National Guard


Remembering the Vietnam War

50th Commemoration

KC-97G Stratotankers of the 108th Air Refueling Squadron, 126th Air Refueling Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, refuel five North American F-100C Super Sabres of the 121st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 113rd Fighter Group, District of Columbia Air National Guard, during Operation READY GO, the first non-stop trans-Atlantic deployment of U.S. Air National Guard fighters to Europe, August 1964.

Lt. Col. Herbert R. Temple, a future Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and the Headquarters, 3rd Battalion, 160th Infantry (SRF) of the California Army National Guard at Inglewood, California.

Lt. Col. Warren G. Nelson, 185th Tactical Fighter Group, Iowa National Guard, demonstrates the flight capabilities of an F-100F to Iowa Gov. Harold Hughes at the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center in Wisconsin on July 22, 1966. Through 1966, the Air National Guard sustained operations in Southeast Asia with airlift and medical support; meanwhile, fighter aircrews provided a strategic reserve and conducted steady state training at facilities like Volk Field. U.S. Air Force photo/A1C Dwain Volwieler

Members of the Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Tactical Fighter Group (TFG) conduct riot control training in Havre de Grace, Maryland, in 1967. Through the end of the decade, the National Guard played an essential role in responding to civil unrest caused by changes in American society, racial tensions and growing anti-war sentiment. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, Maryland National Guard members including the 175 TFG mobilized into state and then federal service to respond to riots in Baltimore. U.S. Air Force photo/Maryland ANG

Da Nang Air Base, served by Operation Palace Alert, which used volunteers from the Hawaii Air National Guard for combat missions in Vietnam, circa 1968. Photo courtesy Hawaii National Guard

Members of Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry, Indiana Army National Guard, posed for a photograph in Vietnam. The unit served in theater for a year, from December 1968 to January 1970. U.S. Army Photo

Capt. Ronald Himsel, executive officer of Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry, Indiana Army National Guard -- the only Army reserve forces infantry unit to fight in Vietnam -- passes the honor guard that greeted the unit at Standiford Field, in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by John D. Simpson, Indiana Military Department.

From May 12, 2012 to November 11, 2025, the United States is commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Vietnam War, and taking time to remember America’s veterans of that conflict, and their families. Under the leadership of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the National Guard Bureau has partnered with The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration to honor the veterans of the Vietnam War, their families, and the organizations that supported the Armed Forces during the war.

For the National Guard Bureau and the National Guard, this remembrance also means paying tribute to those Guardsmen who served in theater and at home in support of the war effort. One widespread perception was that joining the National Guard provided a means of avoiding service in the active military and thus in Vietnam. Nonetheless, the Army and the Air Force deployed National Guard units and individual Guardsmen to Vietnam and around the world to support combat operations. By the end of the war, over 9,000 National Guardsmen served in-country, with over 100 of them making the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their nation.

The National Guard played a strategic role in supporting the war from the home front. In September 1965, the Secretary of Defense directed that the reserve components create pools of enhanced readiness units called the Selected Reserve Force (SRF). The Army used its SRF units to maintain the strength of the Army’s Strategic Forces in the Continental United States, which released active-duty units for deployment overseas. Similarly, the Air Force concentrated its SRF units, dubbed “Beef Broth,” in fighter-interceptor and photo reconnaissance units to be available for duty on short notice. Meanwhile, National Guard units continued to execute their domestic mission and responded to the growing civil disturbances that erupted across America. As combat operations in Vietnam began to slow in the late 1960s and the Department of Defense began planning a shift from a draft-based military to an all-volunteer military, the National Guard began to play a significantly greater role in U.S. defense policy in the post-Vietnam era.