These pages are about my tour, and an era in history, the early units of Camp Holloway, and a few of the experiences I had while stationed there. As I looked around the internet, the early years didn't appear to be mentioned much. I didn't see Camp Holloway mentioned anywhere which I thought rather odd and I felt that left a void. It was one of the oldest U.S.Army airfields and headquarters or home to some of the most active and effective helicopter units in the central highlands of Vietnam and military corps areas. The history of our military in Vietnam actually began long before 1963-64 and network news coverage from the frontline by correspondents. Involvement began with funding in Truman's administration and continued through Eisenhower's administration with deployment of Air Force personnel and the addition of military advisors during Kennedy's presidency. This stemmed from a concern over a futher spread of communism throughout Southeast Asia (The Domino Theory) and an uncertainty about agreements made in the 1954 Geneva Accords.
"I am frankly of the belief that no amount of American military assistance in Indochina can conquer an enemy which is everywhere and at the same time nowhere...an enemy of the people which has the sympathy and covert support of the people. In November of 1951, I reported upon my return from the Far East as follows: In Indochina we have allied ourselves to the desperate effort of a French regime to hang on to the remnants of an empire. There is no broad, general support of the native Vietnam Government among the people of that area. To try to win military victory, apart from and in defiance of innately nationalistic aims, spells foredoomed failure."
Senator John F. Kennedy - 1954
There were many things going on in Vietnam even before the early 1960s due to a variety of political pressures and unrest. There was increasing communist and National Liberation Front (a.k.a. Viet Cong) activity in peasant villages, religious persecution in Saigon, buddhist monks setting themselves on fire in public protests, and a growing coolness toward U.S. troops stationed in the country. Major changes in policy were being considered by President Kennedy and his cabinet in late 1963 due to concerns with South Vietnam's regime and its political and religious mandates. In early November of 1963 the Ngo Dihn Diem regime was overthrown, some managed to escape while Diem and others were assassinated. A couple of short lived South Vietnamese military regimes took control of the government while our military assistance and advisory roles were being revised to a more aggressive role.
The U.S. Space program, the Arms Race with the U.S.S.R., the Bay of Pigs incident with Cuba, and the Missile Crisis occupied most people's thoughts and concerns in 1962. Before the Vietnam Conflict became a serious issue with the American people, President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 which left the country traumatized and grieving for a young and charismatic leader.
"In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe."
"Now the trumpet summons us again...not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need...not as a call to battle, though embattled we are...but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"...a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself."
"Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?"
President John F. Kennedy - 1961
Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as President and he continued military assistance to South Vietnam. By the end of that fateful year of 1963 there were approximately 15,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam. During 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater ran for president against Johnson and commented that maybe a couple of atomic bombs were needed "to shake the leaves off the trees"...Johnson went on to win the election. Civil rights were in the forefront of the issues and after many marches, protests and displays of civil disobedience, Congress and President Johnson legislated and signed into law the Civil Rights Act. Americans were being targeted and involved in more and more hostile ground actions and by the end of 1964 there were about 23,300 U.S. troops in Vietnam. In 1965 the confrontation occurred in the Selma to Montgomery March led by Martin Luther King, and there was the Voting Rights Act, and also President Johnson's "Great Society" designed to help care for the less fortunate and help uplift the nation's lower classes. By the end of 1965 there were approximately 184,300 U.S. troops fighting and dying for people's freedom and people's voting rights in South Vietnam.
