Recorded live at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum's 50th-Anniversary Reunion for former Vietnam War POWs in May 2023, Sid Stockdale, one of Vice Admiral Jim and League of Wives co-founder Sybil Stockdale's four sons, joins Tyler to discuss what he remembers of his parents' critical ...
The finale of our story brings us to December 1972, as President Richard Nixon's administration strives to bring an end to the stalemate in peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese. In this episode, we'll hear how Operation Homecoming came to bring 591 POWs home in February of 1973, 8.5 long yea...
In November of 1970, fifty-six U.S. Special Forces soldiers executed the most ambitious rescue mission of the Vietnam War, raiding a North Vietnamese prison camp known as "Son Tay," just outside of Hanoi. In this episode, we hear from Terry Buckler, the youngest of the Son Tay Raiders. At the time, ...
In Part 2 of our two-part focus on the League of Wives, we examine how exactly this courageous band of women was able to organize under Sybil Stockdale and make a significant impact on the return of their lost men. We rejoin Andrea Rander, wife of Chief Warrant Officer Donald Rander, and Pat Mearns,...
In Part 1 of our two-part focus on the League of Wives, we are introduced to Andrea Rander and Pat Mearns, each young mothers to two girls when their husbands were shot down in North Vietnam. Guided by expert historian and author Heath Hardage Lee, we set the scene for the League's formation by trac...
In this special episode, we depart from our central narrative and turn our attention to Washington D.C., where Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson & Richard Nixon were making a crucial impact on the treatment and release of the hundreds of American prisoners of war who were being brutally mistreated in Nor...
Mike McDaniel was nine years old when his father, Capt. Red McDaniel, was shot down and captured in the jungles of North Vietnam on May 19, 1967. It would be three long years until he and the rest of the clan heard any further news on the status of their patriarch. Meanwhile, Everett hinged his opti...
Episode 6 Bonus Content
Episode 6 Transcript:
[00:00:00] TYLER MCCUSKER: We are now halfway through the weekly releases of Captured shot down in Vietnam. Next week we will return [00:00:15] to the stories of Everett Red and their families, but this week we bring you a special episode that serves as the docuseries intermission to best understand the full scope of the Vietnam prisoner of war crisis.
We felt [00:00:30] it was important to stop and paint the picture of what was happening in Washington in the sixties and early seventies. Particularly Richard Nixon's rise to power and the time and attention he spent on Vietnam and the POWs. [00:00:45] In this episode, we will dive more deeply into President Lyndon b Johnson and President Nixon's presidencies.
By way of their recorded conversations and phone calls, the newly unearthed audio will be heavily featured so you can hear from [00:01:00] the presidents in their own words. Next week, we will return to our normal narrative. For now, we're going to try to make history class way more fun and immersive. We hope you enjoy.
This is the Premier podcast from the Richard [00:01:15] Nixon Presidential Library in partnership with Found Wave Productions and created in honor of Ross Perot Sr. Additional support comes from In and Out Burger. Proud to support veterans and their families. This is [00:01:30] captured shot down in Vietnam.[00:01:45]
[00:01:45] BOB BOSTOCK: My name is Bob Bostock. I am the curator and author of the special exhibit of the Nixon Library Captured shot down over Vietnam. Bob will
[00:01:55] TYLER MCCUSKER: walk us through the steps. President Nixon and his administration took from his [00:02:00] political beginnings to the negotiating
[00:02:02] BOB BOSTOCK: table. I've been working on exhibits at the Nixon Library since 1990 when I actually worked with the former president.
I. In writing most of the exhibits covering his presidency. When the library opened [00:02:15] back in 1990, it was a fascinating experience, really a once in a lifetime sort of thing. He was completely unlike. What you would expect him to be. [00:02:30] When I had my first child, my son, I had run into him in Washington and I showed him a picture.
My son was like just born. He said, oh, next time you're up in New Jersey you have to bring him around to see me. So we did, cuz our families were still up there and [00:02:45] we went by the office. We have this great picture of him holding my seven week old son and I tell my son, cuz Mr. Nixon had been a naval officer in World War ii.
