individual's political beliefs depend on when
Outlined below is a political
"time line" of the United States involvement in Indochina. U.S.
Congressional Quarterlies were used for most of the Congressional references.
1979 through 2000 entries are from the Associated Press.
10 Aug 50 - First shipload of U.S. arms aid to pro-French Vietnam arrives
1951 - U.S. military aid amounted to more than $500 million by 1951
7 May 54 - Viet Minh overrun French fortress at Dien Bien Phu
8 Sep 54 - Eight nations sign U.S.-sponsored SEATO treaty
12 Feb 55 - President Eisenhower's administration sends the first U.S. advisers to South Vietnam to train the South Vietnamese Army
5 Sep 56 - President Eisenhower tells a news conference that the French are "involved in a hopelessly losing war in Indochina"
8 July 59 - Two Americans are killed and one wounded during a Viet Minh attack 20 miles north of Saigon
13 May 61 - President Kennedy orders 100 "special forces" troops to S. Vietnam
11 Dec 61 - U.S. aircraft carrier "Core" arrives in Saigon with 33 helicopters and 400 air and ground crewmen assigned to operate them for S. Vietnam
22 Dec 61 - SP4 James Davis of Livingston, Tennessee killed by Viet Cong (VC) later called by President Johnson "The first American to fall in defense of our freedom in Vietnam"
15 May 62 - President Kennedy orders an immediate build-up of US troops in Thailand to a total of 5,000 due to Communist attacks in Laos and movement toward the Thailand border
1 Nov 63 - S. Vietnamese President Diem and his brother are assassinated outside of Saigon. One coup follows another and weakens the war effort
Jun 64 - Henry Cabot Lodge resigned as US ambassador to Saigon
July 64 - Announcement states that US military contingent in Vietnam would increase 5,000 more to 21,000
2 Aug 64 - US Navy destroyers "Maddox" and "C. Turner Joy" are reported attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin (attacks 2 Aug + 4 Aug)
4 Aug 64 - US retaliatory strike destroyed 25 N. Vietnamese boats at their bases
4 Aug 64 - Later revealed in the "Pentagon Papers": A cable from the US commander of the destroyer task force stated, "No actual visual sighting. . . . .suggest complete evaluation before any further action."
7 Aug 64 - US Congress approves Gulf of Tonkin resolution affirming "All necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States. . .to prevent further aggression. . . (and) assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asian Collective Defense Treaty (SEATO) requesting assistance. . ." US Senate voted (88-2) passed - Senator Wayne Morse (D-Oregon) and Senator Ernest Gruening (D-Alaska) voted against the resolution. US House voted (414-0) passed
Fall 1964 - U.S. turns down an offer of secret peace talks with North Vietnam
7 Feb 65 - "In the early hours of February 7th, 1965, the VC upped the ante when they launched a guerilla assault against the military barracks at Pleiku where US military advisors were housed. The attack left 8 Americans dead, and President Johnson reacted as though the VC had delivered a personal insult." Johnson ordered a retaliatory air-strike against North Vietnam the next day. Operation "Rolling Thunder" began in mid-February and lasted 3 years
8 Mar 65 - "Two US Marine battalions arrived on the beach at DaNang in full battle gear. . . They were met not by enemy fire, but by curious onlookers. . . One soldier said, "The war was nowhere in sight."
16 Mar 65 - Alice Herz, an 82-year-old survivor of Nazi terror, set herself on fire in Detroit shortly after President Johnson announced major troop increases and the bombing of North Vietnam.
