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It started in 1954 (the same year the Algerian War for Independence from France began) and ended in 1975. It went on longer in Vietnam until the North Vietnamese took over South Vietnam and made the entire country communist governed. The Vietnamese had been fighting for a lot longer than before the USstepped in to help.

1. If one could think about direct army involvement then it would be Sept. 27, 1950 when the US establishes the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Indochina (MAAG) in Saigon to aid the French military (the French had been fighting communist rebels in Vietnam, their pre-WWII colony, since 1945 A.D.).

2. If one could think about direct combat engagement then it would be November 1, 1955 -- The US re-designates MACG, Indochina, as MACG, Vietnam to specify its new direct combat advisory role with the North Vietnamese Army. The US essentially took over the advisory role from the French, who were leaving Vietnam after their defeat at Diem Bien Phu in 1954. The Department of Defense views this date as the earliest qualifying date for inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In fact this allows US Military personnel to use live weapons in Vietnam aka 'to win'!

3. March 1959 -- Ho Chi Minh declares a People's War to unite all of Vietnam under his leadership. His Politburo orders a changeover to an all-out military struggle. From the communist perspective, the "Vietnam War" against the US has now officially started.

4. December 11, 1961 -- US aircraft carrier "Core" arrives in Saigon with 65 helicopters and 4000 air and ground crewmen assigned to operate them for the North Vietnamese Army. Also, US pilots start to train & fly support missions with the North Vietnamese Air Force. This really marks the first larger scale participation of US military "advisers.

5. August 7, 1964 -- In response to the incidents involving US naval vessels USS. Maddox and the USS Turner Joy, the US Congress overwhelmingly passes the "Gulf of Ton-kin Resolution," allowing the President "to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force" to prevent further attacks against US forces. Many people view this as the "official" start of the war, although there was never a declaration of war.

6. March 8, 1965 -- The first US combat troops arrive in Vietnam, as 3500 Marines land at China Beach to defend the American air base at Da Nang. They join 23,000 American military advisers already in Vietnam. The arrival of combat troops is considered by some the start of the war, although American military advisers had been in Vietnam for over 10 years.

Here is more input and answers from others:

  • For the US, the start date would have to be around July of 1961. My battalion was on patrol in the South China sea when President Kennedy ordered us to Laos. We were to be issued live ammo and to wait for further instructions. We floated in the South China sea for several months before we were ordered back to our home base of Okinawa. I was with 2nd bat. 9th Marines on the USS Paul Revere when all of this happened.
  • The US military typically views the beginning of its official military deployment in 1961, when we sent 400 helicopters (as well as the crews to fly & maintain them) to South Vietnam. Others point to the Gulf of Ton-kin Resolution and the subsequent massive build-up of US forces in 1964 as the real beginning of the "war." Of course, American military "advisers" had been in South Vietnam since the late 1950's.
  • After the French defeat in 1954 the communists agreed to a partitioned country. The US. sent advisers to Vietnam in late 1959 and early 1960 under President Kennedy. It escalated from this point on until the US. withdrew in 1973. Vietnam was at war from 1945 until 1973.


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Q: When did the Vietnam War start and end?
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