1973

The US military withdraws troops from Vietnam as a peace agreement is finally signed, but the war continues.  American POWs are released.  While which side first violated the cease-fire called for by the peace accords is contested, few observers expect the cease fire to hold. U.S. Congressional opposition to the Vietnam War forces the U.S. to cease bombing communist forces in Cambodia in August and in November Congress adopts the War Powers Resolution supposedly limiting the U.S. President’s authority to wage war.

January – Nixon pledges continued assistance to Lon Nol’s Cambodian government fighting against the Khmer Rouge.

January 2 –The Democratic members of the House of Representatives vote 154 to 75 to cut off U.S. funds for the war in Vietnam once all U.S. forces were withdrawn and U.S. Prisoners of war (POWs) were released. As President Richard Nixon and most Republicans opposed the cutoff, the vote has only symbolic impact.

January 3 – In Beijing, Chinese leader Zhou Enlai tells the DRV’s (Democratic Republic of Vietnam/North Vietnam) peace negotiator, Lê Đức Thọ, that “the U.S. effort to exert pressure through bombing has failed.” He advises Lê Đức Thọ to be flexible in peace negotiations with the Americans and to “let them leave as quickly as possible” and wait for the situation to change.  The next day, Senate Democrats follow the lead of the Democrats in the House of Representatives in voting 36 to 12 to cut off funds for the Vietnam War once all U.S. military forces were withdrawn and the POWs released.

January 5 – Canada’s Secretary of State for External Affairs, Mitchell Sharp, deplores the Christmas bombing.  See entry for December 18-29, 1972.

President Nixon writes to President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu of South Vietnam asking for Thieu’s cooperation in the Paris peace negotiations and stating that “the unity of our two countries…would be gravely jeopardized if you persist in your present course.”. Nixon pledges to respond with “full force” if the DRV  violates the peace agreement.

January 8 – Kissinger and Lê Đức Thọ resume negotiations in Paris. 9; achieve a “breakthrough” in the peace talks with the main obstacle remaining the opposition of the South Vietnamese government to the agreement.[

January 9 – Remaining differences are resolved between Kissinger and Lê Đức Thọ.  President Thiệu, threatened by Nixon with a total cut-off of American aid to South Vietnam, unwillingly accepts the peace agreement, which still allows DRV troops to remain in South Vietnam. Thieu labels the terms “tantamount to surrender” for South Vietnam.

January 11 – The Governor General of Australia proclaims the cessation of hostilities in Vietnam by Australian Forces.

January 14 – U.S. President Nixon writes a letter to President Thiệu of South Vietnam which was delivered in Saigon by Alexander Haig. Nixon says he is “irrevocably” committed to sign the peace agreement and said he would do so “alone, if necessary.” The consequences if Thieu did not sign the agreement would be a cutoff in American military and economic aid. Nixon pledged to “react strongly in the event the agreement is violated” by the DRV (North Vietnam) and to continue aid to South Vietnam if Thieu cooperated.

January 15 – All bombing of the DRV (Democratic Republic of Vietnam/North Vietnam) by the United States is halted and would not be resumed.

January 17 – Thieu responds to Nixon’s letter, objecting to the draft peace agreement, most importantly the fact that the withdrawal of all DRV forces from South Vietnam was not required.

January 18-February 21 Operation Phou Phiang III is the final offensive of the Royal Lao Army (RLA) in the Laotian Civil War. The RLA attacks PAVN (DRV’s People’s Army of Viet Nam) positions on the Plain of Jars but fails to evict them before the ceasefire mandated by the Vientiane Treaty is to come into effect on February 21.

January 20 – Over 100,000 antiwar demonstrators gather at the Lincoln Memorial during President Richard Nixon’s second Inauguration, for a March Against Death, including a March against Racism & the War contingent, protesting renewed U.S. bombing in Vietnam.

Later that day protesters line his Inaugural route on Pennsylvania Avenue holding signs, shouting antiwar slogans and tossing objects at his passing limousine as they had four years previously.

