August 19

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Aug 19, 1972:

Democratic candidate McGovern attacks Nixon policy in Vietnam

Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern attacks U.S. pacification techniques of applying "massive firepower and free-fire zones and [clearing] 6 million people out of their homes." McGovern, a senator from South Dakota, had long been an outspoken opponent of the war in Southeast Asia and had begun calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops in early 1965. In 1972, he campaigned on a liberal reform platform, callling for an immediate end to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He also advocated making the Democratic party more responsive to youth, women, and minorities. Despite McGovern's attempt to appear more "mainstream," his opponent, incumbent President Richard Nixon, effectively portrayed McGovern as a radical and was able to draw moderate Democrats to the Republican camp. In addition, many of McGovern's domestic reform ideas alienated many old-line Democrats who also switched their support to Nixon. McGovern's campaign was further damaged when his first cho!

ice for running mate, Thomas Eagleton, admitted that he had been treated for mental illness. His second choice, Sargent Shriver, added very little to the ticket. Badly split, the Democrats suffered one of the worst defeats in U.S. political history when Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew won in a landslide.

Also on this day: In South Vietnam, the Nguyen Hue Offensive continues with major fighting near the northern district capital Que Son and neighboring Fire Base Ross. After a heavy bombardment, the North Vietnamese captured both the town and the base, giving the Communist control of most of Quang Nam province.

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