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May 22, 1967 President Kennedy orders the USS "Independence" Carrier Group from Gibraltar toward Israel. Within days, Soviet ships begin to shadow the group. Alexei Kosygin communicates angrily over the Hotline teletype and the White House has the Soviet ambassador come in for a special meeting with Kennedy on the 26th. Kennedy, updated on some of the "close calls" from the Cuban blockade in '62, assures the ambassador that the group is merely there to prevent "an escalation" of the looming war. But tensions remain high throughout the upcoming conflict.
June 3-9 1967 Two days earlier than OTL, the Six Day War begins. The air assault against the Egyptian air forces works even better than in OTL with over 500 aircraft destroyed in the first night. Ground fighting soon begins in the Sinai and Ariel Sharon and the Israelis (as in OTL) win the vital Battle of Abu-Ageila, with slightly more ground troop casualties (50 instead of 33, and 22 tanks instead of 19). The Egyptians also lose slightly more (4300 KIA and some 70 tanks). Field Marshall Abdel Hakim Amer, as in OTL, panics and orders a retreat from the Sinai, thus leaving it wide open to the Israelis.
Meanwhile, fighting starts on the 4th in the West Bank. Like OTL, the Israelis demolish the Jordanian forces after heavy fighting. But unlike OTL, Moshe Dayan fails to receive intelligence reports of Hussein's withdrawal and doesn't order taking of the West Bank. When the war ends, the West Bank, unlike OTL, reverts back to Jordan.
In the Golan Heights, vastly different to OTL events occur. Syria fails to believe the Egyptian reports of "victory" over the IDF and Nureddin al-Atassi puts it down to propaganda. Syrian forces continue shelling Israeli settlements from the Heights, but dig in and reinforce their positions even more stronger. As in OTL, the Syrian Air Force is nearly wiped out by the Israelis, but Prime Minister Eshkol and the Israeli cabinet vote against an all-out assault on Golan and maintain aerial bombardment of the area. By the end of the war on the 9th, Syria retains the territory.
Meanwhile in Washington, Kennedy and Dean Rusk were pushing for a ceasefire in the UN. Additional help came from the Soviets as Kosygin relented and failed to provide Syria the aid they requested upon seeing the devastation of their air forces by Israel, the defeat of the Jordanians, and tremendous defeat of the Egyptians and the seizure of territory from them. Naval forces of both super-powers began withdrawing on June 7th.
On June 9th, a ceasefire was signed. Unlike OTL, Israel controlled only the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Jordanian forces retook the West Bank and UN forces returned to Jerusalem. Syria though battered, remained "officially" "undefeated". Other powers who had aided the Arab attack were embarrassed and Israel's defense was clearly shown to be strong. Though Israel did not gain as much territory as in OTL, they also did not gain a huge Arab population in occupied lands. Technically, the Palestinians on the West Bank were still under Jordanian rule.
An additional alternative event also failed to happen. There was no attack on the USS "Liberty" by Israeli forces. That sore point, that haunted Israel-American relations, and provided fodder for conspiracy theorists ... never occurred. The "Liberty" safely returned to base and continued its service until it was scrapped in 1973.
June 5, 1967 Simultaneously with the war in the Middle East, more attacks on ARVN forces are made by the Viet Cong, notably a convoy south of Hue that results in the death of nine South Vietnamese soldiers and capture of two more. Additionally, six cases of M-16 automatic rifles and 500 rounds of ammunition each are taken. CIA analysts point to increasing failures of the South Vietnamese army and Tran's increasing isolation in Saigon as bad signs for the country.
June 15, 1967 President Kennedy names Thurgood Marshall to the US Supreme Court.
June 20, 1967 Jordanian forces fully return to their stations in East Jerusalem.
June 25, 1967 President Kennedy meets with Soviet Premier Kosygin in Glassboro, New Jersey. Chief on the agenda are the resolution of the Six Day War and the proposed Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Guidelines for negotiations are drawn up and the final meeting is considered successful and tensions are lessened from the Arab-Israeli war weeks before.
June 28, 1967 Richard Nixon makes a speech at a GOP fundraiser in Ohio, before leaving for a tour of Europe and Latin America. In it, he points to South Vietnam as a "Kennedy failure" and predicts "if things continue on this current path, South Vietnam will fall to the Communists". Asked about Nixon's comments on "Meet The Press", Dean Rusk denounces them and contends that the Administration is still seeking a means to restore democracy to SV.
July 12, 1967 Six days of race riots occur in Newark, NJ. It is the second major race riot in a month. There will be three more incidents in the next 30 days. At the end of August, Kennedy's approval numbers will have slipped to 47% in the latest Gallup poll. Vice President Long begins a series of campaign stops in the South as polls show dwindling support for the Administration and Democrats, and rising support for George Wallace in the 1968 election.
July 29, 1967 A major fire breaks out on the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier on routine assignment in the Philippine Sea, when an Mk-32 "Zuni" rocket accidentally fires from a Phantom jet.. Among the 125 killed is Lt. Commander John McCain, Jr., son of the Commander of CINCPAC, while trying to rescue a fellow pilot.
