This article originally appeared in T&S Issue 41, Summer 2000.
The American-Viet Nam war has been more mythologised than almost any other conflict of the 20th century. But in all the books, films and television documentaries about Viet Nam, little has been heard of the experiences of Vietnamese women, least of all their experiences of organised sexual violence. 25 years on, Madi Gilkes went to Viet Nam to find out about this hidden history from the women who lived it.
In 1975, Susan Brownmiller published the first extensive feminist analysis of war sexual abuse in her chapter on conflict in Against Our Will. Out of necessity and in the light of the recent conflicts in the Former Yugoslavia, feminist literature on the issue of war rape has expanded dramatically. Three themes dominate: why men rape in war; the nature of war sexual abuse and its consequences; and justice and the prosecution of war rape within international law. In this article, I wish to look at the second theme, the nature of war sexual abuse, in the context of the American-Viet Nam conflict.
Although some Western texts do exist on Vietnamese women’s roles during this conflict, the more I looked into this conflict the more apparent it became how gender-based violence from the women’s perspectives had been ignored. I wanted to rectify this gap by recreating their testimonies through my research. To do this, I spent eight months in 1998 in Viet Nam, predominantly in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). With the help of two Vietnamese women academics and the permission of the Vietnamese Women’s Union I was able to visit six provinces/areas in southern Viet Nam to carry out ‘official’ interviews i.e. ones where my academic contacts and women’s union representatives were present. I chose these six areas for a number of reasons: according to Vietnamese primary sources, high levels of incidents had been reported in these provinces; secondly, the provinces had been key sites for Vietnamese resistance to the Southern Vietnamese Government and US soldiers — for example, in 1960, there were a number of women-led uprisings in Ben Tre province — or the areas had witnessed heavy fighting — for example, Cu Chi which is famous for its secret Viet Cong tunnels; and thirdly, as I had to cover all the costs for myself and my two academic contacts and as bureaucratic problems would arise if I, as a foreigner, wanted to stay over on a visit, the sites had to be within a day’s drive from Ho Chi Minh City.
When I first went out to Viet Nam I had a somewhat romanticised and simple notion of what my research field trip would be like. When the research finally took off however, I soon realised I would always have an interview entourage of at least three people — sometimes as many as seventeen. No one interview scenario typified my interviewing experiences whether in terms of the amount of control I had over the interview (for example, in most of the interviews we used a questionnaire, but in one set, the women had prepared speeches and we were unable to direct the meeting or its focus); the type of interviewee (for example, her background or war experiences); or the interview setting itself (for example, its location or the number of people present). In addition, I soon realised that my date line for the conflict differed to those of my interviewees, who used the chronology of 1954 to 1975 (as opposed to the dates I originally started out with of 1965 to 1973). Obviously, there were and still are a number of problems inherent within my research methodology. For example, the language barrier meant that I was unable to carry out the interviews myself or even understand what was being said by the interviewee. Due to the politically ‘sensitive’ nature of interviews, it has further proven difficult to find someone willing to translate and transcribe the interviews. There are also the issues raised in relation to the use of oral testimonies, the impact of my foreigner status upon the interviewees, as well as the potential bias in my research sample due to the involvement of such a political organisation as the Women’s Union and the subsequent impact the very ‘public’ nature of the meetings had upon my interviewees. The list is endless.
Despite these problems, I did succeed in collecting my interviews. In total, I spoke with forty-two women. The interviewees ranged in age from their forties to their late eighties, although the majority fell within the mid-fifties to seventy age group. Some had received higher levels of education, but as the Women’s Union draws its members from the poorer sections of Vietnamese society, the majority of the interviewees had only had access to basic levels of education. Three of the women had been involved in the peace movement; three were heroic mothers — the title given by the government to women who had lost their husbands and/or children in either the French or American conflicts — and one woman had not participated in the war in any capacity. However, the vast majority of my interviewees had been involved in pro-Revolutionary activities i.e. they were connected to the National Liberation Front (NLF), otherwise known as the Viet Cong. The majority of these women had been involved in the ‘political struggle,’ through the Women’s Liberation Associations or Youth Leagues which actively sought to mobilise support for the NLF through the dissemination of leaflets and through agitation and demonstrations against the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) and the US soldiers. Some of the women had also served as document and supplies couriers and as spies, nurses or teachers. Other interviewees were more directly involved in the ‘armed struggle’ and had either been involved in the militia or in the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF). As a result of their revolutionary activities, many of the women had undergone some form of arrest and imprisonment whether for interrogation purposes or as actual political or military prisoners.