My son ended up being a naval officer on submarines more recently. So [00:03:00] I tell my son, you were held by a former naval officer and a former commander in chief. So you've hit one of those goals. Now we've gotta see if you can hit the other.
[00:03:13] TYLER MCCUSKER: You may not know that [00:03:15] every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has recorded conversations either on the phone or in the office.
[00:03:22] BOB BOSTOCK: The fact that those presidents were recording was never made public until it was revealed that President [00:03:30] Nixon had a taping system in the Oval Office and a couple other places in the White House complex.
Interestingly, when he came into office in 1969, January 20th, 1969, he had the recording system [00:03:45] that Johnson had in place torn out. He's like, I don't need this. I don't want this. Take it all out. By 1971 though, he kind, he thought it would probably be helpful for me later when I'm writing my memoirs or reflecting on decisions I [00:04:00] made.
Or if there are people who told me one thing in private and then said something else in public, it might be nice to be able to. Refer back to what they said. So he had it reinstalled. The main difference between his system and the other systems was [00:04:15] his system was voice activated. All of the other systems, the president had to either turn it on or off so they could be very selective in what they recorded.
Whereas everything that, uh, was set in the Oval Office during the period that the tapes were in for a about a two [00:04:30] year period. Was recorded. Nixon didn't have to flip a switch or anything like that, so that's why there are almost 4,000 hours of audio tapes from the Nixon administration. In the early
[00:04:42] TYLER MCCUSKER: hours of February [00:04:45] 16th, 1971, president Nick met with Deputy Assistant Alexander Butterfield in the White House's Oval Office to learn about how the newly installed system functioned.
The following is the first ever recording of Nixon's [00:05:00] Oval Office tapes. In it, we hear Nixon asking Butterfield how it works. How does it
[00:05:06] PRES RICHARD NIXON: work in here?
[00:05:08] TYLER MCCUSKER: How does it work in here? What activates it? He says, Butterfield responds when you have the locator [00:05:15] on the machine starts. It tells us where you are. So it's working now.
It depends on voice activation. Don't have to turn it on and off.
The purpose of this is [00:05:30] just to have the whole thing on file for professionalism. Nixon says, And then Butterfield says this,
[00:05:39] PRES RICHARD NIXON: there only five people that know about it
[00:05:41] TYLER MCCUSKER: outside. There are only five people that know about this. [00:05:45] Outside of chief of staff, Haldeman Press, secretary, Ziegler, you and me.
[00:05:55] BOB BOSTOCK: People know about the tapes that had to do with Watergate because. [00:06:00] They were subpoenaed by the courts, so those became very well known. But they're just a fraction of all the tapes. Yes sir. Get
[00:06:07] PRES RICHARD NIXON: the barber if you could, at two 40. Tell him I just need a 10 minute quick trim, but alright. For the [00:06:15] three o'clock meeting, I don't want to, so he'll know that I don't want long.
Drill. Okay. All right, fine. Yes sir. I think I'll be over about 2 40, 20 minutes till three. Fine. Take care of
[00:06:24] NEWS: it, sir.
[00:06:27] BOB BOSTOCK: Every president before Nixon and in [00:06:30] fact, including President Nixon, the President's papers and any recordings they had actually would belong to that president. It wasn't until after he left office at Congress. Passed kind of an ex-post facto law saying that starting with [00:06:45] Nixon and going forward, presidential papers are going to be the property of the federal government.
So they became the property of the federal government. 44 million documents, half a million photographs, and almost 4,000 hours of tape recordings. These
[00:06:58] TYLER MCCUSKER: state-of-the-art voice [00:07:00] activated recording systems were installed in the Oval Office, the cabinet room, the executive office building and presidential retreat Camp David all.
White House telephone conversations were also archived [00:07:15]
[00:07:16] NEWS: better. Dr. Kissinger, please. Thank you, sir. Mr. Kissinger Sir. Ready
[00:07:23] PRES RICHARD NIXON: Henry. Mr. President
[00:07:25] BOB BOSTOCK: Henry Kissinger was uh, president Nixon's National Security Advisor.[00:07:30]
Nixon's right-hand man in terms of carrying out the President's vision and goals for foreign policy in previous administrations. Those things probably would've been handled by the Secretary of State. [00:07:45] President Nixon was determined to run the foreign policy of the United States out of the White House.
