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The Vietnam War started in the 1950s, according to most historians, though the conflict in Southeast Asia had its roots in the French colonial period of the 1800s. The United States, France, China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, Laos and other countries would over time become involved in the lengthy war, which finally ended in 1975 when North and South Vietnam were reunited as one country. The following Vietnam War timeline is a guide to the complex political and military issues involved in a war that would ultimately claim millions of lives.
Vietnam Background: Uneasy French Rule
• 1887: France imposes a colonial system over Vietnam, calling it French Indochina. The system includes Tonkin, Annam, Cochin China and Cambodia. Laos is added in 1893.
• 1923-25: Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh is trained in the Soviet Union as an agent of the Communist International (Comitern).
• February 1930: Ho Chi Minh founds the Indochinese Communist Party at a meeting in Hong Kong.
• June 1940: Nazi Germany takes control of France.
• September 1940: Japanese troops invade French Indochina and occupy Vietnam with little French resistance.
• May 1941: Ho Chi Minh and communist colleagues establish the League for the Independence of Vietnam. Known as the Viet Minh, the movement aims to resist French and Japanese occupation of Vietnam.
• March 1945: Japanese troops occupying Indochina carry out a coup against French authorities and announce an end to the colonial era, declaring Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia independent.
• August 1945: Japan is defeated by the Allies in World War II, leaving a power vacuum in Indochina. France begins to reassert its authority over Vietnam.
• September 1945: Ho Chi Minh declares an independent North Vietnam and models his declaration on the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 in an (unsuccessful) effort to win the support of the United States.
• July 1946: Ho Chi Minh rejects a French proposal granting Vietnam limited self-government and the Viet Minh begins a guerrilla war against the French.
When Was the Vietnam War?
• March 1947: In an address to Congress, President Harry Truman states that the foreign policy of the United States is to assist any country whose stability is threatened by communism. The policy becomes known as the Truman Doctrine.
• June 1949: The French install former emperor Bao Dai as head of state in Vietnam.
• August 1949: The Soviet Union explodes its first atom bomb in a remote area of Kazakhstan, marking a tense turning point in the Cold War with the United States.
• October 1949: Following a civil war, Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong declares the creation of the People’s Republic of China.
• January 1950: The People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union formally recognize the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam and both begin to supply economic and military aid to communist resistance fighters within the country.
• February 1950: Assisted by the Soviet Union and the newly Communist China, the Viet Minh step up their offensive against French outposts in Vietnam.
• June 1950: The United States, identifying the Viet Minh as a Communist threat, steps up military assistance to France for their operations against the Viet Minh.
• March-May 1954: French troops are humiliated in defeat by Viet Minh forces at Dien Bien Phu. The defeat solidifies the end of French rule in Indochina.
• April 1954: In a speech, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower says the fall of French Indochina to communists could create a “domino” effect in Southeast Asia. This so-called domino theory guides U.S. thinking on Vietnam for the next decade.
The Geneva Accords
• July 1954: The Geneva Accords establish North and South Vietnam with the 17th parallel as the dividing line. The agreement also stipulates that elections are to be held within two years to unify Vietnam under a single democratic government. These elections never happen.
• 1955: Catholic nationalist Ngo Dinh Diem emerges as the leader of South Vietnam, with U.S. backing, while Ho Chi Minh leads the communist state to the north.
• May 1959: North Vietnam forces begin to build a supply route through Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam in an effort to support guerrilla attacks against Diem’s government in the south. The route becomes known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail and is greatly expanded and enhanced during the Vietnam War.
• July 1959: The first U.S. soldiers are killed in South Vietnam when guerrillas raid their living quarters near Saigon.
• September 1960: Ho Chi Minh, facing failing health, is replaced by Le Duan as head of North Vietnam’s ruling communist party.
• December 1960: The National Liberation Front (NLF) is formed with North Vietnamese backing as the political wing of the antigovernment insurgency in South Vietnam. The United States views the NLF as an arm of North Vietnam and starts calling the military wing of the NLF the Viet Cong—short for Vietnam Cong-san, or Vietnamese communists.
• May 1961: President John F. Kennedy sends helicopters and 400 Green Berets to South Vietnam and authorizes secret operations against the Viet Cong.
• January 1962: In Operation Ranch Hand, U.S. aircraft start spraying Agent Orange and other herbicides over rural areas of South Vietnam to kill vegetation that would offer cover and food for guerrilla forces.
• February 1962: Ngo Dinh Diem survives a bombing of the presidential palace in South Vietnam as Diem’s extreme favoritism toward South Vietnam’s Catholic minority alienates him from most of the South Vietnamese population, including Vietnamese Buddhists.
• January 1963: At Ap Bac, a village in the Mekong Delta southwest of Saigon, South Vietnamese troops are defeated by a much smaller unit of Viet Cong fighters. The South Vietnamese are overcome despite their four-to-one advantage and the technical and planning assistance of U.S. advisers.
• May 1963: In a major incident of what becomes known as the “Buddhist Crisis,” the government of Ngo Dinh Diem opens fire on a crowd of Buddhist protestors in the central Vietnam city of Hue. Eight people, including children, are killed.
• June 1963: A 73-year-old monk immolates himself while sitting at a major city intersection in protest, leading other Buddhists to follow suit in coming weeks. The United States’ already declining confidence in Diem’s leadership continues to slide.
• November 1963: The United States backs a South Vietnam military coup against the unpopular Diem, which ends in the brutal killing of Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu. Between 1963 and 1965, 12 different governments take the lead in South Vietnam as military coups replace one government after another.
• November 1963: President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Lyndon B. Johnson becomes president.
America Enters the Vietnam War
• August 1964: USS Maddox is allegedly attacked by North Vietnamese patrol torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin (the attack is later disputed), leading President Johnson to call for air strikes on North Vietnamese patrol boat bases. Two U.S. aircraft are shot down and one U.S. pilot, Everett Alvarez, Jr., becomes the first U.S. airman to be taken prisoner by North Vietnam.
• August 1964: The attacks in the Gulf of Tonkin spur Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorizes the president to “take all necessary measures, including the use of armed force” against any aggressor in the conflict.
• November 1964: The Soviet Politburo increases its support to North Vietnam, sending aircraft, artillery, ammunition, small arms, radar, air defense systems, food and medical supplies. Meanwhile, China sends several engineering troops to North Vietnam to assist in building critical defense infrastructure.
• February 1965: President Johnson orders the bombing of targets in North Vietnam in Operation Flaming Dart in retaliation for a Viet Cong raid at the U.S. base in the city of Pleiku and at a nearby helicopter base at Camp Holloway.
• March 1965: President Johnson launches a three-year campaign of sustained bombing of targets in North Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Operation Rolling Thunder. The same month, U.S. Marines land on beaches near Da Nang, South Vietnam as the first American combat troops to enter Vietnam.
• June 1965: General Nguen Van Thieu of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Governmental Military (ARVN), becomes president of South Vietnam.
