US – Vietnam chronology


Chronology of U.S -Vietnam Relations

1930Indochinese Communist Party, opposed to French rule, organized by Ho Chi Minh and his followers.

1932Bao Dai returns from France to reign as emperor of Vietnam under the French.

September, 1940Japanese 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.

1945An 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.

August, 1945Japan surrenders. Ho Chi Minh establishes the Viet Minh, a guerilla army. Bao Dai abdicates after a general uprising led by the Viet Minh.

September, 1945Seven 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, 1945Ho 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, 1945OSS Lieutenant Dewey killed in Saigon, the first American to be killed in Vietnam. French and Vietminh spokesmen blame each other for his death.

November, 1946Ho 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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1950The 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, 1950A 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, 1954The 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 PerspectiveDien Bien Phu: A Website of the Battle

June, 1954The CIA establishes a military mission in Saigon. Bao Dai selects Ngo Dinh Diem as prime minster of his government.

July 20, 1954The 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, 1954President Dwight D. Eisenhower pledges support to Diem’s government and military forces.

1955The U.S.-backed Ngo Dinh Diem organizes the Republic of Vietnam as an independent nation; declares himself president.

1956Fighting begins between the North and the South.

July 8, 1959The first American combat deaths in Vietnam occur when Viet Cong attack Bien Hoa billets; two servicemen are killed.

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1960The National Liberation Front (NLF)–called the Viet Cong–is founded in South Vietnam.

February, 1961The U.S. military buildup in Vietnam begins with combat advisors. President John F. Kennedy declares that they will respond if fired upon.

June 16, 1963A Buddhist monk immolates himself in Saigon. Buddhist demonstrations occurred from May through August.

June 20, 1964General William Westmoreland succeeds General Paul Harkins as head of the U.S. forces (MACV) in Vietnam.

November 1, 1963South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated.

May 4, 1964Trade embargo imposed on North Vietnam in response to attacks from the North on South Vietnam.

August 2 and 4, 1964The 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, 1964President Lyndon Johnson asks Congress for a resolution against North Vietnam following the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Congress debates.

August 7, 1964Congress 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, 1965The first American combat troops arrive in Vietnam.

April 6-8, 1965President 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, 1965Students for a Democratic Society sponsor the first major anti-war rally in Washington, D.C.

June, 1965Generals Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Thieu seize the South Vietnamese government.

October 15-16, 1965Anti-war protests are held in about 40 American cities.

November 14-16, 1965The first major military engagement occurs between U.S. and North Vietnamese forces.

September, 1967Thieu is elected president of South Vietnam.

Oct. 21-23, 196750,000 people demonstrate against the war in Washington, D.C.

January 21, 1968The battle of Khe Sanh begins, ending six months later.

January 31, 1968The Tet Offensive. Communist forces launch attacks on Hue´ and 31 other South Vietnamese provincial capitals and military bases. One assault team gets inside the walls of the U.S. embassy in Saigon but is driven back.

American PerspectiveVietnamese Perspective

March 16, 1968150 unarmed Vietnamese civilians are killed by members of U.S. Army Lt. William L. Calley Jr.’s platoon at My Lai.

March 22, 1968President Lyndon Johnson names General William Westmoreland as Army Chief of Staff. He was replaced in Vietnam by General Creighton W. Abrams .

May 10, 1968The Paris peace talks begin between U. S. and Vietnamese officials.

May 10-20, 1969The battle for Hamburger Hill

June 8, 1969President Richard Nixon announces the first troop withdrawals from South Vietnam

September 3, 1969Ho Chi Minh dies.

November 15, 1969250,000 people demonstrate against the war in Washington, D.C.

December 1, 1969The first draft lottery since 1942 begins.

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March 10, 1970Captain Ernest Medina charged with murder for the murders at My Lai. Events leading up the the My Lai Courts-Martial begin, ending with the conviction of Lieutenant William Calley on March 29, 1970.

April 30, 1970The armies of the U.S. and South Vietnam invade Cambodia to roust North Vietnamese troops. The invasion sparks campus protests.

May 4, 1970Four students are killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio. The killings sparked hundreds of protest activities across college campuses in the United States. Some protesters, like those at the University of New Mexico, were met with violence. See: The United Sates Anti-War Movement and the Vietnam War and New Mexico State Police Association.

May 6, 1970More than 100 colleges are closed due to student riots over he invasion of Cambodia.

