January 20, 1965 -
Lyndon B. Johnson takes the oath as president and declares,
"We can never again stand aside, prideful in isolation. Terrific dangers
and troubles that we once called "foreign" now constantly live
January 27, 1965
- General Khanh seizes full control of South Vietnam's government.
January 27, 1965
- Johnson aides, National Security Advisor McGeorge
Bundy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, send a memo to the President
stating that America's limited military involvement in Vietnam is not succeeding,
and that the U.S. has reached a 'fork in the road' in Vietnam and must
either soon escalate or withdraw.
January 1965 - Operation Game Warden begins
U.S. Navy river patrols on South Vietnam's 3000 nautical miles of inland
February 4, 1965 - National Security Advisor
McGeorge Bundy visits South Vietnam for the first time. In North Vietnam,
Soviet Prime Minister Aleksei Kosygin coincidentally arrives in Hanoi.
February 6, 1965 - Viet Cong guerrillas
attack the U.S. military compound at Pleiku in the Central Highlands, killing
eight Americans, wounding 126 and destroying ten aircraft.
February 7-8 - "I've had enough of
this," President Johnson tells his National Security advisors. He
then approves Operation Flaming Dart, the bombing of a North Vietnamese
army camp near Dong Hoi by U.S. Navy jets from the carrier Ranger.
Johnson makes no speeches or public statements concerning his decision.
Opinion polls taken in the U.S. shortly after the bombing indicate a 70
percent approval rating for the President and an 80 percent approval of
U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. Johnson now agrees to a long-standing
recommendation from his advisors for a sustained bombing campaign against
In Hanoi, Soviet Prime Minister Kosygin is pressured by the North Vietnamese
to provide unlimited military aid to counter the American "aggression."
Kosygin gives in to their demands. As a result, sophisticated Soviet surface-to-air
missiles (SAMs) begin arriving in Hanoi within weeks.
February 18, 1965 - Another military coup
in Saigon results in General Khanh finally ousted from power and a new
military/civilian government installed, led by Dr. Phan Huy Quat.
February 22, 1965 - General Westmoreland
requests two battalions of U.S. Marines to protect the American air base
at Da Nang from 6000 Viet Cong massed in the vicinity. The President approves
his request, despite the "grave reservations" of Ambassador Taylor
in Vietnam who warns that America may be about to repeat the same mistakes
made by the French in sending ever-increasing numbers of soldiers into
the Asian forests and jungles of a "hostile foreign country"
where friend and foe are indistinguishable.
March 2, 1965 - Operation
Rolling Thunder begins as over 100 American fighter-bombers attack targets
in North Vietnam. Scheduled to last eight weeks, Rolling Thunder will instead
go on for three years.
The first U.S. air strikes also occur against the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Throughout the war, the trail is heavily bombed by American jets with little
actual success in halting the tremendous flow of soldiers and supplies
from the North. 500 American jets will be lost attacking the trail. After
each attack, bomb damage along the trail is repaired by female construction
During the entire war, the U.S. will fly 3 million sorties and drop
nearly 8 million tons of bombs, four times the tonnage dropped during all
of World War II, in the largest display of firepower in the history of
The majority of bombs are dropped in South Vietnam against Viet Cong
and North Vietnamese Army positions, resulting in 3 million civilian refugees
due to the destruction of numerous villages. In North Vietnam, military
targets include fuel depots and factories. The North Vietnamese react to
the air strikes by decentralizing their factories and supply bases, thus
minimizing their vulnerability to bomb damage.
March 8, 1965 - The first U.S. combat troops
arrive in Vietnam as 3500 Marines land at China Beach to defend the American
air base at Da Nang. They join 23,000 American military advisors already
March 9, 1965 - President Johnson authorizes
the use of Napalm, a petroleum based anti-personnel bomb that showers hundreds
of explosive pellets upon impact.
March 11, 1965 - Operation Market Time,
a joint effort between the U.S. Navy and South Vietnamese Navy, commences
to disrupt North Vietnamese sea routes used to funnel supplies into the
South. The operation is highly successful in cutting off coastal supply
lines and results in the North Vietnamese shifting to the more difficult
land route along the Ho Chi Minh trail.
March 29, 1965 - Viet Cong terrorists bomb
the U.S. embassy in Saigon.
April 1, 1965 - At the White House, President
Johnson authorizes sending two more Marine battalions and up to 20,000
logistical personnel to Vietnam. The President also authorizes American
combat troops to conduct patrols to root out Viet Cong in the countryside.
His decision to allow offensive operations is kept secret from the American
press and public for two months.
April 7, 1965 - President
Johnson delivers his "Peace Without
Conquest" Speech at Johns Hopkins University offering Hanoi "unconditional
discussions" to stop the war in return for massive economic assistance
in modernizing Vietnam. "Old Ho can't turn that down," Johnson
privately tells his aides. But Johnson's peace overture is quickly rejected.
April 15, 1965 - A thousand tons of bombs
are dropped on Viet Cong positions by U.S. and South Vietnamese fighter-bombers.
April 17, 1965 - In Washington, 15,000
students gather to protest the U.S. bombing campaign.
Student demonstrators will often refer to President Johnson, his advisors,
the Pentagon, Washington bureaucrats, and weapons manufacturers, simply
as "the Establishment."
April 20, 1965 - In Honolulu, Johnson's
top aides, including McNamara, Gen. Westmoreland, Gen. Wheeler, William
Bundy, and Ambassador Taylor, meet and agree to recommend to the President
sending another 40,000 combat soldiers to Vietnam.
April 24, 1965 - President Johnson announces
Americans in Vietnam are eligible for combat pay.
May 3, 1965 - The first U.S. Army combat
troops, 3500 men of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, arrive in Vietnam.
May 11, 1965 - Viet Cong over-run South
Vietnamese troops in Phuoc Long Province north of Saigon and also attack
in central South Vietnam.
