The Vietnam War timeline trails a complicated era in American history.
Context: The fearful Cold War both preceded and lingered on long after the conflict in Vietnam, which was supposed to be a short military stint. The paranoia and fear associated with communism (on the heels of both WWII and the Korean War) became part of everyday American life. The heated Civil Rights movement was also in high form at this time.
We made this infographic of the Vietnam War timeline, including a few pre-war events. Below the infographic is a more detailed account of the timeline.
Vietnam War Period
November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975
Pre-war events in Vietnam
1945 – 1954 – Japan, France, and Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh fight for control of Vietnam. In a final effort, France creates South Vietnam and establishes Saigon as its capitol.
1954 – Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh defeat the French and treaty negotiations split the country at the 17th parallel with Ho governing the North and French-selected Emperor Bao Dai in the South. Plans are set in place for an election to be held in 1956 with hopes of national reconciliation.
1955 – Anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem usurps Bao Dai and becomes president of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam. U.S. President Eisenhower pledges support to Diem and South Vietnam in the name of opposing communism. Under Diem’s rule, 100,000 Viet Cong living in South Korea are arrested and many are tortured and killed.
1957 – Viet Cong retaliates against the repressive Diem regime.
1959 – South Vietnam Army joins the fight.
1960 – The National Liberation Front (NLF) forms to oppose Diem’s cruelty and claims to be full of non-Communists as well as Communists.
1961 – President Kennedy increases military support in South Vietnam to combat the NLF, as Washington officials presume it to be a Communist ploy.
1962 – 9,000 US troops were stationed in South Vietnam.
1963 – Diem is killed in a coup led by his own generals. Three weeks later Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
1964 – Lyndon B. Johnson responds to political unrest in South Vietnam by increasing U.S. military presence, still. Operation Rolling Thunder begins regular bomb raids on North Korea after two U.S. boats were torpedoed in the Gulf of Tonkin.
1965 – In March, Johnson decides to send troops into combat in North Vietnam. In addition to 82,000 troops stationed in South Vietnam, he sends 100, 000 more in July. An anti-war movement is germinating in the U.S.
1966 – Johnson sends another 100,000 troops to Vietnam. Other countries send (significantly fewer) troops to aid South Vietnam: Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Thailand. North Vietnam receives aid from China and the Soviet Union.
1967 – American troops nears 500,000 and distrust among Americans builds both at home and in combat areas. Wounded Americans reaches 109, 527; casualties are up to 15,058. Protesters rally in front of the Pentagon. Other protests ensue in Japan and Western Europe.
1968 – North Vietnam attacks 100 South Vietnam cities, surprising South Vietnam and its allies. North Vietnam is unable to maintain control of the cities or gain any ground in the war. U.S. General Westmoreland requests 200,000 more troops, which Johnson denies and pledges to seek peace. Peace talks with Hanoi are unsuccessful; Richard Nixon becomes the new U.S. president. Nixon pulls ground troops and increases airmen in an attempt to decrease U.S. casualties; he continue peace negotiations, but North Vietnam’s main condition includes American troops leaving Vietnam completely.
1969 – Anti-war movement gains momentum, especially after news reaches home that U.S. troops killed 400+ unarmed civilians in a village in March 1968. Over 250,000 protesters rally in peaceful protest–the largest in American history–in Washington, D.C. This movement caused division at home and on the war front.
1970 – U.S. and South Vietnamese forces break international law by invading Cambodia, and South Vietnam continues on to invade Laos. North Vietnam thwarts their attempts and new protests break out in America in response. Six students were killed by the National Guard in these protests.
1972 – Nixon stops the draft; 500,000+ “draft-dodgers” had avoided the draft, many fleeing to Canada. Hanoi finally agrees to a peace treaty, but Saigon refuses it. Nixon authorizes the Christmas Bombings (targeting Hanoi & Haiphong), and receives global disapproval.
1973 – Nixon withdraws American troops from Vietnam after reaching a peace agreement with North Korea. America’s involvement ends, but the civil war continues for 2 more years.
1975 – Vietnam War ends when Saigon falls to the Viet Cong, and the divided country eventually becomes the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.