President Richard M. Nixon suspends military action in North Vietnam on this day in 1973, giving peace talks between his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, and North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho a chance to succeed.
When Nixon inherited the war from President Lyndon Johnson with his election to the presidency in 1969, he embarked on a campaign to end it that involved the gradual withdrawal of troops punctuated by intense bombing attacks on North Vietnam. Since assuming the presidency, Nixon had managed to reduce American troop strength to 95,000 from 540,000 and still maintain a terrifying show of force against the enemy. However, repeated attempts to negotiate a settlement between the U.S. and North Vietnam failed, and with the discovery of another North Vietnamese plan resembling the brutal Tet Offensive, Nixon ordered a massive bombing campaign of Viet Cong bases in the North and South in December 1972.
In a taped conversation in 1969, Nixon revealed his madman theory for ending the Vietnam War to his advisor H.R. Haldeman, saying, I want the North Vietnamese to think I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the warwe’ll just slip the word to them that for God sakes, you know Nixon is obsessed about communistsand he has his hand on the nuclear button’ and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace. The final bombing campaign on Christmas 1972 may have convinced the North Vietnamese that Nixon was indeed a madman capable of using nuclear weapons. Scarcely a month later, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger succeeded in negotiating peace terms with Le Duc Tho, finally ending the long and bloody conflict.