More Troops, More Deaths, More Protests
• July 1965: President Johnson calls for 50,000 more ground troops to be sent to Vietnam, increasing the draft to 35,000 each month.
• August 1965: In Operation Starlite, some 5,500 U.S. Marines strike against the First Viet Cong Regiment in the first major ground offensive by U.S. forces in Vietnam. The six-day operation diffuses the Viet Cong regiment, although it would quickly rebuild.
• November 1965: Norman Morrison, a 31-year-old pacifist Quaker from Baltimore, sets himself on fire in front of the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam war. Onlookers encourage him to release his 11-month-old baby daughter, whom he is holding, before he is engulfed in flames.
• November 1965: Nearly 300 Americans are killed and hundreds more injured in the first large-scale battle of the war, the Battle of la Drang Valley. At the battle, in South Vietnam’s Central Highlands, U.S. ground troops are dropped onto and withdrawn from the battlefield by helicopter, in what would become a common strategy. Both sides declare victory.
• 1966: U.S. troop numbers in Vietnam rise to 400,000.
• June 1966: American aircraft attack targets in Hanoi and Haiphong in raids that are among the first such attacks on cities in North Vietnam.
• 1967: U.S. troop numbers stationed in Vietnam increase to 500,000.
• February 1967: U.S. aircraft bomb Haiphong Harbor and North Vietnamese airfields.
• April 1967: Huge Vietnam War protests occur in Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco.
• September 1967: Nguyen Van Thieu wins the presidential election of South Vietnam under a newly enacted constitution.
• November 1967: In the Battle of Dak To, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces resist an offensive by communist forces in the Central Highlands. The United States forces suffer some 1,800 casualties.
• January-April 1968: A U.S. Marine garrison at Khe Sanh in South Vietnam is bombarded with massive artillery by communist forces from the People’s Army of North Vietnam (PAVN). For 77 days, the marines and South Vietnamese forces fend off the siege.
North Vietnam Shocks America
• January 1968: The Tet Offensive begins, encompassing a combined assault of Viet Minh and North Vietnamese armies. Attacks are carried out in more than 100 cities and outposts across South Vietnam, including Hue and Saigon, and the U.S. Embassy is invaded. The effective, bloody attacks shock U.S. officials and mark a turning point in the war and the beginning of a gradual U.S. withdrawal from the region.
• February 11-17, 1968: This week records the highest number of U.S. soldier deaths during the war, with 543 American deaths.
• February-March 1968: Battles at Hue and Saigon end with American and ARVN victory as Viet Cong guerillas are cleared from the cities.
• March 16, 1968: At the U.S. massacre at Mai Lai, more than 500 civilians are murdered by U.S. forces. The massacre happens amid a campaign of U.S. search-and-destroy operations that are intended to find enemy territories, destroy them and then retreat.
• March 1968: President Johnson halts bombing in Vietnam north of the 20th parallel. Facing backlash about the war, Johnson announces he will not run for reelection.
• November 1968: Republican Richard M. Nixon wins the U.S. presidential elections on the campaign promises to restore “law and order” and to end the draft.
• May 1969: At Ap Bia Mountain, about a mile from the border with Laos, U.S. paratroopers attack entrenched North Vietnamese fighters in an attempt to cut off North Vietnamese infiltration from Laos. U.S. troops eventually capture the site (temporarily), which would be nicknamed Hamburger Hill by journalists due to the brutal carnage of the 10-day battle.
• September 1969: Ho Chi Minh dies of a heart attack in Hanoi.
• December 1969: The U.S. government institutes the first draft lottery since World War II, prompting ever more young American men—later disparaged as “draft dodgers”—to flee to Canada.
Gradual Withdrawal from Vietnam
• 1969-1972: The Nixon administration gradually reduces the number of U.S. forces in South Vietnam, placing more burden on the ground forces of South Vietnam’s ARVN as part of a strategy known as Vietnamization. troops in Vietnam are reduced from a peak of 549,000 in 1969 to 69,000 in 1972.
• February 1970: U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger begins secret peace negotiations with Hanoi politburo member Le Duc Tho in Paris.
• March 1969-May 1970: In a series of secret bombings known as “Operation Menu,” U.S. B-52 bombers target suspected communist base camps and supply zones in Cambodia. The bombings are kept under wraps by Nixon and his administration since Cambodia is officially neutral in the war, although The New York Times would reveal the operation on May 9, 1969.
• April-June 1970: U.S. and South Vietnamese forces attack communist bases across the Cambodian border in the Cambodian Incursion.
• May 4, 1970: In a bloody incident known as the Kent State Shooting, National Guardsmen fire on anti-war demonstrators at Ohio’s Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine.
• June 1970: Congress repeals the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to reassert control over the president’s ability to use force in the war.
Vietnamization Falters, America Exits
• January-March 1971: In Operation Lam Son 719, ARVN troops, with U.S. support, invade Laos in an attempt to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail. They are forced to retreat and suffer heavy losses.
• June 1971: The New York Times publishes a series of articles detailing leaked Defense Department documents about the war, known as the Pentagon Papers. The report reveals the U.S. government had repeatedly and secretly increased U.S. involvement in the war.
• March-October 1972: The People’s Army of Vietnam launches the large-scale, three-pronged Easter Offensive against the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and U.S. While North Vietnam gains control of more territory in South Vietnam, the offensive isn’t the decisive blow its military leaders had hoped for.
• December 1972: President Nixon orders the launch of the most intense air offense of the war in Operation Linebacker. The attacks, concentrated between Hanoi and Haiphong, drop roughly 20,000 tons of bombs over densely populated regions.
• January 22, 1973: Former President Johnson dies in Texas at age 64.
• January 27, 1973: The Selective Service announces the end to the draft and institutes an all-volunteer military.
• January 27, 1973: President Nixon signs the Paris Peace Accords, ending direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese accept a cease fire. But as U.S. troops depart Vietnam, North Vietnamese military officials continue plotting to overtake South Vietnam.
• February-April 1973: North Vietnam returns 591 American prisoners of war (including future U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, John McCain) in what is known as Operation Homecoming.
How Many Were Killed in the Vietnam War?
• August 1974: President Nixon resigns in the face of likely impeachment after the Watergate Scandal is revealed. Gerald R. Ford becomes president.
• January 1975: President Ford rules out any further U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.
• April 1975: In the Fall of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam is seized by communist forces and the government of South Vietnam surrenders. Marine and Air Force helicopters transport more than 1,000 American civilians and nearly 7,000 South Vietnamese refugees out of Saigon in an 18-hour mass evacuation effort.
• July 1975: North and South Vietnam are formally unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam under hardline communist rule.
• The War Dead: By the end of the war, more than 58,000 Americans lose their lives. Vietnam would later release estimates that 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters were killed, up to 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died and more than 2 million civilians were killed on both sides of the war.
The Vietnam War: The Definitive Illustrated History, created in association with the Smithsonian Institution, published by DK | Penguin Random House, 2017.
The Vietnam War: An Intimate History, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, based on the film series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, published by Penguin Random House, 2017.
