Richard Nixon Vietnamization Henry Kissinger Khmer Rouge Nguyen Van Thieu
I. Peace Talks II. Election of 1968 III. Vietnamization IV. Cambodia and Laos V. Results of the War
Peace talks opened in Paris on May 13, 1968 and immediately deadlocked. The number of B-52 bombing missions tripled in 1968, and the weight of bombs dropped on South Vietnam exceeded 1 million.
The Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, claimed to have a “secret plan” to end the war. Nixon barely defeated V.P. Hubert Humphrey Nixon had several options in Vietnam: Immediate withdrawal Continue Johnson’s policy of keeping ground troops in the South and bombing the North Invade the North Nuclear weapons
Nixon chose Vietnamization, a policy that gradually withdrew US combat troops from Vietnam while continuing to give air and naval support. Vietnamization led to: 4 more years of war Continued domestic opposition to the war A peace settlement that led to a Communist Vietnam
Nixon ordered secret bombing attacks against North Vietnamese sanctuaries in neutral Cambodia. Over the next 15 months, more than 100,000 bombs were dropped on Cambodia. The South Vietnamese air force received so many helicopters that it became the world’s 4 th largest in number of aircraft.
In 1969 North Vietnam decided to wait until the US pull-out was complete before its army made its final push for unification. In March 1970 Cambodia’s neutralist Prince Sihanouk was overthrown by a pro-American group led by Prime Minister Lon Nol. On April 30,1970 the US and South Vietnam invaded Cambodia. Because of this invasion, the North Vietnamese initialed large-scale support for the Cambodian Communists, the Khmer Rouge.
Demonstrations erupted on campuses across the nation, and at Kent State and Jackson State College 6 students were killed in clashes with National Guardsmen and police. More than 100,000 anti-war demonstrators protested in Washington D.C. the first week in May. Students at hundreds of colleges refused to attend classes and some campuses were closed down to avert further violence.
Nixon removed US troops from Cambodia by the end of June 1970. In February 1971, Nixon approved an invasion of Laos by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The North Vietnamese counter-attacked with 36,000 troops, supported by the newest Soviet- made tanks against the 2 ARVN divisions. After 6 weeks of fighting, the South Vietnamese retreated.
South Vietnamese had a casualty rate as high as 50%. US dropped 48,000 tons of bombs In March 1972 North Vietnam launched a massive tank led attack into South Vietnam. There were 95,000 US troops in Vietnam, only 6,000 were combat troops. Nixon ordered massive air strikes on the North, the mining of Haiphong Harbor, and a naval blockade of the North. The North stopped the invasion.
The NVA lost an estimated 100,000 men and the ARVN 25,000.
In October 1972, 1 month before presidential elections, Henry Kissinger announced that the US and North Vietnam agreed to tentative peace terms. Within 60 days after a cease-fire, the US would withdraw its combat troops from South Vietnam, and North Vietnam would return the US POWs (there were 500 living POWs, 166 had died in captivity). A political settlement was to be arranged by a neutral commission.
Nguyen Van Thieu, the President of South Vietnam, refused to go along with the agreement because it permitted North Vietnamese troops to remain in the South and it recognized the Vietcong as a legitimate political force. The North Vietnamese shot down 15 B-52 bombers and dozens of smaller planes. The Christmas bombing resulted in Nixon’s approval rating falling from 60% to 39% overnight.
Negotiations resumed on January 8, 1973 and both sides accepted the agreement that they had signed in October. Nixon forced Thieu to accept the agreement.
US lost 58,022 killed and about 300,000 wounded, and had spent $164 billion. US aircraft sprayed more than 50,000 tons of cancer-causing herbicides (Agent Orange) over millions of acres of forests, destroying an estimated ½ of South Vietnam’s timberlands. About 650,000 South Vietnamese were killed along with an estimated 1 million North Vietnamese and Vietcong. Millions of Indochinese became refugees.
Nixon continued to try and support Thieu and South Vietnam, but was weakened by Watergate. From 1973-1975 Congress severely cut back on aid to South Vietnam. South Vietnamese air force operations were curtailed by as much as 50%. North Vietnam launched an offensive in the spring of 1975 and quickly took over South Vietnam.
In 1976 Vietnam was officially unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The Khmer Rouge Communists triumphed in Cambodia prior to the South Vietnamese surrender; renaming the country Kampuchea, they immediately begin a reign of terror that killed at least 1 million Cambodians. The Laotian Communists triumphed shortly thereafter.
Of the 27 million men eligible for the draft, only about a third ever served in the armed forces, and less than 10% went to Vietnam. Only 6% of the men eligible for the draft actually engaged in combat operations. In June 1969, Nixon changed the Selective Service System which resulted in mostly 19 year olds being drafted. This caused the anti- war movement to lose a great deal of its focus and energy.
Only 9% of those who served in Vietnam were college graduates. At the end of WWII, blacks comprised 12% of all combat troops; by the start of Vietnam War, their share had grown to 31% In 1965, blacks accounted for 24% of all Army combat deaths even though they were only about 12% of the US population. By 1970, the figure of black combat deaths had been reduced to less than 9%. 3,200 men were imprisoned for refusing to serve when drafted.
College enrollment was 6-7% higher than normal because of the draft. In 1968, 20,000 more people applied for teachers’ licenses in New York City. The danger of dying in Vietnam was 19 times as great for Marine and Army troops as for Navy and Air Force men. A combat soldier faced about a 3% chance of death, a 10% chance of suffering a serious wound requiring hospitalization, and a 25% chance of getting enough of a wound to earn a purple heart.