1966 in the Vietnam War

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1966 in the Vietnam War
← 1965
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Anti-Communist forces:

 South Vietnam
 United States
 South Korea
 New Zealand
Laos Kingdom of Laos
Taiwan Republic of China

Communist forces:

 North Vietnam
Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam Viet Cong
Laos Pathet Lao
 People's Republic of China
 Soviet Union
 North Korea

South Vietnam: 735,900 [1]
United States: 385,300 [1]
South Korea: 25,570 [1]
Thailand : 240 [1]
Australia: 4530 [1]
Philippines: 2060 [1]

New Zealand: 160 [1]
Viet Cong and North Vietnam: 282,000[2]
Casualties and losses
US: 6,143 killed
South Vietnam: 11,953 killed[3]
South Korea: hundreds killed[4]
Australia 63 killed[5]
Viet Cong and North Vietnam: casualties 71,473 killed (U.S. estimate, probably inflated by at least 30 percent)[6]
A map of South Vietnam showing provincial boundaries and names and military zones: 1, II, III, and IV Corps.


1 January

At the beginning of 1966, the number of U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam totaled 184,314.[7] South Vietnamese military forces totaled 514,000 including the army (ARVN) and the Regional Force and Popular Force (the "Ruff-Puffs") militias.[8] The North Vietnamese Army (PAVN) numbered 400,000, most still in North Vietnam. 50,000 North Vietnamese cadre and soldiers infiltrated South Vietnam during 1965. Group 559, charged with transporting supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to supply communist troops in both South Vietnam and Laos, numbered 24,400 personnel.[9]

The U.S. estimated the number of Viet Cong (VC) and PAVN soldiers in South Vietnam at nearly 280,000 by June 1966, including part-time guerrillas.[10]

A pause in the bombing of North Vietnam by U.S. warplanes had been announced by President Johnson on December 24 and remained in effect.

3 January

The PAVN bombarded a Special Forces Civilian Irregular Defense Group camp at Khe Sanh Combat Base near the DMZ of South Vietnam with 120mm mortars, the heaviest weapon they had used in the War. Defending the combat base were American and South Vietnamese Special Forces, Nung and Bru (Montagnard) irregulars, and Ruff-Puff militia.[11]

8 - 14 January

Operation Crimp (also known as the Battle of the Ho Bo Woods) was a joint US-Australian military operation in the Ho Bo Woods, 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Cu Chi in Binh Duong Province, about 56 kilometres (35 mi) north-east of Saigon. The operation was a minor tactical success for the Australian and U.S. armies, but the Viet Cong soon returned — and the Ho Bo Woods continued to function as a base area for them, until 1970.[12]

28 January - 6 March

Operation Masher was a combined U.S., ARVN, and Korean (ROKA) operation in Bình Định Province. The name "Operation Masher" was changed to "Operation White Wing", because Masher was deemed too crude for 'nation-building' by the White House. Masher failed to result in any decisive victories by the allies, but temporarily disrupted PAVN/VC control of the rural areas of the province. Masher and subsequent operations in Binh Dinh created large numbers of refugees who fled their homes to escape the fighting.[13]


23 - 24 February

The Battle of Suoi Bong Trang was fought on the night of 23–24 February 1966 between US and Australian troops, and the Viet Cong and PAVN. The battle occurred during Operation Rolling Stone, a major American security operation to protect engineers building a tactically important road in the vicinity of Tan Binh, in central Binh Duong Province, 30 kilometres (19 mi) northwest of Bien Hoa airbase.


9 - 10 March

The Battle of A Shau was waged between the PAVN and U.S. and ARVN. The battle began on March 9 and lasted until March 10 with the fall of the special forces camp of the same name. The battle was an outright victory for the PAVN; it was nevertheless a costly battle that U.S. estimates suggest cost the attackers almost half of their force.

