"The Pentagon Papers Revisited: Legacy and Lessons in Transparency and Truth" by Scott Lyons

Studying the Pentagon Papers remains relevant today, as there are ongoing concerns about transparency and honesty from the current administration in the U.S. Pundits and analysts have shown Joe Biden and members of his administration of not being forthright and honest with Congress and the American public on critical policy decisions and issues adversely affecting domestic security and public safety, drawing comparisons to the lack of transparency revealed by the Pentagon Papers about the Johnson administration's handling of the Vietnam War. While the contexts differ, the underlying issues of government accountability, truthfulness, and the public's right to know are pertinent in both cases. The Pentagon Papers, one of history's most pivotal leaks, underscores a haunting reality: the often chasmic disconnect between government rhetoric and reality, particularly in times of war. The transparency brought forth by the unprecedented release of the Pentagon Papers reshaped public discourse…

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"22 February 1967: Operation Junction City: The First U.S. Army Combat Airborne Operation in Vietnam Begins" by Scott Lyons

Operation Junction City was an 82-day military operation that took place during the Vietnam War in 1967. The operation was a joint effort between United States and Republic of Vietnam (RVN) forces aimed at locating the elusive Communist uprising in South Vietnam, the Central Office of South Vietnam. The operation involved the equivalent of nearly three divisions of U.S. troops and was the first U.S. combat airborne operation since the Korean War. The grand tactical plan for Junction City involved a "hammer and anvil" tactic, with airborne forces "flushing out" the VC headquarters and driving it against a prepared "anvil" of other forces. The U.S. forces included most of the 1st Infantry Division and the 25th Infantry Division, including the airborne troops of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and large armored elements of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The initial operation was carried out by the 1st and 25th infantry divisions, who led their forces to the north of the operational area…

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"13 March 1954: Prologue to Vietnam: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu Begins" by Scott Lyons

The occurrence of significant historical events is never a coincidence, especially when it comes to major conflicts and wars throughout history. These events are shaped by a multitude of political, economic, imperialistic, and societal factors that are instrumental in propelling countries into war. The Vietnam War, for instance, cannot be fully understood without considering the aftermath of World War II. One indelible event that ought to be considered in this context is the pivotal Battle of Dien Bien Phu. This battle was a significant turning point in Vietnamese history, and it marked the end of French colonial influence in the region. It lasted for over two months, from March to May 1954, and had a detrimental effect on both sides of the war. Dien Bien Phu was fought between French troops, who aimed to maintain their empire by controlling Indochina, and Vietnamese soldiers, who were motivated by the desire to reclaim their sovereignty. The Vietnamese were ultimately successful,…

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"31 January 1968: The War in Vietnam Turns: The Battle of Hue Begins" by Scott Lyons

The Battle of Hue, also known as the Siege of Hue, was one of the most significant and bloody events of the Vietnam War. The intense fighting between the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces, and U.S. Marines and Army soldiers and ARVN (South Vietnamese troops) lasted from 31 January to 2 March 1968, resulting in the death of thousands of soldiers and civilians. This battle challenged the confidence of the American public, who increasingly questioned the U.S. military involvement in the conflict. The battle for the city of Hue was a significant moment in the larger military operations that were being conducted across Vietnam. The city was a vital transportation hub on the vital coastal Highway 1, which was essential to the supply routes used by both the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the United States military. Subsequently, controlling Hue was a high priority for the North Vietnamese. Strategically, control over the city would have been a significant blow to the Allied…

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"21 January 1968: Fighting in the Hills; The Battle of Khe Sanh begins" by Scott Lyons

The Battle of Khe Sanh, which took place in the Khe Sanh area of northwestern Quảng Trị Province, Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), during the Vietnam War, is often considered one of the most significant battles of the conflict. The battle was fought from 21 January to 9 July 1968, between two divisional-size elements of the North Vietnamese People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and two regiments of the United States Marine Corps (6000 strong), with support from the United States Army, the U.S. Air Force, and a small number of Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops. At the outset, the US command in Saigon believed that the combat operations around KSCB during 1967 were part of a series of minor PAVN offensives on the border regions. However, the PAVN was actually moving major forces into the area, and US forces were built up, preemptively, before the Marine base was isolated and came under siege. For five months, KSCB and the hilltop outposts around it were subjected to constant…

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"14-18 November 1965: The U.S. Army's First Major Fight in Vietnam - The Battle of Ia Drang Valley" by Scott Lyons

The Battle of Ia Drang during the Vietnam War is a significant military engagement that is notable for being the first major battle between the United States Army and the People's Army of Vietnam. The battle was part of the Pleiku Campaign conducted early in the Vietnam War at the eastern foot of the Chu Pong Massif in the central highlands of Vietnam in 1965. The battle is significant because it set the blueprint for the Vietnam War, with the U.S. forces relying on air mobility, artillery fire, and close air support, while the PAVN neutralized that firepower by quickly engaging American forces at very close range. The Battle of Ia Drang formed part of the wider Operation Silver Bayonet, a US military offensive designed to search and destroy NVA forces in the central highlands of Vietnam. The goal of the operation was to clear the Chu Pong Massif, a range of hills located on the border of Vietnam and Cambodia, of NVA troops. The U.S. military hoped that the successful execution of the…

