Vietnam War Causes and Events Timeline 1887-1978

Vietnam WarThis timeline details the main events of the conflict between the USA and Vietnam known as the Vietnam War and those events that are considered long term and short term causes of the war.


Long Term Events
1887 (17th October)
France took control of  Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, collectively known as Indochina at the time.
1908 (during)
Ho Chi Minh, the future leader of Vietnam,  left his home country to travel and learn more about the western World. He visited a number of countries including the United States, United Kingdom and France.
1917 – 18 (during)
In France, Ho Chi Minh learned of the Communist Revolution in Russia. He discovered that he shared many of the ideals of  Communism.
1919 (January)
Paris Peace Conference
This conference was held to discuss the settlements that would be made following German defeat in  World War One . Ho Chi Minh was part of a pressure group that petitioned the Conference to grant Vietnam independence from France. Their request was ignored.
1926 (8th January)
Bao Dai, aged 12 years, was crowned Emperor of Vietnam, having succeeded his father to the throne. The ruling French government sent him to Paris to be educated.
1930 (3rd February)
Back in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh set up the Communist Party of Vietnam.
1931 (during)
Vo Nguyen Giap, later General Giap, joined the Indochinese Communist Party. Giap spent much of his free time studying military tactics particularly guerrilla warfare.
1932 (during)
Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai returned to Vietnam from France. He attempted to govern independently but was not strong enough to lose his French advisers.
World War Two began. During the conflict, a large number of Japanese military were stationed in Indochina which reduced the influence of the French.
1941 (19th May)
Ho Chi Minh established the Vietnam Independence League (Viet Minh). Their aim was to fight both the French and Japanese using guerrilla war tactics in order to gain independence for Vietnam.
1941 (8th December)
The United States declared war on Japan following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
1945 (2nd September)
Following the dropping to two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, World War Two ended with Japanese unconditional surrender. Japan gave Vietnam to the Viet Minh.
Short Term Events (First Indochina War)
1945 (2nd September)
Using a speech that drew on the United States Declaration of Independence, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnamese Independence with himself as leader and Giap as Minister of the Interior of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV).
1945 (September)
American intelligence told President Truman that the Vietnamese were determined to have  independence.
1946 (November)
The Viet Minh declared war on the French in Vietnam.
1946 (November)
Emperor Bao Dai, fearful of both the French and the Viet Minh fled to Hong Kong
1947 (during)
The Cold War began
With the expansion of the Soviet Bloc, the division between East and West, notably the USSR and the USA, became ever greater. Each were suspicious of the other and so began a period in which both vied for dominance geographically and militarily.
1947 (12th March)
Truman Doctrine Speech
President Truman declared that the United States would help any country that resisted Communism.
1947 (during)
Truman believed that Ho Chi Minh was a puppet of the USSR. He was fearful of the spread of Communism and did not want to alienate France. He therefore supported France’s bid to retain control of Vietnam.
1949 (1st October)
China became a Communist Country, The People’s Republic of China was formed under the leadership of Mao Zedong. The Viet Minh began training in China where the French would not be able to find or arrest them.
1949 (during)
President Truman gave money to help the French take Vietnam which they proclaimed as an Independent State of Vietnam
1949 (during)
The French in Vietnam persuaded Bao Dai to return as puppet Emperor. His love of women and material possessions gave him the nickname Playboy Emperor.
1949 (4th April)
NATO established
President Truman established the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as a Western anti-Communist alliance. The alliance had 12 founding members – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
1950 (February)
Ho Chi Minh persuaded Mao Zedong of China and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union to recognise the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
1950 (February)
The United States formally recognised the French controlled Associated State of Vietnam.
1950 (May)
President Truman sent $10 million to help the French in Indochina
1950 (24th June)
Korean War
Communist North Korea invaded non-Communist South Korea. Truman, fearful of the spread of Communism, sent American troops to restore South Korea’s non-Communist status.
1950 (September)
President Truman established the Military Assistance Advisory Group. This group was sent to Indochina to help France take control.
