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November/December 2020 -   -  

50 Years Ago: 1970

December 1: The American Embassy in Phnom Penh is bombed. The UN General Assembly passes a resolution calling for the regular inspection of prison camps and for the humane treatment of all war prisoners. At Calley’s trial, Spec.4 Robert Earl Maples testifies he saw Calley open fire on unarmed women, children, and old men who had been herded into a ditch. He adds that Calley ordered him to load his machine gun and fire into the ditch but he refused. In Washington, D.C., the National Veterans Inquiry Into U.S. War Policy opens a three-day conference with testimony from more than a dozen Vietnam veterans telling of torture and murder of Vietnamese civilians. A rocket destroys a medical station at the Americal Division’s Chu Lai headquarters. In a Paris news conference, David Bruce denounces North Vietnam’s “shameful attitude” toward U.S. prisoners and their refusal to negotiate. U.S. intelligence analysts report a new Chinese-supplied guerrilla base at Dong Luang, Thailand.

December 2: Witness Alan Boyce, who previously told Army investigators that Calley ordered him to kill civilians in the My Lai 4 hamlet, invokes the Fifth Amendment on all questions regarding the massacre.

December 3: Paul Meadlo is taken into temporary custody after invoking the Fifth at Calley’s trial. At the closing day of the war crimes inquiry, a spokesman for 40 antiwar veterans says incidents against civilians aren’t “aberrant isolated acts,” but “the logical consequences of our war policies.” The Senate Appropriations Committee votes to bar Nixon from using defense funds to put U.S. troops into Cambodia.

December 4: Witness Dennis Conti describes the alleged massacre in My Lai 4, telling how Calley fired into a ditch full of people and how U.S. troops shot unarmed women and children. In South Korea, two American soldiers are sentenced to death by a Seoul district criminal court for the robbery and murder of a Korean couple. Military sources report that an acceleration of U.S. troop withdrawal is expected to remove an additional 7,000 personnel from Vietnam by December 31.

December 5: The U.S. command reports two Air Force sergeants have been rescued from the wreck of a C-123 transport plane that crashed into Cam Ranh Bay. The Cambodian Foreign Ministry logs a protest with the South Vietnamese ambassador that his country’s troops are burning Cambodian citizens’ houses. A North Vietnamese newspaper editorial says North Vietnam will “continue to shoot down American reconnaissance plans, set up antiaircraft installations anywhere, and mass troops in any sector.”

December 6: Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.) proposes a truce from Christmas until late January in an effort to reach a permanent ceasefire.

December 7: Thomas Turner testifies that murdering civilians pushed into a ditch outside of My Lai 4 lasted one hour. The World Council of Churches asks for donations of $210,000 to provide aid to American “draft-age immigrants” in Canada. The State Department says it is discussing the possibility of an extended holiday ceasefire, but any truce would depend on an agreement with the VC and North Vietnamese. The military command reports finding the wreckage of a C-123 lost over a week ago; no survivors are reported.

December 8: In Qui Nhon, demonstrators chant “Yankee go home,” throw rocks at U.S. soldiers, and burn a Jeep in the second day of protests after the shooting death of a Vietnamese schoolboy by an American GI. Secretary State William Rogers testifies to Congress that the U.S. should provide long-term assistance to Cambodia, short of direct military intervention. James Dursi testifies that Calley ordered a soldier to shoot an entire group of prisoners after the GI had distributed candy and C-rations to the children. Dursi reports he refused to follow orders to open fire on 15 civilians he had rounded up from a hamlet. The government rests its case against Calley.

December 9: Saigon announces that one-day truces will be observed for Christmas and the New Year. The defense opens its case, setting out to prove Calley acted under orders and the killings were “legal and justifiable acts of war.”

December 10: At a news conference, Nixon says the U.S. will retaliate with bombings of military targets in the North if the NVA “increases the level of fighting in South Vietnam” as U.S. forces are withdrawn. In Paris, the U.S. and South Vietnam offer an exchange of war prisoners; North Vietnam and the PRG counter with an offer of a ceasefire immediately upon agreeing that the troop withdrawal will be completed by June 30, 1971. A North Vietnamese broadcast rejects the extended ceasefire proposed by Sen. Jackson as “a new treacherous trick by the Nixon administration.” The defense says Calley had orders, traced to Medina, to “kill every living thing” in the My Lai 4 hamlet, and superior officers observing the massacre did nothing to stop it.

