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How a Postal Strike Became a National Emergency for Richard Nixon

How a Postal Strike Became a National Emergency for Richard Nixon


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In early 1970, National Guardsmen were spotted walking from door to door in neighborhoods throughout the United States. They weren’t conducting a military operation or helping clean up after a natural disaster—they were delivering the mail in the midst of a postal strike that almost brought the United States to a halt.

The eight-day strike of some 150,000 letter carriers in 30 cities took the nation by surprise, but for many in the U.S. Postal Department (forerunner of today’s USPS) it was a long time coming.

At the time, pay raises for postal workers were almost unheard of: After 21 years on the job, noted The New York Times, a letter carrier would only earn $2,266 more than their starting salary. Though unionized, postal workers were forbidden from negotiating for pay raises due to cost of living. There was no chance to earn overtime, and many workers had to find a second job to make ends meet.

To top it off, life as a letter carrier was unforgiving. The work was physically demanding, and even experienced employees had no idea how many hours they would work. They waited in break rooms for long periods, hoping to be called for a few hours of delivering the mail. By 1970, their turnover rate was 23 percent.

READ MORE: How Ben Franklin Established the US Post Office

Tensions boiled over when Congress proposed raising their own salaries by 41 percent in early 1970—but only offered postal employees a 5.4 percent raise. Furious letter carriers in New York called a meeting of the local branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers union on March 17, 1970 to demand a strike.

But the union refused to strike. Union leaders agreed there were legitimate problems, but pointed out that it was illegal for federal workers to strike. (It still is.) Members took a vote. It was close—1,555 for a strike, 1,055 against. However, a group of pro-strike workers led by Vincent Sombrotto defied their union and decided to stop work the next morning.

This “wildcat” strike—one that goes against the wishes of the union leadership—meant that Sombrotto and his colleagues lacked official support for their actions. But they had many supporters elsewhere: other discontented letter carriers from coast to coast.

As letter carriers took to the streets of Manhattan and stopped delivering mail, others joined in. Thirty other cities’ workers walked out, too, and soon at least 150,000 letter carriers—over 200,000, by other counts, often members of other unions—walked off the job.

It was the largest ever walkout of federal employees, and its effects immediately rippled through the nation. At the time, notes the National Postal Museum, letter carriers handled 270 million pieces of mail a day. With no one to deliver them, documents critical to government, finance and other industries sat unprocessed in Postal Department handling facilities.

Letter carriers were just the tip of the iceberg. According to historian Philip F. Rubio, sympathetic bosses allowed some picketing postal workers to clock in and out before heading out to the picket lines and the strike “became a rank and file…revolt.”

“No one had any idea of the chaos that would soon stifle the post offices, the post boxes, the airports, the railroad stations, the stores,” wrote The Guardian’s Alastair Cooke. Weeping women waiting for mail from Vietnam and poor people who needed their welfare checks descended on local post offices, he reported, and businesses announced they might go out of business if the strike continued.

The strike affected another area of life, too: the draft. At the time, the Vietnam War was still raging and draft notices were sent through the mail. Young men now had no idea if they would be called up to war or exempted from it.

“I’m not a rabble rouser or anything like that,” Martin Conroy, a postal clerk from New Jersey who struck in solidarity with the New York workers, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Frankly, I’m not the picketing type. But they keep putting us off, and this is the only way we can get any reaction.”

With at least 30 percent of the nation’s letter carriers on strike, the entire postal system began to sink to its knees. Finally, the reaction came—from President Nixon himself. He declared a national emergency and called in U.S. military reservists despite worries that federal action might prompt an even larger strike.

Soon, the National Guard was delivering the mail. Ironically, many of the National Guardsmen were postal carriers who had signed up as a second job. Others struggled to adjust to the difficult sorting tasks and hard delivery work and developed sympathy for the striking workers.

After eight days, convinced by assurances that a deal had been struck with the federal government for a more significant raise, the strike ended. In reality, there was no deal. But when postal employees went back to the job, Nixon’s government gave the workers an immediate pay hike that was also retroactive. A year later, when the U.S. Postal Service was formed, postal unions were given the right to negotiate their salaries and working conditions.

One thing Nixon never did was cancel the national emergency. And his use of an executive order to prompt a military response was not exactly popular. It sparked a special investigation by Congress, and presidential use of both executive orders and national emergency declarations is still hotly debated as a possible overreach of executive power today.

Though Nixon drove a hard bargain while the strike was in progress, his government did not retaliate against those who walked out. Not a single striking worker was fired. Nobody was fined or jailed for acting against federal law. But when labor laws were amended in 1978, allowing collective bargaining for federal workers, provisions that made it illegal to strike stayed in the law.

It’s still against the law for federal workers to walk out on the job. But the strike reminded the government—and the nation—of the power of rank-and-file workers. “Finally,” declared the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, “the Post Office Department figured out it needed postal workers.”

READ MORE: When People Used the Postal Service to Mail Their Children


U.S. postal strike of 1970

The U.S. postal strike of 1970 was a two-week strike by federal postal workers in March 1970. The strike began in NYC and spread to some other cities in the following two weeks. The strike was illegal, against the federal government, and the largest wildcat strike in U.S. history. [1]

President Richard Nixon called out the United States armed forces and the National Guard in an attempt to distribute the mail and break the strike.

The strike influenced the contents of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which transformed the Post Office into the more corporate United States Postal Service and guaranteed collective bargaining rights (though not the right to strike.)


A Postal Worker Loved His Job. But An 8-Day Postal Strike Was A 'Dignity Thing'

Tom J. Germano (right) told his son, Thomas Germano, about when he took part in the Great Postal Strike of 1970 to demand better pay, during a visit to StoryCorps last month in North Babylon, N.Y. Camila Kerwin/StoryCorps hide caption

Tom J. Germano (right) told his son, Thomas Germano, about when he took part in the Great Postal Strike of 1970 to demand better pay, during a visit to StoryCorps last month in North Babylon, N.Y.

Fifty years ago, federal postal workers walked out in a strike that lasted eight days, spanned more than 30 cities and prompted President Richard Nixon to declare a national emergency. The effort won postal workers living wages.

Tom Germano was one of them, picketing in the middle of New York City alongside fellow letter carriers and clerks. As a strike leader of Branch 36 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Germano helped rally support.

At StoryCorps last month, Tom spoke to his son, Thomas Germano, 56, about how he found his calling delivering mail and why the strike mattered.

When Tom, now 80, started as a letter carrier around 1960, there was an adjustment period.

On his first day at the job, he had to deliver a bag full of mail to an apartment complex.

It wasn't as easy as it sounds.