1953 (20th January)
Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated as President of the United States.He was committed to stopping the spread of Communism.
1954 (March)
The French requested a US airstrike against the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu but after much thought President Eisenhower decided against direct US intervention.
1954 (April)
The Domino Theory
This theory, which dominated much of early 1950s US policy, held that if Communism took one state then neighbouring states would quickly fall to Communism as well.
1954 (7th May)
The French were defeated by the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu.
1954 (July)
Geneva Accords
An international conference was held at Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the situation in Indochina. The Korean War had ended so it seemed pertinent to try to end the war in Indochina as well. Stalin had died and new leader, Kruschev, wanted to show the World that he was open to reducing tension with the west and so declared the Soviet Union willing to support the French concessions in Indochina.
Communist China favoured a negotiated settlement largely because it wanted to gain international recognition as a global state rather than an isolated Communist country. Both the Soviet Union and China had encouraged Ho Chi Minh to negotiate a settlement.
The Geneva Accords detailed the agreement made – namely that Vietnam was to be temporarily divided at the 17th parallel into the Communist North ruled by Ho Chi Minh and the non-Communist South with Bao Dai as Emperor and Ngo Dinh Diem as Prime Minister. Neither North or South Vietnam were to enter into alliances with other countries. The French would withdraw from the North and Ho Chi Minh’s Communist forces would withdraw from the South. Democratic elections would be held in a reunited Vietnam in 1956.
1954 (after July)
Ho Chi Minh wanted to be seen to be abiding by the terms of the Geneva Accord and so requested that those loyal to him in South Vietnam remain peaceful. However, South Vietnamese Prim Minister Diem sought to eradicate all Communists in South Vietnam and many were executed.
1954 (8th September)
The South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) was established.
1955 (October)
South Vietnam voted in elections to decide leadership between Bao Dai and Ngo Dinh Diem. However, Diem influenced the elections by punishing those who voted for Bao Dai. Diem claimed 98.2% of the vote and became the elected leader of the South Vietnamese Republic. Emperor Bao Dai left Vietnam for France where he remained for the rest of his life. The United States supported Diem financially to ensure that South Vietnam did not become Communist.
1956 (during)
A revolt against Ho Chi Minh’s Agrarian reforms in North Vietnam was put down by the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) also known as the Vietnamese People’s Army. 6,000 peasants were killed or deported.
1956 (July)
Ngo Dinh Diem, the leader of South Vietnam, refused to carry out nationwide elections in Vietnam as stipulated in the Geneva Accords. Diem know that Ho Chi Minh would win and would be elected ruler of all Vietnam.  The United States did not want a united Communist Vietnam and continued to give their full support and financial aid to Diem.
1957 (during)
Having decided on a military takeover of South Vietnam, the Viet Minh began using guerrilla warfare tactics on the border with South Vietnam.
1959 (during)
Ho Chi Minh Trail
The Viet Minh began using a route through Laos and Cambodia to transport supplies and people. The route became known as the Ho Chi Minh trail.
1960 (20th December)
Ho Chi Minh’s supporters in the South established the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam with a focus on national independence. Although the group contained many non-Communists they were referred to as the Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communists) by the South Vietnam government.  By determining the group as Communists, Diem could justify military force against them. In response the National Liberation Front (NLF) was formed.
Second Indochina War (Vietnam War)
1961 (20th January)
John F Kennedy became President. Kennedy was a Catholic and he and his family hated Communism.
1961 (March)
During a press conference, Kennedy intimated that he might be prepared to send US troops to Indochina.
1961 (17th April)
The Bay of Pigs
President Kennedy inherited a scheme set up by the Eisenhower administration, to invade Cuba and overthrow Communist Fidel Castro. 1400 rebel Cubans, trained by American troops, were to land in the Bay of Pigs. They would be met by local Cubans and the Cuban military who would rise up to overthrow the Castro. Unfortunately, things did not go to plan; the troops were not supported by local Cubans but were met by heavy artillery fire and strafing by the Cuban Airforce. Those rebels that were not killed were rounded up and imprisoned. The mission had failed and the responsibility for the failure fell to the new president.