Nixon responds to Thiệu’s objections to the draft peace agreement. He attempts to reassure Thiệu on the issue of PAVN soldiers in South Vietnam. He also indicates that he will sign the agreement whether or not Thiệu agrees.

January 21 South Vietnamese President Thiệu notifies the U.S. government that he will sign the Peace Accords on behalf of South Vietnam. Knowing that the peace agreement calls for a cease fire in place, Thieu orders his armed forces to regain as much territory as possible prior to the ceasefire agreement. This was the beginning of the ‘land grab’ or the War of the Flags.  South Vietnamese forces establish forward posts in revolutionary-controlled areas to bolster their claim to the surrounding land.

January 22 – Former President Johnson dies in Texas at age 64.

January 26 – With the knowledge that the Paris Peace agreement call for a cease fire in place, PAVN and NLF (national Liberation front of South Viet Nam/Viet Cong) troops in South Vietnam attack 400 villages attempting to expand their area of control before the cease fire is to take effect. PAVN rockets damage two U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) F-4s as they rearmed at Da Nang Air Base.

January 27 – The Paris Peace Accords are signed by the U.S., the DRV, South Vietnam and the NLF. Under the terms, the U.S. agrees to immediately halt all military activities and withdraw all remaining military personnel within 60 days. The DRV agrees to an immediate cease-fire and the release of all American POWs within 60 days. An estimated 150,000 PAVN soldiers presently in South Vietnam are allowed to remain. Vietnam is still divided. South Vietnam is considered to be one country with two governments, one led by President Thieu, the other led by the NLF, pending future reconciliation. Also:

  • The ceasefire is observed in some areas, but South Vietnamese troops still fought to regain control of villages captured by PAVN/VC forces the day before.
  • The U.S. and North Vietnam also pledge to withdraw their military forces from Laos and Cambodia and cease military operations there.
  • Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announces the draft is ending to be replaced by a “volunteer” army.
  • The last American soldier to die in combat in Vietnam, Lt. Col. William B. Nolde, is killed.
  • The Selective Service announces the end to the draft and institutes an all-volunteer military.

January 27-February 16 – The PAVN 141st Regiment captures Sa Huỳnh Base in southern Quảng Ngãi Province. Despite the ceasefire coming into effect, given its strategic location the ARVN 2nd Division launched a series of counterattacks, forcing the PAVN out of Sa Huỳnh by 16 February 1973.

January 28 – The DRV (North Vietnam) celebrates the signing of the Paris Peace Accords: “The Vietnamese revolution has achieved several important gains, but the struggle of our people must continue to consolidate those victories [to] build a peaceful, unified, independent, democratic, and strong Vietnam.” The U.S. media praise Nixon and Kissinger for their achievement of “peace with honor.”

January 30 – Elliot Richardson replaces Melvin Laird as Secretary of Defense.

January 31 – Reports from American military advisers in the countryside of South Vietnam report “ceasefire or no, operations are continuing much as before” and “with the support of daily air strikes and heavy artillery barrages they [the South Vietnamese military forces] have finally begun to roll the VC back” and more Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF) tactical air “strikes were flown in Lam Dong in the three days after the ceasefire than had been flown in the previous six months.”

 

February 1 – Nixon sends a secret letter (not declassified by the State Department until May 19, 1977) to DRV Premier Phạm Văn Đồng promising over $4 billion in reconstruction aid to North Vietnam- a promise that is never fulfilled.  For the full text of the letter, see https://www.nytimes.com/1977/05/20/archives/texts-of-announcement-by-state-department-and-two-nixon-letters.html

The U.S. and the DRV begin implementing the secret portions of the Paris Peace Accords. The DRV hands over a list of 10 names of U.S. military and civilians who are prisoners in Laos. The U.S. responds that it has records for 317 unaccounted for personnel. The U.S. had promised $3.25 billion in aid to the DRV (North Vietnam) in exchange for cooperation in determining the fate of missing and unaccounted for Americans

February 3 – The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia cut the highway link between the capital Phnom Penh and the country’s only deep-water port, Kompong Som. The principal route for supplies to reach Phnom Penh is now the Mekong River from Saigon.

