Vietnam War timeline – 1971 and beyond


This Vietnam War timeline has been compiled by Alpha History authors. It spans the period from gradual American withdrawal to the North Vietnamese victory and reunification. If you would like to suggest an event or date or this timeline, please contact Alpha History.

1971
January: The US Congress votes to withdraw all American troops from Vietnam by the end of the year.
January 4th: Speaking on the war in Vietnam, Nixon suggests that “the end is in sight”.
January 6th: US defence secretary Melvin Laird tells the media that Vietnamisation is proceeding ahead of schedule.
February 8th: The South Vietnamese government announces that its troops have crossed the border into Laos to engage the enemy.
March 24th: The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) is reported to have moved large amounts of artillery close to the South Vietnamese border.
March 29th: Lieutenant William Calley is convicted of murder for his role in the My Lai massacre. Calley is sentenced to life imprisonment, though this is later reduced to 10 years. Four of Calley’s fellow officers are acquitted.
April 6th: The first entirely South Vietnamese offensive, Operation Lam Son 719, fails with the loss of 8,000 men.
April 24th: More than 200,000 people attend an anti-Vietnam War protest march in Washington DC.
June: New York Times begins publishing the ‘Pentagon Papers’: top secret documents leaked by Daniel Ellsberg.
June 15th: Nixon seeks to prevent further publication of the ‘Pentagon Papers’ with legal action, which ultimately fails.
June 21st: After months of troop withdrawals, the number of US military personnel in Vietnam is down to 244,900.
June 22nd: The US Senate passes a resolution calling for the withdrawal of all American troops by the end of the year.
July 9th: American security advisor Henry Kissinger arrives in China to prepare for President Nixon’s visit there in the new year.
August 18th: Australia and New Zealand announce plans to withdraw their troops from Vietnam.
October 3rd: South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu is reelected president for a further four years, triggering a wave of Viet Cong attacks.
November 12th: Richard Nixon tells the American press that US combat troops are now filling only defensive roles, leaving offensive operations to the ARVN.
November 29th: In Moscow, a delegation from Hanoi signs an agreement with the Soviet government for continued military and economic assistance.
December 31st: The year 1971 ends with just over 156,000 US military personnel still in Vietnam.


1972
January 25th: Richard Nixon and Nguyen Van Thieu announce an eight point peace plan for Vietnam. Their proposal is again snubbed by Hanoi.
February 21st: Nixon begins an historic visit to communist China, meeting with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders. His visit leads to US recognition of the Chinese government and the restoration of diplomatic relations.
March 10th: The 101st Airborne Division becomes the last full US division to withdraw from Vietnam.
March 23rd: American delegates, frustrated by delays and a lack of cooperation from the North Vietnamese delegates, suspend the Paris peace negotiations.
March 30th: North Vietnamese forces launch the Easter Offensive, invading South Vietnam near Khe Sahn. With only 6,000 US combat troops left in the country, the defence is left almost entirely to the ARVN.
April 15th: President Nixon orders massive bombing runs against North Vietnam, in retaliation for the Easter Offensive.
April 15th: The escalation of fighting in Vietnam triggers protests across the United States for several days. Hundreds of students are arrested.
April 27th: The Paris peace talks resume.
May 4th: The Paris peace talks collapse again. US and South Vietnamese negotiators withdraw, citing a lack of progress.
May 11th: Martial law is declared in South Vietnam, in response to increasing Viet Cong attacks and rising panic.
May 22nd: Richard Nixon meets with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and asks him to wind back Soviet arms shipments to North Vietnam. Brezhnev refuses.
June 17th: The Watergate Hotel in Washington DC is burgled. This marks the beginning of the Watergate scandal that will end with Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
July 13th: The Paris peace talks resume again.
August: The last American ground troops depart Vietnam, leaving only pilots, medical and support personnel.
September 26th: Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho begin a series of secret meetings in Paris.
October: North Vietnam’s Easter Offensive is finally halted; it has gained territory but also involved significant losses.
November 7th: Richard Nixon is re-elected president, defeating Democratic candidate George McGovern, who promised to end the war in Vietnam.
December 5th: A change of government in Australia, with Labor leader Gough Whitlam elected prime minister. Whitlam was opposed to Australian military involvement in Vietnam.
December 18th: The US launches Operation Linebacker II or the ‘Christmas bombings’ against targets in North Vietnam.

1973
January 7th: US Congress votes to prohibit further American military commitment to Vietnam, despite increased fighting.
January 15th: With progress in the peace talks, President Nixon suspends all US air and naval attacks against North Vietnam.
January 27th: Representatives of the US, South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong sign the Paris Peace Accords. Among the terms of the Accords are a 60 day ceasefire, the release of American prisoners of war and the withdrawal of all US military personnel from Vietnam.
February 6th: Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam formally recognises the government of North Vietnam, the first Western leader to do so. He also recalls all Australian military training personnel from South Vietnam.
March 8th: American major Floyd Thompson, detained as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for nine years, is released.
June 13th: Signatories to the Paris Peace Accords sign the implementation agreement, acknowledging that the terms have been fulfilled.
July 1st: The Case-Church amendment, passed by the US Congress the previous month, comes into effect. This legislation prohibits further American combat deployments in Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, without the approval of Congress. US aid to South Vietnam is halved from $US2.2 billion to $1.1 billion.
July: American naval vessels begin clearing mines from the Gulf of Tonkin and North Vietnamese waterways.
August 14th: US bombing runs in Cambodia come to an end.
October: The US Congress passes the War Powers Act, designed to limit the president’s ability to wage war without a Congressional declaration of war. Richard Nixon vetoes the bill but his veto is overridden by a two thirds majority of Congress.

1974
January 4th: The US Congress rejects Richard Nixon’s request for increased military aid for South Vietnam.
July 1st: US military aid to South Vietnam is reduced from $US1.1 billion to $US700 million.
August 8th: Richard Nixon resigns as president in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Gerald Ford becomes president.
December: The total US military personnel in Vietnam is estimated at 50 men, along with a Marine Corps garrison attached to the US embassy in Saigon.
December: The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) moves its 968th Division into South  Vietnam from Laos. This is Hanoi’s first increase of troops in the South since the signing of the Paris peace accords.


1975
January 8th: North Vietnam’s Politburo authorises a full-scale invasion to occupy and ‘liberate’ South Vietnam.
March 10th: The NVA begins its Spring Offensive with an attack on Ban Me Thuot in Dak Lak province.
March 24th: Quang Ngai and Hue both fall to the advancing NVA.
April 10th: President Gerald Ford’s request for $722 million in military aid for South Vietnam is rejected by Congress.
April 11th: Helicopters begin evacuating US and South Vietnamese personnel from the American embassy in Saigon.
April 17th: The Khmer Rouge seizes control of Cambodia.
April 21st: South Vietnam president Nguyen Van Thieu resigns and, five days later, flees to Taiwan. His vice president, Tran Van Huong, serves as interim president.
April 28th: ARVN general Duong Van Minh becomes the last president of South Vietnam.
April 29th: With NVA troops approaching Saigon, US Marines begin the evacuation of Americans, foreigners and some South Vietnamese officials from the city (Operation Frequent Wind).
April 30th: North Vietnamese forces capture Saigon, effectively bringing the Vietnam War to an end. The South Vietnamese government formally surrenders to North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.

1976
July 2nd: North and South Vietnam are formally unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.


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