When did the Vietnam War realy start
There is not a simple answer.
Most Americans tend to date the "Vietnam War" from 1964 (Tonkin Gulf incident and first bombing raids on North Vietnam) or 1965 (first introduction of ground combat troops). However, to confuse things the US Army divided up the Vietnam war into a series of campaigns for historical and unit/individual award purposes. The first campaign is "Vietnam Advisory" from 1962-65 (establishment of MACV - US Military Assistance Command Vietnam). The Vietnam Service Medal is awarded for service starting in 1965 (introduction of ground combat troops).
The end of American combat involvement in the "Vietnam War" is usually dated as 1973. The US Army's last Vietnam war campaign is "Vietnam Cease-Fire" from 1972-73 and the Vietnam Service Medal cut-off date is 1973. However, the last American casualties were two Marines killed in 1975 during the North Vietnamese attack on Saigon. Most historians date the end of the "Second Indochina War" as 1975 with the fall of South Vietnam.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC includes all American casualties from 1959 to 1975