August 7, 1967 A major push by South Vietnamese army forces in the Que Son valley, to clean out pockets of Viet Cong support fails miserably. 150 ARVN troops are killed, six captured, and an estimated only nine Viet Cong are captured or killed. President Tran sets-up roadblock searches along the major roadways, but grumbling within the military over his failures has made the likelihood of a coup increase.
August 31, 1967 Thurgood Marshall is confirmed as a US Supreme Court Justice.
September 5, 1967 After a major ambush in Quang Nam province of ARVN forces three days earlier on the 2nd, leading to 512 dead and three captured, General Nguyen Khanh and a group of fellow generals oust President Tran Van Don. Announcements on South Vietnamese radio are made by Tran loyalists that he will return to power shortly, but rumors (proven true by the CIA) quickly spread that he had already been killed by Nguyen's men who arrested him and his body buried in an unmarked grave. Nguyen Khanh then declares that he will launch major military operations in the north of SV and "scour the countryside for Communists and Communist supporters."
The coup results in yet another embarrassment for the State Department as Dean Rusk was in the process of negotiating with the Tran government for a peace summit with Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attendees. President Kennedy issues a statement condemning the coup, but not supporting Tran's return to power. CIA reports indicate that the Chinese are now supporting the North Vietnamese, who are in turn supporting the Viet Cong openly. Analysts indicate that even with a revitalized and "re-energized by the coup" South Vietnamese army, civil war is inevitable and the Communists will be the eventual victors.
October 10, 1967 ARVN forces are routed during a major counter-insurgency attack on Nha Trang and the surrounding countryside. 650 South Vietnamese troops are killed, 30 captured, and another 100 desert on the battlefield. Two days later, Secretary of State Dean Rusk announces that there will be no meeting of the various factions, as the State Department had tried to arrange days earlier due to rejection by the military junta in Saigon. CIA reports indicate that North Vietnamese troops are now openly aiding the Viet Cong in the northern provinces of South Vietnam.
October 29, 1967 South Vietnamese troops clash with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces north of Da Nang. The battle is a rout again, with dozens of ARVN casualties and POWs. At the end of the week, Da Nang is now an openly Communist-controlled city. General Nguyen in Saigon vows that the city will be "re-taken, no matter the cost."
November 1, 1967 President Kennedy meets with his top advisors on how to handle the deteriorating situation in Vietnam. Robert McNamara suggests deployment of US Marines to bolster Nguyen's forces and more covert operations, this time directly against North Vietnam. Several military officers concur. Political advisors show little support, as, while there is disapproval for Kennedy foreign policy growing, there is no support for going to war in Vietnam. The next day, the meeting becomes moot.
November 2-27, 1967 The "Muôn Năm" Offensive occurs, two months earlier than OTL' s "Tet Offensive". Like OTL's "Tet", the North Vietnamese commit large forces to a full-out invasion of the South, coordinated with the Viet Cong.
As with "Tet", Nha Trang was the first to be hit, followed shortly by Ban Me Thuot, Kontum, Hoi An, Tuy Hoa, and Qui Nhon. Da Nang, already in the hands of the Viet Cong was a staging ground (unlike OTL) and Pleiku was not hit until the second assault the next day (also unlike OTL). The next day, Saigon and seven other cities were attacked. In the end, nearly 400,000 People's Army of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and another 100,000 Viet Cong went against 475,000 ARVN troops. General Nguyen directed the defenses from the Presidential Palace the first three days, then, under mortar attack, switched to the main ARVN military base near the capital.
Cities fell in short order as chaos reigned on the South Vietnamese side and KIA, MIA, and desertion took their toll. By November 20th, the ten northern provinces had fallen to VC or NVA forces, as well as three western provinces (Phuoc Long, Binh Long, and Tay Ninh), putting Communist forces within 50 miles of Saigon..
In the US, the Kennedy Administration debated offering air support to Nguyen and the ARVN, but as the nature of the assault and South Vietnamese failings, the feeling became "Why link ourselves to a failed war?" and it was put on hold. Congressional and political attacks leaped and again, Richard Nixon as well as other Republican hopefuls attacked Kennedy for "losing South Vietnam".
By the 25th, the invasion was nearly complete. General Nguyen had retreated to Cam Ranh as Saigon fell. At 6:50am on the 27th, Viet Cong forces announced on Saigon's own radio station that the city had fallen. Nguyen and loyalists escaped on dozens of boats commandeered from the local marina, heading out to see to be rescued by ships of the US Navy's Seventh Fleet. (Later, Hanoi would demand their return to stand trial for war crimes...demands ignored by the Kennedy Administration). Some 500 people were taken aboard the Navy ships and transferred to temporary camps in Manilla.
"The Vietnam War" ended on November 27th at 5:50pm local time, as the last ARVN forces surrendered in Can Tho. A stunned Kennedy cancels a planned press conference, his Addison's flares again and the conference is postponed for two more days.
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