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Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum Releases Additional 154 Hours of Tapes from Fifth Chronological Tape Release

Tapes show Nixon was willing to accept flawed Vietnam peace agreement without North Vietnamese withdrawal or plan for Cambodia and Laos.

Kissinger: "The major thing is that it's essential not to talk about it."

On June 23, 2009, the Nixon Presidential Library released 154 additional hours of Nixon tapes originally recorded between January and February 1973. With this release, 2,371 hours of tapes have been declassified and released to the public out of a total of approximately 3,700 hours recorded. This release was a sequel to the tape releases that occurred on July 11, 2007 and December 2, 2008.

The topics discussed on these "Chron 5.3" tapes include the Vietnam peace agreement including ancillary subjects such as POWs/MIAs, postwar aid to the North and South, Cambodia and Laos, the end of the draft and the beginning of the All Volunteer Force, and the lack of North Vietnamese withdrawal from the South; Nixon's major second term government reorganization, an emerging energy crisis, the future domestic political situation, the Year of Europe, and Watergate. has obtained a copy of this new tape release, and will be soon adding the complete audio, finding aids, and analysis. For those who cannot wait to hear some of the real "gems", the following are some excerpts from the January and February 1973 tapes.

Also of interest may be the President's Daily Diary, for:
January 1-31, 1973 (pdf, 5.3m)
February 1-28, 1973 (pdf, 6.3m)
Sample conversation: January 3, 1973, Oval Office, Unknown time between 3:32 pm and 3:39 pm
President Nixon presents "Truck Driver of the Year" Curtis C. Stapp with an award and Nixon discusses his personal views on "courteous" truck drivers
To listen to an audio excerpt, click here (mp3, 1.2m, 1:26).

Nixon: You know, the thing that always impresses me about those in your profession is that, and I have often said this, is their enormous courtesy. You know, you have this, you develop, I mean, I used to drive a lot. I don’t now, because they have a driver. I haven’t driven a car for four years. Well they, the Secret Service drives, of course. Anyway, the way that, the people on the road [with the] truck drivers, they always [unclear] cars [on], that courteous driving makes an enormous impression.

Stapp:  That has always been my [goal]—courtesy.

Nixon: Right.

Stapp: And I really think that is what has helped me all these years. I feel that I am courteous.

Nixon: Yeah. Do you have to have a physical exam every year? Is that done by the union?

Stapp: No, the company.

Nixon: Company. And what do they give you—an exam for eyes and heart and all that sort of thing, just to be sure?

Stapp: [A usual] physical, just everything.

Nixon: That’s very important. Because people can have some, you know, [unclear], and they don’t realize it.

Sample conversation: January 20, 1973, White House Telephone, 1:04 - 1:46 am
In a late night conversation, President Nixon and Charles Colson discuss their hope for a Vietnamese peace agreement, and also the future of the Democratic Party
Excerpt 1: Nixon discusses the possibility of a Thieu suicide, and suggests that Kissinger was ready to give up during the negotiations (mp3, 527k, :33)

Excerpt 2: Colson informs Nixon that Senator Hugh Scott has been taking on war critics (mp3, 703k, :44)

Excerpt 3: Nixon states the peace agreement may not include U.S.-ally South Vietnam, and that once the agreement is finalized, Colson is to go after those opposed to the administration (mp3, 330k, :21)

Excerpt 4: Nixon states that the press was more opposed to bombing in Vietnam than the public; Colson agrees with the president, and states that that will make "victory all the sweeter" (mp3, 1.1m, 1:11)

Excerpt 5: Nixon again states that U.S.-ally South Vietnam may not be part of peace agreement (mp3, 185k, :11)

Excerpt 6: Nixon states that bombing in Vietnam was his idea, and he compares bombing at the end of World War II and the Korean War with his decision to bomb in Vietnam (mp3, 1.2m, 1:19)

Excerpt 7: Nixon and Colson discuss what they think is left of the Democratic Party after Nixon's 1972 landslide reelection, including the "Lavender shirt mob": "blacks", "poor", "intellectuals", "homos" and "queers" (mp3, 475k, :30)

Sample conversation: January 23, 1973, Executive Office Building, Unknown time between 6:22 pm and 7:23 pm
President Nixon and Chuck Colson discuss the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade
To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 1.0m, 1:26).