Due to problems which have arisen in relation to the transcription of my interviews, this article draws upon the testimonies of six women. However, even with such a small number, it is still evident that women were vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in four key situations. These situations were: prostitution; forced marriage; military raids; and interrogation and imprisonment.
Prostitution and the trafficking of women
Looking at prostitution first, it is widely recognised that the military and prostitution have a long history together, fuelled by the notion that making women’s bodies available keeps soldiers happy. In a mild form, military prostitution may lead to a proliferation of brothels and bars around military bases; in its most extreme, it can lead to forced sexual slavery, as seen in WW2 when an estimated 200,000 Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Dutch, Filipina and Korean women were enslaved into forced prostitution in a network of brothels for Japanese soldiers (see also Yonson Ahn’s piece in this issue). More recently, this has been witnessed in the rape camps in Bosnia.
Prostitution was rife in South Viet Nam during the conflict period — by the end of the war in 1975, it was estimated that there were 500,000 prostituted women. At the beginning of American involvement, servicemen had entered into private arrangements for sex with their hootch maids. However, by 1966, the US Army had established official military brothels within their base camp perimeters at An Khe, Lai Khe and Pleiku with the intention of preventing servicemen from visiting potential security-risk brothels, and from contracting venereal diseases. The US military regulated the health and security features of the brothels but left the procurement of women and pricing arrangements up to the Vietnamese.
Officially, the South Vietnamese Government declared prostitution illegal and moves could be made against it, for example, as reported in the New York Times in 1967, the director of the Social Welfare Office in Nha Trang arrested more than 300 girls and 50 pimps in a programme to scare the prostitutes away from the province. Unofficially however, prostitution was a lucrative form of finance for the government who allegedly took 30% of the proceeds from prostitution in the closed, off-limits prostitution zones which developed outside of the military brothels and bases. Officers of the South Vietnamese Army and lesser government officials were also found guilty of extorting money from prostitutes. It was even alleged that nurses in the Chi Hoa prison infirmary would prostitute themselves to the richest prisoners, with the prison administration taking a cut of the nurses’ payment. Thus, you can understand why one Saigon government official referred to prostitution as ‘an inexhaustible source of US dollars for the State’.
Prostitution itself took many forms. US involvement effectively divided prostitutes into those who worked in legal, US approved bars and brothels — often with a madam — and those who worked in off-limit areas or on the street. The most prevalent types were the bar girl, masseur or prostitute. Working conditions in the brothels were difficult. At ‘Sin City’ at Pleiku, women ‘worked’ in a tent with fifteen to twenty beds; at Phu Loi, the brothel was only able to operate during the daytime as the NLF was active in the surrounding area at night. One of my interviewees described the conditions:
The women were selected through test and trials, then were recruited by the Americans to serve in US Army camps. They worked daily shifts. Everyday, they were transported to military bases to have sex with American soldiers. They received monthly incomes based on the number of soldiers and the hours they served. Usually a woman ‘worked’ in a room, which was divided into two parts: the outside where there were drinks and a receipt book to record the number of hours that she had worked, and the inside, where there was a bed. (Diem)
An alternative to working in a bar or brothel was to become a ‘key woman’. Through this arrangement, a woman lived with a serviceman for a period of time — from one week to the length of his tour of duty — during which he would pay her rent and living costs.
Women came to prostitution for a number of reasons. The forced relocation of rural populations through the strategic hamlets programme, defoliation (which rendered farm land untenable) and ‘free fire zones’ resulted in the mass displacement of millions of peasants, many of whom who fled to the capital, the cities and the areas surrounding the military bases. Some prostitutes were war widows or had been abandoned by their husbands. As a single woman was an economic burden upon her family, the city offered employment, even if it was as a prostitute, through which she could earn money to send back home. This was confirmed by my interviewees. Similarly, in her autobiography, Le Ly Hayslip described how the $400 she was offered, if she slept with two servicemen about to return home was a means to an end. As she says:
I stared at the cash the way a thirsty prisoner stares at water. Four hundred dollars would support my mother, me and Hung for over a year — a year I could use finding a better job and making connections or, as a last resort greasing palms for a paid escape. And to make it, I wouldn’t even have to work up a sweat or risk going to jail or getting blown up by a mine or blown away in an ambush. I just lie down and let these two American boys be men. What could they do to me that hadn’t been done already?
