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Timeline of the Vietnam War

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Timeline of the Vietnam War (Second Indochina War). After World War II, France assumed that it would retake control of its colonial holdings in Southeast Asia - Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The Southeast Asian people had different ideas, however. After France's defeat by the Vietnamese in the First Indochina War, the U.S. became embroiled in a second war, which Americans call the Vietnam War.

Background, 1930-1945: French Colonial Rule and World War II

1915 Photo of Saigon, colonial French Indochina (Vietnam)
Library of Congress Photo and Prints Collection
Establishment of Indochinese Communist Party, Emperor Bao Dai Installed, Japanese Occupy Indochina, Ho Chi Minh and Americans Fight Japanese, Famine in Hanoi, Foundation of Viet Minh, Japanese Surrender, France Reclaims Southeast Asia

1945-1946: Post-War Chaos in Vietnam

Japanese officers surrender to the Allied forces aboard the USS Missouri (1945)
U.S. Navy Archives
U.S. OSS Enters Vietnam, Japan's Formal Surrender, Ho Chi Minh Declares Independence, British and Chinese Troops Enter Vietnam, French POWs Rampage, First American Killed, French Troops Land in Saigon, Chiang Kai-shek Withdraws, French Control South Vietnam

1946-1950: First Indochina War, France vs. Vietnam

French Foreign Legion Soldier Patrolling Vietnam in Red River Delta (1954)
Department of Defense
French occupy Hanoi, Viet Minh Attack French, Operation Lea, Communists Win Chinese Civil War, USSR and PRC Recognize Communist Vietnam, U.S. and U.K. Recognize Bao Dai's Government, McCarthy Era in U.S., First U.S. Military Advisors to Saigon

1951-1958: French Defeat, America Gets Involved

President Ngo Dinh Diem arrives in Washington, meets President Eisenhower (1957)
U.S. Department of Defense / National Archives
France Establishes "De Lattre Line," French Defeat at Dien Bien Phu, France Withdraws from Vietnam, Geneva Conference, Bao Dai Ousted, North and South Vietnam Clash, Viet Minh Terror in South Vietnam

1959-1962: Vietnam War (Second Indochina War) Begins

Wreckage from Viet Cong bombing in Saigon (1964)
National Archives / Photo by Lawrence J. Sullivan
Ho Chi Minh Declares War, First U.S. Combat Deaths, Attempted Coup and Diem Cracks Down, Viet Cong Founded, U.S. Military Advisor Build-up, Viet Cong Advances, First U.S. Bombing Runs Over Vietnam, Secretary of Defense: "We are winning."

1963-1964: Assassinations and Viet Cong Victories

The Ho Chi Minh Trail, supply route for Communist Forces during the Vietnam War.
U.S. Army Center of Military History
Battle of Ap Bac, Buddhist Monk Self-Immolates, Assassination of President Diem, Assassination of President Kennedy, More U.S. Military Advisors, Secret Bombing of Ho Chi Minh Trail, South Vietnam Overrun, General Westmoreland Appointed to Command U.S. Forces

1964-1965: The Gulf of Tonkin Incident and Escalation

Secretary McNamara and General Westmoreland in the Vietnam War
Department of Defense / National Archives
Gulf of Tonkin Incident, Second "Gulf of Tonkin Incident," Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Operation Flaming Dart, First U.S. Combat Troops to Vietnam, Operation Rolling Thunder, President Johnson Authorizes Napalm, U.S. Offensive Operations Authorized, North Vietnam Rejects Aid for Peace Deal

1965-1966: Anti-War Backlash in U.S. and Abroad

Military vets march against the Vietnam War, Washington D.C. (1967)
White House Collection / National Archives
First Large Anti-War Protest, Coups in South Vietnam, U.S. Draft Call-ups Double, Marines Attack on Da Nang Shown on U.S. TV, Protests Spread to 40 Cities, Battle of Ia Drang Valley, U.S. Destroys Food Crops, First B-52 Bombing, Downed U.S. Pilots Paraded Through Streets

1967-1968: Protests, Tet Offensive, and My Lai

U.S. Marines at Dong Ha, Vietnam during 1966
Department of Defense
Operation Cedar Falls, Operation Junction City, Huge Anti-War Protests, Westmoreland Requests 200,000 Reinforcements, Nguyen Van Thieu Elected in South Vietnam, Battle of Khe Sanh, Tet Offensive, My Lai Massacre, General Abrams Takes Command

1968-1969: "Vietnamization"

President Nguyen Van Thieu (South Vietnam) and President Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam War Era (1968)
Photo by Yoichi Okamato / National Archives
Flow of U.S. Troops to Vietnam Slows, Battle of Dai Do, Paris Peace Talks Begin, Chicago Democratic National Convention Riots, Operation Menu - Secret Bombing of Cambodia, Battle for Hamburger Hill, "Vietnamization," Death of Ho Chi Minh

1969-1970: Draw Down and Invasions

Vietnam War wounded arrive at Andrews Air Force Base 1968
Library of Congress / Photo by Warren K. Leffler
President Nixon Orders Withdrawals, 250,000 Protestors March on Washington, Draft Lottery Re-instated, My Lai Courts-Martial, Invasion of Cambodia, U.S. Universities Closed by Riots, U.S. Senate Repeals Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Invasion of Laos

1971-1975: U.S. Withdrawal and the Fall of Saigon

South Vietnamese Fight to Escape fall of Nha Trang, March of 1975
Jean-Claude Francolon / Getty Images
Mass Arrests of Demonstrators in D.C., U.S. Troop Level Reductions, New Round of Paris Talks, Paris Peace Accords Signed, U.S. Troops Leave Vietnam, POWs Released, Clemency for Draft-dodgers and Deserters, Fall of Saigon, South Vietnam Surrenders

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