All U.S. actions from 1954 onward are illegal:

  • The U.S. attack to resume the 1889–1954 U.S. presence is aggression, which Nuremberg prohibits.
  • The U.S. leads in breaking the Geneva Accords by pressuring France to abandon its duties to administer and to prevent any military alliance, hostilities, or aggressive policy.

1965: Major escalation of the American war; by the end of the year, U.S. troops in Vietnam total 184,314.

January 1965 A 2000 man contingent of South Korean Army forces arrive as part of the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) allied agreement to assist the Republic of (South) Vietnam.

January 1, 1965 Battle for Bình Giã; the first time the National Liberation Front (NLF) launched a large-scale operation, holding its ground and fighting for 4 days against government troops equipped with armor, artillery and helicopters, and aided by U.S. air support and military advisers.

January 18, 1965 One month before his assassination, Malcolm X denounces United States involvement in Vietnam: “It shows the real ignorance of those who control the American power structure. If France, with all types of heavy arms, as deeply entrenched as she was in what was called Indochina, couldn’t stay there, I don’t see how anybody in their right mind can think the U.S. can get in there – it’s impossible. So it shows her ignorance, her blindness, her lack of foresight and hindsight; and her complete defeat in South Vietnam is only a matter of time.”

January 26, 1965 Armed Forces Council (AFC) removes Trần Văn Hương as RVN (Republic of Vietnam) Prime Minister and installs Nguyễn Xuân Oánh. President Phan Khắc Sửu remains in power.

February 7, 1965 The National Liberation Front (NLF) attacks Camp Holloway near at Pleiku in the Central Highlands, killing 8 and wounding 62 Americans. National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy later remarked that “the incident at Pleiku was like a streetcar”; an excuse for an already planned, expanded war that would come along sooner or later like a streetcar. Retaliatory bombing against the DRV (North Vietnam) is launched (Operation Flaming Dart).

February 9, 1965 Soviet Prime Minister Kosygin promises increased aid to the DRV.

February 10–11, 1965 NLF sappers blow up an enlisted men’s billet in Qui Nhơn killing 19-23 American servicemen. Operation Flaming Dart II launched in response, with USAF, VNAF, and Navy aircraft striking targets north of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone between the North and the South located at the Ben Hai River, which enters the South China Sea at 17 degrees 0 minutes 54 seconds N latitude, or roughly speaking the 17th parallel).

February 17, 1965 Gallup Poll: 60% favor a UN force for Southeast Asia.

February 27, 1965 State Department issues 14,000 word White Paper entitled “Aggression from the North—

The Record of North Vietnam’s Campaign to Conquer South Vietnam,” arguing that the war in the South is not indigenous, but solely a war of aggression from the North.  For a classic refutation of the White Paper, see I. F. Stone, “Refutation of the ’White Paper’” in Marvin E. Gettleman, Jane Franklin, Marilyn B. Young, H. Bruce Franklin, Vietnam and America: A Documented History (NY: Grove Press, 1995), pp. 268-274 or in I. F. Stone’s Weekly (Washington, D. C., March 8, 1965), pp. 1-4. For similar comments by Stone, see I.F. Stone, “An Exercise in Self-Delusion,” The New York Review (April 22, 1965).

March 2, 1965 U.S. Air Force launches Rolling Thunder, the sustained bombing campaign against Viet Nam-DRVN. The air strikes are designed to convince the North Vietnamese to cease their support of the insurgency in the South. It continues off and (mostly) on until October 31, 1968.

March 8, 1965 Two battalions (3,500 soldiers) of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) land at Đà Nẵng to strengthen the security of the air base, which is being used as part of the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against North Vietnam. They join the 24,000 US military advisers already in Vietnam.

March 9, 1965 President Johnson authorizes the use of napalm, a petroleum-based substance mixed with a thickening agent into a gel that would burn continuously and stick to anything it touched.   Napalm was widely used by US and South Vietnamese forces.

March 16, 1965 An 82-year-old Detroit woman named Alice Herz burned herself to death to make a statement against the horrors of the war.

March 17, 1965 CIA estimates that the NLF has 37,000 regulars and approximately 100,000 irregulars in South Vietnam.

March 20, 1965 The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommends that U.S. and Allied forces be introduced with a mission to assume the offensive against the NLF.

