The Vietnam War was a military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1959 to 30 April 1975. The war was fought between the communist North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the U.S. and other nations.
The Viet Cong, a lightly armed South Vietnamese communist-controlled common front, largely fought a guerilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The North Vietnamese Army engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units into battle. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery and airstrikes.
The United States entered the war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. Military advisors arrived beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s and combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Involvement peaked in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive.
The Case-Church amendment, passed by the U.S. Congress in response to the anti-war movement, prohibited direct U.S. military involvement after August 15, 1973. U.S. Military and economic aid continued until 1975. The capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese army, in April 1975, marked the end of the Vietnam War. North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year.
The war extracted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities, including 3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both sides, 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians, and 58,159 U.S. Soldiers.
Baraboo and the Blue Spader Division
In late July, 1966, Clayton Luther of Baraboo was killed when he stepped on a land mine while on duty in Vietnam.What made Luther’s passing especially difficult for the City of Baraboo was that Luther, a recent high school graduate, had only been in the Army for six months and had only been in Vietnam for 10 days.He was also the first local casualty of the Vietnam War. To honor Luther, the City of Baraboo decided to adopt his company, the 26th Infantry, First Division, United States Army, also known as the Blue Spader Division.A three day Blue Spader support observance was arranged for October 22, 1966.A parade, featuring numerous dignitaries and bands marked the occasion.The most notable dignitary, however, was Specialist Four David DeMelle of Sturgeon Bay.The Blue Spader Division sent him all the way from Vietnam to preside over support observance events in Baraboo, Sauk Prairie and Reedsburg.He was presented an official proclamation adopting the Blue Spaders as Baraboo’s own and the key to the city.DeMelle in return presented the Blue Spader Division colors to Baraboo which are today preserved at the Legion and VFW halls. As a special thank you, the Blue Spader Division took up a collection and raised $1,447 for Baraboo.The money was used to plant the Columnar Norway Maple trees that today grow along Eighth Street.
U.S. Army Dress Uniform of Wayne F. Karg ca. 1968 - 1970
U.S. Army Steel Pot Helmet with “V” Handwritten on the Camouflage Cover ca. 1960-1970
Badger Army Ammunition Plant
While Badger Ordnance Works played an important role in WWII, it played an even more important role in the Vietnam War.Without Badger Army Ammunition Plant, it is possible that the United States could not have fought in Vietnam. In the 1930s, Olin’s Western Cartridge Division, the operating contractor at Badger, patented a new kind of smokeless propellant know as ball powder.By the 1950s, the Army wanted a government owned ball powder plant and since Olin held the patent and was already contracted to run Badger, they began converting Badger to ball powder production to meet the needs to the soldiers in Vietnam. Soldiers in Vietnam were equipped with the M-16 rifle, which fired cartridges loaded with ball powder.During the war, the Army also expanded its use of helicopters in combat.These helicopters fired Gatling guns which also used ball powder.In addition, Badger supplied the powder used for cannons, howitzers and war ship guns.At its height of production, if an American soldier fired an M-16 in Vietnam, he was most likely firing powder made at Badger. At its peak in August 1969, Badger employed 5,362 workers running three production areas, plus two acid plants.During Vietnam, Badger produced ball powder, rocket powder and smokeless powder. It was during this period that Badger experienced some of its most severe explosions.In April 1970, eight tons of powder in a drying house exploded with a flash that was visible over the bluffs and fifteen miles away in Wisconsin Dells.No one was injured in that blast, but in December 1971, there was an explosion in the rocket paste/breaker blender that “shook the foundations of nearly every building in the plant.”It also seriously wounded two men and killed one. As the U.S. began to withdraw troops from Vietnam, production at Badger began to slow down.By 1975, the lines at Badger shut down for good. Olin maintained the plant on standby status until 1997 when the U.S. Army declared Badger “to be excess to its needs.”
The Peace Movement
Anti-war protesters have been advocating peace during every major conflict in this country from the time of the Civil War when protesters opposed Lincoln’s conscription plans, to the current U.S. involvement in Iraq.
For the first time during the Vietnam War, however, anti-war protests became a major factor affecting U.S. involvement in war itself.Peace advocates led by students and the counterculture opposed the war feeling that Vietnam should be able to work out their own differences without outside interference.They also believed that a U.S. withdrawal would lead to a lessening of tensions within Vietnam.
Peace advocates, who initially protested on college campuses, soon took to the streets gaining momentum from the Civil Rights Movement.Independently published newspapers, referred to as “underground newspapers”, rock and roll festivals such as Woodstock and televised military abuses all contributed to rebellions, mass gatherings and riots.
Anti-war protests ended with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam in the 1970s.The momentum that started with the Vietnam War was refocused into the environmental movement which is still active today.
Peace Symbol and Arm Band prominent during the Viet Nam War
The peace symbol is a combination f the semaphoric* signals for the letters “N” and “D”, standing for Nuclear Disarmament. In semaphore the letter “N” is formed by a person holding two flags in an upside-down “V”, and the letter “D” is formed by holding one flag pointed up and the other pointed down. These two signals imposed over each other form the shape of the peace symbol.
*Semaphore is a system of conveying information over a distance by means of signal flags. Primarily used on Navy ships.