Vietnam Profile – Timeline, BBC News, June 12, 2017.
Operation Starlite: The First Battle of the Vietnam War, Military.com.
South Vietnam: The Buddhist Crisis, Time.
Buddhists – The 1963 Crisis, GlobalSecurity.org.
Vietnam, Diem, the Buddhist Crisis, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
The Fall of Saigon, United States History.
What Were the Major Battles of the Vietnam War? The Vietnam War.
Statistical information about casualties of the Vietnam War, U.S. National Archives.
“Feuds and Bad Planning in Saigon Exit Recalled,” The New York Times, May 5, 1975.
“Nixon Again Deplores Leak on Bombing Cambodia,” The New York Times, March 11, 1976.
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961–1963, Volume III, Vietnam, January–August 1963, The U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian.
“The Truman Doctrine Fades,” The New York Times, May 4, 1975.
Vietnam War casualties
Estimates of casualties of the Vietnam War vary widely. Estimates include both civilian and military deaths in North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
The war persisted from 1955 to 1975 and most of the fighting took place in South Vietnam accordingly it suffered the most casualties. The war also spilled over into the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos which also endured casualties from aerial and ground fighting.
Civilian deaths caused by both sides amounted to a significant percentage of total deaths. Civilian deaths were partly caused by assassinations, massacres and terror tactics. Civilian deaths were also caused by mortar and artillery, extensive aerial bombing and the use of firepower in military operations conducted in heavily populated areas. Some 365,000 Vietnamese civilians are estimated by one source to have died as a result of the war during the period of American involvement. 
A number of incidents occurred during the war in which civilians were deliberately targeted or killed. The most prominent of these events were the Huế Massacre and the Mỹ Lai Massacre.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric recommended to General Lyman Lemnitzer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that for military operations involving Americans in South Vietnam The Pentagon develop a "suitable cover story, or stories, a public explanation, a statement of no comment. for approval of the Secretary of Defense. Ώ]
Operation Chopper was the first combat operation for American soldiers in Vietnam. U.S. pilots transported about 1,000 South Vietnamese soldiers by helicopter to land and attack Viet Cong guerrillas about 10 miles west of Saigon. The operation was deemed a success. Chopper heralded a new era of air mobility for the U.S. Army, which had been growing as a concept since the Army formed twelve helicopter battalions in 1952 during the the Korean War.
U.S. President John F. Kennedy said only that the U.S. was helping the South Vietnamese army (ARVN) with "training and transportation." He declined to offer more details about Operation Chopper to avoid "assisting the enemy." ΐ]
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara met with his top military advisers. CINCPAC intelligence told him that the Viet Cong now numbered 20,000 to 25,000 and were increasing by 1,000 per month after casualties. South Vietnam's armed forces had suffered more than 1,000 casualties in the previous month, most by the paramilitary Self Defense Corps. McNamara ordered sending 40,000 M-1 carbines to Vietnam to arm the Self Defense Corps and the Civil Guard, although those two organizations were the sources of many of the Viet Cong's captured weapons. McNamara pressed for a "clear and hold" operation in a single South Vietnamese province. Clear and hold envisioned the ARVN securing the province followed by civic and political action to exclude the Vietcong permanently. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) chief General Lionel C. McGarr proposed instead using 2 ARVN divisions in a conventional military sweep focused on killing Viet Cong but without the followup to hold the area. Α]
Diem escaped an assassination attempt after two South Vietnamese VC pilots bombed the presidential palace.
The Strategic Hamlet Program was an attempt of the United States and South Vietnamese government to group the peasant population into fortified villages. Its purpose was to isolate the rural population from Viet Cong influence and strengthen Diem’s hold over the countryside by providing education and health care to the peasants. However, many of the peasants felt indignant at being uprooted from their homes. Opposition to Diem grew and the Viet Cong would easily infiltrated the hamlets as a result.
Vietnam War Timeline - HISTORY
Ly dynasty of the Viets established in area called Dai Viet
capital Thang-long ("Emergent Dragon"), today "Hanoi"
Great Buddhist epoch:
• First university established
• Water puppets emerge as dramatic form
• Temple of Literature founded (1070)
• Chu Nom, a set of characters used to write Vietnamese, developed by the Vietnamese
• Le Loi and Nguyen Trai lead revolt against the Ming (1418-28)
• Independent dynasty established Confucian-style state with examinations
• attack on Champa
• Le Thanh-tong, king who implements changes
• Le family power declines
• Mac and Trinh families compete in north while Nguyen family competes from center and south
• Trinh and Nguyen claim to restore the Le
Nguyen lords (also extend Viet influence over Khmer to south)
Civil war between Trinh and Nguyen
Tale of Kieu (epic poem in Chu Nom, Vietnamese characters), written by Nguyen Du (1765-1820)
• established by Nguyen Anh, a southern prince, who fought and defeated the Tay Son to become the Gia-long Emperor moved the capital to Hue in the center of the country.
• the second Nguyen ruler adopts a Chinese bureaucratic model, with scholar-officials chosen by examinations in the Confucian classics.
• Hanoi is capital of French Indochina, including Laos and Cambodia
• Romanized script, "Quoc ngu," developed in the 17th century by missionaries to write Vietnamese language, is made official literacy rate increases
• established by Nguyen Anh, a southern prince, who fought and defeated the Tay Son to become the Gia-long Emperor moved the capital to Hue in the center of the country.
• the second Nguyen ruler adopts a Chinese bureaucratic model, with scholar-officials chosen by examinations in the Confucian classics.
• Hanoi is capital of French Indochina, including Laos and Cambodia
• Romanized script, &ldquoQuoc ngu,&rdquo developed in the 17th century by missionaries to write Vietnamese language, is made official literacy rate increases
• Phan Chu Trinh dies
• Phan Boi Chau on trial
• Student activism begins
Indochinese Communist Party formed by Ho Chi Minh to oppose colonial rule
Ho Chi Minh declares Vietnam independent
Establishes government in the north
• French defeated at Dien Bien Phu
• Ho Chi Minh takes control of the north
• Geneva conference
• Vietnam divided into North and South
• elections proposed for 1956 but never held.
• North Vietnam takes control of South Vietnam and establishes a unified country
• Name of Saigon changed to "Ho Chi Minh City," after Ho, who died before country united
Vietnam War Timeline - HISTORY
By Professor Robert K. Brigham, Vassar College
According to the terms of the Geneva Accords, Vietnam would hold national elections in 1956 to reunify the country. The division at the seventeenth parallel, a temporary separation without cultural precedent, would vanish with the elections. The United States, however, had other ideas. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles did not support the Geneva Accords because he thought they granted too much power to the Communist Party of Vietnam.
Instead, Dulles and President Dwight D. Eisenhower supported the creation of a counter-revolutionary alternative south of the seventeenth parallel. The United States supported this effort at nation-building through a series of multilateral agreements that created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).
