The defense of freedom is everybody's business, not just America's business, and it is particularly the responsibility of the people whose freedom is threatened.
-Richard Nixon, November 3, 1969
By Nixon's inauguration
on January 20, 1969, the Vietnam War
had been going on for four years, and had claimed 31,000 American lives
with no peace treaty
in sight. More than half a million U.S. troops were fighting in 'Nam
, and the public outcry
surrounding the war was steadily increasing. Later that year, Woodstock
and a successful march on Washington
reaffirmed the desire of a large segment of the American population to bring the boys back home
"Vietnamization" was Nixon's proposal to slowly withdraw U.S. forces from South Vietnam, and place the burden of the fighting on South Vietnamese forces. He first expounded his idea to the American public in a televised address on November 3, part of which is quoted above; in reality, Nixon had been pushing the idea in Washington since his inauguration several months earlier, and the first group of 25,000 troops were brought back from Vietnam in June.
Nixon was careful to make the American withdrawal from Vietnam slow enough to keep his popularity ratings high for the next election in 1972. The last American forces didn't leave Nam until March of 1973, by which time Operation Linebacker II, the B-52 bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong, had brought the North to the negotiating table and forced them to sign a ceasefire agreement. The five-year withdrawal process was accompanied by lengthy negotiations between Henry Kissinger, Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam, and Zhou Enlai of China, accompanied by periodic bombing melees and invasion attempts.
At first, Vietnamization appeared to be a success. However, in 1975, North Vietnam mounted its final invasion of the South: Saigon fell on April 29. The United States had ultimately failed to contain the North.