20 May 65 - Hanoi restates its peace proposal which "Washington" has already rejected
2 Nov 65 - Quaker Norman Morrison set himself on fire and died outside Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s Pentagon office, a scene McNamara witnessed
9 Nov 65 - Catholic Worker Roger LaPorte immolated himself opposite the United Nations building as an anti-war protest
1965 - The US Congress provided $2.4 Billion for the Vietnam war effort, with little dissent in the US House or Senate
Jan 66 thru Oct 68 - US bombs dropped on N. Vietnam total over 600,000 tons
1 Mar 66 - An attempt to repeal Gulf of Tonkin resolution was defeated in the US Senate
29 Jan 66 - US begins bombing around Haiphong and Hanoi, N. Vietnam. This is considered a major escalation of the air war
March 67 - Later revealed in the "Pentagon Papers" that "Operation Pop Eye", a rain-making project, was designed to reduce traffic along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos
3 Sep 67 - Nguyen Van Thieu elected president of S. Vietnam
Oct 67 - Congressman Thomas P. ("Tip") O'Neill broke publicly with President Johnson and opposed continuation of the Vietnam war. O'Neill supported Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn) for president in 1968
30 Jan 68 - Communists start Tet Offensive which escalates into one of the major battles of the war, including attacks on almost all of the capitals of S. Vietnam's 44 provinces
16 Mar 68 - My Lai Massacre - Quang Ngai province - In 1971, LT Calley was convicted and sentenced to "life". His sentence was later changed to 20 years "hard labor". Over 100 civilians were massacred.
31 Mar 68 - President Johnson commits the US to a non-military solution of the war when he announced he would not seek re-election, and ordered a bombing halt over 75% of N. Vietnam (north of the 20th Parallel)
31 Oct 68 - President Johnson announced he would halt all bombing of N. Vietnam on 1 Nov 68. The B-52 bombing halt was maintained until 15 Apr 72. The US bombing "sorties" were shifted to Laos 1 Nov 68 on through 1972 -- over 25,000 sorties were flown, with the most occurring in 1971
End 1968 - "Draftees" accounted for 38% of all American troops in Vietnam. Over 12% of the draftees were college graduates
18 Jan 69 - Expanded peace talks open in Paris with representatives of the US, S. Vietnam, N. Vietnam, and the National Liberation Front (NLF)
20 Jan 69 - "The greatest honor history can bestow is the tittle of 'peacemaker'. . . after a period of confrontation we are entering an era of negotiation." President Richard Nixon during his Inaugural Address
5 Apr 69 - The only major anti-war demonstration in the early months of the Nixon presidency occurred April 5th and 6th
Spring 69 - During 1973 Senate hearings, it was revealed that secret bombings started a year before the 30 Apr 70 incursion into Cambodia
8 May 69 - "10-point peace plan" offered in Paris by the NLF and endorsed by Hanoi
14 May 69 - President Nixon, during a policy address on Vietnam, proposes an "8-point peace plan" that would include mutual withdrawal of all non-Vietnamese forces to designated bases over a 12-month period, after which remaining troops would be totally withdrawn from S. Vietnam
Mid-69 - President Nixon abandoned the idea of a "purely military victory", started bringing US troops home, and talked of a "Vietnamization" program to prepare the S. Vietnamese to take over the US combat role. Withdrawals announced: 8 Jun - 25,000 and 16 Sep - 35,000
3 Sep 69 - Ho Chi Minh dies
15 Oct 69 - "Vietnam Moratorium" - An estimated 1 million Americans across the US participated in anti-war demonstrations, protest rallies and peace vigils. 50 members of the US Congress also participated
3 Nov 69 - President Nixon says he plans withdrawal of all US troops on a secret timetable
19 Nov 69 - Congress gave the president the authority to institute the "draft lottery" system aimed at inducting 19-year-olds before older men. Nixon signed the bill into law 26 Nov 69. Under the new law the period of prime eligibility was reduced from 7 years to 1 year. Maximum eligibility would begin on a man's 19th birthday and end on his 20th birthday
1 Dec 69 - The first draft lottery in 27 years was held at Selective Service Headquarters in Washington, DC
2 Dec 69 - US House approved (334-55) a resolution endorsing Nixon's efforts to achieve "peace with justice", following a 2 day debate. This was the first major Vietnam policy declaration since the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution
8 Dec 69 - Chief US negotiator Henry Cabot Lodge and his deputy resigned, expressing pessimism concerning the course of the negotiations
15 Dec 69 - President Nixon announced the reduction of another 50,000 troops by mid-April 1970
18 Dec 69 - Senator John Cooper (R-KY), after several attempts, succeeded in limiting US activities in Laos and Thailand when a bill including $23.2 Billion for Vietnam war activities prohibited introduction of US combat troops into Laos and Thailand
End 69 - A year of ever widening divisions in the US. The "silent majority" and "middle America" were pitted against the war protestors. Vice President Agnew called protestors "impudent snobs"
Jan 70 - "Washington Monthly Magazine" described an intelligence network of "nearly 1,000 plain clothes investigators working out of some 200 offices from coast to coast" who wrote reports on "political protests of all kinds". The domestic intelligence operation stored and disseminated information on both groups and individuals who "might cause trouble of the US Army." Senator Ervin reported in December 1970 that he was informed the surveillance included 800 Illinois citizens including Senator Adlai Stevenson, III (D-ILL), Rep. Abner Mikua (D-ILL) and US Circuit Judge Otto Kerner. Ervin said "apparently anyone who in the Army's definition was 'left of center' was a prospective candidate for political surveillance." During lengthly Senate hearings on the Army's activities, Defense Secretary Laird ordered the spying stopped.
