In march the Japanese declare French rule at and end in Vietnam
and Emperor Bao Dai proclaims “independence” in
Aware that victory over the Japanese is near in May the
Truman administration recognizes French claims to Indochina
in part because of (1) the U.S. need for French cooperation
in Washington’s plans for the reconstruction of Europe
following World War II and (2) the growing orientation toward
containment as a political/military strategy against communism.
During the Potsdam Conference in mid-July the allies are
convinced that there should be a postwar (WWII) occupation
of Indochina by British and Chinese forces in order to forestall
independence and return Vietnam to France. At this time the
Office ofStrategic Services (OSS) actively supports the Vietminh
in their guerrilla war with Japan, and Major Archimedes Patti
argues that Washington should recognize the independence of
In September the Communists secure domination in the Viet
Minh with the Independence League seizing power; Ho Chi Minh
declares full independence for Vietnam and establishes the
Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (GRDV) in
Hanoi; he appeals to the U.S. for recognition, but receives
no response. At this time British forces occupy the Saigon
area to take over from the Japanese and begin to rearm the
French, and later even the Japanese against the Vietminh.
On November 22, French troops return to Vietnam, transported
in U.S. merchant ships, and sporadically clash with Communist
and Nationalist forces.
On March 6th, France recognizes the Democratic Republic
of Vietnam (DRV) as a free state within the Indochinese Federation
and French Union. Rejecting this as a phony independence the
Viet Minh initiate the eight-year First Indochina War in December
with attacks on French troops in the North. Using U.S. vessels
the French bombard the port of Haiphong, killing 6,000 civilians,
then occupy the port and the city of Hanoi.
The Cold War with the Soviet Union opens most dramatically
with the Berlin Airlift ordered by President Truman. The communist
government of East Germany, with the direction and backing
of the Soviet Union, blockaded access to West Berlin in an
effort to remove the joint British, French, and American zone
of control in the city.
Washington initiates funding for the French war against the
In March France recognizes an “independent”
state of Vietnam; Bao Dai becomes its leader in June. During
July, Laos is also recognized as an independent state with
ties to France. In November the same status is accorded to
Chinese communists proclaim the People’s Republic of
The newly established People's Republic of China, followed
by the Soviet Union, recognizes the Democratic Republic of
Vietnam led by Ho Chi Minh in January.
Washington recognizes the French controlled Bao Dai government.
The Korean War begins in June with a devastating attack by
the Communist North on South Korea.
In November, as U.S. forces approach the North Korean border
with China, the Chinese Army enters the war and forces U.S.
troops into full retreat.
In May, the U.S. begins providing help to the French in Vietnam,
Laos, and Cambodia. In August the Pathet Lao communist party
and guerrilla group is formed. Discussions among the five
nations results in Washington’s dispatch of the Military
Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) to Vietnam. Eventually over
250 U.S. pilots assist the French in their war against the
Communists from Thailand, Laos, and North Vietnam meet in
March. As a result an agreement is reached whereby the Vietminh
are allowed to use areas in Laos along the border with Vietnam
for the staging of equipment and men in their war against
the French. During the later American war this will become
part of the “Ho Chi Minh” Trail.
400 U.S. advisers and supply personnel are serving in Vietnam.
Toward the end of the year the French casualties approach
90,000. General Giap begins to develop a strategy to draw
the French out to the Laotian border by conducting a show
of strength with a march into Laos to the outskirts of Luang
Prabang, the royal capitol.
Early in the spring the siege of Dien Bien Phu (located
in the rugged mountains of Northwestern (North) Vietnam near
the Laotian border begins. Pathet Lao forces block French
relief units from getting through to Dien Bien Phu from Laos.
As food, ammunition, and medical supplies dwindle, France
request American intervention. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, Admiral Radford, the Secretary of State John F.
Dulles, and Vice President Richard M. Nixon call for direct
American military intervention. However, after discussion
with other military advisors, including Army Chief of Staff
Gen. Matthew Ridgway, and unable to secure congressional support,,
President Eisenhower declines to commit troops. On May 7th
the remnants of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu surrender.
Faced with defeat on the battlefield, France agrees to a
conference in Geneva, including the U.S., France, Britain,
China and the U.S.S.R.
In June Colonel Edward Lansdale arrives in Saigon to set
up the U.S. military mission, as well as to direct covert
operations designed to sabotage the DRV.
