Operation Chopper 

U.S. #3188g from the Celebrate the Century series.

On January 12, 1962, American forces participated in their first major combat of the Vietnam War – Operation Chopper.

When Vietnam gained its independence from France, the country was divided into North Vietnam – supported by communist countries, and South Vietnam – aided by the United States.

The communist Viet Cong (National Liberation Front or NLF) was fighting guerilla warfare in the south. In an effort to stop the spread of communism, President Dwight Eisenhower sent a Military Assistance Advisory Group to South Vietnam in November of 1955. Their task was to train the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN).

U.S. #1802 was issued on Veteran’s Day in 1979 and pictures the ribbon of the Vietnam Service Medal.

The buildup of American personnel and weapons continued in the following years. In December 1961, a U.S. Navy transport carrying about 400 U.S. Army helicopter pilots support staff arrived in Saigon, South Vietnam’s capitol city. The ship was also carrying 82 H-21C Army helicopters, nicknamed “Flying Bananas,” because of their curved shape.

U.S. #3188g – 1999 First Day Cover pictures U.S. troops in action in Vietnam.

On January 12, 1962, Operation Chopper was implemented. The H-21C helicopters were used to transport 1,000 South Vietnamese paratroopers to an enemy stronghold just 10 miles west of Saigon. Transporting troops by air was a new tactic, and surprised the enemy, who quickly retreated into the dense forest. The operation was a victory for the Americans and South Vietnamese, who captured an important underground radio transmitter. However, it also provided the North Vietnamese with new combat experience they would use later in the war against U.S. troops.

The mission marked a new era of combat for the United States in the Vietnam War. By 1963, there were 16,000 U.S. troops in the country, and that number increased dramatically as the war progressed. The Vietnam War has been called America’s first helicopter war. Helicopters were used extensively to transport troops into the jungle, quickly evacuate the wounded, and support ground troops with firepower.

U.S. #1802 FDC – Vietnam Veterans Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

Over time, the Viet Cong became skilled at attacking the choppers as they landed, but air mobility remained an important strategy for the U.S. throughout the war and in conflicts that followed.

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  1. I always enjoy your articles. They are usually very informative, but considering how long this “conflict” lasted and how many lives were lost, this article seems a bit short and lacking in details.
    Regardless, thanks for reminding us that it was Eisenhower, not Kennedy or Johnson, who first got us in this mess.

  2. I rode in many “choppers” in Viet Nam. Many pilots were young Warant Officers, who became very experienced and saved many lives. Real heroes of that war.

  3. Thank you for this article today not just for remembering Operation Chopper but more importantly so prominently displaying the Viet Nam Service Medal stamp from 1979. Those of us who served and fought in that war well remember the hostility and distain with which the troops were treated and greeted upon our return to CONUS. No matter your feelings about our current wars, who started them, who continued them, who mismanaged them this old Vet is thankful that I have lived long enough to see the troops no longer blamed for the stupidity, incompetence and shortsightedness of our politicians. It is my fervent hope and prayer that our new leadership in Washington will learn from the mistakes of the past and remember them. Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

  4. I watch the USNS carrier arrive in Saigon after out mine sweep division went up river. We should all keep in mind that LBJ lost this war by micro managing.

  5. Vietnam War ( also described by some as Resistance war against America) was a war that was fought in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia from November 1, 1955 to April 30, 1975. Direct U.S. involvement ended on August 15, 1973 .Saigon was captured by Vietnamese army in April 1975. Vietnam re-unification took place in 1976. Chopper war casualties figures are :: Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed 3.8 million. ., Cambodians 300,000 , Laotians 62,000 , and U.S.Servicemen 58,220. Further 1626 were reported missing,. More than 7500 American Nurses performed exemplary duty in this war. The only Nurse First Lieutenant Sharon Lace was killed on June 8, 1968. Due to excellent work by women in this war, the American Military lifted the ban on women entering the Armed Forces. Madam Nhu was Vietnamese commander of the Women Armed Forces Corp. 8040 Vietnamese women came to United States as WAR BRIDES.

  6. No war is pretty and Vietnam was especially ugly. The fight against the spread of communism is and was the right thing to do and the American people owe those who served a debt of gratitude. While somewhat late, nevertheless, thank you for your service.

  7. Thank You, Rick and THANK YOU, ALL for your service!! I believe that since the beginning, all conflicts have been the product of politicians, and military leaders. Yet, after all that is said and done, mistakes and errors continue to be committed by those of higher ranks, and the fighters THE HEROES, continue to be blamed.

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