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South Vietnam: Build-Up and Engagement

U.S. Air Force aircraft drops a white phosphorus bomb on a Viet Cong postion in 1966. (U.S. Air Force image).

U.S. Air Force aircraft drops a white phosphorus bomb on a Viet Cong postion in 1966. (U.S. Air Force image).

U.S. Air Force B-52 heavy bombers struck communist forces in the missions named ARC LIGHT. (U.S. Air Force photo).

U.S. Air Force B-52 heavy bombers struck communist forces in the missions named ARC LIGHT. (U.S. Air Force photo).

B-52 attacks caused tremendous and terrifying destruction. (U.S. Air Force photo).

B-52 attacks caused tremendous and terrifying destruction. (U.S. Air Force photo).

U.S. Air Force Combat Controllers on the ground often directed aerial resupply drops. (U.S. Air Force photo).

U.S. Air Force Combat Controllers on the ground often directed aerial resupply drops. (U.S. Air Force photo).

Many isolated outposts depended on U.S. Air Force cargo aircraft for supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo).

Many isolated outposts depended on U.S. Air Force cargo aircraft for supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo).

U.S. Air Force maintainers worked long hours in harsh conditions to keep aircraft flying. (U.S. Air Force photo).

U.S. Air Force maintainers worked long hours in harsh conditions to keep aircraft flying. (U.S. Air Force photo).

U.S. Air Force heavy transports brought supplies and troops to Southeast Asia, and also returned wounded to the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo).

U.S. Air Force heavy transports brought supplies and troops to Southeast Asia, and also returned wounded to the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo).

U.S. Air Force aircraft dropped leaflets in Southeast Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo).

U.S. Air Force aircraft dropped leaflets in Southeast Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo).

U.S. Air Force aircraft dropped leaflets in Southeast Asia. This one enouraged communist forces to question their cause: It says, "Is now the time to return home to your family? Which scenery would you chooose?" (U.S. Air Force image).

U.S. Air Force aircraft dropped leaflets in Southeast Asia. This one enouraged communist forces to question their cause: It says, "Is now the time to return home to your family? Which scenery would you chooose?" (U.S. Air Force image).

THE WAR INTENSIFIES

In early 1965 the Viet Cong further intensified their guerilla war and began direct attacks on U.S. forces. The VC also scored some impressive victories over South Vietnamese troops. With the passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, the U.S. increased its forces even more. Military and civilian officials in Washington, D.C., no longer spoke of withdrawing U.S. personnel -- rather, they talked of additional U.S. forces for South Vietnam with President Lyndon Johnson generally in approval.

During the last half of 1965, the Viet Cong launched several large-scale attacks against South Vietnamese and U.S. positions. In each instance, U.S. airpower made a significant contribution against the enemy efforts. Still, the elusive Viet Cong moved at night and attacked lines of communication at will.

By 1966, U.S. strength had grown to 385,000 personnel, reinforced by troops from South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Viet Cong successes diminished considerably, and their only significant victory was overrunning a Special Forces camp in the A Shau Valley in March. Because of heavy Viet Cong losses in 1966, North Vietnam sent more than 58,000 of its regular troops to bolster the VC in South Vietnam.

In 1967 U.S. strength in the South Vietnamese war zone grew to 486,000 personnel. A new plan was instituted where South Vietnamese troops were to pacify the countryside, while U.S. and allied forces battled the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. By the end of the year, the enemy had not won a single major victory. North Vietnam, however, built up its forces in Cambodia and Laos for another try.

Click on the following links to learn more about the Southeast Asia War.

USAF Gunships in Southeast Asia
Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard
Dangerously Close! USAF Close Air Support in the Southeast Asia War
SEA Combat Controllers
SEA Airlift
A-1 in SEA
Mobile and Dependable: Prime BEEF and RED HORSE in Southeast Asia
EOD in SEA
Psychological Operations
Civic Action
Forward Air Controllers (FACs)
AN/MSR-1 ("Misery") Communications Intercept Van
AN/MRC-108 Communications System

Click here to return to the Southeast Asia War Gallery.

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