10 March

South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky relieved General Nguyen Chanh Thi as ARVN commander in I Corps in the northern city of Huế. Thi was accused of "siding with the Buddhists" in their long-standing dispute with the South Vietnamese government.[14] Thi was relieved after several days of demonstrations by Buddhists led by Thich Tri Quang and Thich Tam Chau. The Buddhists protested against economic conditions, corruption, and American influence and demanded that President Nguyen Van Thieu and Ky resign. The Buddhist Uprising was called the Struggle Movement. U.S. Ambassador in Saigon, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. did not object to Thi's dismissal.[15]

30 March

Following several weeks of Buddhist anti-government and anti-American demonstrations in the northern cities of Huế and Da Nang, U.S. Ambassador Lodge and General Westmoreland advised the South Vietnamese government to take strong action to end the Buddhist Uprising.[16]


4 April

Premier Ky sent five battalions of ARVN rangers and South Vietnamese marines to Da Nang to quell the Buddhist uprising. The U.S. transported the soldiers and marines. General Westmoreland ordered that all American soldiers in Da Nang be confined to their billets.[17]

9 April

A platoon of U.S. Marines blocked the passage of a convoy of pro-Buddhist ARVN soldiers en route to take over Da Nang Air Base. The armed confrontation was resolved after negotiations between the two sides. Over the next few days the tense situation in Da Nang and Huế quieted down, although control of the two cities was still contested between the government and the Buddhists.[18]

11 - 12 April

The Battle of Xa Cam My was fought over two days. Originally planned as a U.S. search and destroy mission intended to lure out the "crack" Viet Cong D800 Battalion in the rubber plantations of Xa Cam My, approximately 42 miles (68 km) east of Saigon. During this battle, 134 men of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division were ambushed by the Viet Cong.

24 April - 17 May

Operation Birmingham was a military operation in War Zone C, north of Saigon. The U.S. 1st Infantry Division and the ARVN 5th Division conducted operations on the eastern flank of War Zone C. The goals were opening Route 13 from Saigon to the north and engaging the Viet Cong 9th Division. The Viet Cong suffered heavy losses, but managed to withdraw beyond the Cambodian border.


6 May

Premier Ky told General Westmoreland that the Buddhist Struggle Movement virtually controlled the three northern provinces of South Vietnam and that the Buddhist leaders were suspected of being in contact with the Viet Cong.[19]

15 May

On Premier Ky's orders, without notifying President Thieu or the U.S., a pro-government military force arrived in Da Nang to take control of the city from the Buddhist Struggle movement protesting against the government and American influence.[18]

17 May

An American gunner on a helicopter fired on a menacing crowd at the airport in Huế and killed an ARVN officer. The Buddhist Struggle movement blamed the incident on the American.

18 May

U.S. Marines faced off against pro-Buddhist ARVN soldiers at a bridge near Da Nang. A few shots were exchanged and the ARVN soldiers attempted to blow up the bridge. General Lewis William Walt, the commander of the U.S. Marines in South Vietnam, was present and directed the Marines to secure the bridge.[20]

24 May

The government of South Vietnam regained full control of Da Nang from the pro-Buddhist Struggle Movement. In the fighting, approximately 150 South Vietnamese soldiers were killed. 23 Americans were wounded.[21]

26 May

After the funeral of the ARVN officer killed by an American, a large crowd burned down the United States Information Service library in Huế. Several Buddhists later set themselves on fire.[18]


1 June

A crowd of pro-Buddhist demonstrators stormed the U.S. Consulate in Huế and set it on fire.[22]

23 June

After several days of fighting with protesting Buddhists, the South Vietnamese government regained full control of the city of Huế. The lesson learned in the Buddhist Uprising was that "the dominance of Generals Ky and Thieu could not be contested as long as they had the support of the United States." More than three years of internecine strife in South Vietnam between Buddhists and Catholics and between competing military factions effectively ended.[23]