"There's mail on the floor, and there's mail sticking out of boxes. Then on each box there's often more than one name. There are similar names: J. Smith or A. Smith, or just says Mr. Smith," he recalled. "I couldn't find half the names, and I wanted to cry. I was just gonna . sit down and say 'I can't do this.' "

"But once you learn it you could almost do it with your eyes closed."

Tom would eventually deliver mail in the working-class neighborhood where he grew up, greeting old neighbors and checking in on them when they didn't pick up the mail. His dedication to the job took him to some unexpected places — he once climbed down an elevator shaft to retrieve letters.


Landmark postal law signed 50 years ago

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the most comprehensive postal legislation since the founding of the republic — the law that transformed the Post Office Department into the Postal Service.

President Richard Nixon signed the Postal Reorganization Act on Aug. 12, 1970, but as Publication 100, the Postal Service’s official history book explains, the law’s origins can be traced to the previous decade.

In the mid-1960s, the Post Office Department struggled with outdated equipment, crowded facilities, underpaid workers and an ineffective management structure.

Postal officials knew the department needed to change, but Congress held the purse strings.

All important decisions — from buildings and equipment used, to how many employees could be hired and what they were paid — were made by Congress. This led to artificially low rates of postage, which were popular with constituents but led to a stagnant postal infrastructure.

When the Chicago Post Office became gridlocked with mail in 1966, it captured national headlines and ignited a movement for postal reform.

By early 1970, a presidential commission had recommended a departmental overhaul that was supported by Nixon but opposed by labor leaders. As Congress considered the recommendations, postal workers in cities across the nation went on strike — an eight-day ordeal that prompted Nixon to order the military to help sort the mail in New York City.

The strike helped shape the Postal Reorganization Act as it worked its way through Congress. The final bill that Nixon signed guaranteed retroactive pay increases and collective bargaining rights for postal workers, along with a more corporate structure for the new Postal Service.

Fifty years later, the nation’s evolving needs have prompted calls for additional changes.

Postal leaders are now working for legislative and regulatory reform that will allow the organization to transform its business model and effectively respond to ongoing volume declines and rapidly evolving market conditions.


How a Postal Strike Became a National Emergency for Richard Nixon - HISTORY

Richard Nixon&rsquos term as the 37th president of the United States was a roller-coaster ride of success and failure, of triumph and defeat. Born into modest circumstances in this small frame house, he won election as president in 1968 in a remarkable comeback from his defeat in the 1960 presidential election and the loss of his bid for governor of California two years later. His margin of victory in the 1972 presidential election when he ran for a second term is one of the widest on record. President Nixon ended the draft and oversaw the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam. He reached out to China, meeting personally with Mao Zedong, and reduced tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. His administration ended in scandal in 1974, however. The expanding investigation of a bungled burglary at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC ultimately forced Nixon to resign to avoid almost certain impeachment. In the years before his death in 1994, he gained praise as an elder statesman. His restored birthplace home is now part of a nine-acre museum complex that includes gardens and exhibit galleries.

Richard Milhous Nixon was born in this modest house on January 9, 1913. His father, Frank Nixon, used a kit to build the house in a small grove of trees on his eight-acre citrus farm. The one and one-half story, white clapboard siding house has a low-pitched gable roof. A long dormer on the north side lights a small second-floor bedroom. The front elevation features a projecting gable-roofed entry. There is a small flat-roofed addition on the back.

Nixon&rsquos parents were members of the Quaker community in Yorba Linda and active in civic life. They taught their four sons patience, courage, and determination, qualities that Nixon drew strength from during trying times. He later recalled that he gained his first taste for politics during debates around the family dinner table and described friendly pillow fights with his three brothers in the small upstairs bedroom they shared. The family lived here until 1922, when they moved to the nearby community of Whittier.

Nixon had a brilliant record at Whittier College and Duke University Law School, in North Carolina. He opened his law practice in Whittier and became involved in local politics as a Republican. In 1940, he married Thelma Catherine Ryan, universally known as &ldquoPat.&rdquo He served 14 months on active duty in the Pacific during World War II. Nixon ran for the United States House of Representatives in 1946, defeating a long-term Democratic incumbent. He won national recognition, and controversy, as an anti-communist crusader on the Un-American Activities Committee. Reelected to the House in 1948, he easily won a seat in the United States Senate two years later in an extremely bitter campaign.

In 1952, Republican presidential candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower chose Nixon, only 39 years old, as his running mate. During the campaign, accusations of using political contributions for personal purposes threatened Nixon&rsquos place on the ticket. He saved his candidacy in one of the first live, nationwide political television broadcasts&mdashthe famous "Checkers" speech. Nixon was an active and visible vice president and had no trouble gaining the nomination to succeed Eisenhower in 1960. His extremely narrow loss to John F. Kennedy was the first defeat in his career. Returning to California, he ran for governor two years later and lost again. He thought his political career was over, telling reporters, &ldquoYou won&rsquot have Nixon to kick around anymore . . . This is my last press conference.&rdquo

President Nixon&rsquos domestic achievements included revenue sharing, new anticrime laws, a broad environmental program, and the end of the military draft. Concerned about rising inflation, he instituted mandatory wage and price controls. On July 19, 1969, Nixon spoke with the American astronauts who had made the first Moon landing in a long-distance telephone call.

Working with his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Nixon pursued a vigorous foreign policy. His first priority was the conflict in Vietnam. The invasion of Cambodia and expanded bombing in North Vietnam triggered violent protests in 1970. A student protest at Kent State University met with police violence that left four students dead. More than 4 million students participated in the following nationwide strike. In January 1973, Nixon announced an accord with North Vietnam ending American military involvement in Southeast Asia. By March, he reduced the number of United States military forces in Vietnam to zero, from 543,000 in April 1969.

One of President Nixon&rsquos proudest achievements was opening official contact between the United States and the People&rsquos Republic of China. He was the first American president to visit China during his term of office. His talks with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai led to a new spirit of amity between the two countries. On a trip to the Soviet Union, he met with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, preparing the ground for the signing of the first treaty to limit nuclear arms.

The series of revelations that led to Nixon's resignation began with a June 1971 burglary at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. Newspaper accounts eventually traced the break-in, virtually ignored during the election campaign, to the president&rsquos special reelection committee. The investigation of the &ldquoWatergate Affair&rdquo eventually led to the conviction and imprisonment of a number of senior administration officials. Nixon himself denied any personal involvement in Watergate. He tried to use executive privilege to protect audio tapes of conversations at the White House, but the Supreme Court overruled his efforts. When the tapes indicated that he had tried to divert the investigation, his support with the public and in Congress eroded. Late in July 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommended his impeachment on counts of obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. Republican leaders urged Nixon to step down. On August 8, 1974, he announced his decision to resign, saying that he wished to begin the &ldquoprocess of healing which is so desperately needed in America.&rdquo His resignation was effective at noon on August 9. Gerald Ford succeeded Nixon as president. Ford, who had been majority leader of the House of Representatives, became vice president in December 1973 after Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned in October 1973 amid a bribery scandal.