Nixon:   What is the situation, incidentally, with regard to the Supreme Court decision on abortion [unclear]?            


Colson: I mean, the weird thing about it, Mr. President, I’m not a Catholic, but I’m—

Nixon:   I know, I know. I admit, I mean there are times when abortions are necessary. I know that. You know [unclear] you have a black and a white. [Unclear]

Colson: Or rape.

Nixon:   Or rape.

Sample conversation: January 23, 1973, White House Cabinet Room, 8:38 - 9:05 pm
First time new cabinet met post-inauguration for Nixon-Kissinger briefing on Vietnam peace agreement to be announced on national television that evening
Excerpt 1: To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 958k, :59).

Nixon:             In terms of what it means for Cambodia and Laos, and so forth, I think it’s a—Let me say this at this point, since this is a subject that will come up with the [Congressional] leaders’ meeting, in other words we’ll probably have to answer, I think it would be well for Henry to take just a moment on Cambodia and Laos, because the Vietnam thing is all I'm really going to talk about. But, I don't think there’s—this various understanding that this covers Vietnam, and has an understanding, with regard to Cambodia and Laos. Now, negotiating the understanding with Cambodia and Laos are not all that specific, but they’re vitally important. Go ahead Henry, that a minute on that.

Kissinger:        The major thing is that it’s essential not to talk about it.

Nixon:             That’s right. [You’ll all wait 'til] tomorrow when the agreement comes out—

Kissinger:        Well, but that won't—

Nixon:             Even that—even that—

Kissinger:        But that won’t be in the agreement either—

Nixon:             That’s right.

Excerpt 2: To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 114k, :07).

Kissinger:        There are factions there that are not all under control of the parties involved.
Excerpt 3: To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 981k, 1:02).

Nixon:             We hear it said that the United States by engaging in Vietnam has harmed the world. I can assure you that if the United States did not prove to be responsible in Vietnam, if we had ended this war with defeat, with surrender, [if] the prisoners were withdrawn, the Chinese wouldn’t consider us worth talking to, the Russians wouldn’t consider us worth talking to, the Europeans, with all of their bitching, would not consider us to be reliable allies. So what is involved here, which most of the members of the Senate and the House eventually will understand, which all of us around this table understand, is [that] the United States can play a role to keep the peace, and as the only one who can save freedom in the world, we have to be responsible. That’s what this peace is all about. [Applause]

Excerpt 4: To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 345k, :22).

Nixon:             Without the success of the Vietnamization program, there could have been no settlement. Because the South Vietnamese would not have settled unless they were confident they could defend themselves. And the North Vietnamese wouldn’t have had an incentive to settle if they thought that the South Vietnamese were all that easy to knock over. So, Vietnamization played a part.

Additional excerpts:

1. Nixon states that the North Vietnamese tried to stall due to Lyndon Johnson's death (mp3, 516k, :33)

2. Nixon states the agreement is not a perfect peace (mp3, 447k, :28)

3. Nixon states that the conditions for peace have been met (mp3, 794k, :50)

4. Nixon blames Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy for their handling of the war (mp3, 843k, :53)

5. Nixon reads an early edition of his television announcement (mp3, 680k, :43)

6. Kissinger discusses the negotiating process (mp3, 1.6m, 1:42)

7. Kissinger discusses the negotiating conclusion (mp3, 1.0m, 1:05)

8. Kissinger discusses how the negotiating deadlock was broken (mp3, 841k, :53)

Sample conversation: January 24, 1973, White House Cabinet Room, 8:36 - 10:49 am
Nixon-Kissinger briefing for Congressional leaders on Vietnam peace agreement
Excerpt 1: To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 2.1m, 2:17).

