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January 1: The South Vietnamese military command reports 20 “enemy-initiated incidents” during the New Year’s truce. American reconnaissance planes fly over North Vietnam to assess the damage done by the bombings of December 26-30. Preliminary reports are that eleven air defense sites were destroyed. Hanoi radio announces North Vietnam downed 24 planes and captured seven Americans during the five days of bombing. The U.S. Air Force acknowledges that a fourth plane was shot down over North Vietnam during the raids. U.S. planes carry out more than 200 strikes against NVA supply lines in Laos and Cambodia.

January 2: In a televised interview, President Nixon says he will end the U.S. combat role in the Vietnam War, but will keep 25,000-35,000 troops there until all POWs are released by North Vietnam. One American GI is killed after his 25-man patrol is ambushed 40 miles northeast of Saigon. Three medevac helicopters are shot down.

January 3, 1972: Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) insists a deal proposing the
release of U.S. POWs in exhange for a firm U.S. withdrawal date was never
discussed during the ongoing peace talks in Paris. Photo: © Wally McNamee/
CORBIS/CORBIS via Getty Images

January 3: Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) says that Nixon has “deceived the American public” by claiming that North Vietnamese and Provisional Revolutionary Government negotiators in Paris have rejected a firm U.S. withdrawal date in exchange for the release of all U.S. POWs. McGovern says that this was never discussed. The Pentagon reports that U.S. planes failed to hit all the intended targets during the bombing campaign.

January 4: Administration officials say U.S. negotiators in Paris have never proposed a definite withdrawal date in exchange for POWs as they believed such an offer would be rejected. The delegates in Paris agree to meet on January 6, which would be the first session since December 9. Daniel Ellsberg pleads not guilty to charges stemming from the release of the Pentagon Papers. Responding to questions about the shooting down of medevacs on January 2, an American military spokesman says the ten-year practice of arming medevac helicopters will end in mid-January.

January 5: A U.S. Air Force F-105, escorting B-52s over Laos, strikes at an antiaircraft position inside North Vietnam, destroying the site. Hanoi radio announces that if the U.S. wants the release of all POWs, Nixon must end the war in Vietnam, withdraw all American troops, and end Vietnamization. A Harris poll indicates that only slightly more than 50 percent of Vietnam veterans believe “the president and his administration are doing all they can to help veterans adjust to civilian life.”

January 6: The North Vietnamese and PRG delegates tell U.S. negotiators in Paris that the POWs will not be released until all troops are withdrawn and Nixon stops supporting the regime of South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu.

January 7: Fiddler’s Green, a U.S. base 20 miles northeast of Saigon, is hit by 20 mortar rounds. India and North Vietnam improve diplomatic relations by upgrading from consular to ambassadorial status. The State Department, because of this new relationship, questions India’s neutrality on the International Control Commission.

January 8: In Qui Nhon, a government-sponsored youth rally of 2,000 is hit by a terrorist grenade, which kills nine and wounds 110. At a news conference, South Vietnamese Foreign Minister Tran Van Lam announces that his country will not allow the new Indian head of the ICC into South Vietnam because India has not upgraded diplomatic relations with Saigon.

January 9: The South Vietnamese government begins investigating the incident at Qui Nhon.

January 10: Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) announces his presidential bid, declaring, “Our most urgent, immediate need is to end the war and to do it now.” After a month in the Indian Ocean during the India-Pakistan War, a nine-ship U.S. Navy task force heads back to Southeast Asian waters. UPI reports that one American was killed in an ambush 24 miles northeast of Saigon.

January 11: A South Vietnamese military spokesman says his country’s troops will pull out of Krek (in eastern Cambodia) and move to Saigon. The State Department acknowledges that part of the technical assistance given to Cambodia includes teaching the government how to send fundraising letters asking other countries for financial aid.

