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13-14 Aug
Japan formally accepts unconditional surrender. Japanese forces in Indochina remain in control in the interim.
19 Aug 45
At a spontaneous non-communist meeting in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh assumed a leading role in the movement to wrest power from the French. With the Japanese still in control of Indochina, Bao Dai goes along because he thought that the Viet Minh were still working with the American OSS and could guarantee independence for Vietnam..
Aug 45
Vietnam's puppet emperor, Bao Dai, abdicates.
Aug 45
Ho Chi Minh's guerrillas occupy Hanoi and proclaim a provisional government.
2 Sep 45
On the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japanese representatives sign the Instrument of Surrender proclaiming their unconditional surrender, formally ending World War II.
2 Sep 45
Ho Chi Minh issues his Declaration of Independence, drawing heavily upon the American Declaration of Independence from a copy provided by the OSS as well as Sun Yatsen's "Three-people Doctrine".
2 Sep 45
Ho declares himself president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and pursues American recognition but is repeatedly ignored by President Harry Truman.
13 Sep 45

British forces arrive in Saigon, South Vietnam to disarm the Japanese in South Vietnam..

Sep 45
150,000 Chinese Nationalist soldiers, mainly poor peasants, arrive in Hanoi to disarm the Japanese. After looting Vietnamese villages during their entire march down from China, they then proceed to loot Hanoi.
22 Sep 45
In South Vietnam, 1400 French soldiers released by the British from former Japanese internment camps enter Saigon and go on a deadly rampage, attacking Viet Minh and killing innocent civilians including children, aided by French civilians who joined the rampage. An estimated 20,000 French civilians live in Saigon.
24 Sep 45
Viet Minh successfully organize a general strike shutting down all commerce along with electricity and water supplies. In a suburb of Saigon, members of Binh Xuyen, a Vietnamese criminal organization, massacre 150 French and Eurasian civilians, including children.
26 Sep 45

The first American death in Vietnam occurs, during the unrest in Saigon, as OSS officer Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey is killed by Viet Minh guerrillas who mistook him for a French officer. Before his death, Dewey had filed a report on the deepening crisis in Vietnam, stating his opinion that the U.S. "ought to clear out of Southeast Asia."

Oct 45
35,000 French soldiers under the command of World War II General Jacques Philippe Leclerc arrive in South Vietnam to restore French rule. Viet Minh immediately begin a guerrilla campaign to harass them. The French then succeed in expelling the Viet Minh from Saigon.
Oct 45
An OSS report quotes Ho Chi Minh saying,"although he formerly favored Communist ideals, he now realized that such ideals were impracticable for his country, and that his policy now was one of republican nationalism". It would be some 10,000 days later before the American public would learn of this.
Nov 45
Ho attempts a compromise with the French by dissolving the Indochinese Communist Party.
Dec 45
France provoke war with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and re-install Bao Dai over a central government.
Feb 46
In a separate agreement with France, Chiang Kai-shek agrees to withdraw Chinese troops from Vietnam and allow the French to return in exchange for French concessions in Shanghai and other Chinese ports.
6 Mar 46
Ho Chi Minh signs the Primary Agreement with France which allowed French forces back into Vietnam to replace Nationalist Chinese forces, in exchange for French recognition of his Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a free state within the Indochinese Federation and French Union. Ho and the Viet Minh welcome the French, saying "I love France and French soldiers. You are welcome. You are heroes."
Mar 46
Nationalist Chinese troops depart Hanoi and Vietnam..
Mar-Jul 46
Armed and backed up by the French, the Viet Minh systematically set about executing leaders and members of nationalist Vietnamese groups, as Ho's lieutenant Le Duan said, "(to) wipe out the reactionaries." Known as the "Great Purge", the goal was to eliminate everyone thought dangerous to the Vietnamese Communist Party, and tens of thousands of nationalists, Catholics and others were massacred from 1946-1948.
May 46 to Dec 46
Ho Chi Minh spends four months in France attempting to negotiate full independence and unity for Vietnam, but fails to obtain any guarantee from the French.
1 Jun 46
French High Commissioner for Indochina, Admiral d'Argenlieu, proclaims Cochinchina China an autonomous republic, in fact, a French puppet state.
Jun 46
In a major affront to Ho Chi Minh, the French high commissioner for Indochina proclaims a separatist French-controlled government for South Vietnam (Republic of Chochin China).
6 Jul 46
Viet Minh and French meet in Paris for negotiations. Talks break down..
Jul 46
With French armored personnel carriers cordoning off the areas, the Viet Minh storm the headquarters of remaining nationalist groups, arresting most remaining opposition leaders who were later executed.
27 Aug 46
French President De Gaulle declares, "France is a great power. Without the overseas territories which she would be in danger of no longer being one". French policy was now clear.
15 Oct 46
French forces attempt to reassert their authority in Haiphong and to prevent military supplies from reaching the Viet Minh.
20 Nov 46
Fighting breaks out between French and Viet Minh at Haiphong.
23 Nov 46
French bombard Hiaphong and occupy it, killing 6,000 Vietnamese civilians. Ho appeals to the US for the last time .."to support independence".
Nov 46
After a series of violent clashes with Viet Minh, French forces bombard Haiphong harbor and occupy Hanoi, forcing Viet Minh forces to retreat into the jungle.


