Vietnam War

The war pitted the communist government of North Vietnam against South Vietnam and its ally, the United States. The Cold War between the Soviet Union and US contributed to the tensions and conflict. The Vietnam War was a controversial action that ended up killing more than 3 million people, more than half of which were Vietnamese civilians. America lost 58,000. The war ended when communist forces seized control of South Vietnam in 1975. The following year, the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. America saw a rise in social protests on the homefront.

Timeline (1887-1976)

1887

France Imposes Colonial System on Vietnam
1887

France imposes colonial system over Vietnam, Cochin China and Cambodia, calling it French Indochina, Laos was added in 1893.

1923

Vietnamese Nationalist Ho Chi Minh Trained in Soviet Union
1923-1925

Soviets train Ho Chi Minh as an agent of the Communist International or Comitern.

1930

Ho Chi Minh Founds Indochinese Communist Party
February 1930

1940

Germany Takes Control of France
June 1940
Japanese Troops Invade French Indochina
September 1940

French offer little resistance to invasion.

1941

League for the Independence of Vietnam Created by Ho Chi Min
May 1941

1945

Japanese Troops Carry Out Coup in Indochina
March 1945

Japan carries out a coup and ends colonial era in the area. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are declared independent.

Japan Defeated in World War II
August 1945

Japan is defeated and leaves a power vacuum in Indochina. France reasserts authority over Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh Declares North Vietnam Independent
September 1945

Ho Chi Minh models his declaration of independence on America's famous document in an unsuccessful bid to win US support.

1946

The Viet Minh Begin Guerrilla War Against France
July 1946

Ho Chi Minh rejects France's offer of limited self-government, choosing guerrilla tactics instead.

1947

Truman Doctrine
March 1947

President Harry Truman addresses Congress stating that the US should assist any country whose stability is threatened by communism. This foreign policy was known as the Truman Doctrine.

1949

French Install Former Emperor Bao Dai as Head of State in Vietnam
June 1949
Soviet Union Explodes First Atom Bomb in Kazakhstan
August 1949

This served as a turning point in the cold war with the US.

Creation of People's Republic of China
October 1949

Communist leader Mao Zedong creates the People's Republic of China following civil war in China.

1950

China and Soviet Union Recognize Democratic Republic of Vietnam
January 1950

Both China and the Soviet Union officially recognize the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam and begin supplying the country's communist resistance fighters with economic and military support.

Viet Minh Step Up Offensive on French Outposts
February 1950

The Soviet Union and Communist China help the Viet Minh escalate their offensive against the French.

US Steps Up Military Assistance to France in Korea
June 1950

US steps up military assistance to France after recognizing the Viet Minh as a Communist threat.

1954

French Rule in Indochina Ends
May 7, 1954

Following a humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the French orders a cease fire. The battle lasted 55 days and killed 3,000 French troops and wounded another 8,000. The Viet Minh losses were worse (8,000 dead; 12,000 wounded). The French loss devastated the French resolve and they let Indochina fall.

Eisenhower Lays Out "Domino Theory" in Speech
April 7, 1954

US President Dwight D. Eisenhower says the fall of French Indochina could set up a Communist "domino" effect in Southeast Asia a threat. This theory guides US foreign policy for the next decade.

Geneva Accords
July 1954

The Geneva Accords establish the boundaries of North and South Vietnam along the 17th parallel. The agreement also call for an election within two years to unify Vietnam under one democratic government. That condition was never met.

1955

US Backs Ngo Dinh Diem in South Korea
1955

US backs Catholic nationalist Ego Dinh Diem as leader of South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh runs the northern communist state.

1959

Ho Chi Minh Trail Begun
May 1959

A specialized North Vietnamese unit, Group 559, begins building a supply route from North Vietnam, through Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam, with offshoots leading back into Vietnam along its entire length. The goal is to establish access to South Vietnam for guerrilla attacks. This supply route becomes known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail and work on it continues throughout the Vietnam War.

Guerillas Attack US Near Saigon
July 1959

US soldiers are killed by guerrillas near Saigon in the first US deaths in the Vietnam Conflict.

1960

Le Duan Replaces Ho Chi Minh
September 1960

With Ho Chi Minh in poor health, Le Duan is named head of North Vietnam's ruling communist party.

