French Leave Vietnam
U.S. Training South Vietnamese
The U.S. Military Assistance Advisor Group (M.A.A.G.) assumes responsibility from the French for training South Vietnamese forces.
Polaris Missile developed in Woods Hole, MA
Eisenhower Defeats Stevenson for Presidency
Khrushchev Warns, "We Will Bury You!"
Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union heat up as Nikita Khrushchev announces to Western ambassadors, "History is on our side. We will bury you!"
Election Deadline Passes
The deadline for nationwide elections in Vietnam that was set at the Geneva meeting passes. No elections are held.
Communist Insurgency in South Vietnam
Communist insurgent activity in South Vietnam begins. Guerrillas assassinate more than 400 South Vietnamese officials. Thirty-seven armed companies are organized along the Mekong Delta.
Terrorist Bombings Rock Saigon
Thirteen Americans working for M.A.A.G. and the U.S. Information Service are wounded in terrorist bombings in Saigon.
Eisenhower Sends Federal Troops to Little Rock, AK
Soviets Launch Sputnik I
"West Side Story" Opens on Broadway
Communist Forces Settle Along Mekong Delta
Brooklyn Dodgers Move to Los Angeles
First U.S. Earth Satellite Launched
Weapons Moving Along Ho Chi Minh Trail
North Vietnam forms Group 559 to begin infiltrating cadres and weapons into South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Trail will become a strategic target for future military attacks.
Buddy Holly Dies in Plane Crash
Vice-President Nixon Engages Khrushchev in "Kitchen Debate"
U.S. Steel Calls Strike
U.S. Servicemen Killed in Guerrilla Attack
Major Dale R. Buis and Master Sergeant Chester M. Ovnand become the first Americans to die in the Vietnam War when guerillas strike at Bienhoa.
Diem Orders Crackdown on Communists, Dissidents
North Vietnam Imposes Universal Military Conscription
Sit-in Demonstrations Begin at Southern
Soviets Shoot Down U.S. Spy Plane, Capture Pilot
On the eve of a U.S.-Soviet summit, U2 pilot Frances Gary Powers is shot down while flying a spy mission over the Soviet Union. Powers is taken prisoner, the Eisenhower administration is forced to own up to the mission, and Khrushchev cancels the summit.
Kennedy Elected President
John F. Kennedy narrowly defeats Richard Nixon for the presidency. In his inaugural address, Kennedy declares that Americans will be ready to "...bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
Diem Survives Coup Attempt
Hanoi forms the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam. The Diem government dubs them "Vietcong."
Battle of Kienhoa Province
Four hundred North Vietnamese guerrillas attack a village in Kienhoa Province, and are defeated by South Vietnamese troops.
Peace Corps Program Launched
Bay of Pigs Debacle
A plot to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro goes miserably wrong when air support at the Bay of Pigs fails to materialize. Kennedy's leadership skills are called into question, and Kennedy himself develops doubts about heeding the advice of the military.
Kennedy Meets Khrushchev in Vienna
Vice President Johnson Tours Saigon
During a tour of Asian countries, Vice President Lyndon Johnson visits Diem in Saigon. Johnson assures Diem that he is crucial to U.S. objectives in Vietnam and calls him "the Churchill of Asia."
Kennedy Authorizes Green Berets
President Kennedy authorizes the "Green Berets" -- a Special Forces operation activated at Fort Bragg, NC. They will specialize in counterinsurgency.
U.S. Military Employs Agent Orange
The U.S. Air Force begins using Agent Orange -- a defoliant that came in metal orange containers-to expose roads and trails used by Vietcong forces.
James Meredith Enrolls at "Ole Miss"
U.S.-Soviet Showdown Over Cuban Missile Crisis
Photos taken from a U.S. spy plane reveal the Soviets placing offensive missiles on Cuban soil. Sensing a direct challenge to U.S. resolve, Kennedy orders a naval quarantine around Cuba to prevent the Soviets from delivering additional missiles. In the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the world comes the closest it's ever been to nuclear annihilation.
Richard Nixon tells the press, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore."
Diem Palace Bombed in Coup Attempt
Mansfield Voices Doubt on Vietnam Policy
Ngo Dinh Diem defeats Bao Dai in a rigged election and proclaims himself President of the Republic of Vietnam.
Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield reports back to President Kennedy from Saigon that, in his opinion, Diem has wasted the two billion dollars America has spent there.
Battle of Ap Bac
Vietcong units defeat the South Vietnamese Army (A.R.V.N.) in the Battle of Ap Bac.
Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique Published
Martin Luther King Delivers his "I Have a Dream" Speech in Washington, DC
Buddhists Protest Against Diem
Tensions between Buddhists and the Diem government are further strained as Diem, a Catholic, removes Buddhists from several key government positions and replaces them with Catholics. Buddhist monks protest Diem's intolerance for other religions and the measures he takes to silence them. In a show of protest, Buddhist monks start setting themselves on fire in public places.
Diem Overthrown, Murdered
With the tacit approval of the United States, operatives within the South Vietnamese military overthrow Diem. He and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu are shot and killed.
President Kennedy Assassinated in Dallas
Kennedy's death puts the problem of how to proceed in Vietnam on the shoulders of his vice president, Lyndon Johnson.
General Nguyen Khanh Seizes Power in Saigon
In a bloodless coup, General Nguyen Khanh seizes power in Saigon. The South Vietnamese junta leader, Major General Duong Van Minh, is placed under house arrest, but is allowed to remain as a figurehead chief-of-state.
Gulf of Tonkin Incident
On August 2, three North Vietnamese PT boats allegedly fire torpedoes at the U.S.S. Maddox, a destroyer located in the international waters of the Tonkin Gulf, some thirty miles off the coast of North Vietnam. The attack comes after six months of covert U.S. and South Vietnamese naval operations. A second, even more highly disputed attack, is alleged to have taken place on August 4.
Debate on Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution is approved by Congress on August 7 and authorizes President Lyndon Johnson to "take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression." The resolution passes unanimously in the House, and by a margin of 82-2 in the Senate. The Resolution allows Johnson to wage all out war against North Vietnam without ever securing a formal Declaration of War from Congress.
Vietcong Attack Bienhoa Air Base
LBJ Defeats Goldwater
Lyndon Johnson is elected president in a landslide over Republican Barry Goldwater of Arizona. During the campaign, Johnson's position on Vietnam appeared to lean toward de-escalation of U.S. involvement, and sharply contrasted with Goldwater's more militant views.
Operation "Rolling Thunder" Deployed
Sustained American bombing raids of North Vietnam, dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder, begin in February. The nearly continuous air raids will go on for three years.
Marines Arrive at Danang
The first American combat troops, the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, arrive in Vietnam to defend the U.S. airfield at Danang. Scattered Vietcong gunfire is reported, but no Marines are injured.
Heavy Fighting at Ia Drang Valley
The first conventional battle of the Vietnam war takes place as American forces clash with North Vietnamese units in the Ia Drang Valley. The U.S. 1st Air Cavalry Division employs its newly enhanced technique of aerial reconnaissance to finally defeat the N.V.A., although heavy casualties are reported on both sides.
U.S. Troop Levels Top 200,000
Vietnam "Teach-In" Broadcast to Nation's Universities
The practice of protesting U.S. policy in Vietnam by holding "teach-ins" at colleges and universities becomes widespread. The first "teach-in" -- featuring seminars, rallies, and speeches -- takes place at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in March. In May, a nationally broadcast "teach-in" reaches students and faculty at over 100 campuses.