Some women however turned to prostitution after becoming victims of rape. In traditional Vietnamese society, the shame and dishonour of rape compromised the victims’ eligibility for marriage and forced women to take the only economic option open to them. As Le Ly Hayslip remarked: ‘[m]any of these girls … were rape victims like me who despaired of a proper marriage’ (p293).
Other women were trafficked into prostitution. In 1965, a UN survey on slavery noted a considerable rise in the traffic of women, with procurement spreading from South Viet Nam and Thailand to Laos. Inside South Viet Nam, the trafficking of rural Vietnamese women also increased. Young female refugees would arrive in Saigon looking for employment. A woman would meet the refugee bus offering work as a housekeeper or nanny but once brought to the household, as Le Ly Hayslip remarks, ‘it wasn’t long, however, before the real purpose of her job was made clear.’ If the girl escaped, she risked being tracked down by the pimp’s guards and possibly put up for sale again (p292-3). Diem, one of my interviewees, also told a similar story, of a young housemaid accused of stealing a radio cassette from her employers’ household. The girl was arrested but released by a policeman, who on her release asked her to marry him. As she was afraid of being returned to jail, she consented but after spending one night with her, the man then sold her on into prostitution.
Not surprisingly, prostituted women were at risk of contracting venereal diseases or of violence from their clients. To protect themselves from the latter, they would sometimes take their boyfriends or male relatives with them as pretend policemen to the base, whilst the madam of a brothel could enjoy police protection if well-connected enough. As for the ‘key’ women, although this relationship was an improvement upon working in a bar or brothel, it was a hazardous arrangement with some women being subjected to violence, abuse and alcohol or drug-related problems, and obviously the financial support only lasted for as long as the relationship did. There was also the shame of being a prostitute and the risk of being rejected by your family. One of my interviewees remarked upon this to me:
Prostitution was a practice that was open and normal to American soldiers, but it was the Vietnamese women who were subject to social judgement, prejudice of the people. Because prostitution was a way of making money that goes against the Vietnamese traditional values. Hence those girls/women were subject to a lot of popular contempt … At the time, all women seen in association with the Americans or who got married to Americans were very badly looked down upon. I think nationalism was then a very important virtue among the people (Diem).
The second way in which women may be sexually abused in war is through ‘forced marriage’. This form of violence is a particularly subtle form of abuse as women may be accused of inviting, colluding or agreeing to the relationship. In Rwanda, this type of abuse has taken the form of women being forced to cohabit with men, ‘agreeing’ to sexual favours with guards if their husbands are in jail, or women being obliged to hand themselves over to soldiers so as not to be accused of collaboration with the deposed regime. Women were forced into similar relationships with Southern Vietnamese soldiers during the Viet Nam conflict. In 1954, under one of the terms of the Geneva Accords, troops of the Viet Minh were obliged to regroup to the north of the 17th parallel (which had been designated as a temporary line of division of the country) while French Union Troops were to withdraw south of the line. Following the regrouping, women whose husbands had gone to the North were forced to sign papers divorcing their husbands and made to remarry within a set period of time to prove their ‘allegiance’ to the South Vietnamese Government. This happened to Le Ly Hayslip’s sister Ba. After Ba’s husband was sent to the North, she started to receive advances from her husband’s cousin, a member of the local police force. After initially resisting his advances and intervention by her father, Ba and her father were arrested and taken to a temporary interrogation compound. Her release depended upon renouncing her marriage vows and marrying her husband’s cousin; if she refused to do this, they would be handed over to the army as Viet Cong spies. One of my interviewees also spoke of such ‘forced marriages’. She said:
Women living in the strategic hamlets had to contend with various difficulties … They were lonely, away from their loved ones, as most men were either taking part in the revolution or went to the army. Soldiers of the South Vietnamese Army were then encouraged to be with women of the strategic hamlet. There was even a prize of 50,000 dong for any soldier who managed to marry a woman there. Only those tough women could put up with the loneliness to resist the soldiers. Encouraging the Southern Army soldiers to marry local women, that was a unique multi-purpose way by the Americans to use women. First, it was to satisfy sex for the soldiers. Second, they could use women to be spies for them. Moreover, they could make sure that the women would not support the Communists (Yen).
This comment can be seen as resembling the confused attitudes directed at similar forced marriages in Rwanda. On the one hand, such women were seen as collaborating in the relationships to avoid loneliness, but on the other, the interviewee did recognise such relationships as manipulative and exploitative.
