French foreign legionnaire indochina 1954

Prelude to the Vietnam War

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    World War I

    Beginning: Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia
    Ending: Armistice on the Western Front
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    Paris Peace Conference

    The Allies meet at Versailles to discuss and implement terms of peace for the former Central Powers. Even though Germany believed that the war ended with a cease-fire, they are forced to accept punitive measures levied by the Allies. Some nationalist movements are recognized when the Allies see an opportunity to punish former empires like Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary (e.g., the creation of Poland, Finland, Baltic states, and Czechoslovakia).
  • Ho Petitions the U.S. Government

    Ho Petitions the U.S. Government
    Nguyen Ai Quoc (Ho Chi Minh) and other Vietnamese nationalists in Paris send a telegram to U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing asking for his recognition of an independent Vietnam. They are ignored. European nationalism was recognized following World War I, but not those people living under colonial European control.
  • Indochinese Communist Party Founded

    Indochinese Communist Party Founded
    Originally founded by Ho Chi Minh as the Vietnamese Communist Party, the ICP sought the independence for all of Indochina through Marxist/Leninist ideology.
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    World War II in Europe

    Beginning: Britain & France's declaration of war against Germany
    Ending: V-E Day
  • Japanese Occupy Northern Indochina

    Japanese Occupy Northern Indochina
    In an effort to cut off southern China, gain access to the Dutch East Indies, and take Vietnamese rubber, the Japanese invade the state of Tonkin.
  • Viet Minh Founded

    Viet Minh Founded
    Initially formed six years earlier in China, the Viet Minh revived under Ho Chi Minh and Le Duan. Several months later, the Viet Minh mobilized to oppose Japanese occupation with the help of Nationalist China and the United States.
  • Japanese Invade Southern Indochina

    Japanese Invade Southern Indochina
    In preparation for their invasion of the Dutch East Indies, 140,000 Japanese troops occupy the southern Vietnamese states of Annam and Cochinchina.
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    World War II in the Pacific

    Beginning: U.S. declaration of war against Japan
    Ending: Japanese acceptance of Allied terms of surrender
  • Bao Dai Abdicates

    Bao Dai Abdicates
    While Japanese officials turned over Indochina to the French and local Viet Minh, Ho Chi Minh was able to convince Bao Dai to give up his throne and take a position within Ho's provisional government in Hanoi
  • Vietnamese Declaration of Independence

    Vietnamese Declaration of Independence
    Modeled after the American Declaration of Independence, Ho Chi Minh claimed Vietnamese independence from France on V-J Day. Ho hoped that the United States would support Vietnamese nationalism.
  • Fontainebleau Agreements

    Fontainebleau Agreements
    In an attempt to negotiate Vietnamese self-rule, Ho Chi Minh meets with the French government. When Ho proposes complete Vietnamese independence, the French reject it. When Ho drafts a Vietnamese constitution anyway, the French go to war against the Viet Minh.
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    Cold War

    Beginning: George F. Kennan's "Long Telegram" about Soviet attitudes and intentions for communist expansion
    Ending: Collapse of the Soviet Union and creating of the Commonwealth of Independent States
  • The Haiphong Incident

    The Haiphong Incident
    After conflict broke out between the French and Viet Minh regarding control of Haiphong harbor, the French navy opens fire on downtown Haiphong resulting in 6,000 civilian deaths. The Viet Minh then fled the city
  • Viet Minh Declare War

    Viet Minh Declare War
    Following the Haiphong Incident, Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh declare war on the French Union. This is the official beginning of the First Indochina War
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    First Indochina War

    Beginning: French refusal to grant Vietnamese independence
    Ending: surrender of French expeditionary troops at Dien Bien Phu
  • The Elysee Accords Signed

    The Elysee Accords Signed
    Bao Dai and the French government agree to greater Vietnamese autonomy, but fall short of full independence. The French hope to gain U.S. support in their war against the Viet Minh by improving Vietnam's status as a colonial subject.
  • State of Vietnam Proclaimed

    State of Vietnam Proclaimed
    In an effort to counteract the Viet Minh, the French government establishes a weak Vietnamese national government with quasi-independence. The abdicated emperor Bao Dai is made its head of state.
  • MAAG Sent to Indochina

    MAAG Sent to Indochina
    Truman sends the Military Assistance Advisory Group to Indochina to provide military advice to the French and monitor how the $10 million in U.S. aid was being used in the conflict against the Viet Minh. U.S. military aid was improperly used and advice largely ignored by the French until the Viet Minh all but won the war.
  • Truman's Aid to the French

    Truman's Aid to the French
    Pursuant to the Truman Doctrine in Europe, President Truman provides the French with $10 million in military aid in their fight against the largely communist Viet Minh. This action was largely influenced by the capture of nearby Hainan island by the Communist Chinese.
  • Eisenhower's "Domino" Metaphor

    Eisenhower's "Domino" Metaphor
    In an effort to rally congressional support for U.S. military aid for the French war against the Viet Minh, President Eisenhower likens the possibility of Indochina falling to communism like a series of dominoes. The "loss of Indochina, of Burma, of Thailand, of the [Malay] Peninsula, and Indonesia" would eventually threaten even Japan due to the loss of the Southeast Asian market for Japanese goods. Eisenhower's domino comparison would become a working metaphor for US foreign policy in Asia.
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    Geneva Conference

    A multilateral conference held in Geneva, Switzerland in order to resolve issues resulting from the ends of the Korean and Indochinese conflicts.
  • French Surrender at Dien Bien Phu

