1973 in the Vietnam War

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1973 in the Vietnam War began with a peace agreement, the Paris Peace Accords, signed by the United States and South Vietnam on one side of the Vietnam War and communist North Vietnam and the insurgent Viet Cong on the other. Although honored in some respects, the peace agreement was violated by both North and South Vietnam as the struggle for power and control of territory in South Vietnam continued. North Vietnam released all American prisoners of war and the United States completed its military withdrawal from South Vietnam.

U.S. Congressional opposition to the Vietnam War forced the U.S. to cease bombing communist forces in Cambodia in August and in November Congress adopted the War Powers Resolution which limited the U.S. President's authority to wage war.

1973 in the Vietnam War
← 1972
1974 →
Hanoi Taxi over NMUSAF.jpg
Hanoi Taxi the plane used to bring home American POWs from Hanoi

Anti-Communist forces:

 South Vietnam
 United States
 South Korea
Cambodia Khmer Republic
Laos Kingdom of Laos

Communist forces:

 North Vietnam
Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam Viet Cong
Cambodia Khmer Rouge
Laos Pathet Lao
Casualties and losses
US: 168 killed [1]
South Vietnam: 27,901 Killed[2]


2 January

The Democratic Party members of the United States House of Representatives voted 154 to 75 to cut off U.S. funds for the war in Vietnam once all U.S. forces were withdrawn and U.S. Prisoners of war (POWs) were released.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 had only symbolic impact.[3]

3 January

In Beijing, Chinese leader Zhou Enlai told North Vietnam's peace negotiator, Le Duc Tho, that "the U.S. effort to exert pressure through bombing has failed." He advised Tho 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.[4]

4 January

The Democratic members of the United States Senate followed 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the House of Representatives in voting 36 to 12 to cut off funds for the Vietnam War once all U.S. military forces were withdrawn and the POWs released.[5]

5 January

Canada's Secretary of State for External Affairs, Mitchell Sharp, said he found it difficult to understand the reason for the U.S. Christmas bombing (Operation Linebacker II) and that "we deplore the action."[6]

President Nixon wrote a letter to President Nguyen Thieu 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." Thieu had scuttled a draft peace agreement reached in October 1972. Nixon pledged to respond with "full force" if North Vietnam violated the peace agreement.[7]

6 January

As U.S. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger prepared to resume peace talks with North Vietnam in Paris, United States President Nixon told him that "almost any settlement would be tolerable." Nixon expressed willingness to accept the draft agreement of October 1972 with a few cosmetic changes to make it appear the U.S. had gained something in the negotiations.[7]

9 January

Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in Paris achieved a "breakthrough" in the peace talks with the main obstacle remaining the opposition of the South Vietnamese government to the agreement.[8]

11 January

With most details of a peace agreement worked out, Kissinger and Tho reached secret agreements regarding cease fires in both South Vietnam and Laos, the release of American POWs and political prisoners in South Vietnam, and the partial withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces from South Vietnam.[9]

The Governor General of Australia Paul Hasluck proclaimed the cessation of hostilities in Vietnam by Australian Forces.[10]

14 January

U.S. President Nixon wrote a letter to President Thieu of South Vietnam which was delivered in Saigon by military adviser Alexander Haig. Nixon said he was "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 North Vietnam and to continue aid to South Vietnam if Thieu cooperated."[11]

15 January

All bombing of North Vietnam by the United States was halted and would not be resumed.[12]

17 January

Thieu responded to Nixon's letter with a long list of objections to the draft peace agreement, most importantly the fact that the withdrawal of all North Vietnamese forces from South Vietnam was not required.[13]

20 January

President Nixon responded to President Thieu's objections to the draft peace agreement. He attempted to reassure Thieu on the issue of North Vietnamese soldiers in South Vietnam. He repeated that he would sign the agreement whether or not Thieu agreed.[14]

21 January

South Vietnamese President Thieu notified the U.S. government that he would sign the Paris Peace Accords on behalf of South Vietnam.[15]

Knowing that the peace agreement called for a cease fire in place, Thieu ordered his armed forces to regain as much territory as possible prior to the ceasefire agreement. South Vietnamese forces established forward posts in communist-controlled areas to bolster their claim to the surrounding land. This was the beginning of what was called the "land grab." [16]

22 January

Former U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson, whose presidency was marred by the Vietnam War, died.

