The War of Vietnam

  • Japan Seizes French Indochina

    The Japanese take possession of French Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam), but retain the pro-Axis French administration.
  • Viet Minh Founded

    The Viet Minh—the League for the Independence of Vietnam—is founded.
  • Japanese Occupation

    Japan sweeps away French rule in Indochina. In Vietnam, it places Emperor Bao Dai in power, creating the illusion of an independent Vietnamese state.
  • Period: to

    The Vietnam War

  • August Revolt

    Under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, the Viet Minh revolts against Emperor Bao Dai, Japan's hand-selected ruler.
  • Ho Chin Minh leads Viet Minh

    Emperor Bao Dai surrenders leadership to Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh.
  • Ho Chin Minh Asks Us For Support

    Ho Chi Minh pens a letter to President Harry S. Truman, asking him for the support of the United States in gaining independence for Vietnam.
  • Indochina Attack

    The Viet Minh attacks French forces occupying Hanoi in northern Vietnam. The First Indochina War, also called the Franco-Vietnamese War, begins.
  • US Supports French Vietnam

    Under President Harry S. Truman, the United States begins to contribute money and supplies to the French war effort in Vietnam.
  • Elysee Agreement

    Bao Dai signs the Elysée Agreement, which gives Vietnam "independence" within the French Union. Still, the French retain control over all key governmental functions.
  • Eisenhower Refuses Troop Commitment

    President Eisenhower refuses to commit American troops to the Franco-Vietnamese War. In a press conference he states, "I cannot conceive of a greater tragedy for America than to get heavily involved now in an all-out war in any of those regions."
  • Dien Bien Phu Begins

    The Viet Minh launches its first assault on French forces at Dien Bien Phu. The battle will rage for over two months.
  • Nixon Supports Involvement

    In a speech before the press, Vice President Richard Nixon explains that "if to avoid further Communist expansion in Asia and Indochina we must take the risk now of putting our boys in, I think the Executive has to take the politically unpopular decision and do it."
  • French Surrender

    The French surrender to the Viet Minh. The Geneva Conference on the status of Indochina begins.
  • Vietnam Divided

    France and Ho Chi Minh sign the Geneva Accords, in which Vietnam is to be divided at the seventeenth parallel until elections can be held in 1956 to reunify the country. The South Vietnamese government and the United States refuse to sign, though both promise to abide by the agreement.
  • Guerilla War

    Ex-Viet Minh forces in the South organize and, with the support of Ho Chi Minh, begin a campaign of guerrilla warfare against Diem's administration.
  • First Americans Killed

    Two military advisors are killed by Viet Minh guerilla soldiers in a raid at Bien Hoa in South Vietnam. These are the first American deaths (non-combat) reported in Vietnam.
  • National Liberation Front and Viet Cong Formed

    The National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, also known as the National Liberation Front (NLF) is formed to crush Diem's regime. The insurgent organization and its military wing—the Viet Cong (VC)—will be funded by the North Vietnamese government, and staffed by Ex-Viet Minh guerilla soldiers from the South. (Northern-born troops will join the VC in 1964.)
  • Johnson Visits Vietnam

    Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson visits South Vietnam and offers military and economic aid to Diem. By the end of the year, the U.S. military presence in Vietnam will reach 3,200 men (although combat units will not be deployed until 1965).
  • First US Combat Death

    An American serviceman dies in Vietnam, the first combat death reported. For many Americans, the death will mark the beginning of the Vietnam War.
  • MACV

    The MAAG is replaced by the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). United States military advisors are authorized to fire if fired upon. By the end of the year, the U.S. military presence in Vietnam will reach 11,000.
  • Strategic Hamlet Program

    The United States and the South Vietnamese government attempt to initiate the Strategic Hamlet Program in an effort to group the peasant population into fortified villages. The program is designed to isolate the rural population from Viet Cong influence and, by providing education and health care, strengthen Diem's hold over the countryside. However, many of the peasants resent being uprooted from their homes and opposition to Diem grows; for this reason, the VC will easily infiltrate the hamlet
  • Diem Overthrown