National Liberation Front Formed
December 1960

North Vietnam backs formation of the National Liberation Front (NLF) as the political wing of antigovernment insurgency in South Vietnam. The US identifies NLF as the face of North Vietnam and begins calling the NLF the Viet Cong, which stands for Vietnam Cong-san, a shortened version of Vietnam communists.

1961

Kennedy Sends Green Berets to South Vietnam
May 1961

President John F. Kennedy sends helicopters and 400 "special advisor" Green Berets to South Vietnam. Kennedy authorizes secret operations against the Viet Cong and training of South Vietnamese soldiers in counter-insurgency measures. This expands into establishing the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups, tapping into the strength of the mountain men of South Vietnam called Montagnards. These groups set up fortified camps along the mountains to fight North Vietnamese incursions.

American Helicopters Arrive in South Korea
December 11, 1961

US helicopters and 400 US personnel charged with flying and maintaining the aircraft arrive at the docks in South Vietnam.

1962

Operation Ranch Hand
January 1962

US aircraft begin spraying Agent Orange and other herbicides over rural areas of South Vietnam to kill vegetation that provides cover for insurgents.

Operation Chopper
January 12, 1962

US Army helicopters take 1,000 South Vietnamese soldiers to a North Vietnam stronghold near Saigon during the first US combat mission against the Viet Cong.

Ngo Dinh Diem Survives Bombing of Presidential Palace
February 1962

Ngo Dinh Diem, who showed extreme favor to South Vietnam's Catholic minority, which made him unpopular among Vietnamese Buddhists and the rest of the population, survives a bombing attempt on his life.

1963

Battle of Ap Bac
January 2, 1963

Viet Cong fighters defeat a much larger South Vietnamese force at Ap Bac, a village in the Mekong Delta, despite US technical and strategy assistance. It was a stunning victory for the Viet Cong.

The Buddhist Crisis
May 1963

The government of Ngo Dinh Diem opens fire on a crowd of Buddhist protestors in the city of Hue. Eight people are slain, including children. The incident becomes known as the "Buddhist Crisis."

Monk Immolations
June 1963

A 73-year-old monk immolates himself in protest at a major city intersection, leading other Buddhist to follow suit. The US loses confidence in Diem.

US Backs Military Coup Against Diem
November 1963

The US backs a South Vietnam military coup against Diem. Both Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu are killed. For the next three years, South Vietnam goes through 12 separate governments, each ended by military coup.

President Kennedy Assassinated
November 1963

President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas and Lyndon B. Johnson assumes the presidency.

1964

American Air Power Reinforced in Southeast Asia
April 1964 - June 1964

Two aircraft carriers arrive off the coast of Vietnam.

Gulf of Tonkin
August 4, 1964

The US claim North Vietnamese patrol torpedo boats fire on the USS Maddox and two days later on the USS Turner Joy. These actions lead to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, in which Congress gave authorization for military action by the US. Two US aircraft are shot down during air strikes on the Gulf and one pilot, Everett Alvarez Jr. is the first American taken prisoner by North Vietnam. There is some doubt whether the incident with the Maddox happened as reported.

Johnson Signs Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
August 7, 1964

The resolution authorizes the president to "take all necessary measures, including the use of armed force" against any aggressor in the conflict.

China Successfully Tests Atomic Bomb
October 1964
Bien Hoa Air Base Bombed
November 1, 1964

Viet Cong mortars shell Bien Hoa Air Base near Saigon, killing four Americans and wounding 76. Five B-57 bombers are destroyed in the action and 15 more are damaged.

Soviet Politburo Increases Support to North Korea
November 1964

The Soviet Union sends aircraft, artillery, ammunition, small arms, radar, air defense systems, food and medical supplies to North Vietnam.

1965

Battle of Binh Gia
January 1, 1965 - February 7, 1965

The Viet Cong launch a series of attacks across South Vietnam. They take control of Binh Gia, a village located 40 miles from Saigon. Two hundred South Vietnamese troops are killed, along with five American advisors.

US Helicopter Base and Compound Attacked
February 7, 1965

Viet Cong commandos attack a US helicopter base in the central highlands of South Vietnam. Nine Americans are killed and 70 wounded. President Johnson order US Navy bombers to attack North Vietnamese military targets.