He did not have a lot of confidence or respect in the state department's ability to run the foreign policy of the United States. Kissinger was highly effective at carrying out the
[00:08:00] President's vision and its instructions of doing the work on the ground to make things happen. Mr. President, I'll reiterate that proposal.
[00:08:09] PRES RICHARD NIXON: Anything you need to ask me, they tell me. They did a great job today done for congress. It was really amazing [00:08:15] cause I got a standing ovation in both places. Great, great, great. And both before and after you talked about everything. Europe, Vietnam. Exactly. And put it in the general context. Very aggressive and [00:08:30] positive. Great.
[00:08:32] BOB BOSTOCK: They worked very closely together. He was a trusted aide and was really an important part of how Nixon's foreign ballsy was carried out. So he would use Dr. Kissinger and others kind [00:08:45] of as a sounding board to get reaction to different approaches that he might want to take. Very conversational.
Casual language and like anybody else would use as they're trying to come to grips with an issue and how to proceed. Yeah.
[00:08:59] NEWS: Dr. [00:09:00] Kissinger
[00:09:00] PRES RICHARD NIXON: Center. Yeah. Just wondered if you'd had a chance to get any further reactions or if you, uh, or if you just even busy, but around here, of course, the mood is one of exaltation,
Mr. President was your greatest speech. [00:09:15] Whether it has the same impact as some of the others, oh, it won't have, but that's all right. But this was a, we shook him. This shows that you've exceeded every promise you've made. Yeah. And now we're promis gonna draw of a hundred thousand. And he said, no's, no question.
Oh, the conclusion [00:09:30] really gave everyone, co people, I talked to Bill Buckley, who thought it was absolutely outstanding. Very moving, very effective. Great courage. And, but then of course he wants us to end the draft, which [00:09:45] we're gonna do that, but we're gonna do that. And I tell him what we're gonna do. I told him we're gonna do it.
And I think, Mr. President, I'm gonna put the military to the torch. Yeah. But to help with that, if we can get ourselves briefing space for Vietnam, give up a call right now. Give you a [00:10:00] call. Let me know what he thinks and I'll let you know.
[00:10:02] BOB BOSTOCK: And also, he spent a lot of time just writing things out on these yellow.
Lined legal pads where he'll write all these different options and the pros and the cons and you know, he'd really think these things through. [00:10:15] There's lots of moving parts of whenever a president says anything, it gets parsed and analyzed almost to death no matter what it is. One of them talked about we need to do something for political or for the public relations, you know, how will this play
[00:10:30] publicly? No,
[00:10:31] PRES RICHARD NIXON: I'm not even sure it's gonna help you politically. I, I don't want it before the election. Nixon hurt very
[00:10:38] TYLER MCCUSKER: badly. I don't want it before the election. Nixon says. If we do, it's gonna hurt us [00:10:45] very badly.
[00:10:46] BOB BOSTOCK: If you didn't know the overall context of what he was trying to do, that might sound a little calloused, but presidents have to worry about the public reaction.
That's something they have to take into account. I. Cause it affects their ability to govern. You gotta win some things
[00:10:58] TYLER MCCUSKER: in the press. He says, you gotta [00:11:00] win some things in the press.
[00:11:01] NEWS: Understand they have no understanding of politics, have no understanding
[00:11:05] TYLER MCCUSKER: of public relations. These guys don't understand, they have no understanding of politics, they have no understanding of public relations.