19 Dec 46
30,000 Viet Minh under Giap initiate the eight-year Indochina War with an attack on French troops at Haiphong. The attack fails under superior French firepower but it takes the French a week to clear Haiphong of the Communist forces. By seizing control of several cities, the French Expeditionary Army force the Viet Minh to conduct guerrilla warfare. "If these [people] want a fight, they'll get it," French military commander Gen. Etrienne Valluy states.
20 Dec 46
The Voice of Vietnam radio proclaims Ho's call for the " National Resistance War". Ho leads the Viet Minh to the mountains at Tan Trao to begin "the struggle".
Jan 47
General Giap's Viet Minh forces join Ho at Tan Trao. From the northern border jungles of Lang Son and westward to Truong Son (later to be known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail) the Viet Minh charter bases and hideouts. 15,000 French troops hunt Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh leaders with no success . French begin punitive raids on villages supporting the Viet Minh. General Giap adopts a policy of avoiding all-out confrontation and conforms with Mao Tse-tung's key principal on warfare, "always maintain the nitiative".
4 Feb 47
French opinion poll shows 36% favored force, 42% favored negotiations, 8% thought France should leave Indo-China altogether. 14% had no opinion.
7 Oct-
22 Dec 47
French Operation Lea, a series of attacks on Viet Minh guerrilla positions in North Vietnam near the Chinese border, results in over 9,000 Viet Minh causalities, although most of the 40,000 strong Viet Minh force slips away through gaps in the French lines.
Apr 48
French induce former leader Emperor Bao Dai to come to Indochina to form and head a Vietnamese government.
8 Mar 49
France recognizes an "independent" state of Vietnam. Bao Dai becomes its leader in June.The State of Vietnam is installed after an agreement between France and a few nationalist leaders. Its government had limited powers, largely being a puppet of France..
Jul 49

The French establish the (South) Vietnamese National Army.

19 Jul 49

Laos is recognized as an independent state with ties to France.

Oct 49
Mao Zedong's Communist forces defeat Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Army in the Chinese civil war. Mao's victory ignites American anti-Communist sentiment regarding Southeast Asia and will result in a White House foreign policy goal of "containment" of Communist expansion in the region.
8 Nov 49
Cambodia is recognized as an independent state with ties to France.
Jan 50
The People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union recognize Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
Jan 50

China begins sending military advisors and modern hardware to the Viet Minh includingmany American-made automatic weapons, mortars, howitzers, and trucks captured from the Chinese Nationalists. With supplies assured, General Giap declares that the guerrilla phase is now over and the counter-offensive had begun. General Giap transforms his guerrilla fighters into conventional army units including five light infantry divisions and one heavy division.