Nixon:             The Korea ceasefire, and I was in this room when we talked about it. President Eisenhower had to order [as I recall]—he ordered devastating bombing and, deliberately, in the case of  civilian areas of North Korea, and that pricked the boil and was done. But, we still haven’t got peace in Korea, as you know. That’s why we deal with it [unclear] we’re working on it. As far as this is concerned, we would have to agree, there are problems. You have raised some of the problems. But, I would say that it would be extremely helpful if the members of the House—the Congress, Democrat and Republican, to the extent of the leaders that you can, that instead of consoling our fears on this one—Don’t be, of course, going out and saying well, everything’s done, it’s going to be all that. Be quite honest, and you’ve got to be honest, but also don’t—I think it’s very important for us not to, after getting this agreement, to send messages to Hanoi and messages to Saigon that well, we don’t think it’s going to last, and all that sort of thing. If you talk that way, the way [unclear]. It’s going to happen. Now we’ve got to talk to—I would like if you can, you can simply say what I said last night. It’s a good agreement. It’s peace with honor. It not only ends the war for us, which of course, the prisoners-for-withdrawal deal, which many members of the House and Senate, just the week after we announced the agreement, had voted for. The prisoners- for- withdrawal, assuming the other side would have given it, which I think was very doubtful—well, I know it was doubtful—would have ended the war for us, and the war would have continued with a thousand casualties a week for 50 million people, in South [unclear], and Indochina, and in Vietnam. So what we have here is, we’ve got our prisoners. We have more than that. We’ve got peace, not only for America, but peace at least, as fragile as it may be, for all of the people of Indochina, and certainly for Vietnam, for awhile.

Excerpt 2: To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 562k, :35).

Kissinger:        There is no specific provision for the replacement of North Vietnamese forces. There is a provision requiring the demobilization and reduction of forces. Essentially, there is a provision that prohibits the introduction of new personnel, of new military personnel. There is a prohibition against the use of Cambodian and Laotian base areas. There’s a prohibition against the use of infiltration routes through Cambodia and Laos, and there is a prohibition against the movement of military units across the demilitarized zone.

Excerpt 3: To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 992k, 1:03).

Nixon:             The point is, the point I’m going to say is, that we’re not going to indicate that it’s all going to be peaches and cream, that there aren’t going to be any violations of the ceasefire. The Russians [unclear] going to go along. Le Duc Tho will make a statement today which will be very conciliatory, and so forth and so on. After what Thieu said last night, Le Duc Tho’s got to come out and say something. If Thieu talks too much about victory, he’ll talk about victory. And the response of the Russians, [and] the Chinese, their public statements may say one thing, and they may do something else. What I am saying is that the United States, your government, this administration, I can assure you, will use every influence we have to bear to get the Russians and the Chinese—each of whom wants something from us, and we want something from them—to cooperate with us and see that this part of the world, which for 25 years has [been cursed by war], the Japanese, civil war, and so forth, finally has a period of peace. And that’s what it’s really all about.

Excerpt 4: To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 2.1m, 2:16).

Aiken:             Now Mr. President, I just think we ought to face up to the hard facts of life. The American people are hoping that this mess in South Vietnam is over, and that the costs of the war will be over, and that the defense budget can be drastically cut. And the bitter medicine in this whole thing, and I think it’s inevitable, I’m not saying that, the bitter medicine is that you’ve got to come out with billions of dollars to support both South Vietnam and with billions of dollars to support North Vietnam. I believe even LBJ earlier, and I think he on a previous occasion has said we’ve got to spend a billion on war rehabilitation on South and North Vietnam. And then, this is going to present an awful matter, total, in view of the fiscal situation in this country. And the American people are going to be upset at the end of the war about how can you go on giving billions of dollars over a long period to South Vietnam, and then the aid to North Vietnamese. And that’s a bitter situation, and then when we put that in the defense budget, it’s going to be bad. I think we can put it in the foreign aid bill, and the foreign aid bill is the most unpopular bill we have but defense is in such trouble that I don’t think we better put it in defense, and the uprising among the rank and file man on Main Street against rebuilding North Vietnam and Hanoi is going to be bad. It’s going to be a hell of a situation. I think they’re happy today, but they’ll be [unclear] as hell [in a few weeks] when they find out the facts of life.

