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VIETNAM WAR

The Vietnam War affected almost every American in the 1960s and ‘70s. The following lists some milestones in the war and describes some of the anti-war activities that went on close to home.  Much of this information was taken from a History Channel documentary, the pages of the St. Louis Park Dispatch, and materials provided by Marv Davidov, founder of the Honeywell Project. Please contact us if you have additional information.

U.S. "advisors" arrived beginning in 1950 to help the South Vietnamese beat back Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh, who were seeking to unite the country, but were seen as dangerous Communists. Justification for entering the otherwise civil war was the so-called "domino theory," which posited that if Vietnam fell, then Laos, Cambodia, etc. would also fall. 

 

1959

U.S. Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) trained Vietnamese forces under Lieutenant General Samuel Williams.  The first American were killed on July 8.

 

1960

John F. Kennedy is elected President and presses for expansion of U.S. Special Forces.  Lt. General Lionel McGarr assumes command in Vietnam.

 

1961

The first U.S. Special Forces are deployed to Vietnam.

 

1962

Major General Charles Timmes assumed command.  Counter insurgency escalated and additional advisors were sent.  Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MAVC) was established under General Paul Harkins.  Two Minnesotans were killed or declared missing. 

 

1963

The Diem government was overthrown and Diem and his brother Nhu were assassinated.  President Kennedy assassinated on November 22.  Three Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.
 

1964

General William C. Westmoreland assumed command of MACV on June 20.


Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 2, 1964, giving President Johnson broad powers to deploy troops.  The name came from the so-called Gulf of Tonkin Incident, where the USS Maddox was attacked by the North Vietnamese.  It is widely thought now that this attack never actually happened and was instead a misreading of radar.  Johnson ordered the attack on North Vietnamese patrol boat bases. 

 

Two Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.
 

1965
On March 2, 1965, Operation Rolling Thunder began, with the U.S. bombing North Vietnam.  Conspicuously absent from the target list was Haiphong Harbor, which frustrated the U.S. troops.  The harbor could not be bombed because the Soviet Union kept a ship there and the U.S. did not want the war escalated to include the USSR or China.

On March 3, 1965, the first 3,500 ground troops landed, with Marines deployed to defend the air base near DaNang.  General Westmoreland's strategy was simply to find Viet Cong and kill them, with the assumption that if the U.S. killed enough of his people, Ho Chi Mihn would give up.  The first US Marine infantry battalion arrived in Da Nang on March 8.  By the end of the year 200,000 US troops were in Vietnam.

 

33 Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.

 

1966

The first B-52 raids on North Vietnam began on April 12. 

 

The Minnesota Committee to end the War in Vietnam conducted a Teach-In at Coffman Memorial Union at the U of M on November 7, 1966.

 

111 Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.


1967 
Operation Cedar Falls began in the Iron Triangle near Saigon in January.  On February 12, Operation Junction City began northwest of Saigon. 


The June 9, 1967 issue of Westwood Jr. High's Westwinds newspaper reported that the school's first debate team debated "Resolved:  That the U.S. should withdraw all armed forces out of Viet Nam."

Vietnam Veterans Against the War was founded by six Vietnam war veterans, including Jan "Barry" Crumb, Mark Donnelly, and David Braum, in New York City in June, 1967, after they marched together in the April 15, 1967 Spring Mobilization to End the War anti-war demonstration with over 400,000 other protesters.

A Peace March was planned for August 5, 1967 to commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima and to protest the U.S.'s increasing involvement in Viet Nam.  The march was to start at the Mayo Auditorium on the St. Paul Campus of the U of M and travel down Raymond Ave. and University Ave. to end at Dinkytown.  The march was announced in the news segment the previous day, which was the day the Monkees took over as guest disk jockeys at KDWB. 

An October 25, 1967, article in the Echo reminded boys that within five days after he becomes 18 he must register with the Selective Service System.  "This means that some time thereafter he will probably either face the prospect of being drafted or enlisting into some branch of the armed forces."  The Echo embarked on a series of articles describing what could be expected in the various branches of the military, starting with the Marines.
 

By the end of 1967 U.S. troop strength is nearly 500,000. 

 

208 Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.


 

1968

The Tet Offensive began on January 30-31, 1968 when the Viet Cong attacked Saigon and over 100 towns, villages, and cities.  This surprise attack contradicted statements by Johnson and Westmoreland that the end was in sight.
 

