December 20, 1972
“My fellow Americans, it is our sincere wish for the war in Vietnam to be ended. For those patriotic soldiers who have been wounded in action, we give our heartfelt thanks. This Christmas, it is my direct order to return as many American casualties as are able to withstand prolonged air evacuation back to the United States. In keeping with former President Johnson’s policy, these gallant souls will be sent to a military hospital closest to their home of record. It is my Christmas present to their parents, relatives and loved ones. Merry Christmas to all.”
The President of the United States signed off after reaffirming his campaign promise to do everything in his power to bring the war in Vietnam to a conclusion. It was no longer about winning. It was about getting out as gracefully as possible and if graceful was not to be a reality, then “getting out period” would be enough.
President Nixon’s message meant different things to different people. To families of the wounded, it was a message sent from heaven. To the U.S. Air Force Air Evacuation Command, it would be a nightmare task. For the combat casualties, it meant going home for Christmas and getting out of Vietnam forever. For Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese forces it meant an opportunity to escalate their carnage and establish more combat fronts throughout North and South Vietnam and continue to hide in Cambodia and Laos after border ambushes.
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