March 24–25, 1965 First anti-war teach-in held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Despite three bomb threats, the event was attended by about 3,500 and consisted of debates, lectures, movies, and musical events aimed at protesting the war. Speakers included: Robert Browne, was an economist at Farleigh Dickinson University, who had spent three years in Vietnam as a State Department adviser; John Donahue, a Michigan State University anthropology professor who had done field work in Vietnam; Arthur Waskow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Hundreds of students stayed until 8:00 AM to discuss the war. Teach-ins spread to campuses around the country over the next few months, including a National Teach-In day on May 15.

March 26,1965 Teach-in at Columbia University in New York City attended by 2,500 students.

March 30, 1965 A car bomb explodes outside the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. 2 Americans and 20 Vietnamese are killed. Nearly 200 people are wounded.

April 1, 1965 In National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 328, President Johnson approves the deployment of two addition Marine Battalions and an 18-20,000 man increase in U.S. forces to “fill out existing units and supply needed logistic personnel.” NSAM 328 also changes the security mission of U.S. in forces in Vietnam “to permit their more active use”.

April 7, 1965 President Johnson gives a major Vietnam address at Johns Hopkins University, in response to the growing campus protest activity. The Johns Hopkins speech is the first major example of the political impact of campus demonstrations. (Johnson’s speech: New York Times, April 8, 1965)

April 11, 1965 Two additional Marine Battalions begin landing at Phú Bài and Đà Nẵng.

April 17, 1965 15-25,000 people march against the war in Washington DC in a demonstration called by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Speakers included senator Ernest Gruening, journalist I. F. Stone, civil rights activist Robert Moses, and SDS President Paul Potter, who urged: “We must name that system. We must name it, describe it, analyze it, understand it, and then change it. For it is only when that system is brought under control that there can be any hope for stopping the forces that create a war in Vietnam today or a murder in the South tomorrow or all the incalculable, innumerable more subtle atrocities that are worked on people all over, all of the time.” See his talk at http://www.antiauthoritarian.net/sds_wuo/sds_documents/paul_potter.html. There was also music by Joan Baez, the Freedom Singers, and Phil Ochs.

April 20, 1965 Honolulu Conference – Senior officials meet and propose sending an additional 17 U.S. / Free   World Battalions to South Vietnam to establish four brigade-sized enclaves at Biên Hòa-Vũng Tàu, Chu Lai, Qui Nhơn and Quảng Ngãi.

May 3, 1965  Cambodian government led by neutralist Prince Norodom Sihanouk, breaks relations with the U.S. after attacks on two Cambodian villages in April 1965 by South Vietnamese forces.

May 5, 1965 173rd Airborne Brigade arrives at Biên Hòa-Vũng to secure the air base, becoming the first regular army combat unit to deploy in South Vietnam. Several hundred people carrying a black coffin march to the Berkeley, California, draft board, and 40 men burned their draft cards.

May 11, 1965 NLF temporarily overruns Sông Bé, the capital of Phước Long Province.

May 13, 1965 U.S. pauses Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against North Vietnam to test Hanoi’s willingness to negotiate. Bombing resumes on May 18th.

May 21–23, 1965 The largest Vietnam teach-in was held on May 21–23 at UC Berkeley. The event was organized by the Vietnam Day Committee (VDC), a group founded by ex-grad student (sociology) and future YIPPIE, Jerry Rubin, UCB Professor Stephen Smale (Mathematics), and others. From 10-30,000 people turned out. The State Department was invited by the VDC to send a representative, but declined. UC Berkeley professors Eugene Burdick (Political Science) and Robert A. Scalapino (Political Science), who had agreed to speak in defense of President Johnson’s handling of the war, withdrew at the last minute. An empty chair was set aside on the stage with a sign reading “Reserved for the State Department” taped to the back.

Participants in the event included Dr. Benjamin Spock; veteran socialist leader Norman Thomas; novelist Norman Mailer; independent journalist I. F. Stone and historian Isaac Deutscher. Other speakers included: California Assemblymen Willie Brown, William Stanton and John Burton; Dave Dellinger (political activist); James Aronson (National Guardian magazine); philosopher Alan Watts; comedian Dick Gregory; Paul Krassner (editor, The Realist); Bob Moses (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee); Jack Barnes (National Chair of the Young Socialist Alliance); Mario Savio (Free Speech Movement); Paul Potter (Students for a Democratic Society); and Mike Meyerson (national head of the Du Bois Clubs of America). British philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell sent a taped message to the teach-in. Faculty participants included Professor Staughton Lynd (Yale); Professor Gerald Berreman (Chair, UCB Anthropology Dept.); and Professor Aaron Wildavsky (Political Science and Public Policy). Performers included folk singer Phil Ochs; the improv group: The Committee; and others. See http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificaviet.html#1965 for recordings of events.