May 13, 1965 - The first bombing pause
is announced by the U.S. in the hope that Hanoi will now negotiate. There
will be six more pauses during the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign, all
with same intention. However, each time, the North Vietnamese ignore the
peace overtures and instead use the pause to repair air defenses and send
more troops and supplies into the South via the Ho Chi Minh trail.
May 13, 1965 - Viet Cong attack the U.S.
special forces camp in Phuoc Long. During the fighting, 2nd Lt. Charles
Williams, earns the Medal of Honor by knocking out a Viet
Cong machine-gun then guiding rescue helicopters, while wounded four times.
May 19, 1965 - U.S. bombing of North Vietnam
June 18, 1965 - Nguyen Cao Ky takes power
in South Vietnam as the new prime minister with Nguyen Van Thieu functioning
as official chief of state. They lead the 10th government in 20 months.
July 1, 1965 - Viet Cong stage a mortar
attack against Da Nang air base and destroy three aircraft.
July 8, 1965 - Henry Cabot Lodge is reappointed
as U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam.
July 21-28 - President Johnson meets with
top aides to decide the future course of action in Vietnam.
July 28, 1965 - During a noontime press
conference, President Johnson announces he will send 44 combat battalions
to Vietnam increasing the U.S. military presence to 125,000 men. Monthly
draft calls are doubled to 35,000. "I have asked the commanding general,
General Westmoreland, what more he needs to meet this mounting aggression.
He has told me. And we will meet his needs. We cannot be defeated by force
of arms. We will stand in Vietnam."
"...I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth, our
finest young men, into battle. I have spoken to you today of the divisions
and the forces and the battalions and the units, but I know them all, every
one. I have seen them in a thousand streets, of a hundred towns, in every
state in this union-working and laughing and building, and filled with
hope and life. I think I know, too, how their mothers weep and how their
August 1965 - Combined
Action Platoons are formed by U.S. Marines utilizing South Vietnamese militia
units to protect villages and conduct patrols to root out Viet Cong guerrillas.
August 3, 1965 -
The destruction of suspected Viet Cong villages near Da Nang by a U.S.
Marine rifle company is shown on CBS TV and generates controversy in America.
Earlier, seven Marines had been killed nearby while searching for Viet
Cong following a mortar attack against the air base at Da Nang.
August 4, 1965 - President Johnson asks
Congress for an additional $1.7 billion for the war.
August 5, 1965 - Viet Cong destroy two
million gallons of fuel in storage tanks near Da Nang.
August 8, 1965 - The U.S. conducts major
air strikes against the Viet Cong.
August 18-24, 1965 - Operation Starlite
begins the first major U.S. ground operation in Vietnam as U.S. Marines
wage a preemptive strike against 1500 Viet Cong planning to assault the
American airfield at Chu Lai. The Marines arrive by helicopter and by sea
following heavy artillery and air bombardment of Viet Cong positions. 45
Marines are killed and 120 wounded. Viet Cong suffer 614 dead and 9 taken
prisoner. This decisive first victory gives a big boost to U.S. troop morale.
August 31, 1965 - President Johnson signs
a law criminalizing draft card burning. Although it may result in a five
year prison sentence and $1000 fine, the burnings become common during
anti-war rallies and often attract the attention of news media.
October 16, 1965 - Anti-war rallies occur
in 40 American cities and in international cities including London and
October 19, 1965 - North Vietnamese Army
troops attack the U.S. Special Forces camp at Plei Me in a prelude to the
Battle of Ia Drang Valley in South Vietnam's Central Highlands.
October 30, 1965 - 25,000 march in Washington
in support of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The marchers are led by five
Medal of Honor recipients.
November 14-16 - The Battle of Ia Drang
Valley marks the first major battle between U.S. troops and North Vietnamese
Army regulars (NVA) inside South Vietnam. American Army troops of the 1st
Cavalry Division (Airmobile) respond to the NVA threat by using helicopters
to fly directly into the battle zone. Upon landing, the troops quickly
disembark then engage in fierce fire fights, supported by heavy artillery
and B-52 air strikes, marking the first use of B-52s to assist combat troops.
The two-day battle ends with NVA retreating into the jungle. 79 Americans
are killed and 121 wounded. NVA losses are estimated at 2000.
November 17, 1965 - The American success
at Ia Drang is marred by a deadly ambush against 400 soldiers of the U.S.
7th Cavalry sent on foot to occupy nearby Landing Zone 'Albany.' NVA troops
that had been held in reserve during Ia Drang, along with troops that had
retreated, kill 155 Americans and wound 124.
November 27, 1965 - In Washington, 35,000
anti-war protesters circle the White House then march on to the Washington
Monument for a rally.
November 30, 1965 - After visiting Vietnam,
Defense Secretary McNamara privately warns that American casualty rates
of up to 1000 dead per month could be expected.
December 4, 1965 - In Saigon, Viet Cong
terrorists bomb a hotel used by U.S. military personnel, killing eight
and wounding 137.
December 7, 1965 - Defense Secretary McNamara
tells President Johnson that the North Vietnamese apparently "believe
that the war will be a long one, that time is their ally, and that their
staying power is superior to ours."
December 9, 1965 - The New York Times
reveals the U.S. is unable to stop the flow of North Vietnamese soldiers
and supplies into the South despite extensive bombing.
December 18-20 - President Johnson and
top aides meet to decide the future course of action.
December 25, 1965 - The second pause in
the bombing of North Vietnam occurs. This will last for 37 days while the
U.S. attempts to pressure North Vietnam into a negotiated peace. However,
the North Vietnamese denounce the bombing halt as a "trick" and
continue Viet Cong terrorist activities in the South.
By year's end U.S. troop levels in Vietnam reached 184,300. An estimated
90,000 South Vietnamese soldiers deserted in 1965, while an estimated 35,000
soldiers from North Vietnam infiltrated the South via the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Up to 50 percent of the countryside in South Vietnam is now under some
degree of Viet Cong control.
Time Magazine chooses General William Westmoreland as 1965's
'Man of the Year.'
