Mao Zedong: The “communist must grasp the truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” (1938). Nikita Khrushchev: “Every year humanity takes a step towards communism” (July 1956). This post is about the brave souls who fought against tyranny and for liberty. Lots of details here.
Are the Korean War and Vietnam War connected? Did we really lose the battle for freedom in South Vietnam when the Paris Peace Accord promises freedom for the South?
If you’re in a hurry, use the ctrl-f search to find your term or date.
At the end of the post is a Bottom Line section, which interprets the data. You’re free to disagree with it.
An historian of the older generation, now deceased, made a startling statement (to me, at least). He said (paraphrased):
Later historians will see the twentieth century as one long, connected American struggle against totalitarian regimes.
He used the Korean War and Vietnam War as the prime examples.
I had to think about it for a few days. Then it dawned on me that he was right. Though his optimism about later historians is misplaced, since most of them lean heavily left and seem delighted to teach their students that we “lost” in Vietnam, I learned then that if historians don’t cover the Korean War before they get to the Vietnam War, then their lectures and books are shortsighted and misguided.
So here is an incomplete timeline of the Korean War before we get to the Vietnam War.
Timeline of the Korean War (1950-1953)
The conflict on the Korean Peninsula against aggressive communists happened during the latter part of the Truman administration and early in the Eisenhower administration.
17 Sep: US refers Korean independence to UN, which passes a resolution to seek free elections in Korea.
23 Jan: UN Temporary Commission on Korea receives notification from Soviet Union that it cannot enter N. Korea. Commission is responsible for elections in Korea.
29 June: The US removes last of troops from Korea, but leaves 500 advisers.
25 June: N. Korean troops cross 38th parallel and invades S. Korea, equipped with Soviet weapons. This provokes UN military involvement.
26 June: Truman authorizes US Navy and Air force to aid S. Korean troops operating south of 38th parallel.
27 June: Soviet Union absent from UN Security Council, Council adopts resolution for armed intervention in Korea at Seoul’s collapse to N. Koreans.
30 June: US ground troops are sent to S. Korea; Truman signs a bill extending draft for another year and orders US Navy to blockade Korean coast.
9 July: Gen. Douglas Macarthur is named to command UN troops in S. Korea.
4 Aug: US Army calls 62k reservists.
15 Sep: UN troops land at Inchon, S. Korea, and press toward Seoul, capital of S. Korea.
26 Sep: UN troops recapture Seoul.
29 Sep: US-supported S. Korean troops reach 38th parallel.
7 Oct: UN invades N. Korea.
29 Sep: US crosses 38th parallel, and China denounces act and says it will not stand idly by.
15 Oct: Truman and MacArthur meet on Wake Is. to plan Korean conflict, agreeing on strategy.
20 Oct: Two day fight for capital of N. Korea, Pyongyang, brings about capture of the city by UN troops. They can advance farther north.
20 Nov: UN troops reach Yalu R. on the border of Manchuria.
26 Nov Chinese stage massive counteroffensive in N. Korea UN troops begin to retreat.
5 Dec: Pyongyang is abandoned by UN troops.
8 Dec: Truman announces a ban on US shipment of goods to China.
29 Dec: MacArthur says US troops ought to attack China.
14 Mar: Seoul is recaptured by UN forces.
5 Apr: MacArthur says in letter to Joseph Martin, House Minority Leader, that in Korea “there is no substitute for victory” He is replying to Truman’s plan to negotiate a truce.
11 Apr: Truman removes MacArthur from command, applauded and criticized by public.
19 Apr: MacArthur explains to joint session of Congress urgency of country’s military situation in Korea. He urges expansion of war against China.
19 June: Military draft is extended to July 1, 1955, and military service is for two full years and lowers age to 18½.
10 July: US takes part in truce talks at Kaesang between UN and Chinese communists.
16 July: Congress passes Korean GI Bill of Rights to provide educational benefits, loan guarantees, etc.
24 Jan: UN negotiators in Tokyo announce that Korean truce talks have stalled.
17 Dec: Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Pres. Eisenhower and Gen. MacArthur meet in NYC to discuss the threat of communism and Korea.
26 Dec: US announces it will pull two military divisions out of Korea.
27 July: at Panmunjon, Korea, an armistice is signed by UN and North Korean officials. This halts conflict.
30 May: At Arlington National Cemetery, ceremonies honor burial of Unknown Soldiers of WWII and Korean War.
Please study this nighttime satellite photo of the Korean Peninsula before you read the timeline of the Vietnam War.