January 13: Nixon announces 70,000 troops will be withdrawn from South Vietnam and he plans to cut the force to 69,000 by May 1. In Paris, PRG spokesman Ly Van Sau charges the U.S. and South Vietnam with plans to accelerate the relocation of civilians from the northern to the southern provinces to create a free-fire zone in which tactical nuclear weapons would be deployed. The American and South Vietnamese delegates call the charges preposterous. They describe a voluntary program which has attracted 50,000 (about 5 percent of the northern provinces’ population) to the south because the land there is more fertile and not subject to floods.

January 16: The Pentagon releases the results of drug tests indicating that most “hard drug” use in the military is among those in the Army and by troops in Vietnam.

January 17: American aircraft carry out more than 200 strikes against the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Cambodia. In Toronto, six American war resisters issue a joint statement opposing amnesty proposals being discussed in the United States.

January 18: At a dinner honoring former United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) calls on the UN to set up an international conference on relief to Southeast Asia to help restore North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, in a two-part New Yorker article, reports that, according to Army documents, 347 civilian were killed at My Lai, not the accepted figure of 200.

January 19: The Senate Democratic Policy Committee adopts a resolution calling on Nixon to withdraw all U.S. troops within six months contingent on the release of all POWs. The Cambodian military command reports that 5,000-10,000 NVA troops have moved into their country, raising the number to 65,000-70,000. The Pentagon makes no comment about the Hersh article.

January 20: More than 10,000 South Vietnamese troops are reported to have begun a sweep 45 miles northwest of Saigon.

January 23: In an interview, Laotian Defense Minister Sisouk na Champassak calls the losses suffered by his country’s military “real genocide.” The U.S. command reports that F-4 Phantoms knocked out two NVA antiaircraft guns in the DMZ and they damaged a third.

January 24: The Air Force says it has tentative plans to incinerate 23.4 million gallons of Agent Orange. UPI reports that the U.S. Army has permitted prostitutes to enter several bases in South Vietnam. Army spokesmen said it was permissible under a regulation allowing for “local national guests” to enter some bases.

January 25: In an address to the nation, Nixon reveals that he offered an eight-point proposal to North Vietnam through secret channels but the offer was ignored. The plan proposed the resignation of Thieu one month before a new presidential election in South Vietnam, which would include Viet Cong participation. Nixon also reveals that National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger had 12 secret meetings over the last two years with top North Vietnamese diplomats in Paris. The White House explains that Nixon went public with the offer because, “We cannot negotiate as a divided people,” explaining that prior secrecy has created undesirable political divisions. The New York Times reports that Hersh’s second article charges Americal Division members with destroying documents dealing with My Lai to protect the officers involved.

January 26: The U.S. Board of Parole announces that Rev. Daniel Berrigan, serving a three-year prison term for burning draft cards, will be released nine months early because of failing health. In a radio address, Thieu endorses the elections proposed in Nixon’s initiative. Sen. Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.), a leading critic of the Vietnam War, hails Nixon’s peace proposal as a “long step forward,” and says he hopes it will lead to a negotiated settlement. In a news conference, Kissinger asks the public for support of Nixon’s plan. North Vietnam and the PRG denounce the proposal.

January 27: The peace plan is formally presented to North Vietnam and the PRG at the Paris peace talks. Their response is that there can be no settlement until the U.S. sets a definite withdrawal date and ousts the Thieu regime. Secretary of State William Rogers says he is “somewhat encouraged” because the communist delegates have not rejected the proposal outright. Administration sources say Kissinger suggested granting North Vietnam $2.5 billion in aid.

January 28: Republican leaders circulate letters of support for Nixon’s latest proposal, garnering 123 signatures. Informed sources report that Thieu agreed to step down as president and to the other points even before his October 3 reelection. Beijing denounces Nixon’s proposal as a “plan of aggression.”

January 30: Defense Secretary Melvin Laird announces there will be no draft calls until April. U.S. Intelligence sources contend that communist political officers have been advising their troops that “decisive blows” must be made against the U.S. and South Vietnam when Nixon travels to China in February.