January 12, 1966 - During his State of
the Union address before Congress, President Johnson comments that the
war in Vietnam is unlike America's previous wars, "Yet, finally, war
is always the same. It is young men dying in the fullness of their promise.
It is trying to kill a man that you do not even know well enough to hate...therefore,
to know war is to know that there is still madness in this world."
January 28-March 6 - Operation Masher marks
the beginning of large-scale U.S. search-and-destroy operations against
Viet Cong and NVA troop encampments. However, President Johnson orders
the name changed to the less aggressive sounding 'White Wing' over concern
for U.S. public opinion. During the 42 day operation in South Vietnam's
Bon Son Plain near the coast, troopers of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division
(Airmobile) once again fly by helicopters directly into battle zones and
engage in heavy fighting. 228 Americans are killed and 788 wounded. NVA
losses are put at 1342.
The term 'search-and-destroy' is used by the media to describe everything
from large scale Airmobile troop movements to small patrols rooting out
Viet Cong in tiny hamlets. The term eventually becomes associated with
negative images of Americans burning villages.
January 31, 1966 - Citing Hanoi's failure
to respond to his peace overtures during the 37 day bombing pause, President
Johnson announces bombing of North Vietnam will resume.
January 31, 1966 - Senator Robert F. Kennedy
criticizes President Johnson's decision to resume the bombing, stating
that the U.S. may be headed "on a road from which there is no turning
back, a road that leads to catastrophe for all mankind." His comments
infuriate the President.
February 1966 - The Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, chaired by Sen. J. William Fulbright, holds televised hearings
examining America's policy in Vietnam. Appearing before the committee,
Defense Secretary McNamara states that U.S. objectives in Vietnam are "not
to destroy or overthrow the Communist government of North Vietnam. They
are limited to the destruction of the insurrection and aggression directed
by North Vietnamese against the political institutions of South Vietnam."
February 3, 1966 - Influential newspaper
columnist Walter Lippmann lambastes President Johnson's strategy in Vietnam,
stating, "Gestures, propaganda, public relations and bombing and more
bombing will not work." Lippmann predicts Vietnam will divide America
as combat causalities mount.
February 6-9 - President Johnson and South
Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky meet in Honolulu.
March 1, 1966 - An attempt to repeal the
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution fails in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 92 to 5.
The attempt was led by Sen. Wayne Morse.
March 9, 1966 - The U.S. reveals that 20,000
acres of food crops have been destroyed in suspected Viet Cong villages.
The admission generates harsh criticism from the American academic community.
March 10, 1966 - South Vietnamese Buddhists
begin a violent campaign to oust Prime Minister Ky following his dismissal
of a top Buddhist general. This marks the beginning of a period of extreme
unrest in several cities in South Vietnam including Saigon, Da Nang and
Hue as political squabbling spills out into the streets and interferes
with U.S. military operations.
March 26, 1966 - Anti-war protests are
held in New York, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco.
April 12, 1966 - B-52 bombers are used
for the first time against North Vietnam. Each B-52 carries up to 100 bombs,
dropped from an altitude of about six miles. Target selections are closely
supervised by the White House. There are six main target categories; power
facilities, war support facilities, transportation lines, military complexes,
fuel storage, and air defense installations.
April 13, 1966 - Viet Cong attack Tan Son
Nhut airport in Saigon causing 140 casualties while destroying 12 U.S.
helicopters and nine aircraft.
May 2, 1966 - Secretary of Defense McNamara
privately reports the North Vietnamese are infiltrating 4500 men per month
into the South.
May 14, 1966 - Political unrest intensifies
as South Vietnamese troops loyal to Prime Minister Ky over-run renegade
South Vietnamese Buddhist troops in Da Nang. Ky's troops then move on to
Hue to oust renegades there. Ky's actions result in a new series of immolations
by Buddhist monks and nuns as an act of protest against his Saigon regime
and its American backers. Buddhist leader Tri Quang blames President Johnson
personally for the situation. Johnson responds by labeling the immolations
as "tragic and unnecessary."
June 4, 1966 - A three-page anti-war advertisement
appears in the New York Times signed by 6400 teachers and professors.
June 25, 1966 - Political unrest in South
Vietnam abates following the crackdown on Buddhist rebels by Prime Minister
Ky, including the arrest of Buddhist leader Tri Quang. Ky now appeals for
June 29, 1966 - Citing increased infiltration
of Communist guerrillas from North Vietnam into the South, the U.S. bombs
oil depots around Hanoi and Haiphong, ending a self-imposed moratorium.
The U.S. is very cautious about targeting the city of Hanoi itself over
concerns for the reactions of North Vietnam's military allies, China and
the Soviet Union. This concern also prevents any U.S. ground invasion of
North Vietnam, despite such recommendations by a few military planners
July 6, 1966 - Hanoi Radio reports that
captured American pilots have been paraded though the streets of Hanoi
through jeering crowds.
July 11, 1966 - The U.S. intensifies bombing
raids against portions of the Ho Chi Minh trail winding through Laos.
July 15, 1966 - Operation
Hastings is launched by U.S. Marines and South Vietnamese troops against
10,000 NVA in Quang Tri Province. This is the largest combined military
operation to date in the war.
July 30, 1966 - For
the first time, the U.S. bombs NVA troops in the Demilitarized Zone, the
buffer area separating North and South Vietnam.
August 9, 1966 -
U.S. jets attack two South Vietnamese villages by mistake, killing 63 civilians
and wounding over 100.
August 30, 1966 -
Hanoi announces China will provide economic and technical assistance.
September 1, 1966
- During a visit to neighboring Cambodia, French President Charles de Gaulle
calls for U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.
September 12, 1966
- The heaviest air raid of the war to date occurs as 500 U.S. jets attack
NVA supply lines and coastal targets.
September 14-November 24 - Operation Attleboro
occurs involving 20,000 U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers in a successful
search-and-destroy mission 50 miles north of Saigon near the Cambodian
border. During the fighting, an enormous weapons cache is uncovered in
a hidden base camp in the jungle. 155 Americans are killed and 494 wounded.
