Part 3: The End of the War

The turning point in the Vietnam War occurred in February, 1968 during the Tet Offensive.  Although the Americans had secured a victory militarily, they lost psychologically.  And the tide turned even more at home.  Demonstrations against U.S. involvement in the Asian theater grew in size and number. College campuses began as the site of most protests and then moved to the streets.  Richard Nixon, the Republican presidential candidate, promised to end the war.  His victory in November, 1968, led to the beginning of the end of the war.

That end came gradually.  Nixon decided to withdraw U.S. troops from the war zone.  After the secret bombing of the North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia in 1969, Nixon had 50,000 to 70,000 troops withdrawn at a time.  Further, Nixon announced in January, 1972, that his head of the National Security Council, Henry Kissinger, had been involved in secret negotiations in Paris with a representative from North Vietnam, namely Le Duc Tho.  Kissinger had made fifteen trips to Paris over a 2 ½ year period, starting in 1969.

The talks continued and in 1972, an agreement was reached.  The next step was to gain approval of President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam who had not been involved in the negotiations.  Thieu added requirements to the settlement to end the war and North Vietnam rejected them.  Nixon began saturation bombing of North Vietnam, trying to bring Hanoi to its knees.  But it was Thieu of South Vietnam who gave in and agreed to the initial settlement.  The final agreement was signed by Kissinger and Le Duc Tho on January 23, 1973, and the war came to a close on March 29, 1973.  The military end was reached in America's longest war with over 56,000 U.S. soldiers killed.  Thieu would remain in power.

With the U.S. effort ended, it did not take long for the North Vietnamese to take the offensive once again.  Thieuís government did not have the military might to stave off the charge.  In April, 1975, North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital.  This time the end of fighting did come.  The last American Marines assigned to guard the U.S. Embassy, U.S. flag in hand, made the final departure.

  1. What was the feeling toward the war in the U.S. in the late 1960ís?
  2. What two methods did Nixon use to end the war?
  3. Who did Kissinger negotiate with in Paris?
  4. What strategy did Nixon use to try to get North Vietnam to agree to a settlement to end the war?
  5. What kind of government rules Vietnam today?  Why?
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