South Vietnam Under Ngo Dinh Diem
Using SEATO for political cover, the Eisenhower administration helped create a new nation from dust in southern Vietnam. In 1955, with the help of massive amounts of American military, political, and economic aid, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam (GVN or South Vietnam) was born. The following year, Ngo Dinh Diem, a staunchly anti-Communist figure from the South, won a dubious election that made him president of the GVN. Almost immediately, Diem claimed that his newly created government was under attack from Communists in the north. Diem argued that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV or North Vietnam) wanted to take South Vietnam by force. In late 1957, with American military aid, Diem began to counterattack. He used the help of the American Central Intelligence Agency to identify those who sought to bring his government down and arrested thousands. Diem passed a repressive series of acts known as Law 10/59 that made it legal to hold someone in jail if s/he was a suspected Communist without bringing formal charges.
The outcry against Diem's harsh and oppressive actions was immediate. Buddhist monks and nuns were joined by students, business people, intellectuals, and peasants in opposition to the corrupt rule of Ngo Dinh Diem. The more these forces attacked Diem's troops and secret police, the more Diem complained that the Communists were trying to take South Vietnam by force. This was, in Diem's words, "a hostile act of aggression by North Vietnam against peace-loving and democratic South Vietnam."
The Kennedy administration seemed split on how peaceful or democratic the Diem regime really was. Some Kennedy advisers believed Diem had not instituted enough social and economic reforms to remain a viable leader in the nation-building experiment. Others argued that Diem was the "best of a bad lot." As the White House met to decide the future of its Vietnam policy, a change in strategy took place at the highest levels of the Communist Party.
From 1956-1960, the Communist Party of Vietnam desired to reunify the country through political means alone. Accepting the Soviet Union's model of political struggle, the Communist Party tried unsuccessfully to cause Diem's collapse by exerting tremendous internal political pressure. After Diem's attacks on suspected Communists in the South, however, southern Communists convinced the Party to adopt more violent tactics to guarantee Diem's downfall. At the Fifteenth Party Plenum in January 1959, the Communist Party finally approved the use of revolutionary violence to overthrow Ngo Dinh Diem's government and liberate Vietnam south of the seventeenth parallel. In May 1959, and again in September 1960, the Party confirmed its use of revolutionary violence and the combination of the political and armed struggle movements. The result was the creation of a broad-based united front to help mobilize southerners in opposition to the GVN.
The character of the NLF and its relationship to the Communists in Hanoi has caused considerable debate among scholars, anti-war activists, and policymakers. From the birth of the NLF, government officials in Washington claimed that Hanoi directed the NLF's violent attacks against the Saigon regime. In a series of government "White Papers," Washington insiders denounced the NLF, claiming that it was merely a puppet of Hanoi and that its non-Communist elements were Communist dupes. The NLF, on the other hand, argued that it was autonomous and independent of the Communists in Hanoi and that it was made up mostly of non-Communists. Many anti-war activists supported the NLF's claims. Washington continued to discredit the NLF, however, calling it the "Viet Cong," a derogatory and slang term meaning Vietnamese Communist.
December 1961 White Paper
In 1961, President Kennedy sent a team to Vietnam to report on conditions in the South and to assess future American aid requirements. The report, now known as the "December 1961 White Paper," argued for an increase in military, technical, and economic aid, and the introduction of large-scale American "advisers" to help stabilize the Diem regime and crush the NLF. As Kennedy weighed the merits of these recommendations, some of his other advisers urged the president to withdraw from Vietnam altogether, claiming that it was a "dead-end alley."
Throughout the fall and into the winter of 1964, the Johnson administration debated the correct strategy in Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs of Staff wanted to expand the air war over the DRV quickly to help stabilize the new Saigon regime. The civilians in the Pentagon wanted to apply gradual pressure to the Communist Party with limited and selective bombings. Only Undersecretary of State George Ball dissented, claiming that Johnson's Vietnam policy was too provocative for its limited expected results. In early 1965, the NLF attacked two U.S. army installations in South Vietnam, and as a result, Johnson ordered the sustained bombing missions over the DRV that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had long advocated.
Nixon's secret plan, it turned out, was borrowing from a strategic move from Lyndon Johnson's last year in office. The new president continued a process called "Vietnamization", an awful term that implied that Vietnamese were not fighting and dying in the jungles of Southeast Asia. This strategy brought American troops home while increasing the air war over the DRV and relying more on the ARVN for ground attacks. The Nixon years also saw the expansion of the war into neighboring Laos and Cambodia, violating the international rights of these countries in secret campaigns, as the White House tried desperately to rout out Communist sanctuaries and supply routes. The intense bombing campaigns and intervention in Cambodia in late April 1970 sparked intense campus protests all across America. At Kent State in Ohio, four students were killed by National Guardsmen who were called out to preserve order on campus after days of anti-Nixon protest. Shock waves crossed the nation as students at Jackson State in Mississippi were also shot and killed for political reasons, prompting one mother to cry, "They are killing our babies in Vietnam and in our own backyard."
The expanded air war did not deter the Communist Party, however, and it continued to make hard demands in Paris. Nixon's Vietnamization plan temporarily quieted domestic critics, but his continued reliance on an expanded air war to provide cover for an American retreat angered U.S. citizens. By the early fall 1972, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and DRV representatives Xuan Thuy and Le Duc Tho had hammered out a preliminary peace draft. Washington and Hanoi assumed that its southern allies would naturally accept any agreement drawn up in Paris, but this was not to pass. The leaders in Saigon, especially President Nguyen van Thieu and Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky, rejected the Kissinger-Tho peace draft, demanding that no concessions be made. The conflict intensified in December 1972, when the Nixon administration unleashed a series of deadly bombing raids against targets in the DRV's largest cities, Hanoi and Haiphong. These attacks, now known as the Christmas bombings, brought immediate condemnation from the international community and forced the Nixon administration to reconsider its tactics and negotiation strategy.
The Paris Peace Agreement
In early January 1973, the Nixon White House convinced the Thieu-Ky regime in Saigon that they would not abandon the GVN if they signed onto the peace accord. On January 23, therefore, the final draft was initialed, ending open hostilities between the United States and the DRV. The Paris Peace Agreement did not end the conflict in Vietnam, however, as the Thieu-Ky regime continued to battle Communist forces. From March 1973 until the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, ARVN forces tried desperately to save the South from political and military collapse. The end finally came, however, as DRV tanks rolled south along National Highway One. On the morning of April 30, Communist forces captured the presidential palace in Saigon, ending the Second Indochina War.
Remembering Vietnam is an exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on display from November 10, 2017, through February 28, 2019, featuring records related to 12 critical episodes in the Vietnam War.
The National Archives has a wealth of records and information documenting the U.S. experience in the Vietnam conflict. These include photographs, textual and electronic records, audiovisual recordings, exhibits, educational resources, articles, blog posts, lectures, and events.
Vietnam War Timeline
Ho Chi Minh Creates Provisional Government: Following the surrender of Japan to Allied forces, Ho Chi Minh and his People's Congress create the National Liberation Committee of Vietnam to form a provisional government. Japan transfers all power to Ho's Vietminh.
