1963 in the Vietnam War
The defeat of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) in a battle in January set off a furious debate in the United States on the progress being made in the war against the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. Assessments of the war flowing into the higher levels of the U.S. government in Washington were wildly inconsistent, some citing an early victory over the Viet Cong, others a rapidly deteriorating military situation. Some senior U.S. military officers and White House officials were optimistic; civilians of the Department of State and the CIA, junior military officers, and the media were decidedly less so. Near the end of the year, U.S. leaders became more pessimistic about progress in the war.Although the U.S. denied that it had combat soldiers in South Vietnam, U.S. soldiers routinely participated in combat operations against the Viet Cong. The number of U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam rose to more than 16,000 by year's end with 122 combat deaths.The President of South Vietnam Ngô Đình Diệm initiated a brutal crack-down on protests by Buddhists against his (largely Roman Catholic) government that caused consternation in the U.S and concern that the Diệm government was failing. In November, Diệm was overthrown and killed in a coup d'état by his military, with the tacit acquiescence of the United States. A military junta headed by General Dương Văn Minh replaced Diệm. United States President John F. Kennedy was assassinated three weeks later. Lyndon Johnson became President of the United States. Johnson did not make any major changes in Kennedy's policies or team of policy advisers on Vietnam.Most of the statements and reports quoted below were secret and not shared with the American public for many years.