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The Vietnam War: The End of the War. Mr. Dodson. The End of the War. How did President Nixon’s policies lead to American withdrawal from Vietnam? Why did President Nixon lead a campaign promising to restore law and order? What happened in Vietnam after the withdrawal of American forces?

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The Vietnam War: The End of the War

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the end of the war
The End of the War
  • How did President Nixon’s policies lead to American withdrawal from Vietnam?
  • Why did President Nixon lead a campaign promising to restore law and order?
  • What happened in Vietnam after the withdrawal of American forces?
  • What was the legacy of the Vietnam War?
The end of the Vietnam War involved slow-moving peace negotiations, the gradual withdrawal of American troops, and the fall of South Vietnam.
nixon s vietnam policy
Nixon’s Vietnam Policy
  • Toward the end of his term as President, Johnson had reduced bombing of North Vietnam and called for peace negotiations to end the Vietnam War. However, the resulting Paris peace talks, which began in May 1968, failed to produce an agreement.
  • President Nixon campaigned on the promise that he had a secret plan to end the war. In June 1969, he began the policy of Vietnamization, replacing American troops in Vietnam with South Vietnamese soldiers.
nixon s vietnam policy5
Nixon’s Vietnam Policy
  • Although Nixon wanted to end the war, he did not want to lose it. He began an aggressive campaign against North Vietnam including:
    • massive bombing raids on North Vietnam.
    • Placing mines in the North Vietnamese harbor at Haiphong, and
    • He launched secret bombing raids and expanded the war to Cambodia, (and eventually Laos, too.) hoping to destroy Viet Cong camps there.

“We take this action 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. We have made and we will continue to make every possible effort to end this war through negotiation at the conference table rather than through more fighting on the battlefield.”

— Richard Nixon

nixon s vietnam policy6
Nixon’s Vietnam Policy
  • Nixon hoped his Cambodian attacks would help America in peace negotiations.
  • Instead, the attacks resulted in both civil war in Cambodia and ignited more antiwar protests in the United States.

Why do you think Nixon thought attacking Cambodia would help peace negotiations?

nixon calls for law and order
Nixon Calls for Law and Order

The Silent Majority

  • Nixon had campaigned promising a return to law and order. As President, he strengthened this position, discouraging protest against the war.
  • President Nixon recognized that student radicals, antiwar protesters, and the counterculture in general had never appealed to many Americans.
  • Despite widespread discontent on college campuses, not all students agreed with the antiwar protesters. Some firmly supported American involvement in Vietnam. Others questioned the war but were troubled by the lawlessness and radicalism of many antiwar protests. These students did not receive the press coverage of their more outspoken classmates.

Why do YOU think that the less outspoken students were not heard from?

nixon calls for law and order8
Nixon Calls for Law and Order

The Silent Majority

  • Likewise, many adults held student protesters responsible for rising crime, growing drug use, and permissive attitudes toward sex. Some of these Americans expressed their patriotism by putting flag decals on their car windows or by attaching bumper stickers that read “My Country, Right or Wrong” and “Love It or Leave It.
  • In a 1969 speech, Nixon appealed to those who, he felt, quietly supported his policies. He referred to this group of Americans as “the silent majority.”
nixon calls for law and order9
Nixon Calls for Law and Order

Kent State

  • When student antiwar protesters at Kent State University in Ohio reacted angrily to Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, Nixon ordered the National Guard to Kent State. After students threw rocks at the guardsmen, the troops opened fire, killing and wounding both protesters and bystanders.

The famous photo of the shooting at Kent State horrified the nation. Ironically, two of the four students were innocent bystanders.

How do you think violence at Kent State affected public Opinion?

the tragedy of kent state
In Support of the National Guard's Actions“He told me they didn't fire those shots to scare the students off. He told me they fired those shots because they knew the students were coming after them, coming for their guns. People are calling my husband a murderer; my husband is not a murderer. He was afraid.”

 — Wife of a member of the National Guard,  quoted in Newsweek magazine, May 18, 1970

Opposed to the National Guard's Actions“Nixon acts as if the kids had it coming. But shooting into a crowd of students, that is violence. They say it could happen again if the Guard is threatened. They consider stones threat enough to kill children. I think the violence comes from the government.” 

— Mother of Jeffrey Glenn Miller, a student killed at Kent State,  quoted in Life magazine, May 15, 1970

The Tragedy of Kent State

In May 1970, the National Guard opened fire on a crowd of antiwar protesters at Kent State University in Ohio and killed four students. Reaction to the incident was strong but mixed.Analyzing Viewpoints Compare the main arguments made by these two women.

What do you believe?

american withdrawal
American Withdrawal

In January 1973, the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong signed a formal agreement in Paris. Among the provisions in the agreement were these:

  • The United States would withdraw all its forces from South Vietnam within 60 days.
  • All prisoners of war would be released.
  • All parties to the agreement would end military activities in Laos and Cambodia.
  • The 17th parallel would continue to divide North and South Vietnam until the country could be reunited.
aftermath of the war in asia
Aftermath of the War in Asia

South Vietnam Falls

  • After American forces had withdrawn, North Vietnam attacked strategic cities in South Vietnam, ending with its capital, Saigon.
  • Following a last-minute evacuation of both American soldiers and Vietnamese refugees, South Vietnam surrendered in April 1975, and Vietnam became unified under a Communist government.
One reason for American involvement in Vietnam was the belief in the domino theory. As you recall, this was the assumption that the entire region would collapse if the Communists won in Vietnam.
  • With the North Vietnamese victory, two additional dominoes did topple—Laos and Cambodia. The rest of the region, however, did not fall.

Does this prove or disprove the domino theory? Explain your answer.

aftermath of the war in asia14
Aftermath of the War in Asia

Southeast Asia After the War

  • In April 1975, Cambodia fell to the Khmer Rouge, a Communist force led by Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge killed a quarter of the Cambodian population, claiming they were “tainted” with Western ways.
  • Vietnam’s new leaders forced hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese into “reeducation camps”; refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and newly Communist Laos fled their home countries.
the legacy of the war
The Legacy of the War
  • With a cost of at least $150 billion, and hundreds of thousands of American soldiers killed or wounded, the Vietnam War was the longest and least successful war in American history.
  • Thousands of American soldiers who did not return home after the war were listed as POWs (prisoners of war) or MIAs (missing in action). Many remain unaccounted for today.
  • In Vietnam, millions were dead or wounded, many of them civilians.
  • Refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and newly Communist Laos fled their home countries for the U.S.
  • In 1994, the United States lifted its trade embargo against Vietnam; in 1995, full diplomatic relations were restored.
the vietnam veterans memorial
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Designed by 21-year old Maya Ying Lin and completed in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
  • It consists of a long wall of black granite, listing the names of every American who died in the Vietnam War. Since its completion, visitors have added to the memorial by leaving personal tokens at the wall in memory of their loved ones.
  • It serves as a way to help heal the wounds caused by the war.