8 July 1959: Major Dale Buis and Sergeant Chester Ovnand killed at Biên Hòa

In July 1960, under continued pressure by northern insurgents, President Ngô Đình Diệm created a programme to concentrate the people of South Vietnam. People in rural areas were to stay together in compounds, where they could be protected by South Vietnamese forces in what were dubbed Strategic Hamlets.

On 8 July 1959, after an attack on the US military advisory compound at Biên Hòa in Đồng Nai Province, approximately 30 kilometres east of Saigon, Major Dale Buis and Sergeant Chester Ovnand (fig. 1) were killed. Both were advisors supporting the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in their fight against insurgents from North Vietnam and communist resistance forces in South Vietnam. They were considered to be the first Americans to be killed in Vietnam before the Second Indochina War began in earnest. It was also the first of many attacks at Biên Hòa.

Figure 1: Major Dale Buis (left) and Sergent Chester Ovnand (right) courtesy of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

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