|1/1/1919||Ho Chi Minh Ignored|
Following World War I, a young Vietnamese patriot named Nguyen That Thanh (later known as Ho Chi Minh) arrives at the Paris Peace Conference. Responding to American President Woodrow Wilson's promise of "self-determination" for nations, Thanh hopes to free Vietnam from French colonial rule. But Thanh, like many other advocates of colonial independence who descend upon the Paris peace talks, is ignored.
|9/27/1940||Japan Joins Axis|
Japan enters World War II, joining the German-Italian Axis coalition.
|9/1/1940||Japan Seizes French Indochina|
The Japanese take possession of French Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam), but retain the pro-Axis French administration.
|1/1/1941||Viet Minh Founded|
The Viet MinhŃthe League for the Independence of VietnamŃis founded.
Japan sweeps away French rule in Indochina. In Vietnam, it places Emperor Bao Dai in power, creating the illusion of an independent Vietnamese state.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia. With the death of President Roosevelt, Vice President Harry S. Truman becomes the 33rd President of the United States.
The United States drops an atomic bombŃthe first to be used in warfareŃon Hiroshima, killing 75,000 people instantly, and injuring more than 100,000.
A second atomic bomb is dropped in Nagasaki.
Japan surrenders to the Allied Powers, officially ending World War II.
Under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, the Viet Minh revolts against Emperor Bao Dai, Japan's hand-selected ruler.
|8/30/1945||Ho Chi Minh Leads Viet Minh|
Emperor Bao Dai surrenders leadership to Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh.
Democratic Republic of Vietnam Declared in Hanoi
Viet Minh leaders proclaim the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, with Hanoi its capital and Ho Chi Minh its president. No other countries recognize this regime.
|9/13/1945||Viet Minh Leaves South|
The British land in Saigon to disarm the Japanese and to restore French control south of the seventeenth parallel, in what will become known as South Vietnam. After some fighting, the Viet Minh withdraws.
|2/28/1946||Ho Chi Minh Asks US 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.
|6/1/1946||Ho Chi Minh Meets French|
Negotiations between French leaders and Ho Chi Minh break down. France refuses to grant Vietnamese independence and declares the southern region of Vietnam a French colony. Ho Chi Minh returns to Hanoi disenchanted.
|12/19/1946||First Indochina War|
The Viet Minh attacks French forces occupying Hanoi in northern Vietnam. The First Indochina War, also called the Franco-Vietnamese War, begins.
|1/1/1948||Bao Dai Returns|
As a reward for his cooperation, the French allow Bao Dai to reclaim leadership of a nominally independent Vietnam, a position that France had denied to Ho Chi Minh two years prior.
|1/1/1948||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.
President Harry S. Truman is elected to a second term.
Bao Dai signs the Elysse Agreement, which gives Vietnam "independence" within the French Union. Still, the French retain control over all key governmental functions.
|1/18/1950||China Recognizes Vietnam|
The People's Republic of China, now a Communist state, recognizes Ho Chi Minh's government, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
|1/30/1950||Soviets Recognize Vietnam|
The Soviet Union recognizes Ho Chi Minh's government, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
|2/4/1950||US Gives Military Aid|
The United States recognizes Bao Dai's government, the Republic of Vietnam, and gives France $15 million in military aid.
|9/1/1950||US Military Advisors in Saigon|
The first group of U.S. military advisorsŃthe U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG)Ńarrives in Saigon.
Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower is elected President of the United States. Richard M. Nixon is elected as his Vice President.
|2/10/1954||Eisenhower Rejects Troop Committment|
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."4
|3/13/1954||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.
|4/1/1954||Eisenhower Debates Intervention|
President Eisenhower's administration revisits the question of direct intervention in the Franco-Vietnamese War.
|4/17/1954||Nixon Supports Troop Committment|
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."5
The French surrender to the Viet Minh. The Geneva Conference on the status of Indochina begins.
|7/7/1954||Bao Dai Appoints Ngo Dinh Diem|
Bao Dai names Ngo Dinh Diem the new leader of what will become South Vietnam.
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.
Some 850,000 North Vietnamese, mostly Catholics, emigrate to South Vietnam; 80,000 residents of the South, primarily Viet Minh sympathizers, move to the North.
|11/22/1954||Ho Chi Minh in Time|
Time magazine features Ho Chi Minh on its cover along with a lengthy feature profiling the new president of North Vietnam. "Ho Chi Minh, dedicated Communist," the article reads, "is a matchless interplay of ruthlessness and guile."6
|1/1/1955||US Supports Diem|
Ngo Dinh Diem, with the help of the United States, consolidates power in Saigon and rejects the Geneva Accords. Fearing (correctly) that he will lose against Ho Chi Minh, Diem refuses to hold countrywide elections. Still, the United States remains committed to his regime.
|12/1/1955||Ho Chi Minh Land Reforms|
Ho Chi Minh, following the communist doctrine, orders sweeping "land reforms" in North Vietnam; thousands of people classified as landowners and wealthy farmers are imprisoned, tortured, or executed. In a mass exodus, many Vietnamese families flee and head to South Vietnam.7
Ngo Dinh Diem begins a campaign to repress those who fought for or sympathized with the Viet Minh.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is reelected to a second term as President of the United States.
|1/1/1957||Diem Visits Ike|
President Ngo Dinh Diem visits the United States. He is welcomed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and other top government officials.