Ho Declares Independence of Vietnam
British Forces Land in Saigon, Return Authority to French
First American Dies in Vietnam: Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey, head of American OSS mission, was killed by Vietminh troops while driving a jeep to the airport. Reports later indicated that his death was due to a case of mistaken identity -- he had been mistaken for a Frenchman.
French and Vietminh Reach Accord: France recognizes Vietnam as a "free state" within the French Union. French troops replace Chinese in the North.
Negotiations Between French and Vietminh Breakdown
Indochina War Begins: Following months of steadily deteriorating relations, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam launches its first consorted attack against the French.
Vietminh Move North of Hanoi
Valluy Fails to Defeat Vietminh: French General Etienne Valluy attempts, and fails, to wipe out the Vietminh in one stroke.
Elysee Agreement Signed: Bao Dai and President Vincent Auriol of France sign the Elysee Agreement. As part of the agreement the French pledge to assist in the building of a national anti-Communist army.
Chinese, Soviets Offer Weapons to Vietminh
US Pledges $15M to Aid French: The United States sends $15 million dollars in military aid to the French for the war in Indochina. Included in the aid package is a military mission and military advisors.
France Grants Laos Full Independence
Vietminh Forces Push into Laos
Battle of Dienbienphu Begins: A force of 40,000 heavily armed Vietminh lay seige to the French garrison at Dienbienphu. Using Chinese artillery to shell the airstrip, the Vietminh make it impossible for French supplies to arrive by air. It soon becomes clear that the French have met their match.
Eisenhower Cites "Domino Theory" Regarding Southeast Asia: Responding to the defeat of the French by the Vietminh at Dienbienphu, President Eisenhower outlines the Domino Theory: "You have a row of dominoes set up. You knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly."
French Defeated at Dien Bien Phu
Geneva Convention Begins: Delegates from nine nations convene in Geneva to start negotiations that will lead to the end of hostilities in Indochina. The idea of partitioning Vietnam is first explored at this forum.
Geneva Convention Agreements Announced: Vietminh General Ta Quang Buu and French General Henri Delteil sign the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam. As part of the agreement, a provisional demarcation line is drawn at the 17th parallel which will divide Vietnam until nationwide elections are held in 1956. The United States does not accept the agreement, neither does the government of Bao Dai.
Diem Rejects Conditions of Geneva Accords, Refuses to Participate in Nationwide Elections
China and Soviet Union Pledge Additional Financial Support to Hanoi
Diem Urged to Negotiate with North: Britain, France, and United States covertly urge Diem to respect Geneva accords and conduct discussions with the North.
Diem Becomes President of Republic of Vietnam: Diem defeats Bao Dai in rigged election and proclaims himself President of Republic of Vietnam.
US Training South Vietnamese: The US Military Assistance Advisor Group (MAAG) assumes responsibility, from French, for training South Vietnamese forces.
Communist Insurgency into South Vietnam: Communist insurgent activity in South Vietnam begins. Guerrillas assassinate more than 400 South Vietnamese officials. Thirty-seven armed companies are organized along the Mekong Delta.
Terrorist Bombings Rock Saigon: Thirteen Americans working for MAAG and US Information Service are wounded in terrorist bombings in Saigon.
Weapons Moving Along Ho Chi Minh Trail: North Vietnam forms Group 559 to begin infiltrating cadres and weapons into South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Trail will become a strategic target for future military attacks.
US Servicemen Killed in Guerilla Attack: Major Dale R. Buis and Master Sargeant Chester M. Ovnand become the first Americans to die in the Vietnam War when guerillas strike at Bienhoa
Diem Orders Crackdown on Communists, Dissidents
North Vietnam Imposes Universal Military Conscription
Kennedy Elected President: John F. Kennedy narrowly defeats Richard Nixon for the presidency.
Diem Survives Coup Attempt
Vietcong Formed: Hanoi forms National Liberation Front for South Vietnam. Diem government dubs them "Vietcong."
Battle of Kienhoa Province: 400 guerillas attack village in Kienhoa Province, and are defeated by South Vietnamese troops.
Vice President Johnson Tours Saigon: During a tour of Asian countries, Vice President Lyndon Johnson visits Diem in Saigon. Johnson assures Diem that he is crucial to US objectives in Vietnam and calls him "the Churchill of Asia."
US Military Employs Agent Orange: US Air Force begins using Agent Orange -- a defoliant that came in metal orange containers-to expose roads and trails used by Vietcong forces.
Diem Palace Bombed in Coup Attempt
Mansfield Voices Doubt on Vietnam Policy: Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield reports back to JFK from Saigon his opinion that Diem had wasted the two billion dollars America had spent there.
Battle of Ap Bac: Vietcong units defeat South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) in Battle of Ap Bac
President Kennedy Assassinated in Dallas: Kennedy's death meant that the problem of how to proceed in Vietnam fell squarely into the lap of his vice president, Lyndon Johnson.
Buddhists Protest Against Diem: Tensions between Buddhists and the Diem government are further strained as Diem, a Catholic, removes Buddhists from several key government positions and replaces them with Catholics. Buddhist monks protest Diem's intolerance for other religions and the measures he takes to silence them. In a show of protest, Buddhist monks start setting themselves on fire in public places.
Diem Overthrown, Murdered: With tacit approval of the United States, operatives within the South Vietnamese military overthrow Diem. He and his brother Nhu are shot and killed in the aftermath.
General Nguyen Khanh Seizes Power in Saigon: In a bloodless coup, General Nguyen Khanh seizes power in Saigon. South Vietnam junta leader, Major General Duong Van Minh, is placed under house arrest, but is allowed to remain as a figurehead chief-of-state.
Gulf of Tonkin Incident: On August 2, three North Vietnamese PT boats allegedly fire torpedoes at the USS Maddox, a destroyer located in the international waters of the Tonkin Gulf, some thirty miles off the coast of North Vietnam. The attack comes after six months of covert US and South Vietnamese naval operations. A second, even more highly disputed attack, is alleged to have taken place on August 4.
Debate on Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution is approved by Congress on August 7 and authorizes President Lyndon Johnson to "take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression." The resolution passes unanimously in the House, and by a margin of 82-2 in the Senate. The Resolution allows Johnson to wage all out war against North Vietnam without ever securing a formal Declaration of War from Congress.
Vietcong Attack Bienhoa Air Base
LBJ Defeats Goldwater: Lyndon Johnson is elected in a landslide over Republican Barry Goldwater of Arizona. During the campaign, Johnson's position on Vietnam appeared to lean toward de-escalation of US involvement, and sharply contrasted the more militant views held by Goldwater.
Operation "Rolling Thunder" Deployed: Sustained American bombing raids of North Vietnam, dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder, begin in February. The nearly continuous air raids would go on for three years.
Marines Arrive at Danang: The first American combat troops, the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, arrive in Vietnam to defend the US airfield at Danang. Scattered Vietcong gunfire is reported, but no Marines are injured.
