History of the Vietnam War
Travel through our timeline of major events in Vietnam’s history.
Roaming tribes from southern China move into an area called the Red River Delta, where many Indonesian people are already living. Together, they form the earliest ancestors of today’s Vietnamese people.
A Chinese general establishes the independent kingdom of Nam-Viet. It is made up of what is today northern Vietnam and parts of southern China.
The rulers of China’s Han dynasty conquer Nam-Viet and make it part of the Chinese empire. China rules over the Vietnamese for more than 1,000 years afterward. While they are heavily influenced by Chinese arts, religions, politics and farming, the Vietnamese work hard to preserve their unique national identity.
The Vietnamese people seize their independence from the Chinese emperors.
French merchants and missionaries set up trading posts and churches in Vietnam. Catholic priests convert thousands of Vietnamese peasants to Christianity. They also encourage the French government to set up a colony in Vietnam.
Prince Nguyen Anh unites the northern, central and southern regions of his country and calls it Vietnam. The prince and the emperors who follow establish programs to build new bridges and castles and restore old structures.
Angered by Vietnam’s positions against business deals and Catholic missionaries, the French launch their first major attack. They fire upon the Vietnamese at the port of Danang, a city in central Vietnam.
France takes control of Vietnam. In 1887, it becomes a French colony. The French take charge of Vietnam’s farmlands, minerals and other natural resources. They also introduce the Vietnamese to European schooling and customs.
After surrendering to Germany earlier in World War II, France loses control of Vietnam to Japan. Groups of Vietnamese rebels gain control over areas of Vietnam and fight Japan’s efforts to create an empire in eastern Asia.
Ho Chi Minh, a leader of a form of government called Communism, organizes groups to fight for Vietnam’s independence. In a Communist government, a country?s wealth and resources are shared by all citizens, and the government owns and controls all property.
On a local level, a social group called a commune is formed, this commune shares goods, economic prosperity and problems alike, it’s also self policing– everybody rats on everybody else. This commune is in turn controlled by a regional government. The regional government is appointed from the communes by the central government. The central government is usually dictatorial, and autocratic, may be quasi-democratic in succession policy.
The problem with communism is this: it tends to become dictatorial. As they say, power corrupts— so absolute power corrupts absolutely.
France tries to regain control of Vietnam after Japan’s defeat in World War II. French troops begin an eight-year struggle with Vietnamese forces.
Vietnam defeats the French. At a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, representatives from Vietnam, France, the U.S. and other nations decide to divide Vietnam into two parts — the Communist-ruled north and a republic in the south — until elections can be held to unite them both under one government.
Communists supported by North Vietnam cause conflict in South Vietnam. This conflict between the two halves of Vietnam marks the beginning of the Vietnam War.
Trying to stop the spread of Communism, the United States sends combat troops to Vietnam. About 60,000 American soldiers and many more Vietnamese soldiers die in the years to follow. This loss of lives sparks anti-war protests all over America.
In response to anti-war feelings, the U.S. signs a peace accord with North Vietnam. American troops leave Vietnam.
South Vietnam surrenders to Communist North Vietnam. North and South Vietnam are united in 1976 under Communist leadership.
Vietnam invades its neighbor, Cambodia, after facing repeated attacks along the border they share. Most other countries, headed by the U.S., blame Vietnam for the invasion and cut off business dealings with the country. This causes severe economic problems for Vietnam.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C. It is a wall of polished black granite engraved with the names of all the soldiers who died in the Vietnam War or are missing.
The Vietnamese government introduces a policy known as Doi Moi, meaning “renovation,” to boost economic development. It allows individuals to start businesses and foreigners to invest money in Vietnam.
The U.S. and Vietnam successfully work together to recover the remains of American soldiers missing since the war.
The U.S. lifts its 19-year ban on trading with Vietnam.
The U.S. and Vietnam restore diplomatic ties.
A U.S. ambassador is stationed in Vietnam for the first time in more than 20 years.