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.
|7/8/1959||First American Deaths|
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.
|5/5/1960||US Increases Advisors|
The United States announces that it will increase the number of military advisors in South Vietnam from 327 men to 685 men.
Democrat John F. Kennedy defeats Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon to become the 35th president of the United States.
|11/11/1960||South Army Coup Fails|
President Ngo Dinh Diem defeats an attempted coup by his own South Vietnamese government forces, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN).
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 wingŃthe Viet Cong (VC)Ńwill 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.)
|5/1/1961||Johnson Visits South 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).
|12/22/1961||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.
|1/1/1961||South Government Officials Killed|
Viet Cong guerrilla fighters kill some 4,000 South Vietnamese officials.
|2/6/1962||Military Assistance Command Vietnam|
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.
|2/27/1962||Diem Survives Assassination Attempt|
Two South Vietnamese VC pilots bomb Ngo Dinh Diem's presidential palace. Diem escapes the assassination attempt.
|1/1/1962||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 hamlets.
|5/8/1963||South Vietnamese Protests|
South Vietnamese police fire shots into a crowd of Buddhist monks demonstrating against President Diem's regime. The event will inspire others to protest.
|6/11/1963||Buddhist Monks Self-Immolate|
Thich Quang Duc, a 66-year-old Buddhist monk, sets himself afire in protest of the South Vietnamese government, its religious intolerance, and discriminatory policies; in following months, other Buddhists will follow his example and self-immolate to demonstrate against the regime. Quang Duc's suicide, captured in an iconic Life magazine photograph, shocksŃand confusesŃmany Americans. For some, the event will underscore the problems with American support for the South Vietnamese government.
|7/1/1963||Vietnam Linked to Southeast Asia|
In a press conference, President John F. Kennedy speaks of the war in Vietnam; he declares, "to withdraw from that effort would mean a collapse not only of South Vietnam, but Southeast Asia. So we are going to stay there."8
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara tells the press that the Kennedy administration intends to withdraw most American forces from South Vietnam by the end of 1965. The gap widens between information released by the U.S. government and the actual situation in Vietnam.
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.
While riding in a motorcade through Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy is shot and killed. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumes the presidency.
|5/1/1964||Students Burn Draft Cards|
Some 1,000 students gather in New York City to protest the Vietnam War. Twelve burn their selective service registration cardsŃdraft cardsŃin a symbolic gesture of opposition to the war.
|7/30/1964||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.
Responding to raids on northern ports, North Vietnamese gunboats attack the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin; the Maddox suffers little damage and no casualties are reported. The U.S. declares that its destroyer was on routine patrol in international waters and that it did nothing to provoke the attack, nor did it play any part in the South Vietnamese raids. Four years later, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara will admit that the U.S. had in fact cooperated with the South.
|8/4/1964||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.
|8/7/1964||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.
|10/1/1964||North Vietnamese Troops In South|
The first unit of North Vietnamese troops is sent to the South; by May 1965 they will number 6,500.
Lyndon B. Johnson wins the presidential election in a tremendous landslide.
|2/7/1965||Viet Cong Attack Pleiku|
The Viet Cong attack a U.S. Air Force base at Pleiku, South Vietnam, killing eight Americans and wounding more than 100.
|3/2/1965||Operation Rolling Thunder|
Responding to a VC assault on the U.S. Air Force base at Pleiku, South Vietnam, President Johnson authorizes Operation Rolling Thunder. The operation is a bombardment campaign meant to cripple North Vietnam's transportation system and its industrial centers in order to halt the flow of men and supplies into the South.
|3/8/1965||First US Combat Units|
The first U.S. combat units arrive in Vietnam.
The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) hold the first anti-war teach-in at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Students, faculty, and local citizens participate in debates, lectures, and film presentations meant to challenge assumptions about the Vietnam War.
|4/17/1965||SDS Rally in DC|
In Washington D.C., thousands attend a protest rally organized by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
Over 30,000 people attend a three-day anti-war teach-in at U.C. Berkeley. Among those in attendance are novelist Norman Mailer, socialist leader Norman Thomas, philosopher Alan Watts, civil rights activist Bob Moses, and Mario Savio, a prominent leader of the Free Speech Movement. The event, organized by the Vietnam Day Committee (VDC), will be the largest of its kind held during the Vietnam War.
|6/1/1965||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.