December 11: Laird testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that lack of progress at the peace talks and a refusal by Hanoi to recognize America’s right to fly reconnaissance missions over the North could be justification to renew the bombings. In Saigon, Selective Service System Director Curtis Tarr says his conversations with soldiers have convinced him “more than ever” that educational deferments should be abolished. The State Department reports it has received from North Vietnam, through Sweden, important information on 200 Americans captured or missing in Vietnam. Cambodia rations gasoline. Former CWO Scott Baker testifies he saw corpses along a trail at the southern edge of My Lai before any U.S. troops reached the hamlet.

December 12: The VA announces it will open 30 specialized drug-abuse centers to handle the large increase in drug addiction among troops. The Defense Department announces a draft call of 17,000 for January, the highest since last April.

December 13: The U.S. command reveals that a U.S. Air Force B-57 carrying top-secret intelligence equipment has been shot down over Laos.

December 14: One American is killed and two wounded when an observation helicopter is shot down in Phuoc Long. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approves the Nixon administration’s request for $255 million in military aid for Cambodia, but it prohibits the president’s authority to send troops or advisers there. Sources disclose the U.S. has formed a provisional air cavalry brigade with more than 200 helicopters to patrol 10,000 square miles around Saigon.

December 15: Alvin Glatowski, one of two American GIs who hijacked a U.S. ammunition ship to Cambodia last March, turns himself in to the American Embassy in Phnom Penh. At Calley’s court-martial, five witnesses say they were under the clear “impression” that Medina wanted them to kill everyone in the hamlet. Charles West testifies that Medina told his men to “leave nothing walking, crawling, or growing” at a briefing the night before. Michael Arnold Bernhardt tells the jury that Medina warned him not to disclose what happened to his congressman or anyone else. Sources report the air cavalry brigade has been disbanded after little more than one week because of a lack of flexibility. A House-Senate conference committee amends the troop-restriction clause in the Cambodian aid package to allow the president to take action in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand “to promote the safe and orderly withdrawal or disengagement of U.S. forces from Southeast Asia or to aid in the release of U.S. prisoners of war.”

December 16: A U.S. military housing section near Tan Son Nhut Air Base is hit by enemy grenades, leaving two Americans and one South Vietnamese civilian dead. Laird says the proposed $2 billion cut in the defense budget would “increase the risks to our national security.”

December 17: The Defense Department issues new directives to enforce racial equality in the military. The Calley court-martial adjourns until January 11.

December 18: The Army announces plans to destroy its stock of biological and toxic weapons in accordance with pledges made by Nixon. A Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report calls the F-111 fighter-bomber a “fiscal blunder of the worst magnitude.”

December 19: The U.S. command reports the loss of five aircraft—four Americans are dead; three are wounded and two are missing.

December 20: Rioting erupts outside Kadena Air Force Base in Koza, Okinawa, after reports that an American vehicle injured a pedestrian. Rioters break through the base gates and burn a school, a guardhouse, and 80 vehicles. Forty U.S. servicemen and 19 Okinawans are injured, and at least 21 are arrested. On ABC’s Issues and Answers, U.S. Information Agency chief Frank Shakespeare, Jr., says U.S. prestige abroad has suffered as a result of the “traumatic” impact of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.

December 21: The Pathet Lao accuse the Laotian government of delaying peace talks. American troop strength in Vietnam is 339,200.

December 22: Congress approves Nixon’s $225 million request for aid to Cambodia with a restriction preventing the president from sending ground troops or advisers. At Camp Eagle, Bob Hope entertains the crowd with marijuana jokes. The U.S. command reports two Navy commandos have been killed in a clash in the Mekong Delta. A broadcast by Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap says unarmed U.S. reconnaissance planes in North Vietnamese territory will be shot down. North Vietnam delivers what it claims is the definitive list of American prisoners to a representative of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Fullbright in Paris.

December 23: Rogers denounces Hanoi’s list of POWs, the names of which have been previously known, as a “contemptible maneuver” to shift attention away from the North’s failure to comply with international law. North Vietnam’s foreign ministry issues a statement defending its treatment of American prisoners as “lenient and humane.” In Paris, the North Vietnamese delegation asks the U.S. to accept June 30 as a withdrawal date or suggest an alternative one.

December 24: Eleven miles south of Hue U.S. troops accidently fire an artillery shell into their own position, killing nine. In Paris, North Vietnam says it is willing to meet privately with the U.S. to break the deadlock at the peace talks.

December 25: North Vietnam allows Michael Maclear of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to interview two American prisoners. North Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dong says the list of 339 POWs is a “full and complete” accounting of all the Americans being held.