Heavy Fighting at Ia Drang Valley: The first conventional battle of the Vietnam war takes place as American forces clash with North Vietnamese units in the Ia Drang Valley. The US 1st Air Cavalry Division employs its newly enhanced technique of aerial reconnaissance to finally defeat the NVA, although heavy casualties are reported on both sides.
US Troop Levels Top 200,000
Vietnam "Teach-In" Broadcast to Nation's Universities: The practice of protesting US policy in Vietnam by holding "teach-ins" at colleges and universities becomes widespread. The first "teach-in" -- featuring seminars, rallies, and speeches -- takes place at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in March. In May, a nationally broadcast "teach-in" reaches students and faculty at over 100 campuses.
B-52s Bomb North Vietnam: In an effort to disrupt movement along the Mugia Pass -- the main route used by the NVA to send personnel and supplies through Laos and into South Vietnam -- American B-52s bomb North Vietnam for the first time.
South Vietnam Government Troops Take Hue and Danang
LBJ Meets With South Vietnamese Leaders: US President Lyndon Johnson meets with South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky and his military advisors in Honolulu. Johnson promises to continue to help South Vietnam fend off aggression from the North, but adds that the US will be monitoring South Vietnam's efforts to expand democracy and improve economic conditions for its citizens.
Veterans Stage Anti-War Rally: Veterans from World Wars I and II, along with veterans from the Korean war stage a protest rally in New York City. Discharge and separation papers are burned in protest of US involvement in Vietnam.
CORE Cites "Burden On Minorities and Poor" in Vietnam: The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) issues a report claiming that the US military draft places "a heavy discriminatory burden on minority groups and the poor." The group also calls for a withdrawal of all US troops from Vietnam.
Operation Cedar Falls Begins: In a major ground war effort dubbed Operation Cedar Falls, about 16,000 US and 14,000 South Vietnamese troops set out to destroy Vietcong operations and supply sites near Saigon. A massive system of tunnels is discovered in an area called the Iron Triangle, an apparent headquarters for Vietcong personnel.
Bunker Replaces Cabot Lodge as South Vietnam Ambassador
Martin Luther King Speaks Out Against War: Calling the US "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world," Martin Luther King publicly speaks out against US policy in Vietnam. King later encourages draft evasion and suggests a merger between antiwar and civil rights groups.
Dow Recruiters Driven From Wisconsin Campus: University of Wisconsin students demand that corporate recruiters for Dow Chemical -- producers of napalm -- not be allowed on campus.
McNamara Calls Bombing Ineffective: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, appearing before a Senate subcommittee, testifies that US bombing raids against North Vietnam have not achieved their objectives. McNamara maintains that movement of supplies to South Vietnam has not been reduced, and neither the economy nor the morale of the North Vietnamese has been broken.
Sihanouk Allows Pursuit of Vietcong into Cambodia
North Vietnamese Launch Tet Offensive: In a show of military might that catches the US military off guard, North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces sweep down upon several key cities and provinces in South Vietnam, including its capital, Saigon. Within days, American forces turn back the onslaught and recapture most areas. From a military point of view, Tet is a huge defeat for the Communists, but turns out to be a political and psychological victory. The US military's assessment of the war is questioned and the "end of tunnel" seems very far off.
Battle for Hue: The Battle for Hue wages for 26 days as US and South Vietnamese forces try to recapture the site seized by the Communists during the Tet Offensive. Previously, a religious retreat in the middle of a war zone, Hue was nearly leveled in a battle that left nearly all of its population homeless. Following the US and ARVN victory, mass graves containing the bodies of thousands of people who had been executed during the Communist occupation are discovered.
Westmoreland Requests 206,000 More Troops
My Lai Massacre: On March 16, the angry and frustrated men of Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division entered the village of My Lai. "This is what you've been waiting for -- search and destroy -- and you've got it," said their superior officers. A short time later the killing began. When news of the atrocities surfaced, it sent shockwaves through the US political establishment, the military's chain of command, and an already divided American public.
LBJ Announces He Won't Run: With his popularity plummeting and dismayed by Senator Eugene McCarthy's strong showing in the New Hampshire primary, President Lyndon Johnson stuns the nation and announces that he will not be a candidate for re-election.
May Paris Peace Talks Begin: Following a lengthy period of debate and discussion, North Vietnamese and American negotiators agree on a location and start date of peace talks. Talks are slated to begin in Paris on May 10 with W. Averell Harriman representing the United States, and former Foreign Minister Xuan Thuy heading the North Vietnamese delegation.
Robert Kennedy Assassinated
Upheaval at Democratic Convention in Chicago: As the frazzled Democratic party prepares to hold its nominating convention in Chicago, city officials gear up for a deluge of demonstrations. Mayor Richard Daley orders police to crackdown on antiwar protests. As the nation watched on television, the area around the convention erupts in violence.
Richard Nixon Elected President: Running on a platform of "law and order," Richard Nixon barely beats out Hubert Humphrey for the presidency. Nixon takes just 43.4 percent of the popular vote, compared to 42.7 percent for Humphrey. Third-party candidate George Wallace takes the remaining percentage of votes.
Nixon Begins Secret Bombing of Cambodia: In an effort to destroy Communist supply routes and base camps in Cambodia, President Nixon gives the go-ahead to "Operation Breakfast." The covert bombing of Cambodia, conducted without the knowledge of Congress or the American public, will continue for fourteen months.
Policy of "Vietnamization" Announced: Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird describes a policy of "Vietnamization" when discussing a diminishing role for the US military in Vietnam. The objective of the policy is to shift the burden of defeating the Communists onto the South Vietnamese Army and away from the United States.
Ho Chi Minh Dies at Age 79
News of My Lai Massacre Reaches US: Through the reporting of journalist Seymour Hersh, Americans read for the first time of the atrocities committed by Lt. William Calley and his troops in the village of My Lai. At the time the reports were made public, the Army had already charged Calley with the crime of murder.
Massive Antiwar Demonstration in DC
Sihanouk Ousted in Cambodia: Prince Sihanouk's attempt to maintain Cambodia's neutrality while war waged in neighboring Vietnam forced him to strike opportunistic alliances with China, and then the United States. Such vacillating weakened his government, leading to a coup orchestrated by his defense minister, Lon Nol.
Kent State Incident: National Guardsmen open fire on a crowd of student antiwar protesters at Ohio's Kent State University, resulting in the death of four students and the wounding of eight others. President Nixon publicly deplores the actions of the Guardsmen, but cautions: ". when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy." Several of the protesters had been hurling rocks and empty tear gas canisters at the Guardsmen.
Kissinger and Le Duc Begin Secret Talks
Number of US Troops Falls to 280K
Lt. Calley Convicted of Murder
Pentagon Papers Published: A legacy of deception, concerning US policy in Vietnam, on the part of the military and the executive branch is revealed as the New York Times publishes the Pentagon Papers. The Nixon administration, eager to stop leaks of what they consider sensitive information, appeals to the Supreme Court to halt the publication. The Court decides in favor the Times and allows continued publication.
