Year
1971

U.S. troop strength in South Vietnam at five-year low

The U.S. command in Saigon announces that the U.S. force level in Vietnam is 281,400 men, the lowest since July 1966.

These figures were a direct result of President Richard Nixon’s new “Vietnamization” strategy, which he had announced at the Midway Conference in June 1969. This strategy was a three-pronged program to disengage the United States from the war in Vietnam. The program required that efforts be increased to improve the combat capability of the South Vietnamese armed forces so that they could assume responsibility for the war against the North Vietnamese. Then, as the South Vietnamese became more capable, U.S. forces would be withdrawn from South Vietnam. At the same time, U.S. negotiators would continue to try to reach a negotiated settlement to the war with the communists at the Paris peace talks. The announcement represented a significant change in the nature of the U.S. commitment to the war.

The first U.S. soldiers were withdrawn in the fall of 1969 and the withdrawals continued periodically through 1972. Simultaneously, the U.S. increased the advisory effort and provided massive amounts of new equipment and weapons to the South Vietnamese. When the North Vietnamese launched the massive “Easter Offensive” invasion in spring 1972, the South Vietnamese wavered, but eventually rallied with U.S. support and prevailed over the North Vietnamese. Nixon proclaimed that the South Vietnamese victory validated his strategy.

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