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"26 October 1967: Years of Enduring Torment: Lieutenant Commander John McCain, USN Shot Down over Hanoi" by Scott Lyons

Known in recent years before his death in 2018 as a 'maverick' politician, the late  Arizona senator was a U.S. Navy pilot whose five-and-a-half year struggle as a POW in North Vietnam became legendary. John Sidney McCain III was born on 29 August 1936, in the Panama Canal Zone. Growing up in a military family, he was exposed to the navy life at an early age. McCain's father and grandfather were both four-star admirals in the U.S. Navy, and he followed their footsteps to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated in 1958. His father John S. McCain Jr. reached the rank of admiral and served in World War II, Korean War, and the Vietnam War. His grandfather, John S. McCain Sr. served in both World War I and II. During the Vietnam War, he volunteered for combat duty and served as a ground-attack pilot. In this role, he flew low-altitude bombing runs on the North Vietnamese. McCain's bravery and skill in the air were put to the test in July of 1967 when he narrowly…

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"9 August 1968: The Last Phase of the Tet Offensive; Looking Back at the Entire Campaign" by Scott Lyons

The Tet Offensive, launched by communist North Vietnamese forces on 31 January 1968, was a series of attacks meant to weaken the morale of South Vietnam and its allies, ultimately leading to a communist victory. The attacks were meant to take place simultaneously throughout the country, targeting major cities and military installations. Among the most notable of these attacks were the three battles that took place in Khe Sanh, Hue, and Saigon. These battles are remembered as some of the fiercest encounters of the entire war, with U.S. and South Vietnamese troops fighting hand-to-hand against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. Background The Communist forces of North Vietnam and the NLF launched the Tet Offensive with the aim of triggering a popular uprising and overthrowing the South Vietnamese government. The strategists of the Communist forces believed that if they launched a coordinated attack on multiple targets across South Vietnam, they would provoke mass defections among…

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From Reference Branch, Marine Corps History Division: U.S. Marines in Vietnam: 1954-1975

Reposted from Marine Corps University: Marine Corps University > Research > Marine Corps History Division > Brief Histories > Marines in Vietnam: 1954-1975 (usmcu.edu) The Advisory and Combat Assistance Era 1954-1964 For the United States Marine Corps, involvement in the nation’s longest war began on 2 August 1954 with the arrival of Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Croizat as a liaison officer with the newly established United States Military Assistance and Advisory Group to the Republic of Vietnam. For the next eight years, Marine activities in Vietnam consisted mainly of advisory and staff responsibilities. This began to change in mid-April 1962 when Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMM-362), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Archie Clapp, deployed to South Vietnam to provide combat service support for the fledgling South Vietnamese army. In the spring of 1964, Marine Detachment, Advisory Team One, commanded by Major Alfred M. Gray Jr., arrived to collect signals intelligence,…

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"30 April 1975: Fall of Saigon: The Vietnam War Ends" by Scott Lyons

The 30th of April, 1975, marked a solemn and significant milestone in world history—the end of one of the most protracted and tragic conflicts, the Vietnam War. Known by several names, including the Second Indochina War, the Vietnam War was emblematic of the Cold War and a brutal testament to the proxy battles fought between the world's two superpowers and their allies. The fall of Saigon was the dramatic conclusion that profoundly altered geopolitical landscapes and human migrations. The Political Cauldron Preceding the War A quick glance at the historical latticework of policy would reveal a complex entwining of interests. Following the First Indochina War and the 1954 Geneva Conference, the country was partitioned, and the stage was set for the tumultuous years to come. The U.S. saw Vietnam as an inevitable battleground against Communist expansion, and through financial and military support, it threw itself behind the fledgling government of South Vietnam. The Siege of Dien Bien…

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Major Operations and Battles

  • 1962-1971: Operation Ranch Hand
  • 1964: Gulf of Tonkin
  • 1965: Operation Starlite
  • 1965: Battle of Ia Drang
  • 1965-1968: Operation Rolling Thunder
  • 1966: Operation Crimp
  • 1968: Tet Offensive
  • 1968: Battle of Khe Sanh
  • 1968: Hue Massacre
  • 1968: My Lai Massacre
  • 1969: Operation Dewey Canyon
  • 1969: Operation Menu
  • 1971: Operation Lam Son 719
  • 1972: Linebacker and Linebacker II
  • 1972: Easter Offensive
  • 1973: Paris Peace Accords
  • 1975: Fall of Saigon



Photographs courtesy of Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division