Ngo Dinh Diem becomes Prime Minister of South Vietnam. He
completes the organization of his cabinet by July 7th.
On July 20 and 21, 1954 all parties except the U.S. and South
Vietnam sign the Geneva Accords. Though Washington and Saigon
refuse to sign, they agree to observe the terms.
The Accords provide:
To foster a “cooling off” period and separate
warring forces, Vietnam is temporarily divided at the 17th
parallel; the north to be governed by Communists under Ho
Chi Minh, while the south would be governed under Diem,
until internationally monitored national elections can be
The option of relocation for people
That all foreign troops be removed except French troops
in South who will remain until mandated elections.
A no reprisal clause
Vietnam-wide elections to be held in 1956 to choose the
government of the entire nation.
Laos and Cambodia to be recognized as independent (Cambodia
on September 25th and Laos later in the year).
In October President Dwight D. Eisenhower advises Diem that
the U.S. will provide assistance directly to South Vietnam,
instead of channeling it through French authorities.
A short time later the Eisenhower administration provides
economic and military aid to South Vietnam under the leadership
of Diem. This coincides with the establishment of the Southeast
Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) on September 7th. The agreement,
signed in Manila, was devised to check communist expansion
in the region. Although there are no provisions requiring
any of the signatories,(U.S., Britain, France, Australia,
New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines) to provide
support for South Vietnam, there is a provision declaring
that should South Vietnam be attacked the members would immediately
initiate armed force against the “aggressor.”
The Diem regime begins to consolidate its position. By mid
May South Vietnam formally requests U.S. instructors for its
army, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Hanoi brings
forth a proposal to normalize relations in order to prepare
for the elections scheduled by the Geneva Accords. However,
on July 20th, backed by Washington, Diem announces his refusal
to take part in the general elections scheduled for the following
year by the Geneva Agreements. The Diem regime argues that
free elections are impossible in the Communist North. However,
Diem organizes a rigged election in the South and proclaims
himself the victor. The U.S. quickly recognizes Diem’s
government as the “legitimate” government of all
of Vietnam and begins to finance the government and the newly
established Army of the Republic of South Vietnam (ARVN).
In Cambodia Prince Norodom Sihanouk abdicates his throne
as King in favor of his parents. This opens the way for his
entry into politics as the national leader of a socialist
political party, the Sangkum. For Sihanouk and many political
activists in Cambodia this represents a centrist path between
the political right of the Democratic Party and communist
controlled Pracheachon to the left.
Despite Washington’s promise to honor the Geneva Accords,
an American Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) takes
over the training of South Vietnamese forces in late April.
This represents the beginning of the “advisory”
force that will number nearly a thousand troops by the end
of the Eisenhower administration.
The French command disbands and French troops leave South
In violation of the Geneva Accords Diem begins to arrest
all those identified as involved in the war against the French.
Facing opposition across the south as America’s “puppet,”
Diem initiates a terror campaign and begins forcibly to displace
peasants from their ancestral villages into government holding
camps, or “strategic hamlets.”
“The Rockefeller Report” on defense policy and
strategy is issued pushing the concept of graduated deterrence
and flexible response as rational alternatives to massive
retaliation. The principal authors of the report are Townsend
Hoopes and Henry Kissinger.
In January the communists assault a plantation north of Saigon.
As ever more guerrilla incidents in South Vietnam increase,
the U.S. becomes increasingly concerned about the infiltration
of cadres from the north, though the majority at this stage
are native southerners returning to their southern villages
as they intended to do after the nationwide elections that
were never held. Intelligence indicates that the Annam Cordilla
(the spine of mountains running north to south through the
center of Indochina - along the western border of North and
South Vietnam, and eastern Laos) is quickly becoming a major
infiltration route (later called the Ho Chi Minh trail).
Following the methods employed by the French, the U.S. finds
local spokespersons and forms an alliance with the minority
populations of various hill tribes (Hmong, Yao, Meo, etc.).
In Laos, Col. Vang Pao, a Meo tribesman by origin, is enjoined
to organize harassment and interdiction of the growing North
Vietnamese supply line.
The communist elements of the Viet Minh cadres in the South
begin to come under increased suffering as a result to Diem's
ongoing campaign to consolidate power and eliminate potential
threats. These Viet Minh elements begin to initiate underground
activity and pressure Hanoi to help. In April a branch of
Lao Dong (Workers Party of Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh, secretary-general)
is finally formed in the South. This is a result of the pressure
from Viet Minh communists and the Chinese faction of the communist
party in Hanoi - at this point there is a very real Sino-Soviet
split, with the Soviets preaching peaceful coexistence and
the Maoists preaching international activism.
