China, North Vietnam's neighbor and ally, successfully tests an atomic bomb.
Two days before the U.S. presidential election, Vietcong mortars shell Bien Hoa Air Base near Saigon. Four Americans are killed, 76 wounded. Five B-57 bombers are destroyed, and 15 are damaged.
Vietcong forces mount a series of attacks across South Vietnam. They briefly seize control of Binh Gia, a village only 40 miles from Saigon. Two hundred South Vietnamese troops are killed near Binh Gia, along with five American advisors.
A U.S. helicopter base and advisory compound in the central highlands of South Vietnam is attacked by NLF commandos. Nine Americans are killed and more than 70 are wounded. President Johnson immediately orders U.S. Navy fighter-bombers to attack military targets just inside North Vietnam.
A Vietcong-placed bomb explodes in a hotel in Qui Nonh, killing 23 American servicemen.
Two and a half thousand Vietcong troops attack Song Be, a South Vietnamese provincial capital. After two days of fierce battles in and around the town, the Vietcong withdraw.
After the North Vietnamese Army attacks a Special Forces camp at Plei Mei, the U.S. 1st Air Cavalry is deployed against enemy regiments that identified in the vicinity of the camp. The result is the battle of the Ia Drang. For 4 days, the division pursues and fights the 32d, 33d, and 66th North Vietnamese Regiments until the enemy, suffering heavy casualties, returns to bases in Cambodia.
Elements of the 66th North Vietnamese Regiment moving east toward Plei Mei encounter and ambush an American battalion. Neither reinforcements nor effective firepower can be brought in. When fighting ends that night, 60 percent of the Americans were casualties, and almost one of every three soldiers in the battalion had been killed.
The 272nd Regiment of the Vietcong 9th Division attack a battalion of the American 3rd Brigade at Lo Ke. U.S. air support succeeds in bombing the attackers into retreat. Two days later, the American 1st Brigade and a battalion of the 173rd Airborne are attacked by a Vietcong regiment, which is driven away by artillery fire.
In Operation Birmingham, more than 5,000 U.S. troops, backed by huge numbers of helicopters and armored vehicles, sweep the area around north of Saigon. There are small scale actions between both armies, but over a three week period, only 100 Vietcong are killed. Most battles are dictated by the Vietcong, who prove elusive.
In late May 1966, the North Vietnamese 324B Division crosses the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and encounters a Marine battalion. The NVA holds their ground and the largest battle of the war to date breaks out near Dong Ha. Most of the 3rd Marine Division, some 5,000 men in five battalions, heads north. In Operation Hastings, the Marines backed by South Vietnamese Army troops, the heavy guns of U.S. warships and their artillery and air power drive the NVA back over the DMZ in three weeks.
On Route 13, which links Vietnam to the Cambodian border, American forces are brutally assaulted by the Vietcong. Only American air and artillery support prevents a complete disaster.
Two North Vietnamese divisions, operating out of the DMZ that separates North and South Vietnam, launch heavy bombardments of American bases south of the DMZ. These bases include Khe Sanh, the Rockpile, Cam Lo, Dong Ha, Con Thien and Gio Linh.
America forces begin Operation Cedar Falls, which is intended to drive Vietcong forces from the Iron Triangle, a 60 square mile area lying between the Saigon River and Route 13. Nearly 16,000 American troops and 14,000 soldiers of the South Vietnamese Army move into the Iron Triangle, but they encounter no major resistance. Huge quantities of enemy supplies are captured. Over 19 days, 72 Americans are killed, victims mostly of snipers emerging from concealed tunnels and booby traps. Seven hundred and twenty Vietcong are killed.
In mid-January 1968 in the remote northwest corner of South Vietnam, elements of three NVA divisions begin to mass near the Marine base at Khe Sanh. The ominous proportions of the build-up lead the U.S. commanders to expect a major offensive in the northern provinces
At 5:30 a.m., a shattering barrage of shells, mortars and rockets slam into the Marine base at Khe Sanh. Eighteen Marines are killed instantly, 40 are wounded. The initial attack continues for two days.
On the Tet holiday, Vietcong units surge into action over the length and breadth of South Vietnam. In more than 100 cities and towns, shock attacks by Vietcong sapper-commandos are followed by wave after wave of supporting troops. By the end of the city battles, 37,000 Vietcong troops deployed for Tet have been killed. Many more had been wounded or captured, and the fighting had created more than a half million civilian refugees. Casualties included most of the Vietcong's best fighters, political officers and secret organizers; for the guerillas, Tet is nothing less than a catastrophe. But for the Americans, who lost 2,500 men, it is a serious blow to public support.
Over 1,300 artillery rounds hit the Marine base at Khe Sanh and its outposts, more than on any previous day of attacks. To withstand the constant assaults, bunkers at Khe Sanh are rebuilt to withstand 82mm mortar rounds.
Without warning, a massive North Vietnamese barrage slams into Khe Sanh. More than 1,000 rounds hit the base, at a rate of a hundred every hour. At the same time, electronic sensors around Khe Sanh indicate NVA troop movements. American forces reply with heavy bombing.
U.S. forces in Operation Pegasus finally retake Route 9, ending the siege of Khe Sanh. A 77 day battle, Khe Sanh had been the biggest single battle of the Vietnam War to that point. The official assessment of the North Vietnamese Army dead is just over 1,600 killed, with two divisions all but annihilated. But thousands more were probably killed by American bombing.