1961 (May)
US Vice President Lyndon B Johnson visited Diem in South Vietnam and advised him of the need to reform. However, Diem persisted in using repressive, unpopular policies.
1961 (May)
French President, Charles de Gaulle warned America of becoming stuck in a Vietnamese Quagmire saying that he US would sink “step by step into a bottomless quagmire..” however much it spent “ men and money.”
1961 (September)
Kennedy sent a number of US military advisers to Laos.
1961 (October)
Kennedy believed that the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) were using the wrong military tactics against the Viet Cong and felt that they should be trained in counter-insurgency tactics such as those used by US Green Berets. General Maxwell Taylor was sent to South Vietnam to evaluate the military situation. Taylor advocated that the US should send 10,000 ground troops to Vietnam. Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defence, wanted to go further, and advocated at least 40,000 and up to 200,000 troops be sent.
1961 (November)
Kennedy sent economist and diplomat, Kenneth Galbraith, to South Vietnam to assess the situation there. Galbraith concluded that the real problem was the leader Diem and that no amount of military involvement would result in an American victory.
1961 (December)
The number of American military advisers in South Vietnam rose to 3,000.
1962 (2nd January)
Battle of Ap Bac
This battle was fought between the South Vietnamese ARVN and the North Vietnamese army NVA at Ap Bac to the south-west of Saigon. It was a decisive victory for the North Vietnamese.
1962 (early)
Strategic Hamlets Policy
Diem introduced a policy of fortifying strategic villages in order to isolate them from the Viet Cong. The policy was administered by Diem’s brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu who refused to take US advice regarding the establishment of these hamlets. As a result the policy failed because the Viet Cong joined the villagers and turned them against Diem by encouraging them to protest against having to pay for the fortifications. Additionally, the Viet Cong were able to take the weapons that had been allocated to the villages.
1962 (8th February)
President Kennedy created the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) to give military assistance to the South Vietnamese.
1962 (May)
Robert McNamara US Secretary for Defence returned from visiting South Vietnam and declared that he believed the United States could win the war in Vietnam. He advocated a greater US military involvement.
1962 (Summer)
A round of peace talks were held at Geneva. A tentative agreement was reached whereby Laos would gain neutrality. 
1962 (September)
Kennedy’s military advisers in Laos had managed to neutralise the country. It was agreed that a coalition government should govern Laos but the Laotian Communists would not co-operate and Ho Chi Minh was still using trails through Laos to reach South Vietnam so the venture failed.
1962 (October)
The Cuban Missile Crisis
This crisis heightened anti-Communist sentiments in the West particularly in the United States.
1962 (November)
President Kennedy sent Mike Mansfield to South Vietnam to re-assess the situation. Mansfield came to the same conclusion as Galbraith had a year earlier, that Diem was weak and that further American involvement would not result in victory. Kennedy questioned Mansfield saying that he had been given different reports. Weighing up all the reports Kennedy remained cautious against sending in American ground troops.
1963 (January)
Battle of Ap Bac
The Viet Cong defeated a force of 2,000 Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) soldiers supported by a number of American armoured personnel carriers, helicopters, bombers and military advisors.
1963 (Spring)
Diem, a Catholic, had allowed the flying of Catholic flags but banned the flying of Buddhist flags. Around 10,000 Buddhists protested against this. Diem sent in the military and 7 Buddhists were killed.
1963 (June)
A 73 year old Buddhist monk set himself alight in protest against Diem’s regime. Diem’s sister-in-law, the hated Madame Nhu, made the situation worse by making flippant jokes such as ‘Let them burn and we shall clap our hands’.
1963 (August)
Diem seemed intent on waging a religious war on the majority Buddhist population.
1963 (22nd August)
Henry Cabot Lodge replaced Frederick Nolting as US ambassador to South Vietnam.
1963 (September)
President Kennedy declared his commitment to minimising American troop involvement in Vietnam by stating that the South Vietnamese had to win the war by themselves, but that America would remain supportive to them.
