The American experience in Vietnam defined a generation, spurring civil unrest and the degradation of trust in important political and military institutions. Spanning the course of two decades, the United States’ engagement in the conflict reflected the heightened global tension of the Cold War. American involvement in Vietnam began as early as 1950, initially in the form of assistance to the French during the First Indochina War. By the end of the Kennedy administration, the United States had begun to send American advisers and military forces to Vietnam, aiming to prevent the spread of communism to Southeast Asia.
Battles like Ia Drang, Con Tien, Khe Sanh, and Hue standout in the history of the American war in South Vietnam. While hardly typical, those clashes resonate well in popular histories and documentaries. On the other hand, transpiring on tracks of land away from large urban areas and not on some named, fortified hilltop—and at a time when multiple larger American military operations occurred across South Vietnam—nine May battles took place that lacked the consistent intensity of the aforementioned engagements, but typified the experience of many in Vietnam. Although these May battles were both remote physically and mentally for those not involved, participants experienced the savagery that came with the few, intense instances of contact with the enemy.