The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from November 1, 1955 to the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by the Soviet Union and others communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the United States and other anti-communist nations. The Viet Cong, a lightly armed South Vietnamese front of communist sympathizers, largely fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region, whereas the Vietnam People's Army engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units into battle. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes.
The U.S. government viewed involvement in the war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. The North Vietnamese government viewed the war as a colonial war, fought initially against France, backed by the U.S., and later against South Vietnam, which it regarded as a U.S. puppet state. U.S. military advisors arrived beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with U.S. troop levels tripling in 1961 and tripling again in 1962. U.S. combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Operations spanned borders, with Laos and Cambodia heavily bombed. Involvement peaked in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive. After this, U.S. ground forces were withdrawn as part of a policy called Vietnamization. Despite the Paris Peace Accords, signed by all parties in January 1973, fighting continued.
Course of War
Escalation of the war
February 7, 1965
After attacks on U.S. bases, President Lyndon B. Johnson orders air-strikes against barracks near Đồng Hới. Operation Flaming Dart I and Flaming Dart II were meant as a message to the North to cease hostilities in the South. In February 1965, the U.S. Air Force and the Vietnam Air Force dropped massive amounts of bombs and on the first day alone, dropped 25 tons in 30 minutes.
The Battle of Ia Drang
November 14 – 18, 1965The Battle of Ia Drang Valley was the first true battle of the Vietnam War. Until this point in time, altercations and hostilities were launched in secrecy from either side with the enemy having little chance for defense.
Landing Zone X-Ray
November 14, 1965
The 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment would land at Landing Zone X-Ray and engage the North Vietnamese Army 66th Regiment, the 1/7 Battalion would eventually take and secure LZ X-Ray on the 16th of November, the third day of the battle.
Landing Zone Albany
November 17, 1965
The remaining battalions abandoned LZ X-Ray on the 17th of November and began a tactical march to new landing zones, 2nd/5th under Lt. Col. Bob Tully to LZ Columbus about 4km to the northeast, and 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment under Lt. Col. Robert McDade to Landing Zone Albany about 4km to the north-northeast, close to the Ia Drang.
Operation Game Warden
December 18, 1965
Operation Game Warden and other similar operations were a part of early attempts by the United States to help the South Vietnamese combat the movement of supplies along the Mekong Delta. The operation was undertaken by elements of the United States Navy Riverine Patrol Force, Task Force 116.
Battle of Bồng Sơn
January 28 - February 12, 1966
The Battle of Bồng Sơn, also known as Operation Irving was a combined operation meant to locate and eradicate Viet Cong pockets in the villages of the south. Elements of the 1st Cavalry Division, including the 5th Cavalry Regiment would take part in the battle, going up against the 2nd Viet Cong Regiment.
July 15 – August 3, 1966Operation Hastings was the largest combined operation in the war to date. Elements of the United States Marine Corps 5th Marine Regiment, the South Vietnamese, and the Republic of Vietnam participated in one of the first "search and destroy" missions of the war.
Operation Cedar Falls
January 8 – 26, 1967
Operation Cedar Falls was a massive operation by the United States to eliminate a Viet Cong tunnel network north of Saigon known as the "Iron Triangle," an area bordered by Củ Chi, Bến Súc, and Bến Cát. Due to its proximity to Saigon, many U.S combat units were called in to clear them out, one of them being the United States Marine Corps 1st Combat Engineer Battalion.
Defense of Cồn Tiên
March 19, 1967 - February 28, 1968While defending Cồn Tiên, suffering from months of constant shelling and probing attacks from hastily constructed NVA bases just north of the Demilitarized Zone, the 26th Marine Regiment and other Marine Corps units are ready to mount a quick strike to destroy the offending artillery positions and raze the surrounding bases. The Marines would go up against the North Vietnamese Army 325th C Division.
The Tet Offensive
The Tet Offensive was a massive, multi-pronged assault involving NVA units and Viet Cong guerrilla fighters attacking targets throughout South Vietnam. Major cities such as Huế and Saigon were hit hard by the Viet Cong, catching the American defenders completely off guard.
The First Battle of Saigon
January 31, 1968
Although Saigon was the focal point of the offensive, the communists did not seek a total takeover of the city. Rather, they had six primary targets to strike in the First Battle of Saigon: the headquarters of the ARVN General Staff at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, the Independence Palace, the U.S. Embassy, Saigon, the Long Bình Naval Headquarters, and the National Radio Station. The attacks were undertaken by elements of the local Viet Cong C-10 Sapper Battalion. Many ARVN and American units fought back the Viet Cong, one of the units being the 101st Airborne Division, who defended a bridge leading into Saigon.
The Battle of Quảng Trị
January 30, 1968
The city of Quảng Trị had the misfortune of being positioned just south of the all important Demilitarized Zone. The "DMZ," as it was known, was a barrier between the north and south where no military action was to take place. However, this was seldom the case. With the weather working against them, the North attacked Quảng Trị in the attempt to control the DMZ. The 1st ARVN Division attempts to defend the city from the 812th North Vietnamese Army Regiment in the battle.
The Battle of Huế
January 31 – March 3, 1968
The Battle of Huế during 1968, was one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the Vietnam War. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam and three understrength U.S. Marine Corps battalions was attacked and defeated by more than 10,000 entrenched NVA armed forces and Viet Cong guerrilla forces.
Huế is taken by the NorthThe city of Huế was one of the North's targets on the Tet Offensive. The 1st ARVN Division stationed in the city, due to the South Vietnamese viewing it as poor public relations to station U.S. forces in the ancient city, had very little U.S. support. The North believed that without the U.S. forces supporting them, the ARVN would be weak.
The South did everything they could to repel the attacks during the Tet Offensive. Despite the earlier loss of Hue, the ARVN were determined to reclaim Huế. ARVN reinforcements had arrived, one of the reinforcing units being the 3rd Regiment of the ARVN Rangers.
Battle of Khe Sanh
21 January 1968 – 8 April 1968 (US claim)
21 January 1968 – 9 July 1968 (North Vietnamese claim)
February 7, 1968
The North identified the need to eliminate the Khe Sanh Combat Base, and one of the first steps in doing this was the elimination of the special forces base at Lang Vei, where the 5th Special Forces Group was stationed.
February 29, 1968 For 77 days, the North pounded on the Khe Sahn Combat Base hoping to repeat their victory over the French at Điện Biên Phủ. The NVA tried everything to break the U.S. resolve. Eventually, the U.S. used creative artillery tactics to break the siege and repel the NVA. However, the U.S. would soon later abandon the completely destroyed base complex of Khe Sanh and the NVA would soon occupy the area.
May 1, 1970
Ho Chi Minh Trail
May 1, 1970
Second Battle of Quảng Trị
September 16, 1972
The Second Battle of Quảng Trị was a battle undertaken by the Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps to retake the city of Quảng Trị, after the South Vietnamese forces occupying the city were ordered to retreat by their commanding officer who saw little point in defending the remnants of the city, after years of military occupation and repeated battles and bombings, rendering the city a waste land.
Fall of Saigon
April 30, 1975
After the Battle of Xuân Lộc, the Fall of Saigon was inevitable, the North amassed its armor and infantry, preparing for the final assault on the city of Saigon. But the NVA first had to eliminate the ARVN base and the 1st ARVN Division on the eastern outskirts of Saigon. The ongoing evacuation of American personnel left the ARVN without the air and heavy artillery support to which they have grown so accustomed to.
The North would soon take Saigon and with it, the defeat of the South and the reunification of Vietnam was completed, signaling the defeat of the capitalist forces in Vietnam.