January 7

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Jan 7, 1971:

Laird visits Saigon

Accompanied by Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Secretary Melvin Laird arrives in South Vietnam to assess the military situation.

The purpose of Laird's visit was to check on the progress of the "Vietnamization" effort. In the summer of 1969, President Richard Nixon ordered that measures be taken to "Vietnamize" the war--he hoped to increase the capabilities of South Vietnamese forces so U.S. troops could eventually be withdrawn and the South Vietnamese could assume more responsibility for the war. This effort included a rapid modernization of South Vietnamese forces with new equipment and weapons, and a renewed emphasis on the American advisory effort. American troop withdrawals began in the fall of 1969 and continued on a regular basis.

At the completion of his visit, Laird announced that the preponderance of U.S. "combat responsibility" would end by mid-summer. Upon his return to the United States, however, he warned President Nixon and his cabinet of "some tough days ahead." Admiral Moorer, who also had made a side trip to Phnom Penh, reported that the Cambodian situation was "deteriorating" as Premier Lon Nol's forces were being threatened by the communist Khmer Rouge forces and their North Vietnamese allies.

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