February 5 – Baron 52 a USAF EC-470 is shot down on an electronic intelligence mission over Salavan Province, Laos killing all eight crewmen

February 6 – US Navy begins Operation End Sweep to de-mine Vietnamese waters.

February 9 – With the Khmer Rouge closing in on Phnom Penh, the United States resumes bombing of DRV military bases and supply routes (the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia. The ceasefire in North and South Vietnam does not apply to Cambodia and Laos. Over the next 6 months the U.S. would drop a larger tonnage of bombs on Cambodia than on Japan in WWII.

February 10 Kissinger visits Hanoi and met with DRV Prime Minister Phạm Văn Đồng. The two men discuss the implementation of the U.S. aid program for Vietnam and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Vietnam.[4]

February 12-April 1 Operation Homecoming: resulting in the release of 591 POWs by the DRV.  Three C-141-A transports fly to Hanoi and one C-0A aircraft is sent to Saigon to pick up released prisoners of war. The first flight of 40 U.S. prisoners of war leave Hanoi in a C-141A, later known as the “Hanoi Taxi”. From February 12 to April 4, there are 54 C-141 missions flying out of Hanoi, bringing the former POWs home.

February 21 – In Laos the government and the Communist-led Pathet sign a cease fire agreement the Vientiane Treaty.. By the end of April most fighting will have ceased.

February 26 – The International Guarantee Conference, set up to supervise the Paris Peace Accords, takes place in Paris. The principal issue concerns violations of the in-place cease fire called for in the accords. The PRG (Provisional Revolutionary Government Of South Vietnam) representative accuses the South Vietnam of “thousands” of military sweeps to take control of additional areas; the South Vietnamese representative charges the NLF with 4,595 violations of the cease fire.

 

March – The official communist party publication of the DRV (North Vietnam) outlines two scenarios for the future: victory in South Vietnam through political struggle or victory through a military victory. The first alternative and the implementation of the Paris Peace Accords are preferred to protect areas in South Vietnam controlled by liberation forces and to forestall the return of the U.S. to active participation in the war. The strategy would be “revolutionary struggle” to destabilize South Vietnam, with the possibility of avoiding a full-scale resumption of the war.

March to May 17 – The PAVN begin the Battle of Hồng Ngự attacking the border town of Hồng Ngự in Dong Thap Province in order to interdict supply convoys into Cambodia. The battle results in 422 PAVN killed, 94 ARVN killed and 36 missing and over 300 civilians killed

March 17 – The last ROK (South Korean) soldier withdraws from South Vietnam.

A disgruntled pro-Sihanouk Khmer Air Force-Sihanouk (KAF) pilot flying a T-28D fighter-bomber attacks the Presidential Palace in Phnom Penh killing 43 people and injuring a further 35. The pilot then flies to Hainan Island. This incident leads to the dismissal of KAF commander Brigadier General So Satto.

March 18 – The International Commission of Control of Supervision, created to supervise the Paris Peace Accords, reports that “the cease fire [has] not… been effective” with numerous violations by South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the NLF. “None of the Vietnamese parties wanted the kind of peace promised by the agreement” is the conclusion of one scholar.

March 19 – An Air Vietnam DC-4 on a flight from Saigon to Buôn Ma Thuột crashes 6.5km south of Buôn Ma Thuột killing all 58 onboard after a bomb exploded in the cargo hold

March 29 – The last US troops are withdrawn from Vietnam and the MACV Military Assistance Command Vietnam) is deactivated. Of the more than 3 million Americans who have served in the war, almost 58,000 are dead, and over 1,000 are missing in action. Some 150,000 Americans were seriously wounded.

An official publication of the DRV sums up the peace agreement. On the positive side for the DRV, the U.S. has ended its military operations in Vietnam and has begun to remove mines from coastal waters of the DRV. On the negative side, the cease fire has not been effective, although combat is not as intensive as before, and the U.S. continues to support South Vietnam by turning over its military bases and providing weapons and other military material to South Vietnam.