23 January

President Nixon announced that a peace agreement had been reached in Paris which would end the Vietnam War and "bring peace with honor."[17]

26 January

With the knowledge that the Paris Peace agreement called for a cease fire in place, communist troops in South Vietnam attacked 400 villages attempting to expand their area of control before the cease fire took effect. Both North and South Vietnam struggled to gain control of more territory during the "land grab." Within two weeks South Vietnam had regained control of all but 23 of the villages.[18]

27 January

The Paris Peace Accords, formally titled the "Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam,", intended to halt the fighting between North and South Vietnam and end U.S. military involvement in the war were signed in Paris. The governments of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), and the United States, as well as the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) that represented indigenous South Vietnamese revolutionaries (the Viet Cong) signed the agreement.[19] The U.S. agreed to withdraw its remaining military personnel from South Vietnam within 60 days. North Vietnam agreed to a cease fire and to return all American prisoners of war. North Vietnam was permitted to leave 150,000 soldiers and to retain the territory it controlled in South Vietnam.[20]

The U.S. and Vietnam also pledged to withdraw their military forces from Laos and Cambodia and cease military operations there.[21]

The cease fire was observed in some areas, but South Vietnamese troops still fought to regain control of villages captured by communist forces the day before.[22]

Lt. Colonel William B. Nolde was killed, the last American soldier to die prior to the cease fire envisioned in the Paris Peace Accords.[23]

United States Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announced that the draft of young American men into military service would be ended. A few men continued to be drafted until 1973.[23]

28 January

North Vietnam celebrated the signing of the Paris Peace Accords as a victory. "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 praised Nixon and Kissinger for their achievement of "peace with honor." In South Vietnam few believed that the agreement would lead to a lasting peace.[24]

31 January

Reports from American military advisers in the countryside of South Vietnam reported "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 Viet Cong back" and more Vietnamese air force tactical air "strikes were flown in Lam Dong in the three days after the ceasefire than had been flown in the previous six months."[25]

Balance of Military Forces (late January 1973)[26]
South Vietnamese Armed Forces
Combat regulars 210,000
Regional and Popular Force militias 510,000
Service troops 200,000
Total: South Vietnamese armed forces 920,000
Communist armed forces
North Vietnamese regulars (in South Vietnam) 123,000
Viet Cong 25,000
Service troops 71,000
Total: Communist armed forces 219,000


1 February

The U.S. and North Vietnam began implementing the secret portions of the Paris Peace Accords. North Vietnam handed over a list of 10 names of U.S. military and civilians who were prisoners in Laos. The U.S. said in response that it had records for 317 unaccounted for personnel. The U.S. had promised $3.25 billion in aid to North Vietnam in exchange for cooperation in determining the fate of missing and unaccounted for Americans.[27]

3 February

The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia cut the highway link between the capital Phnom Penh and the country's only deep-water port, Kompong Som. Henceforth, the principal route for supplies to reach Phnom Penh would be the Mekong River from Saigon.[28]

9 February

With the Khmer Rouge closing in on Phnom Penh, the United States resumed bombing of North Vietnamese military bases and supply routes (the Ho Chi Minh Trail) in Cambodia. The ceasefire in North and South Vietnam did not apply to Cambodia and Laos.[22] Over the next six months the U.S. would drop a larger tonnage of bombs on Cambodia than on Japan in World War II.[29]

10 February

U.S. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger visited Hanoi and met with Prime Minister of North Vietnam Pham Van Dong. The two men discussed the implementation of the U.S. aid program for Vietnam and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Vietnam.[30]

12 February

Operation Homecoming resulted in the repatriation of 591 American prisoners of war held by North Vietnam. Three C-141A transports flew to Hanoi, North Vietnam, and one C-9A aircraft was sent to Saigon, South Vietnam to pick up released prisoners of war. The first flight of 40 U.S. prisoners of war left Hanoi in a C-141A, later known as the "Hanoi Taxi" and now in a museum. From February 12 to April 4, there were 54 C-141 missions flying out of Hanoi, bringing the former POWs home.[31]

21 February

In Laos the government and the communist Pathet Lao signed a cease fire agreement. The agreement was violated frequently, but by the end of April most fighting had ceased.[32]

26 February

The International Guarantee Conference, set up to supervise the Paris Peace Accords, took place in Paris. The principal issue was violations of the in-place cease fire called for in the accord. The Viet Cong (PRG) representative accused the South Vietnam of "thousands" of military sweeps to take control of additional areas; the South Vietnamese representative charged the Viet Cong with 4,595 violations of the cease fire.[33]