Operation Flaming Dart
February 1965

US bombing raids target North Vietnam in retaliation for the raid on the US base in Pleiku and helicopter base Camp Holloway.

Bomb Explodes at Hotel in Qui Nonh
February 10, 1965

The Viet Cong place a bomb at a hotel in Qui Nonh. When it explodes it kills 23 American servicemen.

Johnson Approves Operation Rolling Thunder
February 13, 1965

Johnson approves Operation Rolling Thunder, a bombing offensive aimed at forcing North Vietnam stop supporting Viet Song guerrillas in the South.

Operation Rolling Thunder
March 2, 1965

Operation Rolling Thunder was a three-year bombing campaign of targets in North Vietnam and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

US Marines Land on Beaches Near Da Nang
March 1965

The first US combat troops enter Vietnam.

US Campaign on North Vietnam's Transport System
April 3, 1965

The US begins an attack campaign on North Vietnam's transport system. It was a month-long offensive that targeted bridges, roads and rail junctions, as well as supply depots.

US Offers Economic Aid for Peace
April 7, 1965

The US offers North Vietnam economic aid for peace. They reject the offer and the US increases military presence in South Vietnam, including more than 60,000 troops. Allied forces from Korea and Australia join in to show international support.

Attack on Song Be
May 11, 1965

The South Vietnamese provincial capital of Song Be is attacked by 2,500 Viet Cong troops. After two days of brutal battles, the Viet Cong retreat.

Dong Xai Attacked
June 10, 1965

The South Vietnamese Army district headquarters and US Special Forces camp of Dong Xai is hit by a full Viet Cong regiment. US air attacks force the Viet Cong back.

First American Offensive Operation
June 27, 1965

General William Westmoreland launches the first offensive operation of the conflict. US ground forces enter NLF territory northwest of Saigon.

Call for More Troops
July 1965

President Johnson requests an additional 50,000 ground troops and increases the draft to 35,000 each month.

Operation Starlite
August 17, 1965

A deserter from the Viet Cong leaks plans to the US about an imminent attack on the US Marine Base at Chu Lai. Approximately 5,500 US Marines attack the first Viet Cong Regiment in response. The battle lasted six days and scatters the Viet Cong. It was a US victory.

Attack on Plei Mei
September 1965 - October 1965

The North Vietnamese Army attacks Plei Mei, a US Special Forces camp. This spurs the Battle of La Drang Valley.

Protest at the Pentagon
November 1965

A Quaker from Baltimore, named Norman Morrison, immolates himself in front of the Pentagon in protest of the war. Bystanders convince him to release his 11-month-old-baby just moments before he sets himself ablaze.

Battle of La Drang Valley
November 17, 1965

Part of the 66th North Vietnamese Regiment that was to take part in the attack on Plei Mei met a US battalion on the way. A battle broke out. By the end of the fight, the US had suffered a 60 percent casualty rate with nearly one of every three soldiers dead. The US also had a new way of fighting. During the battle US ground troops arrived and withdrew via helicopter. This became the strategy of choice in the war. Both sides declared victory, though the Viet Cong were driven back to their bases in Cambodia.

1961

Operation Crimp
January 8, 1961

Nearly 8,000 ground troops are deployed to capture the Viet Cong's headquarters in the Saigon region. It was reportedly in Chu Chi, but after the area is repeatedly patrolled and demolished, the US still cannot find the Viet Cong base. This was the largest operation of the war.

1966

Search and Destroy Missions
February 1966

The US launch four search and destroy missions in February to force direct battles with the enemy. While the operation managed to create two minor battles, it failed to produce any significant engagements.

Battle at Lo Ke
March 5, 1966

The Viet Cong 9th Division, 272nd Regiment attacks a US 3rd Brigade battalion at Lo Ke. The US manage to bomb the Viet Cong to retreat. Two days later the US 1st Brigade and a 173rd Airborne battalion is attacked. They manage to force a Viet Cong retreat with artillery fire.

Operation Birmingham
April 1966 - May 1966

The US sends in more than 5,000 troops accompanied by large numbers of helicopters and armored vehicles to sweep the area north of Saigon. The plan was to engage large number of Viet Cong and reduce the threat. But the Viet Cong remained elusive and by the end of the three week operation, only 100 Viet Cong were neutralized.