In retirement, Nixon represented the United States on a number of trips abroad, gaining unusual access to major political leaders because of his status as an elder statesman. He also maintained a busy speaking schedule and wrote 10 books. He played an active role in planning his presidential library in Yorba Linda, and he and his wife were present at its dedication in 1990. Richard Nixon suffered a stroke in April 1994 at his home in New Jersey, dying a few days later. His grave and that of his wife, who died in 1993, lie near the birthplace on the grounds of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

The Richard Nixon birthplace home changed hands a number of times after the Nixons moved out in 1922. Frank Nixon, the president's father, sold parts of the property between 1922 and 1925, when the Yorba Linda School District bought five and one-half acres of the land to build a school. In 1948, the school district purchased the remaining land, including the birthplace, and installed the school's caretaker in the home. Nixon formed the private nonprofit Richard Nixon Library Foundation for the purpose of building his presidential library in 1969, after he became president. Work on the library did not begin until after he left office, but fundraising continued. In 1978, a group of businessmen purchased the birthplace on behalf of the Foundation. The City of Yorba Linda deeded the whole nine and one-half-acre site over to the Nixon Library Foundation ten years later. In anticipation of the Nixon Library's opening in 1990, the home was carefully restored with many of its original furnishings, including the bedstead in which President Nixon was born. The private Nixon Library was transferred to the Federal Government's National Archives and Records Administration on July 11, 2007. The home remains under the Foundation's administration and is open to visitors.

The Richard M. Nixon Birthplace in Yorba Linda, CA, has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. It is open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm, Sundays 11:00am to 5:00pm. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. An admission fee is charged. Tickets must be purchased at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, located at 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda. Regular admission includes the gardens, the birthplace home and the galleries. Docents are available to give tours at the Birthplace. Museum visitors begin their tour by viewing a 27-minute movie about Nixon's career. Visit the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation website or call 714-993-5075.

For moreinformation, visit the National Archives Nixon Presidential Library and Museum website, or call 714-983-9120. The website contains additional information on the birthplace and the museum. Visitors to the website can also hear Nixon describing his childhood memories of his birthplace.


Deaths at Kent State

On May 4, 1970, National Guardsmen responded to student anti-war protests at Kent State University in Ohio. When the soldiers ran out of tear gas, students threw bricks and bottles at them. The soldiers opened fire, killing four students and injuring nine.

After the Kent State killings, students at the University of New Mexico flee the National Guard on May 4, 1970. Steven Clevenger/Corbis via Getty Images

Some Americans supported the Guard’s actions at Kent State, while others were anguished. President Richard Nixon’s Commission on Campus Unrest argued in its September 1970 report that “even if the guardsmen faced danger, it was not a danger that called for lethal force.”

“The Kent State tragedy must mark the last time that … loaded rifles are issued to guardsmen confronting student demonstrators,” the report concluded.


President Nixon

Born on January 9, 1913, on his parents' citrus farm in Yorba, Linda, California, Richard Milhous Nixon's life spanned eight decades. Follow the links below to learn more about the events in Nixon's life.

Richard Milhous Nixon was born on January 9, 1913, on the citrus farm of his parents, Francis Anthony Nixon (1878-1956) and Hannah Milhous Nixon (1885-1967), in a house his father built in Yorba Linda, California. Richard was the second of five brothers: Harold (1909-1933), Donald (1914-1987), Arthur (1918-1925), and Edward (1930-).

His early life was marked by financial hardship and by the deaths of his brothers Harold and Arthur. In 1922, after the failure of the Nixons' ranch (today the site of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum), the family moved to be nearer Hannah's relatives in Whittier, California. There, Frank Nixon opened a combination grocery store and gas station in which the entire Nixon family worked in order to make ends meet.

Richard Nixon enrolled at Whittier College in September 1930. He was an active student, pursuing his interests in student government, drama, and football while living at home and helping to run the family's store. Nixon won a scholarship to attend Duke University School of Law in May 1934, where he was president of the Student Bar Association and a member of the law review. He graduated in June 1937.

Nixon returned to Whittier and joined the law firm Wingert and Bewley. On January 16, 1938, he met a schoolteacher named Thelma Catherine "Pat" Ryan at a rehearsal for a community play in which they were both acting. Smitten, Nixon pursued Ryan. They were married on June 21, 1940, in the Presidential Suite of the Mission Inn in Riverside, California, and honeymooned in Mexico.

In January 1942, the Nixons moved to Washington, D.C., where Nixon joined the Office of Price Administration. On June 15, 1942, he accepted an appointment as a lieutenant junior grade in the United States Naval Reserve and entered the Naval Training School, Naval Air Station in Quonset Point, Rhode Island on August 17, 1942.

Upon completing the training in October 1942, Nixon served as Aide to the Executive Officer at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base in Ottumwa, Iowa until May 1943. He volunteered for sea duty and was assigned to the Commander, Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. He served as Officer in Charge of the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command on the island of New Caledonia at Bougainville, Vella Lavella and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, and later at Green Island.

Nixon was promoted to Lieutenant on October 1, 1943. He went on to serve with Fleet Air Wing EIGHT and at various military offices throughout the United States. He was promoted again in June 1953 to the rank of Commander in the Naval Reserve.

For his service, Richard Nixon was awarded a Letter of Commendation, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

After fifteen months overseas, Nixon was transferred to the Fleet Air Wing at Alameda, California and later, the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics in Washington, D.C.

At the end of the war he was engaged in negotiating the termination of Navy contracts with aircraft manufacturers in Baltimore, Maryland. For his performance on this assignment Nixon received a second Letter of Commendation. He was released from active duty as a Lieutenant Commander in March, 1946 and retired from the Naval Reserve on June 1, 1966.

His full naval biographical profile is available via the U.S. Navy's Naval History and Heritage Command website.

Following the end of the war, prominent Republicans in Whittier approached Nixon about running for Congress in 1946. Nixon accepted their offer, and, on November 6, 1946, defeated Democratic Congressman Jerry Voorhis by more than fifteen thousand votes. He moved to Washington with his wife Pat and their young daughter, Patricia (known as "Tricia"), who had been born on February 21, 1946. (Their second daughter, Julie, was born on July 5, 1948.)

As a congressman, he served on the Education and Labor Committee and supported the enactment of the Taft-Hartley Act, which greatly restricted the powers of labor unions. Nixon also served on the Herter Committee, which traveled to Europe to prepare a preliminary report on the Marshall Plan.

