Vietnam War Timeline

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The Vietnam War (known as the Second Indochina War) was an outgrowth of conflicts between the colonizing French forces in Vietnam supported by the Bao Dai's Vietnamese National Army, and the communist forces led by Ho Chi Minh (the Viet Minh) and Vo Nguyen Giap. Eventually, the United States was drawn into the conflict, which lasted well over twenty years.

Background to Conflicts in Vietnam

1858-1884—France invades Vietnam and makes Vietnam a colony.

October 1930—Ho Chi Minh helps found the Indochinese Communist Party.

September 1940—Japan invades Vietnam.

May 1941Ho Chi Minh establishes the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam).

September 2, 1945—Ho Chi Minh declares an independent Vietnam, called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and begin fighting with French forces and the VNA.

December 19, 1946—All-out war breaks out between France and the Viet Minh, signaling the start of the First Indochina War

January 1950—The Viet Minh receive military advisors and weapons from China.

July 1950—The United States pledges $15 million worth of military aid to France to help them fight in Vietnam.

The Second Indochina War Begins

May 7, 1954—The French suffer a decisive defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

July 21, 1954—The Geneva Accords creates a cease-fire for the peaceful withdrawal of the French from Vietnam and provides a temporary boundary between North and South Vietnam at the 17th parallel.

October 26, 1955—South Vietnam declares itself the Republic of Vietnam, with newly elected Ngo Dinh Diem as president.

July 11, 1959—First Americans are killed, two U.S. military advisors during the guerilla strike at Bienhoa.

The 1960s

December 20, 1960—The National Liberation Front (NLF), also called the Viet Cong, is established in South Vietnam.

November 2, 1963—South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem is executed during a coup.

August 2 and 4, 1964—North Vietnamese attack two U.S. destroyers sitting in international waters (the Gulf of Tonkin Incident).

August 7, 1964—In response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the U.S. Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

March 2, 1965—A sustained U.S. aerial bombing campaign of North Vietnam begins (Operation Rolling Thunder).

March 8, 1965—The first U.S. combat troops arrive in Vietnam.

January 30, 1968—The North Vietnamese join forces with the Viet Cong to launch the Tet Offensive, attacking approximately one hundred South Vietnamese cities and towns.

March 16, 1968—U.S. soldiers kill hundreds of Vietnamese civilians in the town of Mai Lai.

July 1968—General William Westmoreland, who had been in charge of the U.S. troops in Vietnam, is replaced by General Creighton Abrams.

December 1968—U.S. troops in Vietnam reaches 540,000.

July 1969—President Nixon orders the first of many U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam.

September 3, 1969—Communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh dies at age 79.

November 13, 1969 —The American public learns of the Mai Lai massacre.

The 1970s

April 30, 1970—President Nixon announces that U.S. troops will attack enemy locations in Cambodia. This news sparks nationwide protests, especially on college campuses.

June 13, 1971—Portions of the Pentagon Papers are published in The New York Times.

March 1972—The North Vietnamese cross the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the 17th parallel to attack South Vietnam in what became known as the Easter Offensive.

January 27, 1973—The Paris Peace Accords are signed that provide a cease-fire.

March 29, 1973—The last U.S. troops are withdrawn from Vietnam.

March 1975—North Vietnam launches a massive assault on South Vietnam.

April 30, 1975—Saigon falls, and South Vietnam surrenders to the communists, the official end of the Second Indochina War / Vietnam War.

July 2, 1976—Vietnam is unified as a communist country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

November 13, 1982—The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. is dedicated.