Richard Nixon [00:11:15] would indeed prove his knowledge of diplomacy in public relations. But let's back up for a moment. And explore Nixon's political ascension from Congressman to President[00:11:30]
[00:11:31] BOB BOSTOCK: Richard Nixon was first elected to Congress in 1946. He beat a five term incumbent in the 12th District of California. He was reelected two years later without any opposition. Two years after that, in [00:11:45] 1950, he was elected to the United States Senate. He had the biggest majority of any Senate candidate in the country that year,
[00:11:52] PRES RICHARD NIXON: despite all out administration efforts to defeat it. As the election results start rolling in, Mr. Republican and his party [00:12:00] have every right to smile, gaining over 30 seats in the house, and cutting the Democrats to a slim two vote Senate margin as the G O P
[00:12:07] BOB BOSTOCK: surges back at the polls. And then two years after that, he was selected by Dwight d Eisenhower [00:12:15] to be his vice presidential running mate.
My fellow [00:12:17] PRES RICHARD NIXON: Americans, I come before you tonight as a candidate for the vice presidency wire and write the Republican National Committee. Whether you think I should stay on or whether I should get [00:12:30] off and whatever their decision is, I will abide by. Just let me say this last word, regardless of what happens, I'm going to continue this fight. I'm going to campaign up and down in America until we drive the crooks and the [00:12:45] communists and those that defend them out of Washington. [
00:12:47] BOB BOSTOCK: He served two terms as vice president of the United States ran for the presidency in 1960. Lost in one of the closest elections in history to John F. Kennedy less than of one vote per [00:13:00] precinct.
He ran for governor of California 1962. Lost that election. Everybody thought he was done. 16
[00:13:08] PRES RICHARD NIXON: years. You've had a lot of fun. A lot of fun. You've had an opportunity to to attack me, and I [00:13:15] think I've given as good as I've taken. I leave you gentlemen now. And you will now write it. You will interpret it.
That's your right. But as I'll leave you, I want you to know, just think how much you're gonna be missing. [00:13:30] You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference. Thank you, gentlemen and a good day.
[00:13:41] BOB BOSTOCK: L B J had been elected in 1964 and a huge majority, [00:13:45] 61% of the vote carried many more states than Barry Goldwater.
Johnson was very bombastic.
[00:13:51] PRES JOHNSON: It's just like this Manchester stuff about Kennedy and I having an argument. I never had an argument with him in life and it's just so unfair. Our [00:14:00] popularity is too low, but all that kind of stuff, it's just gonna really rock us and it comes out. All of it makes Bobby look like a great hero and makes me look like a son of a bitch.
And 95% of it is completely fabricated. They're gonna hit back the other way and it's not gonna do [00:14:15] the country any
[00:14:15] BOB BOSTOCK: good. They used to call the Johnson treatment where he was very tall. He'd loom over someone getting into their personal space and almost literally twist their arm off to get what he wanted to do when he had an appendectomy.
Took great pleasure in lifting up his shirt [00:14:30] and showing the media the scar from the operation. That's something Richard Nixon never would've done.
[00:14:35] TYLER MCCUSKER: If you'd like to check out Johnson's Scarred Belly for yourself, you can find a photo of this moment along with other historical graphics on our website captured [00:14:45] podcast.com.
[00:14:47] BOB BOSTOCK: Johnson, particularly with his domestic program, which he got through an enormous amount of, uh, things that President Kennedy had tried to get through and had not succeeded in doing so, might have had, had he not been assassinated. It [00:15:00] was the war that really tripped Johnson up. I [
00:15:02] PRES RICHARD NIXON: do not believe I can physically and mentally carry the responsibilities of the bomb and the world, and the, the Negros and the the South, and so on and so forth
[00:15:13] TYLER MCCUSKER: in this taped White House phone [00:15:15] call to Top Aid.
Walter Jenkins, President Johnson admits that he feels unfit to continue his role as commander in
[00:15:22] PRES RICHARD NIXON: Chief. Now they're a younger man and better-prepared man. Better trained man and Harvard, uh, [00:15:30] educated man.