21 Feb 70 - A presidential commission recommends the institution of an all-volunteer Army and elimination of the draft
Mar/Apr 70 - News of increased US involvement in Laos and Cambodia surfaced when 1969 Senate transcripts were made public
20 Apr 70 - President Nixon announces during a TV address, the withdrawal of another 150,000 troops over the next 12 months. This reduction would lower US troop strength to 284,000
23 Apr 70 - President Nixon calls for far-reaching draft reform. Nixon also issued an Executive Order that ended all occupational deferments and most paternity deferments, with "extreme hardship" as the only exception
30 Apr 70 - President Nixon sent US forces into Cambodia, causing widespread war protest in the streets, and plunging Congress into a session-long debate over Congressional war powers
2 May 70 - Senators McGovern, Hughes, Cranston, Goodell, and Hatfield announced they planned to introduce an "end the war" amendment which would work by suspending funds for military operations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia
4 May 70 - 4 Kent State college students were shot to death by Ohio National Guardsmen during an anti-war protest on the campus. This lead to widening anti-war protests
9 May 70 - A peaceful anti-war rally held at the Ellipse in Washington, DC was attended by about 80,000 people including about 10 members of Congress
31 Aug 70 - During debate over the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment in the US Senate, Senator Eagleton (D-MO) and Javits (R-NY) said that the Nixon policy of gradual de-escalation was leading to a wider war in Indochina. Senator Church said the Congress needed to keep pressure on President Nixon to hasten the withdrawal. Senators Scott (R-PA) and Thurmond (R-SC) expressed concern over the fate of US P.O.W.'s and bargaining pressure if US troops were removed
1 Sep 70 - The McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, providing for the withdrawal of all US troops by 31 Dec 71, was defeated by the Senate now and again later
1970 - War Powers - By the time Congress learned that the naval incident leading to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (1964) had been misrepresented and moved to repeal the resolution in 1970, President Nixon had already shifted to another legal rationale -- his constitutional powers as "Commander in Chief" -- for his Vietnam policies. In its 1969 "national commitments" resolution, the Senate made a bid to reassert a congressional voice in decisions committing the US to the defense of foreign countries. The House passed war-powers measures in 1970, 1971 and 1972.
17 Sep 70 - The VC presented an 8-point peace plan which was the first substantial initiative since Nixon's May 1969 plan. The Paris Peace Talks remained stalemated throughout 1970
7 Oct 70 - President Nixon announced a new 5-point peace plan
13 Jan 71 - President Nixon signs a bill repealing the Gulf of Tonkin resolution
10 Feb 71 - Congressman Aiken (R-VT) recommended convening an Indochina conference to negotiate a settlement of the area's disputes
23 Feb 71 - Senate Democrats voted (38-13) to adopt a "resolution of purpose" for the 92nd Congress to end US involvement in Indochina and "bring about the withdrawal of all US forces and the release of prisoners in a time certain."
