Major escalation of the American war; by the end of the year US troops in Vietnam total 184,314.
January A 2000 man contingent of South Korean Army forces arrive as part of the SEATO (South East
Asia Treaty Organization) allied agreement to assist the Republic of (South) Vietnam.
January 1 Battle for Bình Giã; the first time the National Liberation Front (NLF) launched a large-scale
operation, holding its ground and fighting for 4 days against government troops equipped with armor, artillery and helicopters, and aided by U.S. air support and military advisers.
January 18 One month before his assassination, Malcolm X denounces United States involvement in
Vietnam: “It shows the real ignorance of those who control the American power structure. If
France, with all types of heavy arms, as deeply entrenched as she was in what was called
Indochina, couldn’t stay there, I don’t see how anybody in their right mind can think the U.S. can
get in there — it’s impossible. So it shows her ignorance, her blindness, her lack of foresight and
hindsight; and her complete defeat in South Vietnam is only a matter of time.”
January 26 Armed Forces Council (AFC) removes Trần Văn Hương as RVN (Republic of Vietnam) Prime
Minister and installs Nguyễn Xuân Oánh. President Phan Khắc Sửu remains in power.
February 7 The National Liberation Front (NLF) attacks Camp Holloway near at Pleiku in the Central
Highlands, killing 8 and wounding 62 Americans. National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy later remarked that “the incident at Pleiku was like a streetcar”; an excuse for an already planned, expanded war that would come along sooner or later like a streetcar. Retaliatory bombing against the DRV (North Vietnam) is launched (Operation Flaming Dart).
February 9 Soviet Prime Minister Kosygin promises increased aid to the DRV.
February 10-11 NLF sappers blow up an enlisted men’s billet in Qui Nhơn killing 19-23 American
servicemen. Operation Flaming Dart II launched in response, with USAF, VNAF, and Navy
aircraft striking targets north of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone between the North and the South located at the Ben Hai River, which enters the South China Sea at 17 degrees 0 minutes 54 seconds N latitude, or roughly speaking the 17th parallel).
February 17 Gallup Poll: 60% favor a UN force for Southeast Asia.
February 27 State Department issues 14,000 word White Paper entitled “Aggression from the North—
The Record of North Vietnam’s Campaign to Conquer South Vietnam,” arguing that the war in the South is not indigenous, but solely a war of aggression from the North. For a classic refutation of the White Paper, see I. F. Stone, “Refutation of the ’White Paper’” in Marvin E. Gettleman, Jane Franklin, Marilyn B. Young, H. Bruce Franklin, Vietnam and America: A Documented History. NY: Grove Press, 1995, pp. 268-274 or in I. F. Stone’s Weekly (Washington, D. C., March 8, 1965), pp. 1-4. For similar comments by Stone, see http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1965/apr/22/vietnam-an-exercise-in-self-delusion/ .
March 2 U.S. Air Force launches Rolling Thunder, the sustained bombing campaign against North
Vietnam. The air strikes are designed to convince the North Vietnamese to cease their support of the insurgency in the South. It continues off and (mostly) on until October 31, 1968.
March 8 Two battalions (3,500 soldiers) of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) land at Đà Nẵng to strengthen the security of the air base, which is being used as part of the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against North Vietnam. They join the 24,000 US military advisers already in Vietnam.
March 9 President Johnson authorizes the use of napalm, a petroleum-based substance mixed with a thickening agent into a gel that would burn continuously and stick to anything it touched. Napalm was widely used by US and South Vietnamese forces.
March 16 An 82-year-old Detroit woman named Alice Herz burned herself to death to make a statement against the horrors of the war.
March 17 CIA estimates that the NLF has 37,000 regulars and approximately 100,000 irregulars in South Vietnam.
March 20 The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommends that U.S. and Allied forces be introduced with a mission to assume the offensive against the NLF.
March 24-25 First anti-war teach-in held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Despite three bomb threats, the event was attended by about 3,500 and consisted of debates, lectures, movies, and musical events aimed at protesting the war. Speakers included: Robert Browne, was an economist at Farleigh Dickinson University, who had spent three years in Vietnam as a State Department adviser; John Donahue, a Michigan State University anthropology professor who had done field work in Vietnam; Arthur Waskow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Hundreds of students stayed until 8:00 AM to discuss the war. Teach-ins spread to campuses around the country over the next few months, including a National Teach-In day on May 15.
