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Vietnam at 50 - 1967

 1st Cavalry soldiers return to their LZ Ross base camp on Jan. 20, 1968.

The sparks that kindled the flames of war

Viewed through the prism of time, the years after World War II can seem like an idyllic era, with U.S. power supreme, the middle class thriving and families living stable “Ozzie and Harriet” lives after decades of war and economic depression. In reality, those years were also a time of legal racial discrimination, marginalization of women and an ever-present fear of nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Soviet Union.

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1967: Love, protest, music and ‘madness'

By Dianna Cahn

Stars and Stripes

1967 was a time of change and hard questions, a coming of age for a generation with bipolar views about the war. It was the year that those who answered the call to serve and those who burned their draft cards battled for the identity of their generation, and when Martin Luther King Jr. famously said he could no longer be silent in the face of the “madness” in Vietnam.

TIMELINE | The major battles of '67

  1. Operation Cedar Falls

    Roughly 16,000 soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions, 173rd Airborne Brigade and 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment joined 14,000 South Vietnamese troops near Saigon. The largest offensive of the Vietnam War to date, this purge of the Iron Triangle and the Thanh Dien Forest Preserve led to the discovery of an enormous tunnel complex. More than 700 Viet Cong died, along with more than 80 Allied troops.

  2. Operation Junction City

    This operation was designed to drive entrenched Viet Cong forces away from urban areas into places where American bombardments would be more effective and cause less collateral damage. 22 U.S. battalions, with 25,000 troops, alongside four South Vietnamese battalions engaged in Tay Ninh province. The first day of the operation saw a record number of aircraft sorties – 575 – for one day of combat. More than 2,700 Viet Cong and other enemy forces died by the end of the operation on March 17.

  3. The Hill Fights

    Also known as the First Battle of Khe Sanh, these battles for Hills 881 North, 881 South and Hill 861 took place between the U.S. Marines and the People’s Army of Vietnam and the North Vietnamese Army. The Marines eventually captured all three hills after weeks of fighting, but at a loss of 155 dead Americans. Enemy causalities were much higher, with 940 confirmed dead.

  4. Operation Union II

    The 5th Marine Regiment launched this search-and-destroy mission in a successful attempt to wrestle control of Que Son Valley from the 2nd Division of the People’s Army of Vietnam. They were supported by the 1st South Vietnamese Army Regiment and the 1st ARVN Ranger Group.

    A large segment of South Vietnamese troops left the battle prematurely, believing enemy forces had been driven out of the area. Marine Col. Kenneth Houghton, who also fought in World War II and the Korean War, disagreed and his Marines continued to sweep the valley. Days of bloody fighting continued after hidden enemy forces were uncovered. 701 enemy troops were killed, along with 101 Marines.

  5. Operation Buffalo

    More than 3,000 U.S. Marines fought the North Vietnamese in this 12-day operation in the southern half of the DMZ, near Con Thien. The fighting was on-and-off again, due to the shifting presence of the NVA. It was a bloody battle for the Marines, with 845 wounded and 159 killed in action. The NVA fared much worse with 1,290 confirmed dead, 164 bunkers destroyed and 100 NVA weapons captured.

  6. Operation Swift

    The 1st Marine Division, 5th Marine Regiment, again engaged in combat in Que Son Valley. Company D was ambushed early in the morning of Sept. 4 by NVA troops. Hours of fighting left the company in dire need of assistance. Company B left its forward operating base to help, as did a cadre of Huey gunships. Companies K and M joined the fray. Many Marines lost their lives in the ambush and ensuing clearing operations. Sgt. Lawrence Peters and Navy Chaplain Lt. Vincent Capodanno would each receive a posthumous Medal of Honor. 127 Marines were killed. The 1st NVA Regiment was decimated, with about 600 casualties.

  7. First Battle of Loc Ninh

    The 9th Viet Cong Division launched an attack on the South Vietnamese outpost at Loc Ninh on Oct. 29. The U.S. Army’s 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, reinforced the base. The battle was a success in some regard – 1,000 Viet Cong died – but a tactical failure. American forces were dispersed throughout the countryside surrounding the cities, which is what People's Army of Vietnam Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap had hoped for. This was one of the opening tactical maneuvers of the soon-to-come Tet Offensive.

  8. Battle of Dak To

    Roughly 4,500 American soldiers, most from the 4th Infantry Division and 173rd Airborne Brigade, met 6,000 enemy forces in 19 days of bloody fighting. The NVA was attempting to wipe out the American forces, but failed. The U.S. forces decimated three enemy regiments to the point of non-operational status, taking them out before the Tet Offensive. Still, the battle was costly for the Americans, with 376 killed and 1,441 wounded. Between 1,000 and 2,000 enemy forces were killed. Three soldiers from the 173rd -- Maj. Charles J. Watters, Pfc. John A. Barnes III and Pfc. Carlos Lozada – received posthumous Medals of Honor for their part in the battle in Kon Tum province.

  9. Operation Wheeler/Wallowa

    The infamous My Lai massacre happened under the auspices of this multistage operation - a way for the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Brigade and 25th Infantry Division to fend off an offensive by the People’s Army of Vietnam so that the 3rd Marine Task Force could move to Quang Tri province. Wallowa involved the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division sweeping Hiep Duc-Que Son Valley well into the next year. 110 Americans lost their lives, along with more than 800 enemy fatalities.

  10. Battle of Tam Quan

    The 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry Regiment, faced off against a fortified NVA regiment and elements of the 3rd NVA Division near Tam Quan. The U.S. caused the destruction of two battalions within the 22nd NVA Regiment, which had begun preparations for the Tet Offensive. 58 Americans died in the 18-day battle, along with more than 650 NVA soldiers.

FACT AND FICTION

  • Charlie Company, 1967: an unlikely friendship

    From massive moments of traditional warfare like Operation Junction City, to battles in defense of exposed and vulnerable Marine bases along the Demilitarized Zone like Con Thien, to stealthy long-range reconnaissance patrols – American forces across the length and breadth of South Vietnam sought to bring overwhelming firepower to bear on their North Vietnamese and Viet Cong foes.

  • Vietnam and Hollywood: The realism quotient

    As far as authenticity is concerned, Hollywood’s Vietnam War films have run the gamut from uncannily realistic to cartoonishly foolish. The producers and directors of the most realistic films have gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure everything you see and hear on screen is as close to the real things as possible. Other directors, well, have not. Which are the best of the best? Read to find out.

High school with highest death rate in Vietnam embraces its legacy

By Nikki Wentling

Stars and Stripes

Thomas Alva Edison High School in Philadelphia had the highest casualty rate during the Vietnam War of any high school in the United States – a fact that’s confirmed by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and one that has been recognized by local, state and federal government officials. It’s a designation the school has embraced.

American deaths by year

Chronicling the war

  • Documentarians peel back decades of pain in 'Vietnam'

    The camera captured something unthinkable: American veterans going back to Vietnam and embracing men who once tried to kill them. It’s a culminating chapter in the long journey home from war for these veterans and it punctuates the final episode of “The Vietnam War,” the epic documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

  • Vietnam War journalists share examples of courage

    Vietnam-era war correspondents wore uniforms, ate field rations and shared many of the deprivations and dangers of ordinary fighting men. Five decades later, their ranks are thinning but those who remain are still telling stories.

US, Communists locked in a bloody stalemate, each looking for an edge

By John Vandiver

Stars and Stripes

The year 1967 was a turning point in the war, a period of violent escalation when the U.S. military deployed larger troop formations, waged bigger battles and killed hundreds of enemy fighters. The Communists, meanwhile, learned from their losses.

GALLERY | A day in the life of Alpha Company