Nixon:             Well, I remember George when you and I were on the Herter Committee. We knew it was going to be damned unpopular, soon after that war, to pour those billions of dollars into Europe. But we had to come back and sell it, because it was a darn good investment in peace. Let me also say, however, it's a question of doubts. The question is here, in comparison, yes, there will be some expenditures for economic and other purposes in this part of the world. But, it’s going to be one hell of a lot less than the expenditures of continuing this war. That’s the point.

Excerpt 5: To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 987k, 1:03).

Jackson:           Mr. President, I thought maybe you could answer, maybe you’re going to cover it, I don’t know, I shouldn’t ask it—

Nixon:             No, no, [you] can get this out of the way, right now.

Jackson:           The first thing we’ll all be hit with [is]: When will the list come out, and other details regarding the supervision and the investigation of all prisoners and their names? We’re just going to be deluged on that one point, I would think.

Kissinger:        The provisions for supervision are being published today, together with the other supervisory details. The list of prisoners will be handed over on the day of signing, which is to say on Saturday—

Nixon:             Saturday.

Jackson:           They will be made public at that point.

Kissinger:        Then, they should be made public Saturday or Sunday. The investigation of the Missing in Action and the visit to graves, a procedure has been established for exchanging information and for investigative teams to look into disputed cases.

Excerpt 6: To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 1.0m, 1:04).

Nixon:             I’m not suggesting this peace is perfect. No peace that is negotiated is perfect. The only one that is perhaps perfect in many things is unconditional surrender. And I may say, that has serious shortcomings, too, in Vietnam. But I do say, this is a peace that can work and give the people of Viet—Southeast Asia a chance to determine their own future. And I can only say thank God for those who stood by. I have great respect, as I say for those who had a different view . Thank God for, also, a lot of brave men, who went out there, and didn’t want to go to war any more than any of us wanted to go to World War Two and the rest, brave as we all [taught them]. They gave their lives, some of them became prisoners, and we ought to be damn proud.

Additional excerpts:

1. Kissinger discusses how deadlock happened in December 1972 (mp3, 775k, :49)

2. Kissinger discusses how talks resumed (mp3, 471k, :30)

3. Kissinger discusses the importance of January 9, 1973 (mp3, 1.6m, 1:40)

4. Kissinger discusses North Vietnamese negotiating style (mp3, 272k, :17)

Sample conversation: January 24, 1973, White House Cabinet Room, Unknown time between 4:42 pm and 6:10 pm
Caspar Weinberger FY '74 budget briefing for Cabinet (portion on All-Volunteer Armed Forces)
To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 362k, :23).

Weinberger:     This one shows the changing priorities. In terms of dollars, defense has remained just about level since 1968 and ’69, almost exactly level in dollar amount and it will again this time although it will go up about three and a half to four billion dollars from ’73 to ’74 entirely because of pay and price increases, mostly associated with the All Volunteer Armed Forces.

Sample conversation: January 25, 1973, White House Telephone, 6:18 - 6:22 pm
President Nixon discusses sending Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms to Iran as a special emissary (Helms later served as U.S. Ambassador to Iran from 1973 to 1977). An excerpt of the transcript appears below.
To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 2.7m, 3:59).
To download the complete transcript, click here (doc, 34k).

Nixon:             Well, what we—what I have in mind [is] I’ve talked to [everybody] and everybody here thinks it’s a great idea, and I was talking to Henry about this, what I really have in mind is for you, basically, to be sort of a—without downgrading the other ambassadors—the ambassador-in-charge of that sort of area. You know what I mean?

