A Timeline of Recent Vietnamese History, including MCC Involvement
Victory at the Battle of Bach Dang gives Vietnam lasting independence from China for the first time in more than 1,000 years.
Portuguese merchants begin trading with Vietnam, and French merchants and missionaries soon follow.
Vietnam wins multiple military successes over Champa, expanding its territory south from the Red River Delta to roughly its modern extent.
French troops attack Da Nang, beginning the French colonial conquest of Vietnam.
French troops take control over Hanoi, completing French colonial conquest.
Ho Chi Minh, then known as Nguyen Ai Quoc, helps found the French Communist Party in Paris. He writes and speaks widely advocating for Vietnamese independance.
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) founded to deliver relief goods famine-stricken Ukraine.
Japan invades Vietnam, leaving French Vichy forces in place as puppets.
Ho Chi Minh founds the Viet Minh to fight against French and Japanese occupiers.
September 2: From Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh declares Vietnam independent from France. The French remain in control of significant territory in Southern Vietnam.
Spring: French troops land in Hai Phong in the north of the country planning to retake Hanoi, fully beginning the First Indochina War.
Jul 21: The Geneva Accords are signed, ending the First Indochina War (1946-1954) as a victory for Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam and a loss for France. The country was temporarily divided in two, with elections for one national government planned for 1956. Around two million Vietnamese people head south of the ‘temporary’ demarcation line, fearing the government in the North, and about half a million cross north to seek national unity under Hanoi’s leadership.
Aug 13: Orie Miller, MCC Executive Director, visits Saigon and decides to open an MCC program there.
Oct 23: Ngo Dinh Diem proclaims, with U.S. backing, the formation of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) with himself as President, disregarding the Geneva Accord’s election mandate.
Fall: Dr. Willard Krabill arrives, the first of many doctors to serve with MCC in Vietnam.
January: Hanoi changes their goal of reuniting the country from a “political struggle” to an “armed struggle.”
July 8: Two American military advisors are killed, the first of an eventual 58,000 American combat casualties.
March 1: MCC signs an agreement with the Vietnamese Evangelical Church to begin the Nha Trang medical program.
December: The National Liberation Front (NLF) is founded by Diem’s many opponents, including but not limited to communists. Diem refers to them as Cộng Sản Việt Nam, Vietnamese Communists, soon shortened to Việt Cộng.
January 20: John F. Kennedy inaugurated U.S. President.
February 8: The U.S. forms the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, to direct and assist armed conflict on behalf of the Diem regime.
May 30: MCC worker Daniel Gerber and two fellow Americans, Archie Mitchell and Ardel Vietti, are kidnapped from the MCC supported leprosarium in Buon Ma Thuot and presumedly killed.
June 11 Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc immolates himself as part of widespread protests of the Diem regime.
November 1: President Diem is ousted in military coup and killed hours later.
August 2: The Tonkin Gulf incident, later revealed to be faked, is used as rational for the U.S. to begin bombing North Vietnam.
March 8: First U.S. fully combat troops arrive at Da Nang (US military advisors were present since 1950).
December 8: Mennonites in Vietnam release “Statement of Concern” about U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
January 6: Church World Service, Lutheran World Service, and MCC sign an agreement forming Viet Nam Christian Service.
March: Large-scale protests against the southern government, led by Buddhists seeking a non-military solution, occur across South Vietnam.
June: Hanoi and Haiphong are evacuated due to heavy American bombing.
October: MCC offers to send relief assistance to North Vietnam at meetings in Algeria and East Germany, but no agreements are reached.
December 21: VNCS leaders meet with American evangelist Billy Graham
May 15: CORDS formed, consolidating the management of all U.S. citizens working in Vietnam under military direction, frustrating MCC and VNCS.
December: Mennonites in Vietnam send “Letter from Vietnam to American Christians” opposing U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
January 30: The Tet Offensive brings the front lines to the previously mostly-peaceful urban centers of South Vietnam.
March 31: U.S. President Lyndon Johnson limits bombings, proposes negotiations.
May: Peace talks begin in Paris.
Fall: For the first time, a shipment of MCC medical supplies is allowed into North Vietnam.
January 18: Peace talks resume with representatives from four parties — North Vietnam, South Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government (a union of various revolutionary groups in South Vietnam), and the U.S.
January 20: Richard Nixon inaugurated president of the US, develops “Vietnamization” strategy for the war
September 2: Ho Chi Minh passes away at the age of 69.
November15: 250,000 Americans gather in Washington to protest continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
January 1: After debate over how to effectively witness for peace, MCC shifts oversight of VNCS to Church World Service.
March: A US-backed coup occurs in Cambodia; the US begins raids into their territory one month later.
May 4: Four peaceful protesters are killed by the U.S. National Guard while protesting the war in what becomes known as the Kent State Massacre.
Apr 26: VNCSer Ted Studebaker killed near Di Linh
March 30: A major land offensive launched by North Vietnam across the demilitarized zone.
January 1: MCC resumes work independent of VNCS.
January 27: The Paris Peace Accords are signed, ending direct fighting by U.S. troops.
August 8: Richard Nixon resigns the U.S. presidency following the Watergate scandal.
Fall: Atlee Beechey, former VNCS director visits Hanoi on MCC's behalf.
March 10: NLF forces, with support from conventional North Vietnamese forces, take Ban Me Thuot, beginning their rout of the South Vietnamese military.
April 30: Saigon government surrenders; four MCC expat persons voluntarily remain, hoping to continue MCC's work under the new government.
November 12-29: A four-person MCC and Quaker team visit Vietnam to see projects receiving funding from their organizations and meet with government officials, including Prime Minister Pham Van Dong
May: Another MCC team visits Vietnam—delegations visited consistently from this point until an MCC office was reopened in 1990.
July 2: North and South Vietnam are officially unified under one government
October 22: The final expatriate MCC worker until 1989 departs the country.
December: Vietnam invades Cambodia, overthrowing the Khmer Rouge and ending the Cambodian Genocide.
Spring: China invades northern Vietnam, angered by Vietnamese defeat of their allies, the Khmer Rouge, in Cambodia. China eventually withdraws its troops, and both Vietnam and China declare victory.
Spring: Louise Buhler is appointed MCC Representative for Vietnam, based in Bangkok.
Spring: Economic stagnation leads the Vietnamese government to announce the Đổi Mới reforms, shifting the country to a "socialist-oriented market economy." Economic conditions rapidly improve.
Fall: MCC worker Miriam Hershberger is granted a visa to teach English in Hanoi, becoming the first MCC worker to live in Vietnam since 1976.
Spring: MCC is allowed to re-open an office in Vietnam, now in Hanoi.
The Center for Education Exchange opens in Bangkok, under MCC Vietnam auspices, to assist and encourage Vietnamese to study abroad in various capacities
February: The U.S. Embargo of Vietnam is lifted, 19 years after the end of the war.
Spring: U.S. and Vietnam relations are formally normalized.
MCC shifts its focus from Central and Southern Vietnam to development, English teaching, and peacebuilding projects in northern Vietnam.
MCC Vietnam marks 50 years of programing.
MCC begins partnering with the Vietnamese Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) in Quang Ngai Province.
MCC announces it's intentions to leave Vietnam due to economic stress caused by the CoVid-19 pandemic.
For more-resources on the history of MCC Vietnam, click here.
Much of this timeline comes from Luke Martin's A Vietnam Presence: Mennonites in Vietnam During the American War, with supplemental information gathered by Caleb Schrock-Hurst.