Nixon announces start of “Christmas Bombing” of North Vietnam - HISTORY
Year
1972

Nixon announces start of “Christmas Bombing” of North Vietnam

Following the breakdown of peace talks with North Vietnam just a few days earlier, President Richard Nixon announces the beginning of a massive bombing campaign to break the stalemate. For nearly two weeks, American bombers pounded North Vietnam.

On December 13, peace talks between the United States and North Vietnam collapsed. The North Vietnamese and American negotiators traded charges and countercharges as to who was to blame. Infuriated, President Nixon ordered plans drawn up for retaliatory bombings of North Vietnam. Linebacker II was the result. Beginning on December 18, American B-52s and fighter-bombers dropped over 20,000 tons of bombs on the cities of Hanoi and Haiphong. The United States lost 15 of its giant B-52s and 11 other aircraft during the attacks. North Vietnam claimed that over 1,600 civilians were killed.

The bombings continued until December 29, at which time the North Vietnamese agreed to resume the talks. A few weeks later, the final Paris Peace Treaty was signed and the Vietnam War came to a close, ending the U.S. role in a conflict that seriously damaged the domestic Cold War consensus among the American public. The impact of the so-called “Christmas Bombings” on the final agreement was difficult to assess. Some historians have argued that the bombings forced the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. Others have suggested that the attacks had little impact, beyond the additional death and destruction they caused. Even the chief U.S. negotiator, Henry Kissinger, was reported to have said, “We bombed the North Vietnamese into accepting our concessions.” The chief impact may have been in convincing America’s South Vietnamese allies, who were highly suspicious of the draft treaty worked out in October 1972, that the United States would not desert them. In any event, the final treaty did not include any important changes from the October draft.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Slavery abolished in America

Following its ratification by the requisite three-quarters of the states earlier in the month, the 13th Amendment is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution, ensuring that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States, or any place subject ...read more

Piltdown Man discovered

After three years of digging in the Piltdown gravel pit in Sussex, England, amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson announces the discovery of two skulls that appear to belong to a primitive hominid and ancestor of man, along with a canine tooth, a tool carved from an elephant’s ...read more

Mayflower docks at Plymouth Harbor

On December 18, 1620, the British ship Mayflower docked at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, and its passengers prepared to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony.The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, ...read more

Japan invades Hong Kong

On this day, Japanese troops land in Hong Kong and a slaughter ensues.A week of air raids over Hong Kong, a British crown colony, was followed up on December 17 with a visit paid by Japanese envoys to Sir Mark Young, the British governor of Hong Kong. The envoys’ message was ...read more

Ty Cobb is born

On this day in 1886, the often controversial baseball legend Ty Cobb is born in Narrows, Georgia. From the beginning of his career, a shadow seemed to hover over the hard-drinking, hard-living Cobb, whose dark personality would often overshadow his undeniable athletic talent. In ...read more

Wetherill and Mason discover Mesa Verde

While searching for stray cattle in the isolated canyons of southwest Colorado, Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law stumble upon the magnificent ancient Indians ruins of Mesa Verde.The Wetherill family started ranching in the rugged southwest lands of Colorado in 1881, and ...read more

Short story writer H.H. Munro is born in Burma

On this day, H.H. Munro, better known as short story writer Saki, is born in Burma.The son of a Burma police officer, Munro was sent to live with his tyrannical aunts in England when he was 2. When he grew up, he joined the Burma police department but left because of ill health. ...read more

Director Steven Spielberg born

On this day in 1946, Steven Spielberg, who will become one of the most successful directors in modern movie history with such blockbusters as Jaws, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, is born in Cincinnati, Ohio.After ...read more

Power plant burns in Venezuela

A power plant fire begins in Venezuela on this day in 1982. By the time it ended, the fire killed 128 people and injured hundreds more. Half the capital city of Caracas lost electrical power and 40,000 people had to be evacuated.The large Tacoa power plant on the outskirts of ...read more

The death of Molly-ism

John Kehoe, the last of the Molly Maguires, is executed in Pennsylvania. The Molly Maguires, an Irish secret society that had allegedly been responsible for some incidences of vigilante justice in the coalfields of eastern Pennsylvania, defended their actions as attempts to ...read more

Battle of Lexington, Tennessee

On this day in 1862, Confederate cavalry leader General Nathan Bedford Forrest routs a Union force under the command of Colonel Robert Ingersoll on a raid into western Tennessee, an area held by the Union.With the main Union army in the region occupying northern Mississippi, ...read more

States give thanks

The new United States celebrates its first national day of thanksgiving on Thursday, December 18, 1777, commemorating the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga after the surrender of General John Burgoyne and 5,000 British troops in October 1777. In proclaiming the first ...read more

Battle of Verdun ends

The Battle of Verdun, the longest engagement of World War I, ends on this day after ten months and close to a million total casualties suffered by German and French troops. The battle had begun on February 21, after the Germans—led by Chief of Staff Erich von ...read more