171. Editorial Note

At 10 p.m. on April 26, 1972, President Nixon addressed the nation in a televised speech on Vietnam. Nixon announced that withdrawals of American troops from Vietnam would continue, formal peace negotiations in Paris would resume, and air and naval attacks on North Vietnam would not cease while North Vietnamese forces remained engaged in offensive action in South Vietnam. Although written by his speechwriters, Nixon personally revised the text of the speech and included the following passage tying the North Vietnamese Spring Offensive to other global issues:

“Let us look at what the stakes are—not just for South Vietnam, but for the United States and for the cause of peace in the world. If one country, armed with the most modern weapons by major powers, can invade another nation and succeed in conquering it, other countries will be encouraged to do exactly the same thing—in the Mideast, in Europe, and in other international danger spots. If the Communists win militarily in Vietnam, the risk of war in other parts of the world would be enormously increased. But if, on the other hand, Communist aggression fails in Vietnam, it will be discouraged elsewhere, and the chance for peace will be increased.”

Towards the end of the speech, the President commented on the prospects for the Moscow summit:

“Earlier this year I traveled to Peking on an historic journey for peace. Next month I shall travel to Moscow on what I hope will also be a journey for peace. In the 18 countries I have visited as President I have found great respect for the Office of the President of the United States. I have reason to expect, based upon Dr. Kissinger’s report, that I shall find that same respect for the office I hold when I visit Moscow.”

The full text of the speech is in Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pages 550–554. Drafts of earlier versions of the speech containing Nixon’s handwritten modifications are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 74, President’s Speech File, Wednesday, April 26, 1972, Vietnam Report. In his memoirs Nixon described his address in the following manner: “It was a tough speech, and afterward I wished that I had made it even tougher.” See RN: Memoirs, page 593.