In May, as a response to the escalating situation, the U.S.
sends Diem an affirmation of its commitment by sending more
military advisors as he has requested. The North Vietnamese
begin to receive increasing aid from the Soviet Union. During
July two U.S. advisors are killed and several more are wounded
in a terrorist attack on the Bien Hoa military base. By the
end of the year 40,000 southerners are placed in internment
camps for their opposition to Diem.
Southern veterans of the resistance to the French declare
open rebellion against Diem and fight a battalion-sized engagement
with ARVN troops. Diem shortly thereafter declares a state
of emergency and asks for increased U.S. military aid. During
November 11 and 12 a military coup is launched against Diem,
The National Liberation Front (NLF) of South Vietnam is officially
formed in December. This is a coalition of diverse groups,
among them Vietnamese communists, Cao Dai, ethnic Cambodians,
and intellectuals opposed to the GVN. They had come together
for the purpose of reunification, reform of government, and
elimination of foreign controls.
In Saigon former government officials and other professionals
in opposition to the Diem government are arrested. By the
end of the year there are 773 American advisory personnel
J. F. K. sends 400 American combat troops to South Vietnam
Foreign military aid to both sides (U.S. aid to the South,
and Soviet and Chinese aid to the North) increases; Hanoi
makes public a policy to liberate the South by force. Diem
announces an ambitious program of reform.
In January, Kennedy is warned by Eisenhower that Indochina
is a growing problem. In reponse Kennedy approves secret military
plan for Vietnam and Laos, establishing Special Forces (Green
Berets) to conduct covert operations against and inside North
Vietnam and Laos. At the same time Defense Secretary McNamara
initiates chemical defoliation of the tropical forest in South
Vietnam. JFK also orders personnel increases for the Military
Assistance Advisory Group in Saigon on the basis of a report
by counterinsurgency expert Edward Lansdale and Gen. Maxwell
Taylor. Shortly afterward U.S. advisers received authorization
to engage the enemy if fired upon. By the end of the year
advisers number 3,000.
In Vietnam: During September NLF forces launch attacks in
Kontum province in South Vietnam. On September 18, a NLF main-force
battalion seizes the provincial capital of Phuoc Vinh. As
a response to the success of NLF political and military cadres
Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu intensify the strategic
hamlet concept proposed by a British counterinsurgency expert,
Sir Robert Thompson. Ostensibly the program was designed to
protect rural population from guerrilla raids and separate
the people from the NLF cadres. People were uprooted from
their traditional hamlets and villages and were relocated
to other villages more easily controlled by the GVN / ARVN.
This would deny the NLF the ability to readily secure resources
from the people since individual movement and behavior could
be more closely monitored. By the end of the year approximately
160,000 political opponents to Diem are in prison.
In 1962, Students for a Democratic Society (S. D. S.) holds
its first convention in Port Huron, Michigan and becomes the
first student organization to take a position against the
growing war in Vietnam.
The Cuban Missile Crises occurs in October.
American military strength reaches 4,000, with the arrival
of two additional Army aviation units on February 7th. The
U.S. MAAG is reorganized as the U.S. Military Assistance Command,
Vietnam (MACV), under General Paul D. Harkins, U.S.A.
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara tours Vietnam.
The new administration had been encouraging allied support
and participation in Vietnam. In August the First Australian
Military Aid Forces (MAF) arrive.
By the end of 1962 there are 11,000 U.S. military personnel
and technicians in South Vietnam.
South Vietnamese troops experience a number of setbacks
on the battlefield beginning with the battle of Ap Bac, where
ARVN forces, accompanied by U.S. advisers, are defeated in
very early January. The combined ARVN - U.S. strategic and
tactical response is to (1) initiate the use of armed U.S.
helicopter assistance, (2) implement the strategic hamlet
programs in the mountainous regions in order to deny the NLF
and North Vietnamese access to Hmong tribal populations, and
(3) launch a psychological and propaganda campaign against
the enemy with the Chieu Hoi (“Open Arms”) amnesty
Washington officials begin to make statements like ...”the
corner has definitely been turned toward victory.” Defense
Secretary Robert McNamara publicly states that the U.S. military
role will end by 1965; and that troop withdrawals will begin
From May through August Buddhist demonstrations are violently
repressed. Secret police organized by Ngo Dinh Nhu (Diem's
brother) raid Buddhist temples. These actions only intensify
opposition. On June 11, the first of several Buddhist public
political suicides takes place in Saigon; these public self-immolations
(monks setting themselves on fire) draw worldwide attention
to South Vietnam and the religious/political persecution taking
place under Diem. Diem declares martial law.