North Vietnamese losses are 1106.
September 23, 1966 - The U.S. reveals jungles
near the Demilitarized Zone are being defoliated by sprayed chemicals.
October 2-24, 1966 - The U.S. 1st Air Cavalry
Division conducts Operation Irving to clear NVA from mountainous areas
near Qui Nhon.
October 3, 1966 - The Soviet Union announces
it will provide military and economic assistance to North Vietnam.
October 25, 1966 - President Johnson conducts
a conference in Manila with America's Vietnam Allies; Australia, Philippines,
Thailand, New Zealand, South Korea and South Vietnam. The Allies pledge
to withdraw from Vietnam within six months if North Vietnam will withdraw
completely from the South.
October 26, 1966 - President Johnson visits
U.S. troops at Cam Ranh Bay. This is the first of two visits to Vietnam
made during his presidency.
November 7, 1966 - Defense Secretary McNamara
is confronted by student protesters during a visit to Harvard University.
November 12, 1966 - The New York Times
reports that 40 percent of U.S. economic aid sent to Saigon is stolen or
winds up on the black market.
December 8-9 - North Vietnam rejects a
proposal by President Johnson for discussions concerning treatment of POWs
and a possible exchange.
December 13-14 - The village of Caudat
near Hanoi is leveled by U.S. bombers resulting in harsh criticism from
the international community.
December 26, 1966 - Facing increased scrutiny
from journalists over mounting civilian causalities in North Vietnam, the
U.S. Defense Department now admits civilians may have been bombed accidentally.
December 27, 1966 - The U.S. mounts a large-scale
air assault against suspected Viet Cong positions in the Mekong Delta using
Napalm and hundreds of tons of bombs.
By year's end, U.S. troop levels reach 389,000 with 5008 combat deaths
and 30,093 wounded. Over half of the American causalities are caused by
snipers and small-arms fire during Viet Cong ambushes, along with handmade
booby traps and mines planted everywhere in the countryside by Viet Cong.
American Allies fighting in Vietnam include 45,000 soldiers from South
Korea and 7000 Australians. An estimated 89,000 soldiers from North Vietnam
infiltrated the South via the Ho Chi Minh trail in 1966.
January 2, 1967 - Operation Bolo occurs
as 28 U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom jets lure North Vietnamese MiG-21 interceptors
into a dogfight over Hanoi and shoot down seven of them. This leaves only
nine MiG-21s operational for the North Vietnamese. American pilots, however,
are prohibited by Washington from attacking MiG air bases in North Vietnam.
January 8-26 - Operation Cedar Falls occurs.
It is the largest combined offensive to date and involves 16,000 American
and 14,000 South Vietnamese soldiers clearing out Viet Cong from the 'Iron
Triangle' area 25 miles northwest of Saigon. The Viet Cong choose not to
fight and instead melt away into the jungle. Americans then uncover an
extensive network of tunnels and for the first time use 'tunnel rats,'
the nickname given to specially trained volunteers who explore the maze
of tunnels. After the American and South Vietnamese troops leave the area,
Viet Cong return and rebuild their sanctuary. This pattern is repeated
throughout the war as Americans utilize 'in-and-out' tactics in which troops
arrive by helicopters, secure an area, then depart by helicopters.
January 10, 1967 - U.N. Secretary-General
U Thant expresses doubts that Vietnam is essential to the security of the
West. On this same day, during his State of the Union address before Congress,
President Johnson once again declares "We will stand firm in Vietnam."
January 23, 1967 - Senator J. William Fulbright
publishes The Arrogance of Power a book critical of American war
policy in Vietnam advocating direct peace talks between the South Vietnamese
government and the Viet Cong. By this time, Fulbright and President Johnson
are no longer on speaking terms. Instead, the President uses the news media
to deride Fulbright, Robert Kennedy, and a growing number of critics in
Congress as "nervous Nellies" and "sunshine patriots."
February 2, 1967 - President Johnson states
there are no "serious indications that the other side is ready to
stop the war."
February 8-10 - American religious groups
stage a nationwide "Fast for Peace."
February 8-12 - A truce occurs during Tet,
the lunar New Year, a traditional Vietnamese holiday.
February 13, 1967 - Following the failure
of diplomatic peace efforts, President Johnson announces the U.S. will
resume full-scale bombing of North Vietnam.
February 22-May 14 - The largest U.S. military
offensive of the war occurs. Operation Junction City involves 22 U.S. and
four South Vietnamese battalions attempting to destroy the NVA's Central
Office headquarters in South Vietnam. The offensive includes the only parachute
assault by U.S. troops during the entire war. During the fighting at Ap
Gu, U.S. 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry is commanded by Lt. Gen. Alexander
M. Haig who will later become an influential White House aide. Junction
City ends with 2728 Viet Cong killed and 34 captured. American losses are
282 killed and 1576 wounded. NVA relocate their Central Office headquarters
inside Cambodia, thus avoiding capture.
March 8, 1967 - Congress authorizes $4.5
billion for the war.
March 19-21 - President Johnson meets in
Guam with South Vietnam's Prime Minister Ky and pressures Ky to hold national
April 6, 1967 - Quang Tri City is attacked
by 2500 Viet Cong and NVA.
April 14, 1967 - Richard M. Nixon visits
Saigon and states that anti-war protests back in the U.S. are "prolonging
April 15, 1967 - Anti-war demonstrations
occur in New York and San Francisco involving nearly 200,000. Rev. Martin
Luther King declares that the war is undermining President Johnson's Great
Society social reform programs, "...the pursuit of this widened war
has narrowed the promised dimensions of the domestic welfare programs,
making the poor white and Negro bear the heaviest burdens both at the front
and at home."
April 20, 1967 - U.S. bombers target Haiphong
harbor in North Vietnam for the first time.
April 24-May 11 - Hill fights rage at Khe
Sanh between U.S. 3rd Marines and the North Vietnamese Army resulting in
940 NVA killed. American losses are 155 killed and 425 wounded. The isolated
air base is located in mountainous terrain less than 10 miles from North
Vietnam near the border of Laos.