And, and I know my own limitations and I just don't believe that I have any physical and mental strength to carry. And I think the time to make that decisions while they're there and not after they go home. [00:15:45] If I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it. I told you that
[00:15:47] BOB BOSTOCK: he announced on March 31st, 1968, that he was not going to run for reelection and he was going to spend all of his time. Trying to conclude the war and bring about a negotiated [00:16:00] peace I shall not seek and I will
[00:16:03] PRES RICHARD NIXON: not
[00:16:03] BOB BOSTOCK: accept the nomination of my party for
[00:16:05] PRES RICHARD NIXON: another term [00:16:06] BOB BOSTOCK: as your president. A Vigilant America stands ready tonight to seek an honorable peace and [
00:16:15] stands [00:16:15] PRES RICHARD NIXON: ready tonight to defend an honored cause. Whatever the price, whatever the burden, whatever the sacrifice. That duty may require. Thank you for listening. Good night [00:16:30] and God bless all of you.
[00:16:34] BOB BOSTOCK: 1968, Richard Nixon came back.
[00:16:37] NEWS: What has to be done
[00:16:39] PRES RICHARD NIXON: has to be done by the president and people together, or it won't be done at all
[00:16:45] I am asking. Not that you give something to your country, but that you do something with your country. I am asking not for your gifts. But for your [00:16:53] NEWS: hand together,
[00:16:57] PRES RICHARD NIXON: we can hardly fail for there is [00:17:00] no force on earth to match the will and spirit of the people [
00:17:02] NEWS: of America. In
[00:17:12] BOB BOSTOCK: 1968, he came back. I have [00:17:15] news for
[00:17:15] PRES RICHARD NIXON: you this time. There's a difference. This time we're gonna [00:17:18] BOB BOSTOCK: win. He ran in 1968 because he saw the condition the country was in. Uh, we were bogged down in the war in Vietnam. There was civil unrest. The civil rights movement was [00:17:30] on. America is shocked and saddened by the
[00:17:32] PRES RICHARD NIXON: brutal slang tonight.
[00:17:34] BOB BOSTOCK: Dr. Martin Luther King, second-wave feminism was going on.
[00:17:40] NEWS: powerful going on now.
[00:17:44] BOB BOSTOCK: The country
[00:17:45] was in really tough shape, and he felt that he had the skill and the experience and the ability to serve the country in what was a very tumultuous time.
[00:17:54] PRES RICHARD NIXON: Now, my answer to those who say, because I have lost a couple of elections, [00:18:00] can I win this? I believe I'm going to win the New Hampshire primary. Will go on to win the nomination, and if I do that, I will be the strongest candidate At almost midday Eastern Time,
[00:18:15] NBC News Project projected Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, when it became evident he had carried Illinois.
[00:18:22] BOB BOSTOCK: And won the presidency again in a close election. In the popular vote,
[00:18:25] PRES RICHARD NIXON: 94% of the popular vote is counted Nixon, [00:18:30] 43.2959%, Humphrey 43.2584%. In short, Nixon and Humphrey are separated by about 375000th of 1%.
[00:18:45] It was so close. It took forever, but he won it and in winning that he won the presidency, [00:18:50] BOB BOSTOCK: although he won pretty handily in the electoral vote.
[00:18:52] PRES RICHARD NIXON: The electoral vote shows Nixon with 287 Humphrey with 166 and Wallace with 45. [00:19:00] It was again one of the closest elections in American history, closer even than when Nixon lost the Kennedy eight years ago. Having lost a close one eight years ago and having won a close one this year, I can say this winning's a lot more
[00:19:14] NEWS: [00:19:15] fun. Amen.
[00:19:21] PRES RICHARD NIXON: I present now the distinguished chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, [00:19:30] the honorable Earl Warren, who will administer the oath of to the president. Do Richard Milhouse Nixon Do solemnly swear I Richard Milhouse Nixon do [00:19:45] solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
[00:19:58] BOB BOSTOCK: His inaugural address. It talks about [00:20:00] America's, um, role in the world, the importance role that America can play in. Extending peace and freedom around the world and the role that America has in the world that we have to play. The greatest honor [00:20:14] PRES RICHARD NIXON: history [00:20:15] can bestow is the title of Peacemaker.
