Quotations: From Nixon to defeat

This selection of Vietnam War quotations spans the Richard Nixon era to the US withdrawal and the North Vietnamese victory in 1975. It contains statements and remarks about the Vietnam conflict by notable political figures, military commanders, contemporaries and historians. These quotations have been researched, selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest a quotation for this collection, please contact us.

“Bones have broken and blood has fallen, the hatred is rising high. Our country has been separated for so long. Here, the sacred Mekong, here, glorious Truong Son Mountains are urging us to advance to kill the enemy. Shoulder to shoulder, under a common flag. Arise!”
Lu Hu Phuoc, Vietnamese musician and Viet Cong supporter, July 1969

“People usually refer to the bombing of Cambodia as if it had been unprovoked, secretive U.S. action. The fact is that we were bombing North Vietnamese troops that had invaded Cambodia, [troops] that were killing many Americans from these sanctuaries, and we were doing it with the acquiescence of the Cambodian government, which never once protested against it, and which, indeed, encouraged us to do it… Why is it moral for the North Vietnamese to have 50,000 to 100,000 troops in Cambodia, why should we let them kill Americans from that territory… and why in all these conditions is there a moral issue?”
Henry Kissinger on the bombing of Cambodia in 1969

“I’m not going to be the first American president to lose
a war.”
Richard Nixon, October 1969

“We [US soldiers in Vietnam] found that not only was it a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever… we found most people didn’t even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart.”
John Kerry, anti-war activist, April 1971

“By every conceivable indicator, our army that remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous. Elsewhere than Vietnam, the situation is nearly as serious… Sedition, coupled with disaffection from within the ranks, and externally fomented with an audacity and intensity previously inconceivable, infest the Armed Services.”
Robert D. Heinl, US Marine colonel, June 1971

“Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Tom Lehrer, American singer-songwriter

“The US strategy of using bombing to put pressure on you has failed. Nixon has many international and domestic issues to deal with. It seems that the US is still willing to get out from Vietnam and Indochina. You should persist in principles while demonstrating flexibility during the negotiations. The most important [thing] is to let the Americans leave. The situation will change in six months or one year.”
Zhou Enlai, Chinese premier, to Le Duc Tho, January 1973

“Peace has not yet really been established in South Vietnam. In these circumstances, it is impossible for me to accept the 1973 Nobel Prize for Peace which the committee has bestowed on me. Once the Paris accord on Vietnam is respected, the arms are silenced and a real peace is established in South Vietnam, I will be able to consider accepting this prize.”
Le Duc Tho, North Vietnamese diplomat, 1973

“I knew [by 1973] that we were fully prepared to sell South Vietnam down the river. You can be charitable and say that we didn’t care. Or you can be worse and say that we wanted to give it to the other side… Once Watergate happened, no Vietnamese of any political sophistication thought that we would pay more attention to Vietnam. There was no way to reverse what our Congress had done.”
Edward Brady, American Vietnam veteran

“If the Americans do not want to support us anymore, let
them go, get out! Let them forget their humanitarian promises!”
Nguyen Van Thieu, South Vietnamese president, April 1975

“You give an army the means to get around in helicopters or on roads, you accustom them to unlimited artillery and air support for long enough, you get them used to sleeping in bed at night, and what happens? I will tell you what happens. At a certain point, neither the troops nor the officers are willing any longer to walk to battle, hacking their way through jungles if necessary. So they stay in their helicopters and get shot down or cut off from American rescue, or they drive along the road, where they get shelled or ambushed and cut to pieces. Every officer knows this, but our army has become flabby and lazy over the years, and we owe some of that to the kind of luxury aid you gave us.”
An ARVN (South Vietnamese Army) officer, 1975

“I’m glad the fighting is coming to an end, but I feel shame that it took so long and that we played the role we did in extending it for so long. It has been inevitable that they would win the war for so many years. Now here’s a chance to figure out what kind of foreign policy we should have instead of having Vietnam rip us apart. That hasn’t been possible before.”
Anthony Lake, former aide to Henry Kissinger, 1975

“I’m relieved that it’s over and that we didn’t go back again. My fear was that Vietnam was a film that would keep running backwards and forward and would never end… People talk of losing Vietnam or the fall of Vietnam. That country has not fallen and we didn’t have it to lose.”
Morton Halperin, US Defence Department official, 1975

“All of my worries… about how it was going to end have materialised. We didn’t understand the place [and] we didn’t know how to fight there. It was a sad epoch… There are lessons to be drawn from it, very clear lessons. We should never have tried to get by with half-measures because you can’t do that and control the outcome. ”
William J. Porter, former deputy ambassador to South Vietnam, 1975

“The people of Vietnam will be able to determine their lives without foreign interference… For 25 years the United States has tried to control 25 million people on a tiny strip of land and we couldn’t do it and we should never try to do it again anywhere else.”
Cora Weiss, American anti-war campaigner

“It is tragic that President Roosevelt’s determination not to let the French back into Indochina after World War II was not carried out. It would have saved France, the United States and the Vietnamese people this desperate experience.”
W. Averell Harriman, US politician, 1975

“I can’t avoid my responsibility for what happened in Southeast Asia, but I don’t think others, including the peace movement, should either.”
Dean Rusk, former US Secretary of State, 1975

“I’m inclined to believe the [Vietnam] War would have ended just about when it did [1975], even if there had been no protest… Because they did not end it on policy, they just ended it because they were losing it – and the soldiers wouldn’t fight.”
Eugene McCarthy, American politician and anti-war figure

“Vietnam presumably taught us that the United States could
not serve as the world’s policeman. It should also have
taught us the dangers of trying to be the world’s midwife
to democracy when the birth is scheduled to take place
under conditions of guerrilla war.”
Jeane Kilpatrick, US diplomat, 1979

“Yes, we defeated the United States. But now we are plagued by problems. We do not have enough to eat. We are a poor, underdeveloped nation… Waging a war is simple but running a country is very difficult.”
Pham Van Dong, Vietnamese leader, 1981

“No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. Rarely have so many people been so wrong about so much. Never have the consequences of their misunderstanding been so tragic.”
Richard Nixon, No More Vietnams, 1985