1963 (1st November)
The government of Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam was overthrown in a coup led by General Duong Van Minh with the support of the United States. Ngo Dinh Diem managed to escape capture.
1963 (2nd November)
Ngo Dinh Diem was captured and assassinated. General Minh took over as head of the government in South Vietnam.
1963 (22nd November)
President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, United States. Vice President Lyndon B Johnson became President.
1963 (December)
The North Vietnamese government in Hanoi began sending the People’s Army of North Vietnam soldiers south strengthening the Viet Cong who controlled increasing areas of South Vietnam.
1964 (January)
General Khanh took over as head of the government in South Vietnam.
1964 (March)
Robert McNamara re-visited South Vietnam and publicly declared that he was optimistic that US troops would prevail. Privately however, he was concerned by the attitude of the South Vietnamese and was not sure that they would win.
1964 (April)
President Johnson declared that America was ‘in this battle for as long as South Vietnam wants our support.’
1964 (May)
President Johnson was having serious doubts about the situation in Vietnam and feared it could go badly for both the United States and himself personally.
1964 (July)
The war in Vietnam had claimed 200 US soldier’s lives and, with the war going badly, Washington searched for a solution to help the South Vietnamese win the war. There was no question of the United States pulling out.
1964 (4th August)
Gulf of Tonkin
South Vietnamese gunboats had been raiding North Vietnam. These raids were approved by Johnson as they were covert operations in North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese made unprovoked attacks on two ships, the Maddox and the Turner Joy in the Gulf of Tonkin.
1964 (7th August)
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
This resolution, introduced by Johnson in response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident allowed the President of the United States to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression”. This resolution effectively gave the United States the power to wage war in Vietnam.
1964 (November)
Lyndon B Johnson won the Presidential election.
1964 (24th December)
The Viet Cong attacked a bar in Saigon where a large number of US Officers were drinking.
1965 (February)
Dr Quat took over as head of the government in South Vietnam.
1965 (February)
The Viet Cong attached the US airbase near Pleiku killing 8 Americans and wounding 100 others.
1965 (March)
Operation Rolling Thunder
America began airstrikes on selected sites in North Vietnam. The first US ground troops were also sent to Vietnam.
1965 (March)
The first anti-war protests were staged in American universities
1965 (April)
25,000 anti-war protesters marched to Washington.
1965 (May)
Congress approved $700 million for the war against Communism in Vietnam.
1965 (June)
Air Vice Marshall Ky became leader of South Vietnam. Ky was unpopular with the South Vietnamese people who saw him as having too much to do with foreigners. The Vietnamese tradition was one of mistrust of foreigners. The American presence in South Vietnam only served to bewilder South Vietnamese peasants and in some cases pushed them towards acceptance of Ho Chi Minh’s nationalist Communism.
1965 (July)
President Johnson announced that a further 50,000 US ground troops would be sent to Vietnam.
1965 (26th October)
The Battle of la Drang
North Vietnamese soldiers had been sent South along the Ho Chi Minh trail to La Drang. Many had died along the way but those that made it then found themselves in a 34-day battle with American troops. Around 305 Americans and 3561 North Vietnamese died. Both sides claimed victory.
1965 (December)
There were 200,000 US troops in Vietnam. Polls showed that the majority of the US population were in favour of US involvement in Vietnam.
Robert McNamara visited South Vietnam again but now began to doubt whether the US could win and felt that further involvement should not be committed. However, he kept his thoughts to himself and publicly maintained that the US could win in Vietnam.
1966 (January)
Robert Kennedy, brother of former President John F Kennedy, began to see US involvement in Vietnam as a mistake.
1966 (February)
During Foreign Relations Committee hearings, many senators spoke against the war saying that the US should withdraw and that such a withdrawal would be in America’s best interests.
1966 (November)
The ruling Democrats did badly in the mid-term elections, a reflection of public opinion against US involvement in Vietnam
1966 (December)
There were around 400,000 US soldiers in Vietnam.
1967 (during)
Robert McNamara publicly opposed the bombing of North Vietnam and tried to instigate peace negotiations with the North.
