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1966: Viet Cong bombs Saigon

VIDEO : An American commentator witnesses the aftermath

At least eight people have been killed and several wounded after Viet Cong artillery shelled the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon.

Altogether about 30 shells were fired into the city centre.

The first round came as troops and spectators were getting ready to watch a parade to mark National Day, the third anniversary of the overthrow and assassination of former Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem.

There was a lull and then a second round of shells exploded as Prime Minister Nguyen Kao Ky was saluting his troops.

American officer killed

There was chaos as crowds tried to find cover on foot or by motor scooter.

Many found their way blocked by American and South Vietnamese armoured vehicles coming from the opposite direction.

One shell hit the Chapel of Saint Anthony of Padua in the cathedral.

And another exploded just outside the cathedral killing an American officer.

Five other Americans were wounded and at least two Vietnamese killed when a shell hit the crowded central market.

The Viet Cong were firing from bases at the edge of the jungle some three and half miles away from Saigon and amazed military observers with their accuracy.

They also sank an American minesweeper in the Saigon River with a mine later in the day, killing several crew members.

Call for more US troops

So far US armed helicopters and South Vietnamese ground forces have failed to track down any Viet Cong bases.

Yesterday, former US President General Dwight D Eisenhower called for more troops to be sent to Vietnam to bring about a swift end to the conflict.

He told the US News and World Report that the war had been "going on too long" and said America should be "putting in the kind of military strength we need to win" as soon as possible.

In Context
The Viet Cong was a communist movement dedicated to the union of North and South and had been fighting a guerrilla war against South Vietnam since 1954.

They were reinforced by North Vietnamese troops in 1959 in an effort to overthrow the South Vietnamese Government.

In 1961 the US began sending troops to the region to bring a halt to what it saw as the spread of communism in South-East Asia.

In 1965 the US started air raids on the North.

Peace talks in 1969 saw American involvement decrease but war took hold once more in 1970 when the US and South Vietnam invaded Cambodia.

A major communist offensive in 1972, coupled with strong opposition at home to US involvement in the war, led to further peace talks and the Paris Agreement in January, 1973 and the withdrawal of US troops.

Saigon fell to communist forces on 30 April 1975.

Some 900,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, 50 000 Americans, and about 400,000 South Vietnamese had died.


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