December 19, 1972 – When the North Vietnamese walked out on the Paris Peace talks on December 13, 1972, then President Nixon told Hanoi to get back to the table “or else.” When they refused, he ordered Operation Linebacker II, a massive bombing campaign of the densely populated areas between Hanoi and the port city of Haiphong to commence on December 18. On December 19th, the Vietnamese call the acts “barbaric” and “insane” and condemnation reigned down on Nixon from around the world calling this the “Christmas Bombing” and deliberately targets civilians. Over the next 11 days, the U.S. dropped over 20,000 tons of bombs in 1700 missions. Approximately 1600 Vietnamese civilians were killed in the largest bombing attack since World War II. On December 26, the North Vietnamese indicated they were willing to return to negotiations, and on December 29, President Nixon ordered the raids stopped. The talks resumed on January 2 and The Paris Peace Accords were finally signed on January 27, 1973. By the time the bombing stopped, 43 Americans were killed with another 49 taken prisoner.
Walk softly and carry a big stick.
On May 17, 1973 The Senate Watergate Committee, chaired by Democratic Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina and Republican Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee as Ranking Member, began their investigation of the Watergate scandal on national television. Originally all three networks carried the procedures live, but then went on a rotating schedule. The hearings made stars out of both Ervin, who became known for his folksy manner and wisdom but resolute determination, and Baker, who appeared somewhat non-partisan and uttered the famous phrase “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Many of Watergate’s most famous moments happened during the hearings, including John Dean’s “cancer on the Presidency” testimony and Alexander Butterfield’s revelation of the existence of the secret White House Nixon tapes.
On April 30th, President Richard Nixon announced on television that a massive offensive into Cambodia was in progress. “We take these actions,” Nixon said, “not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia, but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam, and winning the just peace we all desire.” Outraged at the expansion of the war, college campus across the nation erupted in spontaneous protest in what Time called a nation-wide student strike estimated to include 4 million students. At Kent State in Ohio, tensions had been brewing for days. The governor of Ohio ordered the National Guard to move onto the campus to suppress student unrest. After 4 days of intermittent protest, the rally on May 4, 1970 suddenly took a turn for the worse when the National Guard opened fire with 67 rounds in 13 seconds. In the end, four unarmed students were dead and another nine injured. The war had been brought home in a horrible and haunting way. It was never determined if the soldiers had been ordered to shoot. No one was ever prosecuted.
April 28 1970 In an effort to take a pre-emptive strike at stopping the North Vietnamese from infiltrating the south, Nixon gives formal approval for US troops to attack in Cambodia. Highly controversal, three National Security Council staff members and key aides to Henry Kissinger resigned in protest. When the decision was made public 2 days later, a wave of protest swept over America at what was considered to be an escalation of the war. One of those protest would take place at Kent State in Ohio.
March 24, 1975 – It what would be the final chapter in the long history of the Vietnam war, the North Vietnamese Politburo orders the start of the Ho Chi Minh Campaign whose objective was to celebrate the Vietnamese leader’s birthday (September 2nd) in Saigon. As part of the 1973 Paris Peace Accord, then President Nixon had promised to come to the defense of the South Vietnamese if the North where to attack. After Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974, the North Vietnamese started a series of smaller campaigns in December 1974. With Nixon gone, the United States did nothing. With ever-increasing momentum, the North Vietnamese regulars and Viet Cong guerrillas moved south and east eventually leaving only the area around Saigon. On March 24th they moved in for the kill and would eventually take Saigon April 30, well ahead of their objective. On May 1st, the city of Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honor of the father of the now united Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
March 23, 1969 – 30,000 rally for decency at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Organized by a local teenager in response to Jim Morrison’s alleged indecent exposure at a concert March 1, entertainers such as Jackie Gleason, Kate Smith, The Letterman and Anita Bryant joined the crowd. Carrying signs such as “Down with Obscenity” and proclaiming that “longhairs and weird dressers” would not be allowed to attend, the audience listened to speakers who gave three-minute talks on God, parents, patriotism, sexuality and brotherhood. The Five Virtues were identified as “belief in God and that He loves us; love of our planet and country; love of our family, reverence of one’s sexuality, and equality of all men.” “We’re not against something. We’re for something” said one teenager.
Richard Nixon sent a letter of commendation to the teenage organizer:
I was extremely interested to learn about the admirable initiative undertaken by you and 30,000 other young people at the Miami Teen-age Rally for Decency held last Sunday.
This very positive approach which focused attention on a number of critical problems confronting society strengthens my belief that the younger generation is our greatest natural resource and therefore of tremendous hope for the future.
I hope that you will express my appreciation to everyone involved and my congratulations on the success of their efforts.
February 27, 1972 – The Shanghai Communique (formally The Joint Communiqué of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China) is signed at the Jinjiang Hotel during President Nixon’s ground-breaking tour of China.
Nixon, despite his domestic challenges at home, was a champion on the international stage, in a large part due to his creative and complex Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. The document states that no nation (including the Soviet Union) should attempt to dominate Asia, that it was in the best interest of all nations for China and the United State to ‘normalize’ relations, and that there was only one state known as China (the One China Policy) though that was never clearly defined. By signifying that the U.S. and China should have diplomatic relations, the document unbalanced the Soviet Union who now had to contend with a whole new dynamic and destabilized North Vietnam which was receiving much of its aid from the People’s Republic.
The Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, was still 7 years away, when the Carter administration would withdraw support for the Republic of China (Taiwan) and formalize relations with the People Republic of China. Forty years later, the Taiwan Issue is still unresolved, the Soviet Union is dissolved, and rarely a player in Asia, and China and the United States have a very complex relationship. But the Shanghai Communique was a giant step forward for relations between the U.S. and China after more than 20 years of separation and opened doors that just a few years earlier seemed closed forever.