North Korea, outlined faintly, is in the dark, except a few showcase cities, while the South glows with prosperity. We had a partial victory in Korea, so maybe we could have the same in Vietnam, surely our politicians thought ten years later.
Communism on the Move
People forget how aggressive it was.
1 Jan: Fidel Castro takes over Cuba.
22 Feb: Robert Francis Kennedy meets with Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt to denounce communist wall dividing the city.
13 Mar: President Kennedy asks Congress to allocate $4.8 billion for foreign aid in fiscal 1963.
22 Oct: President announces that US has photographic evidence that Russia is building missile bases in Cuba, capable of launching a nuclear attack on American cities. He demands Russia remove all missiles and dismantle the bases. He asks UN Security Council and the Organizations of American States to take a stand. US is placing naval blockade or quarantine around Cuba to prevent Russian ships or materials from reaching bases. Russian ships get nearer naval blockade, and world is nervous, during intense negotiations between US, Russia, and UN.
28 Oct: Premier Khrushchev announces Russia will remove the missiles and bases, for US has agreed not to attack Cuba (ostensible reason for putting missiles and bases there).
20 Nov: President says US is ending naval quarantine of Cuba, since Soviet Union has removed missiles and bases and Khrushchev has promises to remove all Soviet jet bombers in next 30 days.
Timeline of the Vietnam War
Not every event is included, but many are.
French Indochina is created as an administrative union of Tonkin (northern heartland of Vietnam), Cochin China (area in Vietnam including Saigon and Mekong Delta), and Cambodia.
Laos is added to Indochina.
Oct: Ho Chi Minh founds Indochinese Communist Party at a meeting in Hong Kong.
Nazi Germany takes France and so a vacuum is created in Indochina.
Sep: France allows Japan to use bases in northern Vietnam for their war against China.
19 May: Ho Chi Minh and colleagues found the Viet Minh Movement to fight against French colonialism and Japanese occupation.
9 Mar: Japanese troops officially take over Indochina from French and declare Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos independent. Emperor Bao Dai officially rules Vietnam.
2 Sep: Ho Chi Minh declares independent North Vietnam.
23 Nov, the Viet Minh attack Hanoi, starting the First Indochina War.
19 Dec: After French warships shell Viet Minh forces in Haiphong
1 Oct: China becomes communist, and so Ho Chi Minh has a powerful ally.
$450 million in military aid to French in Indochina, and $785 million by 1953.
16 Mar: France calculates greater portion of expenses in Indochina has been borne by US. The US has opposed a negotiated settlement because Southeast Asia would be doomed to communism.
7 May: Dien Bien Phu falls to communists, and US begins limited military intervention in Indochina, despite Britain’s opposition.
3 Apr: Congress is reluctant to commit to involvement in Indochina unless Great Britain makes similar commitment. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles urges US to provide air support to prevent fall of Dien Bien Phu, the base in northern Vietnam, where French take stand against communist forces.
10 Apr: In press statement, president supports continued use of foreign aid to France, because loss of Indochina would encourage Southeast Asia to succumb to communism like a “row of falling dominoes.” Academic leftists sneered as and smeared the image as the Domino Theory Spook” Of course these countries really did fall to communism.
10 May: French-controlled Dien Bien Phu in northwestern Vietnam falls to communist Vietnamese and US begins preparation for limited military intervention in Indochina, despite Britain’s continued opposition.
15 June: French slow down military operations in Indochina, so US refuses more military aid to their efforts in Southeast Asia.
16 June: Ngo Dinh Diem becomes Prime Minister of Vietnam under Emperor Bao Dai.
21 July: Geneva Accords divide Vietnam at 17th parallel, with the Viet Minh controlling the North, and the State of Vietnam controlling the South. Free elections are to be held to unify Vietnam, but the deadline passes in July 1956.
18 May: Movement of about one million refugees, many of them Catholic, from North to South Vietnam is completed.
28 Apr: Last French soldier leaves Vietnam.
July: Deadline to hold elections to unify Vietnam passes with no elections.
11 May: President Eisenhower and South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem meet in Washington and affirm their commitment to prevent spread of communism.
9 May: North Viet Nam establishes Military Transport Group 559 to build a supply route between North and South Vietnam, which will become known and Ho Chi Minh Trail. It goes through neighboring Laos for most of the way.