1 Mar 71 - A powerful bomb exploded at 1:32am in a restroom in the original part of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, with responsibility claimed by the "Weather Underground". Senator McGovern attributed the bombing to "our Vietnam madness"
29 Mar 71 - LT Calley convicted for the My Lai Massacre
30 Mar 71 - It was later found out that on this date; "a confidential Army directive orders personnel to intercept and confiscate personal mail containing anti-war and other dissident material sent to soldiers in Vietnam."
7 Apr 71 - During a speech, President Nixon said that in relation to setting a firm date for troop withdrawal, that it would "serve the enemy's purpose, not our own."
1 Apr 71 - Draft Bill - A 2-year extension of the draft passed the House (239-99) in a roll-call vote. The Senate also passed the bill 24 Jun 71 following a long debate, lasting from 6 May through 24 Jun 71. 48% of manpower for the Army were draftees or "draft motivated".
18 Apr 71 - 2,300 Vietnam Veterans came to Washington, DC to participate in Dewey Canyon III, "a military incursion into the country of Congress". Led by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), the vets camped on the mall 1/4 mile from the Capitol, and threw away military medals and ribbons at the foot of the statue of Chief Justice John Marshall.
24 Apr 71 - 10 days of protests by a group calling themselves the "Mayday Tribe" included attempted work stoppages at several federal offices in Washington, DC
3 May 71 - 5,100 policemen backed by 10,000 federal troops resulted in an unprecedented mass arrest of approximately 7,000 persons, with another 2,700 arrested the next day. Protests ended 5 May with the arrest of another 1,200 demonstrators on the Capitol's east steps during a rally attended by some members of Congress
9 Jun 71 - The Senate adopted an amendment authorizing drug control and rehabilitation programs in the military
June 71 - Pentagon Papers published
17 June 71 - Congressman Charles Whalen, Jr (R-Ohio) co-sponsored an "end the war" bill which was rejected by the House (158-255)
24 Jun 71 - Mansfield Amendment was passed along with the draft extension bill. It was a controversial amendment by Senate Majority leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont) setting a national policy of withdrawing troops from Indochina 9 months after the bill's enactment (wording was later softened to the "earliest practical date"). It was the first time in modern US history that Congress had urged an end to a war in which the country was actively involved
1 Jul 71 - During the peace talks, the Viet Cong proposed the return of all American and allied prisoners held in North and South Vietnam by the end of 1971 if all US troops were withdrawn within that same period. US reaction was cautious
28 Sep 71 - The 2-year draft extension was signed into law after lapsing from 30 Jun until 28 Sep. Deferments were abolished for 1971 college freshmen, although upperclassmen retained draft deferments. Also in the bill was a non-binding provision putting Congress on record as backing an early end to the Vietnam War
3 Oct 71 - South Vietnam election - President Thieu ran unopposed and was re-elected with more than 90% of the popular vote. Vice President Ky and General Duong Van Minh earlier dropped out of the race amid charges that Thieu had rigged the election
2 Nov 71 - A Senate subcommittee released a 300-page report documenting "corruption, criminality, and moral compromise" in a PX scandal in Vietnam and other overseas areas
12 Nov 71 - President Nixon announced a troop withdrawal of 45,000 more troops by 1 Feb 72, but said it was particularly important to continue air strikes on enemy infiltration routes
26-30 Dec 71 - The US carries out the heaviest air strikes on North Vietnam since 1968 in Operation Proud Deep, consisting of 1,025 sorties
Jan 72 - President Nixon announces the 7th withdrawal: 70,000 troops by 1 May 72 reducing the troop level in Vietnam to 69,000
17-28 Feb 72 - President Nixon visits the People's Republic of China
30 Mar 72 - The North Vietnamese launch a major offensive across the DMZ, the biggest since Tet 1968. In retaliation, Nixon orders the bombing of the Hanoi and Haiphong area
15 Apr 72 - Renewed US bombing of North Vietnam above the 20th parallel
26 Apr 72 - President Nixon announced the withdrawal of 20,000 more troops
27 Apr 72 - Paris Peace talks resume
8 May 72 - Nixon orders the mining of North Vietnamese harbors without first consulting Congress
Jun 72 - Nixon announced the withdrawal of 10,000 more troops by September
17 Jun 72 - Watergate break-in and attempted bugging of the Democratic Party Headquarters
Aug 72 - Nixon announced the withdrawal of 12,000 more troops
27 Oct 72 - Nixon "pocket vetoed" the Veteran's Health Care Expansion Act of 1972. The health care act would have authorized expenditure of $85 million in FY 1973 for expanding health care services for veterans and their dependents
Oct 72 - The Supreme Court was steadfast in refusing to rule on the constitutionality of American involvement in Vietnam. As late as Oct 72, the court voted 7-2 to decline to hear a case in which taxpayers challenged the use of foreign aid funds to finance American operations in Vietnam (Sarnoff vs. Schultz) Justices Douglas and Brennan disagreed with the courts' hands-off attitude since the Constitution specifically gives Congress the power to declare war, they said, and thus "impliedly bars its exercise by the executive branch."
