This detailed Vietnam War timeline has been researched and compiled by Alpha History authors. It spans the period from January 1955 to December 1959. If you would like to suggest an event or date or this timeline, please contact Alpha History.
January 1st: American military advisors arrive in South Vietnam as the Pentagon begins supplying military aid directly to Saigon.
January 11th: Ho Chi Minh announces sweeping communist land reforms in northern Vietnam.
February 1st: The formation of Training Relations and Instruction Mission (TRIM), a joint US-French agency for training South Vietnamese military personnel.
February 12th: United States military advisors begin training South Vietnamese troops.
February 19th: The South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) comes into effect.
March 29th: The private armies of the Binh Xuyen attempted to initiate an armed uprising against Ngo Dinh Diem. The uprising is suppressed by Diem’s troops and ends in October.
May 16th: The US commits to providing military aid to Cambodia.
July 6th: Ngo Dinh Diem delivers a public address, declaring that South Vietnam is not obliged to follow the terms of the Geneva Accords.
July 7th: On a state visit to Beijing, Ho Chi Minh is offered financial and military aid worth $US200 million.
July 18th: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev promises $US100 million in military and economic aid to North Vietnam.
July 20th: South Vietnam refuses to participate in the discussions with North Vietnam to organise elections. Saigon claims that it cannot trust the North Vietnamese to participate in fair elections.
October 23rd: In South Vietnam, a referendum, almost certainly rigged, establishes a republic. Bao Dai is removed from power and Ngo Dinh Diem becomes the head of state.
October 26th: Diem declares the Republic of South Vietnam. His government is recognised by most other countries including the US, France, Britain, Australia, Japan and South Korea.
December: Viet Minh leaders in North Vietnam instigate land reforms, tribunals and punishments for landlords.
December: Diem is criticised for seizing land from Buddhist farmers and giving it to Catholic Vietnamese.
December 12th: The US closes its embassy in North Vietnam. Diplomatic relations between Washington and Hanoi are now effectively ended.
January: Diem orders a campaign against suspected Viet Minh agents in rural areas, many of whom are murdered.
April 28th: French forces leave South Vietnam. American military advisors take over all training of indigenous troops. The United States Military Assistance and Advisory Group is formed.
July: Deadline passes for elections for the unification of Vietnam, as required by the Geneva Accords.
July 6th: US vice-president Richard Nixon visits South Vietnam, meets with Ngo Dinh Diem and addresses the government assembly in Saigon.
January 3rd: The International Control Commission (ICC) reports that both North and South Vietnam have not been complying with the terms of the 1954 armistice.
January: The Soviet Union suggests that North and South Vietnam remain separate nations and be admitted to the UN.
January: In response to the Soviet proposal, the US refuses to recognise North Vietnam or its communist government.
May 5th: Ngo Dinh Diem begins a two-week visit to the US, where he is hailed as the “miracle man” of Asian politics.
May 9th: Diem addresses a joint session of the US Congress.
July 29th: The US opens a consulate in Vietnam’s old capital Hue.
September 2nd: Diem visits Australia, where he addresses the parliament and is given an honorary knighthood.
September: Diem is returned to power after a general election in South Vietnam. The election is almost certainly rigged.
October: Viet Minh agents begin a terrorist campaign in the south, assassinating government officials and landowners.
October 29th: The Saigon headquarters of the US military training group is bombed. A total of 37 military and civilian personnel are wounded.
April 26th: Diem rejects a proposal for unification from North Vietnam.
June: Viet Minh cells in South Vietnam begin organising guerrilla troops and networks in the Mekong Delta.
December: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) learns that the Lao Dong government in Hanoi has decided on open warfare against the South Vietnamese government.
March: Ho Chi Minh declares a ‘people’s war’ to unite Vietnam, formally starting the Second Indochina War.
May 1st: South Vietnamese marines launch their first major operation against the Viet Cong in An Xuyen and Vinh Binh.
May: US commanders send additional military advisors, as requested by Diem’s South Vietnamese government.
May: North Vietnam begins work on a network of roads and paths between North and South, in preparation for war.
May 6th: Diem passes a law introducing beheading for those found guilty of a range of crimes, from murder to theft.
July: 4,000 Viet Minh guerrillas, originally born in the South, are sent from North Vietnam to infiltrate South Vietnam.
July 11th: Two US military advisors are killed by Viet Cong guerrillas near Bien Hoa. Major Dale Buis and Sergeant Chester Ovnand are the first US deaths of the Vietnam War.