 

April 1 – Captain Robert White, the last known American POW is released.  Starting in February, 591 Americans (including John McCain) being held by the DRV (North Vietnamese), Pathet Lao or NLF are released during Operation Homecoming.

April 2 – Thiệu and Nixon meet in San Clemente, California; Nixon renews his secret pledge to intervene militarily if in his view the DRV violates the terms of the peace accords.  Nixon promises continued economic aid to South Vietnam, dependent upon U.S. congressional approval, and Thiệu pledges to never ask the United States to reintroduce American troops into South Vietnam

April 7 – Two ICCS helicopters are fired on by the PAVN near Route 9, Quảng Trị Province. One helicopter managed to land safely while the other was hit by an SA-7 missile killing all nine onboard including two Hungarian, one Canadian and one Indonesian ICCS observers.

April 17 – US Navy suspends Operation End Sweep, claiming DRV violations of peace accords.  See entry for February 6.

April 30 – The Watergate scandal results in the resignation of top Nixon aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, as well as Attorney General Richard Kleindienst.

 

June 8-September 16 – The PAVN begins the Battle of Trung Nghia by capturing the village in the Central Highlands. The ARVN would eventually recapture the area

June 13 – The US and DRV issue a joint communique calling on all parties to observe the January 28 ceasefire agreement taking effect from June 15.

June 18 – US Navy resumes Operation End Sweep.  See entries for February 6 and April 17.

June 19 – The U.S. Congress passes the Case-Church Amendment forbidding any further U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia, effective August 15, 1973. The veto-proof vote is 278-124 in the House and 64-26 in the Senate. This ends direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War, although the U.S. continues to provide military equipment and economic support to the South Vietnamese government.

June 24 – Graham Martin becomes the latest U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam.

June 25 – Nixon aide John Dean testifies to Nixon’s role in the Watergate coverup.

June 30 – The U.S. Embassy in Saigon reports that, in accordance with secret agreements between the U.S. and the DRV, the DRV had withdrawn 30,000 soldiers from South Vietnam.

The last American, Dwight Elliot Stone, to be inducted in the U.S. armed forces as a draftee begins his military service. Stone had been drafted in 1972, but his entry into service was delayed until this date.

 

July 1 – Congress bans any funds for combat in Southeast Asia after August 15.  U.S. aid to South Vietnam is projected to decrease from $2.2 billion in fiscal year 1973 (July 1972-June 1973) to $1.1 billion in fiscal year 1974 (July 1973-June 1974.

July 13 – White House Deputy Assistant Alexander Butterfield discloses the existence of White House tapes that implicate Nixon in the Watergate scandal.

July 16 – The U.S. Senate Armed Forces Committee begins hearings into the secret bombing of Cambodia during 1969-70.

July 17 – Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger testifies before the Armed Forces Committee that 3500 bombing raids were carried out against Cambodia in 1969 and 1970. The raids had been conducted secretly and their extent had not been publicly known until this testimony.  The extent of Nixon’s secret bombing campaign angers many in Congress and results in the first call for Nixon’s impeachment.

July 21 – The plenum of the Communist Party in the DRV recommends the escalation of political activity and military action in South Vietnam “in response to Saigon’s flagrant and continued violations of the cease fire.” However, the Plenum decides that all-out war was not feasible and that North Vietnam would continue to express adherence to the Paris Peace Accords.

July 27 – Operation End Sweep concludes. In accordance with the Paris Peace Accord, the U.S. navy cleared all mines from DRV coastal waters.

July 30 – The total U.S. military presence in South Vietnam, in accordance with the Paris Peace Accord, is now less than 250, excluding the marine guards at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.

July 31 – Congressman Robert Drinan introduces the first resolution to impeach Nixon.  It does not contain specific charges; but is made in response to Nixon’s clandestine authorization of the bombing of Cambodia, as well as his actions relative to the growing Watergate scandal.  The resolution is effectively ignored by leaders of both parties.

