Today marks the 50th anniversary of American helicopters and personnel arriving in South Vietnam, the result of President John F. Kennedy's promise of American aid to the Republic of South Vietnam.
* At the time President Kennedy was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1961, Vietnam was still divided into two countries along the 17th Parallel, the result of the 1954 Geneva Accords. Ho Chi Minh was president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the North and Ngo Dinh Diem was president of South Vietnam.
* In the fall of 1961, approximately 26,000 Viet Cong soldiers from North Vietnam launched successful attacks on the South Vietnamese army, according to Brigham Young High School History.
* According to the Cold War International History project, on Oct. 24, 1961, President Kennedy wrote to Ngo Dinh Diem and pledged "the United States is determined to help Vietnam preserve its independence."
* Kennedy authorized funds to increase the size of the South Vietnamese Army from 150,000 to 170,000, according to the History Learning Site; he also agreed to send one thousand additional military advisers.
* In December 1961, according to the History Place, the Viet Cong guerrilla fighters controlled a large part of South Vietnam. The History Place also points out the American cost of managing the Vietnam conflict was one million dollars per day.
* Published on the website of the U.S. Department of State's Office of the Historian, a Dec. 18, 1961, memorandum from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Special Assistant, Maj. Gen. T.W. Parker to Chairman Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer outlined the results of a meeting with Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara about Vietnam. The memorandum mentions that the Joint Chiefs have "great authority from the president" and "money is no object."
* According to History.com, the USNS Core arrived in Saigon on Dec. 11, 1961. The Core carried 33 Vertol H-21C Shawnee helicopters along with 400 air and ground crewmen. Their assignment was to airlift South Vietnamese Army troops into combat.
* During his second State of the Union Address on Jan. 11, 1962, President Kennedy stated: "Few generations in all of history have been granted the role of being the great defender of freedom in its maximum hour of danger. This is our good fortune."
* On Jan. 12, 1962, according to History.com, the U.S. Air Force began Operation Ranch Hand, an initiative where U.S. personnel dumped defoliating herbicides over Laos and Vietnam. The goal was to destroy vegetation that the Viet Cong could use as camouflage.
* In another Jan. 12 campaign called Operation Chopper, American helicopters transported one thousand South Vietnamese paratroopers in an assault on the Viet Cong forces from North Vietnam. Operation Chopper is considered America's first real participation in a major conflict during the Vietnam War.