[00:20:20] BOB BOSTOCK: Peace Talks had begun in May of 1968 between the North Vietnamese and the United States. I want to
[00:20:28] PRES RICHARD NIXON: end this war. The American [00:20:30] people want to end this war. The people of South Vietnam want to end this war. But we want to end it permanently so that the younger brothers of our soldiers in Vietnam will not have to fight in the future in another Vietnam someplace else in the world, [00:20:45]
[00:20:47] BOB BOSTOCK: as opposed to seeking the unconditional surrender of the North Vietnamese. He also wanted to make it clear that any agreement to end the war would have to give the South Vietnamese government [00:21:00] assurances that it would still continue to exist, but despite
[00:21:03] PRES RICHARD NIXON: their attitude, We shall continue to participate in the Paris talks and to seek a negotiated peace, one, which is fair, fair to North Vietnam, fair to the United [00:21:15] States, but most important fair to the people of South Vietnam.
[00:21:21] BOB BOSTOCK: He was not willing to throw South Vietnam over the side in an effort to end the war. He felt, and he decided very early in his [00:21:30] administration. That the negotiated settlement he would seek with North Vietnam to end the war would have to include as a non-negotiable requirement, the return of all of Americans POWs held in Vietnam, as well [00:21:45] as a full accounting. To the extent that that was possible of the missing in action, he was first asked about it in that January 27th, 1969 press conference, and, uh, that's really where it first came out.
[00:21:59] PRES RICHARD NIXON: Rather than [00:22:00] submitting a laundry list of various proposals, we have laid down those things which we believe the other side should agree to and can agree to. The restoration of the militarized zone has set forth in the Geneva Conference of 1954, [00:22:15] mutual withdrawal, guaranteed withdrawal of forces by both sides, the exchange of prisoners. All of these are matters that we think can be precisely considered in which progress can be made.[00:22:30] Now where we go from here depends upon what the other side offers in
[00:22:36] BOB BOSTOCK: turn. And then when he gave his first speech on Vietnam on May 14th, 1969.
[00:22:42] PRES RICHARD NIXON: Good evening. My fellow Americans, [00:22:45] since I took office four months ago, nothing has taken so much of my time and energy as the search for a way to bring lasting peace to Vietnam. For four years, American boys have been fighting and dying in Vietnam. For 12 months, our negotiators have been [00:23:00] talking with the other side in Paris, and yet the fighting goes on. This then is the outline of the settlement that we seek to negotiate in Paris Mutual withdrawal of non South Vietnamese forces from South [00:23:15] Vietnam and free choice for the people of
[00:23:18] NEWS: South Vietnam.
[00:23:23] BOB BOSTOCK: He also raised the issue of the POWs calling for the release of the POWs that were being held. [00:23:30] Arrangements
[00:23:30] PRES RICHARD NIXON: would be made for the release of prisoners of war on both sides at the earliest possible time. All parties would agree to observe the Geneva Accords of 1954 regarding South Vietnam and Cambodia and the Lao Accords [00:23:45] of 1962. I believe this proposal for peace is realistic. And takes account of the legitimate interest of all concern.[00:24:00]
[00:24:00] BOB BOSTOCK: From there on, over the course of that first term, more than 70 different times in 48 months, he raised the issue of the POWs, everything from calling for their release. To their treatment. Our eventual
[00:24:12] PRES RICHARD NIXON: goal is a total withdrawal of [00:24:15] all outside forces, but as long as North Vietnam continues to hold a single American prisoner, we shall have forces in South Vietnam. The American prisoners of war will not be forgotten by their government.
[00:24:27] BOB BOSTOCK: The North Vietnamese hadn't even provided a [00:24:30] list of who they were holding. They were violating the Geneva conventions on, uh, POWs in every conceivable way. And, uh, the president continued to hammer that home. Typical of their attitude
[00:24:43] PRES RICHARD NIXON: is their absolute refusal to [00:24:45] talk about the fate of the American prisoners they hold, and their refusal even to supply their names so as to ease the anguish of their loved ones in the United States. This cruel and defensible action. It is a [00:25:00] shocking demonstration of the inflexible attitude they have taken on all issues at the negotiating
[00:25:05] BOB BOSTOCK: table in Paris. I think he saw it as, as partly American honor. We've had this long [00:25:15] tradition and he of course was a veteran. He served a World War II in the South Pacific, that we don't leave people behind that, uh, you know, the prisoners have got to come home.[00:25:30]
[00:25:31] PRES RICHARD NIXON: I think
[00:25:42] NEWS: he
[00:25:42] BOB BOSTOCK: gave over the course of, uh, his first four [00:25:45] years, 14 Oval Office addresses. Without Vietnam explaining what in his first one, he explained what the history was, why we were there, what he was trying to accomplish, how he was going to accomplish it. In
[00:25:58] PRES RICHARD NIXON: my campaign for the presidency, [00:26:00] I pledged to end this war in a way that would increase our chances to win true and lasting peace in Vietnam, in the Pacific and in the world. I am determined to keep that pledge. If I fail to do [00:26:15] so, I expect the American people to hold me accountable for that failure.
[00:26:21] BOB BOSTOCK: I, it was important that the United States not just pull out, but in terms of our standing in the world and in the Cold War, it was important that we, that [00:26:30] we've achieved peace with honor through a negotiated piece. Let me be
[00:26:34] PRES RICHARD NIXON: quite blunt. Our fighting men are not going to be worn down. Our mediators are not going to be talked down. And our allies are not going to [00:26:45] be let
[00:26:45] BOB BOSTOCK: down. That made a huge difference because he, he was able to gain the support of the American people through these talks. [00:26:52] PRES RICHARD NIXON: Let us also be united against defeat because let us understand, north Vietnam cannot [00:27:00] defeat or humiliate the United States, only Americans.
[00:27:05] BOB BOSTOCK: Can do that if one goes back and reads them or listens to 'em. They're fairly sophisticated in the arguments he's making, but he makes them in a way that's accessible to the listener [00:27:15] and he finds that, uh, as a result, he has support for the from the American people during that whole period. My fellow
[00:27:22] PRES RICHARD NIXON: Americans let us therefore unite as a nation in a firm and wise policy of [00:27:30] real peace, not the peace of surrender, but peace with honor. Not just peace in our time, but peace for generations to come. Thank you and goodnight.
[00:27:43] NEWS: Now please, now. Peace.
[00:27:45] Now. Peace now. Peace.
[00:27:46] BOB BOSTOCK: Indue. The fact that the administration has not lost
[00:27:49] PRES RICHARD NIXON: any
[00:27:50] NEWS: shred of legitimacy, give damn.[00:28:00] [00:28:15] Low, low, well, losing
[00:28:23] BOB BOSTOCK: 200 a day, maybe more that, uh, fight for freedom. And Daniel Communists and these punks here walking [00:28:30] around and, uh, I guess the United States Army,
[00:28:32] NEWS: the United States government that thought you called n against the United States government. I
[00:28:44] PRES RICHARD NIXON: would be untrue [00:28:45] to my oath of office if I allowed the policy of this nation to be dictated by the minority who hold that point of view and who try to impose it on the nation by mounting demonstrations in the street. And now I would like to address a word, if I may, [00:29:00] to the young people of this nation who are particularly concerned, and I understand why they are concerned about this war. I respect your idealism. I share your concern for peace. I want peace
[00:29:13] BOB BOSTOCK: as much as you do. [00:29:15] His entire approach to this was that we really have to make this non-negotiable because we're not gonna leave these men behind. And we are not going to forget about them. It became known as one of those things where no matter what you thought about the war, everybody agreed that the [00:29:30] POWs need to be returned home and need to be treated in accord with the Geneva Conventions, but also it just sent a signal to the North Vietnamese that, you know, we're not gonna forget about these guys. And the more he talked about it, the, the prisoners actually saw their treatment got a [00:29:45] little bit better. The more it was raised. No presidential
[00:29:48] PRES RICHARD NIXON: statement on Vietnam would be complete without an expression of our concern for the fate of the American prisoners of war.