April 24, 1967 - General Westmoreland condemns
anti-war demonstrators saying they give the North Vietnamese soldier "hope
that he can win politically that which he cannot accomplish militarily."
Privately, he has already warned President Johnson "the war could
go on indefinitely."
May 1, 1967 - Ellsworth Bunker replaces
Henry Cabot Lodge as U.S ambassador to South Vietnam.
May 2, 1967 - The U.S. is condemned during
a mock war crimes tribunal held in Stockholm, organized by British philosopher
May 9, 1967 - Robert W. Komer, a former
CIA analyst, is appointed by President Johnson as deputy commander of MACV
to form a new agency called Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development
Support (CORDS) to pacify the population of South Vietnam. Nearly 60 percent
of rural villages in South Vietnam are now under Viet Cong control. $850
million in food, medical supplies, machinery, and numerous other household
items, will be distributed through CORDS to the population in order
to regain their loyalty in the struggle for the "hearts and minds"
of common villagers. CORDS also trains local militias to protect their
villages from the Viet Cong.
May 13, 1967 - In New York City, 70,000
march in support of the war, led by a New York City fire captain.
May 18-26 - U.S. and South Vietnamese troops
enter the Demilitarized Zone for the first time and engage in a series
of fire fights with NVA. Both sides suffer heavy losses.
May 22, 1967 - President Johnson publicly
urges North Vietnam to accept a peace compromise.
June 1967 - The Mobile Riverine Force becomes
operational utilizing U.S. Navy 'Swift' boats combined with Army troop
support to halt Viet Cong usage of inland waterways in the Mekong Delta.
July 1967 - General
Westmoreland requests an additional 200,000 reinforcements on top of the
475,000 soldiers already scheduled to be sent to Vietnam, which would bring
the U.S. total in Vietnam to 675,000. President Johnson agrees only to
an extra 45,000.
July 7, 1967 - North Vietnam's Politburo
makes the decision to launch a widespread offensive against South Vietnam.
Conceived in three phases, the first phase involves attacks against remote
border areas in an effort to lure American troops away from South Vietnam's
cities. The second phase (Tet Offensive) will be an attack against the
cities themselves by Viet Cong forces aided by NVA troops, in the hope
of igniting a "general uprising" to overthrow the government
of South Vietnam. The third phase involves the actual invasion of South
Vietnam by NVA troops coming from North Vietnam.
July 29, 1967 - A fire resulting from a
punctured fuel tank kills 134 U.S. crewmen aboard the USS Forestall
in the Gulf of Tonkin, in the worst naval accident since World War II.
August 9, 1967 - The Senate Armed Services
Committee begins closed-door hearings concerning the influence of civilian
advisors on military planning. During the hearings, Defense Secretary McNamara
testifies that the extensive and costly U.S. bombing campaign in Vietnam
is failing to impact North Vietnam's war making ability in South Vietnam
and that nothing short of "the virtual annihilation of North Vietnam
and its people" through bombing would ever succeed.
August 18, 1967 - California Governor Ronald
Reagan says the U.S. should get out of Vietnam citing the difficulties
of winning a war when "too many qualified targets have been put off
limits to bombing."
August 21, 1967 - The Chinese shoot down
two U.S. fighter-bombers that accidentally crossed their border during
air raids in North Vietnam along the Chinese border.
September 1, 1967 - North Vietnamese Prime
Minister Pham Van Dong publicly states Hanoi will "continue to fight."
September 3, 1967 - National elections
are held in South Vietnam. With 80 percent of eligible voters participating,
Nguyen Van Thieu is elected president with Nguyen Cao Ky as his vice-president,
the pair winning just 35 percent of the vote.
September 11-October 31 - U.S. Marines
are besieged by NVA at Con Thien located two miles south of the Demilitarized
Zone. A massive long-range artillery duel then erupts between NVA and U.S.
guns during the siege as NVA fire 42,000 rounds at the Marines while
the U.S. responds with 281,000 rounds and B-52 air strikes to lift the
siege. NVA losses are estimated at over 2000.
October 1967 - A public opinion poll indicates
46 percent of Americans now believe U.S. military involvement in Vietnam
to be a "mistake." However, most Americans also believe that
the U.S. should "win or get out" of Vietnam. Also in October,
Life magazine renounces its earlier support of President Johnson's
October 5, 1967 - Hanoi accuses the U.S.
of hitting a school in North Vietnam with anti-personnel bombs.
October 21-23 - 'March on the Pentagon'
draws 55,000 protesters. In London, protesters try to storm the U.S. embassy.
October 31, 1967 - President Johnson reaffirms
his commitment to maintain U.S. involvement in South Vietnam.
November 3-December 1 - The Battle of Dak
To occurs in the mountainous terrain along the border of Cambodia and Laos
as the U.S. 4th Infantry Division heads off a planned NVA attack against
the Special Forces camp located there. During the fighting, the 4th Battalion,
503rd Airborne Infantry earns a Presidential Unit Citation for bravery.
Massive air strikes combined with U.S. and South Vietnamese ground attacks
result in an NVA withdrawal into Laos and Cambodia. NVA losses are put
at 1644. U.S. troops suffer 289 killed. "Along with the gallantry
and tenacity of our soldiers, our tremendously successful air logistic
operation was the key to the victory," states General Westmoreland.
November 11, 1967 - President Johnson makes
another peace overture, but it is soon rejected by Hanoi.
November 17, 1967 - Following an optimistic
briefing in the White House by General Westmoreland, Ambassador Bunker,
and Robert Komer, President Johnson tells the American public on TV, "We
are inflicting greater losses than we're taking...We are making progress."
In a Time magazine interview, General Westmoreland taunts the
Viet Cong, saying "I hope they try something because we are looking
for a fight."