Dec 72 - Peace talks stopped due to a change in the Communist's position. The heaviest US bombing of North Vietnam of the war followed 18-30 Dec during Operation Linebacker II which included 129 B-52 bombers striking Hanoi
8 Jan 73 - Final stage of peace talks began that would lead to the signing of a Vietnam cease fire on 27 Jan
23 Jan 73 - President Nixon announced an agreement "to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and S.E. Asia."
27 Jan 73 - Official end of the Vietnam War. Between 27 Jan and 29 Mar 73, a total of 587 military and civilian prisoners were released by the North Vietnamese, and during that same period, 23,500 US troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam
29 Mar 73 - 67 more US P.O.W.'s were freed in Hanoi. The same day, the US withdrew its remaining 2,500 troops from South Vietnam. This date also marked the actual end of military involvement in Vietnam.
10 May 73 - Due to continued bombing of Laos and Cambodia, the House voted (219-188) for the first time to cut-off Indochina funds
31 May 73 - The Senate took strong action prohibiting the use of any funds appropriated by Congress to be used for combat activities in Laos or Cambodia
7 Nov 73 - War Powers Act - Congress dealt President Nixon a stunning setback when it voted to override his veto of legislation limiting presidential powers to commit US forces abroad without congressional approval. Congress, with the Vietnam War and the showdown over continued bombing in Cambodia behind it, was anxious to reassert its role in the conduct of the country's foreign affairs
Aug 74 - President Nixon resigns
16 Sep 74 - President Ford unveiled a conditional clemency program for Vietnam-era military deserters and draft evaders
9 Mar 75 - A major offensive begins against South Vietnam with an attack on Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands. South Vietnam fell in 55 days.
17 Apr 75 - Cambodian government surrenders to Khmer Rouge forces
29 Apr 75 - Last American soldier killed in Vietnam (the first was 8 Jul 59) The official American presence in Saigon ends when the last Americans are evacuated by helicopter from the US Embassy roof. Within hours the Saigon government surrenders to the VC
1979 - Western European countries and non-Communist Asian nations support US-led embargo in protest against Vietnam's 1978 invasion of Cambodia
Feb 82 - Vietnam agrees to talks regarding American servicemen
Sep 88 - Vietnam-US cooperation begins regarding American MIA's with first joint field investigation
Sep 89 - Vietnam completes Cambodia withdrawal
Apr 91 - US office is established in Hanoi to investigate American MIA's
Oct 91 - Washington takes steps to normalize relations with Hanoi after Vietnam supports UN peace plan for Cambodia
Dec 91 - Washington lifts ban on organized US travel to Vietnam
29 Apr 92 - Trade embargo is eased to allow commercial sales to Vietnam and establishment of a telecommunications link
14 Dec 92 - President George Bush grants permission for US companies to open offices, sign contracts and do feasibility studies in Vietnam
2 July 93 - US opposition to settlement of Vietnam's $140 million arrears to the International Monetary Fund ends
13 Sep 93 - Economic sanctions are eased to allow US firms to bid on development projects financed by international banks
3 Feb 94 - President Bill Clinton lifts trade embargo
27 Jan 95 - US and Vietnam settle old property claims and establish liaison offices in Washington and Hanoi
15 May 95 - Hanoi give US presidential delegation documents on MIA's
Jul 95 - The US restores diplomatic relations with Vietnam
Aug 95 - The US Embassy in Hanoi reopens
16 Apr 97 - A copyright protection agreement is reached, said to be a step toward Most Favored Nation status
9 May 97 - Ambassador Douglas "Pete" Peterson starts new post in Hanoi
Jun 97 - Secretary of State Madeleine Albright makes an official visit
1998 - President Clinton issues his first waiver of a law that bars trade relations with Communist nations that deny citizens the right to emigrate
Jun 00 - An agreement is reached to open up Vietnam's markets to US products, dropping US tariffs to less than 3 percent
Jul 00 - The House backs a bill granting Vietnam continued access to export-related financing, clearing the way for Clinton's historic visit