27 Aug: State Department increases military supplies to Laotian Army.
25 Dec: Gen. Phoumi Nosavan takes power in military coup in Laos to counter growth of Pathet Lao, a communist insurgency backed by North Vietnam.
9 Aug: In Laos, Kong Le seizes power in a military coup and denounces American influence in his country. Laos becomes focus of Cold War between US and USSR.
20 Jan: Kennedy says in his inauguration speech that “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to ensure the survival and success of liberty.”
23 Mar: US takes stand against increased involvement of communist troops in Laos.
26 Mar president meets with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at Key West to discuss escalating problems in Laos.
22 Nov: Kennedy authorizes a major escalation of American involvement in South Vietnam, including helicopters and aircrew.
31 Dec: 3,200 US military personnel are in South Vietnam.
12 May: Renewed fight in Laos, Southeast Asia, prompts US to send naval and ground forces to support anti-communist Laotian troops.
17 May: President defends American troops in Laos as “diplomatic solution.”
2 Nov: South Vietnamese generals overthrow government of President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu.
31 Dec: Military personnel in South Vietnam rise to 11,300. American death toll that year: 53.
2 Jan: Viet Cong ambush South Vietnamese Army (Army of the Republic of Vietnam or ARVN) and their American advisers at Ap Bac. It is the first major Viet Cong victory over American-supported troops.
8 May: South Vietnamese troops kill nine unarmed Buddhist monk demonstrators in Hue; widespread anti-Diem protests ensue. South Vietnam is in political crisis.
11 June: In protest to Diem’s policies, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc burns himself alive. International opinion of Diem plummets.
2 Nov: Diem is assassinated in a military coup approved by US military.
22 Nov: Kennedy is assassinated.
31 Dec: 16,300 military personnel in South Vietnam. Death toll that year: 122.
20 Jan: North Vietnamese decide on all-out war to defeat South Vietnamese and American allies.
2-5 Aug: North Vietnamese torpedo boats attack two US destroyers, particularly USS Maddox, in Gulf of Tonkin. Destroyers sink the boats and bomb the nearby bases. In all they sunk eight North Vietnamese PT boats and severely damaged 21 more.
5 Aug: Congress passes Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that empowers LBJ “to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.”
1 Nov: National Liberation Front, created in Dec 1960 at a conference in Tay Ninh province in South Vietnam, known as the Viet Cong (short for Viet communists), attack American Bien Hoa airbase and kill four US personnel. Viet Cong are considered arm of North Vietnam.
3 Nov: Lyndon Baines Johnson defeats Barry Goldwater.
31 Dec: 23,300 US troops in Vietnam; death toll that year: 216.
6 Feb: Viet Cong guerrillas attack US military vase at Pleiku, killing eighth Americans and wounding 126.
7 Feb: LBJ orders bombing of North Vietnamese positions, like the Dong Hoi base.
2 Mar: Operation Rolling Thunder (ORT), a bombing campaign of North Vietnam, starts up.
8 Mar: Two battalions of US Marines land in Vietnam, the first in the country, to protect the Air Force base at Da Nang. About 23,000 are already there as military advisers (other military personnel doesn’t; count as “combat”).
2 Apr: At a military meeting with his security advisers LBJ steps up military and economic aid to South Vietnam. He sends more troops to protect bases and train South Vietnamese military.
7 Apr: LBJ announces he is willing to talk with Hanoi to bring an end to war.
17 Apr: Student antiwar protests happen outside White House.
9 May: Military announces the total US fighting force is 42,200 men.
26 June: Deployment of additional 21,000 US soldiers will be announced.
28 June: American troops will take part in attack 20 miles northeast of Saigon.
24 July: North Vietnam first uses Soviet supplied Surface-to-Air Missiles or SAMs.
26 July: LBJ announces his decision to increase troops from 75,000 to 125,000. Draft quotas double from 17,000 to 25,000. LBJ tells nation that the non-Communist countries are unable to resist “the growing ambition of Asian communism.”
4 Aug: LBJ asks Congress for $1.7 billion to support war.
14-17 Nov: US Air Cavalry fight North Vietnamese in the Battle of la Drang, fist full-scale confrontation in South Vietnam’s Central Highlands. A battalion of the Cavalry is ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) at landing zone X-Ray.
