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Vietnam War Timeline: 1958-1960

1958
March
7th Walter Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs recommends that the UK, Canada, France and India be sounded out about increasing the number of MAAG personnel
June
7th Walter Robertson sends a letter to the Secretary of State stressing the need to abolish the 342 ceiling on MAAG personnel and explains, "...for some time now only a handful of TERM personnel has been engaged in the original mission of equipment salvage. Practically, the duties of most TERM personnel are indistinguishable from those of the MAAG personnel."
July
14th MAAG objects to ARVN plans to open a Commando Training School a Nha Trang
August
12th Thirty Binh Xuyen members are killed during their attack on the Michelin rubber plantations
1959
January
North Vietnam's Central Executive Committee issues Resolution 15, changing its strategy from “Political struggle” to "“armed struggle"
April
4th President Eisenhower makes his first commitment to maintain South Vietnam as a separate National State
May
19th North Vietnamese high command organizes the 559th Transportation Group to construct and maintain a route for infiltration into South Vietnam. The route would become known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail and facilitated the movement of troops and transportation of supplies from North of the DMZ.
25th Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) extends the advisory and training operation in Vietnam as follows:
  • Provide MAAG advisors down to and including Infantry Regimental level and Artillery, Armored and separate Marine Battalion level.
  • Place the advisors in the field with the HQ of the units being advised in order to furnish advice on the preparation of daily plans, monitor the day-to-day conduct of operations and render on the spot advice based on the situation as it exists at the time. This will include tactical advice as well as that provided on logistical matters, including medical support problems, the evacuation of the wounded, transportation problems, road and rail construction, bridging supply procedures, maintenance of equipment etc.
  • Evaluate Vietnamese requests for additional equipment, road building materials, heavy engineering equipment etc. in the light of the direct observations of the on-the-spot advisors as well as upon other information available.
  • Evaluate the level of cooperation and coordination among Vietnamese Army, Navy and Air Force elements and take necessary corrective action with Vietnamese officials in those instances where deficiencies are reported by on-the-spot advisors.
  • The activities of MAAG Advisors must be limited to advisory functions and under no circumstances shall they participate directly in combat operations nor will they accompany units on anti-guerrilla operations in areas immediately adjacent to national boundaries.
July
7th Saigon embassy informed that the DoD is considering detailing U.S. Army Special Forces teams to MAAG Viet-Nam to act as advisors on anti-guerrilla tactics
8th Viet Cong guerrillas armed with small arms and home made bombs attack the U.S. 7th Infantry Advisory Detachment at Bien Hoa. American advisors Major Dale Buis and Master Sergeant Chester Ovnard, who were watching a movie in the mess hall, are killed along with a Vietnamese mess attendant and an ARVN soldier. One VC member was also killed.
August
10 ARVN officers attend the British Jungle Warfare School in Johor, Malaya
30th 90% of voters turn out in elections for the National Assembly in South Vietnam
The election results are:
  • National Revolutionary Movement: 78 seats
  • Independents: 36 seats
  • Socialist: 4 seats
  • Social Democrats: 3 seats
  • Vietnam Restoration Party: 2 seats
1960
February
15th CINCPAC argues against using U.S. Special Forces teams to train the Vietnamese civil guard because:
  • If overt it would violate the MAAG / TERM ceiling
  • If covert, experience in Laos has shown the difficulty in maintaining plausibility of such cover
Instead, Admiral Felt believes the training of selected Vietnamese civil guard personnel on Okinawa by Special Forces instructors is the only practical and feasible solution
19th Elbridge Durbrow, U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam, strongly recommends that U.S. Army Special Forces be assigned to USARMA (United States Army Attaché) Saigon, to give anti-guerrilla training to the Vietnamese civil guard. He indicates that GVN is agreeable to this extension of USARAMA activities and regards this type of training as an urgent need.

Edward Lansdale informs John Irwin, Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, that the Office for Special Operations (OSO) concurs with Durbrow’s recommendation.
27th President Ngo Dinh Diem states he is anxious to have sufficient numbers of U.S. Army Special Forces personnel brought in to train both the Civil Guard and ARVN.
March
11th Secretary of Defense notifies CINCPAC that from April 1st personnel arriving in Viet-Nam will no longer be assigned to TERM and that the mission will be phased out by 31st December 1960
30th The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) reverse MAAG policy by deciding that the Army of Vietnam should develop an anti-guerrilla capability within the regular force structure
April
North Vietnam imposes universal military conscription and begins infiltration of cadres in to the South
May
5th U.S. announces an increase in the number of MAAG advisors above the Geneva imposed ceiling of 342
August
9th Captain Kong Le leads the 2nd Lao Paratroop Battalion in a coup d’etat against the right wing government of Prince Somsanith and forms a neutralist government of Laos, open to both Royalists and the Pathet Lao.
15th General Phoumi Nosavan demounces Kong Le as a communist and forms a counter-coup committee (Revolutionary Committee) nominally under Prince Boun Oum in Savannakhét.
16th Wishing to end the fighting in Laos, Kong Le hands over power to a neutralist government under Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma.
September
1st Lieutenant General Lionel C. McGarr replaces General Samuel Williams as Chief of MAAG-Vietnam
November
9th Senator John F. Kennedy narrowly defeats Vice President Richard M. Nixon in the U.S. Presidential election
11th South Vietnamese paratroopers stage a failed coup d’état against President Ngo Dinh Diem
December
4th The Soviet Union begins airlifting Supplies to Kong Le’s neutralist forces in Vientiane. Thailand, which supplies food and fuel to the city, had previously imposed a blockade on the Laos capital
9th Laos Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma hands power to the military and leaves Vientiane for Cambodia
13th Backed by the CIA, Phoumi Nosavan’s Royal Laotian Army begin their assault on the capital.
16th Phoumi’s royalist troops retake Vientiane. Kong Le retreats north towards the Plaine des Jarres.
20th National Liberation Front of South Vietnam forms with the aim of overthrowing Diem’s government and reunifying the country
31st U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam: Approximately 900

1956-1957    1961-1962