• The French surrender at Dien Bien Phu

    France had been at war with Vietnam to maintain its colonies in Southeast Asia. Despite American aid, France could not defeat the nationalist forces of Viet Minh, led by the Communist Ho Chi Minh. The French would be surrounded at Dien Bien Phu in northern Vietnam. Eisenhower refused to send American troops and rejected the use of atomic bombs.
  • Geneva Conference Begins

    Vietnam was divided temporarily into the Communist North, led by the Viet Minh who were the Communist Nationalist Coalition that had defeated the French and whose leader was Ho Chi Minh, and the non-Communist South. Elections were to be held by July 1956 to create a unified Vietnamese state. The US refused to sign the agreement.
  • Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) Created

    The Eisenhower administration worked to create an anti-Communist nation south of the 17th parallel. In order to protect South Vietnam, the US joined with 7 nations to create SEATO. To ensure South Vietnam’s loyalty, the Eisenhower administration backed Ngo Dinh Diem, an anti-Communist. The US sent military advisers and hundreds of millions of dollars to Diem.
  • National Liberation Front/Viet Cong Founded

    Diem’s government faced increasing attacks from the North Vietnamese guerillas determined to overthrow his regime. The North Vietnamese also created a new political organization called the National Liberation Front, which tried to mobilize Communist and non-Communist opponents to Diem. Diem also faced continuous hostility of Ho Chi Minh’s Communist government, which was secretly sending soldiers and supplies into South Vietnam
  • Ngo Dinh Diem is Assassinated

    Despite American support, Diem’s regime was unpopular. His army could not stop the Viet Cong. He was a despised ruler who had alienated his own people. Americans were shocked to see images of South Vietnamese Buddhist monks burning themselves to death with gasoline as a protest against the government. When a military coup occurred in Nov, the JFK administration did nothing to stop it.
  • Assassination of JFK

    Throughout his Presidency, JFK supported Diem’s government by providing advice and financial aid. He also sent American advisors, including the Special Forces. Before JFK took office, there were 900 American troops filling noncombat roles in South Vietnam. At his death, there were more than 16,000.
  • Air Strikes on Gunboats

    Two destroyers, responding to sonar and radar contact, opened fire on North Vietnamese gunboats. Johnson ordered retaliatory air strikes on North Vietnamese naval bases. Later investigation indicated that the North Vietnamese gunboats had not launched an attack on the American ships.
  • Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

    LBJ asked Congress to pass a resolution authorizing him to take “all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the US to prevent further aggression.” He didn’t actually need this authority because he had already ordered the retaliatory air strike without it. However, he wanted to demonstrate to North Vietnam the American determination to defend South Vietnam at any cost.
  • North Vietnamese Torpedoes Attack the Maddox

    An American destroyer, the Maddox, engaged in electronic intelligence gathering in the Gulf of Tonkin. The attack was prompted by the belief the American ship had been involved in a South Vietnamese raid nearby. The Maddox was unscathed, but the navy sent in another destroyer, the C. Turner Joy.
  • Operation Rolling Thunder

    After American soldiers were killed in a Viet Cong attack on a US base in Feb 1965, LBJ authorized air strikes against North Vietnam itself. In March, the US began Operation Rolling Thunder, a series of bombing raids on military targets in North Vietnam. These raids failed to stop the Viet Cong, so in July 1965, LBJ ordered 180,000 soldiers to fight in South Vietnam without a declaration of war.
  • Time Magazine Announces Willliam Westmoreland as Man of the Year

    Westmoreland oversaw the military operations in Vietnam. American involvement was to be limited where US forces would use conventional weapons against military targets. The goal was not to take over territory but rather to kill enough enemy soldiers to persuade the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong to give up. Westmoreland’s strategy was not suited for Vietnam, where the Viet Cong usually escaped by hiding in tunnels, fighting at night or retreating into Cambodia, Laos, or North Vietnam.
  • Tet Offensive

    The Viet Cong used the lunar New Year to launch a surprise attack in the heavily populated cities striking 36 of the 44 provincial capitals. They even attempted to raid the American embassy in Saigon, although they were unable to penetrate it. The US succeeded in repulsing the Tet offensive, but it was a turning point. Although the Viet Cong failed and suffered great losses, they still held on to most of the rural areas and cored a political victory.
  • My Lai Massacre

    US soldiers shot and killed between 200 and 500 unarmed South Vietnamese women, children, and old men in the hamlet of My Lai after failing to find and Viet Cong. The atrocity led to the 1970 court-martial and eventual conviction of Lt. William Calley for mass murder.
  • Nixon Introduced Vietnamization

    To appease public opinion, Nixon began to bring American soldiers home in 1969. He wanted to encourage the South Vietnamese to take over their own defense. However, the South Vietnamese military alone could not beat back the Communists.
  • Nixon Doctrine

    Nixon’s new American policy toward Asia in which the US would help other countries fight their wars with weapons and money but not with soldiers. The policy substituted men with machines. Americans rearmed and enlarged the South Vietnamese army and secretly bombed Communists bases in neutral Cambodia.
  • US Invaded Cambodia

    The goal was to destroy the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese bases to allow time to rebuild the South Vietnamese army. American who had hoped that the war was fading away were outrages.
  • Kent State University Shooting

    After the invasion of Cambodia, students demonstrated on campuses across the country. The National Guard troops fired at an unarmed crowd of protesters at Kent State University in OH. 4 students died. 10 days later, state police killed 2 African American students at Jackson State College in MS. These deaths intensified the outrage over the invasion of Cambodia. Student went out on strike at about 450 campuses.
  • Pentagon Papers

    The New York Times began publishing secret government documents about American involvement in Vietnam since after World War II. The papers made clear that LBJ administration misled the American people, further undermining support for the war. The Nixon administration tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Supreme Court to block the publication.
  • War Powers Act

    LBJ’s deceitful conduct of the Vietnam War and Nixon’s scandals raised fears that the Presidency had become too powerful. Congress passed this law, which allowed the President to send troops to hostile situations overseas for no more than 60 days without obtaining congressional consent. Nixon vetoed this law, but Congress overrode his veto and it became law.
  • South Vietnam Surrenders

    Despite the 1973 cease-fire agreement, the fighting continued in Vietnam. For promised to protect South Vietnam, but Congress cut the administration’s requests for monetary aid to Saigon. Sending US armed forces back to South Vietnam was impossible. When North Vietnamese troops invaded early 1975, panicked civilians fled with them. After 20 years, South Vietnam fell.