Feb 50
The United States and Britain recognize Bao Dai's French-controlled South Vietnam government. France requests US military aid.


Feb 50
Viet Minh begin an offensive against French outposts in North Vietnam near the Chinese border.
7 Feb 50

In America, the era of 'McCarthyism' erupts as Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin gives a speech claiming the U.S. State Department harbors Communists. As a consequence of McCarthyism, no U.S. politician is willing to appear to be 'soft' on Communism.

8 May 50
US announces military and economic aid to the pro- French regimes of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. US aid was to jump from an initial $10 million to exceeding $1,000 million by 1954, 78% of the French war bill, even though all concerned conceded that the war could not be won.
30 Jun 50
Communist North Korean army crosses the 38th Parallel. President Harry S. Truman orders U.S. ground troops into Korea. In his message to the American people, Truman describes the invasion as a Moscow-backed attack by "monolithic world Communism."
26 Jul 50

United States military involvement in Vietnam begins as President Harry Truman authorizes $15 million in military aid to the French. American military advisors will accompany the flow of U.S. tanks, planes, artillery and other supplies to Vietnam. Over the next four years, the U.S. will spend $3 Billion on the French war and by 1954 will provide 80 percent of all war supplies used by the French.

16 Sep 50
General Giap begins his main attack against French outposts near the Chinese border. As the outposts fall, the French lose 6,000 men and large stores of military equipment to the Viet Minh.
27 Sep 50
The U.S. establishes a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Saigon to aid the French Army.
Sep-Oct 1950

General Giap launches his first major counter offensive against the French and overwhelms French forts in the far north. French losses in this period were 6,000 troops killed or captured. Equipment losses included more than 900 machine guns, 125 mortars, 13 heavy guns, 1,200 automatic rifles, 8,000 rifles and 450 trucks.

Dec 50
French General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny is appointed High commissioner and Commander in Chief of Indochina. The French forces adopt an more offensive role with more use of air support.
22 Dec 50
Napalm is used for the first time in Vietnam against Viet Minh forces at Tien Yen.
The Lao Dong Part (Worker's Party) went public in the north of Vietnam, elevating communism almost to a religion.
13 Jan 51
20,000 Viet Minh under Gen. Giap begin a series of attacks on fortified French positions in the Red River Delta (extending from Hanoi to the Gulf of Tonkin). The open areas of the Delta, in contrast to the jungle, allow French troops under the new command of Gen. Jean de Lattre to strike back with devastating results from the 'De Lattre Line' which encircles the region. 6,000 Viet Minh die while assaulting the town of Vinh Yen near Hanoi in the first attack, causing Giap to withdraw.
14-15 Jan 51
Two Viet Minh divisions attack a French force of 8,000 troops at Vinh Yen, 56 klms north west of Hanoi. Air support plays a major role. The Viet Minh under Giap retreat suffering heavy losses (Est 6,000 to 9,000 killed, 7,000 to 8,000 wounded with 600 captured).
23-28 Mar 51
In the second attack, Giap targets the Mao Khe outpost near Haiphong. But Giap withdraws after being pounded by French naval gunfire and air strikes. 3,000 Viet Minh are killed.
29 May- 18 Jun 51
Giap makes yet another attempt to break through the De Lattre Line, this time in the Day River area southeast of Hanoi. French reinforcements, combined with air strikes and armed boat attacks result in another defeat for Giap with 10,000 killed and wounded. French forces cut Giap's supply line and Giap overextends his force and leaves himself without reserves. Giap's leadership is questioned by the Viet Minh leadership. A scapegoat in the form of Nguyen Binh is found and Giap and Ho continue to lead the Viet Minh. Giap restructures his command and tightens control over various functionsAmong the French casualities is Bernard de Lattre, the only son of General De Lattre.
9 Jun 51
Giap begins a general withdrawal of Viet Minh troops from the Red River Delta.
Sep 51
Gen. De Lattre travels to Washington seeking more aid from the Pentagon.
Oct 51
Giap orders his 312th Division against the French position at Nghia Lo. French paratroopers reinforce the fort and Giap's forces retreat and scatter.
Nov 51
Dang Lao Dong Viet Nam is founded, succeeding the Indochinese Communist Party.
Nov 51
US Senator John Fitzgerald. Kennedy visits Vietnam and declares, "in Indo-China we have allied ourselves to the desperate effort of the French regime to hang on to the remnants of an empire".
16 Nov 51
French forces link up at Hoa Binh, a Viet Minh staging area 80 kms west of Hanoi. Gen. De Lattre attempts to seize the momentum and lure Giap into a major battle but overextends his forces by setting up additional posts. Giap takes advantage and inflicts heavy casualties. Giap then withdraws and allows the French to retake their positions.
20 Nov 51
Stricken by cancer, ailing Gen. De Lattre is replaced by Gen. Raoul Salan. De Lattre returns home and dies in Paris two months later, just after being raised to the rank of Marshal.
9 Dec 51
Giap begins a careful counter-offensive by attacking the French outpost at Tu Vu on the Black River. Giap now avoids conventional warfare and instead wages hit and run attacks followed by a retreat into the dense jungles. His goal is to cut French supply lines.
31 Dec 51

