This is the dream that died when South Vietnam fell to the communists in 1975. This is why South Vietnamese refugees now settled all over the world still bitterly mourn the loss of not just their homeland but the soaring potential of what could have been for this beautiful, refined, and rapidly advancing country.
January 30-January 31 1968: Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive Begins
Beginning on January 30, 1968, Vietcong units surged into action over the length and breadth of South Vietnam. In more than 100 cities and towns, shock attacks by Vietcong sapper-commandos were followed by wave after wave of supporting troops. The action over the following months became known as the Tet Offensive.
By the end of the city battles, 37,000 Vietcong troops deployed for Tet had been killed. Many more had been wounded or captured, and the fighting had created more than a half million civilian refugees. Casualties included most of the Vietcong’s best fighters, political officers and secret organizers; for the guerillas, Tet was nothing less than a catastrophe. For the Americans, who lost 2,500 men, it was a serious blow to public support.
The XM16E1 was first adopted in 1962 for special purpose use by Army special forces, airborne, and airmobile troops with the M14 remaining the standard issue rifle of the infantry. But by 1965 the M16 was being issued to all Army and Marine Units stationed in Vietnam with the M14 being relegated to troops on home service or stationed in Europe and South Korea.
The problems the new rifle suffered during its early deployment in vietnam are well known and various changes including a forward assist (see images #1, #3 & #4) and better maintenance training were made by early 1967. The M16A1 was adopted as Standard A in January 1967 and by 1970 it had been decided to issue the M16A1to US troops stationed in Europe. Since the Vietnam Warthe rifle has been refined numerous times and is expected to remain in service for another twenty years, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the M16 being issued generally to troops in Vietnam. Above are some gratuitous M16 and M16A1 photographs.