144. Editorial Note

On November 3, 1969, at 9:32 p.m., President Nixon gave an address to the nation on Vietnam that was broadcast on national television. This address came to be known as the “silent majority speech” from Nixon’s appeal for support for his policy from “the great silent majority of Americans” to counter the large-scale anti-Vietnam war demonstrations. The full text of the speech is in Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pages 901–909. In his memoirs, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon , the President recounts the drafting and the rationale of his speech. (pages 404–413) Henry Kissinger in White House Years provides his insight on the speech and its preparation. (pages 306–309)

At Kissinger’s request a number of key advisers offered advice on the speech. In an October 23 memorandum to Kissinger, Laird suggested that the main themes of the speech should be that the United States had a program to accomplish its main objective in Vietnam—Vietnamization—and that a positive momentum had been established in implementing that program. (Washington National Records Center, Chronological Files of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense: FRC 330 74 0045, Signer’s Copies, October 1969) Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge sent Kissinger a letter on October 17 in response to a request from Nixon for “some thoughts on why we cannot ‘bug out.’” Lodge suggested that a further reduction of troops, 40,000 to 50,000, plus the offer to negotiate a cease-fire would help prevent a “bug out.” (Massachusetts Historical Society, Papers of Henry Cabot Lodge II, Reel 9) Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Marshall Green, gave Kissinger his thoughts on the speech, Vietnamization, future reliance on the Guam (Nixon) Doctrine, and additional troop withdrawals in a letter of October 21. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 74, Vietnam Subject Files, Vietnam (General Files), 9/69–11/69) John Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff responded to a Kissinger request in a memorandum of October 17 and attached a long statement detailing the Nixon administration’s progress toward a solution on Vietnam. (Ibid., Box 139, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam, Memos and Miscellaneous, XI–B, 10/17/69–10/31/69)

In backchannel message 169 from Saigon, October 22, Bunker informed Kissinger that, as instructed, he had informed Thieu that “U.S. policy on war will not change” and war protests would not change the policy. Bunker also stated that speculation that Nixon would announce a unilateral cease-fire proposal in his November 3 speech was false. In backchannel message 353 from Saigon, November 3, Bunker reported that he showed Thieu an outline of Nixon’s address, and Thieu was not only “satisfied” but he was “much pleased.” Thieu promised to give the outline to no one. (Both ibid., Box 65, Vietnam Subject Files, [Page 478] 8–A, All Backchannel, Vol. 3, Nov. 1969) In a November 3 memorandum to Nixon, Rogers outlined how U.S. allies were being consulted on the speech and, at the President’s request, described how the Department was developing “a game plan designed to encourage international support for the policies set forth in your address.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S)