    With U.S. encouragement, South Vietnamese General Duong Van Minh overthrows the Diem regime, and the following day he orders the execution of Diem and his brother. General Duong's military rule is recognized by the United States.
  • North Vietnam Complains

    North Vietnamese officials in Hanoi file a formal complaint with a commission set up by the Geneva Accords, declaring that under the protection of American destroyers, South Vietnamese vessels had bombarded northern ports.
  • First North Vietnam Bombing

    The USS Maddox reports a second assault by North Vietnamese gunboats, though evidence of such an attack is inconclusive. President Lyndon B. Johnson orders retaliatory strikes. The U.S. bombs North Vietnam for the first time.
  • Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

    The U.S. Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gives President Lyndon Johnson the power to take whatever actions he sees necessary to defend South Vietnam against Viet Cong forces.
  • Search and Destroy Missions

    American ground forces engage the Viet Cong in direct fighting for the first time. Platoons are sent to "search and destroy," that is, to ambush enemy forces and then withdraw immediately (rather than fortify and hold hostile territory). The highly aggressive "search and destroy" military strategy will be employed throughout Gen. Westmorland's tenure.
  • Bombing Halt

    In an attempt to spur negotiations with North Vietnam, President Johnson orders a halt in the bombing. The pause will last just over a month.
  • King Demonstrates Against War

    Martin Luther King, Jr. leads thousands of demonstrators to the United Nations building in New York, where he delivers a speech attacking U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam. Over 100,000 people attend the rally.
  • Tet Offensive

    Beginning on the Vietnamese Tet holiday, Viet Cong forces shock U.S. troops with a wave of attacks supported by North Vietnamese troops. Heavy fighting will continue for months. Ultimately, the Tet Offensive will be a catastrophe for the NLF and the Viet Cong, which lose 37,000 fighters. But it is also a serious blow for the United States, which loses 2,500 men. Public support for the war in the U.S. plummets.
  • Johnsnon Orders an End

    President Johnson meets with his military advisors who urge him to find a way to end the war in Vietnam.
  • Longest War

    The war in Vietnam—its beginning marked by the first death of an American serviceman reported on 22 December 1961—becomes the longest war in American history.
  • Vietnamization

    The number of U.S. troops in Vietnam peaks at 543,000. President Richard Nixon announces his plan for "Vietnamization" of the war—that is, training and transitioning South Vietnamese troops to assume the roles that have been fulfilled by American troops—and promises to withdraw 25,000 American soldiers.
  • Ho Chin Minh Dies

    At the age of 79, six years before his armies seize Saigon, Ho Chi Minh dies. Rather than cremate his body, as Minh had specified in his will, Minh's family has the leader embalmed and put on display in a mausoleum
  • Kent State Killings

    The Ohio National Guard attempts to disperse the growing crowd on the fourth day of anti-war protests at Kent State University. When demonstrators refuse to follow orders, chaos ensues. Members of the Guard shoot into the crowd, killing four and wounding nine; one student is paralyzed for life. Of the four killed, two had been protesting while the other two had been walking to class. College campuses all across the country shut down. Photographs of the dead and wounded are printed worldwide, int
  • Congress Votes to Move Out

    The House and the Senate vote to withdraw all U.S. troops in Vietnam by year's end.
  • American Ground Forces Leave

    The last U.S. ground troops leave Vietnam. Thousands of airmen, advisors, and support personnel remain.
  • Vietnam War Officially Ends

    The Vietnam War is officially over for the United States. The last U.S. combat soldier leaves Vietnam, but military advisors and some Marines remain. Over 3 million Americans have served in the war, nearly 60,000 are dead, some 150,000 are wounded, and at least 1,000 are missing in action.