November 29, 1967 - An emotional Robert
McNamara announces his resignation as Defense Secretary during a press
briefing, stating, "Mr. President...I cannot find words to express
what lies in my heart today..." Behind closed doors, he had begun
regularly expressing doubts over Johnson's war strategy, angering the President.
McNamara joins a growing list of Johnson's top aides who resigned over
the war including Bill Moyers, McGeorge Bundy and George Ball.
November 30, 1967 - Anti-war Democrat Eugene
McCarthy announces he will be a candidate for President opposing Lyndon
Johnson, stating, "...we are involved in a very deep crisis of leadership,
a crisis of direction and a crisis of national purpose...the entire history
of this war in Vietnam, no matter what we call it, has been one of continued
error and misjudgment."
December 4, 1967 - Four days of anti-war
protests begin in New York. Among the 585 protesters arrested is renowned
'baby doctor' Dr. Benjamin Spock.
December 6, 1967 - The U.S. reports Viet
Cong murdered 252 civilians in the hamlet of Dak Son.
December 23, 1967 - Upon arrival at Cam
Ranh Bay in Vietnam, President Johnson declares "...all the
challenges have been met. The enemy is not beaten, but he knows that he
has met his master in the field." This is the President's second and
final trip to Vietnam during his presidency.
By year's end, U.S. troop levels reach 463,000 with 16,000 combat deaths
to date. By this time, over a million American soldiers have rotated through
Vietnam, with length of service for draftees being one year, and most Americans
serving in support units. An estimated 90,000 soldiers from North Vietnam
infiltrated into the South via the Ho Chi Minh trail in 1967. Overall Viet
Cong/NVA troop strength throughout South Vietnam is now estimated up to
January 5, 1968 - Operation Niagara I to
map NVA positions around Khe Sanh begins.
January 21, 1968 - 20,000
NVA troops under the command of Gen. Giap attack the American air base
at Khe Sanh. A 77 day siege begins as 5000 U.S. Marines in the isolated
outpost are encircled. The siege attracts enormous media attention back
in America, with many comparisons made to the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien
Phu in which the French were surrounded then defeated.
"I don't want any damn Dinbinfoo," an anxious President Johnson
tells Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Earle Wheeler. As Johnson personally sends
off Marine reinforcements, he states "...the eyes of the nation and
the eyes of the entire world, the eyes of all of history itself, are on
that little brave band of defenders who hold the pass at Khe Sanh..."
Johnson issues presidential orders to the Marines to hold the base and
demands a guarantee "signed in blood" from the Joint Chiefs of
Staff that they will succeed.
Operation Niagara II then begins a massive aerial supply effort to the
besieged Marines along with heavy B-52 bombardment of NVA troop positions.
At the peak of the battle, NVA soldiers are hit round-the-clock every 90
minutes by groups of three B-52s which drop over 110,000 tons of bombs
during the siege, the heaviest bombardment of a small area in the history
January 31, 1968 - The
turning point of the war occurs as 84,000 Viet Cong guerrillas aided by
NVA troops launch the Tet Offensive attacking a hundred cities and towns
throughout South Vietnam.
The surprise offensive is closely observed by American TV news crews
in Vietnam which film the U.S. embassy in Saigon being attacked by 17 Viet
Cong commandos, along with bloody scenes from battle areas showing American
soldiers under fire, dead and wounded. The graphic color film footage is
then quickly relayed back to the states for broadcast on nightly news programs.
Americans at home thus have a front row seat in their living rooms to the
Viet Cong/NVA assaults against their fathers, sons and brothers, ten thousand
miles away. "The whole thing stinks, really," says a Marine under
fire at Hue after more than 100 Marines are killed.
January 31-March 7 - In the Battle for
Saigon during Tet, 35 NVA and Viet Cong battalions are defeated by 50 battalions
of American and Allied troops that had been positioned to protect the city
on a hunch by Lt. Gen. Fred C. Weyand, a veteran of World War II in the
Pacific. Nicknamed the "savior of Saigon," Weyand had sensed
the coming attack, prepared his troops, and on February 1 launched a decisive
counter-attack against the Viet Cong at Tan Son Nhut airport thus protecting
nearby MACV and South Vietnamese military headquarters from possible capture.
January 31-March 2 - In the Battle for
Hue during Tet, 12,000 NVA and Viet Cong troops storm the lightly defended
historical city, then begin systematic executions of over 3000 "enemies
of the people" including South Vietnamese government officials, captured
South Vietnamese officers, and Catholic priests. South Vietnamese troops
and three U.S. Marine battalions counter-attack and engage in the heaviest
fighting of the entire Tet Offensive. They retake the old imperial city,
house by house, street by street, aided by American air and artillery strikes.
On February 24, U.S. Marines occupy the Imperial
Palace in the heart of the citadel and the battle soon ends with
a North Vietnamese defeat. American losses are 142 Marines killed and 857
wounded, 74 U.S. Army killed and 507 wounded. South Vietnamese suffer 384
killed and 1830 wounded. NVA killed are put at over 5000.
February 1, 1968 - In Saigon during Tet,
a suspected Viet Cong guerrilla is shot in the head by South Vietnam's
police chief Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, in full view of an NBC news cameraman
and an Associated Press still photographer. The haunting AP photo
taken by Eddie Adams appears on the front page of most American newspapers
the next morning. Americans also observe the filmed execution on NBC TV.
Another controversy during Tet, and one of the most controversial statements
of the entire war, is made by an American officer who states, 'We had to
destroy it, in order to save it,' referring to a small city near Saigon
leveled by American bombs. His statement is later used by many as a metaphor
for the American experience in Vietnam.
February 2, 1968 - President Johnson labels
the Tet Offensive "a complete failure."
For the North Vietnamese, the Tet Offensive is both a military and political
failure in Vietnam. The "general uprising" they had hoped to
ignite among South Vietnamese peasants against the Saigon government never
materialized. Viet Cong had also come out of hiding to do most of the actual
fighting, suffered devastating losses, and never regained their former
strength. As a result, most of the fighting will be taken over by North
Vietnamese regulars fighting a conventional war. Tet's only success, and
an unexpected one, was in eroding grassroots support among Americans and
in Congress for continuing the war indefinitely.
