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September/October 2020 -   -  

50 Years Ago: 1970

October 1: South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu submits a $16.9 billion budget for 1971 to the National Assembly.

October 2: At a news conference in San Francisco, Cambodian Foreign Minister Koun Wick says U.S. aircraft are flying support missions for Cambodian troops.

October 3: The South Vietnamese government announces a dual exchange rate for currency to help inflation. Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, arrives in Phnom Penh for a two-day visit. Rev. Carl McIntire’s “March for Victory” at the Washington Monument is attended by 20,000 people. A message from South Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky asks for “the continued assistance of the American people and other peoples of the world.”

October 4: While in Ireland, President Richard Nixon meets with negotiators David K.E. Bruce and Philip Habib. The President’s Commission on Campus Unrest says those who advocated and committed violence share in the responsibility for the deaths of four students at Kent State University in May. The commission points to the Ohio National Guard’s policy of issuing loaded weapons to control disorders, a policy contradictory to that of the Army, as an underlying cause of the killings. Three Americans are killed during an NVA attack on the allied outpost of Nui My, six miles southwest of Tam Ky.

October 5: The Cambodian parliament unanimously votes to proclaim the nation a republic on October 9. The U.S. command announces American troop strength is down to 390,200. In Bangkok, Thailand and North Vietnam resume negotiations to repatriate 40,000 North Vietnamese refugees in Thailand. The negotiations were halted in 1965 because of U.S. bombings. Three student leaders are released from prison by the South Vietnamese government after they, other students, and university professors conduct a hunger strike.

October 7: In a televised speech, Nixon asks Hanoi and the Vietcong to join in a standstill cease-fire throughout Indochina. He also calls for a peace conference on Southeast Asia to settle all fighting in the region. In Paris, bookstores come out with the memoirs of Charles de Gaulle, entitled The Renewal, in which he reveals he pleaded with President Kennedy in May 1961 to avoid “the endless entanglement” of intervention in Vietnam. “Kennedy is listening to me. But events will show that I did not convince him,” de Gaulle wrote. In Fort Hood, the court-martial of Staff Sgt. David Mitchell begins. He is the first to be tried for the murder of civilians in Song My in March 1968.

October 8: The U.S. urges the USSR to use its “considerable influence” with North Vietnam and the Vietcong to accept Nixon’s peace proposal. North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front negotiators in Paris call Nixon’s cease-fire plan “a maneuver to deceive world opinion.” A report by a House subcommittee on government operations finds evidence of “appalling waste” in the war’s supply system.

October 9: Administration officials urge North Vietnam to accept Nixon’s peace plan, saying most U.S. troops will be gone from the South by May 1. Premier Lon Nol and Chief of State Cheng Heng watch the president of the National Assembly, In Tam, proclaim: “Cambodia is from this hour onward a republic, one and indivisible, bearing the official name of the Khmer Republic.”

October 10: Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) makes public a Government Accounting Office report stating that some American relief goods are not reaching refugees in Laos because of inadequate supervision by the Agency for International Development. One U.S. Marine is reported killed in a VC ambush on a patrol eight miles southwest of Danang.

October 12: Nixon announces 40,000 more troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam by Christmas. The communists denounce the planned withdrawal as another ploy to fool the American public before the congressional elections. NLF chief negotiator Nguyen Thi Binh tells the French communist paper L’Humanite that a specific date for total U.S. withdrawal must be set before her organization will agree to a cease-fire.

October 13: In Hartford, Conn., Nixon officials say a calculated risk of losing ground to enemy troops in Vietnam is being taken in offering the cease-fire. In a clash in Quang Ngai Province, three U.S. Americal Division troops and 38 enemy soldiers are killed. Reports say 30 B-52s have dropped 30 tons of bombs each on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos—the fifth straight day of U.S. bombings of the trail.

October 14: North Vietnam officially rejects Nixon’s “deceitful peace proposals.” One South Vietnamese and nine American soldiers are reported killed by an enemy booby trap 66 miles southeast of Danang. The Pathet Lao rejects Nixon’s peace plan as a “maneuver of deception at the time of the congressional election campaign.”

October 15: In Paris, North Vietnam and the NLF totally reject Nixon’s peace proposals. Ky meets with Pope Paul VI in Rome. Press secretary Ronald Ziegler says Nixon refuses to accept the rejection of his peace plan, emphasizing the president’s willingness to compromise.