A series of attacks on the American military and its bases in late 1964 and early 1965 brought retaliatory air strikes and bombings of North Vietnam. Large operations led by U.S. troops began with South Vietnamese troops joining in lesser rolls as preferred by some U.S. commanders and our casualties began to increase. This build up and expansion of the fighting boundaries continued and by the end of 1966 there were 385,300 U.S. troops and at the end of 1967 there were 475,200 U.S. troops in Vietnam. A request by General Westmoreland in February of 1968 for an additional 200,000 troops was refused by President Johnson just a month prior to Johnson announcing on March 31st his refusal to be a candidate again for President. U.S. college students and others against the war burned their draft cards, refused to go in the service, or left the country, and some were jailed or inducted as conscientious objectors. There were demonstrations and marches against the war and at the August 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago a protest turned into a riot and was forcefully squashed by the police in an historical televised and violent confrontation. That year Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated which caused more riots and hysteria with buildings being burned in many major U.S. cities. People had lost the champions of their causes, they lost trust and respect for government, and lost trust and respect of each other, and they spit on our returning military. By the end of 1968 there were 536,100 U.S. troops in Vietnam. There were over 19,000 U.S. dead by the end of 1967 and over 16,500 U.S. soldiers would die during 1968 bringing the total to over 35,000 U.S. soldiers killed.
In 1968 Richard Nixon went on to defeat the other two candidates, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace, and won the presidential election with promises to bring the troops home and end the Vietnam War and turn the prevailing mood of our nation around into one of prosperity. Over 20,000 more U.S. troops would die in Vietnam and its neighboring countries under his leadership as a U.S. drawdown began while operational control was given to the trained and equipped South Vietnamese forces. In 1969 U.S. astronauts went to the moon and Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the surface of the moon. Nixon put a freeze on wages and tried to freeze prices, his administration broke up a couple of large monopolies, and he visited the China mainland. President Nixon pursued a policy of bombing North Vietnam and its supply routes into South Vietnam with operations into Cambodia in pursuit of an evasive enemy. He bombed North Vietnam during December, but not the Christmas bombing, as it is often said and he also decided to pursue the NVA as necessary into neighboring countries. He was determined to force Hanoi to negotiate a truce and an honorable peace to accomodate the U.S. military giving the South Vietnamese full control of their own destiny.
Unfortunately there was much more war, with domestic confrontations on college campuses, protests by opportunistic anti-establishment groups, and the polarizing event of the May 4, 1970 killing of four students by frightened young National Guardsmen during a large anti-war demonstration on Kent State University's campus. Meanwhile, young American soldiers thousands of miles away were dying and being mortared and rocketed as they fought for a peoples' freedom in South Vietnam. More and more people joined the anti-war protests after seeing all the nightly Vietnam War news film footage being pumped into their living rooms along with tired old promises to end the war. President Johnson died on January 22nd, 1973 and was blamed along with McNamara and other military advisors for much of the Vietnam War having ordered most of the troop escalation and expansion of that conflict.
The steady stream of coffins continued to return weekly in large cargo aircraft and the sheer sight of them tore at the heart and soul of society. Nixon eventually stopped drafting young men for service in Vietnam. Throughout all the negotiating and posturing many thousands more soldiers died in combat. U.S. troop involvement in fighting the Vietnam War ended shortly thereafter with a negotiated settlement by the parties as the U.S. gradually withdrew all its military forces. Richard M. Nixon resigned from office as president on August 9, 1974 under the looming pressure of impeachment by Congress for attempts to conceal evidence and obstruction of justice on the break in to steal Democratic National Headquarter's documents at the Watergate complex. The people and the governments of North Vietnam and South Vietnam were now fully engaged as the sole masters in determining their own destiny. In 1975, the military and the government of South Vietnam were defeated and routed by the forces of North Vietnam in one final and decisive military sweeping action. Many South Vietnamese who were loyal partners with U.S. forces were trapped with a dubious future as all other non-combatant U.S. civilian and security personnel in the country were evacuated.
