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Return With Honor

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Return With Honor Timeline

1945 - 1964 | 1965 - 1975


World War II ends. Allied powers must decide how to deal with Ho Chi Minh's nationalist movement in Vietnam, which has expelled the Japanese. France goes to war to regain its former colony, and a long and bitter struggle ensues between Ho's forces and the French. The French receive financial support from the United States, which sees the French war against the Communist Ho as part of the Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union.


French in VietnamAugust: The United States commits a few dozen advisors to the French in their war against the Vietnamese and to agrees to pay for half of France's war effort. During the same year, the United States recognizes a French puppet regime in Vietnam. By 1954, the United States will bear three-quarters of the war's cost.


Nao Dinh Diem and President EisenhowerApril: At a news conference, President Dwight Eisenhower likens the dynamic in Southeast Asia to a "falling domino" process: if one country should fall to Communism, he argues, bordering countries would follow in rapid succession. This political assumption guides the United States' growing involvement in Vietnam over the coming years.

June 15: U.S. Army Privates Doyle Morgan and Leonard Sroveck as well as Air Force Airmen Ciro Salas, Giacomo Appice and Jerry Schuller become the first Americans POWs in the Vietnam wars. Soldiers of Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh, or Vietnam Independence League, detain the men, who are part of a U.S. maintenance crew supporting French supply units. They are captured while driving a French military vehicle they have borrowed to go swimming. After diplomatic intervention by American officials, the five are released on August 30.

July: After the Vietnamese finally defeat the French at Dien Bien Phu, an international conference is held in Geneva to end hostilities in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. As part of the agreement, Vietnam is divided into two separate countries. Ho Chi Minh and the Communist forces hold power in the North; Ngo Dinh Diem and anti-Communist forces take power in the South. The United States does not sign the Geneva pact, but agrees to abide by it, and supports the Diem government.


January: The United States agrees to take over the training of the South Vietnamese army from the French. The last French advisors depart in 1956.

Vietnamese refugeeSpring: Some 900,000 North Vietnamese refugees flee the increasingly oppressive regime of Ho Chi Minh in the North. Dissidents in the North are forced into "reeducation" classes, and "confessions" are extracted from dissidents. This practice of mind control is inflicted on French and then later on American POWs.


July 8: Major Dale R. Buis and Master Sergeant Chester Ovnand are killed by guerrillas at Bienhoa. They are the first official American casualties of the Vietnam War.


President KennedyBy the time Dwight D. Eisenhower leaves office, 675 military advisors are assisting the South Vietnamese. Upon entering the presidency, John F. Kennedy expands U.S. involvement even further, calling Vietnam the "cornerstone of the free world in Southeast Asia."


President Johnson being sworn-inPopular support of South Vietnamese Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem, strongly backed by the United States, crumbles. Many segments of the South Vietnamese population join the National Liberation Front, the resistance organized to overthrow the repressive Diem. Some of the most dramatic protests against Diem's regime are initiated by Buddhist priests, who burn themselves alive in the capital of Saigon.

November: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as the new president of the United States. Henry Cabot Lodge, America's ambassador to South Vietnam, tells Johnson that if he wants to save Vietnam from Communism he will have to stand firm. Johnson's reply will guide him over the next four years. "I am not going to lose Vietnam. I am not going to be the President who saw Southeast Asia go the way China went."

December: Two dozen American soldiers and civilians are now prisoners of war in Vietnam and Laos.


Mid-1964: While campaigning for president, Johnson says, "We are not going to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves." Yet, behind closed doors, he is planning to escalate the role of America in the war.

August 5: Naval aviator Lieutenant Everett Alvarez Jr. is shot down during U.S. air strikes against the North Vietnamese port of Vinh. Eight and a half years will pass before he is released.

President JohnsonAugust: Johnson gains congressional authorization for United States involvement in the war against North Vietnam after he announces that North Vietnamese torpedo boats have made two unprovoked attacks against American destroyers in international waters. By approving the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, Congress grants Johnson the power to commit U.S. forces to Southeast Asia to turn back the North Vietnamese, giving the president the freedom he wants to fight the war. Only later is it revealed that the American ships were in the area, assisting South Vietnamese commando raids, and that the second incident never took place.

1945 - 1964 | 1965 - 1975

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