On the morning of August 8, 1974, Gerald R. Ford went to Blair House, across the street from his office in the Executive Office Building. As one his final actions as Vice President he presented Congressional Medals of Honor to the families of seven servicemen who had died in Vietnam. “These ceremonies were usually very emotional—and hard for me to perform—and this one was no exception,” he recalled in his memoirs.
Shortly afterwards he received a call to meet with President Richard Nixon at the White House. The President informed him that he had decided to resign, effective at noon the following day. The two then discussed the details of the transition, domestic and foreign affairs, and possible candidates to be Ford’s Vice President.
The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolultion:
On the evening of August 4, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson addressed the nation in a televised speech in which he stated that U.S. ships had been attacked twice in international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin near North Vietnam. The following morning, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was introduced in the Senate. Although the version shown here is the original draft resolution, the language was not amended and therefore reads the same as the final version, which was passed by both house of Congress and signed into law on August 7.
S.J. Res. 189: the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution as Introduced, 8/5/1964, Sen 88A-B2, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 2127364)
The original Gulf of Tonkin Resolution is on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building from July 15 to August 7, 2014.
The Gulf of Tonkin - 50 Years Ago
The Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) sent this cable to the Joint Chiefs reporting an attack on the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2, 1964. The result was a spiraling escalation of violence in Vietnam.
-from the LBJ Library
The Shirley Peck Barnes Papers, 1967-2005, are now open for research.
This collection contains correspondence, newsletters, newspaper clippings, research materials, and artifacts relating to Shirley Peck Barnes’ involvement with Friends of Children of Vietnam and “Operation Babylift,” the evacuation of orphans from Saigon during the closing weeks of the Vietnam War. After the evacuation in 1975 Barnes remained active in Babylift adoptee matters and eventually wrote The War Cradle: The Untold Story of Operation Babylift.
For more information view the collection finding aid.
Image: Vietnamese refugee children on an Operation Babylift flight arrive at San Francisco International Airport on April 5, 1975 (White House Photograph A3854-04A)
Final Evacuation of Saigon
With North Vietnamese troops advancing on Saigon, President Ford and his advisers made plans to evacuate remaining American personnel in the city. He ordered the final evacuation to take place on April 29, 1975.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger advised U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin in Saigon to continue evacuating Americans and South Vietnamese allies at Tan Son Nhut airport if possible. Due to damage from shelling military transport plans could not land on the runways so the focus shifted to helicopter evacuation. Over the course of 16 hours helicopters removed U.S. and South Vietnamese personnel from the roof of the American embassy.
Telegram from Henry Kissinger to Ambassador Graham Martin, 4/29/1975, from the Backchannel Cable Files.
Joint Statement of Department of State and Department of Defense, 4/19/1975, from the White House Press Releases.
Faced with mounting evidence of the imminent fall of South Vietnam, President Gerald R. Ford authorized the evacuation of thousands of Vietnamese orphans to the United States on April 3, 1975. This evacuation became known as Operation Babylift. Between April 3 and 15 more than 2,000 orphans were flown into the United States by military and private aircraft.
Resources about the Ford administration’s involvement in Operation Babylift are available in the Ford Digital Library.
Images: President Ford carries a Vietnamese baby from “Clipper 1742” at the San Francisco International Airport on April 5, 1975; memo regarding A.I.D. Efforts to Airlift Vietnamese Orphans to the United States from the Theodore Marrs Files; and a pair of well-worn baby shoes worn by orphans evacuated from Vietnam during Operation Babylift.
Despite the Vietnam War’s January 23, 1973 ceasefire agreement, fighting continued in some regions of Vietnam. With allegations of ceasefire violations by all parties, Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho met in Paris in May and June of 1973 to reinvigorate implementation of the Paris Peace Accords. On June 13, 1973, as a result of these meetings, the United States and North Vietnam signed a joint communique, pledging mutual support.
On the very eve of this critical agreement, success was far from certain. Listen to President Richard Nixon as he speaks with General Brent Scowcroft regarding these negotiations.
-from the Nixon Library
POW Week at the Nixon Library
A sheriff-led motorcade will escort Vietnam POWs to the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California at 12:30PM PT. Their arrival at the Library coincides with the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s POW homecoming dinner at the White House.
An All-American Homecoming is a new exhibit at the Nixon Library about the POWs visit to the White House. The event occurred on May 24, 1973, and it remains the largest dinner ever held at the White House. This week, the Nixon Foundation is hosting a series of events to celebrate the POWs.
Tomorrow evening, on the anniversary of the original White House homecoming, the Foundation will hold a reunion dinner for the POWs in the Nixon Library’s “East Room.” The original menu will be recreated, including American comfort foods like sirloin steak and potatoes.
Learn more about POW Week at the Nixon Library through the Nixon Foundation.
Photo: Entertainers sing “God Bless America” to the returned POW troops at the White House. From L-R: Phyllis Diller, Former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley, actress Joey Heatherton, President Nixon, Songwriter Irving Berlin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Pat Nixon and Comedian Bob Hope. 5/24/73.
The S.S. Mayaguez Crisis — This Week in 1975
President Ford briefs the Bipartisan Congressional Leadership on the seizure of the American merchant ship S.S. Mayaguez on May 14, 1975.
The Mayaguez had been seized in international waters off the coast of Cambodia on May 12. Over the next two days President Ford and the National Security Council closely monitored the situation, ultimately deciding to use air strikes and send in Marines to rescue the boat’s crew.
President Ford received word that the Mayaguez and its entire crew had been safely recovered shortly after 11:00 p.m. on the 14th, and at 12:30 a.m. he made the official announcement to the press.
In accordance with the War Powers Act, on May 15 President Ford sent a letter to the Speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate regarding the Mayaguez incident. Read the President’s account of his actions here.
-from the Ford Library