Years of Withdrawal

President Nixon announced a plan later known as Vietnamization. Immediate American withdrawal would amount to a defeat of the noncommunist South Vietnamese allies. Instead, the United States would gradually withdraw troops from Southeast Asia as American military personnel turned the fighting over to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. In theory, as the South Vietnamese became more able to defend themselves, United States soldiers could go home without a communist takeover of Saigon.

In the spring of 1970, President Nixon announced a temporary invasion of neighboring Cambodia. Although Cambodia was technically neutral, the Ho Chi Minh trail stretched through its territory. Nixon ordered the Viet Cong bases located along the trail to be bombed.

Kent State and My Lai Massacres

Peace supporters claimed that Nixon was expanding the war. Protests spread across America.

At Kent State University, students rioted, burning down the campus ROTC building and destroying local property. The Ohio governor sent the National Guard to maintain order. Several soldiers fired into the crowd, killing four students and wounding several others.

The following year the American public learned about the My Lai massacre. In 1968, American soldiers had opened fire on several hundred women and children in the tiny hamlet of My Lai. Viet Cong guerillas often conducted operations from small villages. Further, U.S. troops were tired, scared, and confused.

The lieutenant who had given the order in My Lai was declared guilty of murder, but the ruling was later overturned. The antiwar movement said American soldiers were killing innocent peasants.

The Pentagon Papers

In 1971, the New York Times published excerpts from the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret overview of the history of government involvement in Vietnam. The Papers revealed a high-level deception of the American public by the Johnson Administration.

A growing credibility gap between the truth and what the government said caused many Americans to grow even more cynical about the war.

By December 1972, Nixon decided to escalate the bombing of North Vietnamese cities, including Hanoi. He hoped this initiative would push North Vietnam to the peace table. In January 1973, a ceasefire was reached, and the remaining American combat troops were withdrawn. Nixon called the agreement "peace with honor," but he knew the South Vietnamese Army would have difficulty maintaining control.

The North soon attacked the South and in April 1975 they captured Saigon. Vietnam was united into one communist nation. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The United States had left Vietnam, but all its political objectives for the region met with failure.

Source: Years of Withdrawal
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