January 31: North Vietnam publicly reveals that a peace plan was submitted to the U.S. in June and Nixon’s proposal was received, but calls the differences between the two plans “fundamental—like night and day.” Army Chief of Staff Gen. William Westmoreland says there is every indication the enemy will begin a major offensive in February. The U.S. command reports that Nixon’s February 1 deadline to reduce troop strength to 139,000 was met four days early.

February 2: Draft numbers are chosen for 1973. Presidential hopeful Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Maine) announces his own two-point peace plan.

February 3: Rogers accuses Muskie of jeopardizing peace prospects by rejecting Nixon’s plan before a formal reply has been received from North Vietnam and the PRG. In Paris, North Vietnam and the PRG present a revised version of their seven-point proposal. They do not call for the direct ouster of the Thieu regime, although they do demand the president’s immediate resignation.

February 4: South Vietnam rejects the revised proposal. The Justice Department orders the FBI to investigate allegations that Colt, Inc., cheated on its quality-control tests for the M-16 rifle. Muskie defends his peace initiative, saying it is “designed to end our involvement more quickly” than Nixon’s plan.

February 5: North Vietnam’s chief Paris delegate Xuan Thuy says that at one time military and political stipulations for a settlement were separate, but that is no longer the case. South Vietnamese and American officers in northern South Vietnam say they do not anticipate a major enemy offensive.

February 6: Thieu, rumored to be angry over the peace negotiations, insists that any proposals dealing with his country’s political future must be presented in Paris by the South Vietnamese delegation. The State Department denies there is any “chill” between the U.S. and South Vietnam over the U.S.’s negotiation flexibility. The Selective Service System cancels 11,000 induction orders for those scheduled to report for duty in the first three months of 1972. The jury is picked for the trial of Rev. Philip Berrigan and six others, known as the Berrigan 6, accused of conspiring to kidnap Kissinger and blow up government property.

February 9: In a radio address, Nixon asks his Democratic challengers not to say anything that “might give the enemy an incentive to prolong the war until after the election.” Danang Air Base is hit by more than 25 enemy rockets, resulting in three civilian deaths and the wounding of ten American GIs and six civilians. Administration sources report the U.S. is increasing its B-52 force in the western Pacific in case of a new enemy offensive. American reporter Banning Garrett reveals that while in North Vietnam, he received reports that a hospital near Thanh Hoa was hit during America’s five-day bombing campaign.

February 10: Nixon tells reporters, “Under no circumstances are we going to negotiate with our enemy in a way that undercuts our allies.” He also warns Democrats that they may share the blame if the peace talks fail because his critics “encourage the enemy to wait until after the [presidential] election” to negotiate. In an interview, Thieu insists Nixon’s eight points in his peace plan are all the concessions he will make. He also criticizes Rogers for declaring the U.S. to be “flexible” on negotiations. U.S. planes bomb enemy positions in the Central Highlands. The Cambodian government maintains it has the right to attack enemy forces occupying Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Japan sends a diplomatic mission to North Vietnam. Ten South Vietnamese students are arrested after they force their way into the South Vietnamese consulate at the UN in New York City to protest against Thieu and U.S. support of his government. Pentagon officials predict a major enemy offensive could last three months. In Paris, the U.S. delegation refuses to set a new date for peace talks after accusing North Vietnam of organizing a rally in Versailles to put “intolerable” pressure on the negotiators.

February 11: Back from an eight-nation Asian tour, Sen. James Buckley (R-N.Y.) says the U.S. has failed to provide substantial aid to its allies, casting doubts about “the ability and willingness of the United States to sustain its role of leadership in the western Pacific.” In Versailles, 800 delegates from 75 countries open the World Assembly of Paris for Peace and Independence of the Indochinese Peoples, charging the U.S. with escalating the war and undermining the peace talks.

February 12: U.S. intelligence reports an estimated 25 percent increase in support from other communist countries to North Vietnam during 1971. U.S. officials believe that Japan’s goal in visiting North Vietnam was economic. Hanoi radio claims two U.S. planes were shot down over North Vietnam on February 10.

February 13: The U.S. command reports recent air attacks on enemy positions in South Vietnam are the heaviest in two years. Sources reveal that the Johnson administration secretly offered the communists a peace plan in 1965. On the final day of the conference, the Versailles assembly pledges support for a six-week campaign by U.S. peace groups, to begin April 1, to end the Vietnam War.

February 14: The U.S. command puts troops on “gray alert,” barring them from entering populated areas unless on duty. U.S. bombs fall on enemy positions despite a one-day cease-fire proclaimed by the allies and a four-day truce by enemy troops; the U.S. command claims the bombing was permitted under the terms of the armistice.

February 15: The U.S. resumes bombing after a 24-hour pause. The allies assert enemy troops committed 33 truce violations.

February 17: The U.S. command reports planes undertook a 29-hour, “limited duration” air assault against artillery positions in North Vietnam and the DMZ and acknowledges the loss of three planes. Six crewmen are listed as missing. Hanoi radio claims seven planes were shot down.

February 18: In a letter to Rep. Robert Drinan (D-Mass.), Secretary of the Navy John Chafee confirms that pressure from the House Armed Services Committee has forced the Navy to prohibit its officers from enrolling in government-financed graduate courses at 15 universities that have dropped Navy ROTC.

February 19: North Vietnam parades five American POWs captured during the recent bombing raid before journalists and diplomats.

February 21: The U.S. command reports that the shelling of three American bases in two days resulted in two deaths. Nixon arrives in China. Those who predicted a major enemy offensive during Nixon’s visit to China concede that the U.S. bombings stopped it. In its opening statement, the government explains that its case against the Berrigan 6 is based on the testimony of Boyd Douglas, Jr., a former convict who served seven years for impersonating an Army captain, writing bad checks, and pulling a gun on an FBI agent.

February 23: The U.S. turns over its naval base at Cam Ranh Bay to the South Vietnamese. At Tan Son Nhut Airport, Saigon police order a Pan Am jet to leave without the 200 GIs it was supposed to return to the U.S. because they refuse to allow Nguyen Chanh Thi—the exiled former ARVN commander of Military Region 1 whose ouster touched off the Buddhist riots in 1966—to disembark. In Paris, North Vietnam acknowledges Xuan Thuy met with former South Vietnamese Foreign Minister Tran Van Do on December 19, but insists he was acting as a private person and not as a delegate for his country. Thieu asserts that the Soviet Union urged North Vietnam to launch an offensive while Nixon was in China to dissuade the two countries from attempts to end the war. U.S. commander Gen. Creighton Abrams says U.S. troop morale in Vietnam is in “excellent shape” and heroin addiction is down 50 percent.

Nixon in China: President Nixon and Secretary of State William Rogers tour the
Great Wall with Chinese Deputy Premier Li Xiannian, February 24, 1972.
Photo: Corbis Historical

February 24: In Paris, North Vietnam and the PRG walk out on the talks just 17 minutes after they started. Rev. Daniel Berrigan is released from prison.

February 25: While pursuing two enemy soldiers, U.S. troops run into a secured enemy bunker line 42 miles east of Saigon. One American is killed and 21 wounded in the five-hour battle. A U.S. helicopter crashes in Danang harbor, killing four Americans and three South Vietnamese.

February 26: Tran Van Do calls his meeting with Xuan Thuy “very friendly” and “very cordial.”

February 28: Douglas testifies he acted as a courier in 1970 between his fellow prisoner, Berrigan, and an antiwar group. He also says Berrigan told him he posed as an electrician to enter the tunnels in Washington, D.C., in order to determine the viability of blowing them up as an antiwar protest. At a Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Selective Service Director Curtis Tarr insists granting amnesty to draft resisters would be unfair and would set a dangerous precedent.

February 29: A Pentagon official says at an Armed Services Subcommittee on Drug Abuse in the Military hearing that those discharged for drug abuse have a special code stamped on their discharge papers. The defense presents an October 3 letter from Douglas to the FBI asking for $50,000 to expose the alleged Berrigan conspiracy.




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