7 July - 3 August

Operation Hastings was an attempt by the Americans to engage enemy troops in the Cam Lo area. On the 7th, General Lew Walt led a joint U.S. Marine and ARVN force of 8,500 and 3,000 troops in a strike through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Plans to maintain U.S. occupation of the Cam Lo area in the Quảng Trị Province soon became known as Operation Hastings.[24]

24 July

A USAF F-4C Phantom #63-7599 was shot down by a North Vietnamese SAM-2 45 miles (72 km) northeast of Hanoi, in the first loss of a US aircraft to a Vietnamese SAM.[25] The pilot, Captain Richard P. Keirn ejected successfully from his stricken aircraft and was captured. His bombardier/navigator Captain Roscoe H. Fobair failed to eject and was killed, his remains were recovered in 2001.[26]


3 August - 27 October

Operation Prairie was a military operation in northern South Vietnam to eliminate PAVN forces south of the DMZ.

8 August

In The New York Times former Vice President Richard Nixon called for an increase in American military personnel in South Vietnam to 500,000 and advocated that the U.S. should increase bombing of North Vietnam, including the capital city, Hanoi.[27]

9 August

Battle of Đức Cơ was an engagement between the PAVN 5th Battalion of the 33rd Regiment and the ROKA 3rd Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Regiment. The battle resulted from PAVN attempts to infiltrate Đức Cơ from Cambodia.

18 August

The Battle of Long Tan was fought between the Australian Army and Viet Cong forces in a rubber plantation near the village of Long Tần, about 27 kilometres north east of Vung Tau, South Vietnam. It is arguably the most famous battle fought by the Australian Army during the Vietnam War.


14 September

The Philippines established the headquarters of the Philippine Civic Action Group in Tây Ninh Province in South Vietnam. The total number of Philippine soldiers in South Vietnam was 2,000. The U.S. paid all expenses for the Filipinos deployed to South Vietnam and granted additional aid to the Philippines.[28]

14 September - 24 November

Operation Attleboro was a search and destroy operation by the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. The operation was named after Attleboro, Massachusetts, where the brigade had been formed.


14 October

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in a memorandum said that communist forces were suffering 60,000 killed per year, "yet there is no sign of an impending break in enemy morale and it appears that he can more than replace his losses by infiltration from North Vietnam and recruitment in South Vietnam." McNamara continued: "enemy...forces...are larger; terrorist and sabotage have increased in scope and intensity; more railroads and highways cut; the rice crop expected to come to market is smaller; we control little, if any, more of the population...in the countryside, the enemy almost completely controls the night."[29]

21 October

Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower supported Richard Nixon's criticisms of President Johnson for "hesitation, indecision, and even timidity" in South Vietnam.[30]

25 October

President Johnson met with Asian leaders in Manila, Philippines, including President Thieu of South Vietnam. The leaders offered an American troop withdrawal from South Vietnam in 6 months contingent upon a North Vietnamese withdrawal of its troops and support for the Viet Cong.[31]


4 - 5 December

The Viet Cong conduct a sapper and mortar attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base.

19 December

MACV's long-standing estimates were that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam numbered 282,000.[2] CIA analyst Sam Adams wrote a memo stating that "the number of Viet Cong is closer to 600,000 and perhaps more." The memo would initiate a lengthy debate between MACV and the CIA concerning the number of Viet Cong.[32]

31 December

The Selective Service System of the U.S. drafted 382,010 men into military service in 1966, the highest total during the Vietnam War. By comparison, in 1962, only 82,060 men were drafted[33] The draft was a major source of opposition to the Vietnam War in the United States.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g

    War Remnants Museum Data[edit]

    Armed Force 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972
     South Vietnam ARVN 514,000 643,000 735,900 798,800 820,000 897,000 968,000 1,046,250 1,048,000
     United States 23,310 180,000 385,300 485,600 549,500 549,500 335,790 158,120 24,000
     South Korea 200 20,620 25,570 47,830 50,000 48,870 48,540 45,700 36,790
     Australia 200 1560 4530 6820 7660 7670 6800 2000 130
     Thailand 0 20 240 2220 6000 11,570 11,570 6000 40
     Philippines 20 70 2060 2020 1580 190 70 50 50
     New Zealand 30 120 160 530 520 550 440 100 50

