Chronology of U.S -Vietnam Relations
Indochinese Communist Party, opposed to French rule, organized by Ho Chi Minh and his followers.
Bao Dai returns from France to reign as emperor of Vietnam under the French.
Japanese troops occupy Indochina, but allow the French to continue their colonial adminstration of the area. Japan’s move into southern part of Vietnam in July 1941 sparks an oil boycott by the U.S. and Great Britain. The resulting oil shortage strengthens Japan’s desire to risk war against the U.S. and Britain.
An OSS (Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA) team parachutes into Ho Chi Minh’s jungle camp in northern Vietnam and saves Ho Chi Minh who is ill with malaria and other tropical diseases.
Japan surrenders. Ho Chi Minh establishes the Viet Minh, a guerilla army. Bao Dai abdicates after a general uprising led by the Viet Minh.
Seven OSS officers, led by Lieutenant Colonel A. Peter Dewey, land in Saigon to liberate Allied war prisoners, search for missing Americans, and gather intelligence.
September 2, 1945
Ho Chi Minh reads Vietnam’s Declaration of Independence to end 80 years of colonialism under French rule and establish the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi. Vietnam is divided north and south.
September 26, 1945
OSS Lieutenant Dewey killed in Saigon, the first American to be killed in Vietnam. French and Vietminh spokesmen blame each other for his death.
Ho Chi Minh attempts to negotiate the end of colonial rule with the French without success. The French army shells Haiphong harbor in November, killing over 6,000 Vietnamese civilians, and, by December, open war between France and the Viet Minh begins.
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The U.S., recognizing Boa Dai’s regime as legitimate, begins to subsidize the French in Vietnam; the Chinese Communists, having won their civil war in 1949, begin to supply weapons to the Viet Minh.
August 3, 1950
A U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) of 35 men arrives in Saigon. By the end of the year, the U.S. is bearing half of the cost of France’s war effort in Vietnam.
May 7, 1954
The French are defeated at Dien Bien Phu. General Vo Nguyen Giap commands the Viet Minh forces. France is forced to withdraw. The French-indochina War ends. See also:
Dien Bien Phu: A Vietnamese Perspective
Dien Bien Phu: A Website of the Battle
The CIA establishes a military mission in Saigon. Bao Dai selects Ngo Dinh Diem as prime minster of his government.
July 20, 1954
The Geneva Conference on Indochina declares a demilitarized zone at the 17th parallel with the North under Communist rule and the South under the leadership of Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem.
October 24, 1954
President Dwight D. Eisenhower pledges support to Diem’s government and military forces.
The U.S.-backed Ngo Dinh Diem organizes the Republic of Vietnam as an independent nation; declares himself president.
Fighting begins between the North and the South.
July 8, 1959
The first American combat deaths in Vietnam occur when Viet Cong attack Bien Hoa billets; two servicemen are killed.
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The National Liberation Front (NLF)–called the Viet Cong–is founded in South Vietnam.
The U.S. military buildup in Vietnam begins with combat advisors. President John F. Kennedy declares that they will respond if fired upon.
June 16, 1963
A Buddhist monk immolates himself in Saigon. Buddhist demonstrations occurred from May through August.
June 20, 1964
General William Westmoreland succeeds General Paul Harkins as head of the U.S. forces (MACV) in Vietnam.
November 1, 1963
South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated.
May 4, 1964
Trade embargo imposed on North Vietnam in response to attacks from the North on South Vietnam.
August 2 and 4, 1964
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident. North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the U.S. destroyer Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. A second attack allegedly occurs on August 4.
August 5, 1964
President Lyndon Johnson asks Congress for a resolution against North Vietnam following the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Congress debates.
August 7, 1964
Congress approves the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which allows the president to take any necessary measures to repel further attacks and to provide military assistance to any South Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) member. Senators Wayne L. Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska cast the only dissenting votes. President Johnson orders the bombing of North Vietnam. For additional information, see New Light on Gulf of Tonkin, McNamara Asks Giap, „What Happened at Tonkin Gulf?“, and 30-Year Anniversary: Tonkin Gulf Lie Launched the Vietnam War.
March 8-9, 1965
The first American combat troops arrive in Vietnam.
April 6-8, 1965
President Johnson authorizes the use of U.S. ground combat troops for offensive operations. The next day he offers North Vietnam aid in exchange for peace. North Vietnam rejects the offer.
April 17, 1965
Students for a Democratic Society sponsor the first major anti-war rally in Washington, D.C.