President Barack Obama issued a proclamation on May 24, 2012 encouraging American citizens to remember the courage and sacrifice of U.S. service men and women who served in the Vietnam War. Obama declared May 28, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2025, a 13-year span, as the “Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.” Fifty years ago, in 1962, President Kennedy sent American forces into South Vietnam to aid the Saigon government against Communist insurgency supported and directed by the communist government of North Vietnam. Over the next several years, American forces would arrive in greater numbers, and the role of the U.S. forces would change from a support role to heavy combat against Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. The war ended 13 years later, when North Vietnamese forces took the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon in April of 1975. Over 50,000 American troops lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
Historians and citizens still debate when the Vietnam War for Americans truly began. While President Obama, (and hence, the U.S. Government), is claiming that the American portion of the war officially began May 30, 1962, which is when the first Vietnam Service Ribbon was issued (this date is questionable. Further research is needed). Other dates which could logically be considered for inclusion as “The Start of America’s Vietnam War”:
–February 12, 1955: The first U. S. advisors sent to train South Vietnamese troops arrived in country.
–June 8, 1956 : The first American military death in Vietnam occurred on June 8, 1956? (Air Force Tech Sgt. Richard B Fitzgibbon, Jr. was murdered in Vietnam by another American servicemember. Fitzgibbon is officially recognized by the Department of Defense as the first American to die in what would become known as the Vietnam War.)
–July 8, 1959: U.S. Army Master Sgt. Chester Ovnand and Major Dale Buis, members of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group assisting the South Vietnamese 7th Infantry Division, died in an assault on the base at Bien Hoa, which is just north of Saigon. They died in an attack by Viet Cong guerrillas.
–August 2,1964: The Tonkin Gulf Incident in on August 2,1964, in which the USS Maddox engaged in combat with three North Vietnamese torpedo boats?
–March 8, 1965: The first “official” U.S. combat troops arrive at Da Nang, South Vietnam.
As with many aspects of the divisive Vietnam War, nothing is simple or clear; including the date in which the war (for Americans) actually began.