Vietnam War Timeline

Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, 9 Feb 1968.

The following is a brief chronology of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, with special emphasis on Kennedy-era events:

Pre-Kennedy Era

1954 – French defeated at Dien Bien Phu, Geneva Agreements call for nationwide elections (US abstains).

1955 – South Vietnamese Premiere Ngo Dinh Diem rejects Geneva accords and refuses to participate in elections (with US backing).

Kennedy Era

1960 – John F. Kennedy elected President.

1961 – Kennedy is advised to send combat troops into Vietnam but declines.

1962 – Increase of American advisors from several hundred to several thousand, Strategic Hamlet program initiated.

May 1963 – SecDef conference on Vietnam sets timetable from withdrawal from Vietnam.

Jun 1963 – First self-immolation by Buddhist monk during “Buddhist Crisis”.

Oct 1963 – Kennedy signs NSAM 263, initiating withdrawal of 1,000 men.

Nov 1963 – Premiere Diem and his brother assassinated in successful US-backed coup by South Vietnamese generals, Kennedy assassinated in Dallas.

Post-Kennedy Era

Nov 1963 - Johnson signs NSAM 273, interpreted by some as continuity and by others as leading the way to escalation.

1964 – North Vietnamese patrol boats attack the Maddox. A second reported attack, which almost certainly did not occur, provides LBJ with Congressional approval for war powers in Vietnam. LBJ re-elected in a landslide.

1965 – Bombing of North Vietnam begins, followed by the landing of Marines at Da Nang, later followed by hundreds of thousands of American soldiers.

1966 – More American combat troops arrive in Vietnam.

1968 – Tet offensive by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong highlight the lack of American success. President Johnson announces peace talks, and simultaneously declares that he will not run for re-election. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, both opponents of the war, are assassinated. Richard Nixon elected President.

1969 – President Nixon begins secret bombing of Cambodia.

1970 – As anti-war protests grow in U.S., four students are killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio.

1971 – New York Times publishes the "Pentagon Papers," an internal Department of Defense study of the war commissioned by McNamara.

1973 – American troops leave Vietnam.


Other Links

Indochina War timeline on wikipedia

Vietnam Online: an online companion to Vietnam: A Television History. This is the companion website to the acclaimed American Experience televison series.


Comments On This Page

    Books of Interest

        Vietnam: A History
    Stanley Karnow
    Penguin, 1983
        The Hidden History of the Vietnam War
    John Prados
    Elephant Press, 1995
        Pentagon Papers, Vol. I
    Department of Defense
    Beacon Press, 1971
        Pentagon Papers, Vol. II
    Department of Defense
    Beacon Press, 1971
        Pentagon Papers, Vol. III
    Department of Defense
    Beacon Press, 1971
        Pentagon Papers, Vol. IV
    Department of Defense
    Beacon Press, 1971
        Pentagon Papers, Vol. V
    Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, ed.
    Beacon Press, 1972

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