October 16: An Ohio special grand jury indicts 25 people in connection with the Kent State University unrest in May. The findings put much of the responsibility on the university administration for fostering “an attitude of laxity, over-indulgence, and permissiveness.” Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor dismisses Sgt. Esequiel Torres’ accusations against Gen. William Westmoreland of dereliction of duty resulting in the Song My massacre.

October 17: Reports say that for the first time since 1965, more American troops have died in a single week from non-hostile causes than were killed in combat.

October 18: The CIA reports to Nixon that the enemy has infiltrated more than 30,000 agents into the South Vietnamese government, and an increase in communist groups into South Vietnam should be expected as U.S. forces pull out.

October 19: A former member of Mitchell’s infantry company testifies he saw the defendant and 1st Lt. William Calley, Jr., push women, children, and old men into a ditch and shoot them. Another witness says he saw both men over a ditch, but he only saw Calley shooting. In Kent, Ohio, four people, including a sociology professor and the student president at Kent State University, are arrested in connection with the school’s May unrest. U.S. troop strength, 378,900, is at its lowest since December 1966.

October 20: Surprisingly, the prosecution in the Mitchell hearing rests its case after questioning a third witness. Seven Americans are killed and two are wounded after two U.S. helicopters collide northwest of Quang Ngai.

October 21: The administration denies a rumor that the U.S. and South Vietnam may announce a unilateral cease-fire before the end of the month.

October 22: Three Cambodian battalions are reported to be training in commando tactics at an American Special Forces camp at Paksong, Laos. The Concerned Officers Movement says that since the organization made a statement three weeks earlier speaking out publicly against the Vietnam War, the military has retaliated against members with, among other things, discharges, releases from service, and transfers to other posts.

October 23: The Navy announces that 19 U.S. Seventh Fleet ships will leave Vietnam and be retired from active service. Thieu meets with his top military and political advisers in Vung Tau for a two-day conference. The U.S. command reports the Americal Division has continued to use the herbicide 2,4,5-T after the Pentagon banned it last April.

October 25: Sources say that U.S. Special Forces in Laos have suffered casualties in recent months that haven’t been made public. The Defense Department denies the report, stating that all casualties are “reported on a regular basis.” Fourteen Americans are killed from mines and booby traps in the provinces of Quang Tin and Quang Nam.

October 26: Selective Service System Director Curtis Tarr orders draft boards to withdraw deferments from all who request they be canceled.

October 28: Calley returns to South Vietnam to gather evidence for his court-martial. He confers with Army officials in Saigon. In a formal military complaint, Torres accuses Gen. Creighton Abrams of allowing prisoners to be tortured in his presence in a village near Saigon in August 1968. In London, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko tells British leaders “the time is not ripe” for an international peace conference on Southeast Asia.

October 29: Calley returns to Song My to gather depositions and visit areas pertinent to his defense. Jesse Frank Frosch, UPI bureau chief in Phnom Penh, and Pulitzer Prize-winning UPI photographer Koichi Sawada are found dead on a Cambodian highway; they were killed by communist troops.

October 30: An FBI report on the Kent State shootings differs markedly from the grand jury summary, which exonerates the guardsmen who said they felt their lives were in danger. The FBI findings say several guardsmen stated they “were not in danger, and it was not a shooting situation.” The U.S. command discloses there has been a rise in deaths in Vietnam from drug use. The South Vietnamese supreme court rescinds Rep. Tran Ngoc Chau’s ten-year treason sentence. Don Luce, who exposed the tiger cages at Con Son Prison, has his press accreditation withdrawn by the South Vietnamese. Four Americans, three South Vietnamese, and sixteen enemy soldiers are reported killed in fighting in the Central Highlands.

October 31: The heaviest floods in six years in South Vietnam’s three northern provinces leave 50,000 homeless. The rains force an unofficial truce as troops rescue people and set up a disaster center in Danang. Thieu tells the National Assembly the communists won’t negotiate a settlement until they are assured of total domination of the country. He says “peace with victory” will come on the battlefield, not at the peace table. Antiwar demonstrations are held throughout the United States. A Scholastic Magazine poll finds 43 percent of American high school students willing to volunteer for the military for two years if the pay was increased and the draft ended.

November 3: The South Vietnamese military reports that 193 people have been killed and 204,000 left homeless in last week’s floods.