The official communist party publication of North Vietnam outlined 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 was preferred to protect areas in South Vietnam controlled by communist 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.[34]

March 17

The last South Korean soldier left South Vietnam.[35]

18 March

The International Commission of Control of Supervision, created to supervise the Paris Peace Accords, reported that "the cease fire [has] not... been effective" with numerous violations by South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong. "None of the Vietnamese parties wanted the kind of peace promised by the agreement" was the conclusion of one scholar.[36]

29 March

The last American combat troops left Vietnam as per the Paris Peace Accords.[37] The U.S. military command in South Vietnam, MACV ceased to exist. Fewer than 250 U.S. military personnel remained in Vietnam assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Saigon for advisory duties plus a few marines for protection of the Embassy.[38] About 8,500 civilians working for the U.S. government remained in South South Vietnam.[39]

An official publication of North Vietnam summed up the pluses and minuses of the peace agreement. On the positive side for North Vietnam, the U.S. had ended its military operations in both South and North Vietnam and had begun to remove mines from coastal waters of North Vietnam. On the negative side, the cease fire had not been effective, although combat was not as intensive as before, and the U.S. continued to support South Vietnam by turning over its military bases and providing weapons and other military material to South Vietnam.[40]


1 April

The last known American POW, Captain Robert White, was released by North Vietnam.[23]

2 April

President Thieu of South Vietnam concluded a two-day visit to the United States. President Nixon promised continued economic aid to South Vietnam, dependent upon U.S. congressional approval, and Thieu pledged to never ask the United States to reintroduce American troops into South Vietnam.[41]


13 June

The US and North Vietnam issued a joint communique calling on all parties to observe the 28 January ceasefire agreement with effect from 15 June.[42][43]

19 June

The Case–Church Amendment approved by the U.S. Congress and signed into law prohibited further U.S. military activity in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia after 15 August 1973. This ended direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War, although the U.S. continued to provide military equipment and economic support to the South Vietnamese government.[37]

21 June

Graham Martin was appointed by the United States to be Ambassador to South Vietnam replacing Ellsworth Bunker.[44]

30 June

The U.S. Embassy in Saigon reported that, in accordance with secret agreements between the U.S. and North Vietnam, the North Vietnamese had withdrawn 30,000 soldiers from South Vietnam. However, the Embassy warned that the military units had been refitted and could be redeployed back to South Vietnam.[45]

30 June

The last American, Dwight Elliot Stone, to be inducted in the U.S. armed forces as a conscript began his military service. Stone had been drafted in 1972, but his entry into service was delayed until this date.[46]


1 July

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).[47]

17 July

Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger testified before the U.S. Congress that 3,500 American bombing raids had been carried out against Cambodia in 1969 and 1970. The raids had been conducted secretly and their extent had not been known until this testimony.[23]

21 July

The plenum of the Communist Party in North Vietnam recommended 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 Politburo decided that all-out war was not feasible and that North Vietnam would continue to express adherence to the Paris Peace Accord.[48]

27 July

Operation End Sweep ended. In accordance with the Paris Peace Accord, the U.S. navy cleared all naval mines from North Vietnamese coastal waters.[49]

30 July

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.[50]


August 15

The last bombing by American planes anywhere in Indochina took place when B-52s hit a target in Cambodia.[51] The intense bombing of Cambodia since February 1973 by the U.S. prevented the capture of Phnon Penh by the Khmer Rouge. However, Phnom Penh remained encircled by the Khmer Rouge army.[52]


22 September

The PAVN capture Plei Djereng Camp in the Central Highlands.[43]:99–100

23 September

Henry Kissinger became United States Secretary of State replacing William P. Rogers.[53]


November 7

The U.S. Congress adopted, over the President's veto, the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (50 U.S.C. 1541–1548) providing that the President can send U.S. armed forces 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. The resolution was passed by two-thirds of Congress, overriding a presidential veto.[54]


December 15

Captain Richard Morgan Rees serving with Field Team 6, Control Team B, Headquarters, Joint Casualty Resolution Center was killed when Communist forces ambushed a joint US-South Vietnamese team engaged on an MIA recovery mission 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Saigon. A South Vietnamese pilot was also killed in the attack and another four Americans were wounded. As a result of this attack all US MIA field recovery efforts were indefinitely suspended.[42]:6–7[55]

31 December

Only 50 U.S. military personnel remained in Vietnam. South Vietnamese armed forces totaled 1.1 million. 233,748 South Vietnamese have been killed in combat as of this date.[56]

Year in numbers[edit]

