Quarter Century of Terror


March 1950
Harry Truman approves National Security Council Memorandum 64, declaring that the US would not allow French Indochina fall to communism.
September 1950
Truman sends the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) to Saigon to assist French forces.
US starts paying for more than one-third of the French war.
January 1953
Dwight Eisenhower takes office and ratchets up aid, within a year the US is paying for 80% of France’s war.
May 1954
France loses the battle of Dien Bien Phu and begins withdrawing.
April 1955
Washington decides to give “wholehearted” support to South Vietnamese prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem.
September 1956
Eisnehower signs NSC 5612/1, committing the US to stopping the Vietminh.
July 1959
Two US soldiers killed in a guerrilla strike on a MAAG compound.
May 1961
John F. Kennedy sends 400 Green Berets to theater and steps up aid to South Vietnam.
Operation Ranch Hand — the spraying of herbicides, including Agent Orange, on the Vietnamese countryside — begins.
February 1962
First deployment of napalm. 388,000 tons would be dropped in the region.
August 1963
Washington signals its approval for a coup to remove Diem.
JFK is killed. Lyndon Johnson takes reigns of war effort.
February 1964
Lyndon Johnson, now president, starts a covert program to destroy “targets identified with North Vietnam’s economic and industrial well-being.”
June 1964
Johnson begins a secret, nine-year-long bombing campaign of Laos.
August 1964
Gulf of Tonkin incident takes place; the resulting Congressional resolution becomes the legal authorization for war.
November 1964
Johnson wins election in a landslide, pledging not to send more troops to Vietnam.
February 1965
Johnson approves Operation Rolling Thunder, a massive, sustained bombing campaign.
March 1965
First US combat troops arrive in Vietnam.
March 1965
Alice Herz, 82-year old member of Women Strike for Peace, burns herself to death in Detroit in protest of conflict.
Martin Luther King calls for an end to the war at Howard University.
April 1965
SDS organizes a 25,000-strong march in Washington against the war, the city’s largest antiwar rally.
May 1965
122 colleges and universities hold a “national teach-in” against the war.
July 1965
Johnson sends 150,000 more troops; he tells the public the much lower figure of 50,000.
August 1965
Northern California’s Vietnam State Committee members try block troop trains by lying on tracks; 350 are arrested in Washington.
October 1965

15,000 in Berkeley and 20,000 in Manhattan march against the war David Miller, a Catholic, pacifist, becomes the first person prosecuted for burning his draft card.November 196535,000 antiwar protesters march in Washington. Baltimore Quaker Norman Morrison burns himself to death outside defense secretary Robert McNamara’s Pentagon office.January 1966SNCC formally adopts an antiwar plank; the Georgia State Legislature votes to bar civil rights activist Julian Bond from his elected seat for his opposition to the war.January 1967The US launches Operation Cedar Falls, its largest action yet, decimating the heavily defended jungle region known as the “Iron Triangle.”April 1967Martin Luther King Jr. delivers controversial Riverside Church sermon against war. The “Spring Mobilization” sees 300,000 march from Central Park to the UN building.Muhammad Ali is stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing army induction. 50,000 antiwar protesters rally in San Francisco.October 1967National draft turn-in day held.100,000 protesters march on the Pentagon.January 1968Tet Offensive — US and South Vietnamese tactical victory, but deals a punishing blow to American public opinion.February 1968For the first time half the public views the war as a mistake.March 1968Eugene McCarthy beats Johnson in New Hampshire. Antiwar Robert Kennedy joins the Democratic primary.Johnson withdraws from the election race and announces a partial halt to bombing; the Paris peace talks begin.A US platoon rapes and kills villagers in My Lai and My Khe, leaving hundreds dead.