The U.S. begins to publicly distance itself from him and
his administration. In November a coup supported by the U.S.
overthrows Diem and his brother Nhu who are assassinated.
General Duong Van Minh emerges as the leader of the Revolutionary
Military Committee and takes over leadership of South Vietnam.
Various factions supporting negotiations with the NLF for
a coalition government continue to gain strength.
On October 11th Kennedy signs National Security Memorandum
No. 263 that is a plan to “Vietnamize” the war
- and withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam by 1965. However,
after JFK’s assassination on November 22, this executive
order is rescinded by the new president, Lyndon Johnson in
NSM No. 273. This is the first step toward full-scale war.
In February U.S. Operation Plan 34A (Oplan 34 A) is initiated
including ARVN commando raids on North Vietnamese coastal
The interim military junta formed under Duong Van Minh following
the assassination of Diem is overthrown in a second coup by
General Nguyen Khanh.
In mid June General William C. Westmoreland, U.S.A., replaces
General Harkins as Commander of the U.S. MACV, and at the
beginning of July General Maxwell D. Taylor is named as U.S.
Ambassador, replacing former Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.
On August 2nd the destroyer U.S.S. Maddox fires on North
Vietnamese PT boats that were responding to Oplan 34A attacks
on North Vietnamese territory. Two days later, despite lack
of evidence, the U.S.S. Turner Joy reports being attacked
as well. On August 5th LBJ orders Seventh Fleet carrier aircraft
to retaliate by attacking the bases used by the torpedo boats
and other military targets in North Vietnam. On August 7 Johnson
asks for and Congress approves the Tonkin Gulf Resolution
(passes 416 to 0 in the House and 88 to 2 in the Senate).
This prepares the way for massive U.S. involvement because
it allows virtually unlimited power to the president to conduct
war in Vietnam.
In November LBJ is elected overwhelmingly against the “hawk”
Senator Barry Goldwater. Johnson campaigns on the promise
that he will “never send American boys to fight”
in southeast Asia.
Early in January a two thousand man contingent of South
Korean Army forces arrive as part of the SEATO allied agreement
to assist Vietnam.
On February 6 the NLF attacks the U.S. base at Pleiku. LBJ
orders retaliatory bombing of North Vietnam the following
On February 27 the U.S. issues a “White Paper”
alleging that the war in South Vietnam is not organized by
southerners but is the work of the North Vietnamese communists.
A few days later NLF terrorists bomb a barracks at Qui Nhon,
killing 23 American soldiers. These attacks become justification
for a massive extended bombing campaign of “continuous
limited air strikes” known as “Operation Rolling
Thunder”. Two months later B-52 bombers are employed
for the first time. This sustained aerial bombardment of North
Vietnam is accompanied by the first U.S. troop deployments.
One of the first large scale peace demonstrations is organized
as the 5th Avenue (NYC) Peace Parade. University faculty members
begin the strategy of “Teach Ins” concerning the
war. SDS augments this with many debates about the war and
discussions concerning the history of Conscientious Objection
from WWI and WWII, and the growth and direction of the resistance
movement. On April 17 over 25,000 demonstrate against the
war in Washington.
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara opts for “harder
choices” and orders the first U.S. combat forces (3rd
Battalion, 9th Marines) to land at DaNang, South Vietnam on
March 8th. By May more Marines and Army units of the 173 Airborne
Brigade arrive (46,500 troops). The first major military operation
takes place (Operation Starlight).
The Cambodian government breaks relations with the U.S. on
In June the government in Saigon is again replaced by the
military government of Ky and Thieu. By October there are
50,000 American soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen in
South Vietnam beginning offensive operations. During the next
two months over a hundred thousand G.I. s arrive pushing troop
strength to over 184,000 - 636 are killed in action.
Large protests in Washington and other cities take place
in October and November.
The Harrison Salisbury Series in the New York Times begins
to have impact on credibility of U.S. Administration in connection
with bombing policy.