February 8, 1968 - 21 U.S. Marines are
killed by NVA at Khe Sanh.
February 27, 1968 - Influential CBS TV
news anchorman Walter Cronkite, who just returned from Saigon, tells Americans
during his CBS Evening News broadcast that he is certain "the bloody
experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate."
February 28, 1968 - Joint Chiefs Chairman
Gen. Wheeler, at the behest of Gen. Westmoreland, asks President Johnson
for an additional 206,000 soldiers and mobilization of reserve units in
March 1, 1968 - Clark Clifford, renowned
Washington lawyer and an old friend of the President, becomes the new U.S.
Secretary of Defense. For the next few days, Clifford conducts an intensive
study of the entire situation in Vietnam, discovers there is no concept
or overall plan anywhere in Washington for achieving victory in Vietnam,
then reports to President Johnson that the United States should not escalate
the war. "The time has come to decide where we go from here,"
he tells Johnson.
March 2, 1968 - 48 U.S. Army soldiers are
killed during an ambush at Tan Son Nhut airport in Saigon.
March 10, 1968 - The New York Times
breaks the news of Westmoreland's 206,000 troop request. The Times
story is denied by the White House. Secretary of State Dean Rusk is then
called before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and grilled for two
days on live TV about the troop request and the overall effectiveness
of Johnson's war strategy.
March 11, 1968 - Operation Quyet Thang
begins a 28 day offensive by 33 U.S. and South Vietnamese battalions in
the Saigon region.
March 12, 1968 - By a very slim margin
of just 300 votes, President Johnson defeats anti-war Democrat Eugene McCarthy
in the New Hampshire Democratic primary election. This indicates that political
support for Johnson is seriously eroding.
Public opinion polls taken after the Tet Offensive revealed Johnson's
overall approval rating has slipped to 36 percent, while approval of his
Vietnam war policy slipped to 26 percent.
March 14, 1968 - Senator Robert F. Kennedy
offers President Johnson a confidential political proposition. Kennedy
will agree to stay out of the presidential race if Johnson will renounce
his earlier Vietnam strategy and appoint a committee, including Kennedy,
to chart a new course in Vietnam. Johnson spurns the offer.
March 16, 1968 - Robert F. Kennedy announces
his candidacy for the presidency. Polls indicate Kennedy is now more popular
than the President.
During his campaign, Kennedy addresses the issue of his participation
in forming President John F. Kennedy's Vietnam policy by stating, "past
error is no excuse for its own perpetuation."
March 16, 1968 - Over
300 Vietnamese civilians are slaughtered in My Lai hamlet by members of
Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry U.S. Army, while participating
in an airborne assault against suspected Viet Cong encampments in Quang
Ngai Province. Upon entering My Lai and finding no Viet Cong, the Americans
begin killing every civilian in sight, interrupted only by helicopter pilot
Hugh Thompson who lands and begins evacuating civilians after realizing
what is happening.
March 28, 1968 - The initial report by
participants at My Lai states that 69 Viet Cong soldiers were killed and
makes no mention of civilian causalities.
The My Lai massacre is successfully concealed for a year, until a series
of letters from Vietnam veteran Ronald Ridenhour spark an official Army
investigation that results in Charlie Company Commander, Capt. Ernest L.
Medina, First Platoon Leader, Lt. William Calley, and 14 others being brought
to trial by the Army. A news photos of the carnage, showing a mass of dead
children, women and old men, remains one of the most enduring images of
America's involvement in Vietnam.
March 23, 1968 - During a secret meeting
in the Philippines, Gen Wheeler informs Gen. Westmoreland that President
Johnson will approve only 13,500 additional soldiers out of the original
206,000 requested. Gen. Wheeler also instructs Westmoreland to urge the
South Vietnamese to expand their own war effort.
March 25, 1968 - Clark Clifford convenes
the "Wise Men," a dozen distinguished elder statesmen and soldiers,
including former Secretary of State Dean Acheson and World War II General
Omar Bradley at the State Department for dinner. They are given a blunt
assessment of the situation in Vietnam, including the widespread corruption
of the Saigon government and the unlikely prospect for military victory
"under the present circumstances."
March 26, 1968 - The "Wise Men"
gather at the White House for lunch with the President. They now advocate
U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, with only four of those present dissenting
from that opinion.
March 31, 1968 - President
Johnson stuns the world by announcing his surprise
decision not to seek re-election. He also announces a partial bombing
halt and urges Hanoi to begin peace talks. "We
are prepared to move immediately toward peace through negotiations."
As a result, peace talks soon begin. The bombing halt only affects targets
north of the 20th parallel, including Hanoi.
April 1, 1968 - The U.S. 1st Cavalry Division
(Airmobile) begins Operation Pegasus to reopen Route 9, the relief route
to the besieged Marines at Khe Sanh.
April 4, 1968 - Civil rights leader Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis. Racial unrest then
erupts in over 100 American cities.
April 8, 1968 - The siege of Khe Sanh ends
with the withdrawal of NVA troops from the area as a result of intensive
American bombing and the reopening of Route 9. NVA losses during the siege
are estimated up to 15,000. U.S. Marines suffered 199 killed and 830 wounded.
1st Cavalry suffered 92 killed and 629 wounded reopening Route 9. The U.S.
command then secretly shuts down the Khe Sanh air base and withdraws the
Marines. Commenting on the heroism of U.S. troops that defended Khe Sanh,
President Johnson states "...they vividly demonstrated to the enemy
the utter futility of his attempts to win a military victory in the South."
A North Vietnamese official labels the closing of Khe Sanh air base as
America's "gravest defeat" so far.
April 11, 1968 - Defense Secretary Clifford
announces Gen. Westmoreland's request for 206,000 additional soldiers will
not be granted.
April 23, 1968 - Anti-war activists at
Columbia University seize five buildings.