Helms:             Yes, sir.

Nixon:             Particularly [what I want]. So, you could go down to those sheikdoms and these other places and pull this thing [together], and then give us the recommendations, you know. And it—And in charge of the area not only in terms of oil and so forth, but in terms of stability of the governments—

Sample conversation: January 26, 1973, White House Cabinet Room, 8:37 - 10:11 am
Caspar Weinberger FY '74 budget briefing for Republican Congressional Leaders (portion on All-Volunteer Armed Forces)
To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 5.1m, 5:25).

Weinberger:     This is the rather familiar story now to everyone except the press, and that is that the priorities have changed very drastically. The human resources expenditures, this is in dollars over here, have gone from about sixty billion up to close to a hundred and thirty one billion by the end of ’75. This is projected out through 1975. Defense stays just about level in dollars, very little change at all, and in percentage, defense is going way down. It’s under thirty percent now. And human resources are about forty-seven percent of the total budget. So, the change there is very dramatic, a complete reversal, and it is illustrative of the different priorities that we now have. This is a little further explanation of the defense outlays, 75, 76, 74.8, these are almost level figures. And they will jump in 1974 about four billion dollars, but all of that is pay and price increases. All of that is the amount associated with the All Volunteer Armed Force and the other pay increases that have been had in the military, plus the additional pension fund. There is no increase in activity at all, [here] represented [there]. As a matter of fact, there is a rather substantial decrease in the number of men that will be in defense, and you can see that here. Here, with 1968 there were three and a half million military personnel. This year, in 1974, the president is requesting funds for 2.2 million, now, in a very steady decline. But this line shows the average pay and allowances for each person in the military, uniformed personnel. And that’s gone from fifty-five hundred average to ten thousand dollars a year average, and that’s where the increase has come, in the costs of military personnel. We have another chart that isn’t blown up, but will be in the chart book.  

Unknown [Arends?]:  Could I ask a question, is that approximate amount of money spent for defense still approximately fifty-eight percent for personnel, personnel cost out of the total budget of the military?  

Weinberger:     That’s right. Yes, sir. The payroll costs in the military now run just about fifty-eight percent, and the interesting figure you have here, it’s in the chart book, I didn’t have it blown up. How much will a billion dollars pay for? In 1964, a billion dollars would pay for 219,000 men. In 1974, a billion dollars gets a hundred thousand men. And, actually, that’s the different that has occurred on this question, and that’s why although there are sharp reductions in defense, we stay just about level rather than having this big peace dividend that everyone [unclear]—  

Nixon:             The point, Les, let me [make a] point that you and John and the Armed Services Committee fellows should be aware of—are aware of I am sure, is this. That is why any comparison basically in dollar or ruble, whichever way you want to explain it, of the amount we spend or percentage of GNP or whatever you have, between ourselves and the Soviet Union, is totally irrelevant, because when they put, say, seventy billion dollars, shall we say, equivalent, in defense, if they put seventy billion dollars in defense, my guess is the amount of their personnel costs is much less, because—and their hardware is much more. They’re buying more hardware; we’re buying more men. We pay more for the men. In other words, their men come cheaper. Now, as a matter of fact, they have a bigger, because of their great emphasis on land forces, they have [unclear], but their costs for men are infinitely less than ours [unclear]. So, this poses—Let me tell you about this defense thing, and this is where I am going to argue that the other side [unclear]. God knows we’d like to keep it as low as we can, but you have to have enough. You have to have enough in order to bargain, as we go into the second round of SALT talks, and the rest, and MBFR, et cetera. But we also have to have enough for our own defense. And at the present time, we see that number, fifty eight percent, all the costs going into personnel, you aren’t buying a hell of a lot of hardware. You’re buying a lot, but not as much. Roy [Ash], of course, one of the things even though he is going to be now on the budget side of [State], that’s Roy Ash, is acutely aware of this subject, right Roy? It’s a real problem.  