31 Dec: 184,000 troops: death toll for that year: 1,928.
31 Jan: LBJ announces more bombing raids, continuing Operation Rolling Thunder, over North Vietnam, after 37-day pause. He had stopped bombing to begin “peace offensive” to open peace talks. But communists reject and denounce efforts. Secretary of State Dean Rusk says the administration consulted with the Vatican, UN, Organization of American States, and NATO. Johnson still calls on UN to seek a peaceful settlement.
8 Feb: In Honolulu, LBJ talks with South Vietnam Premier Nguyen Cao Ky on the progress of the war and on the need for social reforms. Ky announces he is unwilling to negotiate with Viet Cong.
11 June: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announces US troop totals reach 285,000 men.
29 June: After reports that North Vietnamese are infiltrating the South to aid the Viet Cong, US announces commencement of bombing raids against Haiphong and Hanoi.
18 Aug: Australian troops fight Viet Cong in the Battle of Long Tan, the most famous Australian engagement of the war. They were victorious, even though they were outnumbered 20-1.
Aug: MiG 21s arrive in Viet Nam.
24-25 Oct: LBJ concludes a conference in Manila with heads of six other nations involved in Vietnam: Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, South Korea, and South Vietnam. They agree to bring about South Vietnamese political self-determination and breaking “bonds of poverty, illiteracy, and disease.” The six nations pledge to withdraw troops within six months after North Vietnamese has ceased its aggression.
However, from Aug 1966 to Mar 1967 US Third Marine Division repels attempt by North Vietnam Army (NVA) to cross Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
5 Jan: State Department says 5,008 Americans killed and 30,093 wounded in Vietnam in 1966. Losses raise total American casualties since 1 Jan 1966 to 6,664 killed and 37,738 wounded. Troop strength is 389,000.
8 Jan: 16,000 American and 14,000 South Vietnamese troops launch Operation Cedar Falls against enemy positions in Iron triangle, 25 miles northwest of Saigon. The offensive will go until 26 Jan.
29 July: 134 crewmen are killed aboard USS Forrestal in the Gulf of Tonkin, from fire ignited by Skyhawk fuel tank. It is the worst naval accident in war since WWII. It happens seven minutes before ship’s aircraft is to take off on bombing mission over North Vietnam.
20-24 Apr: US aircraft target Haiphong Harbor in North Vietnamese airfields for the first time in a significant escalation of the air war.
24 Apr-11 May: US Marines repulse North Vietnamese troops around Marine combat base at Khe Sanh, close to Demilitarized Zone.
11 Sep-31 Oct: US Marines base at Con Thien near the DMZ successfully resists siege by NVA and heavy artillery bombardment.
29 Sep: In a speech at San Antonio, LBJ is willing to stop bombing if North Vietnamese enter peace negotiations.
3-22 Nov: Battle of Dak To: US and South Vietnamese troops repel offensive by communists in Central Highlands. 1,800 US casualties.
31 Dec: 495,000 troops in Vietnam. Death toll for year: 11,363.
21 Jan: Communist guerillas attack American troops at Khe Sanh, Vietnam. US responds by aerial resupply and bombardments of NVA’s positions.
23 Jan: US Navy intelligence vessel Pueblo and 83-man crew are seized by North Koreans patrol boats in the Sea of Japan. Allegedly, the ship violated the territorial limits claimed by North Koreans to be 12 miles.
25 Jan: US aircraft carrier USS Enterprise is sent to Sea of Japan in a show of force. LBJ hopes it will prevent military action over Pueblo incident.
30 Jan: Communists in Vietnam launch major offensive on Eve of Tet, the lunar New Year, as a brief holiday truce is about to take place. Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attack cities and towns like Hur and Saigon across South Vietnam and even penetrate US Embassy compound.
1 Feb: US and ARVN retakes Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon.
24 Feb: US Marines retake imperial palace in Hue.
2 Mar: The battle for Hue is a victory for American victory and ARVN.
7 Mar: Americans and ARVN clear Saigon of Viet Cong
16 Mar: In the wake of the Tet offensive, My Lai massacre occurs. Hundreds killed. (See 24 Nov 1969 for outcome.)
22 Mar: President Johnson names Gen. William Westmoreland Army Chief of Staff.
31 Mar: LBJ announces the cessation of bombing north of 21st parallel in Vietnam to open peace negotiations and announces his decision not to run for reelection.
1 Apr: Operation Pegasus: US troops along Route 9 begin relief of Marine base at Khe Sanh.
8 Apr: Operation Pegasus ends with victory, relieving Marines at Khe Sanh, after a 77-day siege.
23 Apr: At Columbia University in New York City, students seize five buildings. Most are members of the Students for a Democratic Society. They oppose Columbia’s involvement in research connected with Vietnam War.
