Wednesday, March 29 is National Vietnam War Veterans Day, a day established by former President Donald Trump in 2017 to recognize and honor veterans of the Vietnam War. The day was chosen because March 29, 1973, was the date the last American troops left Vietnam.
The first major battle of the Vietnam War, the Battle of Ia Drang Valley, began on November 14, 1965, and saw around 1,000 U.S. Army soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) fight for four days with about 2,500 North Vietnamese troops.
According to a U.S. Army history, the battle of Ia Drang came after three enemy Vietnamese regiments totaling 6,000 men attacked a Civil Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) – U.S. Special Forces at Plei Me near the entrance to the Ia Drang Valley, in what the Army described as North Vietnam’s initial effort to cut the country in half.
Some of the greatest challenges that U.S. troops in Vietnam faced were found not above ground, but below — where North Vietnamese forces and Viet Cong insurgents took their knowledge of the terrain and creative thinking to a level that allowed them to bypass U.S. forces and evade their superior conventional military firepower.
Tunnel systems were common across Vietnam, and they allowed Vietnamese forces to move freely out of view of American troops and air power. These tunnel systems included fighting positions, but also logistical hubs, hospitals, food messes, headquarters, and ammunition resupply points.
In an effort to address this challenge, American and Australian soldiers were recruited specifically to specialize in tunnel systems. They became known as “Tunnel Rats” by U.S. troops and “Ferrets” by the Australian troops.
More than 9 million American troops served in the span of the war from Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975. More than 58,000 Americans were killed during the Vietnam War.
President Joe Biden recognized the national holiday on Wednesday, tweeting, “Today, on National Vietnam War Veterans Day, an indebted nation remembers the brave members of our armed forces who sacrificed so much in service of our country.”