North Vietnamese Cross DMZ
Late May 1966 - June 1966

The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) cross the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and engage a US Marine battalion. The NVA holds its ground and the largest battle of the war breaks out by Dong Ha. The US sends in reinforcements of Marines backed by South Vietnamese troops. US warships use their heavy guns and US artillery and air power drive the NVA back across the line. The battle lasted three weeks.

American Aircraft Target Hanoi and Haiphong
June 1966

The first air strikes on cities in North Vietnam begin.

American Forces Attacked on Route 13
June 30, 1966

Route 13 linked Vietnam to Cambodia. They attack US forces and the US takes heavy losses. US air and artillery support prevents a complete loss.

Operation Buffalo
July 2, 1966

Known as "the Hill of Angels," Con Thien was far from heaven, but it was a key tactical position to protect a US staging area at Dong Ha. US Marines held this area two miles south of the DMZ against NVA attacks. During a sweep operation north of the base, US Marines are ambushed by NVA troops. Nearly 1,300 North Vietnamese troops are killed in heavy fighting by Con Thien. US Marines lost 86 and had 176 wounded. The US considered it a loss.

Operation Attleboro
September 14, 1966

The US 196th Brigade along with 22,000 South Vietnamese troops launch aggressive search and destroy missions through Tay Ninh Province. They discover large caches of NLF supplies, but the NLF does not engage. There is no large-scale battle. After six weeks, the mission ends with approximately 1,000 Viet Cong dead and 150 Americans.

Viet Cong Launch New Offensive
October 1966

The Viet Cong prepares a new offensive. The 9th Division was rebuilt from supplies and reinforcements sent down the Ho Chi Minh trail.

US Troop Statistics
End of 1966

By the end of 1966, there were 385,000 US forces in Vietnam, as well as 60,000 US sailors off shore. The US had lost 6,000 and 30,000 had been wounded. The Viet Cong had lost 61,000. But with reinforcements, the Viet Cong's numbers had grown to 280,000.

1967

Heavy Bombardments of US Bases South of DMZ
January 1967 - May 1967

The North Vietnamese begin heavy bombardments of US bases south of the DMZ, including Khe Sanh, the Rockpile, Cam Lo, Dong Ha, Con Thien and Gio Linh.

Operation Cedar Falls
January 8, 1967

The operation was intended to drive the Viet Cong from the Iron Triangle–a 60 square mile area between the SaigonRiver and Route 13. The US troops flood the area, but encounter little to no resistance. They capture huge stores of enemy supplies. The operation lasted 19 days, during which 72 Americans are killed by snipers and traps. The Viet Cong lose 720.

Operation Junction City
February 21, 1967

This was one of the largest air-mobile assaults ever attempted, aimed at easy pressure on Saigon. It began with 240 helicopters flying over Tay Ninh province. The goal was to destroy Viet Cong air bases and the military headquarters for South Vietnam. After 72 days, there are again no major battles, only success in capturing supplies and weapons.

Huge Vietnam Protests in DC, New York City and San Francisco
April 1967
US Destroys North Vietnam's Airfields
April 24, 1967 - December 1967

US attacks on North Vietnamese airfields begin. By the end of 1967, only one of the Viet Cong's MiG bases had not been hit.

Air Battles Over Hanoi and Haiphong
May 1967

US air forces engage in heavy air battles over Hanoi and Haiphong. They shoot down 26 North Vietnamese jets, which removed half of their pilots from action.

US Halts Troops Coming in from Cambodia
Late May 1967

US intercepts Viet Cong units coming into Vietnam from Cambodia. The nine day battle was a US victory. The North Vietnamese lost hundreds of soldiers.

Build Up to the Tet Offensive
Fall 1967

The North Vietnamese arrest 200 senior officials for opposing the Tet strategy, as they build up for the offensive in Hanoi.

Thieu Wins South Vietnam Presidential Election
September 1967

Nguyen Van Thieu wins the presidential election in South Vietnam, which is operating under a new constitution.

Battle of Dak To
November 3-22, 1967

Both sides experience heavy losses in the worst battle in the Central Highlands region. Dak To is located 280 miles north of Saigon, near the Cambodian border. The US had approximately 4,500 servicemen, including ground and air troops. They faced off against 6,000 communist troops. It was a US victory with heavy losses. US casualties included 285 dead, 985 wounded and 18 missing.

1968

Battle of Khe Sang
January 21, 1968

Forces from the NVA initiated massive artillery bombardment of the US Marine garrison at Khe Sang, located near the Laos border. The battle would last 77 days. The Marines lost 90 percent of their artillery and mortar rounds. Johnson agreed with Westmoreland that the base should be held at all costs. The US launched Operation Niagara to bombard the NVA artillery. The siege ended with Operation Pegasus, which was a joint Army and Marine ground advance that broke the siege. The US focus during this battle was on the northern province allowing the Tet Offensive build up to go unnoticed.

Tet Offensive
January 10, 1968

On the lunar new year or Tet, 70,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launched coordinated attacks on more than 100 cities and towns in South Vietnam, including Saigon and Hue. The US Embassy was invaded. The Tet Offensive was planned to break the South Vietnamese and inspire rebellion. The Viet Cong lost 37,000 troops in the operation and had even more wounded. It left more than half a million civilian refugees. The US lost 2,500 men, which is a huge blow to public support for the war. It marks a turning point for the US and the beginning of a gradual withdrawal from the country.

Victories in Battles at Hue and Saigon
February 1968 - March 1968

The US and South Vietnamese troops clear the Viet Cong from Hue and Saigon.

Northern Vietnamese Army Retreats from Khe Sang
March 6, 1968
Search and Destroy Missions Around Saigon
March 11, 1968

The US launches massive search and destroy missions to rout Viet Cong troops around Saigon and other parts of South Vietnam.

Massacre at Mai Lai
March 16, 1968

A company of American soldiers massacre more than 500 civilians, including women, children and old men, as part of the search-and-destroy missions in the area. An infantryman named Ron Ridenhour wrote a letter to President Nixon one year later about the atrocities. One member of the division is tried and found guilt of war crimes, but the aftermath affects the entire Army.

Attacks Resume on Khe Sang
March 22, 1968

Following three weeks of quiet in the siege of Khe Sang, a surprise NVA attack hits the base. The bombardment includes 1,000 rounds fired at the rate of 100 per hour. The US responds with heavy bombing.

Johnson Halts Bombing North of 20th Parallel
October 31, 1968

Johnson announces he will not be running for reelection because of public opposition to the war. He signs an order to stop bombing north of the 20th Parallel in North Vietnam.

Operation Pegasus
April 8, 1968

US troops take Route 9 from the NVA and end the siege of Khe Sang.

Westmoreland Approves Demolition of Khe Sang
June 1968

The Army had changed tactics to highly mobile forces and the base is no longer needed for defense purposes. General Westmoreland approves abandoning and demolishing Khe Sanh.

Operation Rolling Thunder Ends
November 1, 1968

After three-and-a-half years, Operation Rolling Thunder comes to an end. Throughout the operation, the US lost 900 aircraft, 818 pilots were dead or missing, and hundreds were in captivity.

Nixon Wins the Presidency
November 1968

Republican Richard M. Nixon wins the US presidential election on promises to end the draft and restore "law and order."

1969

Nixon Takes Office
January 1969

His goal is to achieve "Peace with Honor" by negotiating a settlement that would allow for withdrawal of the half million US troops while leaving South Vietnam intact.

Nixon Authorizes Operation Menu
February 1969

Despite Johnson's restriction on bombing above the 20th Parallel, Nixon approves Operation Menu, which would bomb NVA and Viet Cong bases within Cambodia. For the next four years, the US will drop more than half a million tons of bombs on Cambodia.

Vietnam War Deaths Exceed Those of Korean War
April 1969

By April of 1969, the Vietnam war had cost more than 33,629 American lives, the number lost in the Korean War.

Major Viet Cong Offensive
February 22, 1969

The Viet Cong launches a massive offensive with assault teams and artillery attacks throughout South Vietnam. The US loses 1,140 Americans. Eventually, the US is victorious.

