Honoring … Like thousands of communities across the United States, residents of Bullhead City honored men and women in the military on Vietnam Veterans Day last Tuesday. Dignitaries and residents attended the ceremonies, which was held at Mohave Community College campus in Bullhead City. (Photo by Shiela Shutts)
NATION – Communities from across the U.S.A. paid homage on Vietnam Veterans Day last Tuesday to those men and women who served during the War in Vietnam (which officially ended April 30, 1975) and to those who paid the ultimate price with their lives.
Only 700,000 Vietnam veterans are alive today. Like thousands of communities across the land, Bullhead City honored the Vietnam veterans during special ceremonies at the local Mohave Community College Campus.
Many people do not realize that the American government’s participation in Vietnam began long before the actual Vietnam Conflict began. The first American military death in Vietnam occurred on Sept. 26, 1945 during the unrest in Saigon when Office of Strategic Services Officer. Lieutenant Colonel A. Peter Dewey, was killed by Viet Minh guerrillas who mistook him for a French officer.
Before his death, Dewey had filed a report on the deepening crisis in Vietnam, stating his opinion that the U.S. “ought to clear out of Southeast Asia.” Participation in Vietnam by the U.S. escalated on July 26, 1950 when President Harry Truman authorized $15 million in military aid to the French.
American military advisors accompanied the flow of U.S. tanks, planes, artillery and other supplies to Vietnam. Over the next four years, the U.S. spent $3 billion on the French war and by 1954 provided 80 percent of all war supplies used by the French.
Former Allied commander in Europe during WWII and five-star Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as the 34th U.S. President on Jan. 20, 1953 and that’s when. U.S. military aid greatly increased to the French in Vietnam to prevent a Communist victory. U.S. military advisors continued to accompany American supplies sent to Vietnam.
To justify America’s financial commitment, Eisenhower cited a “Domino Theory” by which a Communist victory in Vietnam would result in surrounding countries falling one after another like a “falling row of dominoes.” The Domino Theory was used by a succession of presidents and their advisors to justify ever-deepening U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
According to government records, America’s official involvement in “Vietnam Conflict” lasted 5,569 days (1960 – 1975) and it’s estimated the average age of men and women military personnel serving in Vietnam was only 22.
Other statistics not widely known by all Americans include:
The youngest U.S. serviceman to be killed in action during the Vietnam Conflict was Private First Class Dan Bullock who joined the Marines at age 14 by altering his birth certificate and graduated from boot camp on Dec. 10, 1968. Bullock died from enemy small arms fire at Hoa Combat Base in Quang Nam Province June 7, 1969, at the age of 15.
According to a Presidential Proclamation designating Vietnam Veterans Day as March 29, President Barrack Obama said, “The Vietnam War is a story of service members of different backgrounds, colors, and creeds who came together to complete a daunting mission. It is a story of Americans from every corner of our Nation who left the warmth of family to serve the country they loved. It is a story of patriots who braved the line of fire, who cast themselves into harm’s way to save a friend, who fought hour after hour, day after day to preserve the liberties we hold dear. From Ia Drang to Hue, they won every major battle of the war and upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces.”
Vietnam Veterans Day has been designated by the federal government as March 29 and coincides with March 29, 1973, the day the United States Armed Forces completed the withdrawal of the combat units and combat support units from South Vietnam. The official date the war ended was April 30, 1975.
(Publisher’s note: Butch Meriwether, a freelance journalist, served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was a 20-year career gunnery sergeant before retiring in August 1984. He served four tours of duty in South Vietnam, 1967, ’68, ’69 and ’70).