The third form of sexual abuse is that which takes place during military operations and it is probably this form of sexual violence which has been the focus of most of the recent literature on war rape. As has been witnessed in Bosnia and more recently in Kosovo, mass war rape is an effective tool of genocide or ‘ethnic cleansing’. Rape victims may die from their injuries or be killed afterwards; they may be rendered infertile following the transmission of venereal disease or through forced impregnation be compelled to give birth to a child of ‘the enemy’. The reality or threat of rape also serves as an effective means of forcing communities to flee their homes.
There has been much debate as to whether or not American military policy in Viet Nam amounted to the genocide of Vietnamese people. Whilst there is evidence that the United States committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Viet Nam, it has yet to be clearly proven that the extermination of the Vietnamese people was the sole objective of the military policy.
This is not to say, however, that rape was a rare occurrence. According to the testimonies, rape was extensive, every interviewee had at least known someone who had been victimised and it was clear that women were at risk from attack from all enemy soldiers, not just American servicemen but also South Vietnamese and Korean soldiers. Diem told how she had almost been raped during a raid on a village outside Saigon. A group of American soldiers had entered the house of a woman who had recently given birth. After threatening the mother, they turned to my interviewee, who was then only a student, and threatened her. It was only by two children jumping onto her, crying and screaming, and the sound of gunfire signalling the soldiers to withdraw from the village that the young student was able to avoid attack. Lanh described how she had been abused twice:
During the wartime with the Americans, I was in my 40s but I myself couldn’t avoid being raped. Sometimes, they were raiding the village, and they called me to come and they came very near you, and they had some money in their hand, and then suddenly, there you go, they thrust again and again and you are raped. Another time, a nephew of mine, a 12 year old, was taken away, so I had to go after them to get my nephew back, and on that time, I was raped again. That one time, because I saw they took my nephew, I didn’t think and just went after him and was raped.
It was not clear from the interview transcripts the nationality of the soldiers to which Lanh was referring. However, one significant element of Lanh’s remark was how she believed her age would protect her from abuse. This belief was repeated in other testimonies, for example, in those of women who had been imprisoned and who commented that they particularly feared rape because of their youth or good looks. With age obviously no barrier to violation, my interviewees also described other different strategies they employed to try and protect themselves. One was to purposely make themselves unattractive:
For the Vietnamese women, those things were most insulting and most hurtful. Because we had a lot of morals and traditional values to respect, so we were so scared of being raped. A lot of us were often dressed down and made ourselves look very ugly and very old so that they would leave us alone. Many women may not be scared of going to the battlefield but they would dread the prospect of being raped (Diem).
Another strategy women used was to group together for protection. Diem recalled that ‘each time when the Americans were around, women were always out and about in the street. They wouldn’t stay at home. Only old people and children would stay at home … if you were unlucky enough to stay home alone, and your husband and children were away, they might do something to you.’ Em told how: ‘when the Americans came, all the women were very fearful. Usually, they were so scared that you would find five or six women living together in one house so that they could be together and protect each other.’ But such strategies could not guarantee safety, with interviewees commenting that regardless of what they did, the soldiers wouldn’t leave women alone, or that women were raped all the time ‘no matter whether it was a woman or a teenage girl, whether they were in a group together or alone’ (Em).
Interrogation and Imprisonment
The fourth situation in which women are vulnerable to sexual abuse is during interrogation and imprisonment. In this situation, sexual violence becomes a means of torture through which an agent of the State — a public official, a soldier, a policeman — attempts to extract information or mete out punishment either because of a woman’s own actions or because of those of a family member.
All of my interviewees who had been interrogated, whether by South Vietnamese or American soldiers or Southern Vietnamese police officials, had experienced a sexualised form of torture. Women suffered the same torture methods as inflicted upon men, but in addition, the methods took on an explicitly sexual form. For example, the women were given electric shocks with the electrodes attached to the woman’s nipples or genitals, or cigarette butts would be stubbed out on these areas of their bodies; sticks, bottles and knives would be forced into a woman’s vagina; and as the experiences of Anh and Muoi showed, if women refused to co-operate, they would be subjected to rape or attempted rape.
Yet, violent methods were used not only for the extraction of information from a specific individual. The maltreatment of detained suspects would also be used to intimidate others to comply. Anh commented that after she had been interrogated:
I was unconscious, but they made me regain consciousness. They called in other women detainees. That was common practice: when they tortured one person, they would call in other detainees to watch the scene, in order to scare the women who hadn’t been tortured. After torturing, they ordered the other women to dress me again.