By year end 1951, French casualities in Vietnam surpass 90,000.

12 Jan 52
French supply lines to Hoa Binh along the Black River are cut. The road along Route Coloniale 6 is also cut.
Jan 52
General de Lattre de Tassigny dies of cancer and is succeeded by General Raoul Salan. Salan orders the withdrawal of French forces from posts along the Black River between Hoa Binh and Viet Tri and finally Viet Binh.
22-26 Feb 52
The French withdraw from Hoa Binh back to the De Lattre Line aided by a 30,000 round artillery barrage. Giap's forces continually ambush French forces during the retreat and destroy many elements of the French rearguard. Casualties for each side surpassed 5,000 during the Black River skirmishes.
Summer 1952
During the summer both sides settle down to re-group. The Viet Minh bring their divisions up to full strength and concentrate on training with new weapons supplied by China. The French prepare for an all-out offensive and receive some American supplies, small arms, tanks and aircraft.  


Oct 52
Giap's take the offensive and orders his troops to the delta area between the Black and Red Rivers, withdraws, then attacks Nghia Lo.
11 Oct 52
Giap now attempts to draw the French out from the De Lattre Line by attacking along the Fan Si Pan mountain range between the Red and Black Rivers.
17 Oct 52
Giap's forces attack Nghia Lo several times and overrun the French position, followed by nearby posts. The Viet Minh then advance westward for a month and are forced to halt after over-extending their supply line.
29 Oct 52
The French counter Giap's move by launching Operation Lorraine targeting major Viet Minh supply bases around Nghia Lo in the Viet Bac region. The operation involves nearly 30,000 troops and aims at drawing the Viet Minh into a full scale battle. Giap outsmarts the French by ignoring their maneuvers and stays in position along the Black River.
14-17 Nov 52
The French cancel Operation Loraine and withdraw back toward the De Lattre Line but must first fight off a Viet Minh ambush at Chan Muong.
20 Jan 53
Dwight D. Eisenhower, formerly Allied commander in Europe during World War II, is inaugurated as the 34th U.S. President.
Eisenhower will greatly increase U.S. military aid to the French in Vietnam to prevent a Communist victory. U.S. military advisors will continue to accompany American supplies sent to Vietnam. To justify America's financial commitment, Eisenhower will cite a 'Domino Theory' in which a Communist victory in Vietnam would result in surrounding countries falling one after another like a "falling row of dominoes." The Domino Theory will be used by a succession of Presidents and their advisors to justify ever-deepening U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
3 Mar 53
Soviet leader Josef Stalin dies and is succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev.
Apr 53
Communist forces mass to invade Laos. Giap deploys his divisions with little encounter. Giap realizing that he cannot sustain his primitive supply line withdraws but the Viet Minh now have freedom of movement through a large part of northern Laos and could dominate the territory west of the Black River. Giap keeps the French forces tied down.
Apr 53
US Vice President Nixon arrives in Hanoi and tells the French, "It is impossible to lay down arms until victory is won".
May 53
French General Henri Navarre appointed as Commander in Chief and is sent by Premier Rene Mayer with orders to return in a month and report. He reports ".... that there was no possibility of winning the war in Indo-China". Navarre returns to Vietnam with only ten battalions, far less than he had hoped for. Support for the war in France has waned and the French Communist Party foster anti-war sentiment. Navarre conducts "search and destroy" missions with some success.
27 Jul 53