In 1948, as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), he took the lead in investigating charges against former State Department official Alger Hiss of spying for the Soviet Union before and during World War II. The case turned the young congressman into a national figure—and a controversial one, because many prominent figures asserted Hiss's innocence. Not until decades later, after the end of the Cold War, would intelligence information released both by the U.S. government and the Russian government confirm Hiss' guilt.

Nixon was easily re-elected in 1948.

In 1950, he defeated Democratic Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas to win California's vacant U.S. Senate seat by more than half a million votes. The campaign was fierce. Nixon, who thought the former actress was too sympathetic to left-wing causes, said Douglas was "pink right down to her underwear." In response, Douglas labeled Nixon "Tricky Dick."

As senator, Nixon criticized President Harry S. Truman's handling of the Korean War and gave speeches across the nation warning of the threat of global Communism.

Nixon's prominence as an anti-Communist soon brought him to greater national attention. General Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican candidate for president in 1952, selected Nixon as his running mate at the Republican convention in Chicago on July 11, 1952.

Two months later, the New York Post ran an article claiming that campaign donors were buying influence with Nixon by providing him with a secret cash fund for his personal expenses. Nixon defended himself against the accusations, noting that the fund was neither secret nor unusual and produced an independent audit showing that the funds had been used only for political purposes. To rebut his critics, Nixon appeared on television to the largest audience in history to date. In the live, nationwide broadcast, Nixon detailed his personal financial history and then outflanked his detractors by saying that his family had accepted one campaign gift for themselves: a beloved black-and-white cocker spaniel named Checkers whom they intended to keep. The speech was a great success, shoring up his support with the Republican Party's base, demonstrating his appeal to the wider public, and thus keeping him on the Republican ticket-and proving the importance of television as a political medium.

In November 1952, Eisenhower and Nixon defeated the candidates on the Democratic ticket, presidential nominee Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson and running mate Alabama Senator John Sparkman, by seven million votes.

Under Eisenhower, Nixon made the vice presidency a visible and important office. Nixon chaired National Security Council meetings in the president's absence and undertook many goodwill tours of foreign countries in an effort to shore up support for American policies during the Cold War. On one such trip to Caracas, Venezuela, on May 13, 1958, protesters first spat on the vice president and Mrs. Nixon at the airport. Later that day, rioters assaulted Nixon's motorcade, injuring Venezuela's foreign minister and making Nixon realize that he might actually be killed. Nixon attracted international notice for his coolness in the face of anti-American demonstrations.

In July 1959, Eisenhower sent Nixon to the Soviet Union to represent the United States at the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, the Soviet capital. While touring the exhibit with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, the pair stopped at a model of an American kitchen. There they engaged in an impromptu discussion about the American standard of living that quickly escalated into an exchange over the two countries' ideological and military strength. Nixon's performance in the "Kitchen Debate" further raised his stature back in the United States.

In 1960, facing little competition, Nixon won the Republican nomination for president and chose former Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to be his running mate. The election of 1960 was a hard-fought contest between Nixon and the Democratic nominee, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy, who had also been elected to Congress in 1946. Many observers then and later concluded that the turning point came during the first-ever televised debates. Nixon, wearing little make-up, looked wan and uncomfortable, while Kennedy appeared to be cool, composed, and confident. In November, Nixon lost to Kennedy by less than 120,000 votes, or 0.2 percent of the popular vote.

Following the 1960 election defeat, the Nixon family left Washington in January 1961 and returned to Southern California, where Nixon practiced law and wrote a bestselling memoir, Six Crises. Throughout 1961, local and national Republican leaders encouraged Nixon to run for governor in 1962 against Democratic incumbent Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Sr., arguing that staying on the sidelines would mean the end of Nixon's political life. Despite initial reluctance, Nixon entered the race.

His gubernatorial campaign was hobbled by a combination of the public's suspicion that Nixon viewed the office as a stepping-stone, opposition from the far right of his own party, and his own lack of interest in being governor. He lost to Brown by nearly 300,000 votes. At the time, even Nixon viewed the defeat as the end of his career in politics, telling reporters the Wednesday morning following election night 1962 that "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."

The Nixon family then moved to New York City, where Nixon resumed his practice as a lawyer. Later, after he had become president, Nixon called this period his "wilderness years," comparing his time out of office to similar interludes in the lives of leaders such as Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. Although largely out of the public eye, Nixon remained active in politics, commenting on the policies of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and campaigning for Republican candidates. Nixon retained the support of many Republicans across the country who respected his knowledge of politics and international affairs, a reputation enhanced in 1967 by Nixon's article "Asia After Vietnam" in the eminent journal Foreign Affairs. Nixon's strenuous efforts on behalf of Republican congressional candidates around the country in 1966 further solidified his support among members of the party.

1968 Campaign

In January 1968, Nixon decided to once again seek the nomination of the Republican Party for president. Portraying himself as a figure of stability in a time of national upheaval, Nixon promised a return to traditional values and "law and order." He fended off challenges from other candidates such as California Governor Ronald Reagan, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and Michigan Governor George Romney to secure the nomination at the Republican convention in Miami. Nixon unexpectedly chose Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland as his running mate.

Nixon's campaign was helped by the tumult within the Democratic Party in 1968. Consumed by the war in Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced on March 31 that he would not seek re-election. On June 5, immediately after winning the California primaries, former attorney general and then-U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (brother of the late president John F. Kennedy) was assassinated in Los Angeles. The campaign of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic nominee for president, went into a tailspin after the Democratic national convention in Chicago was marred by mass protests and violence. By contrast, Nixon appeared to represent a calmer society, and his campaign promised peace at home and abroad. Despite a late surge by Humphrey, Nixon won by nearly 500,000 popular votes. Third-party candidate George Wallace, the once and future governor of Alabama, won nearly ten million popular votes and 46 electoral votes, principally in the Deep South.

First Term

Once in office, Nixon and his staff faced the problem of how to end the Vietnam War, which had broken his predecessor's administration and threatened to cause major unrest at home. As protesters in America's cities called for an immediate withdrawal from Southeast Asia, Nixon made a nationally televised address on November 3, 1969, calling on the "silent majority" of Americans to renew their confidence in the American government and back his policy of seeking a negotiated peace in Vietnam. Earlier that year, Nixon and his Defense Secretary Melvin Laird had unveiled the policy of "Vietnamization," which entailed reducing American troop levels in Vietnam and transferring the burden of fighting to South Vietnam accordingly, U.S. troop strength in Vietnam fell from 543,000 in April 1969 to zero on March 29, 1973. Nevertheless, the Nixon administration was harshly criticized for its use of American military force in Cambodia and its stepped-up bombing raids during the later years of the first term.

