The Vietnam War

President Nixon’s Voice in the National Conversation

The Richard Nixon Foundation looks forward to the national conversation about the Vietnam War that will be generated by the 18-hour documentary The Vietnam War, that will be broadcast PBS beginning September 17th.

The Foundation believes it is vital that President Nixon, who inherited and ended the Vietnam War and brought the POWs home, be an active voice in that conversation.

The mission of the Richard Nixon Foundation was first stated by the former President at the opening of the Nixon Library in 1990: “I have insisted that the Nixon Library and Birthplace be not a monument to the career of one man, but a place where visitors and scholars will be able to recall the events of the time I served as President, and to measure and weigh the policies my administration pursued. I hope the Nixon Library and Birthplace will be different – a vital place of discovery and rediscovery, of investigation, of study, debate and analysis.”

The Foundation has made available the following resources to supply President Nixon’s voice to this national conversation on Vietnam:

White House Tapes

On the thousands of hours of White House tapes recorded between February 1971 and July 1973, President Nixon characteristically examined every aspect of every issue with many people over many years. The context of each conversation reflects the news of the day and the way events change opinions, options, and perspective.

Hundreds of hours of the taped discussions deal with Vietnam. Here are excerpts of five crucial discussions:


February 18, 1971, 6:16 p.m.

President Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office

NIXON: We can’t. We can’t lose.

KISSINGER: No, Mr. President—

NIXON: We—but, I can’t. I am thinking more in terms of Vietnam. For us, the objective of all these things is to get out of there and [unclear] it’s not going to be done. We can’t lose. We can lose an election, but we’re not going to lose this war, Henry. That’s my view. Do you agree with it?

KISSINGER: I agree, Mr. President—

April 23, 1971, 11:56 a.m.

President Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office

NIXON: They do, because, despite all the way we, look, put the cosmetics on, Henry, they know goddamn well that what our policy is, is to win the war.


NIXON: And winning the war simply means—


NIXON: —that South Vietnam survives. That’s all.

KISSINGER: To come out honorably—

NIXON: That wins the war.

KISSINGER: That’s right.

February 2, 1972, 10:05 a.m.

President Nixon and the National Security Council in the Cabinet Room

NIXON: And we thoroughly intend to do so. The main thing we all have to understand here, is that the greatest miscalculation the North Vietnamese make is that we will pay, on our part, an exorbitant price because of the political situation in the United States. That’s not true. Because there’s one determination I’ve made: we’re not going to lose out there. I determined that long ago. We wouldn’t have gone into Cambodia; we wouldn’t have gone into Laos, if we had not made that determination. If politics is what was motivating what we were doing, I would have declared, immediately after I took office in January of 1969, that the whole damn thing was the fault of Johnson and Kennedy, it was the “Democrats’ War,” and we’re ending it like Eisenhower ended Korea, and we’re getting the hell out, and let it go down the tube. We didn’t do that. We didn’t do it, because politically, whatever, it would have been wrong for the country, wrong for the world, and so forth and so on, but having come this long way and come to this point, the United States is not going to lose. And that means we will do what is necessary. But we can’t do it in terms of pusillanimous planning and options that are inadequate. So, we want to see what you have. [unclear]

AGNEW: Don’t just write it for the record.

NIXON: No, I know we’re going to write all of this stuff out. We’ll ask for all this, you know, turn down this story that appeared in the New York Times. [unclear] I don’t think anybody else sitting in this chair would have ordered Cambodia or Laos. If we hadn’t had Cambodia or Laos our casualties would be a hundred a week today rather than—

HELMS: At least.

NIXON: —five. So my point is, even with the election facing us, even with the diplomatic initiatives we have, we, we have to win it. We have to be sure we don’t lose here for reasons that affect China. They affect Russia. They affect the Mideast. They affect Europe. That’s what this is all about.

September 29, 1972, 9:45 a.m.

President Nixon, Henry Kissinger and H.R. Haldeman in the Oval Office

“It affects what we’re going to do later. If affects our world position.”

