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1969

Nixon declares Vietnam War is ending

At a news conference, President Richard Nixon says that the Vietnam War is coming to a “conclusion as a result of the plan that we have instituted.” Nixon had announced at a conference in Midway in June that the United States would be following a new program he termed “Vietnamization.”

Under the provisions of this program, South Vietnamese forces would be built up so they could assume more responsibility for the war. As the South Vietnamese forces became more capable, U.S. forces would be withdrawn from combat and returned to the United States. In his speech, Nixon pointed out that he had already ordered the withdrawal of 60,000 U.S. troops. Concurrently, he had issued orders to provide the South Vietnamese with more modern equipment and weapons and increased the advisory effort, all as part of the “Vietnamization” program. As Nixon was holding his press conference, troops from the U.S. 25th Infantry Division (less the Second Brigade) began departing from Vietnam.

Nixon’s pronouncements that the war was ending proved premature. In April 1970, he expanded the war by ordering U.S. and South Vietnamese troops to attack communist sanctuaries in Cambodia. The resulting outcry across the United States led to a number of antiwar demonstrations—it was at one of these demonstrations that the National Guard shot four protesters at Kent State.

Although Nixon did continue to decrease American troop strength in South Vietnam, the fighting continued. In 1972, the North Vietnamese launched a massive invasion of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese forces reeled under the attack, but eventually prevailed with the help of U.S. airpower. After extensive negotiations and the bombing of North Vietnam in December 1972, the Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973. Under the provisions of the Accords, U.S. forces were completely withdrawn. Unfortunately, this did not end the war for the Vietnamese and the fighting continued until April 1975 when Saigon fell to the communists.

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