The story of Miss Saigon is set during the Vietnam War. The year is 1975 and the fall of Saigon is looming. Chris, an American soldier, meets Kim, a young Vietnamese woman in 'Dreamland' - a nightclub in Saigon run by The Engineer. They meet weeks before the Americans are forced out of Vietnam during the largest helicopter evaucation recorded in history.
Below is a complete timeline of events leading up to and surrounding the Vietnam War with some references to Miss Saigon!
1890: Nguyen Sinh Cung is born in Central Vietnam; he would grow up to be the leader of the revolt against the French. He took the name Ho Chi Minh ("Bringer of Light") and became a legend among his people
1932: The French government sets up leadership with Vietnamese representatives under their control.
1941: Ho Chi Minh returns to Vietnam to form the Vietminh or Vietnam Independence League, later known as the Vietcong
1946: War begins between French forces and Vietminh
1950: Ho Chi Minh declares that the area under his leadership, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, is the only legal government. His government is now seen as "North Vietnam" and is recognized by the Soviet Union and China. The US and Britain continue to recognize the government in "South Vietnam." The lines for international conflict are drawn - On June 26, President Truman grants $15 million in military aid to the French.
1954: The French forces are badly defeated by the Vietminh at the battle of Dienbienphu. President Eisenhower reaffirms support of South Vietnam with $100 million in aid. US agrees to train South Vietnamese army.
1961-62: US supplies South Vietnam with more equipment and advisers. American advisers increase from 7,000 to 12,000.
1963: President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, TX. Lyndon Johnson is now president. By the end of the year 15,000 American military advisers are in South Vietnam and $500 million in aid is given to the South Vietnamese government.
1964: North Vietnamese patrol boats attack the American destroyer Maddox two times in the Tonkin Gulf (the second attack is later disputed). Congress passes Tonkin Gulf resolutions on August 7, giving Johnson extraordinary power to act in Vietnam.
1965: President Johnson initiates Operation Rolling Thunder, which is a sustained bombing of North Vietnam. First troops land in Vietnam on March 8; by December, American troops in Vietnam reach 200,000.
1966-67: Bombing of North Vietnam continues. American troop strength reaches 500,000. Sustained bombing and fighting destroy much of Vietnam, creating a large population of poor and homeless people. Many flee to other cities, where as shown in the first act of Miss Saigon, women are often forced into prostitution. Nguyen Van Thieu, trained in France and the US, becomes President of South Vietnam.
1968: Tet Offensive begins as Vietcong attack South Vietnamese cities and towns. Richard Nixon is elected as US President.
1969: Ho Chi Minh dies in Hanoi at age 79. Massive anti-war demonstrations begin in Washington, DC. Nixon begins gradual withdrawal of American troops.
1970-71: Protests continue in US, while American troop withdrawal continues in Vietnam.
1972: North Vietnam launches increased offensive against South Vietnam. Nixon announces intensification of American bombing of North Vietnam. Nixon is re-elected in a landslide victory.
1973: After nearly 2 years of negotiations, many held in secret, cease-fire agreements between the US and the North Vietnam government, are signed in Paris. The last American troops leave Vietnam on March 29, leaving extensive embassy personnel.
1974: Thieu declares that war has begun again. With American troops gone, Communist forces plan to resume fighting. On August 9, President Nixon resigns in the mist of the Watergate scandal, Gerald Ford becomes President.
1975: Communist forces begin to capture provinces in South Vietnam, moving toward Saigon. President Ford says the war is "finished." Thieu leaves Saigon on April 25.
On April 29, the last Americans leave Saigon in the largest helicopter evacuation ever recorded. A fleet of 70 helicopters fly 1,000 Americans and 6,000 Vietnamese out of Saigon, leaving thousands left behind. This is shown during Act 2 of Miss Saigon.
April 30 - Communist forces take over Saigon, changing the name to "Ho Chi Minh City."
1976: Jimmy Carter is elected US President, pardons most of the 10,000 Vietnam War draft evaders.
1978: North Vietnamese forces, still in control of Saigon, celebrate the Third Anniversary of Reunification, as shown in Act 1 of Miss Saigon.
1982: Vietnam veteran memorial unveiled in Washington, DC on November 11.
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