vietnam.

In another location this display cites quotes from soldiers in 'Nam.

They very clearly reflect the patriotism, loneliness and ambivalence of many of those that served. there are a couple of these that are just covered with our thoughts. I think the last one shown here is especially poignant, especially because at least to some degree all of that has changed.

The memorial may be found opposite the National Science Center whose address in 4301 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro.

Next time, on the 21st, we'll take another look at Oklahoma, so meet me there at 9:00am, as always.

To see additional memorials from North Carolina, or any other state, click on the state name on the left side of this page.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New York XIV

I am not even sure just how I came to know about this memorial. Perhaps, my 'Nam buddy John was aware of it as we traveled to others in his area.

It is located at the North Point, NY, VA Medical Center. It is easy to miss so be looking for the sign below. It sits off to the right, behind a building as you drive up the road to the center.

It is a beautiful spot, full of flowers the day we visited.

It was sponsored by Vietnam Veterans of America and pays tribute to all and names a number lost with these blocks of stone.

This eternal flame "burns" for the lost.

I have visited a number of VA Centers in my travels, some seem to have more general memorials, some, like this one, specific, and some, none at all. I don't know if the VA or the states, towns, localities make the decisions about whether to have a memorial, but I am always glad to find one. It just seems fitting to me.

The Center is located at 79 Middleville Road.

On the 16th, we travel back to North Carolina, so see you there, as always, at 9:00am.

To see other memorials from New York, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Mexico XIV

Were it not for the Gadsden Purchase, this memorial would be in Mexico. But, Mesilla became part of the U.S. in 1854 and today, she honors her sons and daughters who have fought in many wars, here.

the memorial honors those who fought in each war from the civil War on. the Civil War was the first engagement after Mesilla entered the US in 1854.This memorial is located on the corner of Calle Del Norte and Avenida De Mesilla.

There seems to be no designation as to branch of service or who might have been lost etc, just honoring service.

As so often happens, those inadvertently omitted are added later.

On the same site is a memorial to all those who were left disabled in some way by their service.

Next time, on October 11th, we will take another look at New York, so join me there at 9:00am.

To see other memorials from New Mexico, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Nebraska XIV

While browsing through my files, at least thinking about organizing them better, I stumbled across this memorial. I knew it was in Nebraska, but could not remember exactly where.

Usually, I find some sign or street sign or something to remind me, but there was just nothing here. I noticed the three dedication marks near the bottom, VFW, DAV, and American Legion, so I looked up their numbers and called but no one could help me, or I haven't heard back from them as of today.

I was eventually able to determine that it is located in Norfolk, Nebraska and then, later, learned that it is in Prospect Hill Cemetery.

It is a combined Korea and Vietnam memorial, listing names of the lost from each.

When I was checking all this out I was surprised to see the Prospect Hill is located on Johnny Carson Blvd. (at Maple Avenue) I guess only those of us of a certain age will consider that interesting. I thought that maybe he was born in Nebraska, but it turns out he was born in Iowa. So...

On our next visit, we will be in New Mexico, so join me there at 9:00am on October 6th..

To see other memorials from Nebraska, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.