The U.S. and the Soviet Union were technically “friends” after World War II. In reality, both countries felt slighted by the other during the invasion of Germany, especially in Berlin.
After the Battle of Berlin, Germany was divided into four occupation zones controlled by the United Kingdom, the U.S., France and the Soviet Union, who had control over Eastern Germany.
When the dust settled, the U.S. had risen as a super power, with the USSR as its Eastern counterpoint. The tenuous ally-ship enjoyed by the two nations began to quickly unravel. In 1947, President Harry Truman announced the Truman Doctrine, a foreign policy whose purpose was to stop Soviet geopolitical expansion.
The Cold War was on.
The Cold War
While the U.S. and Soviet Union never engaged in full scale conflicts directly with each other, they fought in “proxy wars:” conflicts that had been started around the world and backed by opposing powers. The U.S. was heavily invested in stopping communism. The Soviets were seen as the Red Menace, spreading communism to the world.
Several of these conflicts were unsuccessful in unseating communist-friendly regimes, such as the Bay of Pigs fiasco on April 17, 1961. The Central Intelligence Agency undertook a military invasion in Cuba with the hopes of breaking Fidel Castro’s reign of power over the country. Cuba, a mere 110 miles from the tip of Florida, was seen as a potential hotbed of communism, and their close ties to the Soviet Union solidified that belief.
Ultimately, the CIA was unsuccessful in deposing Castro, resulting in a stronger ally connection between Cuba and the Soviets. The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the closest the Soviets and Americans came to a nuclear conflict, was a direct result of the Bay of Pigs. The U.S. had a ballistic missile presence in Turkey and Italy. In response, the USSR deployed ballistic missiles to Cuba. An agreement between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev stopped the escalation of force.
From 1960 to 1965, Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were deployed to the Republic of Congo in support of the Congo Crisis. The Republic of Congo became independent from Belgium, and almost immediately were involved in a civil war that also served as a proxy of the Cold War. The USSR and the U.S. supported opposing factions and deployed troops accordingly.
The Congo Crisis spurred an Argentine Marxist named Che Guevara into action. He wanted to end American imperialism, and began the process by fighting in the Congo Conflict. He eventually brought his team of mostly Cuban fighters back to South America, this time in Bolivia. He wanted to use his Nancahuazu Guerrilla to be a point of armed resistance, overthrow the Bolivian government, and create a socialist state. The CIA worked with Cuban and Bolivian counterpoints to help locate and capture Guevara.
During the late 1960s, troops were deployed to the Philippines to tamper down the rise of the Communist Party of the Philippines. This is an ongoing conflict, and still is in effect today.
The most well known proxy war of the this time, however, was the Vietnam War. The purpose of the war was to prevent North Vietnamese communists backed in part by the Soviets from overrunning South Vietnam. Fort Bragg and Pope Army Air Field, then known as Pope Air Force Base, played their part in training troops and sending aircraft to the Southeast Asian conflict.
From December 1961 to 1963, the 464th Troop Carrier Wing, based out of Pope Air Force Base, rotated troops and aircraft to Tan Son Nhut and Da Nang, both in South Vietnam.
The runways at Pope Air Force Base had to be expanded to accommodate the aircraft from the 464th Troop Carrier Wing including the C-130 Hercules. The first C-130 Hercules, developed and tested in the 1950s, arrived at Pope in 1963. It was aptly named “The North Carolina.” The 464th was the first conventional U.S. Air Force unit to see action in Vietnam.
In 1961, the 5th Special Forces Group was activated at Fort Bragg. These Soldiers had been training personnel in counterinsurgency in South Vietnam, wearing unathorized green berets. In 1961, Kennedy visited Fort Bragg and met with Brig. Gen. William Yarbrough, commander of the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School. He authorized the use of the green beret for Special Forces Soldiers to wear not long after the visit, saying, “I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”
In January 1968, the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Abn. Div., deployed to Vietnam in response to the Tet Offensive. Within 24 hours of being called up, the brigade was en route to their destination. The brigade served for 22 months, protecting the cities of Hue and Saigon. The 82nd Abn. Div. created a 4th Brigade during this time to offer support to the long-deployed Soldiers.
The Vietnam war lasted for 18 years, from 1957 to 1975, and caused national upheaval in the U.S., dividing the nation and costing 58,000 Americans their lives. President Lyndon Johnson committed large numbers of ground troops in Vietnam, causing a surge in drafted men. As the death toll mounted, protests were sparked around the nation.
200,000 troops underwent basic training at Fort Bragg between 1966 and 1970. The peak of the war, 1968, saw a surge in the population at Fort Bragg, with 57,840 people calling the installation “home.”
Because of the surge in the population, Fayetteville began to see a shift. The town would gain the nickname “Fayettenam,” and become unrecognizable to some of its citizens throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s.
Note: Aly Hansen is a freelance photographer and writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch with the author. Information for this article was found using NCPedia.org and www.vietnamwar.info.