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Vietnam War Timeline: 1961 - 1962

1961
January
The CIA begins supplying, training and supporting the Hmong (Meo) tribesman in Laos under Vang Pao (Operation Momentum)

1st Kong Le’s troops take control of the Plaine des Jarres, join forces with the Pathet Lao and receive airdropped Soviet supplies.
6th Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev makes a speech promising support for "wars of national liberation"
7th The Royal Laotian Army launches a failed attempt to capture the Plaine des Jarres from Kong Le, despite significant numerical superiority.
20th John F. Kennedy is inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States
28th Kennedy approves the Counterinsurgency Plan (CIP) for Vietnam, which offers money to increase the size of the Army and Civil Guard in exchange for Ngo Dinh Diem broadening his government, streamlining the military chain of command and agreeing a national strategy to defeat the Viet Cong
February
13th U.S. opens negotiations on the CIP with Diem. The talks drag on until May without much success as a result of his reluctance to move away from centralized decision-making.
March
15th Frederick Nolting Jr. replaces Elbridge Durbrow as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam
23rd President Kennedy tells the American public "The security of all Southeast Asia will be endangered if Laos loses its neutral independence."
April
9th Diem re-elected President of the Republic of Vietnam
19th After 3 days of fighting, the CIA’s invasion force of 1,543 Cuban exiles is defeated at the Bay of Pigs by Castro’s army. The U.S. Navy rescues 26 members of the Brigade, the rest are captured or killed.
May
3rd The Royal Laotian Army and Pathet Lao declare a ceasefire, though PL / North Vietnamese forces continue their attack on the Hmong outpost of Padong
11th In National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 52, President Kennedy approves the deployment of a 400-man Special Forces group to Nha Trang to accelerate ARVN training.
11th - 13th U.S. Vice President Lyndon Johnson visits South Vietnam and proclaims strong U.S. support for Diem.
16th A Laos peace conference is convened in Geneva attended by the Neutralists, Pathet Lao and Rightists. Also in attendance are Laos’ neighbours, the ICC member countries as well as the U.S. and France.
June
1st CIA backed Hmong tribesman abandon Padong to the Pathet Lao / North Vietnamese, and establish a new base at Long Cheng
9th President Ngo Dinh Diem requests U.S. troops to train the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) officers and technical specialists. He also proposes increasing the ARVN from 170,000 to 270,000 men and that MAAG be enlarged accordingly to train the new soldiers.
27th In order to avoid accusations of violating the Laos ceasefire agreement, the CIA stop all military shipments to the Hmong
August
11th In NSAM 65 Kennedy agrees to support an increase in the ARVN to 200,000 men, if Diem produces a plan for using the forces.
September
15th MAAG Vietnam publishes the “Geographically Phased National Level Operation Plan for Counterinsurgency”. It improves on the original CIP with a specific three-phase timetable of operations for winning control of the countryside from the Viet Cong.
18th Viet Cong forces attack Phuoc Vinh, 55 miles from Saigon, and behead the province chief
21st 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces activated at Fort Bragg
30th The British Advisory Mission (BRIAM) is established in Saigon under Robert Thompson to advise and assist the GVN in their efforts to suppress the Communist insurgency
October
5th National Intelligence Estimate states that 80% to 90% of the Viet Cong are recruited locally, rather than infiltrating from the North.
11th President Kennedy, in NSAM 104, authorizes the introduction of the ‘Air Force "Jungle Jim" Squadron into Viet Nam for the inital purpose of training Vietnamese forces.’ Codenamed "Farm Gate", detachment 2A of the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron departs for its covert mission in Vietnam on November 5th.
18th RVN President Diem proclaims a state of emergency

General Maxwell D. Taylor, President Kennedy’s Special Military Representative, arrives in Vietnam to investigate the possibility of employing U.S. combat troops.
November
U.S. Special Forces, under the direction of the CIA, begin working with the Montagnard tribesman of Buon Enao village as a counterinsurgency experiment. They fortify the hamlet and create a 30-man strike force to patrol the village and to conduct ambushes to ward off Viet Cong.