February, 1971South Vietnam and the U.S. invade Laos in an attempt to sever the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

December 18, 1972Christmas bombing of Hanoi and North Vietnam begins.

December 24, 19721972 Bob Hope gives his last show to U.S. servicemen in Saigon. It was his 9th consecutive Christmas show in Vietnam. President Nixon suspends Operation Linebacker II for 36 hours to mark the Christmas holiday.

December 28, 1972Tthe North Vietnamese announced that they will return to Paris if Nixon ends the bombing. The bombing campaign was halted and the negotiators met during the first week of January, 1973.

January 23, 1973United States, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam sign Paris Peace Accords, ending American combat role in war. U.S. military draft ends. A cease-fire goes into effect 5 days later.

March 29, 1973Last U.S. combat troops leave Vietnam.

February 12-27, 1973POWs begin to come home as part of Operation Homecoming

April 1, 1973Hanoi releases last 591 acknowledged American POWs.

September 16, 1974President Gerald Ford offers clemency to draft evaders and military deserters.

April 21, 1975South Vietnamese President Thieu resigns.

April 29-30, 1975Saigon falls. U. S. Navy evacuates U.S. personnel and South Vietnamese refugees. The last American combat death in Vietnam occurs. South Vietnamese President Duong Van Minh surrenders.

American PerspectiveVietnamese Perspective

April 30, 1975North Vietnamese forces take over Saigon; South Vietnam surrenders to North Vietnam, ending the war and reunifying the country under communist control, forming the Independent Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Washington extends embargo to all of Vietnam.

May 12, 1975The U.S. merchant ship Mayaguez is seized by the Khmer Rouge in international waters in the Gulf of Siam. The ship, owned by Sea-Land Corporation, was en route to Sattahip, Thailand, from Hong-Kong, carrying a non-arms cargo for military bases in Thailand.

December, 1978Vietnam invades Cambodia and topples Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge government, ending its reign of terror.

1979Western European countries and non-communist Asian nations support U.S.-led embargo against Vietnam, in protest against invasion of Cambodia.

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February, 1982Vietnam agrees to talks on American MIAs.

November 11, 1982The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, “The Wall,” is dedicated in Washington, D.C.

1988Vietnam begins cooperation with United States to resolve fate of American servicemen missing in action (MIA).

September/October, 1988United States and Vietnam conduct first joint field investigations on MIAs.

September 1989Vietnam completes Cambodia withdrawal.

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April 21, 1991United States and Vietnam agree to establish U.S. office in Hanoi to help determine MIAs’ fate. Washington presentes Hanoi with a roadmap for phased normalization of relations and the lifting of the embargo.

October, 1991Vietnam supports U.N. peace plan for Cambodia. Secretary of State James Baker says Washington is ready to take steps towards normalizing relations with Hanoi. Washington presents Hanoi with ”roadmap” plan for phased normalization of relations and lifting of U.S. embargo.

December, 1991Washington lifts ban on organized U.S. travel to Vietnam.

1992Vietnam’s Constitution adopted.

April 29, 1992Washington eases trade embargo by allowing commercial sales to Vietnam that meet basic human needs, lifts restrictions on projects by American non-governmental and non-profit groups, and allows establishment of telecommunications links with Vietnam.

October, 1992Retired General John Vessey, U.S. presidential envoy on MIA issue, makes sixth trip to Hanoi, obtains Vietnamese agreement on wider MIA cooperation, which Washington describes as a breakthrough.

December 14, 1992President George Bush grants permission for U.S. companies open offices, sign contracts and do feasibility studies in Vietnam.

July 2, 1993President Bill Clinton ends U.S. opposition to settlement of Vietnam’s $140 million arrears to the International Monetary Fund, clearing the way for the resumption of international lending to Vietnam.

September 13, 1993President Clinton eases economic sanctions against Vietnam to allow American firms to bid on development projects financed by international banks, another step toward normalization.

January 16, 1994Admiral Charles Larson, head of U.S. Pacific Command visits Vietnam, the highest-ranking active-duty U.S. military officer to do so since the war’s end. He concludes that lifting the trade embargo would help efforts to account for Americans missing from the war.

January 27, 1994Backed by broad bipartisan support, the Senate approves non-binding resolution urging President Clinton to lift embargo, a move they felt would help get a full account of Americans still listed as missing in the Vietnam War.