November 4: The U.S. Marine Corps charges John Sweeney, who declared himself a defector on August 25 while in Sweden, with desertion, abandoning arms, and aiding the enemy. The U.S. turns over the airstrip at Soc Trang to the South Vietnamese Air Force.

November 5: Robert Seamans, Jr., the U.S. secretary of the Air Force, reports that North Vietnam has carried out an extensive supplies buildup in its southern provinces. In Paris, American negotiator David K.E. Bruce and North Vietnamese negotiator Xuan Thuy accuse one another of discourtesy. The Joint Logistics Review Board issues a three-volume report charging the Johnson administration with several mistakes in its handling of the Vietnam War. The U.S. command reports the lowest weekly death toll (24) in Vietnam in five years. An American Embassy spokesman in Thailand says 3,600 U.S. troops have been withdrawn from the country since September 8. The U.S. asks the UN to pressure North Vietnam on POW identifications and to allow access to prisoners by the Red Cross.

November 9: The Supreme Court refuses, by a 6-3 margin, to hear Massachusetts’ challenge to the constitutionality of the Vietnam War. U.S. troops turn over 100 square miles of offensive operations north of Saigon to South Vietnamese control. The Army announces that charges against Capt. Ernest Medina in the alleged Song My massacre have been returned to a military investigating officer for further study.

November 10: Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird authorizes additional training and weapons for the National Guard to make riot control more effective. Col. Reid Kennedy, the judge in the court-martial of 1st Lt. William Calley, Jr., says he will allow testimony by key prosecution witnesses who were barred from testifying at the trial of Staff Sgt. David Mitchell.

November 11: At a news conference, spokesmen for the Concerned Academy Graduates ask President Richard Nixon to “put aside self-serving political goals” and withdraw all U.S. troops from Vietnam immediately. Eight enlisted men ask a federal court to declare unconstitutional their confinement at Fort Benning for relatively minor crimes.

November 12: At a news conference, Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., the chief of naval operations, announces the issuance of 57 orders to take “Mickey Mouse”—defined as “demeaning or abrasive regulations”—out of the Navy in hopes of reversing the “disastrous” downward trend in reenlistments. Calley’s court-martial officially begins.

November 13: Hours after a U.S. RF-4 reconnaissance jet is shot down over North Vietnam, Laird issues a warning that the U.S. is ready to retaliate against any further firing at U.S. aircraft. The U.S. Court of Appeals orders Judge Julius Hoffman, who presided over the Chicago 7 trial, to hold an immediate hearing to determine if there was any improper communication between him or federal marshals and the jury in that case. Federal district judge Francis Ford dismisses Medina’s $110 million libel suit against Time magazine.

November 14: Four 101st Airborne Division soldiers are killed in the jungles in northern South Vietnam during an NVA attack. Four motions are filed in a Boston U.S. district court questioning the constitutionality of the 1967 Selective Service Act on the grounds it discriminates against men by exempting women from the draft.

November 15: Pentagon sources say 3,000 men will be cut from the U.S. Special Forces during the next two to three years. South Vietnamese Vice President Ky arrives in the U.S. for an unofficial two-and-one-half-week visit. Vietnamese held in a Cambodian refugee camp complain of mistreatment.

November 16: At West Point, Ky says communist troops would overrun Cambodia “within 24 hours” if South Vietnam withdraws its troops.

November 17: Rocket attacks on Bien Hoa Air Base and Camp Evans cause light casualties and damage. Laird says “inevitable upward pressures” will likely force Nixon to seek an increase in the defense budget. The U.S. government opens its case against Calley.

November 18: Three Americans and two South Vietnamese troops are killed by rocket attacks on Bien Hoa Air Base. Thailand Premier Thanom Kittikachorn says his 12,000 troops in South Vietnam will be withdrawn by 1972. At Mitchell’s court-martial, three witnesses say they saw Calley, not Mitchell, shoot into a group of Vietnamese. A sworn statement by former rifleman Paul Meadlo is read into the record, saying Calley ordered and helped carry out the killing of at least 100 civilians at Song My. At Calley’s court-martial, Ronald Haeberle testifies he saw American troops killing unarmed civilians, but he never saw Calley participate. A House Armed Services subcommittee hears testimony from a naval narcotics investigator who says that one of the Navy’s major concerns is the “alarming increase in LSD use in the naval service.” Nixon asks Congress for a sixfold increase in aid to Cambodia. A Marine helicopter returning from a rescue mission crashes into the Que Son Mountains, killing all 15 aboard.

