The Vietnam War

By whjms
  • Ho Chi Minh is born.

    Ho Chi Minh is born.
    Born under the name of Nguyen Sinh Cung, Ho Chi Minh was born in the town of Hoang Tru, Vietnam. Nguyen changed his name to Ho Chi Minh, which means 'He Who Enlightens', after resolving to end France's imperial rule over Vietnam. After freeing the nation, Ho Chi Minh lead Vietnam as president for over two decades.
  • Viet Minh formed.

    Ho Chi Minh, along with fellow supporters, forms the Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi, or the League for the Independence of Vietnam, shortened to the Viet Minh. The goal of the Viet Minh at this point is to overthrow the current French imperial government.
  • Viet Minh declares independence.

    Viet Minh declares independence.
    After decades of rule over Indochina, France enables Japan to position troops in Indochina, as well as use all major Vietnamese seaports and airports. In March 1945, fearing an attack, Japan ousts the French colonial government from Vietnam. Five months later, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki force Japan to withdraw, enabling Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Minh to declare Vietnam's independence.
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    First Indochina War

    After years of rising tension between France and the newly-declared nation of Vietnam, French naval ships fire on the town of Haiphong after a clash between French and Vietnamese soldiers ("Vietnam"). The war culminated in US-supported French forces eventually losing to Soviet and Chinese-supported Viet Minh forces at Dien Bien Phu. After the war, the nation was divided into North Vietnam which was, controlled by the Viet Minh, and South Vietnam, controlled by France.
  • Dien Bien Phu taken by Viet Minh.

    Dien Bien Phu taken by Viet Minh.
    Viet Minh forces managed to drive French units stationed in the town of Dien Bien Phu using advanced seige tactics and munitions supplied by China and the Soviets. The loss of this garrison, which housed over 14,000 troops, resulted in France accepting a loss and agreeing to negotiate at the Geneva Conference.
  • Geneva Accords issued.

    Geneva Accords issued.
    On April 26, 1954, representatives from Cambodia, China, France, Laos, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, and North and South Vietnam met in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the ongoing strife in Indochina. The result of the Conference was the creation of a cease-fire line across the 17th Parallel, the withdrawal of each faction's troops from the other's side of the line, and an election in the future that would decide on the ruler of Vietnam, once it was united.
  • Ngo Dinh Diem is elected president of South Vietnam

    Ngo Dinh Diem is elected president of South Vietnam
    Bao Dai, the previous leader of South Vietnam, is defeated by US-supported Ngo Dinh Diem. After being elected, he refused to hold a free election across Vietnam, which was required according to the Geneva Accords. This resulted in Vietnam continuing to be divided, and no national government was formed. Ngo Dinh Diem also ordered the torture, interrogation, and execution of hundreds of supposed North Vietnamese insurgents, making him unpopular among his people.
  • Ho Chi Minh Trail construction begins.

    Ho Chi Minh Trail construction begins.
    A large network of truck and supply routes, the Truong Son Trail (also known as Ho Chi Minh Trail) was created to enable North Vietnam and the Viet Cong to easily transfer supplies to the front lines. It began north of the 17th Parallel, passed through Cambodia and Laos to South Vietnam. Even while under heavy bombing, the path was used to transfer thousands of troops and tons of supplies.
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    Operation Ranch Hand

    The objective of Operation Ranch hand was to find a way to effectively combat the Viet Cong's guerilla and cover-based tactics. The weapon used, called Agent Orange, is able to kill most plants within days. 11-13 million gallons of this toxic compound were sprayed across Vietnam, killing massive amounts of plant and wildlife. The end result of this campaign was the loss of cover and crops for the Viet Cong, enabling US and South Vietnamese forces to easily spot enemies from the air.
  • Battle of Ap Bac

    A group of approximately 2500 South Vietnamese troops, along with a group of US advisors, surrounded a group of 300 Viet Cong guerillas, in the town of Ap Bac. While the South Vietnamese forces, aided by the United States, had superior technology, including armored carriers and helicopters, the Viet Cong managed to successfully kill about 80 South Vietnamese troops and escape with minimal losses. This highlighted the Viet Cong's superior military abilities.
  • Ngo Dinh Diem assassinated.

    Ngo Dinh Diem assassinated.
    President of South Vietnam Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated in a coup led by his generals. Until this point, Diem had chosen a somewhat dictatorial style of rule, making him a target for both North and South Vietnam. After he began ordering the arrest of Buddhist protestors, the US began to distance itself and withdraw its support for him. After the losing its US-supported leader, South Vietnam was now more likely to accept the Communist North Vietnamese, forcing the US to become more involved.
  • The Tonkin Gulf Resolution is passed.

