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Series Two: Vietnam, 1959-1975

Part 1: Vietnam, 1959-1963

Brief Chronology of the Vietnam War, 1959-1963


Ho Chi Minh declares Vietnam an independent nation


French cruiser shells the city of Haiphong causing much loss of life. Vietminh begin military campaign against reintroduction of French rule


French ask for American aid in defeating the Vietminh insurgency


Soviet Union official recognises Vietminh
US officially recognises Bao Dai government
Chinese military advisors arrive in North Vietnam
Vietminh defeat large French force at Cao Bang
Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) despatched by the US to Vietnam


US grants $150 million of military aid to the French cause in Vietnam
French forces suffer heavy losses in the Red River Delta during “Operation Lorraine”

1953 September

US agrees $385 million military aid to the French
Laos becomes independent member of the French Union


French surrender at Dienbienphu
Geneva Peace Conference on Indochina opens
Vietnam gains independence
Ngo Dinh Diem becomes prime minister of Vietnam
Geneva Conference divides Vietnam at the seventeenth parallel prior to nation-wide election
South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) established


Diem, with US support, refuses to participate in national elections
Ho Chi Minh negotiates aid from the Soviet Union
Diem declares South Vietnam a Republic


Diem cracksdown on suspected Vietminh sympathisers


Communists begin insurgency in the South


The North Vietnamese step up infiltration of men and supplies into the South
The first American casualties of the war are reported following a Vietminh attack on Bienhoa Airbase
The “Agroville” program is introduced by the government in South Vietnam


Conference of non-communist South Vietnamese politicians denounce Diem’s regime
The shooting down of an American U-2 spy-plane over the USSR causes a deterioration of Soviet-American relations
The Vietnamese Communist Party announces its approval of resuming the armed struggle in the South
John F Kennedy elected president of the USA
Coup against government in Laos
North Vietnam introduces military conscription
Failed army coup against President Diem
The National Liberation Front (NLF) is formed; it is referred to as the Vietcong by the Southern Government


Kennedy is inaugurated as US President
Macmillan meets President Kennedy to discuss Laotian crisis
Kennedy announces resumption of US atmospheric nuclear testing, 18 months after Soviets
Bay of Pigs invasion. Failure of the venture leads to CIA Director Allen Dulles’ resignation
Vice president Johnson tours South Vietnam
Geneva Conference on Laos opens
Kennedy and Khrushchev meet in Vienna and reaffirm their support for the neutrality of Laos
Maxwell Taylor and Walt Rostow discuss possibility of putting US troops in Vietnam under the pretence of helping with problems caused by widespread flooding


Diem’s presidential palace bombed by disaffected Pilots from the South Vietnamese Air Force
Kennedy announces plans for the resumption of US atmospheric nuclear tests
The ‘Strategic Hamlet’ programme is initiated in South Vietnam with Sir Robert Thompson as special advisor to president Diem
Kennedy sends American forces to help combat communist gains in Laos
The Geneva Accords on Laos are signed
Cuban missile crisis
Kennedy and Macmillan meet in the Bahamas


South Vietnamese army defeated at Ap Bac by Vietcong forces
Diem publicly questions American policies on Vietnam
Beginning of Buddhist Crisis
A Buddhist monk sets himself on fire in Saigon in protest against Diem’s policies
South Vietnam Special Forces launch operation against Buddhists - 1,400 monks are arrested despite Diem’s earlier promises to the contrary
Henry Cabot Lodge, US Ambassador, arrives in Vietnam
President Kennedy denounces Diem on television
Maxwell Taylor and Robert McNamara visit Vietnam
South Vietnamese generals seize power, President Diem killed
Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Texas; Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as President
By the end of the year, the number of US ‘advisors’ in Vietnam has grown to 9,000



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