For the second time, Time magazine features Ho Chi Minh on its cover. In its cover article entitled "The Jungle Marxist," Time magazine asks, "What makes kindly old 'Uncle Ho' so hard-nosed?"9
|8/31/1965||Penalties for Draft-Dodging|
The U.S. Congress passes an amendment to the Selective Service Act that will criminalize the destruction of draft cardsŃnotices to individual (male) citizens of required service in the U.S. military; President Johnson signs it into law. Those committing the act will now be subject to a five-year prison sentence and up to $10,000 in fines.
First Mass Demonstration Against Vietnam
In the U.S., the first mass public demonstrations against American involvement in the war in Vietnam take place.
|10/1/1965||First Draft Burning Conviction|
Pacifist David J. Miller, 24, becomes the first person convicted for burning a draft card under a new law signed by President Johnson in August 1965.
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.
|12/31/1965||Troop Levels in 1965|
By the end of 1965, the U.S. troop strength in Vietnam exceeds 200,000.10
|3/31/1966||Students Burn Cards|
Student David O'Brien and three friends burn their draft cards on the steps of the South Boston Courthouse in protest of the war in Vietnam.
|7/6/1966||POW's Mobbed in Hanoi|
U.S. prisoners of war (POWs) are led through the streets of Hanoi, where they are attacked by angry mobs.
|12/31/1966||Troop Levels in 1966|
By the end of 1966, American troops stationed in Vietnam number 389,000. More than 6,000 Americans have been killed and 30,000 wounded in 1966 alone.11
|4/15/1967||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.
|4/1/1967||Westmoreland's Conflicting Assessments|
At the request of President Johnson, General William Westmoreland, commander of American troops in Vietnam, expresses optimism in his public statements about the war. In private, Westmoreland reports that he sees no end in sight to the combat.
|5/1/1967||Robert McNamara Expresses Doubt|
In a private letter to President Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara expresses grave concern about the war in Vietnam. "The picture of the world's greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1,000 noncombatants a week," he writes, "while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one."
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara publicly acknowledges the futility of bombing North Vietnam and the grave repercussions of this strategy at home and abroad.
|10/21/1967||March on the Pentagon|
Thousands march to the Pentagon to demonstrate against the war in Vietnam.
President Johnson "releases" Robert McNamara from his duties as Secretary of Defense. Johnson offers McNamara, who has grown increasingly pessimistic about U.S. progress against the North Vietnamese, a position as head of the World Bank.
|12/31/1967||Troop Levels in 1967|
By the end of 1967, the U.S. military presence in Vietnam has increased to 485,000.
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.
|2/28/1968||More Troops Requested|
General Westmoreland requests 206,000 more troops.
American soldiers, including the "Charlie" Company, a platoon led by Second Lieutenant William Calley, massacre hundreds of civiliansŃmostly women, children, and elderly menŃin the hamlet of My Lai (pronounced "MEE LEYE") in South Vietnam.
|3/25/1968||Johnson Seeks End|
President Johnson meets with his military advisors who urge him to find a way to end the war in Vietnam.
|3/31/1968||Johnson Declines Reelection|
President Johnson states in a nationwide television broadcast, "We are prepared to move immediately toward peace through negotiations. So tonight, in the hope that this action will lead to early talks, I am taking the first step to deescalate the conflict [in Vietnam]." He also announces that he will not seek reelection in 1968.13
|4/3/1968||Preliminary Talks Begin|
Ho Chi Minh's government declares it is prepared to talk about peace. Preliminary talks will begin in May, yet the U.S. troop level in Vietnam will continue to rise.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. His assassin, James Earl Ray, pleads guilty and is sentenced to 99 years in prison.
|4/1/1968||American Casualties in 1968|
The total of American combat deaths in Vietnam reaches 22,951.14
|5/27/1968||Draft Card Burning Ruled Free Speech|
In United States v. David Paul O'Brien, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the criminal prohibition of draft card burning does not violate the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.
|6/4/1968||1968 Deaths Exceed 1967|
The U.S. command in Vietnam announces that American battle deaths in the first six months of 1968 exceed the total in 1967.
|6/23/1968||AmericaŐs Longest War|
The war in VietnamŃits beginning marked by the first death of an American serviceman reported on 22 December 1961Ńbecomes the longest war in American history.
|3/2/1965||Chicago Convention Ends in Riots|
At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Hubert H. Humphrey wins the presidential nomination; meanwhile anti-war protestors clash with police in the streets outside the convention. Chicago's Democratic mayor, Richard Daley, authorizes officers to use any force necessary to clear the protests. Hundreds of people are arrested, and dozens of demonstrators, reporters, police, and bystanders are injured in the chaos.
Republican Richard Nixon is elected president of the United States.