This day in history, January 27, 1973, the United States, South Vietnam, Viet Cong, and North Vietnam formally signed “An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam” in Paris, known as the “Paris Peace Accords.”
The accords did little, however, to solve the turmoil in Vietnam or to heal the terrible domestic divisions in the United States brought on by its involvement in this Cold War battleground.
Richard Nixon was elected President of the United States that year, largely on the basis of his promise to find a way to “peace with honor” in Vietnam. Four years later, after the deaths of thousands more American servicemen, South Vietnamese soldiers, North Vietnamese soldiers, and Viet Cong fighters, the Paris Peace Accords were signed, and America’s participation in the struggle in Vietnam came to a close.
The settlement included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam. In addition, the United States agreed to the withdrawal of all U.S. troops and advisors (totaling about 23,700) as well as the dismantling of all U.S. bases within 60 days. In return, the North Vietnamese agreed to release all U.S. and other prisoners of war. The nearly 150,000 North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam were allowed to remain after the cease-fire.
The accords called for the reunification of North and South Vietnam through “peaceful means on the basis of discussions and agreements between North and South Viet-Nam.” Precisely what this entailed was left unsaid. The United States also promised to “contribute to healing the wounds of war and to postwar reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam [North Vietnam] and throughout Indochina.” Most Americans were relieved simply to be out of the Vietnam.
The war against communism in Southeast Asia cost over 50,000 U.S. lives and billions of dollars, in addition to countless soldiers wounded. At home, the war seriously fractured the consensus about the Cold War that had been established in the period after World War II–simple appeals to fighting the red threat of communism would no longer be sufficient to move the American nation to commit its prestige, manpower, and money to foreign conflicts.
For Vietnam, the accords meant little. The cease-fire almost immediately collapsed, with recriminations and accusations flying from both sides.
In 1975, the North Vietnamese launched a massive military offensive and crushed South Vietnamese forces. Vietnam was then placed under communist rule.