JBSA observes National Vietnam War Veterans Day

  • Published
  • By Steve Elliott
  • 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Vietnam War has a long history, lasting from 1955 to 1975, engulfing the Southeast Asian country of Vietnam as well as its neighboring countries, Cambodia and Laos.

On March 28, 2017 – nearly 44 years after the United States withdrew its last forces from Vietnam – President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, which named March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. The bill amended the U.S. flag code to include National Vietnam War Veterans Day as a day on which the flag should be flown.

This is a separate holiday from Veterans Day, which is celebrated on Nov. 11 and marks the end of World War I.

Posters commemorating National Vietnam War Veterans Day will be on display Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and JBSA-Randolph libraries, as well as the Joint Personnel Processing Center at 2400 Jessup Road, Suite 4026, at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. 

Visitors to these locations are encouraged to follow COVID-19 health and safety measures, including practicing physical distancing.

For more information, contact the Civilian Personnel Section at 210-221-1408 or email usaf.jbsa.502-abw.mbx.jbsa-fsh-cps@mail.mil.

The starting point

The conflict began during the 1950s when the struggle between the country's communist northern part and the anti-communist south escalated. In the 1960s, the American military joined the conflict, backing up South Vietnam forces, against the troops of communist North Vietnam.

During the war, about 500,000 U.S. troops were dispatched to Southeast Asia, about 58,000 of whom were killed and many thousands more were wounded and injured or determined to be missing.

Although U.S. military advisors had been in South Vietnam since 1955, America's first combat mission, Operation Chopper, was launched Jan. 12, 1962, and is acknowledged as the starting point of the war.

On that day, U.S. Army pilots airlifted more than 1,000 South Vietnamese soldiers to an area about 12 miles west of Saigon to capture a National Liberation Front stronghold. The NLF, also known as the Viet Cong, were communist fighters who were in South Vietnam. 

Ground, air campaigns

The Battle of Ia Drang, which lasted from Nov. 14-18, 1965, was the first major battle between the U.S. Army and the North Vietnamese Army. It took place in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam.

The battle saw the first use of a large-scale helicopter air assault and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers being used in a tactical support role.

Besides ground campaigns, one of the most significant air campaigns was Operation Rolling Thunder. The operation lasted from March 2, 1965, to Nov. 2, 1968, and involved a sustained aerial bombardment by U.S. and South Vietnamese air assets against targets in North Vietnam. The operation was designed to halt enemy supplies from reaching South Vietnam.

In 1972, another massive bombing campaign was conducted against North Vietnam, known as Operation Linebacker.

The conflict ended in 1975 with the fall of Saigon and the victory of North Vietnam.

The toll of war

  • There were more than 58,000 U.S. military casualties alone.
  • A total of 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam era, from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, with more than 2,709,000 Americans serving in Vietnam, about 9.7% of the generation.
  • 58,318 names are memorialized on a black granite wall in the nation’s capital.
  • 304,000 were wounded.
  • 1,253 are missing in action, or MIA, who have not yet returned to American soil.
  • 2,500 were prisoners of war, or POWs.
  • About 610,000 people who fought during the time of the war are still alive today.