Nixon's foreign policy aimed to reduce international tensions by forging new links with old rivals. In February 1972, Nixon traveled to Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai in China for talks with Chinese leaders Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. Nixon's trip was the first high-level contact between the United States and the People's Republic of China in more than twenty years, and it ushered in a new era of relations between Washington and Beijing. Several weeks later, in May 1972, Nixon visited Moscow for a summit meeting with Leonid Brezhnev, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and other Soviet leaders. Their talks led to the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), the first comprehensive and detailed nuclear weapons limitation pact between the two superpowers.

Foreign policy initiatives represented only one aspect of Nixon's presidency during his first term. In August 1969, Nixon proposed the Family Assistance Plan, a welfare reform that would have guaranteed an income to all Americans. The plan, however, did not receive congressional approval. In August 1971, spurred by high inflation rates, Nixon imposed wage and price controls in an effort to gain control of price levels in the U.S. economy at the same time, prompted by worries over the soundness of U.S. currency, Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard and let it float against other countries' currencies.

On July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. became the first humans to walk on the Earth's moon, while fellow astronaut Michael Collins orbited in the Apollo 11 command module. Nixon made what has been termed the longest-distance telephone call ever made to speak with the astronauts from the Oval Office. And on September 28, 1971, Nixon signed legislation abolishing the military draft.

In addition to such weighty affairs of state, Nixon's first term was also full of lighter-hearted moments. On April 29, 1969, Nixon awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, to Duke Ellington and then led hundreds of guests in singing "Happy Birthday" to the famed band leader.

On June 12, 1971, Tricia Nixon became the sixteenth White House bride when she and Edward Finch Cox of New York married in the Rose Garden. Theirs was the first wedding held in the Rose Garden. Julie Nixon had wed Dwight David Eisenhower II, grandson of President Eisenhower, on December 22, 1968, in New York's Marble Collegiate Church, while her father was President-elect.

Perhaps most famous was Nixon's meeting with Elvis Presley on December 21, 1970, when the President and the King of Rock 'n' Roll discussed the drug problem facing American youth.

Re-election, Second Term, and Watergate

In his 1972 bid for re-election, Nixon defeated South Dakota Senator George McGovern, the Democratic candidate for president, by one of the widest electoral margins ever, winning 520 electoral college votes to McGovern's 17 and nearly 61 percent of the popular vote. Just a few months later, investigations and public controversy over the Watergate scandal had sapped Nixon's popularity. The Watergate scandal began with the June 1972 discovery of a break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., but media and official investigations soon revealed a broader pattern of abuse of power by the Nixon administration, leading to his resignation.

The Watergate burglars were soon linked to officials of the Committee to Re-elect the President, the group that had run Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign. Soon thereafter, several administration officials resigned some, including former attorney general John Mitchell, were later convicted of offenses connected with the break-in and other crimes and went to jail. Nixon denied any personal involvement with the Watergate burglary, but the courts forced him to yield tape recordings of conversations between the president and his advisers indicating that the president had, in fact, participated in the cover-up, including an attempt to use the Central Intelligence Agency to divert the FBI's investigation into the break-in. (For more information about Watergate, please visit the Ford Presidential Library and Museum's online Watergate exhibit.)

Investigations into Watergate also revealed other abuses of power, including numerous warrantless wiretaps on reporters and others, campaign "dirty tricks," and the creation of a "Plumbers" unit within the White House. The Plumbers, formed in response to the leaking of the Pentagon Papers to news organizations by former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg, broke into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist.

Adding to Nixon's worries was an investigation into Vice President Agnew's ties to several campaign contributors. The Department of Justice found that Agnew had taken bribes from Maryland construction firms, leading to Agnew's resigning in October 1973 and his entering a plea of no contest to income tax evasion. Nixon nominated Gerald Ford, Republican leader in the House of Representatives, to succeed Agnew. Ford was confirmed by both houses of Congress and took office on December 6, 1973.

Such controversies all but overshadowed Nixon's other initiatives in his second term, such as the signing of the Paris peace accords ending American involvement in the Vietnam war in January 1973 two summit meetings with Brezhnev, in June 1973 in Washington and in June and July 1974 in Moscow and the administration's efforts to secure a general peace in the Middle East following the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

The revelations from the Watergate tapes, combined with actions such as Nixon's firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, badly eroded the president's standing with the public and Congress. Facing certain impeachment and removal from office, Nixon announced his decision to resign in a national televised address on the evening of August 8, 1974. He resigned effective at noon the next day, August 9, 1974. Vice President Ford then became president of the United States. On September 8, 1974, Ford pardoned Nixon for "all offenses against the United States" which Nixon "has committed or may have committed or taken part in" during his presidency. In response, Nixon issued a statement in which he said he regretted "not acting more decisively and forthrightly in dealing with Watergate."

Richard Milhous Nixon

Birth Date: January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California

Death Date: April 22, 1994, in New York City, New York

Father: Francis Anthony Nixon (1878-1956)
Born: Dec. 3, 1878, Elk, Ohio
Married: Hannah Milhous - June 25, 1908, Whittier, California
Died: Sept. 4, 1956, La Habra, California
Religion: Quaker

Mother: Hannah Milhous Nixon (1885-1967)
Born: March 7, 1885, near Butlerville, Indiana
Married: Frank Nixon on June 25, 1908, Whittier, California
Died: September 30, 1967, Whittier, California
Father: Franklin Milhous, 1848-1919
Mother: Almira Park Burdg Milhous, 1849-1943
Grandfather: Joshua Vickers Milhous, 1820-1883
Grandmother: Elizabeth Price Griffith, 1827-1923
Religion: Quaker

Paternal Grandparents: Samuel Brady Nixon (1847-1914) and Sarah Ann Wadsworth (1852-1886)

Maternal Grandparents: Franklin Milhous (1848-1919) and Almira Park Burdg (1849-1943)

Brothers:
Harold Samuel Nixon - Born June 1, 1909 died March 7, 1933 at age 23 from tuberculosis
Francis Donald Nixon - Born November 23, 1914 died June 27, 1987 at age 73 from cancer m. Clara Jane Lemke, August 9, 1942
Arthur Burdg Nixon - Born May 26, 1918 died August 10, 1925 at the age of 7 of tubercular encephalitis
Edward Calvert Nixon - Born May 3, 1930 m. Gay Lynne Woods, June 1, 1957

Thelma Catherine (Patricia) Ryan

Birth Date:March 16, 1912, in Ely, Nevada

Death Date:June 22, 1993, in Park Ridge, New Jersey

Father:William Ryan, Sr. (1866-1930)

Mother:Kate Halberstadt (1879-1926)

Siblings:Children of William Ryan, Sr. and Kate Halberstadt:
William Ryan, Jr., 1910-1997
Thomas Ryan, 1911-1992
Thelma Catherine "Pat" Ryan, 1912-1993

Children of Kate Halberstadt by her first marriage:
Mathew Bender, 1907-
Neva Bender (Renter), 1909-

The Nixons

Wedding: Thelma Catherine (Pat) Ryan and Richard Milhous Nixon married on June 21, 1940, in the Presidential Suite of the Mission Inn in Riverside, California, and honeymooned in Mexico.