Furthermore, as has been recognised, a woman’s female roles as wife/girlfriend and mother are often manipulated during torture to maximum effect. As a wife or girlfriend, a woman was abused either as punishment because of her connection to a particular ‘enemy’ male, or in order to extract information from him. One such example of the latter abuse was reported in the Congressional Record (8 June, 1970: 18820) of the United States. In this particular instance, a high school philosophy teacher was not only completely undressed and beaten in front of several whisky-drinking policemen, but this also took place in front of her fiancé in an attempt to force him to sign confession papers.
Mothers found their parental ties manipulated. The separation of a mother from her child upon arrest was problematic. If the mother was arrested quickly, she would not be able to find someone to care for her child, but if she was unable to find a carer, the child would be imprisoned with its mother. From my interviews, it was clear that some regarded motherhood as a possible means through which women could protect themselves. For example, in 1956, Anh was detained as the Diem government followed a policy of the arrest and detention of all known ex-revolutionaries, anti-government activists and Viet Cong. Anh’s son at this time was only one year old:
There were also two reasons for me to take my son with me. Firstly, that it helped to protect against being raped; and secondly, it would make me look like I wasn’t active in the revolution because usually common sense would have it that with a small child, you wouldn’t be involved in all these activities.
However, as was also clear from the testimonies, women’s mothering roles were also used against them. As Anh commented on her first detention: ‘Each time I was tortured, they kept my son separate, leaving him in the yard, to beat me up. But one time I struggled to keep my son in my arms and they had wires in my ears, and they switched the current on and it went through my son.’ She also remembered how:
… [t]hey knew they couldn’t extract anything from me, so they started to maintain this regular beating. They kept me in the cell but everyday they took me out to beat me. At this time, my son was thirteen months old and could start to cry ‘mama’. So every time he saw me being beaten, he would cry for me. And later on, they started beating my son, banging his head. Also, they put my son into a fire ants’ nest so that he would be bitten. … They were trying to make me feel bad and sorry and make me state the fact that I was the secretary of the communist party cell in the district.
From the testimonies, it was evident that similar treatment awaited those women sent to prison, often without trial.
The least we can do is remember
Vietnamese women’s war experiences, let alone their experiences of gender-based violence are still little known of, either in Viet Nam itself or in the West. Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have Women’s Museums, but whilst the displays there are extensive, the experiences recorded often tend to be those of the ‘heroines’. The War Remnants Museum (formerly the War Crimes Museum) in Ho Chi Minh City meanwhile, whilst exhibiting artefacts and photographs from the conflict, fails, in many respects to ‘gender’ its displays. In this way, the war stories of ‘ordinary’ individual women can so easily be lost and it becomes possible to understand why so many of my interviewees perceived both myself and my research as a means of both documenting and publicising their experiences outside of Viet Nam.
In some respects, it may be questioned what value can be gained by researching ‘historical’ incidents of war sexual abuse when the consequences of violence for women caught up in contemporary conflicts need addressing so urgently. One remark by one of my interviewees illustrates, for me, why research into women’s experiences of violence in more ‘historical’ conflicts still needs to be done. In this particular conflict, legal redress was left to the militaries’ own judicial systems; as Viet Nam now tries to move on from its conflict-ridden past, other routes through which the women’s experiences may be acknowledged are limited. This only becomes more so as time passes on and the women become older. Diem said:
Sometimes, I still have nightmares of the time I was kept in prison and still have flashbacks at what happened to me at the time. Also, it affected my emotions in a way that each time I hear about war, I feel terrible and scared … I just hope that there won’t be any more war. There is so much suffering during war, not only physical but also psychological suffering. When I think back now, I still wonder how could we as women survive all that, and could go through all that.
As this comment shows, even when a conflict ended twenty-five years ago, the consequences of the violence inflicted are still very much felt today. The least we can do now is record these experiences.
Susan Brownmiller Against Our Will. Men, Women and Rape (Penguin Books, 1975)
Le Ly Hayslip with Jay Wurts When Heaven and Earth Changed Places (Pan Books, 1991)
Diem is fifty-four years old. As a student, she worked as an intelligence agent and was a member of the Women’s Association for the Liberation of the South. She experienced an attempted rape during an American raid and was arrested a handful of times. She was also imprisoned for seven years, in 1968, in the notorious Con Dao prison where she was kept in a tiger cage.