1967 (during)
The Americans began placing seismic sensors along the Ho Chi Minh trail so that American bombers could destroy the trail. In practice the trail was never destroyed and continued to be used by the Viet Cong throughout the war.
1967 (January)
Americans found a Communist tunnel network near Saigon. The tunnels contained stoves, furniture and clothing but were not properly explored because a bomb exploded killing an American officer. The Americans chose to fill the tunnels with tear gas and set off explosives.
1967 (January)
Martin Luther King publicly criticised US involvement in Vietnam. The criticism came as a result of the media showing images of children burnt by napalm. King was also critical of the numbers of black soldier casualties fighting for freedom in South East Asia when they did not have the same freedom in America.
1967 (Spring)
Public opinion polls in America showed that 45% favoured increased involvement in Vietnam while 41% favoured total withdrawal.
1967 (August)
The American people were not happy when taxes were increased to help pay for the war.
1967 (August)
Senate Hearings
The aim of the hearings was to force Johnson to lift restrictions on bombing North Vietnam. The military laid the blame for the failure of success in Vietnam on Johnson, but McNamara told them that the only way to win the war would be to totally annihilate North Vietnam and everyone living there.
1967 (September)
Thieu took over as head of the South Vietnamese government.
1967 (October)
In a poll of American people 46% felt that sending troops into Vietnam was a mistake. However, this meant that 54% were in favour of the war. These statistics show that the country was split between those in favour and those against. Many people wanted to be out of Vietnam yet did not want the country to be seen as losing the war nor did they want the losses of US servicemen to have been in vain.
1967 (November)
There were 535,000 US troops in South Vietnam.
1967 (November)
Robert McNamara left the US government to become President of the World Bank.
1968 (during)
By this point in the war many South Vietnamese were living lives they no longer recognised as they had been forced to leave their lands and were living in camps reliant on Americans for food and shelter.
1968 (early)
President Richard Nixon began to believe that the only way to win the war was to use increasing numbers of South Vietnamese troops to do the fighting. This process was called ‘Vietnamisation’
1968 (January)
Clark Clifford was appointed US Secretary of Defence.
1968 (21st January)
Battle of Khe Sanh
The North Vietnamese PAVN began bombing the US Marine garrison at Khe Sanh/ The ensuing battle lasted for 77 days until 9th April when it was ended by Operation Pegasus.
1968 (30th January)
Tet Offensive
this was launched by the North Vietnamese and was a co-ordinated attack on around 100 South Vietnamese Cities and towns. The aim was to incite rebellion in the South and force the United States to withdraw. Although the Americans and South Vietnamese were taken by surprise, the Communists were soon repelled and the south was recovered by March 28th. However, the fact that the offensive had been able to take place had a poor impact on morale in Vietnam and at home.
1968 (February)
TV journalist, Walter Cronkite, who had supported US involvement in the war, visited Vietnam and concluded that the US could not win the war.
1968 (March)
Television programmes and newsreels showing footage of the Tet Offensive had turned huge numbers of Americans against the war.
1968 (March)
Political advisor to Johnson, Clark Clifford, stated he was totally against prolonging the war in Vietnam.
1968 (16th March)
Mai Lai Massacre
US soldiers massacred between 350 and 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians in two villages known as Mai Lai and My Khe. Twenty-six soldiers were charged with offences, but only one, Lieutenant Calley was convicted. Images of the massacre, which included children, sparked outrage around the World and increased anti-war support.
1968 (25th March)
President Johnson was advised against further escalation in Vietnam. Indeed many of his top advisors, once in favour of the war, were now advocating a withdrawal.
1968 (31st March)
President Johnson announced “I am taking the first step to de-escalate the conflict.” He told the North Vietnamese government that he would stop American bombing of North Vietnam if they would agree to talks. Johnson also announced that he would not be standing for a second term as President.
1968 (May)
Paris Peace Talks
Talks began in Paris to try to find a peaceful solution in Vietnam. The Americans wanted the North Vietnamese out of the South and declared that the Communists could have no influence on the Saigon government. However, the North demanded that the Americans leave South Vietnam and wanted a part in the Saigon government. Johnson could not accept the North’s terms and the North would not accept the American terms.