The city of Hue was retaken by U.S. and South Vietnamese forces on February 24, ending the Tet Offensive.


On February 27, 1968, Walter Cronkite went on the air and opined that the war could not end any other way than in a stalemate.

On March 16, 1968, American troops massacred hundreds of civilians in the Village of My Lai.  An American helicopter crew landed and put a stop to it.  The incident was covered up by officers until November 1969.  Only. Lt. William Calley was ever convicted, sentenced to 40 months, mostly spent in his apartment at Fort Benning, Ga.

The Park High Echo reported that Norman Mailer spoke against the war at Northrup Auditorium in March.

On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that he would not send the additional 200,000 troops that General Westmoreland wanted, that he was initiating peace talks, and that he would not run for re-election.
 

On April 5 the Siege at Khe Sanh was broken.

 

The Paris Peace Talks began on May 11, 1968.


On June 10, 1968, General Westmoreland was replaced by General Creighton Abrams.  Abrams ended the body count method of determining success, the "find and kill as many as you can" battle plan, and instead sought to win the "hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese people.  On June 24 Vietnam became the longest armed conflict in U.S. history.
 

At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Police and demonstrators clash violently as the country looked on;  August 26-29.


On November 6, 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president.

On December 8, 1968, activist Marv Davidov organized the  Honeywell Project, with the purpose of stopping Honeywell from making deadly cluster bombs that were killing civilians in Laos.  A picture of a cluster bomb is at left.  Davidov was a major force in Twin Cities activism and merited a half page obituary in the StarTribune when he died on January 14, 2012 at age 80.

At the end of 1968 there were 540,000 Americans in Vietnam.

 

332 Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.
 



1969
Nixon was inaugurated in January 1969, promising "peace with honor." 

The Park High Echo of January 29, 1969,  included two pages on the draft.  Included was a notice about a study series to take place at Westwood Lutheran Church.  An interesting note said "Warn us of your coming by calling..." 

  • February 10:  "The Law Says" - Maj. Abrahamson

  • February 17:  "Resistance & C.O." - Dave Pence, resistor

  • February 24:  "If I Enlist" - The Military

The same issue noted that Park's Debate topic was "Resolved:  That the United States should establish a system of compulsory national service by all citizens."

The Twin City Draft Information Center (TCDIC) was the Minnesota area coordinator of the Resistance, a nationwide movement of men who refuse all cooperation with the Selective Service.  It started at the draft card burnings at the Mobilization in New York on April 15, 1967 and spread to nearly every large city, coming to the Twin Cities in September 1967.  By 1969 the local group had 17 full time and 100 part time counselors, led by former U of M student Greg Mills.  The Echo reported:  "The purpose of the counseling is not to persuade men to take any particular course of action, but rather to inform them of their alternatives and help them to understand fully the decisions they must make."

Nixon ordered the bombing of Cambodia in March 1969.
                                                                                                                           

In May 1969 the Honeywell Project leafleted workers at the St. Louis Park plant, handing out information about cluster bombs. Concerned citizens tried to get the City Council to change the zoning law to get rid of the plant.

In May 1969 400-500 St. Louis Park High School students participated in a two-day walkout in protest of the war.
 

Also in May 1969 was the Battle of Hamburger Hill, a brutal and deadly fight.  The battle was televised and Americans looked on with horror.  Once the hill was taken it was abandoned and immediately reclaimed by the MVA.
 

Nixon withdrew 25,000 American troops on June 8.


October 15, 1969, was Moratorium Day, when the Student Mobilization Committee demanded “Peace Now” and gathered at Northrop Auditorium for speeches by Walter Mondale and Julian Bond. Numbers of St. Louis Park High School students joined the march to the Federal Building.  The protesters had a license for the march from Mayor Stenvig.  Others walked out of classes carrying candles. Those at Central Jr. High were told to get away from the windows.

The My Lai Massacre, which took place in March 1968, hit the media in November 1969 and was responsible for people calling veterans "baby killers" upon their return to the States.

On December 12, 1969, the Honeywell Project leafleted workers at all plants in the Twin Cities, including the St. Louis Park plant, alerting them to the evils of the cluster bombs made at the plant.