December 26: Allied forces say 78 incidents occurred during the ceasefire, leaving four Americans and six South Vietnamese dead. Adm. Thomas Moorer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says a “possible course of action” for South Vietnam, if the North attempts a spring offensive, is a ground assault on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos to cut supply lines. The White House orders “an orderly yet rapid phase-out of the herbicide operations” in Vietnam.

December 27: VC shells hit an allied naval base on the Camau Peninsula. Casualties are called “light.” Two Americans are killed near the DMZ after their armored personnel carrier hits a mine.

December 28: The Cambodian government announces censorship is being initiated. Forty-eight American volunteer workers in Vietnam send letters to Nixon and UN general secretary U Thant charging the U.S. with violations of the Geneva Convention. Laird calls Maclear’s interviews carefully “staged and edited” and a “censored production.”

December 29: A study by the American Association for the Advancement of Science shows catastrophic effects of herbicides on some parts of Vietnam, including at least one-fifth of the 1.2 million acres of mangrove forest “utterly destroyed.” Hanoi radio says the dumping of defoliants in South Vietnam has cause “chromosomic alterations in the local population.”

December 30: The second year of the peace talks end at an impasse, with each side accusing the other of intransigence.

December 31: The American command discloses that U.S. planes have conducted a series of bombings on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

1971January 1: At least 26 incidents are reported during the New Year ceasefire, resulting in one American, nine South Vietnamese, and nine enemy deaths. About 150 South Vietnamese protest on the steps of the National Assembly Building after they are refused permission to visit relatives at Tan Hiep Prison.

January 3: A Defense Department taskforce finds that drug abuse among GIs in Vietnam has become a “military problem” for which a solution has yet to be found.

January 4: At Fort Benning, Paul Meadlo is granted immunity from prosecution. The last two Special Forces camps under U.S. control are transferred to the South Vietnamese. CBS airs a segment of a VC film showing the capture of Americans at Con Thien in October 1968. Former POW Lt. Robert Frishman tells the UN many more Americans are being held by North Vietnam than are on the list recently released by Hanoi.

January 5: Enemy troops ambush a U.S. convoy on Highway 20 in the Central Highlands, resulting in the death of one American and one enemy.

January 6: In Paris, Secretary of Defense Laird, on his way to Southeast Asia, says the U.S. will end its “combat responsibility” in South Vietnam by midsummer. Gen. Creighton Abrams issues a 64-page directive aimed at combatting drug abuse in Vietnam. Hanoi calls Nixon’s statement that North Vietnam and the U.S. had an understanding about reconnaissance flights over the North a “fiction.” The Army drops charges against four officers who had been charged with covering up the killings in My Lai. Cary Donham, the West Point graduate who was denied a discharge as a conscientious objector, is granted a stay from assignment to active duty after a U.S. Court of Appeals rules the Army violated its own regulations. Six UH-1 helicopters in Vietnam are sent to Malaysia to help rescue thousands of people marooned by monsoon floods.

January 7: The U.S. AID mission cancels the Food for Peace program in one city and nine provinces in South Vietnam after a federal investigation uncovers widespread abuses. Seven Americans are reported killed after two reconnaissance patrols are attacked by enemy troops—one in Bong Son Plain, the other, 100 miles northeast of Saigon. The U.S. command discloses that 4,204 Americans were killed in combat last year, the lowest total since 1965. A Pentagon spokesman says U.S. troops will cease to play a major combat role in Vietnam after May 1, but more than 100,000 will remain to play a security role. At Sgt. Charles Hutto’s court-martial, three witnesses say Capt. Ernest Medina ordered them to kill everyone in the hamlet to “revenge” men who had been killed or wounded previously in the area. All three witnesses testify they never saw Hutto shoot anyone. U.S. officials disclose GI deaths from drugs in Vietnam could be 70 percent higher than previously thought.

January 8: A statement by Hutto that he shot civilians in My Lai 4 on orders from his superiors is read into the record as the government’s last piece of evidence before resting its case. The Defense Department denies as conclusive the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s study that found the defoliation program is catastrophic for South Vietnam. While taping an episode of The Dick Cavett Show, Telford Taylor, former chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremburg trials, says Gen. Westmoreland might be convicted of war crimes if the standards established during WWII were applied to his conduct in Vietnam. The Cambodian government orders electricity rationing in Phnom Penh because of a diesel fuel shortage. The Long Binh naval base is turned over to the South Vietnamese. Laird arrives in Saigon.

