Vietnam War Timeline
Timeline Description: The Vietnam War was a long battle over North Vietnam's attempts to make all of Vietnam a communist nation and the United States' attempt to stop it. American troops joined with South Vietnamese troops to try and hold off the communist forces but were unsuccessful. It was a very unpopular war in the U.S. as many Americans believed there was no way to win.

Date Event
1954 The French are defeated at Dienbienphu.

As North Vietnam fights to overthrow French rule, France realizes it cannot win and agrees to grant Vietnam independence. Vietnam will be divided into two countries at the 17th parallel: Communist North Vietnam and non-Communist South Vietnam.
1956 The U.S. helps train South Vietnamese troops.

The U.S. military sends aid to South Vietnam to help train the troops for fighting. France had previously been filling this role.
1957 Communists from North Vietnam begin to enter South Vietnam.

The communist insurgency in Vietnam begins. Guerilla fighters from North Vietnam go into South Vietnam and kill over 400 South Vietnamese officials.
1959 North Vietnam begins to move weapons into South Vietnam.

Using a primary stretch of road called the Ho Chi Minh Trail, North Vietnam begins to move weapons into South Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh Trail will become a target for bomb attacks as the war progresses.
August 10, 1961 The U.S. tests Agent Orange.

In an effort to prevent North Vietnamese troops from taking cover in the dense, green forests of Vietnam, the U.S. begins test spraying Agent Orange. The chemical killed foliage and greenery but is also highly toxic and has been linked to numerous health problems and birth defects.
November 2, 1963 South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated.

The president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem is captured and killed during an overthrow of the government by South Vietnamese generals. President John Kennedy was aware of the plan to overthrow the government, but claimed not to know that Diem would be killed.
August 7, 1964 Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

After Lyndon Johnson claims that two U.S. ships were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin, Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It is not clear if Johnson's story was true, but the resolution gives Johnson authority to use force against North Vietnam to protect the U.S.
February 1965 Operation Rolling Thunder begins.

A massive U.S. bombing campaign called Rolling Thunder begins in North Vietnam. The U.S. will conduct nearly constant air raids on North Vietnam for the next three years.
February 1966 American Vietnam veterans stage a protest.

About 100 Vietnam veterans try to return their medals to the White House in protest of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Hundreds of protests will be seen throughout the country over the next few years.
January 30, 1968 North Vietnam launches the Tet Offensive.

North Vietnamese troops surprise American and South Vietnamese troops in a multi-city attack in South Vietnam. The attack came on Tet, also known as the Lunar New Year, which is a holiday in Vietnam. Even though North Vietnam had more casualties, it is considered a moral victory for them because it was such a surprise.
March 16, 1968 American troops murder Vietnamese civilians at My Lai.

Apparently frustrated over their inability to capture North Vietnamese guerillas in South Vietnam, a brigade of American troops murder 300 unarmed civilians in the village of My Lai. Commander William Calley was sentenced to life in prison for the massacre, but was released in 1974 after an appeal.
1969 The U.S. announces a new policy of Vietnamization.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announces the new war policy of "Vietnamization." As the war drags on and public support for U.S. involvement drops, the U.S. plans to shift responsibility for defeating the North Vietnamese onto South Vietnam.
January 27, 1973 A peace agreement is reached in Paris.

Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho sign a peace agreement in Paris, bringing U.S. involvement in the war to an end. Vietnam will be unified as a communist nation. Most American troops will return home in 1973.
January 6, 1975 The North Vietnamese capture Phuoc Long City.

The North Vietnamese surprise South Vietnam by capturing Phuoc Long City and the surrounding area. The act is a violation of the Paris peace agreement, but the U.S. does not retaliate.
April 30, 1975 The war ends with the fall of Saigon.

North Vietnamese tanks enter Saigon and the last of the U.S. Marines guarding the American embassy take off in a helicopter. Looters take over the embassy building as the Vietnam War finally comes to an end.