    On August 2 and 4, the USS Maddox and C. Turner Joy are attacked by North Vietnamese forces. In response, President Lyndon Johnson and Congress pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This bill enables the president to do what they seem fit, in the interest of protecting American armed forces and to prevent future attacks by the enemy.
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    Operation Rolling Thunder

    After many attacks on US forces, President Johnson initiates a bombing campaign, codenamed 'Operation Rolling Thunder'. The US military believed that sustained bombing would wear down North Vietnam until they accepted defeat, or at the very least, would restrict supply lines. Support from China and the Soviet Union enabled North Vietnam to erect anti-air defenses, reducing the campaign's efficiacy. After attacking industrial and military targets for over 3 years, the campaign was halted.
  • Attack on Khe Sanh

    Attack on Khe Sanh
    North Vietnamese forces begin an assault on a US base at Khe Sahn, using heavy artillery and sustained fire. This is part of the Tet Offensive, as the goal of this attack wasn't to capture the base, but rather to keep US forces distracted ("Vietnam War"). When the Tet Offensive was launched, US and South Vietnamese forces were caught unawares, and had to scramble to regain areas taken by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces.
  • The Tet Offensive

    While the United States and South Vietnam were occupied with Khe Sanh, North Vietnam unleased a widespread assault on the South, set to take place during Tet, or the lunar New Year festival. Over 100 cities were captured, and the US embassy was successfully attacked by the Viet Cong ("Vietnam War"). However, Southern and US forces were able to quickly drive them out. When word of the attack spread to the US, people were stunned, and realized that the government's message of a victory was a lie.
  • My Lai Massacre

    My Lai Massacre
    Under the belief that anyone they saw was a Viet Cong sympathizer, US troops reached the town of My Lai in the province of Quang Ngai. Between 200-500 unarmed civilians ("My Lai massacre takes place in Vietnam") , including the elderly, women, children, and babies, were brutally killed. News of this massacre was kept secret until 1970, when the platoon leader was interviewed. This fueled the anti-war sentiment and marked one of the darkest moments throughout the war.
  • Nichard Nixon is elected president.

    Nichard Nixon is elected president.
    Nixon, after losing to JFK, returns in 1968, promising 'Vietnamization', which meant reversing the 'Americanized' Vietnam War. Among the methods of Vietnamization was providing South Vietnam with better weaponry, equipment, and training. What made this concept popular among Americans was Nixon's promise of quickly withdrawing troops from Vietnam.
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    Operation Commando Hunt

    Named 'Operation Commando Hunt', the US military's attempt to stop the flow of supplies across the Ho Chi Minh Trail was ultimately a failure. This campaign entailed repeated bombing in Laos on the trail, but North Vietnamese forces were not fazed, and continued to use it.
  • Operation Ranch Hand ends.

    Operation Ranch Hand ends.
    After millions of gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides were sprayed across North Vietnam, Operation Ranch Hand was stopped. The effects of this operation lasted longer than the war, with hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese dying after exposure to the chemical, and an estimated 500,000 ("Agent Orange") Vietnamese children born with birth defects as a result of exposure to it. After the compounds were sprayed, they contaminated water supplies in some cases.
  • Tonkin Gulf Resolution repealed.

    After the rise in anti-war protests, the Resolution was seen to provide Richard Nixon, the president at the time, the means of keeping the United States in the war indefinitely. The Senate voted to repeal the resolution, in order to reduce the military and war-related power the president had.
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    Operation Linebacker I

    Operation Linebacker was the start of an American Northern offensive. The goal of this operation was to hamper North Vietnamese air, supply, and production facilities, as well as taking down as many aircraft as possible ("Vietnam War: Operation Linebacker"). With this offensive, the US hoped that Hanoi would eventually enter peace talks, and the United States would successfully help South Vietnam gain control over the nation.
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    Operation Linebacker II

    After the Paris Peace Talks reach a dead-end, the United States resumed Operation Linebacker, also known as the Christmas Bombings, this time attacking Hanoi and the surrounding area. Sorties of B-52 bombers, some of the military's best aircraft at the time, were sent to show North Vietnam the commitment of the US towards the war. After 11 days of bombing, and over 1300 civilian casualties, North Vietnam agreed to re-enter peace talks.
  • Paris Peace Accords signed.

    After refusing to sign the previous Peace Accords, and subsequently being heavily bombed, North Vietnam agrees to sign this agreement. American forces would be withdrawn within 60 days, a cease-fire between North and South Vietnam was to be honored, prisoners of war were to be released, and North Vietnamese units in South Vietnam could not be reinforced.
  • Last U.S. military unit leaves Vietnam.

    After the signing of the Paris Peace Accord, the United States leaves Vietnam, hoping that Vietnamizatio would prevent North Vietnamese Communists from gaining control. However, both North and South Vietnam were preparing for war, each claiming that the other side was violating the Paris Peace Accords ("Vietnam War").
  • The Fall of Saigon

    The capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, is effortlessly taken by the North Vietnam Army, following South Vietnam's surrender. The United States initiates Operation Frequent Wind, which is the evacuation of any Americans left in Vietnam, as well as American allies. This event marks the end of the Vietnam War.
  • The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is founded.

    North and South Vietnam are united, under the banner of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and the United States sees the outcome of their struggle. The nation's capital is declared to be Hanoi, and Saigon is re-named to Ho Chi Minh City. For most Americans, the Vietnam War was a failed attempt to stop the growth of Communism in Indochina.