On April 4 Dr. Martin Luther King presents a major address
dissenting against the Vietnam war at the Riverside Church
in New York City, calling the U.S. “the greatest purveyor
of violence in the world today.”. policy.
The level of dissent continues to grow; several Senators and
Congressmen and other leaders begin to announce opposition
to the war. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins
to hold hearings into the Tonkin Gulf incident and resolution..
By the end of the year there are approximately 500,000 U.S.
servicemen in Vietnam with just over 9,000 KIAs (for a cumulative
total of 16,000) and nearly 100,000 wounded.
From January 30 to February 24 the NLF launches the TET Offensive;
simultaneous attacks on all U.S. military bases and 110 cities
and towns in South Vietnam. The siege of Khe Sanh begins.
On March 12 antiwar candidate Senator Eugene McCarthy nearly
beats incumbent President Johnson in the New Hampshire primary,
signaling the depth of antiwar sentiment even in a highly
conservative state. On March 16 antiwar candidate Senator
Robert Kennedy enters the race.
On March 16 a U.S. Army unit massacres hundreds of unarmed
villagers in My Lai, South Vietnam, though the Army will conceal
this fact for more than a year, claiming it as a significant
“victory” over the NLF. Ultimately a letter from
former GI Ron Ridenhour to his congressman causes the truth
to be revealed.
March 22 General William Westmoreland is relieved of command
March 31 LBJ announces he will not seek another term as president.
On April 4 Rev. Martin Luther King is assassinated, and riots
break out in virtually every major American city. There are
125 riots or disturbances in 29 states, and Army Reserve units
and the National Guard are called out to restore order.
Students at Columbia university takeover the college campus
buildings in a student strike as an Anti-War protest.
Robert Kennedy is assassinated on June 4.
On August 8 the Republican Party nominates Richard M. Nixon
as its candidate for president.
The Democratic National Convention is held in Chicago from
August 26 –29 and nominates Vice President Hubert Humphrey,
though he has won only 2.2 % of delegates in the state primaries,
whereas the antiwar candidates, McCarthy and Kennedy, have
swept the rest. Outside the convention hall thousands of demonstrators
protest the war and the anti-democratic process at the convention.
Chicago Mayor Richard A. Daley orders his police to attack
and beat the demonstrators.
President-elect Richard M. Nixon promises a gradual troop
withdrawal from Vietnam. At the end of 1968 there are 536,100
U.S. troops in Vietnam. Approximately 30,000 American soldiers
have been killed and 92,000 wounded.
President Nixon appoints Henry Cabot Lodge as Chief U.S.
negotiator in Paris. Formal truce negotiations begin in Paris
in late January, but for weeks talks revolve around seemingly
inane issues such as the shape of the negotiating table.
In February the National Liberation Front and the North Vietnamese
launch an offensive during the annual TET season. Rocket and
mortar attacks against 115 bases, towns, and cities in South
Vietnam, but the heaviest fighting occurs primarily in the
countryside. More Americans are killed on February 22 than
on any other day in the war. The U.S. begins what comes to
be known as the staggered body count. American losses are
not reported per day but are spread out over a particular
amount of time usually, but not always, a week. This creates
a perception of an ever decreasing number of U.S. casualties.
In March the troop strength reaches its peak level of 541,000.
The Chicago 8 conspiracy trial opens in Chicago (this involved
what was considered to be the leadership of the SDS protest
movement at the time.) During the trial the lone Black defendant,
was separated from the white defendants . The immediate occasion
for this was his disruptive behavior in the courtroom. Those
critical of the legal procedure implied that there was a concerted
effort on the part of administrative authorities to keep Blacks
and Whites separated so as to avoid occasions for unity among
On May 16 the participants at the Stockholm Conference vote
in support of the Vietnamese efforts to prevail against the
United States government. Over 53 countries are represented;
Noam Chomsky is one of the more influential Americans there.
The Vietnamese specifically seek support for their ten point
proposal which they were pushing at the Paris peace talks.
In October there is a Vietnam Moratorium Day which is held
in hundreds of cities across America (well over 100,000 people
gather on Boston Common); various pacifist groups read the
names of war dead at various draft boards.
As the state of relations between the Soviet Union and China
deteriorate and rail supplies from Russia to Vietnam which
must pass through China decrease, Vietnam comes to rely on
more shipping traffic.
