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Digital Archive International History Declassified

January 14, 1969

President Richard M. Nixon takes office as the new President of the United States. With regard to Vietnam, he promises to achieve "Peace With Honor." His aim is to negotiate a settlement that will allow the half million US troops in Vietnam to be withdrawn, while still allowing South Vietnam to survive.

January 25, 1969

Paris peace talks open with the US, South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong all in attendance.

February 01, 1969

In spite of government restrictions, President Nixon authorizes Operation Menu, the bombing of North Vietnamese and Vietcong bases within Cambodia. Over the following four years, US forces will drop more than a half million tons of bombs on Cambodia.

February 22, 1969

In a major offensive, assault teams and artillery attack American bases all over South Vietnam, killing 1,140 Americans. At the same time, South Vietnamese towns and cities are also hit. The heaviest fighting is around Saigon, but fights rage all over South Vietnam. Eventually, American artillery and airpower overwhelm the Viet Cong offensive.

February 23, 1969

Viet Cong attack 110 targets throughout South Vietnam including Saigon.

March 01, 1969

Letters from a Vietnam veteran Ronald Ridenhour generate a US Army investigation into the My Lai massacre.

March 04, 1969

President Nixon threatens to resume bombing North Vietnam in retaliation for Viet Cong offenses in the South.

March 15, 1969

US troops go on the offensive inside the Demilitarized Zone for the first time since 1968.

April 30, 1969

US troop levels peak at 543,400. US combat deaths in Vietnam exceed the 33,629 men killed in the Korean War.

May 01, 1969

The New York Times breaks the news of the secret bombing of Cambodia. As a result, Nixon orders FBI wiretaps on the telephones of four journalists, along with 13 government officials to determine the source of news leak.

May 10, 1969

Forty-six men of the 101st Airborne die during a fierce ten-day battle at 'Hamburger Hill' in the A Shau Valley near Hue. 400 others are wounded. After the hill is taken, the troops are then ordered to abandon it by their commander. NVA then move in and take back the hill unopposed. The costly assault and its confused aftermath provoke a political outcry back in the US that American lives are being wasted in Vietnam.

May 14, 1969

During his first TV speech on Vietnam, President Nixon presents a peace plan in which America and North Vietnam would simultaneously pull out of South Vietnam over the next year. The offer is rejected by Hanoi.

June 08, 1969

President Nixon meets South Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu at Midway Island and informs him US troop levels are going to be sharply reduced. During a press briefing with Thieu, Nixon announces "Vietnamization" of the war and a US troop withdrawal of 25,000 men.

July 01, 1969

President Nixon, through a French emissary, sends a secret letter to Ho Chi Minh urging him to settle the war, while at the same time threatening to resume bombing if peace talks remain stalled as of November 1. In August, Hanoi responds by repeating earlier demands for Viet Cong participation in a coalition government in South Vietnam.

July 08, 1969

The very first US troop withdrawal occurs as 800 men from the 9th Infantry Division are sent home. The phased troop withdrawal will occur in 14 stages from July 1969 through November 1972.

July 25, 1969

The "Nixon Doctrine" is made public. It advocates US military and economic assistance to nations around the world struggling against Communism, but no more Vietnam-style ground wars involving American troops. The emphasis is thus placed on local military self-sufficiency, backed by US air power and technical assistance to assure security.

July 30, 1969

President Nixon visits US troops and President Thieu in Vietnam. This is Nixon's only trip to Vietnam during his presidency.

August 04, 1969

Henry Kissinger conducts his first secret meeting in Paris with representatives from Hanoi.

August 12, 1969

Viet Cong begin a new offensive attacking 150 targets throughout South Vietnam.

September 02, 1969

Ho Chi Minh dies of a heart attack at age 79. He is succeeded by Le Duan, who publicly reads the last will of Ho Chi Minh urging the North Vietnamese to fight on "until the last Yankee has gone."