Yen is seventy years old. She first became involved in revolutionary activities in 1954 as a liaison contact, conveying letters and documents to and from different units in the Cu Chi area. She was arrested twice and jailed for several years, finally being released in 1972.
Lanh was born in 1921 and joined the revolution in 1954, Between 1954 and 1968, she was involved in the collection of intelligence and the establishment of a women’s organisation within her hamlet. In 1968, she was arrested by American soldiers and detained in a detention centre within a US compound for half a month where she was interrogated and tortured. In 1969, her revolutionary activities were discovered and she was forced to flee the hamlet. Lanh was raped on at least two different occasions by soldiers (although it is not clear from the transcripts whether by American or Southern Vietnamese soldiers).
Em was born in 1945. In 1963/64, she dropped out of school to become more active in the revolution. She was the secretary of the Youth League until 1966 when she officially joined the revolutionary army. Her revolutionary activities involved mobilising support amongst villagers in order to create support bases for revolutionary army soldiers amongst the people.
Muoi is forty-eight years old. In 1966, she was arrested despite not being involved as yet in revolutionary activities. Upon her release, she decide to drop out of school and participate in the revolution, joining the special task force. Between 1967 and 1969, she participated in eight battles. She was arrested a further four times. Her third arrest in 1969 resulted in imprisonment in Thu Duc prison for a year. On her fourth arrest, Muoi was brought to an ARVN security office for interrogation. There, on the fourth day, after being beaten and given electric shock, she was raped.
Anh was born in 1929 and was active, as a teenager, in anti-French activities. In 1956, she was arrested for six days, during which she suffered numerous forms of torture during interrogation, including attempted rape. A week after her release, she was taken to the district prison and held for eight months. In 1958, she was caught a second time and jailed for another eight months.
Ho Chi Minh declares Viet Nam independent and founds Democratic Republic of Viet Nam (DRV)
Ho Chi Minh calls for resistance to France and the French Viet Nam war begins
US being direct economic and military aid grants to French in Indochina
Battle of Dien Bien Phu ends in French defeat and ensures French withdrawal from Indochina
Geneva Conference on Indochina provides for the cessation of hostilities, provisional demarcation line at the 17th parallel with political settlement to be achieved through nationwide elections
Ngo Dinh Diem is appointed premier
US Aid to Diem’s government begins, including training of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN)
Ngo Dinh Diem refuses to participate in nationwide elections; declares the ‘Republic of Viet Nam’ (RVN) with himself as president, October 26.
Ordinance 6 issued in RVN permitting arrest and detention of any deemed dangerous to security
Law 10/59 is passed creating special tribunals for prison and execution of those endangering security
The National Liberation Front of South Viet Nam is established; build up US military personnel in Viet Nam
US expands military aid and advisers in RVN
US advisory group reorganised as ‘Military Assistance Command, Viet Nam’; strategic hamlet programme begun.
Martial Law proclaimed in RVN; military coup kills Diem and his brother; continued build up of US military personnel
Series of military coups
US begins bombing of DRV; March, the first American combat troops arrive in Da Nang; June, regime led by Nguyen Cao Ky emerges; by the end of December, US military personnel numbers 184,300;
Buddhist and student protests in Hue and Dan Nang begin; US military personnel reaches 385,300
September, Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky take over RVN presidency and vice-presidency
January: Tet Offensive begins; March, My Lai Massacre; May, Paris Peace Conference begins; US halts bombing of DRV
US military personnel in South Viet Nam peaks at 542,400; first withdrawal of US troops; Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) formed by the NLF and others; massive anti-war demonstrations throughout the US;
US resumes bombing of DRV; hundreds of university anti-war protests throughout the US; US military personnel down to 335,800 by the end of the year
Thieu ‘reelected’ as head of RVN in uncontested presidency race; US personnel in South Viet Nam down to 184,000
US authorises bombing of Hanoi-Haiphong area; bombing halted and US announces resumption of peace negotiations
Initial peace agreement signed; Ceasefire Agreement formally signed in Paris, 27 January; last US troops leave South Viet Nam
30 April, last Americans leave Saigon as the city falls to the People’s Army of Viet Nam.
Taken from: Gabriel Kolko Anatomy of a War (New Press, 1994) and Stanley Karnow Vietnam: A History (Penguin Books, 1984).