Vietnam War

U.S. Withdrawal

Serious negotiations to end the war began after U.S. President Lyndon Johnson's decision not to seek reelection in 1968. Contacts between North Vietnam and the United States in Paris in 1968 were expanded in 1969 to include South Vietnam and the NLF. The United States, under the leadership of President Richard M. Nixon, altered its tactics to combine U.S. troop withdrawals with intensified bombing and the invasion of Communist sanctuaries in Cambodia (1970).

The length of the war, the high number of U.S. casualties, and the exposure of U.S. involvement in war crimes such as the massacre at My Lai (see My Lai incident) helped to turn many in the United States against the war. Politically, the movement was led by Senators James William Fulbright, Robert F. Kennedy, Eugene J. McCarthy, and George S. McGovern; there were also huge public demonstrations in Washington, D.C., as well as in many other cities in the United States and on college campuses.

Even as the war continued, peace talks in Paris progressed, with Henry Kissinger as U.S. negotiator. A break in negotiations followed by U.S. saturation bombing of North Vietnam did not derail the talks, and a peace agreement was reached, signed on Jan. 27, 1973, by the United States, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the NLF's provisional revolutionary government. The accord provided for the end of hostilities, the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops (several Southeast Asia Treaty Organization countries had sent token forces), the return of prisoners of war, and the formation of a four-nation international control commission to ensure peace.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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