Friday, October 10, 2008
The Vietnam War---Volume III
In the years following the Cambodia incursion and the turmoil following the incidents at Kent State and Jackson University in the spring of 1970, campus protests against the War in Vietnam begin to wane a bit in both frequency and intensity.
A draft lottery system was fully implemented, and as more and more of the fighting was turned over to the South Vietnamese (Vietnamization), American troop levels were decreased in the country.
President Nixon's effort to reach detente with the Soviet Union and his visit to open up China also reduced global tensions.It all helped long-stalled negotiations in Paris, led by Henry Kissinger, to finally begin to make progress.
A renewed, fierce bombing campaign against the major cities of North Vietnam in late 1972 also helped move the process along, and slowly brought about a ceasefire which was agreed to by all parties (the U.S., South Vietnam, North Vietnam, the Viet Cong) and implemented on Saturday, January 27, 1973.
Courtesy of the Vanderbilt TV News Archives, here's how the news of the effective end of the War in Vietnam was reported on NBC NIGHTLY NEWS a few days before on January 24, 1970. The anchorman is Garrett Utley...
On the Vanderbilt campus, the implementation of the ceasefire was celebrated with a 15-minute medley of songs played by the chimes at Kirkland Hall. The music began exactly at 6:00 PM that Saturday evening, January 27, the exact moment the ceasefire went into effect.
According to a front page article in THE HUSTLER(Tuesday,January 30,1973) reported by Rosalyn Harty, "Saturday's serenade--Bells for a Peace Treaty, they called it--(actually) originated from the keyboard of a carillon in Neely Auditorium. The music, (played) by assistant editor of publications Nancy Fielder, was transmitted from the instrument to the four speakers atop the (Kirkland) tower."
THE HUSTLER article went on to report that the program of music included a medley of peace songs and was the idea of the Secretary of the University, Dr. Robert McGaw. The article says "the program was centered around a theme from an English mass--Joseph Purcell's "O Let the Merry Bells Ring Round",(which) Fielder threaded ...through a variety of melodies, patriotic, religious, pop and classical, including such diverse pieces as the Beatles' "Give Peace a Chance" and the folk song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
Speaking of coming home, one of the first elements of the ceasefire that was implemented was the release of American Prisoners of War (although even today some dispute that all were released).
Again, thanks to the Vanderbilt TV News Archives, here is how the dramatic story of the release of first group of POWs was reported by ABC News on February 12, 1973 with anchorman Harry Reasoner and reporter Lem Tucker....
What are your memories of this time in January and February of 1973, this was just when we were starting our last semester on campus? Does anyone remember the bell concert from the Kirkland chimes on the day the ceasefire went into effect? What about the release of the POWS? Did you have one of those wristbands so many folks wore in those days to show your support for those who were captured or listed as missing in action? As always, please leave your thoughts and memories by clicking on the link below.
Unfortunately, most of the rest of the ceasefire accord never amounted to much, as the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese continued to push their aggression (and with the Americans gone) the South Vietnamese capitol of Saigon fell in the spring of 1975, bringing the final end to the War in Vietnam.