 

August 6 – Three B-52s accidentally bomb Neak Loeung, Cambodia killing or wounding over 400 civilians.

August 14 – U.S. bombing activities in Cambodia are halted in accordance with the Congressional ban resulting from the Case-Church amendment.  The intense bombing of Cambodia since February 1973 by the U.S. had so far thwarted the capture of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge. However, Phnom Penh remains encircled by the Khmer Rouge

August 15 – Col William D. Curry Jr, Commander, 354th TFW (Deployed), drops the last bomb by the United States Air Force of the Vietnam War. The bomb is dropped attacking Khmer Rouge forces just north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

August 20 – Exiled General Thoa Ma returns from Thailand to take over Wattay International Airport outside the capital of Vientiane, Laos. He leads air strikes upon the office and home of his rival, General Kouprasith Abhay. . While Thao Ma is unsuccessfully bombing Kouprasith, loyal Royalist troops retake the airfield. Shot down upon his return, Thao Ma is hauled from his airplane’s wreckage and executed. This was a final attempt to stave off a communist coalition government in Laos.

August 30 – The NLF kills seven ARVN soldiers and wounds 20 government soldiers and civilians in the shelling of Cai Lậy.

 

September 22 – The PAVN 26th Regiment, 320th Division supported by artillery and tanks captures Plei Djereng Camp in the Central Highlands. 200 of the 293 Vietnamese Rangers at the camp are killed or captured during the battle. PAVN casualties are not known but the RVNAF claims three T-54 tanks were destroyed during the battle

Henry Kissinger becomes Secretary of State replacing William P. Rogers.

 

October 10 – Political scandal results in the resignation of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. He is replaced by Congressman Gerald R. Ford.

October 23 – Henry Kissinger and Lê Đức Thọ are jointly awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in negotiating the Paris Peace Accords. However, Lê Đức Thọ declines to accept the award, claiming that peace had not yet been established and that the United States and the South Vietnamese governments are in violation of the Accords.

October 30 – The House of Representatives begins an impeachment process against Richard Nixon following the “Saturday Night Massacre” — in which Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox; Richardson refuses and resigns effective immediately. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General to fire Cox; Ruckelshaus refuses, and also resigns. Nixon then ordered Solicitor General Robert Bork, to fire Cox. Bork carries out the dismissal.

October 30-December 10 – In the Battle of Quang Duc, PAVN forces attempt to expand their logistical network from Cambodia into South Vietnam but are eventually force back by the ARVN.

 

November 6 – A PAVN rocket attack on Biên Hòa Air Base destroys three RVNAF F-5As.

November 7 – The U.S. Congress adopts, over the President’s veto, the War Powers Resolution of 1973 providing that the President can send the U.S. military into action abroad only by authorization of Congress or if the United States is already under attack or serious threat. The War Powers Resolution requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war.  Presidents since then have found many ways around this resolution.

 

December 3 – The NLF destroys 18 million gallons of fuel stored near Saigon at the Nhà Bè fuel depot, the largest fuel storage facility in South Vietnam with approximately 80% of the nation’s storage capacity, with rocket fire destroying or damaging 30 fuel tanks and igniting over 600,000 barrels of fuel

December 15 – Captain Richard Morgan Rees serving with Field Team 6, Control Team B, Headquarters, Joint Casualty Resolution Center is killed when NLF forces attacked a joint US-South Vietnamese team engaged on an MIA recovery mission 15 miles southwest of Saigon. A South Vietnamese pilot is also killed in the attack and another four Americans were wounded. As a result of this attack all US MIA field recovery efforts are indefinitely suspended

At the end of 1973, only 50 U.S. military personnel remained in Vietnam. South Vietnamese armed forces totaled 1.1 million. In 1973 there were 168 Americans killed and South Vietnam 27,901 South Vietnamese killed and approximately 40-50,000 PAVN and NLF losses.

 
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