An article in the December 17, 1969 Park High Echo reported that the recently enacted lottery will not affect most Park students this year; those who become 19 years old in 1970 will go into the lottery for 1971.  However, there were at least four teachers were eligible for the draft and were seeking teaching deferments.  The article also listed various organizations at the U of M:

  • The Young Socialist Alliance described themselves as Trotskyist

  • Students Against Selective Service, headed by John Crocker

  • The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in Minneapolis were aligned with the Worker-Student Alliance.  Members were self-declared Maoists.  The Weathermen and the Revolutionary Youth Movement had already split from the SDS. 

  • Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Viet Nam was the force behind moratoria in October and November 1969.  Mimi Harary was the regional organizer.

The article also described the conservative Young Americans for Freedom, which was founded in 1960.  The organization's beliefs included:

  • Trading with Russia is "national suicide."

  • Social Security is "fraud against young people."

  • The minimum wage is a "crime against the Negro."

  • Victory in Viet Nam is an "American imperative."

At the end of 1969 there were 480,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam.

 

244 Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.


 

1970

The April 8, 1970 Echo announced a three day "Draft Class" for seniors, featuring speakers from the American Friends Service Committee and the Selective Service.  The class was instigated by senior Joel Levie. 

On April 28, 1970, a group including Jerry Rubin and Dennis Banks marched from the Fair Oaks Park in Minneapolis to Honeywell Headquarters.  The demonstration was marred by violence and mace.

 

U.S. and South Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia on April 30.  On May 1 President Nixon announced the expansion to the public.  U.S. troops could go no further than 19 miles into the country, for no longer than 2 months.  This action unleashed student protests across the country, including a student strike at the University of Minnesota. 

 

On May 4, at Kent State University, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on protesting students, killing four and wounding nine others. 


On May 6, 1970, a Wednesday, approximately 600 Park High students attended a rally after school. Student Irving Barr was a moving force.


On May 7 and 8, 1970, 400-500 Park High students staged a student strike by walking out of their classrooms at 7:45. On Friday afternoon, students leafleted the city.


On May 9, 1970, Saturday, approximately 150 Park students joined a March for Peace from the Hamline University to the Capitol, with the slogan “No Business as Usual.” An estimated 40,000 people participated in the march, which was organized by Barry Knight.  At the end of the march participants heard speakers such as Indian activists Clyde Bellecort and Dennis Banks, and the Paisleys entertained the crowd.


On Monday, May 11, 1970, a meeting was held at the Jewish Community Center, and two factions emerged – those who wanted to keep the activity at the high school level, and those who wanted to involve the entire community. As a result, an organization called Park Action Coalition for Students (PACS) was formed.


On June 4, 1970, PACS sponsored a Teach-In at the high school. B. Robert Lewis of the School Board approved the meeting, as long as the students could pay for the required insurance. The Chamber of Commerce came up with the money. A panel of five speakers spoke to about 150 people.

On May 20, 1970, Margie Levie, Gloria Kamman, and others organized Mothers For Peace, with 50 members. The group carried out a public education campaign, and urged people (among other things) not to pay the 10 percent tax on phone bills levied in 1966 to pay for the war. The group also called for the cessation of all American military involvement in Southeast Asia by the end of 1971.


A program was held at the Jewish Community Center on June 13, 1970, which attracted hundreds of concerned citizens.


The last major offensive of the war was Operation Firebase Ripcord, in July 1970.  Unlike Hamburger Hill, this infantry battle was not televised. 
 

At the end of 1970 there were 280,000 U.S. troops on the ground.

 

121 Minnesotans were killed or declared missing


 

1971
The American policy had moved to "Vietnamization," whereas the South Vietnamese were to replace American troops.  On February 1, 1971, the South Vietnamese invaded Laos to try to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  The U.S. Congress forbade any American troops to participate, and the action was a failure. 

On February 10, 1971, about 250 students marched from the U of M campus to the Federal Building on Washington Ave. downtown. They threw some snowballs, distributed leaflets, and got into “rap groups with people about the war.”


On November 6, 1971, there was a 5-state march on the Minnesota capitol to protest the war in Southeast Asia. The march was endorsed by Governor Wendell Anderson, Senator Walter Mondale, and former Senator Eugene McCarthy. There were 17 such marches around the country. The march was coordinated by Dave Riehle, and included representatives from the gay community, women, veterans, teachers, unions, and local politicians.

 

At the end of 1971 U.S. troop strength was 140,000.

 

49 Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.


