Added to Various–Vietnam 1954 to 1958

1 January
1955 – In pledging new military assistance to South Vietnam, the United States cites the aid agreement of 23 December 1950 signed by the United States, France, and the French Associated States of Indochina.
1955 – Chief of the US Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) Indochina Lieutenant General John W. O’Daniel is assigned to assist the South Vietnamese government in organizing and training the South Vietnamese Army. All US aid to Vietnam goes directly to Saigon.

3 January
1957 – The International Control Commission reports that neither North Vietnam nor South Vietnam have been fulfilling their obligations under the 1954 Geneva Agreements.

16 April
1954Vice-President Nixon tells a convention of newspaper editors that the United States may be ‘putting our own boys in [Indochina]…regardless of allied support.’ in Washington the desire to see colonialism end has given way to the desire to ‘contain’ Communism and to the belief that the was fostered from the outside. Nixon claims there would be no war were it not for Communist China.

8 May
1954Members of the nine delegations assemble in Geneva and start negotiations for ending the war in Vietnam as part of a larger settlement of Indochina problems. The French are publicly opposed to any solution that involves a partition of Vietnam but behind the scenes they are considering this as a compromise. For the French and the West, partition would at least salvage half of the country. The Chinese indicate a willingness to support partition, for they have no desire to continue a war that might spill over into China and they have their own motives for wanting to keep the Vietnamese from becoming too strong. Negotiations will drag on for six weeks as the French reject the demands made by the Vietminh’s chief delegate, Pham Van Dong.
1957During a visit to the United States by Diem from 5 to 19 May, Eisenhower calls him the ‘miracle man’ of Asia and reaffirms support for his regime. The Vietminh see a powerful America replacing a weak France as the major outside force in Indochina. After Diem’s visit, 6,000 hardcore guerrillas, exhausted after eight years of war with the French and underground since 1954, begin a program of harassment, sabotage, and assassination.

11 May
1957 – President Diem and President Eisenhower issue a joint communique which declares that both countries will work toward a ‘peaceful unification’ of Vietnam and reaffirms the United States’ continuing assistance to South Vietnam in its stand against Communism.

16 June
1954China’s Chou Enlai, now negotiating for the Communists against the West, suggests that Vietminh troops withdraw from Laos and Cambodia. It is now clear that China and the Soviet Union, represented by Vyacheslav Molotov, are bringing pressure to bear on the Vietminh not to wreck the conference. Members of the Vietminh delegation will later complain that their revolution was halted on the verge of success, but without Chinese aid, they cannot be certain of expelling the French.

24 June
1957 – The US Army’s 1st Special Forces Group is activated in Okinawa. In the course of the year this unit trains 58 men of the Vietnamese Army at the Commando Training Center in Nha Trang. These trainees become the nucleus of the Vietnamese Special Forces.

29 June
1954 – At the conclusion of a five day conference, Churchill, Eden, Eisenhower and Dulles endorse partition and agree on seven points that offer a surprisingly accurate outline of the formal agreement at the conference.

6 July
1955Diem declares in a broadcast that since the Geneva Agreements were not signed, South Vietnam is not bound by them. Although he does not reject the ‘principle of elections,’ any proposals from the Vietminh are out of the question ‘if proof is not given us that they put the higher interest of the national community above those of Communism.’

20 July
1956The deadline set at Geneva in 1954 for nationwide elections passes. Diem’s intransigence convinces many dissidents that the struggle to demand the implementation of the Geneva Agreements is futile. Although Diem’s harsh security measures have efficiently decimated the Vietminh, disorganized and uncoordinated insurgency begins in the South.

10 August
1955 – Declaring that South Vietnam is ‘the only legal state,’ Diem rejects talks with North Vietnam, reaffirming the policy he laid out in his 6 July broadcast.

11 August
1954 – After nearly eight years of war, the Geneva brokered ceasefire is operating throughout all Indochina. by this time, the US Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) commanded by LTG John W. O’Daniel, US Army, based in Saigon, has 324 men in South Vietnam.

31 August
1954Under terms of the Geneva Agreement, a flow of almost one million refugees from North to South Vietnam begins. CIA Colonel Lansdale plays a role in encouraging Catholics and providing transportation. France and the United States, especially the US Navy, provide aircraft and ships. US Marine Colonel Victor J. Croziat, first US Marine assigned to the US MAAG in Saigon, creates refugee centers. The majority of the refugees are Catholics, led by their priests. Others include various factions opposed to the Vietminh. They furnish Prime Minister Diem, himself a Catholic, with a fiercely anti-Communist constituency in the South.