The American people were divided in the aftermath of those years of conflict in Vietnam and all the anti-war demonstrations. There were hawks who thought we should have done more militarily, and doves who thought we should have left and not been involved, and others who just didn't care and wanted it all to go away. It was a sad decade indeed for all Americans. President Gerald R. Ford later pardoned Nixon of all criminal charges for what he considered was "a healing and the good of the country" at the time. What made things so bad in those years was the total lack of appreciation and the disrespect exhibited by war protestors and peaceniks against the very soldiers they had tried to save from the war. Others who were drafted and went to Vietnam had to leave their families, their jobs, and their college plans behind to fight in Vietnam. For many of them it was not their choice to go, but they went and they served, with others who were driven to serve by a sense of duty, honor, and country. They saw the horrors of war and it sickened them more than those who just watched it on the news could ever know. God bless people like Raymond Burr, Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Nancy Sinatra, and those many other entertainers for visiting and making the troops feel appreciated in the USO shows. They put it on the line to share part of the burden as they boosted morale, entertained the troops, and no matter how brief their visits...they were always the best!
Most of our soldiers don't deserve the mistreatment and the wrongful labeling they still receive from war protestors and the media or the general indifference of society after returning from Vietnam. Many people treated them as though they had been someplace other than war, even though glad to have them home. But they didn't welcome home the veterans with any parades or acknowledge their sacrifices as if some sort of public amnesia or guilt complex existed. This deeply troubled many veterans and hurt many honorable men who had served their country and already had enough physical and emotional scars from combat in Vietnam to last a lifetime. Presidents Ford and Carter later offered amnesty to all those who dodged the draft and/or left the country to avoid military service. And one student who protested the war, who visited nations aligned with the enemy, who avoided the draft and service in the military, also had aspirations of getting into politics. He won elections, first as a governor and then later as president.
Many Vietnam veterans and other veterans alike are still extremely annoyed even today by Clinton's deliberate avoidance of the draft and military service (Click to Read Clinton Letter) and also by Jane Fonda's wearing a partial North Vietnam Army uniform, being photographed behind NVA anti-aircraft guns (Click to Read the Story) and spreading anti-American propaganda during her trip to Hanoi. They did this as U.S. soldiers honorably spilled their blood and died on the battlefield and as pilots and crews were being shot down and captured by the North Vietnam communists in a battle for the independence and freedom of South Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
Many protestors who objected to the war and who tired of the broken promises to end it were sucked into drugs and substance abuse, while others became pawns of opportunistic anti-American and anti-establishment groups. Some who "loathed the military" really worried only about their own skin and used the turmoil for an excuse to avoid service because it interfered with their free spirited, fun loving lifestyle, or intellectual pursuits. Some protestors never believed in any noble causes nor had any true inner convictions about just or unjust wars except they didn't want to die for their country. Some protests were pure acts of hostility against prior actions or lack of action by the establishment on many other social and racially devisive issues in a changing society. Many protestors then and some journalists still make irrational arguments and excuses for their moral obscenities and abusive actions toward Vietnam veterans to this very day. Many never said they were sorry with any real conviction which makes forgiveness and healing difficult at best Some protestors were barely in their teens and yet they cursed those who honorably served their country in combat at airports and other public places as they came back home to their families. As time went by, treatment for Vietnam veterans exposed to agent orange was another hotly debated issue. It took years for the government to even acknowledge its long term effects or even offer VA treatment to the soldiers exposed to chemical agents used in Vietnam. Conditions in many VA facilities charged with caring for recovering Vietnam wounded were plagued with incompetence and it was ignored for years.
Over 58,000 American soldiers died as a result of the Vietnam War and hundreds of their remains and their return to the United States remains an unsettled issue to this day. A few soldiers who died in Vietnam aren't allowed a grave marker with Vietnam engraved on it or weren't allowed to have their names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall because of some erroneous technical decision on dates of service. This betrays the honorable contributions and sacrifices of those servicemen and their families.
The web pages on this site are facts and pieces of history as I experienced, photographed, and remember them in my own mind's eye. I am neither a journalist nor an historian but I am an eyewitness to and a participant in many of these events in our history. You won't find an official military order of battle or detailed blow by blow combat stories written here. You will find some words of tribute and a memorial page for the men. If you would like to read about bravery and combat missions I have provided links to the citations for all Medal of Honor recipients from the Vietnam War. There you will learn about the uncommon valor of many brave men from every branch of service in our military.
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