50 years since ground troops arrived in Vietnam

U.S. Marines in Operation Allen Brook in 1968
U.S. Marines in Operation Allen Brook in 1968

U.S. Marines in Operation Allen Brook in 1968
U.S. Marines in Operation Allen Brook in 1968

Fifty years ago this year US troops began their ground offensive to combat the North Vietnamese Communist regime.

Veterans around the US are commemorating the anniversary, remembering their friends and comrades who lost their lives during the conflict.

One veteran, Daniel Walsh from Springfield, says that he can’t believe 50 years have gone by. When Walsh joined the Vietnam War, along with 200 other men in his company, in 1966 he had just been made a Lieutenant. He remembers their instructions to attack a North Vietnamese location and the soaring heat of the South East Asian sun.

Ten of the men died and 20 were injured including Walsh himself, who was shot in the side of his body. Just before he was shot he watched as his friends and comrades were either also injured or died from their wounds.

Walsh has been awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, along with a myriad of other medals.

Walsh remembers one friend who died in his arms and has remained in touch with his friend’s daughters and family.

Walsh was saved from his injuries by Patrick Barth. The two remain good friends today and see each other a lot.

Looking back Walsh says he thinks it was a mistake for the US government to go to war in Vietnam. He says that the troops knew they weren’t wanted in Vietnam, but were unaware of anti-war sentiment back at home.

In March 1965, 3500 US Marines were deployed to Vietnam. Ten years later three million military personnel served in the war and almost 60,000 of those lost their lives,
the Mass Live reports.

More than 250 of those who served were awarded the Medal of Honor. More than sixty percent of those who received medals for their service had died during the conflict.

It was President Lyndon Johnson who decided to escalate US involvement in the Vietnam War after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. The US Navy and North Vietnamese battleships undertook a ferocious battle and Johnson decided that ground troops should be deployed to Vietnam to fight the war man to man. Prior to that, US involvement had been via air only.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE