January 27th 1973: Paris Peace Accords
On this day in 1973, the Paris Peace Accords were signed in the French capital, ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. American involvement in the country went back to the 1950s, with Cold War fears of the region falling to communism leading a series of presidents to steadily increase the presence of American advisers in Vietnam. Vietnam successfully achieved independence from the colonial French in 1954, which also resulted in the division of the country between the communist North under Ho Chi Minh, and the South under U.S.-backed Ngo Dinh Diem. The two sections soon broke out in fighting, and in August 1964 the United States fully committed to the war after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. This was when the North Vietnamese allegedly fired on American ships in the gulf, which resulted in Congress passing a resolution allowing the President to intervene in the war to counter the communists. The high casualty rates of American soldiers, and tales of horrific acts of violence like the My Lai massacre in 1968, prompted mass protests against the war in the United States. This increased opposition to the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, who declined to run for another term in 1968 and was succeeded by Richard Nixon. Nixon initially expanded the war into neighboring Laos and Cambodia, but then began to gradually withdraw troops from the war that had reached an unwinnable and bloody stalemate. The 1973 settlement, known as ‘An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam’, included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam, as well as the withdrawal of U.S. forces. U.S. Representative Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese Le Duc Tho were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in Paris, though the latter refused the award. However, the fighting in Vietnam continued until 1975, when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army, and the nation was united under communist rule.