[00:29:55] BOB BOSTOCK: In his May 20th, 1970s speech about Vietnam, he said he criticized the North [00:30:00] Vietnamese for the callous exploitation, the callous
[00:30:02] PRES RICHARD NIXON: exploitation of the anxieties and anguish of the families, the parents, the wives, the children of these brave men, as negotiating
[00:30:10] BOB BOSTOCK: ponds said their conduct was. And I quote here, Is an unforgivable [00:30:15] breach of the Element Element Elementary rules of conduct. Conduct breach between. Between
[00:30:18] PRES RICHARD NIXON: civilized peoples. We shall continue to make every possible effort to get Hanoi to provide information on the whereabouts of all prisoners to allow them to communicate with their families, [00:30:30] to remit inspection of prisoners of war camps, and to provide for the early release of at least the sick.
[00:30:38] BOB BOSTOCK: It's a pretty harsh language. In a December 26th, 1970, open letter to the P o W families, [00:30:45] he criticized and characterized. North Vietnam's approach as barbaric, the barbaric inhuman attitude of Hanoi in violation of the Con Geneva Convention. Nixon also then called for inspection of the [00:31:00] camps by an international body to determine whether they were being held in accordance with international law. President Nixon had no hesitation in letting people know that this was going on. Because that would help build support for the POWs and for his, [00:31:15] that part of his policy. That said, we are not going to reach a negotiated settlement unless they agree to return everybody they have and give us a full accounting from
NBC [00:31:25] PRES RICHARD NIXON: News Election headquarters in New York. This is NBC Nightly News [00:31:30] Tuesday, November 7th, and good
[00:31:31] BOB BOSTOCK: evening to you
[00:31:32] PRES RICHARD NIXON: all. As we begin our coverage of the 1972
[00:31:35] BOB BOSTOCK: election, the wars. Wound down, but still not completely over with 1% of the vote in now, Mr. Nixon leading better than two to one [00:31:45] over George McGovern. He receives almost 61% of the popular vote and carries 49 of the 50 states losing only Massachusetts. And Washington DC to George McGovern.
[00:31:58] NEWS: This is the
[00:31:58] BOB BOSTOCK: ballroom in Washington [00:32:00] where the Republicans plan their big victory party and the loud music
[00:32:03] PRES RICHARD NIXON: already is underway. This is where both President Nixon
[00:32:06] BOB BOSTOCK: and Vice President Agnew are expected later tonight. To say that people around here are confident is an understatement. If [00:32:15] Nixon had followed the same course that LBJ had in terms of not really talking about it, kind of hoping it would go away, people would just support him because, you know, historically people support presidents during wars. If Nixon had done that, he probably would've gone down to defeat in [00:32:30] 1972 instead of winning this huge, um, historic landslide victory. As the polls close across the
[00:32:37] PRES RICHARD NIXON: country, the president will be reelected in a landslide. That's what our trend now indicates, the president [00:32:45] reelected by a landslide with the exception of the prisoner of war issue. If North Vietnam continues to refuse to discuss our peace proposals, they will soon find they have no choice but to negotiate only with the South Vietnamese. [00:33:00]
[00:33:01] TYLER MCCUSKER: Soon. The North Vietnamese would come to the negotiating table with concessions, including the return of the POWs, but the Nixon administration wouldn't have been able to do it without a group of unlikely home front [00:33:15] heroes.
[00:33:17] BOB BOSTOCK: The wives of the prisoners themselves, they were really part of the process. They were extraordinary group of women, really something. Next
[00:33:25] TYLER MCCUSKER: time Uncaptured, we will deep dive into the incredible story of the League of [00:33:30] Wives.
[00:33:45] Captured shot down in Vietnam is a docu-series from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Foundation, [00:34:00] produced by the team at Found Wave and respectfully created in honor of Ross Perot, Sr. If you're interested in learning more about Vietnam POWs, you can visit the exhibition captured at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California.
Original [00:34:15] music compositions, Foley Effects, and Mastering From Jonathan Rock. Produced and edited by Steph Weaver Weinberg research background and history from Jason Schwartz, executive production from Joe Lopez and the team at the Richard Nixon [00:34:30] Foundation and Kayleigh Mason from Perot Family Collections co-executive production, interviewing and hosting from me, Tyler Russell McCusker. Find future episodes of this show and bonus content, including archival photos and [00:34:45] firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoyed our production, please consider leaving a review and clicking follow on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.