The Korean War ends as an armistice is signed dividing the country at the 38th parallel into Communist North and Democratic South. The armistice is seen by many in the international community as a potential model for resolving the ongoing conflict in Vietnam.
Late 1953
The Lao Dong Party initiates a "Land Reform Campaign" that lasts until 1956, during which an estimated 15,000 landlords and opponents of communism will be sentenced to death by "people's courts".
20 Nov 53
The French under new commander Gen. Henri Navarre begin Operation Castor, construction of a series of entrenched outposts protecting a small air base in the isolated jungle valley at Dien Bien Phu in northwest Vietnam. The French hope to draw the Viet Minh into a pitched battle. 800 French paratroopers parachute into Dien Bien Phu and begin preparations for a fortified camp, building two airstrips to link the base with Hanoi.
Gen. Giap immediately begins massing Viet Minh troops and artillery in the area, sensing the potential for a decisive blow against the French. Giap's troops manually drag 200 heavy howitzers up rugged mountain sides to target the French air base. The French, aware of Giap's intentions, mass their own troops and artillery, preparing for a showdown, but have grossly underestimated Giap's strength.
Jan 54
Operation "Atlante" begins. It is designed to clear the coastal areas of Viet Minh, but ends in March without achieving the objective.
Mar 54
The Dien Bien Phu garrison now includes a dozen battalions, two groups of 75mm guns, 28 105mm howitzers, four 155mm howitzers, mortars, and 10 light tanks. Six Grunman fighters armed with napalm are on alert on the airfield. Three main bastions form the defense of the larger airstrip, while the main stronghold includes the village itself. Four smaller outposts formed the outer defense.
13 Mar 54

50,000 Viet Minh under Gen. Giap begin their assault against the fortified hills protecting the Dien Bien Phu air base. They outnumber the French by nearly five-to-one.

Giap's artillery pounds the French and shuts down the only runway, thus forcing the French to rely on risky parachute drops for re-supply. Giap's troops then take out their shovels and begin construction of a maze of tunnels and trenches, slowly inching their way toward the main French position and surrounding it.
30 Mar -
1 May 54

The siege at Dien Bien Phu occurs as nearly 10,000 French soldiers are trapped by 45,000 Viet Minh. French troops soon run out of fresh water and medical supplies.

The French urgently appeal to Washington for help. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff now consider three possible military options: sending American combat troops to the rescue; a massive conventional air strike by B-29 bombers; the use of tactical atomic weapons. President Eisenhower dismisses the conventional air raid and the nuclear option after getting a strong negative response to such actions from America's chief ally, Britain. Eisenhower also decides against sending U.S. ground troops to rescue the French, citing the likelihood of high casualty rates in the jungles around Dien Bien Phu. No action is taken.
7 May 54
Dien Bien Phu falls. At 5:30 p.m., 10,000 French soldiers surrender at Dien Bien Phu, depriving France of any bargaining power at Geneva. By now, an estimated 8,000 Viet Minh and 1,500 French have died.
7 May 54-
late-July 1954
French survivors are marched for up to 60 days to prison camps 500 hundred miles away. Nearly half die during the march or in captivity.
8 May 54
Dien Bien Phu Falls Before Human Avalanche
8 May 54
The U.S., Britain, China, Soviet Union, France, Vietnam (Viet Minh and representatives of Bao Dai), Cambodia and Laos meet at the Geneva Conference on Indochina to negotiate a solution for Southeast Asia.
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