November 19: Mitchell testifies at his court-martial that he didn’t see any American soldiers kill civilians in the My Lai 4 hamlet. An Army official testifies before Congress that an influx of cheap, highly potent heroin has contributed to the increase in drug-related deaths of U.S. troops in Vietnam. In Chicago, Judge Hoffman begins a hearing of jury members from the Chicago 7 trial. On the witness stand at Calley’s trial, former radioman John Paul says Medina shot a Vietnamese woman.

November 20: The seven-member panel acquits Mitchell after six hours and forty-six minutes of deliberation. Laird warns Congress that refusal to increase military aid to Cambodia may result in a slowdown in U.S. troop withdrawals from South Vietnam. The Army admits two dogs were awarded Bronze Stars in South Vietnam last month but says the medals were revoked on November 19 after the hoax was discovered.

November 21: Hanoi radio reports “wave after wave” of U.S. bombers have attacked targets in North Vietnam, including a POW camp said to house “a number of United States prisoner of war casualties.” The announcement later reports six U.S. planes have been shot down. In Washington, D.C., Laird announces the U.S. is conducting “limited duration protective air strikes” against targets in North Vietnam south of the 19th parallel in response to attacks on unarmed U.S. reconnaissance planes. Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Maine) condemns this “renewed reliance on military pressure” as an implied shift in policy “to force a settlement of the other side.” The North Vietnamese foreign ministry warns the U.S. that the bombings are a “serious threat” to the Paris talks.

November 22: The U.S. command imposes a blackout on the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam.

November 23: Laird discloses that a U.S. Army task force landed 23 miles west of Hanoi over the weekend in an unsuccessful attempt to free American prisoners of war thought to be held at Son Tay. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee asks the State Department for a November 24 closed-door session on the bombings, but no reply is received. Frank Render II, deputy assistant secretary of state, says “strong, aggressive, and committed leadership at the top,” dedicated to racial equality, is the key to solving the growing racial problems among U.S. troops in West Germany. In Chicago, a federal deputy marshall testifies that Hoffman ordered him to return a note from the jurors and to direct them to continue their deliberations. In Paris, North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government say they will not attend the November 25 session in protest of the U.S. bombings.

November 24: Laird testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he would recommend the resumption of a full-scale air war if North Vietnam were to violate the tacit understanding it has with the U.S., which halted the bombings two years before. At the National Press Club, Ky describes himself as an “ex-hawk turned dove” whose main interest is to end the 20-year fighting in his country.

November 25: Laird tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the administration disclosed the raid attempt to free POWs to avoid a “credibility problem” with the U.S. public. Secretary of State William Rogers testifies at the hearing that the failed rescue and the bombings were likely to have little effect “one way or the other” on the peace talks. The Army says experiments at Fort Carson, Fort Ord, and Schofield Barracks are underway in an effort to, get rid of “Mickey Mouse” regulations. Dr. Gerald Caplan of Harvard Medical School says the “brutalizing of the soldier by combat experience, especially in guerilla warfare,” is causing Vietnam veterans serious readjustment problems to civilian life. Donald Johnson, head of the Veterans Administration, refutes this, citing fewer psychiatric patients than in previous wars.

November 26: Hanoi blames the U.S. bombings for the deaths of 49 civilians. In Paris, the North Vietnamese delegation insists the U.S. dropped bombs north of the 19th parallel.

November 27: At a closed session of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover accuses Rev. Philip Berrigan and Rev. Daniel Berrigan of a plot to kidnap a U.S. aide for ransom in order to end the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam and to foster the release of political prisoners. Lawyers William Kuntsler and Rev. William Cunningham call his testimony “a far-fetched spy story.” The Defense Department acknowledges that U.S. bombers raided military targets near Hanoi to cover the attempted rescue at Song Tay.

November 29: The U.S. command reports that an Air Force transport plane carrying 73 Vietnamese and six American crewmen has been missing for three days. Sen. J.W. Fulbright (D-Ark.) accuses the Defense Department of displacing the State Department as the principal formulator of foreign policy, especially in Southeast Asia. The U.S. Navy announces that a joint South Vietnamese-American raid on a VC prison camp in the Mekong Delta has freed 19 Vietnamese.

November 30: A VC broadcast says they will observe three-day cease-fires during Christmas and New Year’s and a four-day truce for Tet. Reports say communist guerillas are digging in 20 miles of north Phnom Penh.




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