Vietnam War timeline – 1968 to 1970


This Vietnam War timeline has been compiled by Alpha History authors. It spans the period from American escalation to the anti-war movement. If you would like to suggest an event or date or this timeline, please contact Alpha History.

1968


January 1st: The number of US Marines deployed in Vietnam reaches more than 81,000.
January 15th: Several thousand women, led by Jeanette Rankin, protest against the Vietnam War in Washington DC.
January 16th: A representative of the North Vietnamese government announces that Hanoi will not consider peace talks until the US ceases its bombing of the North.
January 20th: US forces engage the North Vietnamese Army for the first time near Khe Sanh.
January 30th: The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army launch the Tet Offensive, sustaining heavy losses.
January 31st: The Tet Offensive unfolds in dozens of locations around South Vietnam. In Saigon, Viet Cong troops capture the US embassy for several hours, before being overrun and killed.
February 1st: Former Republican vice president Richard Nixon announces his candidacy for the presidency, promising to bring the Vietnam War to an “honourable end”.
February 25th: US forces announce they have taken full control of the former capital Hue, which had fallen during the Tet Offensive.
March 1st: Disillusioned with the war, Robert McNamara is replaced as US Secretary of Defence by Clark Clifford.
March 16th: The village of My Lai is raided by American troops. Several hundred civilians, including 56 babies, are killed.
March 31st: Lyndon Johnson announces a partial halt in bombing runs over North Vietnam. He tells the American people that he will not seek reelection as president in November.
April 4th: Civil rights campaigner and outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, is assassinated in Memphis.
May 5th: NVA and Viet Cong troops launch a major offensive against US and South Vietnamese strongholds, a campaign dubbed ‘mini Tet’.
May 13th: Peace talks between the United States and North and South Vietnam commence in Paris.
June: General William Westmoreland, the US military commander in Vietnam, is replaced by General Creighton Adams.
June 6th: Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy dies after being shot by a lone assassin in California.
July 1st: General Creighton Abrams replaces General William Westmoreland as US military commander in Vietnam.
October 31st: Outgoing president Lyndon Johnson calls a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam.
November 2nd: South Vietnamese leader Nguyen Van Thieu refuses to enter into peace negotiations in Paris if the Viet Cong is given full rights as a participant.
November 5th: Republican candidate and former vice president Richard M. Nixon is elected as US president, defeating the Democratic candidate Hubert H. Humphrey.
November 26th: Outgoing US president says the Paris peace talks will include a delegation from the Viet Cong.
December: US troop numbers in Vietnam reach approximately 540,000.

1969
January 5th: With more than half a million American soldiers in Vietnam, US president Richard Nixon announces his plan for ‘Vietnamisation’.
January 5th: Henry Cabot Lodge is named as chief US negotiator at the Paris peace talks, replacing Averell Harriman.
January 20th: Richard Nixon is inaugurated as president of the United States.
January 25th: Opening of the Paris peace talks between the US, North and South Vietnamese and the Viet Cong.
January 31st: US military strength in Vietnam numbers 539,800 personnel.
February 16th: The Allies observe a 24 hour ceasefire for the Tet holiday. The Viet Cong ignores the ceasefire and carries out numerous attacks, killing several US soldiers.
February 26th: An NVA-Viet Cong attack on the Bien Hoa town and airbase is thwarted by American and ARVN forces.
March: US Army begins an investigation into the killing of civilians during an operation in My Lai, Quang Ngai province, in March 1968.
March 2nd: Elections are held in villages and hamlets in rural South Vietnam, with a voter turnout in excess of 80 per cent.
March 17th: President Nixon authorises Operation Menu, the bombing of suspected Viet Cong positions in Cambodia.
April 3rd: US commanders confirm that 33,641 Americans have now died in the Vietnam War, exceeding the number killed in the Korean War of 1950-53 (33,629).
April 5th: Two days of anti-war demonstrations and protests are held in a number of US cities including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington DC.
April 23rd: In the United States, more than 250 student leaders declare that they will refuse to obey draft orders while US operations in Vietnam continue.
May 3rd: US defence secretary Melvin Laird says his government will only consider troop withdrawals if NVA troops are withdrawn and Viet Cong activity is significantly reduced.
May 9th: A report in the New York Times exposes the ‘secret’ US bombing of Cambodia, infuriating president Richard Nixon.
May 12th: The NVA and Viet Cong launch a series of attacks across South Vietnam.
May 14th: Nixon unveils a peace proposal, later rejected by Hanoi, for a joint US and NVA withdrawal from South Vietnam.
May 20th: The ‘Battle of Hamburger Hill’ on Dong Ap Bia, Thua Thien province concludes with a US-ARVN tactical victory.
June 8th: Richard Nixon announces the first withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, with 25,000 scheduled to be returned home by late August.
July: The US begins its program of phased troop withdrawals, sending home 800 soldiers.
July 20th: Racial tensions explode at a Marine base in Jacksonville, North Carolina, as a riot between black and white Marines leaves one man dead and 15 injured.
August 4th: Nixon’s advisor Henry Kissinger begins secret meetings with delegates from North Vietnam.
September 2nd: The death of Ho Chi Minh from natural causes. He is succeeded as North Vietnamese leader by Le Duan.
September 5th: Lieutenant William Calley is charged with murder, in relation to the events at My Lai in March 1968.
September 16th: Richard Nixon announces another round of troop reductions, with 40,500 men, almost half of them Marines, to be withdrawn from Vietnam.
October 15th: Some 100,000 people attend protests in Washington DC and Boston to mark the National Moratorium against the War.
November 13th: News of the My Lai massacre circulates in America, more than 18 months after the event.
November 15th: Half a million people attend the Moratorium to End the War rally in Washington D.C.
December: US military personnel in Vietnam have been reduced by 115,000 from the previous year.


1970
March 18th: Cambodian leader Prince Sihanouk is overthrown by a military coup led by General Lon Nol.
April 30th: Nixon controversially announces that US forces will cross the border to attack enemy bases in Cambodia.
May 4th: Troops of the Ohio National Guard open fire on protesting students at Kent State University, killing four.
May 8th: A three-day anti-war rally in Melbourne, Australia attracts more than 100,000 people.
June 3rd: North Vietnamese troops begin approaching Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, but are halted by US airstrikes.
October 7th: Nixon, speaking on US television, proposes a ceasefire and peace negotiations. Hanoi does not respond.
October 9th: Cambodia becomes the Khmer Republic, a pro-US military-ruled state under General Lon Nol.


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