Armed Force KIA Reference Military costs – 1971 Military costs in 2019 US$ Reference
 South Vietnam ARVN 27,901
 United States US Forces 168 [1]
 North Vietnam


  1. ^ a b United States 2010
  2. ^ Clarke, Jeffrey J. (1988), United States Army in Vietnam: Advice and Support: The Final Years, 1965–1973, Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, United States Army, p. 275
  3. ^ Asselin, Pierre (2992), A Bitter Peace: Washington, Hanoi, and the Making of the Paris Agreement, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, p. 155-156
  4. ^ Asselin, p. 157
  5. ^ Asselin, p. 156
  6. ^ "Asselin, p. 153
  7. ^ a b Asselin, p. 155
  8. ^ Asselin, p. 158
  9. ^ Asselin, p. 161
  10. ^ Australia 2010, p. 6
  11. ^ FRUS, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume IX, Vietnam, October 1972-January 1973, Document 278. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-7609/d278[permanent dead link], accessed 27 Jun 2015
  12. ^ Isaacs, Arnold R. (1983, Without Honore: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 2
  13. ^ Asselin, pp. 167-170
  14. ^ Asselin, p. 171
  15. ^ Asselin, p. 172
  16. ^ Isaacs, p. 3; Lipsman, Samuel and Weiss, Stephen (1985), The False Peace, 1972-1974, Boston: Boston Publishing Company, p. 38
  17. ^ http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/vietnam/index-1969.html, accessed 7 Dec 2015
  18. ^ Isaacs, p. 4; Lipsman and Weiss p. 38
  19. ^ Asselin, pp. 177, 214
  20. ^ "The Vietnam War, the Bitter End 1969-1975", The History Place, http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/vietnam/index-1969.html, accessed 5 Dec 2015
  21. ^ Isaacs, p. 36
  22. ^ a b Isaacs, p. 3
  23. ^ a b c d http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/vietnam/index-1969.html, accessed 5 Dec 2015
  24. ^ Asselin, pp. 177-178
  25. ^ Isaacs, p. 79
  26. ^ Le Gro, William E. (1985), Vietnam from Cease Fire to Capitulation, U.S. Army Center of Military History, GPO, p. 28.
  27. ^ Asselin, p. 181
  28. ^ Lipsman and Weiss, p. 53
  29. ^ Lipsman and Weiss, p.53
  30. ^ Asselin, p. 181-182
  31. ^ Stephens 1973
  32. ^ Lipsman and Weiss, pp. 51-53
  33. ^ Asselin, p. 182
  34. ^ Duiker, William J. (1996), The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp 329-330
  35. ^ Stanton 2003, p. 272
  36. ^ Asselin, pp 182-183
  37. ^ a b Solheim 2006, p. xlii
  38. ^ Daugherty, Leo (2002), The Vietnam War Day by Day, New York: Chartwell Books, pp. 186, 187
  39. ^ Bowman, John S. (1985), The World Almanac of the Vietnam War, New York: Pharos Books, p. 339
  40. ^ Chang Guang Ang (2005), Ending the Vietnam War: The Vietnamese Communists' Perspective, New York: Routledge, p. 135
  41. ^ Bowman, p. 339
  42. ^ a b Dunham, George R (1990). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Bitter End, 1973–1975 (Marine Corps Vietnam Operational Historical Series). History and Museums Division Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. p. 6. ISBN 9780160264559.
  43. ^ a b Le Gro, William (2013). Vietnam Combat Operations 1972 - 1975. Lion Publications. pp. 91–2. ISBN 9781939335302.
  44. ^ Office of the Historian, Department of State, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/martin-graham-anderson, accessed 11 Dec 2015
  45. ^ Le Gro, p. 45
  46. ^ "Last Draftee Glad He's Out," The New York Times, May 31, 1982
  47. ^ Daugherty, p. 186
  48. ^ Asselin, pp. 185-186
  49. ^ "Operation End Sweep, http://102msos.8m.net/operationendsweep.html, accessed 9 Sep 2017
  50. ^ Daughtery, p. 186
  51. ^ Addington 2000, p. 153
  52. ^ Lipsman and Weiss, p. 54
  53. ^ Office of the Historian, Department of State, https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/kissinger-henry-a, accessed 11 Dec 2015
  54. ^ Solheim 2006, p. xliii
  55. ^ "Vietnam War Accounting". Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  56. ^ Summers, Jr. Harry G. (1985) The Vietnam War Almanac, New York: Facts on File Publications, p. 58