30 Apr-3 May: US Marines repulse major incursion across DMZ in the Battle of Dai Do (or Dong Ha).
5-27 May: Mini Tet Offensive: Viet Cong attack 119 targets across South Viet Nam.
13 May: Peace talks in Paris, France, with Averell Harriman of the US and Xuan Thuy of North Vietnam. Talks stall due to issues of procedure and representation.
5 July: US troops evacuate Khe Sanh, so North Vietnamese raise flag over combat base.
8 Aug: Richard M. Nixon receives his party’s nomination Maryland governor Spiro T. Agnew is chosen as his running mate.
28 Aug: DNC adopts a Vietnam plank for the party platform that represents “hawkish” elements at the convention. US will cease bombing only when “this action would not endanger” American troops. Hubert Humphrey gets his party’s nomination amidst police action against antiwar demonstrations outside convention hall.
29 Aug: Maine senator Edmund Muskie is chosen Humphrey’s running mate.
8 Oct: Operation Sealords begins, to hinder Viet Cong supply lines and bases in Mekong Delta.
31 Oct: LBJ announces an end to all bombing of North Vietnam. This move is intended to break a stalemate in the Paris Peace talks.
6 Nov: Richard Nixon is next chief executive. Nixon: 31,710,470; Humphrey: 30,898,055; Wallace: 9,446,167; Electoral votes: 302 for Nixon, 191 for Humphrey.
31 Dec: 495,000 military personnel in Vietnam; US death total that year: 16,899.
22 Jan: US launches last major offensive: Operation Dewey Canyon.
22 Feb: Viet Cong and NVA launch attacks against US bases and cities across South Vietnam.
17 Mar: President Nixon authorizes “secret” bombing of enemy supply lines and bases in Cambodia.
9 Apr: About 300 students of the militant Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) take over Harvard’s administration building, evicting eight deans and locking themselves in the building. At least 45 are injured and 184 arrested. Disorders also happen at New York City College, san Francisco State College, Brandies, Berkeley and hundreds of other colleges around country.
30 Apr: American troop levels reach 534,400.
10-20 May: Costly fighting at Hamburger Hill in the A Shau Valley causes political outcry in US, leading to ban on further major offensive action by US ground troops.
8 June: Nixon meets with South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu on island of Midway to discuss Vietnam War. Nixon announces 25,000 troops withdrawal. Nixon wants South Vietnamese troops to take over combat. This is first reduction since LBJ announced Troop increase in Mar 1965.
2 Sep: Ho Chi Minh dies at Hanoi at age of 79.
16 Sep: Nixon announces more troop withdrawal of another 35,000 from Vietnam.
3 Nov: in a televised speech Nixon calls for “the great silent majority of Americans” to support Vietnam War.
4 Nov: Nixon announces his “Vietnamization” policy to nation. By end of the year, American fighting strength in Vietnam is reduced by 110,000 men.
15 Nov: Largest antiwar rally in the history of US takes place in Washington; 250,000 protesters are against involvement in Vietnam War.
24 Nov: Army Lieutenant William L. Calley is convicted of premeditated murder at the My Lai massacre on 16 Mar 1968. He gets life in prison.
1 Dec: NY Representative Alexander Pirnie performs withdrawing capsules of the first draft lottery since WWII. The lottery system is designed to quiet criticism of inequities in draft selection. A capsule represents a day each day of the year, and 19-year-olds are eligible. The order in which birthdates are withdrawn from the glass bin determines the order in which men will enter service.
31 Dec: 475,000 US troops in Vietnam; death toll that year: 11,780.
21 Feb: Henry Kissinger begins secret peace talks with Hanoi politburo member Le Duc Tho in Paris.
18 Mar: In Cambodia US-backed coup led by Gen. Lon Nol overthrows Pres. Norodom Sihanouk.
20 Apr: Nixon, continuing his Vietnamization program, promises to withdraw another 150,000 men from Indochina before end of year.
During an average week in 1968, an average of 268 Americans was killed each week, but by end of 1970, US deaths will average 25 a week.
30 Apr: President Nixon announces troops have been sent into Cambodia to attack enemy bases. Prince Sihanouk was deposed in favor of a regime of Lon Nol. Hanoi and Beijing support Sihanouk’s effort to regain power, while US aids Lon Nol in driving out communist troops in northern section of Cambodia. US involvement there is close to 31,000 men, until June 29.