Patricia (known as "Tricia") born on February 21, 1946 in Whittier, California. On June 12, 1971, Tricia became the sixteenth White House bride when she and Edward Finch Cox of New York married in the Rose Garden. They have one son: Christopher Nixon Cox (1979-).

Julie born on July 5, 1948 in Washington, D.C. Julie wed Dwight David Eisenhower II, grandson of President Eisenhower, on December 22, 1968, in New York's Marble Collegiate Church, while her father was President-elect. They have three children: Jennie Elizabeth Eisenhower (1978-) Alex Richard Eisenhower (1980-) and Melanie Catherine Eisenhower (1984-).

Checkers - Cocker Spaniel - given to Nixon Family in 1952, died 1964. Buried at Bideawee Association Pet Cemetery Memorial Park, Wantagh, Nassau County, New York.

White House Pets
King Timahoe - Irish Setter - given to President Nixon by staff in January 1969 - died circa 1979
Vicki - Miniature Poodle - Julie Nixon Eisenhower's pet - died circa 1976
Pasha - Yorkshire Terrier - Trisha Nixon Cox's pet - died circa 1978

The following list illustrates the wide range of social, cultural, and political events that occurred during the years of Richard Nixon's life (1913-1994).

  • January 9, 1913
    Richard Nixon is born in Yorba Linda, California, to Frank and Hannah Milhous Nixon.
  • June 28, 1914
    The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, leads within weeks to the outbreak of World War I.
  • November 7, 1917
    The Bolsheviks overthrow the Russian government in Petrograd (later Leningrad, still later St. Petersburg), leading to the formation of a Communist government, the sparking of a civil war within the former Russian empire, and finally, in December 1922, the foundation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
  • August 18, 1920
    Upon the Tennessee legislature's approval of the 19th amendment to the constitution, the document becomes law, guaranteeing that neither the federal government nor the state governments can deny women the right to vote.
  • 1928-1930
    Attends Whittier High School
  • October 29, 1929
    Stock market crash start of the Great Depression
  • 1930-1934
    Nixon attends Whittier College in Whittier, California
  • 1934-1937
    Nixon attends Duke University Law School in Durham, North Carolina.
  • November 9, 1937
    Admitted to California Bar and joins law firm of Wingert and Bewley in Whittier
  • January 1, 1939
    Becomes a partner in the reorganized law firm of Bewley, Knoop and Nixon opens a branch office in La Habra, California
  • September 1, 1939
    Germany invades Poland start of World War II
  • June 21, 1940
    Nixon marries Thelma Catherine ("Pat") Ryan in Riverside, California.
  • December 7, 1941
    Japanese attack on U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor
  • January 9, 1942
    Nixon moves to Washington, D.C., to join the Office of Price Administration, the federal agency charged with regulating wartime prices and and overseeing rationing.
  • June 15, 1942
    Receives commission as United States Navy Lieutenant (junior grade)
  • 1943-1945
    Nixon serves active duty in the U.S. Navy. Nixon is assigned to South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command as a ground officer he serves at New Caledonia, Bougainville, and Green Island.
  • August 6, 1945
    Following the end of hostilities in Europe, the war in the Pacific is brought to a close after the first military use of nuclear weapons against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan formally surrenders on September 2, 1945.
  • February 21, 1946
    Daughter Patricia ("Tricia") Nixon is born.
  • March 10, 1946
    Released from active duty in the United States Naval Reserve
  • November 5, 1946
    Elected to Congress, defeating incumbent Jerry Voorhis
  • January 3, 1947
    Nixon is sworn in as Representative for the Twelfth Congressional District of California. His tenure lasts until his resignation in November 1950 following his election to the Senate. Assigned to House Education and Labor Committee and House Committee on Un-American Activities
  • May 14, 1948
    Manages passage of Mundt-Nixon bill, the first piece of legislation passed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in ten years, providing for the annual registration of members of the Communist party
  • July 5, 1948
    Daughter Julie Nixon is born.
  • August 5, 1948-December 15, 1948
    Nixon brings former State Department official Alger Hiss to the witness stand of the House Un-American Activities Committee after Whittaker Chambers accuses Hiss of being a Soviet agent. The course of the Hiss case, which ended with Hiss' conviction for perjury, catapults Nixon into national attention.
  • October 1, 1949
    People's Republic of China formally proclaimed
  • November 7, 1950
    Nixon is elected as Senator for California and serves from December 1, 1950, until January 1, 1953.
  • May 1951
    Attends the World Health Organization Conference in Geneva, Switzerland
  • July 11, 1952
    Receives the Republican Vice-Presidential nomination
  • September 23, 1952
    In a nationally televised speech, Nixon responds to charges of improper use of campaign funds, which had jeopardized his spot on the Republican national ticket. During his defense, and after refuting the charges, he states that his wife wears only a "respectable Republican cloth coat" and the only gift he has kept was Checkers, the family's cocker spaniel--giving the appearance its other name, the "Checkers speech".
  • November 4, 1952
    Nixon is elected Vice President of the United States on the ticket of President Dwight Eisenhower.
  • January 20, 1953
    Inaugurated as Vice President
  • June 1, 1953
    Promoted to Commander in the Naval Reserve
  • June 2, 1953
    Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
  • August 13, 1953
    Made chairman of the President's committee on government contracts
  • October 6, 1953-December 14, 1953
    Goodwill tour of Asia and Africa
  • December 8, 1954
    Supreme Court decides Brown v. Board of Education, ordering integration of public schools in the United States.
  • June 2, 1955-March 5, 1955
    Goodwill tour of the Caribbean
  • September 24, 1955
    President Eisenhower suffers a heart attack
  • December 1, 1955
    Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat, sparking Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott
  • January 1956-February 1956
    Attends Brazilian presidential inauguration as the representative of the United States
  • June 30, 1956-July 11, 1956
    Goodwill tour of Asia
  • October 23, 1956-November 10, 1956
    Hungarian citizens revolt against the Hungarian government and Soviet influence in Hungary, leading to the occupation of the country by the Soviet Red Army.
  • October 29, 1956-November 7, 1956
    Suez crisis
  • November 6, 1956
    Nixon is re-elected Vice President of the United States to President Dwight Eisenhower.
  • December 18, 1956-December 24, 1956
    Visits Austria to inspect conditions of Hungarian refugees who fled Hungary after the unsuccessful revolt against Communist rule there.
  • January 21, 1957
    Public Inauguration
  • January 27, 1957
    Elvis single "Heartbreak Hotel" released
  • February 28, 1957-March 21, 1957
    Travels to Italy and Africa
  • September 25, 1957
    National Guard troops escort African-American students to class in Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of the desegregation of schools there.
  • October 4, 1957
    Soviet Union launches Sputnik, Earth's first artificial satellite.
  • April 27, 1958-May 15, 1958
    In Latin America trip, Nixon faces anti-Nixon riots in Lima, Peru, on May 8th and in Caracas, Venezuela, on May 13th.
  • November 24, 1958-November 29, 1958
    Travels to England
  • January 31, 1959
    Appointed chairman of Cabinet committee on price stability for economic growth
  • July 22, 1959-August 2, 1959
    Travels to the Soviet Union
  • July 24, 1959
    Nixon participates in spontaneous the "Kitchen Debate" with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev in a model kitchen in the American National Exhibition in Moscow. Nixon's strong showing against the Soviet leader gives him a new standing in the United States.
  • August 2, 1959-August 5, 1959
    Visits Poland
  • July 27, 1960
    Nixon receives Republican nomination for President.
  • September 26, 1960-October 21, 1960
    Nixon-Kennedy debates
  • November 8, 1960
    Loses Presidential election
  • March 13, 1961
    Joins Los Angeles law firm of Adams, Duque and Hazeltine
  • April 12, 1961
    Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes first human in space.
  • April 15, 1961
    Bay of Pigs Invasion
  • March 29, 1962
    Six Crises published
  • November 6, 1962
    Nixon is defeated in California gubernatorial race by Democratic incumbent Edmund G. "Pat" Brown. After his defeat becomes clear, Nixon tells reporters "You won't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."
  • 1963-1967
    Nixon practices law in New York City. Joins the law firm of Mudge, Stern, Baldwin and Todd. Reorganized firm becomes Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie and Alexander in 1964.
  • June 16, 1963
    Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes first woman in space.
  • November 22, 1963
    President John F. Kennedy assassinated
  • February 9, 1964
    The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • April 27, 1966
    Argues first case before the Supreme Court
  • June 1, 1966
    Retired from U.S. Naval Reserve
  • September 8, 1966
    First episode of Star Trek broadcast on television.
  • April 4, 1968
    Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated
  • June 5, 1968
    Robert Kennedy assassinated
  • August 8, 1968
    Nominated as Republican candidate for President
  • August 20, 1968
    Soviet troops invade Czechoslovakia, ending the "Prague Spring"
  • September 16, 1968
    Nixon appears on Rowan and Martin's "Laugh-in" delivering the famous phrase "Sock it to ME?"
  • November 5, 1968
    Nixon is elected 37th President of the United States.
  • December 22, 1968
    Nixon's daughter Julie marries Dwight David Eisenhower II, grandson of former president Dwight Eisenhower.
  • January 20
    Richard Milhous Nixon inaugurated President of the United States on the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Reference: Public Papers. Inaugural Address (1)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks at Andrews Air Force Base on Departing for Europe (66) and Remarks at Andrews Air Force Base on Returning from Europe (94). See also items (67)-(93) for remarks made during the trip.