In June, Nixon meets with President Thieu at Midway Island
to prepare him for the coming plan of Vietnamization (the
Nixon Doctrine). Accordingly, the U.S. would gradually limit
its involvement to economic and military aid, and work towards
building up the ARVN so as to allow it to take over a larger
share of the fighting. All this is code for the eventual withdrawal
of the U.S. from Vietnam. The President announces the withdrawal
of 25,000 American combat troops. In light of talks opening
up with China for the first time in decades, Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger calls Vietnam a “sideshow”.
On June 25 the government of North Vietnam and the NLF declare
the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam.
On September 2 Ho Chi Minh dies.
In early September Nixon announces a plan to withdraw an
additional 35,000 men. In December the Thieu government cracks
down on the Saigon University dissidents and two newspapers
because of their neutralist position.
During the Fall the U.S. and Thai governments announce a
planned withdrawal of 6,000 Americans, mostly airmen, from
Thailand. Filipino noncombatants depart Vietnam during this
time. Near the end of the year, Thailand announces plans to
withdraw its 12,000-man contingent from South Vietnam. South
Korea announces it will maintain its 50,000-man force.
During the year rumors begin to circulate about a massacre
of Vietnamese committed by U.S. troops; in September Army
Lieutenant William Calley is arrested secretly and charged
with 109 murders of Vietnamese civilians. During October the
first reports of a massacre at the village of My Lai are published
in over thirty newspapers. This causes considerable turmoil
and strengthens Anti-War sentiment.
In October The Anti-War Moratorium Day protests are initiated,
followed by the antiwar Mobilization in November. These protests
against the war in the U.S. draw millions of people to Washington
and other major cities across the nation. In late November
the draft lottery law is enacted. This is swiftly followed
by the elimination of almost all the authorized exemptions.
By December 15 Nixon announces that an additional 50,000
Americans will be withdrawn from South Vietnam by mid spring
of the following year. By the end of the year American troop
strength has declined to 475,200, and there are now 40,024
In February Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho begin secret peace
talks in Paris
In his State of the Union speech, Nixon announces that the
end of the war in Vietnam is a major goal of U.S. policy.
Though peace talks have reached an impasse, Secretary of Defense
Melvin Laird announces that Vietnamization is working and
that there will be further troop withdrawals.
In March events in neighboring Cambodia come to the foreground.
Prince Norodom Sihanouk is overthrown by a military junta
led by Lon Nol, which is more pro- U.S. This prepares the
ground for a U.S. invasion of the border area at the end of
the month. On April 29 MACV announces the invasion of Cambodia
by U.S. and ARVN forces to seek out North Vietnamese bases.
The consequences of this initiate a general state of revolution
and war in Cambodia which eventually results in the death
of over 2 ½ million people at the hands of the Khmer
Rouge under the direction of Pol Pot.
In the U.S. an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 demonstrators
gather in Washington to oppose the Cambodian involvement.
Campus protests erupt nationwide at over 400 colleges and
universities. The National Guard is called out in several
states. College students are shot to death on two campuses
(1) Jackson State in Mississippi by police, and (2) Kent State
in Ohio by National Guardsmen. The Kent State incident attracts
national and later worldwide media attention by way of dramatic
photographs published in Newsweek; Time, and Life magazines.
Student strikes take place across the country.
Later in May, President Nixon announces a series of large
scale bombing raids on North Vietnam; some raids consist of
up to 120 warplanes. It is the first significant attack since
his predecessor, President Johnson declared a bombing halt
in the fall of 1968.
Another 100,000 people demonstrate in Washington. Constitutional
rights are ignored and thousands of arbitrary arrests are
made in the city. People are sent to detention camps; individuals
are interrogated and interned from a few days to several weeks
In October Nixon announces a plan for a cease fire and announces
that a further 40,000 American troops will be withdrawn from
South Vietnam by the end of the year. As a result of all the
turmoil, pressure, and disillusionment concerning the war,
legislation is passed which denies the administration funds
for the introduction of ground combat troops into Laos or
Thailand but does not include a proposed ban on further operations
elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
The U.S. Senate (in June) votes to repeal the Tonkin Gulf
Resolution, and invokes the Cooper-Church amendment which
prohibits the administration to engage in warlike acts without
Congressional approval. Congress then bans U.S. combat troops
in Laos and Cambodia.
By the end of the year U.S. troop strength has declined to
334,600, with 44,245 casualties.