4 May: Four students are killed at Kent State University when National Guardsmen disperse an antiwar demonstration. Protests have taken place at Ohio state University, Stanford, Penn State, and University of Kansas.
14 May: Two students protesting the war at Jackson State College, Mississippi, are shot by police.
24 June: Tonkin Gulf Resolution is repealed as Congress reasserts control over president’s power to take country to war (see 5 Aug 1964).
30 June: US ground troops withdraw from Cambodia.
Oct: Khmer Rouge, Cambodian communists, controls eastern Mekong Delta.
23 Nov: Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announces a daring raid to free POWs 23 miles west of Hanoi. US planes provided air cover with a seven-hour bombing raid, signaling that the US still has military presence, despite troop reductions. The military rescuers overran the prison camp, but found no one there. Codename of raid is Operation Ivory Coast.
31 Dec (by then): Troop strength is 335,000 men, down by 210,000 from its peak in 1968. Death toll that year: 6,173.
30 Jan to 25 Mar: Operation Lam Son 719: 20,000 ARVN troops invade Laos with American support, to cut the Ho Chi Minh trail. They withdraw after suffering heavy losses.
13 June Publication of leaked Defense Department documents about the war; they are known as the Pentagon Papers.
5 Sep to 8 Oct: Operation Jefferson Glenn, inland from the Hue and Da Nang, is the last major combat operation in which US Ground troops take part.
3 Oct Cambodian government troops launch offensive against Vietnamese communists and Khmer Rouge forces.
9 Oct: Refusal by troops of the Air Casualty Division draws public attention to poor American troops morale.
12 Nov: Nixon announces withdrawal of another 45,000 men from Vietnam, which leaves 139,000. Since his policy of Vietnamization, casualties have dropped from 14,593 in 1968 to 1302 US deaths.
26-30 Dec: Nixon orders intensive bombing of southern North Vietnam in retaliation for breaches of the basis of peace talks.
31 Dec: Troop level: 156,8000; death toll for the year: 2,414.
10 Mar: US 101st Airborne Division leaves South Vietnam. Vietnamization is complete.
30 Mar: in Easter Offensive: North Vietnamese troops launch an attack cross the Demilitarized Zone. After five weeks of fighting, they will penetrate 22 miles into the South. US renews bombing.
4 Apr: In response to Easter Offensive, Nixon orders bombing of North Vietnam up to 18th Parallel.
7 Apr: After three-day battle, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong capture town of Loc Ninh, near Cambodian border, north of Saigon.
12 Apr: Communists advance from base areas in Laos and Cambodia toward Kontum.
27 Apr: F-4 Phantoms armed with laser-guided bombs strike Thanh Hoa Bridge, a vital link in North Vietnam.
9 May: Nixon announces mining of major ports in North Vietnam.
10 May: US Air forces begin Operation Linebacker, a sustained bombing campaign against North Vietname, attacking military installations, supply routes and storage facilities.
17 May: President approves of Operation Enhance, to supply large quantities of American military equipment to South Vietnam.
9 June: Communist forces are cleared from Kontum City, ending threat of South Vietnam being cut in two.
17 June: Police arrest five men at DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex. The five are employed by the Committee to Reelect the President (CRP). Two more arrested: G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, had worked in the White House. This fact launches an investigation into the Administration’s possible involvement in the burglary and its cover-up.
16 Sep: South Vietnamese forces retake Quang Tri City, lost to communists at the start of May.
8 Oct: In Paris, North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho and US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger agree to draft a peace deal.
22 Oct: Communist Easter Offensive ends. American Linebacker bombing is halted.
26 Oct: Kissinger declare “peace is at hand,” despite rejection of peace deal by South Vietnam’s President Thieu.
7 Nov: Nixon wins overwhelming victory over antiwar nominee Sen. George McGovern, capturing 60.8 percent of the vote, 49-1 states, and 520 out of 537 Electoral College votes. This lopsided result proves, among many things, that WWII veterans and their wives, still alive and well, reject all the protests and opposition to the war. This is Nixon’s “silent majority.”
7 Nov: Republicans gain 13 seats in the House, but remain minority; Democrats gain one seat to increase their majority by 14.
14 Dec: Peace negotiations in Paris stall.
18 Dec: Operation Linebacker II, known as Christmas Bombing, begins. American B-52 bombers attack targets in Hanoi and Haiphong.