March 26 Teach-in at Columbia University in New York City attended by 2,500 students.
March 30 A car bomb explodes outside the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. 2 Americans and 20 Vietnamese are killed. Nearly 200 people are wounded.
April 1 In National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 328, President Johnson approves the deployment of two addition Marine Battalions and an 18-20,000 man increase in U.S. forces to “fill out existing units and supply needed logistic personnel.” NSAM 328 also changes the security mission of U.S. in forces in Vietnam “to permit their more active use”.
April 7 President Johnson gives a major Vietnam address at Johns Hopkins University, in response to the growing campus protest activity. The Johns Hopkins speech is the first major example of the political impact of campus demonstrations. (Johnson’s speech: New York Times, April 8, 1965)
April 11 Two additional Marine Battalions begin landing at Phú Bài and Đà Nẵng.
April 17 15-25,000 people march against the war in Washington DC in a demonstration called by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Speakers included senator Ernest Gruening, journalist I. F. Stone, civil rights activist Robert Moses, and SDS President Paul Potter, who urged: “We must name that system. We must name it, describe it, analyze it, understand it, and then change it. For it is only when that system is brought under control that there can be any hope for stopping the forces that create a war in Vietnam today or a murder in the South tomorrow or all the incalculable, innumerable more subtle atrocities that are worked on people all over, all of the time.” See his talk at http://www.antiauthoritarian.net/sds_wuo/sds_documents/paul_potter.html. There was also music by Joan Baez, the Freedom Singers, and Phil Ochs.
April 20 Honolulu Conference – Senior officials meet and propose sending an additional 17 U.S. / Free World Battalions to South Vietnam to establish four brigade-sized enclaves at Biên Hòa-Vũng Tàu, Chu Lai, Qui Nhơn and Quảng Ngãi.
May 3 Cambodian government led by neutralist Prince Norodom Sihanouk, breaks relations with the
U.S. after attacks on two Cambodian villages in April 1965 by South Vietnamese forces.
May 5 173rd Airborne Brigade arrives at Biên Hòa-Vũng to secure the air base, becoming the first
regular army combat unit to deploy in South Vietnam.
Several hundred people carrying a black coffin march to the Berkeley, California, draft board,
and 40 men burned their draft cards.
May 11 NLF temporarily overruns Sông Bé, the capital of Phước Long Province.
May 13 U.S. pauses Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against North Vietnam to test Hanoi’s willingness to negotiate. Bombing resumes on May 18th.
May 21-23 The largest Vietnam teach-in was held on May 21–23 at UC Berkeley. The event was organized by the Vietnam Day Committee (VDC), a group founded by ex-grad student (sociology) and future YIPPIE, Jerry Rubin, UCB Professor Stephen Smale (Mathematics), and others. From 10-30,000 people turned out. The State Department was invited by the VDC to send a representative, but declined. UC Berkeley professors Eugene Burdick (Political Science) and Robert A. Scalapino (Political Science), who had agreed to speak in defense of President Johnson’s handling of the war, withdrew at the last minute. An empty chair was set aside on the stage with a sign reading “Reserved for the State Department” taped to the back.
Participants in the event included Dr. Benjamin Spock; veteran socialist leader Norman Thomas; novelist Norman Mailer; independent journalist I. F. Stone and historian Isaac Deutscher. Other speakers included: California Assemblymen Willie Brown, William Stanton and John Burton; Dave Dellinger (political activist); James Aronson (National Guardian magazine); philosopher Alan Watts; comedian Dick Gregory; Paul Krassner (editor, The Realist); Bob Moses (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee); Jack Barnes (National Chair of the Young Socialist Alliance); Mario Savio (Free Speech Movement); Paul Potter (Students for a Democratic Society); and Mike Meyerson (national head of the Du Bois Clubs of America). British philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell sent a taped message to the teach-in. Faculty participants included Professor Staughton Lynd (Yale); Professor Gerald Berreman (Chair, UCB Anthropology Dept.); and Professor Aaron Wildavsky (Political Science and Public Policy). Performers included folk singer Phil Ochs; the improv group: The Committee; and others.
See http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificaviet.html#1965 for recordings of events.
