December 1962: Vietnam

A U.S. crewman runs from a crashed CH-21 Shawnee troop helicopter near the village of Ca Mau in the southern tip of South Vietnam, on December 11. Two helicopters crashed without serious injuries during a government raid on the Viet Cong-infiltrated area. Both helicopters were destroyed to keep them out of enemy hands. (Associated Press photo by Horst Faas)

From "Vietnam War Almanac" (James H. Willbanks, 2009):

   Approximately 11,300 U.S. advisory and support personnel are now in Vietnam. One hundred and nine Americans have been killed or wounded during the previous year, almost eight times as many as in 1961. U.S. Army and Marine Corps aviation units have flown almost 50,000 sorties, about one-half of which were combat support missions. China claims to have armed the Viet Cong with more than 92,000 rifles and machine guns this year, and trained guerrilla forces in South Vietnam are estimated at 25,000, with active Viet Cong sympathizers numbered at 150,000. The Viet Cong are now killing and kidnapping 1,000 local officials per moth. South Vietnamese government regular troops number 243,o00, plus 65,000 Self Defense Corps members trained to defend their villages.

Sunday, December 2
   Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, a Democrat from Montana, returns from a trip to Vietnam. His appraisal: that the U.S. should avoid escalation of military action.

* "Interests and Policies in Southeast Asia" (June speech given by Mansfield; from the book "Landmark Speeches of the Vietnam War" -- Gregory Allen Olson, 2010): @

Monday, December 3
   Roger Hilsman, director of the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, sends a memorandum titled "The Situation and Short-Term Prospects in South Vietnam" to Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
* Text: @
* Interview with Hilsman: @

Wednesday, December 12
From President Kennedy's press conference:
   Q: Mr. President, it was just a year ago that you ordered stepped-up aid to Vietnam. There seems to be a good deal of discouragement about the progress. Could you give us your assessment?
   A. Well, we are putting in a major effort in Vietnam. As you know, we have about 10 or 11 times as many men there as we had a year ago. ... We've had a number of casualties. We put in an awful lot of equipment. We are going ahead with the Strategic Hamlet proposal. In some phases, the military program has been quite successful. There is great difficulty, however, in fighting a guerrilla war. You need 10 to 1, or 11 to 1, especially in terrain as difficult as South Vietnam. ... So we don't see the end of the tunnel, but I must say I don't think it is darker than it was a year ago, and in some ways lighter.
* News conference transcript: @
* News conference audio: @

Tuesday, December 18
   Sen. Mansfield's official report to President Kennedy. Part of the conclusion reads: "The real question which confronts us, therefore, is how much are we ourselves prepared to put into Southeast Asia and for how long in order to serve such interests as we may have in that region?"
* Text: @
* Other December government documents: @

Saturday, December 29
From www.history.com:
   Saigon announces that 4,077 strategic hamlets have been completed out of a projected total of 11,182, The figures also stated that 39 percent of the South Vietnamese population was housed in the hamlets. U.S. officials considered these figures questionable. The strategic hamlet program was started in 1962 and was modeled on a successful British counterinsurgency program used in Malaya from 1948 to 1960. The program aimed to bring the South Vietnamese peasants together in fortified strategic hamlets to provide security from Viet Cong attacks. Although much time and money was put into the program, it had several basic weaknesses. There was much animosity toward the program on the part of the South Vietnamese peasants, who were forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands. Also, the security afforded by the hamlets was inadequate and actually provided lucrative targets for the Viet Cong. Finally, the entire project was poorly managed. After the assassination of the program's sponsor, President Ngo Dinh Diem, in November 1963, the program fell into disfavor and was abandoned.
* More about the strategic hamlet program (from the Pentagon Papers): @ 


   Esquire magazine decides against running a cover with the words "Merry Christmas. I'm the 100th G.I. killed in Vietnam."
* More about the cover, from designer George Lois's website: @
* "The King of Visceral Design" (New York Times, April 2008): @
* "The Esquire Decade" (Vanity Fair, January 2007): @
* "It Wasn't Pretty, Folks, But Didn't We Have Fun?" (Carol Polsgrove, 1995): @

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