20 Dec: Six B-52s are shot down, forcing revision of American bombing tactics.
26 Dec: North Vietnamese cities are attacked by 120 B-52s. North Vietnam resumes peace talks in January.
29 Dec: Linebacker II is halted.
9 Jan: Peace talks resume.
21 Jan: South Vietnamese President Thieu reluctantly accepts peace terms.
27 Jan: Secretary of State Henry Kissinger signs four-party pact in Paris (signers are North Vietnam, the Viet Cong, South Vietnam, and the U.S.) It provides withdrawal of US troops in 60 days. An immediate ceasefire begins, and all American POWs to be released. However, ceasefire violations will happen daily, and US will continue bombing Cambodia until 14 Aug.
Still, the public sees this agreement as ending the war, so Nixon’s approval rating jumps to 68 percent (people are always euphoric at a perceived end to any war, like WWII or the Civil War). Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announces end of draft. The US will rely on voluntary enlistment.
29 Mar: Last American combat troop leaves Vietnam. More than 58,000 Americans have died.
19 June: Congress approves Case-Church Amendment, which prohibits American military involvement in Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia.
16 July: Senate Armed Forces Committee begins investigation into charges that the US made secret bombing raids in Cambodia during 1969 to 1970, when the nation was neutral.
17 July: Secretary of Defense James Schlessinger tells committee that the raids, about 3500, were fully authorized and necessary to protect US troops.
20 July: Pentagon officials admit to false reports about bombing. But the fact remain that communists launched attacks in Cambodia and Laos.
27 July: Nixon vetoes a congressional bill that would have immediately cut off funding for such bombings.
14 Aug: US officially halts bombing raid into Cambodian territory, a result of Nixon’s compromise with the democrats in the Senate and House.
10 Oct: Vice President Spiro Agnew resigns, pleading no contest to tax evasions.
12 Oct: Nixon nominates Gerald Ford to succeed Agnew.
7 Nov: Congress passes the War Power Act over the president’s veto. The bill restrains the executive’s power to commit US troops into foreign countries for indefinite periods without congressional approval.
6 Dec: Ford is sworn in as nation’s 40th Vice President.
31 Dec: 25,000 ARVN troops have been killed in
6 Aug: Congress votes to cut aid for South Vietnam to 700 million. In 1975, it was cut to $300 million. It didn’t take long for North Vietnam to overrun the South after that.
8 Aug: In a televised speech, Nixon announces he will resign, effective the next day, at noon.
9 Aug: Nixon’s resignation is effective at noon. He is driven to the airport and hands his letter of resignation to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He boards the plane. At 12:03, Ford is sworn in as president by Chief Justice Warren Burger. This is important to the War in Vietnam because he probably would not have allowed the North to invade the South in early 1975..
21 Aug: Ford nominates Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President.
13 Dec: The NVA and Viet Cong attack provincial capital of Phouc to test morale of the ARVN and US response to breach of Paris Peace Accords.
6 Jan: Phuoc falls to communists.
21 Jan: Ford rules out renewed American military intervention in Vietnam.
30 Mar: Da Nang falls to communist forces as South Vietnamese military collapses.
9-20 Apr: South Vietnam troops fall back to Saigon.
17 Apr: Khmer Rouge guerillas occupy Phnom Penh and forcibly evacuate population to countryside.
21 Apr: President Thieu resigns and denounces America for abandoning South Vietnam.
28-30 Apr: US completes its evacuation program in South Vietnam, as the Saigon government surrenders to the communists. Thousands of “boat people” flee South Vietnam as communists consolidate their hold.
15 May: US Marines capture merchant cargo ship Mayaguez, which the Khmer Rouge had seized.
7 Jan: Khmer rouge renames Cambodia as Democratic Kampuchea. Pol Pot is key figure in regime that massacres about a quarter of Cambodian population.
2 July: North and South Vietnam officially reunified as Socialist Republic of Vietnam under hardline communist rule.
Sep: Boat People keep evacuating.
June: Boat People Exodus reaches 54,000 refugees.
Bottom Line on the Vietnam War
1. Consider this statement as a starting point:
Communism is an evil and totalitarian ideology that economically slashes and trashes entire countries and oppresses and often slaughters resistant humans by the hundreds of thousands or millions, for “the greater good” of “justice and equality of outcomes.” Think of Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea today.