June Richard Steinke, a West Point graduate in Vietnam, refuses to board an aircraft taking him to a remote Vietnamese village, stating the war, “is not worth a single American life”
June 7 General Westmoreland requests more troops to prevent the ARVN from being defeated. He asks for a 35 battalion U.S. / 3rd Country force and identified 9 additional battalions which may be required at a later date. The appeal was subsequently dubbed the “the 44 Battalion request”.
June 8 State Dept. Press Officer Robert McCloskey tells the press “American forces would be available to fight alongside Vietnamese forces when and if necessary.”
1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiments arrives in RVN.
June 12 RVN Prime Minister Phan Huy Quát forced to resign.
June 16 A planned anti-war march on the Pentagon turns into a five-hour teach-in on the Pentagon steps
and inside of the facility. In two days, more than 50,000 leaflets are distributed without
interference at the entrances and inside the building.
June 18 First Arc Light mission – B-52s strike NLF targets near Saigon.
June 19 Air Vice Marshall Nguyễn Cao Kỳ becomes Prime Minister of RVN (South Vietnam). Major General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu assumes role of Chief of State as the eighth military government since the overthrow of Ngô Đình Diệm comes to power.
June 26 General Westmoreland given the authority to commit U.S. forces to combat in support of ARVN (the army of South Vietnam) forces.
June 27 The first major ground combat operation by U.S. forces in the Vietnam War – 173rd Airborne together with Australian and ARVN troops begin a ‘search and destroy’ operation into the NLF base area of War Zone “D” northwest of Saigon
End Your Silence, an open letter in the New York Times by the group Artists and Writers Protest
against the War in Vietnam.
July Young Blacks in McComb, Mississippi learn one of their classmates was killed in Vietnam and
distribute a leaflet saying “No Mississippi Negroes should be fighting in Viet Nam for the White
man’s freedom”. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party circulates a leaflet entitled “The
War on Vietnam: A McComb, Mississippi, Protest” which outlines “five reasons why Negroes
should not be in any war fighting for America.” Among the reasons: “No one has a right to ask us
to risk our lives and kill other Colored People in Santo Domingo and Vietnam, so that the White
American can get richer. We will be looked upon as traitors by all the Colored People of the
world if the Negro people continue to fight and die without a cause.”
A Women Strike for Peace (WSP) delegation led by Cora Weiss meets its North Vietnamese and
NLF counterpart in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Vietnam Day Committee organized militant protest in Oakland, California ends when the
organizers stop the march from Oakland to Berkeley to avoid a confrontation with police.
July 12 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division arrives in Vietnam.
July 20 U.S Army, Vietnam (USARV) is established, replacing the U.S. Army Support Command, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh claims that his people are willing to fight for 20 years or more until they win.
July 24 First U.S. aircraft downed by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) over North Vietnam.
July 28 President Johnson announces U.S. troop levels will increase to 125,000 men and additional forces will be needed later. As a result the monthly draft call will rise from 17,000 to 35,000.
July 29 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division deploys near Cam Ranh Bay.
July 30 A man from the Catholic Worker Movement is photographed burning his draft card on Whitehall
Street in Manhattan in front of the Armed Forces Induction Center. His photograph appears in
Life magazine in August.
August Organized by the Vietnam Day Committee, several hundred people try on several occasions to
stop troop trains on the Santa Fe railroad tracks in West Berkeley and Emeryville by standing on
August 5 CBS airs a report by Morley Safer (CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite) that shows
Marines lighting the thatched roofs of the village of Cam Ne with Zippo lighters, and includes
critical commentary on the treatment of the villagers. The story generates an angry reaction
from Lyndon Johnson.
August 17 U.S. Marines begin Operation Starlite against the NLF in the Van Tường peninsula, the largest
American military operation of the war to date.
September 14 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) arrives in RVN (South Vietnam).
October 8 The first elements of a Republic of Korea (ROK) infantry Division arrive in Vietnam.
October 15 Antiwar rallies are held in four U.S. cities, the largest in New York and Berkeley.
David J. Miller burned his draft card at the NYC rally held near the Armed Forces Induction Center on Whitehall Street in Manhattan. The 24-year-old pacifist, member of the Catholic Worker Movement, became the first man arrested and convicted under the 1965 amendment to the 1948 Selective Service Act. At UC Berkeley, a Teach-In on campus is followed by a march on the Oakland Army induction center. Some 15,000 demonstrators left the campus marching toward Oakland. 5000 return the next day.
