1950 - 1954

 Historical Timeline of the War: 1950-1954
January 195

Ho Chi Minh’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam recognized by The People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union. China sends military advisors and weapons to Viet Minh. Most of the armament American-made and formerly supplied to Chiang Kai-shek.

Joseph McCarthy
February 1950

U.S. recognizes Bao Dai and the French-controlled South Vietnamese government. Viet Minh begins offensive against French in North Vietnam. Senator Joseph Mc Carthy of Wisconsin claims that the U.S. State Department harbors communists.

June 30, 1950

President Truman orders U.S. troops into Korea following invasion of North Korean troops into the south.

July 26, 1950

Truman authorizes $15 million in military aid to the French for Vietnam. American military advisors assigned to help the French. By 1954 the U.S. will spend $3 billion dollars more on the war and provide 80% of all war supplies.

General Vo Nguyen Giap

September 16, 1950

Viet Minh under General Vo Nguyen Giap begin troop movement against French at Chinese border. Mre than 6,000 French lose their lives and a large store of supplies.

September 27, 1950
U.S. Military Assistance Group (MAAG) established in Saigon to help the French.
Jean de Lattre

January 13, 1951

Viet Minh begin attacks in the Red River Delta. French troops under General Jean de Lattre successfully strike back.

March-June, 1951

Giap leads several failed attacks against the French at Mao Khe and the Day River. Thousands of troops lose their lives.

June 9, 1951

Viet Minh troops withdraw from the Red River Delta.

Raoul Salan
September 1951
General de Lattre seeks more aid from U.S.
November 1951

General de Lattre attempts to involve Giap in battle at Hoa Binh. General de Lattre returns to France having been diagnosed with cancer. He is replaced by General Raoul Salan.

December 9, 1951

Giap changes Viet Minh tactics and wages hit-and-run attacks followed by retreat into the jungle.

January—February, 1952
French supply lines along the Black River and Route Coloniale 6 are cut. French withdraw. Large numbers of casualties on both sides.
October 1952

November 14 - Novermber 17,1952

January 20, 1953

March 5, 1953

French launch Operation Lorraine in an attempt to target Viet Minh supply bases. Giap draws French out from the De Lattre Line and attacks between the Red and Black Rivers.

Operation Lorraine is cancelled.

Dwight D. Eisenhower inaugurated 34th President of U.S. During his term he increases military aid to the French and cites the “Domino Theory” as reason for U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.

Josef Stalin dies. Nikita Khrushchev replaces him as head of the Soviet Union.

Dwight D. Eisenhower 
July 27, 1953

Korean War ends and country is divided at the 38th parallel. Korea is seen as a model for ending the Vietnam conflict.

November 20, 1953

French General Henri Navarre begins Operation Castor, the construction of outposts protecting a small air base in the jungle valley at Dien Bien Phu in northwest Vietnam. General Giap masses troops and equipment and prepares to confront the French. 

March 13, 1954

Viet Minh troops, outnumbering the French 5 to 1, move in on the Dien Bien Phu Air Base. General Giap shuts down the only runway and then begins the construction of tunnels and trenches.

March 30-May 1, 1954
French troops are trapped at Dien Bien Phu. France appeals to U.S. for help. U.S. decides not to respond.
May 7, 1954

10,000 French soldiers surrender at Dien Bien Phu; prisoners are marched 500 miles to a camp, nearly half die during the march or in captivity. France withdraws from Vietnam. 400,000 soldiers and civilians die on all sides during the eight-year struggle.

May 8, 1954

Geneva Conference begins to decide the fate of Vietnam. The Geneva Accords divide the country at the 17th parallel. Ho Chi Minh gets the north, Bao Dai, the south. It is determined elections will be held in two years to reunify the country.

October 1954

Ho Chi Minh returns from hiding in the jungle to take control of North Vietnam. Ngo Dinh Diem installed as prime minister of South Vietnam. Diem, a Catholic, asks Catholics living in the North to come to the south. Nearly a million do so, and 90,000 communists go north. However, 10,000 Viet Minh are instructed to quietly stay behind.