One year after the overthrow and assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem, the situation in South Vietnam is deteriorating in both the military and political spheres.
Following two months of extreme political turmoil, the High National Council confirmed the appointment of Tran Van Huong as South Vietnam’s premier. Though he promised to wage total war against the communists while separating religion and politics, he proved to be only the latest in a line of ineffectual leaders that attempted to fill the void left by Diem’s death.
The military situation was no better. On this date, Viet Cong raiders infiltrated the U.S. air base at Bien Hoa, 12 miles north of Saigon, and launched a heavy mortar attack that caught the U.S. and South Vietnamese off guard. Before the Viet Cong withdrew, they killed five U.S. servicemen and two South Vietnamese soldiers, wounded 76, destroyed two B-57 bombers, and damaged another 20 U.S. and South Vietnamese aircraft. A lengthy search of the area around Bien Hoa failed to locate any of the Viet Cong. Word of the attack reached Washington early in the morning, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff called for “a prompt and strong response” against North Vietnam. Ambassador Maxwell Taylor called for a more limited response, but also advocated bombing in retaliation. President Lyndon Johnson, concerned with the presidential election that was only 48 hours away, decided to do nothing except order the immediate replacement of destroyed and damaged planes.