Vietnam War Timeline

Dates of the Vietnam war:

Refer to Vietnam War years as well.

September 2, 1945: Democratic Republic of Vietnam Formed

Japan surrendered. Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with Hanoi as the capital and Ho Chi Minh as its president. However, no other countries acknowledged this government.

December 19 1946: The First Indochina War Started

In late 1945, after Japan’s defeat in World War II, French troops came back to occupy Vietnam. The conflict soon turned into a conventional war between the French and the Viet Minh.

January 18, 1950: China & Soviets recognized the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

The People’s Republic of China, now a Communist state, recognized Ho Chi Minh’s government. So did the Soviet Union12 days later.

February 4, 1950: The U.S. Gave France Military Aid

U.S. President Harry S. Truman denied the legitimacy of Democratic Republic of Vietnam but recognized the new French-supported government, State of Vietnam, under former emperor Bao Dai’s leadership. The U.S. also gave France a military aid worth $15 millions. Ten months later, the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) were sent to Saigon.

April 7, 1954: “Domino Theory” Coined

U.S. President Eisenhower referred to the so-called “Domino Theory” when talking about communism in Indochina in a news conference. If communism was successful in Indochina, he argued, it would spread to their neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Burma, Singapore, where there were large Communist movements at the time, very quickly like a domino effect.

 May 7, 1954: French Surrendered

The French surrendered to the Viet Minh after suffering a decisive defeat at Dien Bien Phu. One day later, Geneva Conference began to discuss the status of Indochina.

July 7, 1954: Bao Dai Appointed Ngo Dinh Diem

Bao Dai appointed Ngo Dinh Diem as the new leader of what would become South Vietnam.

July 21, 1954: Geneva Accords Signed. Vietnam Divided

Geneva Accords was signed to create an armistice for peaceful withdrawal of French troops from Vietnam and temporarily separate Vietnam into the North and South at the 17th parallel until a general election would be held in 1956 to reunify the country.

1955: U.S. Supported Diem

On October 26, Ngo Dinh Diem proclaimed the independence of Republic of Vietnam, naming himself as President. The U.S. recognized Diem regime and consented to train Diem’s army. Diem with the support of the U.S. refused to hold the reunification election, fearing that he would lose against Ho Chi Minh.

November 1955: Ho Chi Minh Land Reforms

In North Vietnam, following other communist doctrines, “Land Reforms” ordinance was conducted which made thousands of people classified as landowners and rich peasants tortured, captured and executed. As a result, there was a mass exodus heading from North  to South Vietnam.

1956: Diem Began Repression

Diem began to capture those who fought for or were in Viet Minh’s side.

1957: Guerrilla War Began

Under North Vietnam’s support, Viet Minh conducted a campaign of guerrilla warfare to crush Diem regime, killing more than 4,000 South Vietnamese officials.

May, 1959: Ho Chi Minh Trail Constructed

During 1959, Group 559, a specialised North Vietnamese Army unit, was formed to build a supply route from North to South Vietnam which would be eventually known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. A primitive route was developed along the Vietnamese and Cambodian border with the approval of Cambodian Prince.

July 8, 1959: First American Deaths Reported

Two American military advisers killed by the Viet Minh guerillas in a raid at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam were the first American non-combat deaths in Vietnam.

May 5, 1960: U.S. Advisers Increased

The U.S. government stated that the number of American advisers in South Vietnam would rise up to 685 men from 327 men.

November 8, 1960: Kennedy Elected

Democrat John F. Kennedy became the 35th president of the United States after defeating Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon.

December 20, 1960: The National Liberation Front (NLF) Formed

To suppress Diem’s government, North Vietnam supported and funded the National Liberation Front (NLF), also known as Viet Cong, with ex-Viet Minh guerillas as its core members. Northern-born troops would join the Viet Cong in 1964.

November 11, 1960: South Army Coup Failed

Diem defeated an attempted coup by his own forces, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN).

May 1961: Johnson Visited South Vietnam

During a visit to South Vietnam, U.S. Vice President Johnson had pledged to offer military and economic support to Diem government. By the end of 1961, the number of U.S. military officers increased from 746 to roughly 3,200 even though combat units would not be stationed until 1965.

December 22, 1961: First U.S. Combat Death Reported

The first combat death in Vietnam was reported. For many American points of view, the death marked the beginning of the Vietnam War.

February 8, 1962: Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) Formed

The Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) was first established to assist the MAAG, Vietnam, controlling all advisory and assistant efforts to South Vietnam. There were over 3,400 U.S. military advisors in South Vietnam by the end of 1962.

February 27, 1962: Diem Survived Assassination Attempt

Diem escaped an assassination attempt after two South Vietnamese VC pilots bombed the presidential palace.

February 1, 1962: Strategic Hamlet Program Launched

The Strategic Hamlet Program was an attempt of the United States and South Vietnamese government to group the peasant population into fortified villages. Its purpose was to isolate the rural population from Viet Cong influence and strengthen Diem’s hold over the countryside by providing education and health care to the peasants. However, many of the peasants felt indignant at being uprooted from their homes. Opposition to Diem grew and the Viet Cong would easily infiltrated the hamlets as a result.