February 3, 1994President Clinton announces the lifting of the trade embargo.

October 5, 1994House passes bill saying MIA accounting should remain central to U.S. policy in Vietnam and the main function of a U.S. liaison office in Vietnam.

January 27, 1995U.S. and Vietnam sign agreements settling old property claims and establishing liaison offices in each other’s capitals.

April 30, 1995Vietnam celebrates the 20th anniversary of the end of the war.

May 15, 1995Vietnam gives U.S. presidential delegation batch of documents on missing Americans, later hailed by Pentagon as most detailed and informative of their kind.

May 23, 1995Senators John Kerry (D, Mass) and John McCain (R,-Ariz.), both Vietnam veterans, urge Clinton to normalize relations.

May 31, 1995Vietnam turns over 100 pages of maps and reports about U.S. servicemen killed or captured during the war. An American veteran’s map helps locate a mass grave of communist soldiers killed during the war.

June 1995Senators Kerry and McCain say they plan to offer a Senate resolution approving normalized relations with Vietnam.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher recommends to President Clinton that the United States establish formal diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

State Department praises Hanoi authorities for increasing counter-narcotics cooperation with the United States.

Vietnamese President Le Duc Anh announces he will visit the United States in October for a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.

July 11, 1995President Clinton announces normalization of relations with Vietnam, saying the time has come to move forward and bind up the wounds from the war.

July 28, 1995Vietnam becomes a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

August 5, 1995Secretary of State Warren Christopher opens U.S. embassy in Hanoi.

September 4, 1995Former President George Bush visits Vietnam.

November 7-10, 1995Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara visits Vietnam.

July 12, 1996U.S. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake visits Hanoi to mark the first anniversary of normalization of relations.

April 10, 1997Former POW Douglas “Pete” Peterson is confirmed by the Senate as the first ambassador to Vietnam since the end of the war and the first ever to be posted to Hanoi. Vietnam’s Le Van Bang is confirmed as Vietnam’s ambassador to the United States.

April 16, 1997U.S. and Vietnam reach copyright protection agreement, a step toward Most Favored Nation status.

May 9, 1997Ambassador Peterson arrives in Hanoi to take up his new post. Ambassador Le Van Bang arrived in Washington on May 7.

June 24, 1997Secretary of State Madeline Albright arrives in Vietnam on an official visit.

March 10, 1998President Clinton waives the The Jackson-Vanik Amendment for Vietnam, allowing American investors in Vietnam to compete more effectively in Vietnam and to receive financial help from U.S. government agencies such as the Export-Import Bank.

April 15, 1998Pol Pot dies

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July 13, 2000The United States Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and Vietnam’s Trade Minister Vu Khoan sign a major trade agreement intended to provide Vietnam with access to the on the same terms granted to most other nations. Vietnam agrees to lower tariffs and other trade barriers on American products and services. The trade agreement is the last step in normalizing relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.

November 16-19, 2000President Bill Clinton and his family, Hillary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea, arrived in Hanoi for a historic visit. Clinton was the first President to visit Vietnam since President Nixon’s visit in 1969. The purpose of Clinton’s trip was to discuss relations between the two countries. Clinton said, “I think it is time to write a new chapter here.” See President Clinton’s Visit to Vietnam.

July 24-26, 2001Secretary of State Colin Powell pays a three-day visit to Vietnam where he attended the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi. It was Powell’s first visit to Vietnam since he served in the war in 1969.

October 3, 2001The United States Senate approves an agreement normalizing trade between the United States and Vietnam.

November 28, 2001Vietnam’s National Assembly ratifies the trade agreement with the United States but warned that any U.S. interference in Vietnam’s internal affairs could jeopardize implementation of the agreement. The Vietnamese government voiced strong concerns over the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of a Vietnam Human Rights Act which ties future U.S. non-humanitarian aid to improvements in Vietnam’s human rights record.

November 10, 2003U.S. S ecretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with Vietnam’s Defense Minister Pham Van Tra. This was the first time a senior Vietnamese military official has visited Washington.

November 19, 2003Navy missile frigate USS Vandegrift docked in the port of Ho Chi Minh City, a symbolic act aimed at boosting relations between Vietnam and the United States. Many of the crew were sons and daughters of Vietnam War veterans. It was the first U.S. ship to dock in Vietnam since the end of the war.