June 17

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Jun 17, 1972:

Watergate burglars arrested

Five men are arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. Senate investigations eventually revealed that President Richard Nixon had been personally involved in the subsequent cover-up of the break-in; additional investigation uncovered a related group of illegal activities that included political espionage and falsification of official documents, all sanctioned by the White House. Nixon became increasingly embroiled in the political scandal.

On July 29 and 30, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment, charging that Nixon had misused his powers to violate the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens, obstructed justice, and defied Judiciary Committee subpoenas. To avoid almost certain impeachment, Nixon resigned from office on August 9.

The Watergate affair had a far-ranging impact, both at home and abroad. In the United States, the scandal shook the faith of the American people in the presidency. In the final analysis though, the nation survived the constitutional crisis, thus reinforcing the system of checks and balances and proving that not even the president is above the law.

Nixon's resignation had dire consequences for the Vietnam War. Nixon had always promised that he would come to the aid of South Vietnam if North Vietnam violated the terms of the Paris Peace Accords. With Nixon gone, there was no one left to make good on those promises. When the North Vietnamese began their final offensive in 1975, the promised U.S. support was not provided and the South Vietnamese were defeated in less than 55 days.

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