June 1965 Richard Steinke, a West Point graduate in Vietnam, refuses to board an aircraft taking him to a remote Vietnamese village, stating the war, “is not worth a single American life”

June 7, 1965 General Westmoreland requests more troops to prevent the ARVN from being defeated. He asks for a 35 battalion U.S. / 3rd Country force and identified 9 additional battalions which may be required at a later date. The appeal was subsequently dubbed the “the 44 Battalion request”.

June 8, 1965 State Dept. Press Officer Robert McCloskey tells the press “American forces would be available to fight alongside Vietnamese forces when and if necessary.”

1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiments arrives in RVN.

June 12, 1965 RVN Prime Minister Phan Huy Quát is forced to resign.

June 16, 1965 A planned anti-war march on the Pentagon turns into a five-hour teach-in on the Pentagon steps and inside of the facility. In two days, more than 50,000 leaflets are distributed without interference at the entrances and inside the building.

June 18, 1965 First Arc Light mission – B-52s strike NLF targets near Saigon.

June 19, 1965 Air Vice Marshall Nguyễn Cao Kỳ becomes Prime Minister of RVN (South Vietnam). Major General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu assumes role of Chief of State as the eighth military government since the overthrow of Ngô Đình Diệm comes to power.

June 26, 1965 General Westmoreland given the authority to commit U.S. forces to combat in support of ARVN (the army of South Vietnam) forces.

June 27, 1965 The first major ground combat operation by U.S. forces in the Vietnam War – 173rd Airborne together with Australian and ARVN troops begin a ‘search and destroy’ operation into the NLF base area of War Zone “D” northwest of Saigon.

“End Your Silence,” an open letter, is published in the New York Times by the group Artists and Writers Protest against the War in Vietnam.

July 1965 Young Blacks in McComb, Mississippi, learn one of their classmates was killed in Vietnam and distribute a leaflet saying “No Mississippi Negroes should be fighting in Viet Nam for the White man’s freedom”.   The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party circulates a leaflet entitled “The War on Vietnam: A McComb, Mississippi, Protest” which outlines “five reasons why Negroes should not be in any war fighting for America.” Among the reasons: “No one has a right to ask us to risk our lives and kill other Colored People in Santo Domingo and Vietnam, so that the White American can get richer. We will be looked upon as traitors by all the Colored People of the world if the Negro people continue to fight and die without a cause.”

A Women Strike for Peace (WSP) delegation led by Cora Weiss meets its North Vietnamese and NLF counterpart in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Vietnam Day Committee organized militant protest in Oakland, California ends when the organizers stop the march from Oakland to Berkeley to avoid a confrontation with police.

July 12, 1965 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division arrives in Vietnam.

July 20, 1965 U.S Army, Vietnam (USARV) is established, replacing the U.S. Army Support Command, Vietnam (USASCV).

Ho Chi Minh claims that his people are willing to fight for 20 years or more until they win.

July 24, 1965 First U.S. aircraft downed by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) over North Vietnam.

July 28 President Johnson announces U.S. troop levels will increase to 125,000 men and additional forces will be needed later. As a result the monthly draft call will rise from 17,000 to 35,000.

July 29, 1965 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division deploys near Cam Ranh Bay.

July 30, 1965  A man from the Catholic Worker Movement is photographed burning his draft card on Whitehall Street in Manhattan in front of the Armed Forces Induction Center. His photograph appears in Life magazine in August.

August 1965 Organized by the Vietnam Day Committee, several hundred people try on several occasions to stop troop trains on the Santa Fe railroad tracks in West Berkeley and Emeryville by standing on the tracks.

August 5, 1965 CBS airs a report by Morley Safer (CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite) that shows Marines lighting the thatched roofs of the village of Cam Ne with Zippo lighters, and includes critical commentary on the treatment of the villagers. The story generates an angry reaction from Lyndon Johnson.

August 17, 1965 U.S. Marines begin Operation Starlite against the NLF in the Van Tường peninsula, the largest American military operation of the war to date.

September 14, 1965 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) arrives in the Southern Region of Viet Nam.

October 8, 1965 The first elements of a Republic of Korea (ROK) infantry Division arrive in Vietnam.

October 15, 1965 Antiwar rallies are held in four U.S. cities, the largest in New York and Berkeley.