January 9: The U.S. command discloses that an F-105 fighter-bomber attacked a missile site in North Vietnam on January 8 after the pilot found his plane, which had been flying escort for B-52s in Laos, had been “locked in” by enemy radar after it crossed the border. In Bachuc, near the Cambodian border, villagers charge that South Vietnamese military officials are forcing them to clear a heavily mined wooded area that is repeatedly fired upon by the VC. For the first time in over three years, the U.S. command does not issue a morning press release because, says a spokesman, “There just wasn’t anything to report.” The Defense Department discloses a new Army program requiring enlisted men to move up in rank or get a promotion in three years or risk being barred from reenlistment.

January 10: Laird says he is sending Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Thomas Moorer to Phnom Penh. South Vietnamese and American officials disclose plans to resettle refugees into the two southernmost military regions, III and IV Corps. At Quang Tri base camp, a white Army major is killed while another is wounded after arguing with five black enlisted men over loud music. The U.S. government says it will recall Meadlo for Calley’s trial.

January 11: At Calley’s court-martial, Meadlo, under the threat of arrest, says he and Calley were “carrying out orders” when they shot more than 100 unarmed civilians at My Lai 4. In Saigon, Laird says South Vietnamese troops are improving so rapidly that “additional thousands” of U.S. troops can be withdrawn this year. Selective Service System Director Curtis Tarr says the draft-lottery system has been “effective” and is “much more equitable than the system it replaced.”

January 12: A grand jury in Harrisburg, Pa., hands down indictments against six people, including Rev. Philip Berrigan, and names seven co-conspirators, including Berrigan’s brother, Rev. Daniel Berrigan. The seven counts include plots to kidnap Henry Kissinger and to blow up federal buildings’ heating systems. In Washington, D.C., five military officers state they are sending letters to the secretaries of the Army and Navy, requesting they convene formal courts of inquiry into war crimes and atrocities in Vietnam. Moorer arrives in Phnom Penh and meets with U.S. and Cambodian officials, including Premier Lon Nol, to talk about the country’s military situation.

January 13: It is disclosed that Laird has rejected a request from the JCS to use American transport planes and helicopters to ferry South Vietnamese reinforcements and ammunition in Cambodia. In Danbury, Conn., the Berrigan brothers issue a statement denying their involvement in the alleged plots. The defense rests its case against Hutto. In Danang, Spec.4 Alfred Flint is charged with murder and attempted murder of two majors during an argument over loud music. Nixon signs legislation that includes the repeal of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. At a closed session at Calley’s court-martial, two documents are presented: one by Lt. Col. Frank Barker, Jr., written two weeks after the incident at My Lai 4, stating the mission was “well planned, well executed, and successful”; the second, written by the Americal Division chief of staff four weeks after the massacre, ordering a ban on the use of the term “search and destroy.”

January 14: South Vietnamese and Cambodian troops begin a push to reopen Highway 4, the only route from Phnom Penh to the sea. The U.S. command reports one American is killed and five are wounded from a booby trap. A six-member jury acquits Hutto after less than two hours. The U.S. command reports the lowest combined weekly death (27) and wounded (83) total since October 1965. In Paris, North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government reject a list, given to them by U.S. negotiator David K.E. Bruce, of 1,534 Americans named by the Pentagon as missing. SSgt. Dennis Vasquez testifies that Eleventh Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Oran Henderson told company leaders, of whom Medina was one, to “rush in aggressively, close with the enemy, and wipe them out for good.” He indicates Henderson viewed the mission as a “final solution” to the problem of the VC’s 48th Battalion, which was reportedly in the My Lai 4 area.

January 15: U.S. Air Force fighter-bombers, escorting B-52s in Laos, attack three missile sites in North Vietnam in “protective-reaction” strikes. Military sources say, if necessary, U.S. medevac helicopters will fly into Cambodia to pick up wounded South Vietnamese troops—contending this falls under logistics support. Amnesty International criticizes the U.S. draft laws as discriminatory.

January 18: The Defense Department says the U.S. intends to use a full range of air power throughout Cambodia against enemy guerrillas who might “ultimately” threaten U.S. troops in South Vietnam. Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) opens his presidential bid by pledging to withdraw every American soldier from Vietnam. The U.S. command says two American helicopter carriers have taken up positions off the coast of Cambodia. American helicopters fly at least three air strikes in support of Cambodian troops trying to reopen Highway 4. The Calley trial is recessed so he can be examined by an Army psychiatrists’ sanity board at Walter Reed Hospital.

January 19: Official sources report that American helicopter gunships are flying combat missions in Laos in support of Laotian troops. The White House acknowledges a step-up of U.S. air activity in Cambodia but stresses it hasn’t changed the policy that was laid down by Nixon over the summer.