  2. ^ a b Clarke, p. 145
  3. ^ Clarke, p. 275
  4. ^ Casualties -- U.S. vs NVA/VC" http://www.rjsmith.com/kia_tbl.html, accessed 12 Nov 2014. 4,407 Korean soldiers were killed in combat in Vietnam between 1964 and 1973
  5. ^ "Australian Casualties in the Vietnam War, 1962-1972" http://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/vietnam/statistics/, accessed 12 Nov 2014
  6. ^ "Casualties -- U.S. vs NVA/VC" http://www.rjsmith.com/kia_tbl.html, accessed 12 Nov 2014; Lewy, p. 450
  7. ^ "Vietnam War Timeline: 1965" http://www.vietnamgear.com/war1965.aspx, accessed 11 Oct 2014
  8. ^ Summers, Jr., p. 36
  9. ^ Military History of Vietnam, pp. 164-171
  10. ^ Adams, p. 63
  11. ^ Prados, John (2004), Valley of Death: The Siege of Khe Sanh, Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press, pp 37-44. ISBN 1591146968
  12. ^ Coulthard-Clark, p. 280
  13. ^ Krepinevich, Jr., pp. 222-223
  14. ^ Brush, Peter (April 2005), "The 1966 Buddhist Crisis in South Vietnam, Vietnam Magazine
  15. ^ Clarke, pp. 128-130
  16. ^ Clarke, p. 131
  17. ^ Clarke, pp. 131-132.
  18. ^ a b c Brush
  19. ^ Clarke, p. 135
  20. ^ Clarke, p. 138
  21. ^ Clarke, p. 141
  22. ^ Brush; Clarke p. 142
  23. ^ Clarke, p. 143; Brush
  24. ^ Stanton 2003, p. 9
  25. ^ Van Staaveren, Jacob (2002). Gradual Failure: The air war over North Vietnam 1965-1966. DIANE Publishing. pp. 163–4. ISBN 9781428990180.
  26. ^ "MIA Mystery Solved". Los Angeles Times. 1 April 2001. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  27. ^ Johns, Andrew L. (June 1999), "A Voice in the Wilderness: Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War, 1964-1966," Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 2, p. 325. Downloaded from JUSTOR.
  28. ^ Stanton 2003, p. 270, "The Philippines" "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2014-02-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), accessed 21 Aug 2015
  29. ^ Lewy, Gunther (1978), America in Vietnam, New York: Oxford University Press, pp 77-78
  30. ^ Johns, p. 327
  31. ^ Johns, p. 326
  32. ^ Hiam, p. 88
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-05-07. Retrieved 2005-12-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), accessed 4 Nov 2014


  • Adams, Sam (1994), War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir South Royalton, VT: Steerforth Press. ISBN 1-883642-23-X.
  • Clarke, Jeffrey J. (1988), United States Army in Vietnam: Advice and Support: The Final Years, 1965-1973, Washington, D.C. Center of Military History, United States Army.
  • Coulthard-Clark, Chris (2001), The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles (Second ed.), Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-634-7.
  • Hiam, C. Michael (2006), Who the Hell are we Fighting? The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars, Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press. ISBN 978-1-58642-104-5.
  • The Military History Institute of Vietnam (2002), Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People's Army of Vietnam, 1954-1975, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-1175-4.
  • Krepenevich, Jr., Andrew F. (1986), The Army and Vietnam, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-2863-5.
  • Summers, Jr., Harry G. (1985), Vietnam War Almanac, New York: Facts on File Publications. ISBN 0-8160-1017-X.
  • Stanton, Shelby L. (2003). Vietnam order of battle (2003 ed.). Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-0071-2. - Total pages: 396
  • United States, Government (2010). "Statistical information about casualties of the Vietnam War". National Archives and Records Administration. Archived from the original on 26 January 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2010.