1st In a eyes only cable to President Kennedy, General Taylor states that the Viet Cong guerrillas are well on their way to success in South Vietnam. He recommends increasing the number of American advisory personnel, improving ARVN mobility and argues that a U.S. task force (6-8,000 troops) be sent under the guise of assisting with flood relief in the Mekong Delta. The task force would "conduct such combat operations as are necessary for self-defense and for the security of the area in which (it) is stationed"
3rd In his formal report to President Kennedy, General Maxwell Taylor recommends:
  1. U.S. military forces be sent to Vietnam to demonstrate American resolve and boost ARVN confidence
  2. To solve the weaknesses of the Diem regime the U.S. should form a “limited partnership” with GVN. (i.e. in exchange for increased material assistance the U.S. would expect to "share in decision-making", rather than "advise only")
7th Special National Intelligence Estimate 10-4-61 assesses that North Vietnam would respond to larger U.S troop commitments by increasing support to the Viet Cong
13th Robert Thompson, head of BRIAM in Saigon, submits to Diem a plan to clear the Viet Cong from the Mekong Delta and to secure the population through the creation of “strategic” and “defended hamlets”. Rather than killing insurgents, the plan aims to win the loyalty of the rural population by providing the necessary security for economic and social improvements to progress.
22nd In NSAM 111 President Kennedy adopts most of Maxwell Taylor's “limited partnership” recommendations, but decides not to send combat troops to Vietnam. The U.S. will substantially increase the number of advisors and provide GVN with helicopters and transport aircraft. In return Diem is expected to broaden his government and streamline the military command structure.
25th Diem tells Ambassador Nolting that the quid pro quo aspects of the U.S proposal will allow the Communists to capture the nationalist cause. He also states that broadening the government to make it more popular is putting the cart before the horse. Giving security to the people is vital to regain popular support.
27th State Department tells Ambassador Nolting to drop the insistence on explicit U.S. influence on decisions by Diem's government. Instead, State assumes such influence will be a by-product of the close collaboration between U.S. and GVN.
December
11th The first U.S. Army helicopter units, the 57th and 8th Transportation Companies, arrive in Saigon. The 32 "Flying Banana" CH-21 helicopters are to provide air transportation for ARVN soldiers.
31st U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam: 3,205
1962
February
3rd President Diem creates the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Strategic Hamlets (IMCSH). Nominally under Bui Van Long, the committee is actually controlled by the President’s brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu.
8th Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) formed to support the increased American involvement in RVN. Headquartered in Saigon it is placed under the command of General Paul D. Harkins. MAAG remains responsible for training the Republic of Vietnam’s Armed Forces (RVNAF).
March
19th Diem approves Robert Thompson’s Delta Pacification Plan
22nd GVN launches Operation Sunrise, a test of the Strategic Hamlet program. Rather than beginning in the Mekong Delta, Diem chooses the heavily infiltrated province of Binh Duong, north of Saigon.
April
15th Marine Helicopter squadrons arrive in Soc Trang, southwest of Saigon, as part of Operation Shufly. The Marines are to provide air support to ARVN troops fighting the Viet Cong.
May
8th Pathet Lao forces attack Phoumi Nosavan’s garrison in Nam Tha in northwest Laos. The defenders flee across the Mekong.
15th Kennedy sends 5,000 Marines and 50 jet fighters to Thailand in response to the recent Communist attacks in Laos
June
23rd Souvanna Phouma forms a new coalition government in Laos with the neutralists, Pathet Lao and rightists all having seats in the cabinet.
July
23rd After receiving optimistic reports on the situation in Vietnam, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara requests the development of a plan to build up the RVNAF and phase-out U.S. involvement by 1965.

All 14 nations sign the Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos in Geneva. The agreement states that all foreign military personnel are to leave the country by October 7th 1962.
31st The Australian Army Training Team, Vietnam (AATTV) begins to arrive in South Vietnam to assist with teaching the ARVN
August
14th General Paul Harkins, head of MACV, is instructed to develop a Comprehensive Plan for South Vietnam (CPSVN) in accordance with McNamara’s directive of 23rd July.
October
6th All U.S military personnel, including Special Forces, are withdrawn from Laos, in accordance with the Geneva neutrality agreement.
14th A U-2 spy plane photographs Soviet nuclear missile sites in Cuba
22nd In a televised address President Kennedy announces the discovery of medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) in Cuba
27th An American U-2 spy plane is shot down over Cuba
28th Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announces that he has agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba
November
26th Diem reorganizes the RVNAF and increases the Corps Tactical Zones (CTZ) from three to four
December
31st U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam: 11,300

1959-1960    1963-1964