U.S. withdraws from Vietnam Two months after the signing of the Vietnam peace agreement, the last U.S. combat troops leave South Vietnam as Hanoi frees the remaining American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. America’s direct eight-year intervention in the Vietnam War was at an end. In Saigon, some 7,000 U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees remained behind to aid South Vietnam in conducting what looked to be a fierce and ongoing war with communist North Vietnam. In 1961, after two decades of indirect military aid, U.S. President John F. Kennedy sent the first large force of U.S. military personnel to Vietnam to bolster the ineffectual autocratic regime of South Vietnam against the communist North. Three years later, with the South Vietnamese government crumbling, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered limited bombing raids on North Vietnam, and Congress authorized the use of U.S. troops. By 1965, North Vietnamese offensives left President Johnson with two choices: escalate U.S. involvement or withdraw. Johnson ordered the former, and troop levels soon jumped to more than 300,000 as U.S. air forces commenced the largest bombing campaign in history. During the next few years, the extended length of the war, the high number of U.S. casualties, and the exposure of U.S. involvement in war crimes, such as the massacre at My Lai, helped turn many in the United States against the Vietnam War. The communists’ Tet Offensive of 1968 crushed U.S. hopes of an imminent end to the conflict and galvanized U.S. opposition to the war. In response, Johnson announced in March 1968 that he would not seek reelection, citing what he perceived to be his responsibility in creating a perilous national division over Vietnam. He also authorized the beginning of peace talks. In the spring of 1969, as protests against the war escalated in the United States, U.S. troop strength in the war-torn country reached its peak at nearly 550,000 men. Richard Nixon, the new U.S. president, began U.S. troop withdrawal and “Vietnamization” of the war effort that year, but he intensified bombing. Large U.S. troop withdrawals continued in the early 1970s as President Nixon expanded air and ground operations into Cambodia and Laos in attempts to block enemy supply routes along Vietnam’s borders. This expansion of the war, which accomplished few positive results, led to new waves of protests in the United States and elsewhere. Finally, in January 1973, representatives of the United States, North and South Vietnam, and the Vietcong signed a peace agreement in Paris, ending the direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War. Its key provisions included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam, the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the release of prisoners of war, and the reunification of North and South Vietnam through peaceful means. The South Vietnamese government was to remain in place until new elections were held, and North Vietnamese forces in the South were not to advance further nor be reinforced. In reality, however, the agreement was little more than a face-saving gesture by the U.S. government. Even before the last American troops departed on March 29, the communists violated the cease-fire, and by early 1974 full-scale war had resumed. At the end of 1974, South Vietnamese authorities reported that 80,000 of their soldiers and civilians had been killed in fighting during the year, making it the most costly of the Vietnam War. On April 30, 1975, the last few Americans still in South Vietnam were airlifted out of the country as Saigon fell to communist forces. North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin, accepting the surrender of South Vietnam later in the day, remarked, “You have nothing to fear; between Vietnamese there are no victors and no vanquished. Only the Americans have been defeated.” The Vietnam War was the longest and most unpopular foreign war in U.S. history and cost 58,000 American lives. As many as two million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were killed. 1790 President John Tyler is born On this day in 1790, future President John Tyler is born in Charles City County, Virginia. Tyler was the last president to hail from the colonial Virginia planter class that also produced George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. Through influential family ties, Tyler gained a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1811, and then went on to serve in the army during the War of 1812 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1816 to 1821. Tyler was elected as William Harrison’s vice president in 1841 and was suddenly thrust into the role of acting president when Harrison died one month into office. (Tyler was often referred to as His Accidency.) He was the first vice president to immediately assume the role of president after a sitting president’s untimely exit and set the precedent for succession thereafter. Tyler’s planter background made him a natural proponent of states’ rights and the perpetuation of slavery, and, as such, a threat to his own political party. When Tyler vetoed his fellow Whigs’ attempt to reestablish the National Bank, most of his cabinet resigned and he was thrown out of the Whig Party. He also alienated the Democrats by denouncing the policies of former President Andrew Jackson, a popular Democrat. As a result, Tyler was a president without a party who received death threats from both sides and earned the enmity of Congress. His four years in office were contentious, although he is credited with settling American and Canadian border disputes with Britain and beginning the annexation of Texas. Though politically despised, Tyler was a devoted husband and father. He holds the record for the most children sired (legitimately, at least) by a president. Tyler fathered 15 children: eight with his first wife, Letitia (who died early into his presidency) and 7 with his second wife, Julia, who was 30 years his junior. He was 70 years old when his last child was born. The extended nature of his family and his penchant for overspending left Tyler perpetually in debt. After his tenure as president, Tyler tried to broker a Peace Convention between the north and south on the eve of the Civil War, but failed to reach an agreement with Abraham Lincoln on key issues. Denounced as a traitor by the North, Tyler fell in line with southern secessionists and in 1861 was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives. Tyler died on January 16, 1862, in Richmond, Virginia, a few days before the first meeting of the Confederate Congress. 1929 Herbert Hoover has telephone installed in Oval Office On this day in 1929, President Herbert Hoover has a phone installed at his desk in the Oval Office of the White House. It took a while to get the line to Hoover’s desk working correctly and the president complained to aides when his son was unable to get through on the Oval Office phone from an outside line. Previously, Hoover had used a phone located in the foyer just outside the office. Telephones and a telephone switchboard had been in use at the White House since 1878, when President Rutherford B. Hayes had the first one installed, but no phone had ever been installed at the president’s desk until Hoover’s administration.