David J. Miller burns his draft card at the New York City rally held near the Armed Forces Induction Center on Whitehall Street in Manhattan. The 24-year-old pacifist, member of the Catholic Worker Movement, became the first man arrested and convicted under the 1965 amendment to the 1948 Selective Service Act. At UC Berkeley, a Teach-In on campus is followed by a march on the Oakland Army induction center. Some 15,000 demonstrators left the campus marching toward Oakland. 5000 return the next day.

October 15–16, 1965 First ‘International Days of Protest. Antiwar demonstrations in London, Rome, Brussels, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

October 19, 1965 The People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN — North Vietnamese) launched a major attack on the Special Forces camp at Plei Me in the Central Highlands to draw the US Air Calvary into battle. The assault was eventually repelled on October 25th.

October 30, 1965 Pro-Vietnam War march in New York City with 25,000.

November 2, 1965 In front of the Pentagon in Washington, as thousands of employees were streaming out of the building in the late afternoon, Norman Morrison, a 32-year-old pacifist, father of three, stood below the third-floor windows of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, doused himself with kerosene, and set himself afire, giving up his life in protest against the war. While first derided and then ignored in the US, Norman R. Morrison became an immediate hero to the Vietnamese after his self-immolation. Within a month of his death, a national postage stamp was issued in Hanoi showing a smiling face of Norman in the heavens overlooking gatherings of U.S. demonstrators. A street was named after him in Hanoi. Trucks moving south along the Ho Chi Minh Trail were seen carrying large photographs of him in their front windows. Posters of Morrison were displayed in factories with the motto, THE FLAMES OF MORRISON WILL NEVER DIE! In May 1967, two American visitors to Hanoi’s Revolutionary Museum saw huge photographs of both Morrison and Alice Herz (see entry for March 26, 1965). (See this essay by S. Brian Willson for more about how the Vietnamese reacted to Morrison’s act.

November 6, 1965 Thomas C. Cornell, Marc Paul Edelman and Roy Lisker burn their draft cards at a public rally organized by the Committee for Non-Violent Action in Union Square, New York City.

November 14–18, 1965 The first major battle of the Vietnam War involving U.S. forces – In the Ia Drang valley of the Central Highlands, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) uses helicopter assault tactics to inflict heavy losses on the Vietnamese People’s Army (PAVN). The Americans used air mobility, artillery fire and close air support to accomplish battlefield objectives. The PAVN and NLF forces learned that they could neutralize that firepower by quickly engaging American forces at very close range. The North Vietnamese Colonel Nguyễn Hữu An included his lessons from the battle, “Move inside the column, grab them by the belt, and thus avoid casualties from the artillery and air.” Both Westmoreland and An thought this battle to be a success. This battle was one of the few set piece battles of the war and was one of the first battles to popularize the U.S. concept of the “body count” as a measure of success, as the US military claimed that the kill ratio was nearly 10–1.

November 27, 1965 ARVN 7th Regiment is overrun at Michelin Plantation.

The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) sponsors a March on Washington in 1965. Estimates of attendance range from 15,000–35,000. Speakers include Dr. Spock, Coretta King, and Norman Thomas, as well as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) President Carl Oglesby, who responds to Paul Potter’s demand at the April 17 antiwar demonstration that we name the system with the term “corporate liberalism” and laments that “others will make of it that I sound mighty anti-American. To these, I say: Don’t blame me for that! Blame those who mouthed my liberal values and broke my American heart.”

December 16–17, 1965 High school students in Des Moines, Iowa, are suspended for wearing black armbands to “mourn the deaths on both sides” and in support of Robert Kennedy’s call for a Christmas truce. The students sued the Des Moines School District, resulting in the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of the students, Tinker v. Des Moines

December 24, 1965 President Johnson orders a halt to the bombing of the Northern Region of Viet Nam-DRVN to test the DRVN reaction.

December 31, 1965 U.S. military personnel in the southern region of Vietnam number 184,314; 636 Americans are killed in action.

NOTE: Estimates of total Vietnamese deaths in the American War (north and south, military and civilian) are harder to come by, though a 2008 study by the British Medical Journal estates total deaths from 1954–75 at 3.8 million (higher than most western estimates), and an official estimate of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (the postwar government) puts the number at 3.1 million. See http://mattsteinglass.wordpress.com/2008/06/20/vietnam-war-killed-38-million-vietnamese-not-21-million/ and http://www.bmj.com/content/336/7659/1482.full#REF16 .

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