Memoirs, Or Shadows Of What Has Been
By Peter Landry
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Chapter Twenty-Four, Startling World Events, 1973

It was in this year, on January 27th, that the Vietnam War came to an end with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. Throughout my adult life, up to this point, the Vietnam War was always in the background and brought to our TV sets in gruesome detail. [We dealt with aspects on the war in previous chapters: Chapter Sixteen (1965), Chapter Eighteen (1967) and Chapter Nineteen (1968).] Let's touch on the events that led up to the war's conclusion, through its final years. At the first of 1970, January 4th, The New York Times ran a long article, "Statisticians Charge Draft Lottery Was Not Random"). The Draft Lottery had been established on December 1, 1969, the first draft lottery in the United States to be held since World War II. In the spring of 1970, President Nixon ordered U.S. forces to cross into neutral Cambodia, threatening to widen the Vietnam War, sparking nationwide riots and leading to the Kent State Shootings. On May 9th, at Washington, 100,000 people demonstrated against the Vietnam War. That October, in Vietnam, the worst monsoon to hit the area in 6 years caused large floods, killed 293, left 200,000 homeless and virtually halted the Vietnam War. Within a month the United States turned control of its air base in the Mekong Delta over to South Vietnam; a process that became to be known as Vietnamization, began. It worked, for a bit. As 1970 ended, for the first time in 5 years, an entire week ended with no reports of United States combat fatalities in Southeast Asia.

However the war was hardly over. Shortly after 1971 opened (February 13), backed by American air and artillery support, South Vietnamese troops invade Laos. Back in the States civilian demonstrations spread with greater intensity. That April, five hundred thousand people in Washington and 125,000 in San Francisco marched in protest against the Vietnam War. In May, a Harris Poll revealed that 60% of Americans were against the Vietnam War. The Americans in this year also lost the support of other nations. During August, Australia and New Zealand decide to withdraw their troops from Vietnam. The pressure finally getting through to the administration, the level of American troops in Vietnam dropped that October to a record low of 196,700 (the lowest since January 1966).

In April of 1972, prompted by an North Vietnamese offensive (Nguyen Hue), the United States resumed the bombing of Hanoi. In the fall of the year, following a visit to South Vietnam, the U.S. National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, suggested that "peace was at hand." The Vietnamization continued that fall, as the United States Army turned over its massive Long Binh military base to South Vietnam. At the White House, Press Secretary, Ron Ziegler, told the press that there will be no more public announcements concerning United States troop withdrawals from Vietnam due to the fact that troop levels were then down to 27,000. The bombing of North Vietnam continued that Christmas which caused the U.S. citizenry to call down the U.S. government, and, in particular, President Richard Nixon.

And, so, in this year, 1973, as mentioned, a negotiated peace accord was reached. On February 11th, the first American prisoners of war were released from Vietnam. And, on March 29th, the last American soldier left Vietnam.

To complete the picture on Vietnam, we run ahead for a couple of years. The peace was just between North Vietnam and the Americans: the south and the north continued to battle on. The outcome was inevitable. On April 30th, 1975, the Fall of Saigon came about. The Communist forces from the north took the South's capital, Saigon. There then followed a mass evacuation of American advisers and South Vietnamese who had been loyal to the Americans. On July 2nd, 1976, North and South Vietnam united to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Well, back to the year 1973: In January, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, overturned state bans on abortion. That April, at New York, the first handheld cellular phone call was made. In June of that year, a patent for the ATM was granted. This was a monumental year for gays, as the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its description of diseases guide, the DSM-II.

The Annual Average Domestic Crude Oil Price in 1973 was $4.75 per barrel; it was to be the last of the years when oil was so cheap. The following year it was $9.35; 1975, $12.21; by 1980, $37.42. The sharp increase in these years is due almost entirely to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which had been founded, in Baghdad, in 1960, with five countries initially signing on: Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. As it turned out, it was a price fixing club.

It was, too, in 1973 that the United States put in orbit its first space station, Skylab. It orbited the Earth and included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems. While it was launched unmanned, in time there was delivered a crew of three astronauts. Pictures of the earth from above became a common sight in publications and on TV: a general feeling, from then on, was that the earth, this blue and white speckled globe turning on its axis in space was a very special place, indeed. Skylab reentered Earth's atmosphere and disintegrated in 1979. The next substantial orbital station was to be the International Space Station, the first pieces of which went up in 1998.

In 1973, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon was released. A couple of others: Killing Me Softly With His Song, Roberta Flack and Reelin' In the Years, Steely Dan.

Movies: American Graffiti with Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard; The Way We Were with Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford; The Exorcist with Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Linda Blair; Papillon with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. Then finally, The Paper Chase with Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, and John Houseman. This last movie was a poignant one for me, as it told of the adventures of students at Law School (Harvard); I was in my last year at law school (Dalhousie); I swear I had a law teacher that was very close to the character which John Houseman played.


NEXT: [Chapter Twenty-Five, Law School Graduation & Going Into Practice, 1974]

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2012 (2013)

Peter Landry