October 15–16 First ‘International Days of Protest. Antiwar demonstrations in London, Rome, Brussels, Copenhagen and Stockholm.
October 19 The People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN — North Vietnamese) launched a major attack on the Special Forces camp at Plei Me in the Central Highlands to draw the US Air Calvary into battle. The assault was eventually repelled on October 25th.
October 30 Pro-Vietnam War march in New York City with 25,000.
November 2 In front of the Pentagon in Washington, as thousands of employees were streaming out of
the building in the late afternoon, Norman Morrison, a 32-year-old pacifist, father of three, stood below the third-floor windows of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, doused himself with kerosene, and set himself afire, giving up his life in protest against the war. While first derided and then ignored in the US, Norman R. Morrison became an immediate hero to the Vietnamese after his self-immolation. Within a month of his death, a national postage stamp was issued in Hanoi showing a smiling face of Norman in the heavens overlooking gatherings of U.S. demonstrators. A street was named after him in Hanoi. Trucks moving south along the Ho Chi Minh Trail were seen carrying large photographs of him in their front windows. Posters of Morrison were displayed in factories with the motto, THE FLAMES OF MORRISON WILL NEVER DIE! In May 1967, two American visitors to Hanoi’s Revolutionary Museum saw huge photographs of both Morrison and Alice Herz (see entry for March 26, 1965). (See http://www.brianwillson.com/why-do-we-kill-maim-and-colonize-case-of-norman-morrison/ for more about how the Vietnamese reacted to Morrison’s act.
November 6 Thomas C. Cornell, Marc Paul Edelman and Roy Lisker burn their draft cards at a public
rally organized by the Committee for Non-Violent Action in Union Square, New York City.
November 14-18 The first major battle of the Vietnam War involving U.S. forces – In the Ia Drang valley
of the Central Highlands, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) uses helicopter assault tactics to
inflict heavy losses on the Vietnamese People’s Army (PAVN). The Americans used air mobility,
artillery fire and close air support to accomplish battlefield objectives. The PAVN and NLF
forces learned that they could neutralize that firepower by quickly engaging American forces at
very close range. The North Vietnamese Colonel Nguyễn Hữu An included his lessons from the
battle, “Move inside the column, grab them by the belt, and thus avoid casualties from the
artillery and air.” Both Westmoreland and An thought this battle to be a success. This battle
was one of the few set piece battles of the war and was one of the first battles to popularize the
U.S. concept of the “body count” as a measure of success, as the US military claimed that the kill ratio was nearly 10–1.
November 27 ARVN 7th Regiment is overrun at Michelin Plantation.
The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy – SANE — sponsored March on Washington in 1965.
15- 35,000 attended. Speakers included: Dr. Spock, Coretta King and Norman Thomas, as well as SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) President Carl Oglesby responded to Paul Potter’s demand at the April 17 antiwar demonstration that we name the system: with the term “corporate liberalism” and lamented that “others will make of it that I sound mighty anti-American. To these, I say: Don’t blame me for that! Blame those who mouthed my liberal values and broke my American heart.” See his talk at http://www.antiauthoritarian.net/sds_wuo/sds_documents/oglesby_future.html.
December 16-17. High school students in Des Moines, Iowa, are suspended for wearing black armbands
to “mourn the deaths on both sides” and in support of Robert Kennedy’s call for a Christmas
truce. The students sued the Des Moines School District, resulting in the 1969 U.S. Supreme
Court decision in favor of the students, Tinker v. Des Moines
December 24 President Johnson orders a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam (DRV) to test the DRV
December 31 U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam: 184,314. 636 Americans killed in action in
- Estimates of Vietnamese deaths (North and South, military and civilian) are harder to come by though a 2008 study by the British Medical Journal estates total deaths from 1954-75 at 3.8 million (higher than most western estimates and the official estimate by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (the postwar government) of 3.1 million. See http://mattsteinglass.wordpress.com/2008/06/20/vietnam-war-killed-38-million-vietnamese-not-21-million/ and http://www.bmj.com/content/336/7659/1482.full#REF16 .