1968 (August)
There were riots in Chicago, where the Democratic Party Convention was being held, in protest against US involvement in Vietnam.
1968 (November)
The Democrats lost the election and Richard Nixon, a Republican, was elected President of the United States.
1969 (February)
The Communists in North Vietnam launched a new offensive against South Vietnam
1969 (March)
President Nixon secretly bombed Cambodia hoping to destroy North Vietnamese supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh trail and also the Vietnamese Communists’ headquarters in Cambodia.
1969 (April)
Nixon suggested secret negotiations be held between Washington and Hanoi to bring the war to an end.
1969 (May)
President Nixon agreed concessions for Hanoi in exchange for peace in a secret negotiation with North Vietnam.
1969 (10th May)
Battle of Hamburger Hill
This battle was fought between the United States and South Vietnamese ARVN and the North Vietnamese PAVN on a hill. The battle formed part of Operation Apache Snow which had, as its goal, clearing the PAVN from the A Shau Valley in South Vietnam. The battle lasted ten days and claimed a high number of casualties. Although they won the battle, the hill was of little strategic value and was abandoned by the US in June. The battle was seen as pointless by the US public.
1969 (June)
United States troops began to leave Vietnam.
1969 (September)
President Nixon announced that 60,000 US troops would leave Vietnam.
1969 (3rd September)
Ho Chi Minh died. Ton Durc Thang succeeded him as head of the Communist Party in Vietnam.
1969 (October)
Linkage Policy
President Nixon promised the Soviet Union improved relations in the form of  more trade, arms control and decreased tension (known as Détente) in return for Soviet support to end the war in Vietnam.
1969 (October)
There were anti-war protests across America.
1969 (3rd November)
President Nixon made his ‘great silent majority’ speech where he asked for the support of the American people, those that were the ‘great silent majority’, to stand united behind him and his bid to end the war.
1969 (14th – 16th November)
250,000 people protested against the war in Washington.
1970 (January)
The United States began bombing the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos and Cambodia. They also bombed North Vietnamese anti-aircraft bases.
1970 (12th February)
North Vietnam launched a new offensive in Laos.
1970 (after 12th February)
A force of American troops and South Vietnamese ARVN invaded Cambodia.
1970 (Spring)
US intervention in Cambodia sparked a new wave of anti-war protests across the United States.
1970 (April)
Richard Nixon made his ‘pitiful, helpless giant’ speech to explain US action in Cambodia.
1970 (4th May)
Four student protesters were killed by the National Guard at Kent State University, Ohio during an anti-war protest.
1970 (9th May)
Around 80,000 people attended a peaceful anti-war rally at the Ellipse, Washington.
1970 (17th September)
Paris Peace Talks
The North Vietnamese presented an 8-point peace plan at the Paris Peace Conference but the talks remained at stalemate.
1971 (8th February)
Lam Son Offensive
30,000 ARVN invaded Laos with orders to retreat if the death toll reached 3,000. That target was reached and they retreated before they were halfway to their destination.
1971 (29th March)
Lieutenant Calley was found guilty of the killing of 22 unarmed civilians in the Mai Lai Massacre. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, many people protested that he had been following orders and that the sentence was too harsh. Nixon ordered his release and he was placed under house arrest instead. Three years later he was released after an appeal found he had been improperly convicted.
1971 (Spring)
Arms agreements had been reached with the Soviet Union and a visit by President Nixon to China was in planning stages.
1971 (May)
President Nixon offered Hanoi more concessions to bring the war to an end.
1971 (3rd May)
Around 11,000 people were arrested during a rally held over three days in Washington to protest against the war in Vietnam.
1971 (9th June)
Many soldiers in Vietnam had been using drugs which were easily obtainable in the East. The Senate approved a measure authorising drug control and rehabilitation by the military.