After three-and-a-half years, Operation Rolling Thunder comes to an end. In total, the campaign had cost more than 900 American aircraft. Eight hundred and eighteen pilots are dead or missing, and hundreds are in captivity. Nearly 120 Vietnamese planes have been destroyed in air combat or accidents, or by friendly fire. According to U.S. estimates, 182,000 North Vietnamese civilians have been killed. Twenty thousand Chinese support personnel also have been casualties of the bombing.
President Richard M. Nixon takes office as the new President of the United States. With regard to Vietnam, he promises to achieve "Peace With Honour." His aim is to negotiate a settlement that will allow the half million U.S. troops in Vietnam to be withdrawn, while still allowing South Vietnam to survive.
In a major offensive, assault teams and artillery attack American bases all over South Vietnam, killing 1,140 Americans. At the same time, South Vietnamese towns and cities are also hit. The heaviest fighting is around Saigon, but fights rage all over South Vietnam. Eventually, American artillery and air power overwhelm the Vietcong offensive.
U.S. combat deaths in Vietnam exceed the 33,629 men killed in the Korean War.
South Vietnamese troops attack into Cambodia, pushing toward Vietcong bases. Two days later, a U.S. force of 30,000 -- including three U.S. divisions -- mount a second attack. Operations in Cambodia last for 60 days, and uncover vast North Vietnamese jungle supply depots. They capture 28,500 weapons, as well as over 16 million rounds of small arms ammunition, and 14 million pounds of rice. Although most Vietcong manage to escape across the Mekong, there are over 10,000 casualties.
In Operation Lam Son 719, three South Vietnamese divisions drive into Laos to attack two major enemy bases. Unknowingly, they are walking into a North Vietnamese trap. Over the next month, more than 9,000 South Vietnamese troops are killed or wounded. More than two thirds of the South Vietnamese Army's armored vehicles are destroyed, along with hundreds of U.S. helicopters and planes.
Massed North Vietnamese Army artillery open a shattering barrage, targeting South Vietnamese positions across the DMZ. Upwards of 20,000 NVA troops cross the DMZ, forcing the South Vietnamese units into a retreat. The Southern defence is thrown into complete chaos. Intelligence reports had predicted a Northern attack, but no one had expected it to come on the DMZ.
North Vietnamese soldiers push toward the city of Hue, which is defended by a South Vietnamese division and a division of U.S. Marines. But by April 9, the NVA are forced to halt attacks and resupply.
In an assault spearheaded by tanks, NVA troops manage to seize control of the northern part of the city. But the 4,000 South Vietnamese men defending the city, reinforced by elite airborne units, hold their positions and launch furious counter attacks. American B-52 bombers also help with the defence. A month later, Vietcong forces withdraw.
Two weeks after the initial attack, North Vietnamese forces again battle toward Quang Tri City. The defending South Vietnamese division retreats. By April 29, the NVA takes Dong Ha, and by May 1, Quang Tri City.
With U.S. air support, the South Vietnamese Army begins a drive to recapture Binh Dinh province and its cities. The battles last until September 15, by which time Quong Tri has been reduced to rubble. Nevertheless, the NVA retains control of the northern part of the province.
By order of the president, a new bombing campaign starts against the North Vietnamese. Operation Linebacker Two lasts for 12 days, including a three day bombing period by up to 120 B-52s. Strategic surgical strikes are planned on fighter airfields, transport targets and supply depots in and around Hanoi and Haiphong. U.S. aircraft drop more than 20,000 tons of bombs in this operation. Twenty-six U.S. planes are lost, and 93 airmen are killed, captured or missing. North Vietnam admits to between 1,300 and 1,600 dead.
The last American combat soldiers leave South Vietnam, though military advisers and Marines, who are protecting U.S. installations, remain. For the United States, the war is officially over. Of the more than 3 million Americans who have served in the war, almost 58,000 are dead, and over 1,000 are missing in action. Some 150,000 Americans were seriously wounded.
Though they are still too weak to launch a full-scale offensive, the North Vietnamese have rebuilt their divisions in the South, and have captured key areas.
In a disastrous loss for the South Vietnamese, the NVA take Phuoc Long city and the surrounding province. The attack, a blatant violation of the Paris peace agreement, produces no retaliation from the United States
A powerful NVA offensive is unleashed in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. The resulting South Vietnamese retreat is chaotic and costly, with nearly 60,000 troops dead or missing
Another NVA offensive sends 100,000 soldiers against the major cities of Quang Tri, Hue and Da Nang. Backed by powerful armored forces and eight full regiments of artillery, they quickly succeed in capturing Quang Tri province.
Hue, South Vietnam's third largest city, falls to the North Vietnamese Army.
Five weeks into its campaign, the North Vietnamese Army has made stunning gains. Twelve provinces and more than eight million people are under its control. The South Vietnamese Army has lost its best units, over a third of its men, and almost half its weapons.
At 4:03 a.m., two U.S. Marines are killed in a rocket attack at Saigon's Tan Son Nhut airport. They are the last Americans to die in the Vietnam War. At dawn, the last Marines of the force guarding the U.S. embassy lift off. Only hours later, looters ransack the embassy, and North Vietnamese tanks role into Saigon, ending the war. In 15 years, nearly a million NVA and Vietcong troops and a quarter of a million South Vietnamese soldiers have died. Hundreds of thousands of civilians had been killed.