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on Deployment of the Antiballistic Missile System (109)

Reference: Henry Kissinger. The White House Years. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1979, pgs. 239-254 and H. R. Haldeman. The Haldeman Diaries. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1994, pgs. 40-41

Reference: Public Papers. Special Message to the Congress on Reforming the Military Draft (194)

Reference: Public Papers. Letter Accepting the Resignation of Abe Fortas as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (197)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks Announcing the Nomination of Judge Warren Earl Burger to be Chief Justice of the United States (209) and Facts on File 1969 pgs. 343F2 390D2

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks at Honolulu en route to a Meeting with President Nguyen Van Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam at Midway Island (June 7, 1969) (230) Remarks Following Initial Meeting with President Thieu at Midway Island (231) Joint Statement Following the Meeting with President Thieu (232) Remarks at the Conclusion of Discussion with President Thieu (233) Remarks on Departure from Midway Island (234) Remarks on Return from Meeting with President Thieu at Midway Island (June 10, 1969) (235)

Reference: Facts on File 1969 p. 376A1

Reference: Facts on File 1969 p. 390D2

Reference: Public Papers. Telephone Conversation with the Apollo 11 Astronauts on the Moon (272)

Reference: Public Papers. Informal Remarks in Guam with Newsmen (279)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Arrival at Manila, the Philippines (281) Remarks on Departure from Pakistan (306) see also items (282)-(305)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Arrival at Bucharest, Romania (307) Remarks on Departure from Romania (310) see also items 308 and 309

Reference: Public Papers. Address to the Nation on Domestic Programs (324)

Reference: Public Papers. Appendix A, August 18, Announcement by the Press Secretary of the nomination of Judge Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr., as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

Reference: John Herbers. "Vietnam Moratorium observed nationwide by foes of the war." New York Times, October 16, 1969, p.1

Reference: Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, 396 U.S. 1218 (1969)

Reference: Public Papers. Address to the Nation on the War in Vietnam (425)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement Following the Senate Vote on the Nomination of Judge Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr., as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (454) and Facts on File 1969 p. 759C2

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on Signing the Instrument of Ratification of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (458)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on Signing the Tax Reform Act of 1969 (501) and Facts on File 1969 p. 839D3

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Signing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (1)

Reference: Public Papers. Appendix A, January 19, Biographical data on Judge G. Harrold Carswell nominated as Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court and Robert Semple. "Southerner Named to Supreme Court Carswell, 50, Viewed as Conservative," New York Times, January 20, 1970, p.1

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Vetoing the Labor-HEW-OEO Appropriations Bill (13) and Veto Message on the Labor-HEW-OEO Appropriations Bill (January 27, 1970) (14)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement Announcing an Expanded Federal Program to Combat Drug Abuse (76)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks to Reporters About Nominations to the Supreme Court (108) and Statement About Nominations to the Supreme Court (109) both made on April 9, as well as Facts on File 1970 p. 237D2

Reference: Public Papers. Statement About Nominations to the Supreme Court (108 ftn.) and Appendix A, April 14

Reference: Public Papers. Address to the Nation on the Situation in Southeast Asia (139)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on the Deaths of Four Students at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio (140)

Reference: Facts on File 1970 p. 326A1

Reference: Public Papers. Statement Announcing Extensions of Welfare Reform Proposals (183) and Facts on File 1970 p. 420E2

Reference: Public Papers. Special Message to the Congress about Reorganization Plans to Establish the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (215)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Arrival in Rome, Italy (304) and Remarks at Andrews Air Force Base on Returning from Europe (329). See also items (305)-(328)

Reference: Nixon Presidential Materials. White House Central Files HE 5-1 [EX], December 21, 1970, memo for the President and the National Archives' exhibit When Nixon Met Elvis

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Signing the Clean Air Amendments of 1970 (485). As enacted, the bill (H.R. 17255) is Public Law 91-604 (84 Stat. 1676).

