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"When Richard Nixon Threatened to Nuke Vietnam" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2019 9:37 p.m. PST

"Washington now sees nuclear weapons as a last ditch resort … but it hasn't always and the Pentagon has been more than happy come up with plans to lob the devastating bombs at America's enemies.

Sometimes, Washington used those plans to exert political pressure. In 1969, Pres. Richard Nixon did just that.

Nixon had promised to end the war in Vietnam during his campaign, but peace talks had stalled in Paris. Thanks to newly declassified documents, we now know that he asked U.S. military commanders to figure out how to scare North Vietnam and its Soviet allies into peace on America's terms…."
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Legion 412 Jan 2019 9:31 a.m. PST

The fallout would have been a real problem …

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2019 11:18 a.m. PST

You bet… (smile)


Virginia Tory13 Jan 2019 6:00 p.m. PST

Nukes in the context of Vietnam aren't new. There was contingency planning even in 1968, but it obviously didn't go anywhere.

Highly unlikely they would have been used.

GRothwell13 Jan 2019 6:08 p.m. PST

There was even a suggestion to use a nuclear weapon in support of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Hard to imagine how that could have worked.

Legion 414 Jan 2019 8:10 a.m. PST

Yes, I had read somewhere, there were B-29s in the PI being painted with French markings. But those could have been used with standard ordinance, not just Nukes…

But again, dropping WMDs on SE Asia, would have caused many more problems than it could have solved, IMO …

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2019 7:59 p.m. PST

The false threat(s) were used as a negotiating ploy, and were never very serious, though Nixon didn't want his opponents to know that.

Legion 416 Jan 2019 7:11 a.m. PST

Sun Tzu paraphrase … "Warfare is deception" …

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP16 Jan 2019 12:11 p.m. PST



Virginia Tory22 Jan 2019 10:32 a.m. PST

There was a contingency to use WMD at Dien Bien Phu, but it was in the context of Operation Vulture, which was more just a big strategic bombing mission(s).


Legion 422 Jan 2019 3:35 p.m. PST

Yes, I remember reading something about that. But even 3 small Nukes would have been quite a major event, IMO.

Of coarse 98 or so B-29s with HE, Incendiary/Napalm could have certainly done some damage to the Viet Minh. Could have been a game changer possibly ? At least may have bought French more time …

Pyrate Captain06 Jun 2019 4:33 p.m. PST

If only….

Skarper07 Jun 2019 11:13 p.m. PST

At that time tactical nuclear weapons were still part of the overall range of options. It was thought they could be used without escalation to a full scale nuclear war.

Small weapons are not much more destructive than a large raid by conventional HE or incendiaries and no more inhumane anyway. Nuclear fallout and casualties due to radiation are an extra layer of nastiness, but being burned alive in a firestorm is not much better.

My question when this comes up is what would you target in the context of the wars in South East Asia? Hanoi? Some area of mountain rainforest thought to be occupied by large scale ground forces?

They could easily have destroyed Hanoi without nuclear weapons It just would have been a huge PR disaster and may have brought China in.

That was the worry Chinese troops were in North Vietnam freeing up Vietnamese troops for use against the US and GVN forces.

Anyway. It's important to remember, the 2nd Indochina War was never about defeating the North or saving the South. It was about preventing Indonesia and The Philippines becoming left leaning independent states. By 1968 that was already no longer on the cards.

It simply wasn't worth the risk to go 'all in'. The fighting rumbled on for a few more years with half the US casualties coming AFTER Nixon's decision to withdraw and the only war aim by then was saving face.

Would they had supported Ho Chi Minh in 1945.

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