Vietnam War Timeline 1955 -1975

Vietnam War Timeline 1954

French are defeated at Dien Bien Phu after the United States refuses to send air support. The Geneva accords are signed by French and Vietminh, establishing the International Control Commission, deciding that the 17th parallel will be the temporary dividing line between the two, and creating plans for a free election in Vietnam no later than July 1956. Ngo Dinh Diem gains power in South Vietnam. United States sends technical and financial aid in expectation of social and land reform. SEATO formed by Pakistan, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, France, United Kingdom, and United States. South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia join later. The nations agree to consult regarding military affairs; the commitment is not as strict or as binding as that required by NATO.

Vietnam War Timeline 1960

Political opposition in South Vietnam goes underground. Sporadic terrorism occurs; NLF ask for, and obtain, help from North Vietnam.

Vietnam War Timeline 1960

NLF conduct a campaign to assassinate village chiefs appointed by Diem.


John F. Kennedy sends 1,364 American advisors to South Vietnam. Still no land reform. An operation of U.S. military pilots and planes were ordered to bomb targets in South Vietnam. The operation is cancelled moments before takeoff.


The number of U.S. advisers increases to 9865. U.S. pilots are clandestinely bombing North Vietnam in an attempt to destabilize the Ho Chi Minh government. "The U.S. did not want to harm relations with Diem, and he was the last political stronghold in Vietnam facing the communists. This 'fact' is debatable..."


15,500 Americans in Vietnam. Diem is losing his grip on the Buddhist revolutionaries. Kennedy agrees with South Vietnamese generals to remove Diem. With the CIA's conveying Kennedy's approval, Diem is assassinated in a military coup and succeeded by a series of military commanders. John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. He had reconsidered the Vietnam strategy —hundreds of soldiers were on route to the US at the time of his assassination.


Situation in South Vietnam deteriorates rapidly. In August, Gulf of Tonkin Incident occurs. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed by the United States Congress gives Lyndon B. Johnson a free hand to protect American forces in Vietnam, the pretext for deepening the U.S. military commitment. Publicly, Johnson had taken a mild position during his election campaign regarding the Vietnam issue, but privately agrees to proceed with the escalated Vietnam policy, now seemingly an entrenched policy.


In February, the United States begins to bomb North Vietnam on a steady basis after the Pleiku attacks. In March, Marines land at Da Nang to begin full scale U.S. military action. In May, a 6-day bombing pause occurs. In August, 125,000 American troops are in Vietnam. In December, American bombing pauses again, with no apparent reaction from the Vietnamese.

Vietnam War Timeline 1966

400,000 American troops are now in Vietnam. In September, South Vietnam elects Thieu and Ky under their new constitution. One of Thieu's first acts after being put in power is to arrest the leader of his opposition.

Vietnam War Timeline 1967

500,000 American troops in Vietnam. U.S. conducts demonstration election and claims Saigon government is legitimate based on voter turnout.

Vietnam War Timeline 1968

Tet offensive occurs. The US Embassy, Saigon is occupied for a short while. On March 12, the state of New Hampshire gives strong support to Eugene McCarthy, running on a campaign to end the war. On March 16, 1968, U.S. Army troops murder 347 civilians in My Lai. News of the massacre does not reach the U.S. public until November, 1969. On March 31, Lyndon Johnson calls for a partial bombing halt, and announces "I will not seek or accept my party's nomination for President of the United States." In April, the United States and North Vietnam begin talks in Paris. In October, Johnson halts all bombing north of the 17th parallel. Four-way talks begin.

Vietnam War Timeline 1969

In March, Richard Nixon announces secret talks have been taking place. As of April, 33,000 American troops have been killed in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Secret bombings in Cambodia begin. On November 15, there is a massive peace demonstration in Washington. Seymour Hersh breaks the My Lai massacre story. The Anti-war movement gained steam upon the evidence of atrocities by U.S. forces. The first draft lottery is instituted since World War II.

Vietnam War Timeline 1970

President Nixon announces during a TV address, the withdrawal of 150,000 troops over the next 12 months. However, most people believe this not to be true and that it is merely a tactic to stop the massive anti-war movement. President Nixon sends US forces into Cambodia, causing widespread war protest in the streets, and plunging Congress into a session-long debate over Congressional war powers. Four Kent Statecollege students were shot to death by Ohio National Guardsmen during an anti-war protest on the campus. This led to mass protests on campuses and city streets.

Vietnam War Timeline 1971

As of February, approx. 325,000 American troops remain in Vietnam. South Vietnam invades Laos with support from the U.S. About 45,000 American soldiers have died in Vietnam thus far.

Vietnam War Timeline 1972

In October, Nixon and Henry Kissinger announces that "peace is at hand", with an agreement to end the war. In December, the U.S. begins to bomb North Vietnam again, with the famous Christmas day raids. Demonstrations in the U.S. begin anew.

Vietnam War Timeline 1973

U.S. involvement in Vietnam finally ends. Kissinger wins Nobel Peace Prize. The U.S. lost about 50,000 soldiers in Vietnam, and suffered more than 300,000 wounded. Later estimates put the figure of Vietnamese deaths up to nearly 5 million, 4 million civilians killed. The war cost nearly 150 billion U.S. dollars.

Vietnam War Timeline 1975

On April 30, Saigon falls to North Vietnam and becomes Ho Chi Minh City. President Gerald Ford, in the days shortly preceding the collapse of Saigon, asked for $750 million from Congress to help the U.S. ally.

Vietnam War Timeline 1975

Conflict begins right after the fall of Saigon between the Communist governments of Vietnam and Cambodia, culminating in the Vietnamese invasion and subsequent occupation of Cambodia and the removal of the Khmer Rouge regime from power.

Vietnam War Timeline 1975

Since 1975 as many as 1.5 million people have fled Vietnam, many in unseaworthy boats risking storms and pirates to reach an uncertain haven. Perhaps 500,000 of them died at sea.