16 Nov 00 - President Clinton is the first US president to visit Vietnam since President Nixon in July 1969.
17 Nov 00 - The US still searches for missing servicemen and pursues rumors of Americans left behind. The US lists 1,992 Americans unaccounted for from the war. The Pentagon has stopped pursuing 646 of the cases, and the rest remain open.
Longest war in US history (11 years)
"War" was never officially declared by the United States
University study placed the over-all total U.S. cost
Total U.S. bomb
tonnage dropped during:
dropped during the Vietnam War amounted to
70,000 draft evaders and "dodgers" were living
An estimated 3
million people were killed by the war,
War - Participants and Casualties
April 1969 - Peak US troop strength - 543,400
February 10 - 17, 1968
and Myths about the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War has been the subject of thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, hundreds of books, and scores of movies and television documentaries. The great majority of these efforts have erroneously portrayed many myths about the Vietnam War as being facts. (Nixon Library)
Myth: Most American soldiers were addicted to drugs, guilt-ridden about their role in the war, and deliberately used cruel and inhumane tactics.
The facts are:
Most Vietnam veterans were drafted.
The media have reported that suicides among Vietnam veterans range from 50,000
to 100,000 - 6 to 11 times the non-Vietnam veteran population.
A disproportionate number of blacks were killed in the Vietnam War.
The war was fought largely by the poor and uneducated.
Here are statistics from the Combat Area Casualty File (CACF) as of November 1993. The CACF is the basis for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall):
Average age of 58,148 killed in Vietnam was 23.11 years. (Although 58,169 names are in the Nov. 93 database, only 58,148 have both event date and birth date. Event date is used instead of declared dead date for some of those who were listed as missing in action) [CACF]
Myth: The average age of an infantryman fighting in Vietnam was 19
The oldest man killed was 62 years old. [CACF]
11,465 KIAs were less than 20 years old. [CACF]
Assuming KIAs accurately represented age groups serving in Vietnam, the average age of an infantryman (MOS 11B) serving in Vietnam to be 19 years old is a myth, it is actually 22. None of the enlisted grades have an average age of less than 20. [CACF] The average man who fought in World War II was 26 years of age. (Westmoreland papers)
The domino theory was proved false.
Democracy Catching On - In the wake of the Cold War, democracies are flourishing, with 179 of the world's 192 sovereign states (93%) now electing their legislators, according to the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union. In the last decade, 69 nations have held multi-party elections for the first time in their histories. Three of the five newest democracies are former Soviet republics: Belarus (where elections were first held in November 1995), Armenia (July 1995) and Kyrgyzstan (February 1995). And two are in Africa: Tanzania (October 1995) and Guinea (June 1995). [Parade Magazine]
The fighting in Vietnam was not as intense as in World War II.
MEDEVAC helicopters flew nearly 500,000 missions. Over 900,000 patients were airlifted (nearly half were American). The average time lapse between wounding to hospitalization was less than one hour. As a result, less than one percent of all Americans wounded who survived the first 24 hours died. (VHPA Databases)
The helicopter provided unprecedented mobility. Without the helicopter it would have taken three times as many troops to secure the 800 mile border with Cambodia and Laos (the politicians thought the Geneva Conventions of 1954 and the Geneva Accords or 1962 would secure the border) (Westmoreland papers)
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