KISSINGER: See my worry, Mr. President, isn’t the election. My worry is that—

NIXON: Oh, I know, I know. That’s just what I—just what—Bob agrees with me, and I said exactly that I was prepared, that I’m prepared, and I know we have to end the war. I know that now, but when we really decimate the place, you’ve got pretty serious problems. But nevertheless, the real question is, it’s the old—the old irony: if we don’t end it, end it before the election, we’ve got a hell of a problem. But, if we end it in the wrong way, we’ve got a hell of a problem—not in the election. As I said, forget the election. We’ll win the election. We could—Bob, we could surrender in Vietnam and win the election, because who the hell is going to take advantage of it? McGovern says surrender, right?


NIXON: But the point I make—

HALDEMAN: It doesn’t affect the election; it affects—

NIXON: It affects what we’re going to do later. It affects our world position.

September 29, 1972, 5:15 p.m.

President Nixon, Henry Kissinger and Al Haig in the Oval Office

NIXON: …he can’t just assume that because I win the election that we’re going to stick with him through hell and high water. This war is not going to go on. Goddamn it, we can’t do it.

We’re not going to do it. We’re not going to have our—we’re not gonna have, let alone, our guys getting killed, and our prisoners, so that’s just that. We’re not going to have him get killed. And we happen to have our relationships with the Russians and the Chinese. There’s that, and, also, I’m not going to have it keep us from doing some other things that we need to do. We’ve got to get the war the hell off our backs in this country. That’s all there is to it.

Televised Addresses

When Richard Nixon was sworn in as President in January 1969, there were more than 500,000 American troops in Vietnam. His predecessors’ escalation and explanations of the war led to a disillusioned and skeptical public opinion. RN determined to keep the American public informed about the progress of the war and his plans to achieve a peace with honor and bring the POWs home. He made fourteen addresses to the nation from the Oval Office on prime time TV dealing with Vietnam.

Here are links to excerpts from each of the 14 speeches, and links to the entire speeches and transcripts.

READ MORE about President Nixon’s addresses to the nation on the Vietnam War.

Videos of each of the 14 televised addresses:

Address to the Nation on Vietnam
May 14, 1969

Address to the Nation on the War in Vietnam
November 3, 1969

Address to the Nation on the War in Vietnam
December 15, 1969

Address to the Nation on Progress Toward Peace in Vietnam
April 20, 1970

Address to the Nation on the Situation in Southeast Asia
April 30, 1970

Address to the Nation on the Cambodian Sanctuary Operation
June 3, 1970

Address to the Nation About a New Initiative for Peace in Southeast Asia
October 7, 1970

Address to the Nation on the Situation in Southeast Asia
April 7, 1971

Address to the Nation Making Public a Plan for Peace in Vietnam
January 25, 1972

Address to the Nation on Vietnam
April 26, 1972

Address to the Nation on the Situation in Southeast Asia
May 8, 1972

Address to the Nation: “Look to the Future”
November 2, 1972

Address to the Nation Announcing Conclusion of an Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam
January 23, 1973

Address to the Nation About Vietnam and Domestic Problems
March 3, 1973

Nixon’s Yellow Note Pads

Beginning with his first congressional trip to Europe in 1947, RN used yellow legal pads to make notes of all kinds. To Do lists, dialogue from conversations, notes from meetings, notes to self, etc. Before every major speech and press conference, he would go through dozens of yellow pads outlining and refining his thoughts and answers. The new Nixon Library has several interactive exhibits that allow visitors go read RN’s handwriting (and see print transcripts) on dozens of these yellow pads.

Here is a selection of five yellow pads dealing with Vietnam, that show the range of his thoughts and the workings of his mind:

Silent Majority Notes – link to pdf – transcription

Cambodia Notes – link to pdf

China Notes – link to pdf – transcription

Moscow Notes – link to pdf

“No More Vietnams”

“No More Vietnams” written in 1985 by former President Nixon is a comprehensive history of the Vietnam War, and a wide-ranging analysis on the U.S. government’s execution of military operations, and diplomatic negotiations with the governments in Hanoi and Saigon. President Nixon dispels many of the myths of the Vietnam War; shows how various forces — four Presidents, the media, Congress, and the anti-war movement — affected the war effort; and finally offers counsel on how America should engage — and avoid catastrophe – in future military conflicts.

Click here for chapter summaries and and excerpts of “No More Vietnams.”

To request a digital copy of “No More Vietnams,” email Joe Lopez at [email protected].



Media Contact:

Joe Lopez, [email protected]