Ash:                 Certainly vis-à-vis what the [Soviets] are doing, actually it's very critical—  

Nixon:             Yes. Yes, sir. The main reasons with these comparisons, as we go down the line, and say how much, if you look at our new stock, how much we’ve got, and so forth and so on. We’ve got a huge outlay of men and women and so forth in the Army, of course what you’re not getting [unclear].  

Unknown:       Mr. President, I think we have to accept this is the price we have to pay for an All Volunteer Army. [Agreement of several others.]

Nixon:             Because it is. And of course, let me say, I would hope when you fellows go to campuses and so forth this year, if the All Volunteer Army [means] not having them drafted, that’s not a bad point to emphasize. I think it should have some appeal, shouldn’t it Jerry?

Unknown [Ford?]: Mr. President, the American people wanted the All Volunteer Army, so they have to pay for it.

Sample conversation: January 31, 1973, White House Oval Office, Unknown time between 4:52 pm and 6:13 pm
Former Secretary of the Treasury John B. Connally informs President of an emerging energy crisis
To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 6.8m, 7:13).


Connally:         I think, Mr. President, you’ve got—you have two major problems—If I may presumptuous enough to suggest two of the problems that you’re going to face [unclear]—


Nixon:             [Laughs] You ought to know!


Connally:         —right away. One, and I—you and I have talked about this many times, and I’ll just mention this and then leave it alone—But, I mentioned both of them to George Shultz this morning—I’m going to tell you that he and I had breakfast this morning—I think this energy crisis is much deeper, much deeper, much more severe than anybody in this country realizes. And I think it’s going to require a great deal of your personal understanding and attention. You could well see gasoline rationing in the United States this summer. You got fuel rationing now—fuel oil. You got gas rationing right now.


Nixon:             Really?

Connally:         And it’s going to get worse next year than it is this summer—at this point. We don’t have the refinery capacity. And our demand increases. And this—even [during] this last cold spell, universities were shut down. The University of Texas, for instance, in Austin, Texas, delayed it’s open—reopening for one week because it had no heat. The San Marcos State Teachers College, where President Johnson went, could not reopen. Many industrial concerns shut down their production completely, because they had no fuel. The gas companies are rationing their industrial customers anytime there’s a cold spell. Now, most of these customers can use fuel oil. Like the utilities, they can burn fuel oil to generate electricity. But, it’s more expensive for ‘em, so they like gas. Plus, the environmentalists raise hell when they burn fuel oil. So, they don’t like to do it. Fuel oil, now, is being laid down on the East Coast for six—over $6 a barrel. I will not be at all surprised to see crude oil laid down—if you can get it—on the East Coast of the United States, this year, at five dollars a barrel. The idea that domestic crude is going to kick the lid is stupid—it’s not going to happen. Foreign crude is really going to happen—or, the price increase is going to happen for domestic crude. Because this one of the things that the Arabs—OPEC, that’s just the Arab nations’ doing—they are, in fact, taking over control of the oil itself to market. They’re going to market it to the highest bidder. And the highest bidder, it could be Japan, Germany, Italy, and so forth. And the United States is going to have to posture itself, very quickly, to get into this issue, where, as a nation, we can compete with other nations in buying oil, because the oil companies can’t do it. And I would predict that in this year, if not more than 18 months, you’re going to see a complete revolution of the manner of production and sale of oil, and pricing of crude products around the world. It’s going to have a hell of an impact on this country.

Sample conversation: February 3, 1973, White House Telephone, Unknown time between 9:55 am and 10:59 am
President Nixon leaks to Barbara Walters that Henry Kissinger will take part in a round of talks in China following his upcoming trip to Hanoi
To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 4.0m, 5:47).
Sample conversation: February 23, 1973, White House Telephone, 3:29 - 3:32 pm
President Nixon and Republican Party National Chairman George H.W. Bush discusses "very attractive women", and the need to get more "good looking" women Republican candidates for political office
To listen to the audio, click here (mp3, 2.3m, 3:24).
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