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Timeline of the Vietnam War
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Under intense public pressure, President Richard Nixon began ordering
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Hi, I'm Zach Toombs and today with About.com we're here to give you a brief timeline of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was waged near the height of the Cold War, as the United States sought to repel the spread of communism. In Vietnam, the communist north, led by Ho Chi Minh, sat as a potential aggressor toward South Vietnam, an ally of the U.S.On August 2, 1954, a U.S. destroyer performing routine drills off the Vietnamese coast engaged three North Vietnam torpedo boats nearby in what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Although no Americans were killed in the encounter, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution later that month, giving President Lyndon B. Johnson the power to take any necessary action in southeast Asia to prevent the spread of communism — namely in Vietnam.In March 1965, the U.S. began a bombing campaign over North Vietnam. Later that month, the first American ground troops arrived with a defensive mission in mind: hold South Vietnam from the forces to the north. For three years, the war escalated. But in 1968, a major effort from North Vietnam changed the landscape of the conflict. The north joined forces with the National Liberation Front, or Viet Cong, a political group in Cambodia and South Vietnam, to launch the Tet Offensive in 100 southern cities. The American investment in Vietnam grew rapidly, with more than 540,000 U.S. troops stationed in the region by December 1968. Casualties piled up — for troops, but also for civilians, many of them at the hands of American soldiers.The My Lai Massacre is perhaps the most notorious example of this. Under the impression that the village of My Lai was harboring enemy combatants, U.S. troops killed more than 370 innocent South Vietnamese — including women, children and elderly. When the American public learned of the massacre in November 1969, it added fuel to an already-vibrant anti-war sentiment in the U.S. College campuses served as especially fertile grounds for protests and marches.Under intense public pressure, President Richard Nixon began ordering troops out of Vietnam in July 1969. But he also made the widely unpopular decision in April 1970 to attack targets in Cambodia. On January 27, 1973, the Paris Peace Accords ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam and finally provided a cease-fire — though it was temporary. By spring 1975, North Vietnam pushed back into the south, capturing the capital city of Saigon in April. The image of the last Americans leaving the CIA post there via helicopter would become an iconic depiction of U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.
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