At the beginning of the year the ARVN attacks the North
Vietnamese (PAVN) sanctuaries in the Laos panhandle west of
Khe Sanh. It is given the name LAM SON 719 and involves some
of the best of the ARVN. This turns into a disaster, costs
the ARVN many of its best officers and men, and demoralizes
In April as part of a massive antiwar demonstration in Washington,
Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and Gold Star Mothers
for Peace (representing mothers who lost sons in combat) attempt
to place a memorial wreath at Arlington National Cemetary.
The Nixon Administration denies them entrance to the grounds.
Later VVAW stages “Operation Dewey Canyon III, during
which 800 veterans throw medals and ribbons on to the steps
of the Capitol building.”
In June the New York Times begins publishing The Pentagon
Papers, a top secret Pentagon history of the Vietnam War dating
back to 1945, that reveals numerous lies and deceptions told
to the American public.
Also in June, the North Vietnamese present a 9 point proposal
in a “secret” meeting. Among the conditions are
requirements for the end of U.S. support for Thieu government,
formation of a coalition government, and a cease fire. In
October a counter offer is presented to the North Vietnamese
in the secret meeting format; this includes the withdrawal
of all U.S. forces in six months, the release of POWs and
free elections. By November Nixon announces another troop
withdrawal which when completed will put the troop level to
In January, Nixon announces new troop withdrawals and reveals
that there are secret talks being conducted with the North
Vietnamese, and discloses his peace proposals. In March the
formal talks in Paris are broken off. The North Vietnamese
begin a major offensive across the DMZ. This is the biggest
battle of the war. In April bombing near Hanoi resumes. In
May Nixon orders the mining of Haiphong harbor.
In June Nixon’s secret operatives known as “the
White House Plumbers” are arrested while breaking into
the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate apartment
In October Kissinger and Le Duc Tho reach agreement and Nixon
announces that “peace is at hand.” South Vietnam’s
Thieu rejects terms.
Despite Watergate Nixon is re-elected in a landslide.
On December 13 Peace talks break down when Le Duc Tho rejects
Thieu’s changes to the earlier peace agreement.
To force the North Vietnamese to accept Thieu’s changes
Nixon initiates the infamous “Christmas bombing”
of Hanoi and Haiphong, during which many U.S. B-52s are shot
In mid January the President suspends military operations.
Later that month Kissinger and Le Duc Tho talk over a six
day period and initiate the agreement for a cease-fire - the
Paris Peace Accord. The Secretary of State William Rogers,
the foreign ministers of South and North Vietnam, and the
Provisional Revolutionary Government sign this agreement on
Also in January Nixon pledges continued assistance to Lon
Nol's Cambodian government fighting against the Khmer Rouge.
From February to March five hundred ninety-one Americans
being held by the North Vietnamese, Pathet Lao or Viet Cong
are released during Operation Homecoming.
In a secret letter to North Vietnam’s foreign minister,
Pham Van Dong, Nixon pledges over $4 billion in reconstruction
aid to North Vietnam- a promise that is never fulfilled.
On March 29th the last American combat troops leave South
Vietnam, leaving only a Defense Attaché Office.
In March the U.S. Draft will also come to an end.
In May the PAVN retake strategic areas in the Central Highlands.
On July 1 Congress bans any funds for combat in Southeast
Asia after August 15.
Congressional action during the Summer drops U.S. aid to
South Vietnam from $2.1 billion to $700 million. Political
and economic instability begins to shake the South Vietnamese
In August Nixon resigns as a result of Watergate, and is
replaced by Gerald Ford (Spiro Agnew, who had been vice president
had earlier been forced to resign in 1973 in a corruption
scandal.). Ford immediately pardons Nixon for “any and
all” crimes he may have committed while in office.
In February, and March the PAVN attack key cities in the
Central Highlands, During the disorganized withdrawal, panic
ensues and there is a collapse in the Region II area.
In April the Lon Nol government collapses and the Khmer Rouge
under Pol Pot begin a reign of terror which stuns the entire
Thieu resigns on April 20th. The government is turned over
to a neutralist Duong Van Minh.
Saigon falls to NVA and NLF forces on April 30th and U.S.
personnel leave in panic in an emergency helicopter airlift.
In May the PAVN and local forces from the NLF establish control
in South Vietnam. Saigon is placed under the control of a
military management committee headed by the NLF. During May
the U.S. becomes involved in the brief Mayaguez Affair with