Nixon Announces Plans to Visit China: In a move that troubles the North Vietnamese, President Nixon announces his intention to visit The People's Republic of China. Nixon's gesture toward China is seen by the North Vietnamese as an effort to create discord between themselves and their Chinese allies.
Thieu Re-elected in South Vietnam
Nixon Cuts Troop Levels by 70K: Responding to charges by Democratic presidential candidates that he is not moving fast enough to end US involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon orders troop strength reduced by seventy thousand.
Secret Peace Talks Revealed
B-52s Bomb Hanoi and Haiphong: In an attempt to force North Vietnam to make concessions in the ongoing peace talks, the Nixon administration orders heavy bombing of supply dumps and petroleum storage sites in and around Hanoi and Haiphong. The administration makes it clear to the North Vietnamese that no section of Vietnam is off-limits to bombing raids.
Break-In at Watergate Hotel
Kissinger Says "Peace Is At Hand": Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho reach agreement in principle on several key measures leading to a cease-fire in Vietnam. Kissinger's view that "peace is at hand," is dimmed somewhat by South Vietnamese President Thieu's opposition to the agreement.
Cease-fire Signed in Paris: A cease-fire agreement that, in the words of Richard Nixon, "brings peace with honor in Vietnam and Southeast Asia," is signed in Paris by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho. The agreement is to go into effect on January 28.
Last American Troops Leave Vietnam
Hearings on Secret Bombings Begin: The Senate Armed Services Committee opens hearing on the US bombing of Cambodia. Allegations are made that the Nixon administration allowed bombing raids to be carried out during what was supposed to be a time when Cambodia's neutrality was officially recognized. As a result of the hearings, Congress orders that all bombing in Cambodia cease effective at midnight, August 14.
Kissinger and Le Duc Tho Win Peace Prize: The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Henry Kissinger of the United States and Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam. Kissinger accepts the award, while Tho declines, saying that a true peace does not yet exist in Vietnam.
Thieu Announces Renewal of War
Report Cites Damage to Vietnam Ecology: According to a report issued by The National Academy of Science, use of chemical herbicides during the war caused long-term damage to the ecology of Vietnam. Subsequent inquiries will focus on the connection between certain herbicides, particularly Agent Orange, and widespread reports of cancer, skin disease, and other disorders on the part of individuals exposed to them.
Communists Take Mekong Delta Territory
Communists Plan Major Offensive: With North Vietnamese forces in the South believed to be at their highest levels ever, South Vietnamese leaders gird themselves for an expected Communist offensive of significant proportions.
Communist Forces Capture Phuoc Long Province: The South Vietnamese Army loses twenty planes in a failed effort to defend Phuoc Long, a key province just north of Saigon. North Vietnamese leaders interpret the US's complete lack of response to the siege as an indication that they could move more aggressively in the South.
Communists Take Aim at Saigon: The North Vietnamese initiate the Ho Chi Minh Campaign -- a concerted effort to "liberate" Saigon. Under the command of General Dung, the NVA sets out to capture Saigon by late April, in advance of the rainy season.
Ford Calls Vietnam War "Finished": Anticipating the fall of Saigon to Communist forces, US President Gerald Ford, speaking in New Orleans, announces that as far as the US is concerned, the Vietnam War is "finished."
Last Americans Evacuate as Saigon Falls to Communists: South Vietnamese President Duong Van Minh delivers an unconditional surrender to the Communists in the early hours of April 30. North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin accepts the surrender and assures Minh that, ". Only the Americans have been beaten. If you are patriots, consider this a moment of joy." As the few remaining Americans evacuate Saigon, the last two US servicemen to die in Vietnam are killed when their helicopter crashes.
Pham Van Dong Heads Socialist Republic of Vietnam: As the National Assembly meets in July of 1976, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam names Pham Van Dong its prime minister. Van Dong and his fellow government leaders, all but one of whom are former North Vietnamese officials, take up residence in the nation's new capital--Hanoi.
Jimmy Carter Elected US President
Carter Issues Pardon to Draft Evaders: In a bold and controversial move, newly inaugurated President Jimmy Carter extends a full and unconditional pardon to nearly 10,000 men who evaded the Vietnam War draft.
Vietnam Granted Admission to United Nations
Relations Between Vietnam and China Deteriorate
Vietnam Invades Cambodia: Determined to overthrow the government of Pol Pot, Vietnam invades Cambodia. Phnompenh, Cambodia's capital, falls quickly as Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge followers flee into the jungles.
"Boat People" Flee Vietnam: Swarms of Vietnamese refugees take to the sea in overcrowded and unsafe boats in search of a better life. The ranks of the "boat people" include individuals deemed enemies of the state who've been expelled from their homeland.
China Invades,Withdraws from, Vietnam
US GAO Issues Report on Agent Orange: After years of Defense Department denials, the US General Accounting Office releases a report indicating that thousands of US troops were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange. Thousands of veterans had demanded a government investigation into the effect that dioxin, a chemical found in Agent Orange, had on the human immune system.
Ronald Reagan Elected US President
Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC Dedicated: Designed by Maya Ying Lin, a 22 year-old Yale architectural student, the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial opens in Washington, DC. The quiet, contemplative structure consisting of two black granite walls forming a "V", lists the names of the 58,183 Americans killed in the Vietnam War. The memorial itself stirred debate as some thought its presentation was too muted and somber, lacking the familiar elements of war-time heroics found in most war memorials.
Reagan Promises to Make MIAs "Highest National Priority": For the family members of those still listed as Missing-In-Action, the war is not over. In an address to the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, President Ronald Reagan pledges to make the finding of these individuals one of the "highest national priority."
Dow Chemical Knowledge of Dioxin Revealed: Documents used as part of a lawsuit brought by 20,000 Vietnam veterans against several chemical companies reveal that Dow Chemical had full knowledge of the serious health risks posed by human exposure to dioxin, a chemical found in the herbicide Agent Orange. Evidence indicated that despite this information, Dow continued to sell herbicides to the US military for use in Vietnam.
"Unknown Soldier" of Vietnam War Laid to Rest
US Offers Asylum to Vietnamese Political Prisoners
Vietnamese Forces Defeat Khmer Rouge Rebels: An offensive launched against refugee Khmer Rouge rebels spills over the Thai border and eventually comes to involve Thai troops. The Vietnamese are successful in suppressing the rebels and solidify their hold on Cambodia despite criticism from neighboring countries and the United Nations.
George Bush Elected US President
Vietnamese Troops Leave Cambodia: All Vietnamese troops exit Cambodia by September of 1989, paving the way for UN-sponsored elections in 1993. As a result of the elections, a coalition government is formed and work on a new constitution begins.
Bill Clinton Elected US President
Washington Restores Diplomatic Ties with Hanoi: As Communist Vietnam inched toward market reforms and pledged full cooperation in finding all Americans listed as still missing-in-action, the United States restores diplomatic ties with its former enemy in 1995.