April 27, 1968 - In New York, 200,000 students
refuse to attend classes as a protest.
April 30-May 3 - The Battle of Dai Do occurs
along the Demilitarized Zone as NVA troops seek to open an invasion corridor
into South Vietnam. They are halted by a battalion of U.S. Marines nicknamed
"the Magnificent Bastards" under the command of Lt. Col. William
Weise. Aided by heavy artillery and air strikes, NVA suffer 1568 killed.
81 Marines are killed and 297 wounded. 29 U.S. Army are killed supporting
the Marines and 130 wounded.
For the time being, this defeat ends North Vietnam's hope of successfully
invading the South. They will wait four years, until 1972, before trying
again, after most of the Americans have gone. It will actually take seven
years, until 1975, for them to succeed.
May 5, 1968 - Viet Cong launch "Mini
Tet," a series of rocket and mortar attacks against Saigon and 119
cities and military installations throughout South Vietnam. The U.S. responds
with air strikes using Napalm and high explosives.
May 10, 1968 - An NVA battalion attacks
the Special Forces camp at Kham Duc along the border of Laos. The isolated
camp had been established in 1963 to monitor North Vietnamese infiltration.
Now encircled by NVA, the decision is made to evacuate via C-130 transport
planes. At the conclusion of the successful airlift, it is discovered that
three U.S. Air Force controllers have accidentally been left behind. Although
the camp is now over-run by NVA and two C-130s have already been shot down,
Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson pilots a C-123 Provider, lands on the air strip
under intense fire, gathers all three controllers, then takes off. For
this, Jackson is awarded the Medal of Honor.
May 10, 1968 - Peace talks begin in Paris
but soon stall as the U.S. insists that North Vietnamese troops withdraw
from the South, while the North Vietnamese insist on Viet Cong participation
in a coalition government in South Vietnam. This marks the beginning of
five years of on-again off-again official talks between the U.S. and North
Vietnam in Paris.
June 5, 1968 - Robert F. Kennedy is shot
and mortally wounded in Los Angeles just after winning the California Democratic
presidential primary election.
July 1968 - Congress passes a ten percent
income tax surcharge to defray the ballooning costs of the war.
July 1, 1968 - General Westmoreland is
replaced as U.S. commander in Vietnam by General Creighton W. Abrams.
July 1, 1968 - The Phoenix program is established
to crush the secret Viet Cong infrastructure (VCI) in South Vietnam. The
VCI, estimated at up to 70,000 Communist guerrillas, has been responsible
for a long-standing campaign of terror against Americans, South Vietnamese
government officials, village leaders and innocent civilians.
However, the Phoenix program, which is controlled through CORDS under
the direction of Robert Komer, generates huge controversy in America concerning
numerous alleged assassinations of suspected Viet Cong operatives by South
Vietnamese trained by the U.S. The controversy, generated in part through
North Vietnamese propaganda, eventually results in Congressional hearings.
Testifying in 1971 before Congress, Komer's successor William E. Colby
states, "The Phoenix program was not a program of assassination. The
Phoenix program was a part of the overall pacification program." Colby
admits that 20,587 Viet Cong had been killed "mostly in combat situations...by
regular or paramilitary forces."
July 3, 1968 - Three American prisoners
of war are released by Hanoi.
July 19, 1968 - President Johnson and South
Vietnam's President Thieu meet in Hawaii.
August 8, 1968 - Richard M. Nixon is chosen
as the Republican presidential candidate and promises "an honorable
end to the war in Vietnam."
August 28, 1968
- During the Democratic national convention in Chicago, 10,000 anti-war
protesters gather on downtown streets and are then confronted by 26,000
police and national guardsmen. The brutal crackdown is covered live on
network TV. 800 demonstrators are injured.
The United States is now experiencing a level
of social unrest unseen since the American Civil War era, a hundred years
earlier. There have been 221 student protests at 101 colleges and universities
thus far in 1968.
September 30, 1968
- The 900th U.S. aircraft is shot down over North Vietnam.
October 1968 - Operation Sealord begins
the largest combined naval operation of the entire war as over 1200 U.S.
Navy and South Vietnamese Navy gunboats and warships target NVA supply
lines extending from Cambodia into the Mekong Delta. NVA supply camps in
the Delta and along other waterways are also successfully disrupted during
the two-year operation.
October 21, 1968 - The U.S. releases 14
North Vietnamese POWs.
October 27, 1968 - In London, 50,000 protest
October 31, 1968 - Operation Rolling Thunder
ends as President Johnson announces a complete halt of U.S. bombing of
North Vietnam in the hope of restarting the peace talks.
Throughout the three and a half year bombing campaign, the U.S. dropped
a million tons of bombs on North Vietnam, the equivalent of 800 tons per
day, with little actual success in halting the flow of soldiers and supplies
into the South or in damaging North Vietnamese morale. In fact, the opposite
has occurred as the North Vietnamese have patriotically rallied around
their Communist leaders as a result of the onslaught. By now, many towns
south of Hanoi have been leveled with a U.S. estimate of 52,000 civilian
During Rolling Thunder, North Vietnam's sophisticated, Soviet-supplied
air defense system managed to shoot down 922 U.S. aircraft during 2380
sorties flown by B-52 bombers and over 300,000 sorties by U.S. Navy and
Air Force fighter-bombers.
November 1968 - William E. Colby replaces
Robert Komer as head of CORDS.
November 5, 1968 - Republican Richard M.
Nixon narrowly defeats Democrat Hubert Humphrey in the U.S. presidential
November 27, 1968 - President-elect Nixon
asks Harvard professor Henry Kissinger to be his National Security Advisor.
By year's end, U.S. troop levels reached 495,000 with 30,000 American
deaths to date. In 1968, over a thousand a month were killed. An estimated
150,000 soldiers from North Vietnam infiltrated the South via the Ho Chi
Minh trail in 1968. Although the U.S. conducted 200 air strikes each day
against the trail in late 1968, up to 10,000 NVA supply trucks are en route
at any given time.