    French Surrender at Dien Bien Phu
    Besieged by the Viet Minh for almost two months, the French Far East Expeditionary Corps surrenders. The unsettling news topples the French government and its replacement orders an immediate French withdrawal from Indochina.
  • Geneva Accords Issued

    Geneva Accords Issued
    The international agreement creates a four-state solution in Indochina, separating Vietnam into two states divided by a demilitarized zone. Both states are forbidden from seeking military alliances, but both do. A unifying Vietnamese election slated for 1955 never occurs - the South and United States refuse to take part in an election that favored Ho to win.
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    Mass Migration of Vietnamese

    As delineated in the Geneva Accords, this 300-day grace period permits the movement of communist, non-communist, and Catholic Vietnamese citizens across the 17th Parallel and a cessation of hostilities.
  • SEATO Formed

    SEATO Formed
    The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization is created to stem the expansion of communism into South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The regional equivalent to NATO, SEATO is established to discourage communist aggression through multilateral/mutual defense and American funding for national defense.
  • Operation Passage to Freedom Ends

    Operation Passage to Freedom Ends
    During the 300-day migration period under the Geneva Accords, the U.S. Navy supports the French Air Force and Navy in its evacuation of non-communists, Catholics, and war refugees from North Vietnam. Over 310,000 individuals are relocated, providing a propaganda tool for the U.S. support of the South.
  • South Vietnam Referendum

    South Vietnam Referendum
    In a clearly fraudulent national vote, Ngo Dinh Diem claims a 98.9% victory over Bao Dai. According to the referendum, the South Vietnamese choose a republic over keeping Bao Dai as their head of state. In some areas, tallied votes exceeded the population of registered voters.
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    Vietnam War

    Beginning: first U.S. military advisers sent to support ARVN
    Ending: collapse of the South Vietnamese government
  • Strategic Hamlet Program Begins

    Strategic Hamlet Program Begins
    In an effort to win support in rural areas with strong Viet Minh/NLF sympathies, Diem's regime fortifies peasant villages and provides military and economic support. This program ultimately fails due to corruption and alienation of peasants who were forced from their homes.
  • Buddhist Protesters Shot

    Buddhist Protesters Shot
    After the Diem regime invoked an obscure 1958 banning the display of religious flags on the Buddha's birthday (Vesak), Buddhist protesters took to the streets of Hue on May 8th. South Vietnamese police and soldiers broke up the protest with gunfire and grenades, killing nine people.
  • Buddhists' First Mass Protest

    Buddhists' First Mass Protest
    In spite of Diem's ban on public assemblies, 500 Buddhist monks sneak into Saigon on fully-loaded buses and stage a four-hour sit-down protest in front of the National Assembly building. This is coordinated with a 48-hour hunger strike of Buddhist priests across South Vietnam. This is the first large-scale protest of its kind levied directly against Diem.
  • Hue Chemical Attacks

    Hue Chemical Attacks
    During a protest by Buddhist monks who opposed Diem's religious persecution, South Vietnamese troops poured liquid tear gas chemicals on the heads of the praying monks. 67 individuals were hospitalized. The U.S. threatened to withdraw support for Diem's government and eventually did reduce aid instead. The South Vietnamese military interpreted the U.S. response as tacit approval for a coup against Diem.
  • Buddhist Monk Self-Immolates

    Buddhist Monk Self-Immolates
    In a dramatic protest against the Diem regime, Mahayana Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc lights himself on fire in front of the Cambodian embassy in Saigon. This act occurs shortly after nine Buddhists were killed by government troops and a ban was placed on flying Buddhist flags during a holiday. Images of the self-immolation results in tremendous political pressure for Diem to reform his treatment of Buddhists.
  • American Reporters Assaulted

    American Reporters Assaulted
    Members of Ngo Dinh Nhu's secret police attack several American journalists who were reporting on the Buddhist protests during the ninth anniversary of Diem's rise to power. One reporter was punched in the nose and another was later detained and questioned by police for allegedly assaulting them.
  • Buddhist Pagoda Mass Protest

    Buddhist Pagoda Mass Protest
    Over 15,000 Buddhist protesters against the Diem government gathered at the Xa Loi Pagoda in Saigon for an emotional and religious demonstration. As a result of the mass gathering, Diem imposed martial law in Saigon three days later.
  • Buddhist Pagoda Raids

    Buddhist Pagoda Raids
    In response to the mass protest three days earlier, Ngo Dinh Nhu orders ARVN Special Forces to raid Buddhists pagodas throughout South Vietnam. 1,400 Buddhists are arrested and hundreds others are presumed killed. South Vietnamese forces also confiscate the heart of Thich Quang Duc inside the Xa Loi pagoda. The government raids are the final straw for the Kennedy Administration, the latter becoming more receptive to a removal of Diem from power.
  • Cable 243 Sent to Ambassador Lodge

    Cable 243 Sent to Ambassador Lodge
    In response to the Diem's failure to resolve his conflict with South Vietnamese Buddhists, the U.S. State Department sends a telegram to U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. to order him to advise Diem to replace his brother Nhu, and support an alternate national leader if Diem himself refused to do so. The South Vietnamese military perceived the new American policy as tacit approval for a coup against Diem.
  • South Vietnamese Military Coup d'Etat

    South Vietnamese Military Coup d'Etat
    As domestic support for Diem eroded in the early 1960s, the South Vietnamese military inquired about the U.S. Government's view of potentially removing Diem from power. Following the State Department's infamous Cable 243 telegram, South Vietnamese military leaders decided that the U.S. would support their overthrow of Diem.
  • Diem Assassinated

    Diem Assassinated
    Following protests against his refusal to hold elections and persecution of Buddhists, the South Vietnamese military led a coup to oust Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu.