Vietnam Time-Line excerpts

Courtesy of The Vietnam War, The illustrated history of the conflict in Southeast Asia

Crown Publisher Inc.



I offer the following very limited time-line for my fellow troopers of the 3/17th Air Cavalry Squadron, as a supplement to our Squadron history leading up to, during, and following our Squadron’s deployment to Vietnam.  I added some limited additional information within brackets.


Roger YoungSilver Spur webmaster




September 2. The Communist-dominated Viet Minh Independence League seizes power; Ho Chi Minh establishes the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (GRDV) in Hanoi.


September 22. French troops return to Vietnam [following WWII] and clash with Communist and Nationalist forces.




March 6. France recognizes the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a free state, within the Indochinese Federation and French Union.


December 19. The Viet Minh initiate the eight-year Indochina War with an attack on French troops in the North.




March 8. France recognizes an “independent” state of Vietnam, Bao Dai becomes its leader in June.


July 19. Laos is recognized as an independent state with ties to France.


November 8. Cambodia is recognized as an independent state with ties to France.


1950  [the seeds are planted]


January. The newly established People’s Republic of China, followed by the Soviet Union, recognizes the Democratic Republic of Vietnam led by Ho Chi Minh.


May 8. US announces military and economic aid to the pro-French regimes of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.




May 7. The remnants of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu surrender.


July 20-21. Vietnam is partitioned along the 17th Parallel.


October 11. The Viet Minh formally assume control over North Vietnam.


October 24. President Dwight D. Eisenhower advises Diem that the US will provide assistance directly to South Vietnam, instead of channeling it through the French.




May 10. South Vietnam formally requests US instructors for military armed forces.


July 20. South Vietnam refuses to take part in the all-Vietnam elections called for by the Geneva Agreements, charging that free elections are impossible in the Communist North.




April 28. An American Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) takes over the training of South Vietnamese forces, the French Military High Command disbands and French troops leave South Vietnam.




May 29. Communist Pathet Lao attempt to seize power in Laos.




January. Communist guerrillas attack a plantation north of Saigon.




April. A branch of the Lao Dong (Worker’s Party of Vietnam), of which Ho Chi Minh became Secretary-General in 1956, is formed in the South, and Communist underground activity increases.


May. The US Commander in Chief, Pacific, [CINCPAC] begins sending the military advisers requested by the South Vietnamese government.


July 8. Communist South Vietnamese wound American advisers during an attack on Bien Hoa.


December 31. General Phoumi Nosavan seizes control in Laos.




May 8. MAAG strength is increased from 327 to 685 members.




January 4. Prince Boun Oum organizes a pro-Western government in Laos.  North Vietnam and the USSR send aid to the Communist insurgents.


September 1-4. Viet Cong forces carry out a series of attacks in Kontum province, South Vietnam.


September 18. A Viet Cong battalion seizes the provincial capital of Phuoc Vinh, some 55 miles (89km) from Saigon.


October 11. President John F. Kennedy announces that his principal military adviser, General Maxwell D. Taylor, USA, will go to South Vietnam to investigate the situation.


November 16. As a result of the Taylor mission, President Kennedy decides to increase military aid to South Vietnam, without committing US combat troops.




February 7. American military strength in South Vietnam reaches 4,000, with the arrival of two additional Army aviation units.


February 8. US MAAG is reorganized as the US Military Assistance Command, (MACV), under General Paul D. Harkins, USA.


August. First Australian Military Aid Forces (MAF) arrive in South Vietnam.




January 2. Battle of Ap Bac, ARVN with US advisers is defeated.


April. Inception of the Chieu Hoi (“Open Arms”) amnesty program, aimed at rallying VC to support of the government.


May 8. Riots in Hue, South Vietnam, when government troops try to prevent the celebration of Buddha’s birthday; country-wide Buddhist demonstrations continue into August.


June 11. The first of seven Buddhist monks to commit suicide by fire in protest against government repression dies in Saigon.


November 1-2. A military coup overthrows Diem; he and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu are murdered.


November 15. Following a prediction by Defense Secretary McNamara that the US military role will end by 1965, the US government announces that 1,000 of the 15,000 American advisers in South Vietnam will be withdrawn early in December.


November 22. John F. Kennedy is assassinated at Dallas, Texas; Lyndon B. Johnson becomes President.




June 20. General William C. Westmoreland, USA, replaces General Harkins as Commander, US MACV.


July 2. General Maxwell D. Taylor is named as US Ambassador to South Vietnam


August 2. North Vietnamese torpedo boats [reportedly] attack the destroyer USS Maddox.


August 4. The destroyer USS C. Turner Joy [currently a floating museum at Bremerton, WA. Naval Shipyard] reports a similar incident.


August 5. The US Seventh Fleet aircraft retaliate by attacking the bases used by the torpedo boats and other military targets in North Vietnam.


August 7. The US Congress adopts the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, endorsing whatever measures the President may consider necessary to repel attacks on American forces and to prevent further aggression.


November. President Johnson is re-elected.


November 1. The Viet Cong shell Bien Hoa, killing two Americans.


December 24. Terrorist bombing in Saigon kills two Americans and injures 52.


December 31. Total US strength in South Vietnam is 23,000.




January 8. Two thousand South Korean troop arrive in South Vietnam.


February 7. Viet Cong attack the US base at Pleiku.


February 8. US Air Force and South Vietnamese planes retaliate by attacking military targets in North Vietnam.


February 10. Viet Cong terrorists bomb a billet at Qui Nhon, killing 23 American soldiers.


March 2. “Operation Rolling Thunder”; the sustained aerial bombardment of North Vietnam, gets underway.


March 8. The first US Marine infantry battalion arrives at Da Nang, South Vietnam.


March 30. A terrorist bomb detonated outside the American Embassy at Saigon, kills two Americans and wounds, among others, Deputy Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson.


May 3. The US Army’s 173d Airborne Brigade begins landing in South Vietnam.


June. Nguyen Cao Ky emerges as head of the Saigon government.


June 18. B-52 bombers from Guam make their first strikes of the war against targets in South Vietnam.


June 27. The 173rd Airborne Brigade launches a major offensive northeast of Saigon.  The number of American soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen in South Vietnam exceeds 50,000.


October. A South Korean combat division begins landing in South Vietnam.


October 27. American troops launch the month-long Ia Drang campaign.


November. Anti-war demonstrations are widespread in the USA.


[November 14. The 1st Battalion, 7th Cav of the 1st Cavalry Division, lands at LZ X-Ray. The battle at X-Ray rages until the morning of the 16th. This marks the first major engagement of U.S. and NVA forces of the war].


[November 17. Elements of the 2/7th and A/1/5th march from LZ X-Ray to LZ Albany; are ambushed by NVA and take heavy casualties].


December 31.  Total US strength in South Vietnam is 181,000.




January 31. US bombing of North Vietnam resumes after a 37-day pause.


February 7-8. President Johnson and Premier Ky meet in Hawaii.


March. Communist capture a US Special Forces camp in the A Shau Valley, gaining control of this vital access route into South Vietnam.


March 2. Secretary of Defense McNamara announces that American forces in South Vietnam number 215,000, with another 20,000 enroute.


April 12. For the first time, B-52s bomb targets in North Vietnam, attacking near Mu Gia Pass.


June 23. South Vietnamese troops seize Buddhist headquarters at Saigon, bringing to an end a wave of protest that had begun in March with agitation against the military rule.


October. Some 2,000 non-combatant Filipino troops arrive in South Vietnam.


October 24-25. Manila Conference of Free World nations committed to the Vietnam conflict.


October 25. Two US Navy destroyers launch operations against enemy junks trying to infiltrate supplies along South Vietnam’s coastline.


December 31. Total US strength in South Vietnam is 385,000.




January 8. American and South Vietnamese forces launch “Operation Cedar Falls”, a sustained offensive north of Saigon against the Communist-controlled Iron Triangle.


February 22.Junction City”, largest operation to date, begins in Tay Ninh Province.


February 28. The Commander, Naval Forces, Vietnam, establishes the Mekong Delta Mobile Riverine Force.


May 1. American military strength in South Vietnam reaches 436,000.


May 4. Ambassador Robert W. Komer becomes General Westmoreland’s deputy for Civil Operations and Rural Development (CORDS).


September 3. General Nguyen Van Thieu is elected President of South Vietnam. Nguyen Cao Ky is Vice-President.


September 29. A contingent of Thai combat troops arrives in South Vietnam.


October 4. The North Vietnamese siege of Con Thien is broken.


[October 10. 3/17th Air Cavalry Squadron departs CONUS for Vietnam, arrives 2 Nov]


December 31.  American military strength in South Vietnam is 486,000.




January 22-April 7. The combat base at Khe Sanh sustains a 77-day siege and is successfully relieved.


January 30-31. The Tet Offensive erupts throughout South Vietnam, lasting until late February.


March 16. The My Lai massacre takes place.


March 31.  President Johnson restricts the bombing of North Vietnam to the panhandle region; he announces that he will not seek re-election.


April 1. Clark M. Clifford is appointed US Secretary of Defense, replacing McNamara.


April 10. President Johnson announces that General Greighton W. Abrams will take over from General Westmoreland as Commander, MACV, in June.


May 3. President Johnson accepts a North Vietnamese offer to conduct preliminary peace discussions in Paris.


May 4-6. A wave of attacks—less severe than those of the Tet offensive—hits 109 cities, towns, and bases in South Vietnam.


May 13. Delegates from the United States and North Vietnam hold their first formal meeting in Paris.


May 31. “Operation Toan Tang” comes to an end for 60 days, 42 American and 37 South Vietnamese battalions have searched out enemy units near Saigon.


June 23. The Khe Sanh combat base is abandoned.


July 18-20. President Johnson and Premier Thieu meet in Honolulu.


October 31. President Johnson announces that the bombing of North Vietnam will end the following day, although reconnaissance flights will continue.


November. President Richard M. Nixon elected; he promises a gradual troop withdrawal from Vietnam.


December 31. American military strength in Vietnam is 536,100.




January 25. Formal truce negotiations begin in Paris.


February 23-24. Communist forces carry out rocket and mortar attacks against 115 bases, towns, and cities in South Vietnam.


June 5. American planes make the first raids against North Vietnam since the bombing halt of 1 November 1968, in retaliation for the shooting down of a reconnaissance aircraft. Retaliatory strikes of this kind recur from time to time.


June 8. While meeting at Midway Island with President Thieu, President Nixon announces the planned withdrawal of 25,000 American combat troops.


July 8-August 29. The 25,000-man troop withdrawal is completed.


September 4. Radio Hanoi announces the death of Ho Chi Minh.


September 16. President Nixon reveals a plan to withdraw an additional 35,000 men.


September 30. The US and Thai governments announce a planned withdrawal of 6,000 Americans, mostly airmen, from Thailand.


October 8. Souvanna Phouma requests increased American aid to meet heavier Communist pressure in Laos.


November 15. “Moratorium”: massive anti-war demonstrations in USA.


December 15. President Nixon announces that an additional 50,000 Americans will be withdrawn from South Vietnam by 15 April 1970.


December 18. Congress prohibits the use of current Department of Defense appropriations to introduce ground combat troops into Laos or Thailand.


December 21. Thailand announces plans to withdraw its 12,000-man contingent from South Vietnam. South Korea will maintain its 50,000-man force.  Filipino non-combatants have already departed.


December 31. US troop strength is South Vietnam is 474,000.




February 10.  Souvanna Phouma states that he will take no action against Communist supply activity along the Ho Chi Minh Trail if North Vietnam will withdraw combat troops from Laos.


March 18.  General Lon Nol ousts Prince Norodom Sihanouk (who had visited Moscow on 13 March) and seizes power in Cambodia, which is declared a Republic later in the year.


March 27. South Vietnamese forces, supported by U.S. helicopters, attack Communist base camps across the Cambodian border.


April 4. An estimated 50,000 persons gather at Washington, D.C., to support President Nixon’s conduct of the war.


April 11. Senators Frank Church and John Sherman Cooper propose an amendment forbidding the funding of American ground operations in Cambodia, Thailand, or Laos.


April 14. Cambodian President Lon Nol appeals for foreign military assistance.


April 29. MACV announces American participation in a South Vietnamese offensive into Cambodia.


May 2. Anti-war demonstrations break out on a number of U.S. college campuses.


May 9. And estimated 75,000 to 100,000 demonstrators gather in Washington to oppose the Cambodian involvement.  Protests, exacerbated by the fatal shooting of four Kent State University students by members of the Ohio National Guard during a demonstration against the war, continue at some 400 colleges.


June 29.  U.S. ground troops withdraw from Cambodia.  President Nixon having declared that their combat role would end by June 30.  Air operations continue.


October 15. President Nixon announces that a further 40,000 American troops will be withdrawn from South Vietnam by the end of the year.


December 29. Congress adopts a Department of Defense appropriations bill – with an amendment that denies 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.


December 31. Congress repeals the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.  American military strength in South Vietnam is 335,800.




February 8. President Thieu announces “Operation Lam Son 719” – the advance towards Tchepone in Laos. [Webmaster’s Note:  The 1971 Cambodia Incursion also took place during the same time period as Lam Son 719, but was not widely known at the time.]


March 25. “Operation Lam Son 719” ends.


April 7. President Nixon announces that 100,000 American troops will leave South Vietnam by the end of the year.


April 24.  Up to 500,000 anti-war protesters converge upon Washington, D.C.: at least 150,000 take part in a similar demonstration in San Francisco, California.


June 13. The New York Times begins releasing the Pentagon Papers, a study of the American involvement in Vietnam that was originally prepared by Secretary of Defense McNamara.


August 18. Australia and New Zealand declare they will withdraw their troops from South Vietnam.


September 9. South Korea announces that most of its 48,000 troops in South Vietnam will depart by June 1972.


October.  Presidential elections result in the confirmation of Nguyen Van Thieu as President of South Vietnam.


November 12. President Nixon states that an additional 45,000 American troops will leave South Vietnam during December and January.


December. In Laos, American-supported Meo troops are on the verge of defeat by North Vietnamese units.


December 26-30.  In reaction to a North Vietnamese buildup, American planes attack airfields and other military targets in the southern part of the country – the most extensive air operations against the Communists since the November 1968 bombing halt.




January 13. President Nixon announces withdrawals that will reduce American troop strength in South Vietnam to 69,000 by 1 May.


[February-April.  The Troops of the 3/17th Air Cavalry Squadron Stand Down]


March 30. North Vietnamese forces invade South Vietnam. [Easter Offensive]


April 3. USS Kitty Hawk is the first of four additional aircraft carriers to join the two carriers already on station off Vietnam.


April 5. US Air Force fighter-bombers begin reinforcing the units in Thailand.


April 6. Marine aircraft begin landing at Da Nang, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Thomas W. Moorer, USN, announces the resumption of aerial attack and naval bombardment against North Vietnam.


April 26. President Nixon states that American strength in South Vietnam will fall to 49,000 by 1 July.


May 1. Quang Tri City falls to the North Vietnamese.


May 8. President Nixon announces the mining of North Vietnamese harbors.


June 12. South Vietnamese troops break the siege of An Loc, begun on 5 April.


[June.  Watergate break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters]


June 29. General Frederick C. Weyand, USA, replaces General Abrams as Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.


August 12. The last American ground combat troops leave South Vietnam; 43,500 airmen and support personnel remain.


August 29. President Nixon announces withdrawals that will reduce total US strength in South Vietnam to 27,000 by 1 December.


September 16. The South Vietnamese recapture Quang Tri city, but most of Quang Tri province remains in Communist hands.


December 18. President Nixon orders the resumption of bombing north of the 20th parallel, [the “Christmas bombings”] following a two-month pause; the Paris peace talks are suspended until 8 January 1973.


December 30. Bombing north of the 20th parallel comes to an end after the North Vietnamese agree to negotiate a truce.




January 15. Because of the progress in talks between Dr. Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho initial an agreement ending the war and providing for the release of prisoners of war; the agreement is formally signed on 27 January.


January 28. Lon Nol proposes a cease-fire in Cambodia.


February 21. Souvanna Phouma and the Communists conclude a cease-fire in Laos.


March 17. A Cambodian pilot bombs the presidential palace at Phnom Penh in an unsuccessful attempt to kill Lon Nol.


March 29. The last American troops leave South Vietnam; only a Defense Attaché Office remains.


April 1. The last American [those released] held prisoner in North Vietnam arrive at Clark air base, Philippines. [Operation Homecoming]


April 9. Prince Sihanouk, acting as spokesman for the Cambodian rebels, reject Lon Nol’s truce proposal.


June 29. Congress bans aerial bombing in Cambodia after 15 August.


[July 1. Congress passes a law forbidding the use of any funds for US combat in, over, or off the shores of Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam as of August 15, 1973]


1974  [only key, limited excerpts follow]


January 4. President Thieu claims that the war in South Vietnam has resumed…


April 5-7. Communist insurgents overrun six outpost protecting Phnom Penh. [Cambodia]


August 5. US Congress places a $1-billion ceiling on military aid to South Vietnam for the fiscal year ending 30 June 1975.


[August 9. Richard M. Nixon resigns as President over the Watergate scandal, Vice-President Ford succeeds him. Soon after Nixon’s resignation, Congress further reduces US military aid to South Vietnam]




March 5. North Vietnamese troops launch determined attacks in the Central Highlands.


April 1. Lon Nol flees Cambodia.


April 10-15. After heavy fighting, North Vietnamese troops capture Xuan Loc, 38 miles east of Saigon.


April 12. The US Ambassador to Cambodia and his staff leave Phnom Penh.


April 17. Phnom Penh falls to the insurgents. [Khmer Rouge]


April 21. President Thieu resigns.


April 28. Duong Van Minh, who helped overthrow Diem in 1963 [Diem was assassinated], takes over the government of South Vietnam.


April 30. North Vietnamese troops enter Saigon, as the remaining Americans and many of their South Vietnamese allies are evacuated.  President Duong Van Minh announces unconditional surrender. [Thus began the “re-education camps” and the exodus of the ‘boat people’ from Vietnam]


May 15. US Marines land on Koh Tang Island to free the American freighter SS Mayaguez, seized by Cambodian Communists.


June. Pathet Lao troops seize US Embassy property in Vientiane.


August 23. The Pathet Lao consolidates the Communist takeover of Laos.


December 3. The Lao coalition headed by Souvanna Phouma is abolished; Laos becomes a communist state with Souphanouvong as President.


December. The Congress of the National United Front of Cambodia approves a new, republican constitution; the state is renamed Democratic Kampuchea.





March 26.  Dr. Kissinger, US Secretary of State, announces that the US is “in principle” prepared to normalize relations with Vietnam.


April 2. Sihanouck resigns as Head of State in Kampuchea, and Khieu Samphan takes his place; Pol Pot becomes Prime Minister




July.  Relations between Vietnam and Kampuchea worsen; there are severe border clashes throughout the year.  US estimates suggest the “possibly” 1,200,000 people have died in Kampuchea, many from disease or starvation, since the Communist takeover.


December 31.  Vietnam launches a major offensive into the Parrot’s Beak area of eastern Kampuchea; Vietnam’s armed forces total 615,000 regulars (all arms) and 1.6 million paramilitary troops.




June. Refugees from Kampuchea increase as Pol Pot launches a purification campaign; at least 100,000 people are reported to have died in earlier purges.  Since 1975, an estimated 2 million Kampucheans have died in purges [the “Killing Fields”], of disease and starvation, or as a result of forcible resettlement. [End of transcripts]




Webmaster comments:  Are we to believe historians today that state the “domino theory” was only a theory???