William Calley, Jr.

.       U.S. Army lieutenant during Vietnam War

.       Found guilty in 1971 of murder for ordering the killing of hundreds of South Vietnamese civilians at My Lai in 1968, sentenced to life in prison

.       Appealed conviction and received reduced sentence; released in 1974


Bao Dai

.       Reigning emperor of Vietnam until 1945

.       After French colonial rule ended in Vietnam in 1945, France reinstated Bao Dai as emperor but kept him powerless

.       Essentially a puppet of the French government

.       Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh forced him to surrender leadership months later


Ngo Dinh Diem

.       President of South Vietnam from 1954 to 1963

.       Staunch anti-Communist, but unpopular and paranoid leader who expelled, imprisoned, and sometimes executed those who opposed his regime

.       Refused to ally with Ho Chi Minh after the Franco-Vietnamese War

.       Long supported by U.S., but ineffectual leadership led to his assassination in a military coup supported by the U.S.


Dwight D. Eisenhower

.       Republican U.S. president, elected in 1952 and 1956

.       Refused to commit American forces to aid France in the Franco-Vietnamese War in early 1954; later sent aid, but no troops

.       After France lost the war, his administration aided Ngo Dinh Diem

.       Remained committed to supporting Diem throughout his administration, despite Diem's autocratic rule


Lyndon B. Johnson

.       Democratic President; took office after assassination of President Kennedy in 1963; elected to his own full term in 1964

.       Inherited escalating crisis in Vietnam from JFK

.       Promised to bring end to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, but steadily increased number of troops deployed to ensure victory before withdrawal

.       Determined not to be the first U.S. president to "lose" a war

.       Announced he would not run for reelection in 1968, at the height of controversy over war


John F. Kennedy

.       Democratic President elected in 1960

.       During his short term, he tripled the amount of U.S. aid to the South Vietnamese

.       Refused to withdraw from Vietnam because he feared spread of Communism

.       Some historians argue that he supported the military coup that led to the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem


Robert McNamara

.       U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1960 to 1967, through much of the Vietnam War

.       Supported President Kennedy's decision to increase U.S. involvement in Vietnam

.       Under President Johnson, he began to suspect that U.S. aims in the war were futile


Ho Chi Minh

.       Vietnamese revolutionary leader; Communist and Vietnamese nationalist

.       Fought for Vietnamese independence against Japan, France, and the U.S.

.       Died in 1969, six years before his government declared victory in the Vietnam War and completed Vietnam's reunification under Communist rule


Richard M. Nixon

.       Republican president elected in 1968 and 1972; resigned from office in 1974 due to Watergate scandal

.       Promised he would reduce U.S. troop levels in Vietnam, but force levels remained high and Nixon actually expanded the war into Laos and Cambodia

.       Pursued a plan he called "Vietnamization" to push the South Vietnamese army to shoulder the bulk of the fighting

.       In the first months of his second term, the last U.S. combat soldiers left Vietnam





1963 Buddhist Protests

.       Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, set himself on fire in protest against South Vietnamese government policies, including religious intolerance

.       Other Buddhists followed his example in the following months

.       His suicide shocked and confused many Americans and created doubt in their minds about U.S. support for the South Vietnamese government


1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

.       Gave President Johnson the power to take any military action he deemed necessary to defend South Vietnam against the Viet Cong

.       Passed in response to an unconfirmed attack on the USS Maddox off the coast of Vietnam


1968 Tet Offensive

.       Occurred on 31 January, beginning of Vietnamese Tet holiday

.       Viet Cong forces, supported by North Vietnamese troops, shocked U.S. troops with wave of attacks deep in South Vietnamese territory

.       Fighting continued for months following the first attack

.       American and South Vietnamese forces defeated the Tet Offensive militarily

.       But public support for the war in the United States plummeted


1968 My Lai Massacre

.       Occurred in hamlet in South Vietnam, thought by American soldiers to have harbored Viet Cong or Viet Cong sympathizers

.       American soldiers, led by Lieutenant William Calley, killed hundreds of unarmed civilians

.       Those killed were mostly women, children, and elderly men


1970 Kent State Shootings

.       Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students on the campus of Kent State U. on the fourth day of anti-war demonstrations

.       Of the four killed, two had been protesting and two had just been walking to class

.       College campuses nationwide shut down in response

.       Photos of the dead were printed worldwide, intensifying opposition to the war


1972 Presidential Election

.       Republican Richard Nixon won reelection in a landslide, defeating Democrat George McGovern, who ran on an anti-war platform

.       U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam within the first three months of Nixon's second term


1975 Fall of Saigon

.       Following American withdrawal, North Vietnamese forces conquered the capital of South Vietnam

.       Thousands of South Vietnamese tried to flee, many becoming refugees abroad

.       Ended the Vietnam War with total victory for North Vietnamese Communists

.       Saigon renamed Ho Chi Minh City to honor recently deceased North Vietnamese leader





Democratic Republic of Vietnam

.       Formal name of North Vietnam's Communist government

.       Leaders waged a war for independence against French and then Americans

.       Americans and South Vietnamese viewed them only as Communists, but initially they sought independence rather than the establishment of any specific ideology

.       Became staunch Communists after the U.S. rejected pleas for self-determination


Republic of Vietnam

.       Formal name of South Vietnamese government after the Franco-Vietnamese War

.       Repressive government that stifled dissent by imprisoning or executing its critics

.       Fiercely anticommunist

.       American-supported throughout the Vietnam War


Viet Cong

.       Ho Chi Minh-supporting guerilla fighters within South Vietnam

.       Did much of the fighting against American troops during war


Viet Minh

.       Organized by Ho Chi Minh and other Vietnamese nationalists in 1941

.       Seeking Vietnamese self-rule, fought a guerilla campaign against Japanese occupation; after World War II, fought French and then Americans

.       Its members formed the Viet Cong in the 1950s





Pentagon Papers

.       Secret documents leaked to New York Times by Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst who had high-level security clearance at the Pentagon

.       Contained top-secret information collected by the Department of Defense about U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967

.       Revealed that military had been much more pessimistic about situation in Vietnam than it had revealed to the public


"Search and Destroy"

.       Military strategy employed by American ground forces throughout the Vietnam War

.       Involved ambushing enemy forces and then withdrawing immediately, rather than fortifying and holding hostile territory



.       President Nixon's plan for withdrawing troops from Vietnam, announced in June 1969

.       Included training and transitioning South Vietnamese troops to assume the roles that had been filled by American troops

.       Included promise to withdraw 25,000 American soldiers

.       Was not a plan to end the war






.       Capital of North Vietnam

.       Repeatedly bombed by American aircraft but never captured


Kent State University

.       Ohio college, site of 1970 antiwar protests that turned deadly when National Guard troops shot and killed 4 students


My Lai

.       Site of horrific 1968 massacre that convinced many that Americans had lost their way in Vietnam



.       Capital of South Vietnam

.       Captured by North Vietnamese forces in 1975, ending the war

.       Renamed Ho Chi Minh City to honor Vietnamese Communist/nationalist leader