McNamara Calls Vietnam Policy "Wrong, Terribly Wrong": Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, one of the key architects of the US's war policy in Vietnam, admits grave mistakes in that policy in his 1995 memoir, In Retrospect. McNamara, in his book, says that ". We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why."
The My Lai Tapes (2008)
On March 16 th , 1968, one of the deadliest massacres in history happened on Vietnamese soil, in My Lai. There were 504 innocent villagers killed by US soldiers — children and women were raped, cattle were slaughtered, houses burned and crops destroyed. The only few courageous enough to stand up to orders and go against their own people, essentially stopping the massacre, were Hugh Thompson and his crew, Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn.
In this two-part series, Robert Hodierne, an American military journalist, pieces together through archival recordings and interviews with the victims and perpetrators the horror and barbarism that swept through the village. The My Lai Tapes are records not only of the atrocities that were committed, but also of the heroism that took place that day. They are essentially records of how war can bring out not only the worst in people, but also the absolute best.
History of Education
Educational Roots: Feudal Period(Up to the late 19th century):
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As Vietnam’s educational culture was sparked by Chinese influence, the roots of education come from the country’s belief in Confucianism (Mongabay, 1987). Confucius taught that man is at the center of the universe, but that man cannot be alone he finds happiness in community with others. He also taught the belief that everyone has the same potential to be educated, and therefore education should be available to everyone. Vietnam was therefore constructed to be a collectivist country, meaning that individuals are less important than the whole (Yee, 2002). Community is extremely important, so education is seen as a way to create a community of good citizens instead of a way for one to advance personally.
The Vietnamese believe that One of the traditional values of the Vietnamese people is the promotion of learning and the respect for teachers. In the Feudal and Colonial periods, teacher’s were seen to have more importance than parents their position was “only lower than the king” (Worldbank, part 1.paragraph 1, 2010). The report by the WorldBank in 2010 explains that teachers would often be invited to live in the homes of wealthy villagers to teach the family’s children as well as other children in the village. To become a teacher, the mandarins requested that candidates have excellent learning achievements and have high marks in competitive exams. The first exam was conducted in 1075, and the first Confucian university was constructed in 1070, called the Temple of Literature. For about one thousand years, the Vietnamese people learned Chinese characters and used them to write but pronounced them in a Vietnamese way. This was done in order to preserve a certain national independence from the Chinese.
French Colonization(late 19th- mid-20th century):
As indicated in the 2010 WorldBank report, the French colonized Vietnam in the late 19th century. With this change in power, the Confucian-oreiented education that had been built and maintained by the Vietnamese was replaced with French-Vietnamese education, with the goal of training people to serve the colonial system. The French built elementary schools, primary schools, primary colleges, secondary schools, and three universities, all with French as the dominant language of instruction. However there were not very many schools built, so there was extremely limited access to
President Ho Chi Minh
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education during this period in Vietnam’s history. “With such an education system, 95% of Vietnamese people were illiterate” (WorldBank, part 1. paragraph 6, 2010). Growing frustration led to the country’s independence in the mid-20th century.
Independence to Reunification (1945-1975):
On September 2, 1945, Vietname gained independence from France. President Ho Chi Minh decided that the three key priorities of the new, independent government would be “fighting against poverty, illiteracy, and invaders” (WorldBank, part 1. paragraph 7, 2010). His new driving philosophy for education was “an illiterate nation is a powerless one” and, in October 1945, he issues a “Call for anti-illiteracy” (WorldBank, part 1. paragraph 8, 2010).
The president’s call was a success: within one year 75 thousand literacy classes were established with about 96 thousand teachers to help 2.5 million people learn to read and write.
During the years of resistance (1946-1954), schools operated in demilitarized areas. They stopped teaching in French and created curriculum in Vietnamese. The government passed an education reform in 1950 with the goal of reducing the years of general education and concentrating on reading, writing, and calculating skills.
Once peace was reached and Vietnam was completely independent from France (1954), the government began preparing for a new education reform in order to help rebuild the economy and to reunite the whole country (Kelly, 2000). The focus of the new reform was to train young people to become “future citizens, loyal to the people’s democracy regime, and competent to serve people and the resistance war ” (WorldBank, part 1. paragraph 10, 2010). The French 12-year-based curriculum and the first reform’s 9-year-based curriculum were combined to settle on a 10-year system. This new system was somewhat similar to that of USSR, following the influence of communism in Vietnam with the results from the Vietnam war. The US, who had been aiding South Vietnam, withdrew in 1973, and a cease-fire agreement was signed by both sides. In 1975, North Vietnam overran South Vietnam, Re-uniting the country under Communist rule.
North and South Vietnam
Hi Chi Minh’s trail
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After the War, Pre-reform (1975-1985)
In April 1975, when Vietnam was proclaimed as one, unified nation, the government took on two focuses in regards to education: (1) the removal of leftover influences from the old education system and (2) the implementation of anti-illiteracy activities for people in the age group of 12-50 years old.
The Ministry of Education decided to implement a 12-year system and they quickly printed and sent out 20 millions print materials to schools n South Vietnam. They also began to nationalize private schools and cut out religious influences in education.
Though the goal of these acts was to improve education, there were a number of challenges with the implementation of the government’s goals. The government wanted to universalize and nationalize curriculum to have all schools accept a centralized educational system. As the country was trying to unify in other areas as well, such as economically and socially, and was experiencing isolation from foreign resources, funding for the new initiatives was difficult (Mongabay, 1987). The country experienced very little economic and social growth for a little over a decade after the return of peace.
The Doi Moi Reform (1986)
After the unification of North and South Vietnam, the government took control over all aspects of the country, cutting out private companies and the free market. This created issues for businesses as well as for farmers. With the centralization of power, agriculture suffered, and the country was no longer producing enough rice to feed its population. The government decided to open up more room for diversity and allow a decentralization of the market in 1986 through the “Doi Moi” reform (Kelly, 2000).
“Doi Moi” mean “renovation” or “reconstruction” in Vietnamese (Mongabay, 1987). Its goal is to increase economic growth and development by liberating the economy within Vietnam and increasing Vietnam’s contribution to the global economic community. This includes decentralizing the economy and therefore removing the communist title of the country and replacing it with a more market-driven, socialist system (Mongabay, 1987).
As far as education is concerned, the Doi Moi reform means more funding for institutions and a higher percentage of government funds allocated to the education system (Kelly, 2000). It has also allowed for more privatization of institutions: “semi-public” and “people-funded” institutions are rising in popularity, and non-public education is especially popular at the pre-school level as well as the technical and vocational training level.
In 1998, Vietnam passed it’s first law on education, to solidify the objectives of the “Doi Moi” reform and provide a legal framework for the development of education(IRED, 2011). A few years later, the government realized that this law needed to be modified in order to increase accessibility of education. A new, amended education law was passed in 2005. This law cut out the use of “semi-public schools” and allows for public, people-funded, and private schools. It also made education universal for the primary education and lower secondary education, where the 1998 law only had universal primary education. Later, in 2012, upper secondary education was also made universal (IRED, 2011).