20 September
1954Nine of Diem’s 15 cabinet members resign, apparently convinced that Diem is doomed. This has been predicated by Diem’s suspension of his Chief of Staff, General Nguyen Van Hinh on the 11th in an attempt to gain control of his military. Diem had ordered Hinh to leave for France. Hinh refuses to give up command or to leave the country. 8 days later, Hinh will station tanks around the presidential palace. A coalition of anti-Diem factions send a representative, Le Van Dien to Paris to see permission form Emperor Bao Dai to depose Diem in a coup. Following he resignations, Colonel Lansdale and negotiators armed with US funds try to strike a bargain with the opposition.

24 September
1954 – Forty-eight hours before the projected joint action of the anti-Diem forces, Diem announces the formation of a coalition government, including several of the opposition leaders, for form the Hoa Hso, and two from Cao Dai.

6 October
1955 – Diem’s Ministry of the Interior announces that a referendum is scheduled for 23 October to decide whether Bao Dai should be deposed and Diem replace him as head of state.

11 October
1954 – The Vietminh formally take control of Hanoi and North Vietnam. Unlike Diem in the South, Ho Chi Minh face no rebellious factions or challenges to their authority. The long war against the French, however, has devastated the North economically.

22 October
1957 – US military personnel suffer their first mass casualties of the Vietnam War when 13 Americans are wounded in three insurgent bombings of MAAG and US Information Service installations in Saigon.

23 October
1955Diem’s referendum in South Vietnam results in a 98.2% majority against Bao Dai and for Diem, who becomes chief of state. More of a test of loyalty than an exercise in democracy, the election is by all accounts rigged, with the CIA’s Colonel Lansdale once again playing an important role. In Saigon, Diem receives one-third more votes than there are registered voters.

24 October
1954President Eisenhower sends a landmark letter to Diem. Although Eisenhower makes it clear to Diem that US aid to his government in Vietnam’s present ‘hour of trail’ is contingent up on his assurances of the ‘standards of performance [he] would be able to maintain in the event such aid were supplied,’ President Johnson later cites this letter as the starting point of the US commitment to South Vietnam. Diem agrees to the ‘needed reforms’ stipulated as a precondition for receiving aid.

31 October
1954 – The Vietnamese Marine Corps is formally organized wit US marine Colonel Victor Croziat as its senior US advisor. At two-battalion strength by the end of the year, the Vietnamese Marine Corps enjoys the reputation of a well-disciplined unit.

3 November
1954 – On the basis of Diem’s agreement to begin US required reforms, President Eisenhower announces he is sending General J. Lawton Collins, then US representative on the military committee to NATO, to Vietnam to ‘coordinate the operation of all US agencies in that country.’

17 November
1954General J. Lawton Collins arrives in Saigon. Affirming $100 million in US aid, he announces, ‘I have come to Vietnam to bring every possible aid to the Government of Diem and to his Government only…. It is the legal government in Vietnam, and the aid which the United States will lend it ought to permit the government to save the county.’ Warning that the Army will receive US military aid only if it supports Diem, Collins announces, ‘This American mission will soon take charge of instructing the Vietnamese Army.’

20 November
1954Premier of France Mendes-France visits Washington. On his return to Paris he discloses the results of the Franco-American meetings: the end of French control of the economy, commerce, and finances of Vietnam; transfer of command of the national Army to the Vietnamese government; transfer of responsibility for training the Vietnamese Army to the United States; US aid to go directly to Saigon; and withdrawal of the French Expeditionary Corps.

12 December
1955 – The US consulate in Hanoi is closed.

31 December
1957The Diem government is able to announce that at least 300,000 refugees from the North have been settled in 300 new villages in the South. Local leadership, notably organized by refugee Catholic priests, plays an important role, along with US assistance and the natural wealth of one million acres of abandoned rice land, in achieving the most universally acknowledged success of the Diem regime.
1958 – The CIA has come into possession of a directive from Hanoi to its headquarters for the Central Highlands stating that the Lao Dong (Communist) Party Central Committee has decided to ‘open a new stage of the struggle’ and move into overt insurgency.

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