This Day In History: The Paris Peace Talks Resume (1971)

On this day in history in 1971 the stalled Paris Peace Talks resume. They had earlier broken down and in response the Americans had launched an unprecedented aerial assault on North Vietnam. The Amercans had bombed North Vietnam for eleven days and only had a brief break on Christmas Day. The aim of the aerial campaign called the Linebacker II bombing offensive was to bomb the Hanoi government back to the peace table. The bombing raids were initiated by President Nixon after the North Vietnamese delegation walked out of the negotiations. When they rejected an offer to return to the peace negotiations the American air force began to bomb North Vietnam around the clock. The bombing raid involved over 650 sorties by B-52 bombers. There were alos over one thousand fighter-bombers involved in the Line Backer II raids. It is estimated that almost a quarter of a million tons of explosive were dropped on North Vietnam. The main targets of the raids were the heavily populated areas of Hanoi the capital of North Vietnam and the second city and main port of Haiphong. The North Vietnamese are believed to have fired over one thousand SAM anti-aircraft missiles. Some 15 B-52s were lost and a dozen other planes shot down or forced to crash land. The US air force lost 100  men killed r captured. Hanoi accused Washington of using terror tactics and of deliberately targeting civilian areas.  The US denied this but many western media outlets repeated the North Vietnamese charges. The Line Backer II raids were very effective and they inflicted huge damage on the North Vietnam and reduced its military capability.  It is believed that the had fired their entire stock of anti-aircraft missiles and this as much as the damage caused by Linebacker II caused them to reconsider their position with regard to the Peace Talks.  Eventually, the North Vietnamese did return to the Peace Talks and they were clearly more willing to negotiate than previously.

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Wreckage of a B-52 bomber on display in Hanoi

The North Vietnamese claimed that they returned to the Peace Negotiations in the interest of the peace process. Observers all agreed that the Nixon administration had bombed them back to the Paris peace talks.  On January 23, 1973, the United States, North Vietnam and South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong signed a cease-fire agreement. This took effect on the 28th of January. The ceasefire eventually broke down and the war resumed between the North and the South. The Linebacker raids had been effective in driving the North Vietnamese to the peace table but they still wanted to invade and conquer the south. After the American withdrawal, the North Vietnamese army slowly drove the army of the Republic of Vietnam back and captured Saigon in 1975.

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