Cold War Timeline: A Different Kind of War

America's Wars in Vietnam, 1961-1975

The wars in Vietnam lasted 30 years. They began when France tried to restore colonial rule after World War II. Fear of losing Southeast Asia to the Communist-led independence movement brought U.S. backing to the French effort during the 1950s. French defeat resulted in a divided country, with the United States supporting the weak but pro-Western government of South Vietnam.

Assuming a more active role in 1961, the United States sent the first of 11,000 military advisors to South Vietnam. When advice failed to stem the Communist tide, the United States in 1965 launched an air war against North Vietnam and committed ground troops to combat guerrilla insurgency in the south. American strength peaked at 540,000 in 1969, then rapidly declined.

Growing numbers of Americans opposed the war on political or moral grounds, and public protest mounted. The war was widely seen as futile by 1968, when peace talks opened in Paris. The 1973 peace accord required the last U.S. forces to withdraw, leaving the war solely to the Vietnamese. South Vietnam did not long survive, falling in 1975 to the invading regular North Vietnamese Army.

Nuclear Deterrencecontroversy and OppositionAmerica's Wars in Vietnam

Back to: Homepage / Submarine & Cold War History / Cold War Timeline / A Different Kind of War

Copyright © 2000, The National Museum of American History