1971 (October)
Nguyen Thieu, leader of South Vietnam held a presidential election. This had been agreed in talks with North Vietnam, however, as other candidates dropped out and Thieu was the only candidate remaining, it was believed that Thieu had rigged the election.
1971 (December)
Operation Proud Deep
This was an operation consisting of 1,025 air strikes on North Vietnam.
1972 (17th February)
President Nixon began an 11-day visit to the People’s Republic of China.
1972 (30th March)
Easter Offensive
The North Vietnamese PAVN launched an offensive against the United States and South Vietnamese ARVN. Nixon’s policy of ‘Vietnamisation’ was immediately criticised as the ARVN were unable to withstand the PAVN onslaught.
1972 (15th April)
President Nixon authorised a bombing raid north of the 20th parallel and particularly on Hanoi and Haiphong using B52 bombers. However, the action failed to stop the PAVN.
1972 (16th April)
Nixon’s bombers hit four Soviet merchant ships at Haiphong. The Soviet Union protested but because they were keen to take part in a planned summit with the United States their protests were kept low key.
1972 (27th April)
Paris Peace Talks
Negotiations continued to try to find a settlement acceptable to both North and South Vietnam and the United States.
1972 (May)
A summit between the United States and the Soviet Union was held in Moscow.
1972 (17th June)
Representatives for the President broke into the Democratic Party Headquarters with the intention of bugging the offices. With the election just months away Nixon was fearful of defeat.
1972 (August)
Paris Peace Talks
US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, secured an agreement with Hanoi.
1972 (October)
Paris Peace Talks
The South Vietnamese President, Nguyen Van Thieu, rejected the agreement reached between the United States and Hanoi.
1972 (November)
Richard Nixon was re-elected President for a second term. Congress told him that financial support for the war would end early in 1973.
1972 (18th December)
Operation Linebacker II
To try and speed up a negotiated settlement President Nixon began a new bombing campaign of North Vietnam which lasted for 12 days. However, the bombing received Worldwide condemnation since it seemed as if the US was not honouring any peace.
1973 (22nd January)
Paris Peace Talks
Nguyen Thieu reluctantly agreed terms to end the war.
1973 (27th January)
Paris Peace Accords
This formally ended US involvement in the War in Vietnam. It agreed a ceasefire in Vietnam (but not Cambodia or Laos), the exchange of prisoners of war and the removal of American troops from Vietnam. The PAVN was not required to leave the South but was required to agree not to seek to increase its numbers in the South.
1973 (29th March)
US Prisoners of War were freed in Hanoi.
1973 (29th March)
The remaining 2500 US troops were withdrawn from Vietnam.
1973 (10th May)
The American government voted to cut off funds for Indochina.
1973 (31st May)
War Powers Act
Congress voted to remove the power of the President to commit US troops abroad without needing approval of Congress. This rescinded the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
1974 (August)
President Nixon resigned when the Watergate scandal was uncovered.
1975 (9th March)
The North Vietnamese Communists launched a new attack on South Vietnam.
1975 (9th April)
Battle of Xuan Loc
This battle was fought between the ARVN and PAVN. It was launched by the ARVN to try to stop the PAVN advance into South Vietnam at Xuan Loc. The ARVN held firm for eleven days before they were forced to retreat.
1975 (17th April)
The Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia
1975 (28th April)
The last US soldiers were evacuated from Saigon.
1975 (30th April)
The Fall of Saigon
Having secured Xuan Loc, the North Vietnamese PAVN were able to circle Saigon. The ARVN did not have the strength to withstand the assault and Saigon fell. Vietnam was reunified under Communist rule and Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh city. Many South Vietnamese fled Vietnam.
The numbers of people leaving Vietnam was at its height. In total around 3 million people would leave the country many by boat giving rise to the term ‘Boat People’. The mass exodus from South Vietnam over the next decade caused a humanitarian crisis as neighbouring countries struggled to deal with those arriving across their borders. Many refugees were taken in by western countries and the United States accepted around 1.3 million.


First published 2016; updated and re-published May 19 2021 @ 6:13 pm – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2016 – 2021). Vietnam War Causes and Events 1887 – 1978

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