May 8, 1963: Buddhist Demonstrations

A crowd of Buddhist monks were fired while protesting against Diem regime. This would however inspire others to demonstrate.

June 11, 1963: A Buddhist Monk self-Immolated

Thich Quang Duc, a 66-year-old Buddhist monk, burnt himself to death to protest Diem’s anti-Buddhism policies & religious intolerance. In following months, several Buddhist monks followed his example self-immolating to demonstrate against the regime. Quang Duc’s suicide photograph featured in Life magazine circulated worldwide and increased international pressure on Diem regime.

November 1, 1963: Diem Overthrown

With tacit approval from the U.S., South Vietnamese General Duong Van Minh overthrew Diem regime. Diem and his brother Nhu were assassinated in the following day. The U.S. recognized General Duong’s military rule. 15,000 US military advisors were in South Vietnam in 1963.

November 22, 1963: Kennedy Assassinated

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated In Dallas, Texas. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the Presidency.

August 2, 1964: Gulf of Tonkin Incident Occurred

North Vietnamese boats allegedly attacked two U.S. destroyers (USS Maddox) sitting in the waters of Gulf of Tonkin.

August 4, 1964: Bombing Retaliation

USS Maddox captain reported his vessel had been fired and that an attack was imminent. Six hours after the report, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered retaliatory strikes although the captain later corrected that no attack actually occurred. The U.S. jets bombed 2 North Vietnamese naval bases for the first time.

August 7, 1964: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution Passed

Three days later, the U.S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, authorizing the President to take all necessary actions against North Vietnam.

February 7, 1965: Viet Cong Attacked Pleiku

Viet Cong attacked a U.S. Air Force base in the Ia Drang valley, Pleiku, South Vietnam. This is the first major conventional clash between Viet Cong & the US. Heavy casualties were reported on both sides with 8 American killed and more than 100 wounded.

March 2, 1965: Operation Rolling Thunder Began

Responding to the assault, an aerial bombardment campaign against North Vietnam known as Operation Rolling Thunder began. The continuous operation would go on for more than 3 years.

March 8, 1965: First U.S. Combat Units Dispatched

The first U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam on March 8. By the end of 1965, the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam exceeded 200,000.

June 1965: Search and Destroy Missions Started

Search and Destroy” strategy was deployed under the command of General Westmoreland. Platoons were sent to carry out the missions.

October 1965: First Mass Demonstration Against Vietnam

In the U.S., University students started to protest strongly against American involvement in Vietnam.

April 12, 1966: B-52s Pounded North Vietnam

In an attempt to disrupt movement along Mu Gia Pass which was the main route that North Vietnamese Army (NVA) used to send personnel and supplies through Laos into South Vietnam, 29 U.S Air Force B-52s bombed North Vietnam for the first time.

February 6, 1966: President Johnson Met South Vietnamese Leaders

President Johnson met South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky in Honolulu where he promised to continue to help South Vietnam against the North Communist aggression.

December 31, 1966: American Troops Level in 1966

American forces stationed in Vietnam reached 389,000 by the end of 1966. More than 6,000 and 30,000 American men had been killed and wounded respectively in this year alone.

April 15, 1967: King Protested Against the War

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out against U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam among over 100,000 demonstrators in New York.

September 3, 1967: Thieu Elected

Nguyen Van Thieu became President of Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) after winning the election with 34% of the vote.

May 1967: Robert McNamara Confessed Ineffectiveness

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara admitted that the bombing campaigns against North Vietnam were ineffective. There were 485,000 US troops in Vietnam by the end of 1967.

January 30 – 31, 1968: Tet Offensive Conducted

Viet Cong supported by North Vietnamese forces launched the Tet Offensive, attacking around one hundred South Vietnamese cities and towns in early morning on the first day of Tet. Although Tet Offensive was a military catastrophe for the NLF and Viet Cong, who lost 37,000 men, it was also a serious blow for the U.S., who lost 2,500 soldiers. General Westmoreland requested 206,000 more troops after the offensive. Public support for the war in the country plunged as a result.

Battle for Hue

The U.S and South Vietnamese forces recaptured Hue after 26 days in control of the North Communists. Following the victory, mass graves of thousands of people who had been executed during the Tet Offensive were found.

March 16, 1968: My Lai Massacre

U.S. soldiers massacred 347 Vietnamese civilians, mostly children, women and elderly men in the town of My Lai. However, the massacre news wouldn’t reach the U.S. Public until November 1969.

April 3, 1968: Preliminary Talks Began

Despite a lot of debates and disagreement, North Vietnam and the U.S agreed that peace talks would begin on May 10 in Paris.

November 1, 1968: Operation Rolling Thunder Halted

Operation Rolling Thunder was halted after 3 and a half years. Altogether, the U.S lost more than 900 aircrafts; 818 pilots were killed or missing while hundreds were captured. On the other side, an estimated of 182,000 and 20,000 North Vietnamese civilians and Chinese supporting personnel were killed respectively while nearly 120 planes were destroyed.

