Vietnam War Timeline

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


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