 

1972
In the spring of 1972 there were 70,000 U.S. ground troops in Viet Nam.  The U.S. started bombing North Viet Nam for the first time since 1968. 

On April 16, 1972, U of M students occupied the Air Force Recruiting Office in Dinkytown and the ROTC office on campus. An organization called Minnesota Clergy and Laity Concerned staged a sit-in at Senator Humphrey's office at the Federal Building in Minneapolis.


On April 26, 1972, protesters besieged Honeywell headquarters in Minneapolis, which was manufacturing fragmentation bombs.


On May 8, 1972, it was announced that the U.S. was blockading and mining Haiphong Harbor. The next day, 1,500 students held a rally on Northrop Mall.  On May 10, 3,000 students broke into the Army recruiting station, marched to the Armory and then to Coffman Union, where they put up barricades and occupied Washington Avenue. Police were called and the proceeded to beat up students on bridges and spread teargas up and down the mall.  Some of the teargas leaked into the nearby University Hospital. Dinkytown was teargassed by helicopter.  Governor Wendell Anderson called in the National Guard.  It took two hours to clear the area. 

 

An Easter Offensive began on March 30.


In October 1972 POW/MIA bracelets could be found on the wrists of many Park High and Junior High school students. Each bracelet had the name and other information on a soldier who was a prisoner of war or missing in action in Viet Nam.  Often they were returned to the families of the men, especially if they were killed in action.

 


In October 1972 a draft cease-fire agreement was readied, but South Viet Nam wouldn't sign.

In December 1972 U.S. airpower bombed Hanoi and the Haiphong Harbor.
 

By the end of 1972 U.S. combat troops numbered less than 30,000.

 

12 Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.


 

1973
Only when President Nixon secretly promised to bring back American bombers if North Viet Nam violates the treaty would the South agree to sign the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973. 

The first 91 American POWs were freed in February 1973.  Some had been held for 9 years.

The United States ceased offensive ground operations and the majority of its troops withdrew from Vietnam by March 29, 1973.  It retained an embassy in Saigon.
 

The last American POWs arrived at Clark Air Force Base.

 

Three Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.

 

1974
North Vietnam escalated fighting against South Vietnam.

 

President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, and Gerald Ford became President.
 

1975
On March 1, 1975, the North attacked the South and Ford did not honor Nixon's secret promise to bring back American bombers. 

On April 30, 1975, 2,000 people, including South Vietnamese officials and the last of the U.S. Marines, were evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.  Four hours later, the MVA entered the city. 

With the Northern victory, the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam with a communist-controlled government based in the new capital of Hanoi.

 

A total of 1,120 Minnesotans were killed or declared missing.

 


 

ST. LOUIS PARK CASUALTIES

 

According to the web site http://www.virtualwall.org/istate/istatmn.htm, the following men from St. Louis Park were killed in Viet Nam.  The site indicates where their names are etched on the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC.

 

PVT Kent Douglas Erickson, Killed in Action 3/29/1971

SP4 John Alvin "Butch" Ilstrup, Killed in Action 2/9/1968 - Class of 1965

PFC Edward David Larson, Killed in Action 10/8/1966 - Class of 1963

SP4 John Forman Lobsinger, Killed in Action 1/23/1968

PFC John Thomas McDaniel, Killed in Action 9/10/1967

PVT Steven Dale Plath, Killed in Action 3/28/1971

PFC John Kim Vogelsang, Killed in Action 6/6/1969 - Benilde Class of 1965

LCPL Gordon David Walensky, Killed in Action 4/10/1968

SGT James R. Weisler, Killed in Action 10/2/1969 - Class of 1965

 

The following were not on the list as being from St. Louis Park but were or had ties here:


PFC Steven Craig Burns, Killed in Action 5/15/1971

LCPL Gary Allan Farlow, Killed in Action 5/12/1967 - grew up in SLP,  played Little League and Babe Ruth, attended Benilde HS, moved to Ohio

SP4 Patrick John Graham, Killed in Action 4/25/1968

PFC Edward Stephen Graves, Killed in Action 2/27/1966 - attended SLPHS

SP4 Jeffrey William Haerle, Killed in Action 5/13/1968 - Class of 1964

 

 

This information comes from a variety of sources: newspapers, books, yearbooks, phone directories, interviews, etc. Given the varied sources, we cannot guarantee that all of this information is correct, and welcome any additions and corrections. Please contact us with your contributions and comments.