January 25, 1969: Peace Talks Began in Paris

U.S, South Vietnamese and NLF representatives were in Paris for peace talks.

June 1969: Vietnamization Strategy Started

As U.S. troops in Vietnam reached its peak at 542,000 in January 1969, President Richard Nixon announced his plan to “Vietnamize” the war and withdraw American ground combat troops.

September 2, 1969: Ho Chi Minh Died

North Communist leader Ho Chi Minh died at the age of 79. North Vietnamese leaders decided to embalmed and put on display in a mausoleum instead of cremating his body as his wish.

April 30, 1970: Cambodia Invaded

American and South Vietnamese troops attacked Cambodia to destroy bases that might have supplied aid to the Viet Cong. After a 60-day operation, thousands of weapons and rice were captured while more than 10, 000 Viet Cong were killed.

May 4 & 14, 1970: Kent State & Jackson State Killings

During massive anti-war demonstrations at Kent State University, 4 students were shot and killed, nine were wounded and one was paralysed for life. These killings sparked anger and sentiment worldwide against America’s aggression in Cambodia and their involvement in Vietnam. Ten days later, another 2 students were killed during protests in Jackson State College in Mississippi.

April 1971: William Calley Sentenced for My Lai

First Lieutenant William Calley was convicted of murdering of 22 Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai village in 1968 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

June 13, 1971: Pentagon Papers Published

The New York Times started publishing parts of the “Pentagon Papers” which comprised top-secret information about American political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The documents leaked out by Daniel Ellsberg, an American military analyst.

March 30, 1972: Easter Offensive Launched

People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) conducted massive assaults in all 3 fronts simultaneously. First of all, PAVN forces stormed across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into Quang Tri before attempting to capture Hue. Its purpose was to shatter and draw more ARVN forces to the North. With the first mission accomplished, two secondary attacks would be launched against the Central Highlands (battle of Kontum) and Northeast of Saigon (battle of An Loc from Cambodia).

December 18, 1972: Operation Linebacker Began

Six days after peace talks in Paris had broken down, President Nixon ordered a new massive bombing campaign against North Vietnam to keep them at the negotiating table as well as to respond to the Easter Offensive attacks not long ago. The operations lasted for 12 days in which more than 20,000 tons of bombs were dropped in and around Hai Phong’s and Ha Noi’s transport and supply depots.

January 27, 1973: Paris Peace Accord Signed

North Vietnam, South Vietnam and the U.S. Representatives signed the Paris Peace Accords in which a ceasefire was established immediately and the U.S. agreed to withdraw all its combat troops. In turn North Vietnam would release all American Prisoners of War (POWs). In fact, nearly 600 POWs were released in March.

March 29, 1973: American Involvement in Vietnam Ended

The last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam ending its direct involvement in the war, although some military advisors and Marines still remained. In total, nearly 60,000 men were dead, around 150,000 wounded and at least 1,000 missing in action among over 3 million Americans served in the war.

July, 1, 1973: Congress Forbade U.S. Intervention

In spite of renewed fighting between NVA and ARVN, the U.S Congress passed a legislation that prohibited any further U.S combat activities in Cambodia, Laos and both North and South Vietnam.

August 9, 1974: Nixon Resigned

President Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate scandal. His Vice President Gerald Ford took office.

January 6, 1975: Phuoc Long Captured

South Vietnam suffered a catastrophic loss on Phuoc Long a major province in northern Saigon. Although the siege was a flagrant violation of the Paris Peace agreement, there were no response from the U.S.

March 25, 1975: Hue Fell to NVA

At the beginning of March, NVA launched an offensive against the Central Highland of South Vietnam. The battle for Ban Me Thuot ended only 8 days after it started. During March, another assault were conducted on Quang Tri, Hue and Da Nang. Backed by powerful artillery and armoured forces, they quickly capture Quang Tri. Soon after that, Hue – South Vietnam’s third biggest city, likewise fell to the NVA.

Early April 1975: Ho Chinh Minh Campaign Conducted

By April, NVA had already taken a big step in seizing Saigon. They had occupied half of South Vietnam while ARVN had lost its best units, more than a third of its men as well as almost half its weapons. North Vietnamese leaders felt it unnecessary to wait until 1976 for the final offensive against Saigon. They initiated the Ho Chi Minh Campaign to “liberate” Sai Gon. General Dung was sent to the South as they aimed to capture Saigon by late April.

April 29, 1975: Thousands Fled Saigon

Thousands of South Vietnamese fled Saigon as the North Communist invasion became more certain during the final weeks of April. U.S Marines and Air Force helicopters began a massive airlift. Within 18 hours, over 1,000 Americans and almost 7,000 South Vietnamese were evacuated from Saigon. The image of hundreds of South Vietnamese civilians scrambling to board a single U.S. helicopter featured the upcoming fall of Saigon and South Vietnam.

April 30, 1975: Saigon & South Vietnam Fell

Last two U.S. men were killed at Tan Son Nhut airport in their evacuation mission. South Vietnam fell as the acting President Duong Van Minh delivered an unconditional surrender to the North Communists in early hours of April 30. The Vietnam war eventually ended.

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