Hamburger Hill
May 10-20, 1969

One mile from the Laos border, at Ap Bia Mountain, there was a peak known as Hill 937. There was no real tactical advantage to the mountain, but it became the target of Operation Apache Snow, a US sweep of the A Shau Valley. US paratroopers attack entrenched Viet Cong in an attempt to cut off troops from entering from Laos. The US took the hill temporarily after 10 assaults, but under heavy losses. The carnage is so bad, the journalists covering the battle dubbed it "Hamburger Hill."

Nixon Meets with Van Thieu on Midway
June 8, 1969

President Nixon meets with South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu at Midway Island and announces that 25,000 US troops will be immediately withdrawn from the country.

Ho Chi Minh Dies of Heart Attack in Hanoi
September 2, 1969
US Institutes First Draft Lottery Since World War II
December 1, 1969

This action prompts increased public protests and convinces some men to flee to Canada as "draft dodgers."

1970

Nixon Reduces US Force in South Vietnam
1969-1970

The Nixon administration gradually reduces US forces in South Vietnam, urging the South Vietnamese Army to take on the responsibility. US troops drop from its height of 549,000 to 69,000 in 1972.

Kissinger Begins Secret Peace Negotiations
February 21, 1970

US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger begins secret peace negotiations with Hanoi Politburo member Le Duc Tho in Paris.

1969

Operation Menu
March 18, 1969 - May 26, 1970

US bombs Cambodian targets for suspected communist base camps and supply zones. Nixon kept the operation secret because of Cambodia's neutrality. The New York Times revealed the operation on May 9, 1969.

1970

Kent State Shooting
May 3, 1970

National Guardsmen fire on anti-war demonstrators at Ohio's Kent State University. Four students are killed and nine wounded in the incident.

Congress Repeals Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
June 1970

Congress repeals the Resolution to have more control over the President's actions in the war.

1971

Operation Lam Son
February 8, 1971

Three South Vietnamese divisions attack two enemy bases in Laos, trying to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail, not knowing it is a trap by the NVA. In one month, more than 9,000 South Vietnamese troops are killed or wounded and two-thirds of their armored vehicles are destroyed. They are forced to retreat.

Use of Agent Orange Ends
Summer 1971

Though Dioxin, a component of Agent Orange, was banned in the US in 1968, it was used in Vietnam until 1971. At least 11 million gallons of the herbicide was spread on South Vietnam, containing 240 pounds of Dioxin.

Pentagon Papers
June 13, 1971

The New York Times publishes a series of articles revealing information from leaked Defense Department documents about the Vietnam war. The articles detailed how the US government had secretly been increasing the US involvement in the war. The articles came to be known as The Pentagon Papers.

1972

Only One-Third of US Troops Remain in South Vietnam
January 1972

The US has pulled out two-thirds of all US troops, leaving only 133,000 in place. Most of the war battles were being fought by the South Vietnamese Army.

Easter Offensive
March 30, 1972 - October 1972

The NVA launches the Easter Offensive against the South Vietnamese Army and remaining US troops. While the NVA gained some ground, it is not a wide-scale victory for them. Most of the fighting took place on the DMZ.

Push to City of Hue
April 1, 1972

The NVA push toward the city of Hue, which was under South Vietnamese control. One week later, they are forced to turn back to resupply.

North Vietnamese Troops Capture Hue
April 13, 1972

The NVA returns with tanks and seizes control of the northern section of Hue, but the South Vietnamese Army holds the rest of the city. American B-52 bombers assist in defending the city. One month later, the NVA withdraws.

Battles of Dong Ha and Quang Tri City
April 27, 1972

NVA forces battle toward Quang Tri City against the South Vietnamese Army. The NVA forces a retreat and takes both cities by May 1.

US Air Support in Binh Dinh Province
July 19, 1972

The South Vietnamese attempt to take back the Binh Dinh province and its cities with support from US air forces. The battles last until September 15, when the South Vietnamese retreat. The province is destroyed, but ends up in enemy hands.

Peace Talks Break Down
December 13, 1972

The Paris peace talks end.

Operation Linebacker
December 18, 1972

As the US hands off fighting responsibilities to the South Vietnamese, the NVA begin launching traditional offensives. Operation Linebacker was the first full-scale bombing operation since the end of Rolling Thunder. There are two operations. They dropped 20,000 tons of bombs over Haiphong and Hanoi and lasted 12 days. The US lost 26 planes and 93 airmen are killed, captured or missing.