2. Now consider this simple syllogism:
A. If a free nation fights an evil and totalitarian ideology, then that free nation stands on the side of the good—they’re the good guys (as distinct from the morally perfect guys).
B. The free USA fought an evil and totalitarian ideology engulfing South Vietnam.
C. Therefore the free USA stood on the side of the good—it was the good guy (not the morally perfect guy).
3. Objection: “But what about all the bombs and carnage and the My Lai massacre!” The massacre was wrong, and the soldier who led it was convicted. As for the bombs and carnage, we dropped many bombs during WWII, on Dresden, for example. Do we need to talk about firebombing Tokyo? Such is the nature of war: Innocent people always get hurt or die. It’s sad to see. But communism mass-murders a greater number and economically destroys entire nations for many decades. That’s worse and sadder.
4. As long as the objector doesn’t take the moral high road because he smugly wishes that the USA had not fought evil and totalitarian communism in Southeast Asia, then he is entitled to his opinion. However, it is clear to everyone else that we were the good guys (but not the morally perfect guys).
5. Our struggle in Southeast Asia was of a piece with our fight in Korea against Soviet and Chinese communist aggression. In Korea, we set up a Demilitarized Zone. We did the same in Vietnam. But the communists kept crossing over through Laos and Cambodia and the DMZ itself. We could have maintained the peace if Vietnam were a peninsula like Korea.
6. Throughout the bombings in Vietnam, Presidents Johnson and Nixon sought peaceful solutions and settlements, but the Viet Cong or a North Vietnamese leader refused.
7. The Vietnam War was a partial victory because the Paris Peace Accords, signed on 27 Jan. 1973, shows the USA had achieved a remarkable success, like free elections, free speech, and freedom of religion, and so on, in the South. Also, the Accord says that the North Vietnamese communists must stay in the north above the Demilitarized Zone.
8. On 19 June 1973, The Case-Church Amendment prohibited any military involvement in Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia. In 1975, congressional Democrats refused to fund in a significant way any military defense for South Vietnam. Even confused President Ford didn’t want to intervene.
9. Thus it is clear that congressional passivity and the protests by American left-wing radicals in the face of communist aggression and the North’s violation of the Paris Peace Accord, when they overran the DMZ, contributed to the full loss in Vietnam.
10. Millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians died or were “educated” (oppressed) in Reeducation camps after the USA withdrew.
11. Objection: “The USA should have been isolationist! We should not have intervened in Korea or Southeast Asia!” Reply: That’s an understandable position to take, since war is hell, no matter when or where it is waged. However, the nighttime satellite photo of the Korean Peninsula shows that the North is in darkness, while the South glows with prosperity, after the Korean War. We may not be able to intervene everywhere, but does that mean we shouldn’t intervene anywhere?
12. Objection: Vietnam was so economically backwards that communism would not have been bad for that society. Reply: The first point says that communism is evil, totalitarian, and oppressive. No one living in freedom should condescendingly believe that communism is a viable option for an impoverished nation.
13. And so in my view the Vietnam War was an honorable enterprise that tried to rescue millions of Southeast Asians from evil and totalitarian communism.
14. One positive: Later on, communists learned their lesson, at least in part, for in December 1990 Vietnam adopts the Law on Private Enterprise that encourages private business, which triggers economic growth.
Let’s end this post with gratitude.
Thank you, American Vietnam veterans, for serving in a just and honorable war.
Thank you, Army of the Republic of Vietnam, for your sacrifice to fight for your freedom. I am sorry you lost your country to an evil and totalitarian ideology.
Thank you, Australian veterans, for your service. You numbered 60,000, and you lost 500 killed and 3,000 wounded. Reports say you fought bravely.
Thank you, South Korean veterans. You numbered 300,000 (wow!), and you lost 5,000. You too courageously and aggressively fought a very bad ideology—Soviet and Chinese communism—as revealed in your suffering northern kin today.
Thank you, 40,000 Thai volunteers, for your willingness to serve.
Cambodian freedom fighters, you too sacrificed your lives for a just war.
Now that fight is the first step towards true social and economic justice as seen in free market capitalism so people can create their own prosperity and pursuit of happiness.
Live as free people.
Please read this offsite post by a Vietnam vet and archivist and historian. Excellent!
The Almanac of American History, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor. Revised and Updated Edition. Barnes and Nobel: 1993.
The Vietnam War: The Definitive Illustrated History. General American Editors: Karyn Gerhard and Margaret Parrish. Smithsonian. Penguin Random House, 2017.