January 20: Cambodian Prime Minister Lon Nol arrives in Saigon for a two-day visit with South Vietnamese leaders. McGovern charges Nixon with violating the “spirit and letter” of the Cooper-Church amendment—which restricts American military action into Cambodia—by authorizing increased air activity into that country. Laird defends this new Cambodian involvement as “crucial to the success” of the withdrawal of American forces from South Vietnam. Reports say South Vietnamese and Cambodian troops have linked up on Highway 4. Hanoi publishes a detailed list of U.S. air raids and chemical spraying (covering a two-week period) on North Vietnam. The U.S. Defense Department denies an offensive bombing campaign is being carried out against the North. Saigon announces a 24-hour ceasefire will be observed for Tet.

January 21: Sixty-four House Democrats introduce legislation to ban the use of funds for U.S. “air and sea combat support for any military operations in Cambodia.” In Saigon, Lon Nol announces he and South Vietnam have reached an agreement to expand relations and reduce tensions.

January 22: Enemy shells hit Phnom Penh while enemy guerrillas devastate a military section at the airport. The U.S. Army clears the last four enlisted men accused of crimes in My Lai 4, saying that “dismissal of the charges was in the best interest of justice.” Eight Americans are killed and three wounded in the downing of two helicopters by the VC. American Amb. Ellsworth Bunker announces that the pacification program has been renamed the Community Defense and Local Development Plan.

January 23: Saigon announces plans to withdraw 5,300 troops from Cambodia—those who helped clear Highway 4. U.S. military sources report that infiltration of North Vietnamese troops into South Vietnam dropped considerably in December and January.

January 24: In Phnom Penh, six government employees are seriously injured in the bombing of Cambodia’s electric power utility headquarters. Informed sources say a report issued in December directed U.S. pilots to take “more aggressive actions” if they find they have been “locked in” by radar from North Vietnamese antiaircraft missile sites.

January 25: American officials say the plan for a “military equipment delivery team” to check on the deployment of U.S. supplies throughout the Cambodian countryside “would not fall into an advisory role.” Administration officials say they plan to increase the size of South Vietnam’s air force substantially. Thai Army reinforcements are sent to the Cambodian border following an increase in VC activity around Phnom Penh.

January 26: The Defense Department acknowledges that 15-20 Americans in civilian clothes, flown in on three U.S. Army helicopters, landed in Phnom Penh the night of January 25 to retrieve two damaged helicopters. President Nguyen Van Thieu opens his presidential and legislative campaign by indirectly linking peace candidates to the communists.

January 27: Cambodian officials announce a new drive to clear the enemy from west/northwest of Phnom Penh. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Stennis, after a briefing from Laird, says it might be necessary to ease the present congressional restrictions on U.S. military operations in Cambodia. The U.S. command reports it has turned over eight river patrol boats to the Cambodian Navy under the military aid program. The South Vietnamese and U.S. commands report 53 enemy violations of the Tet truce but note that it was one of the quietest in years.

January 28: Nixon asks Congress to appropriate $1.5 billion in pay increases and other benefits for the military in an attempt to end the draft by mid-1973. Secretary of State Rogers tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the administration has no intention of expanding American military activity in Cambodia and does not seek to relax the Cooper-Church Amendment. In Ohio, U.S. District Court Judge William Thomas rules an 18-page report by a Portage County grand jury on the Kent State turmoil last May illegal. He orders the document destroyed and stricken from the record.

January 29: Rogers says the U.S., although ruling out the use of ground troops, will use air power in any way necessary throughout Southeast Asia to prevent enemy troop strength from amassing, including using air support for South Vietnamese troops against enemy supply bases in southern Laos. The Army discloses that “in the interest of justice” it has dropped all seven charges against Maj. Gen. Samuel Koster, who was accused of attempting to cover up the incident at My Lai.

January 30: Laotian premier Souvanna Phouma states he is convinced that North Vietnamese troops are beginning a general offensive against his government’s military bases. The Army reports Koster has been censured and may face further penalties. A Gallup poll shows 73 percent support the Hatfield-McGovern proposal to end U.S. troop involvement in South Vietnam by the end of 1971.

January 31: The U.S. military command continues to impose an embargo on all news reports from northern South Vietnam, which began on January 29. Laotian officials say they have not received any official word of a South Vietnamese incursion into their country; they say they would oppose such an action. U.S. pilots say they destroyed some 2,000 enemy trucks—about two-fifths of the entire fleet—on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in January. The U.S. command cannot say how much this has hampered operations because the trucks may have been replaced.



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