1973

Peace Talks Resume in Paris
January 8, 1973
Former President Johnson Dies in Texas at Age 64
January 22, 1973
Selective Services Announces End of Draft
January 27, 1973

The Selective Service institutes an all-volunteer military.

Paris Peace Accords
January 27, 1973

President Nixon signs the Paris Peace Accords, with ends US involvement in the Vietnam War. All parties sign a cease fire.

Operation Homecoming
February 12, 1973 - March 29, 1973

North Vietnam returns 591 Prisoners of War in Operation Homecoming. The passenger lists out of Hanoi started with the man who had been imprisoned the longest. Almost 590 of the POWs were pilots, including future US Senator John McCain. There were 325 Air Force, 138 Navy, 77 Army and 26 Marines brought home. Seven were Medal of Honor recipients and 80 percent stayed in uniform following the war.

Last American Soldiers Leave Vietnam
March 29, 1973

The last American combat soldiers leave South Vietnam, leaving military advisors and Marines who are protecting US installations. The war is officially over for the US.

1974

North Vietnamese Rebuild Divisions in the South
January 1974

The NVA is weak, but still manage to capture key areas of South Vietnam.

Nixon Resigns After Watergate Scandal
August 9, 1974

Gerald R. Ford becomes president and South Vietnam loses its strongest ally.

Capture of Dong Xoai
December 26, 1974

The NVA captures Dong Xoai.

1975

North Vietnamese Take Phuoc Long City
January 6, 1975

The NVA takes Phuoc Long city and its province in a huge loss to South Vietnam. It is a blatant violation of the Paris Peace Agreement, but the US does not respond to the attack.

President Ford Rules Out Further Military Involvement in Vietnam
January 1975
North Vietnamese Offensive on Central Highlands
March 1, 1975

The NVA takes the Central Highlands of South Vietnam, leaving 60,000 South Vietnamese troops dead or missing.

North Vietnam Captures Quang Tri Province
March 1975

NVA sends 100,000 soldiers to take the major cities of Quang Tri, Hue and Da Nang. It was an easy victory for them.

City of Hue Falls
March 25, 1975
North Vietnamese Captures 12 Provinces
Early April 1975

Five weeks from their first attack, the NVA has taken 12 provinces in South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese Army is decimated. Eight million people fall under North Vietnamese control.

Ford Orders Evacuation of US Mission in Cambodia
April 12, 1975

As the Khmer Rouge communists advance on the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Ford calls for an evacuation of all Americans.

Ford Declares War in Vietnam Finished for America
April 23, 1975

While giving a speech at Tulane University, President Ford declares the Vietnam war is over for America.

Ford Orders Evacuation of US Embassy as Saigon Falls
April 28, 1975

US Marines and Air Force helicopters begin a massive airlift evacuation of 1,000 American civilians and almost 7,000 South Vietnamese refugees from Saigon. The evacuation takes 18 hours and 81 helicopters. The last helicopter left on the morning of April 30th.

2 US Marines Killed at Saigon's Tan Son Nhut Airport
April 30, 1975

The last Americans to die in the war were killed in a rocket attack on Saigon's Tan Son Nhut airport during the evacuation.

South Vietnam Surrenders to North Vietnam
April 30, 1975

The war officially ends. In the preceding 15 years, nearly one million NVA and Viet Cong troops have died, as well as a quarter of a million South Vietnamese soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of civilians also have been killed.

Cambodia Captures US Merchant Ship Mayaguez
May 12-15, 1975

Communist Cambodia captures the US merchant ship Mayaguez in international waters, which forces President Ford to order a US Marine rescue of the ship's crew. Though the civilian crew is saved, many Marines perish in the rescue. But the world takes note of America's strength and resolve when it comes to its citizens, despite its defeat in Vietnam.

North and South Vietnam Formally Unified
July 1975

The two sides are officially unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam under communist rule.

1976

Saigon Is Renamed Ho Chi Minh City
1976

As Saigon is renamed to honor Ho Chi Minh, hundreds of thousands flee the country, including many who would be called "boat people."