  • January 31
    Apollo 14 (Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, Edgar Mitchell) lifts off on the third successful lunar landing mission.
  • February 5
    Apollo 14 lands on the moon.
  • February 8
    A new stock market index called the Nasdaq debuts.
  • February 9
    Satchel Paige becomes the first Negro League player to become voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • February 11
    Signs Executive Order 11582, "Observance of Holidays by Government Agencies," announcing the new Federal holiday calendar. This change adds Columbus Day as a legal public holiday and designates certain Mondays for five of the nine holidays. Nixon did not issue a proclamation changing the Federal holiday's name from "Washington's Birthday" to "President's Day."

Reference: C. L. Arbelbide, "By George, It IS Washington's Birthday," Prologue Winter 2004: 31-37.

Reference: John Powers, "The History of Presidential Audio Recordings and the Archival Issues Surrounding Their Use" (1996) available at: the University of Virginia's Miller Center

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on Signing Bill Increasing Social Security Benefits (107)

Reference: Swann v. Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1 (1971) and Facts on File 1971 p. 290C1

Reference: Public Papers. Appendix A, June 10, Statement: announcing termination of trade controls on nonstrategic U.S. exports to and imports from the People's Republic of China--by Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler

Reference: Washington Post "TV Coverage" June 12, 1971 "There will be no live television coverage of the White House wedding of Tricia Nixon and Edward Finch Cox today" p. C2

Reference: Sheehan, Neil. "Vietnam Archive: Pentagon Study Traces 3 Decades of Growing U. S. Involvement." New York Times, June 13, 1971, p. 1

Reference: Public Papers. Statement about ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution (219)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Signing the Emergency Employment Act of 1971 (227) and Statement about the Emergency Employment Act of 1971 (228)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks to the Nation Announcing Acceptance of an Invitation to Visit the People's Repbulic of China (231)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on Signing Executive Order Establishing the National Business Council for Consumer Affairs (252)

Reference: Public Papers. Address to the Nation Outlining a New Economic Policy: "The Challenge of Peace" (264) and Executive Order 11615

Reference: Facts on File 1971 p. 686F3 "Envoys sign Berlin draft. The four envoys who negotiated the Berlin draft agreement in August signed the accord Sept. 3 after it had been approved by the governments of the U.S., Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, the countries with responsibility for the future of Berlin."

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks at a Question-and-Answer Session with a 10-Member Panel of the Economic Club of Detroit (297 ftn. p. 976)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks at a Question-and-Answer Session with a 10-Member Panel of the Economic Club of Detroit (297 ftn. p. 976)

Reference: Public Papers. Address to the Nation Announcing Intention to Nominate Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and William H. Rehnquist to be Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States (337)

Reference: Facts on File 1971 p. 887A1. "Phase Two begins" and Executive Order 11627

Reference: Facts on File 1971 pgs. 846, 863, 885, 901, 924, 941, 961-963, and 985

Reference: Public Papers. Statement about Senate Confirmation of Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and William H. Rehnquist as Associate Justices of the Supreme Court (391) and Facts on File 1971 p. 947F2

Reference: Public Papers. Statement about Senate Confirmation of Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and William H. Rehnquist as Associate Justices of the Supreme Court (391) and Facts on File 1971 p. 970F2

Reference: Public Papers. Letter Announcing Candidacy for Renomination and Reelection (6)

Reference: Facts on File 1972 p. 9C1

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on Signing the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (46)

Reference: Public Papers. Chronology of Visit to the People's Republic of China (63A). See also items (64)-(73)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement about Signing the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 (105)

Reference: Public Papers. Address to the Nation on the Situation in Southeast Asia (147)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement about Attempt on Life of Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama (151)

Reference: Public Papers. Chronology of Visit to Austria, the Soviet Union, Iran, and Poland (162A). See also items (163)-(188)

Reference: Watergate: Chronology of a Crisis. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1975, p. xv

Reference: Nixon Presidential Materials. White House Tapes, June 23, 1972, Conversation Number 741-2

Reference: Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement about Signing the Veterans' Compensation and Relief Act of 1972 (218)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Accepting the Presidential Nomination of the Republican National Convention (266)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks to Reporters about the Assault on Israeli Athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany (287)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Being Reelected to the Presidency (414)

Reference: Information Please Almanac Atlas and Yearbook 1974. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973, p.68 and Facts on File 1972 p.1013A1

Reference: Public Papers. Appendix B, December 30, ". In a news briefing following the announcement, Deputy Press Secretary Gerald L. Warren stated, 'The President has ordered that all bombing will be discontinued above the 20th parallel as long as serious negotiations are under way.'" and Information Please Almanac Atlas and Yearbook 1974. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973, p.68

Reference: Public Papers. Special Message to the Congress Announcing Phase III of the Economic Stabilization Program and Requesting Extension of Authorizing Legislation (6) and Executive Order 11695

Reference: Public Papers. Oath of Office and Second Inaugural Address (8)

Reference: Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)

Reference: Public Papers. Address to the Nation Announcing Conclusion of an Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam (12)

Reference: Information Please Almanac Atlas and Yearbook 1974. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973, p.68 and Public Papers. Address to the Nation Announcing Conclusion of an Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam (12)

Reference: Watergate: Chronology of a Crisis. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1975, p. xxi 9-11 Ford Library Watergate Exhibit and United States v. George Gordon Liddy, Everett Howard Hunt, James W. Mccord, Bernard L. Barker, Eugenio R. Martinez, et al. (U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia CR 827-72)

Reference: Watergate: Chronology of a Crisis. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1975, p. 3 and Ford Library Watergate Exhibit

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on the Return of the First Group of American Prisoners of War from Southeast Asia (February 11) (38) and James P. Sterba, "Airlift is Begun." New York Times, February 12, 1973, p.1

Reference: Nixon Presidential Materials. White House Tapes, March 21, 1973, Conversation Number 886-8

Reference: Public Papers. Veto of the Vocational Rehabilitation Bill (91)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement Announcing Resignation of the Attorney General and Members of the White House Staff, and Intention to Nominate Elliot L. Richardson to be Attorney General (133)

Reference: Watergate: Chronology of a Crisis. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1975, p. 28 and Senate Resolution 105

Reference: Public Papers. Statement about Signing a Bill Extending the Economic Stabilization Act of 1970 (137)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement about Signing a Bill Increasing Social Security Benefits (200)

Reference: Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, National Archives and Records Administration

Reference: Hearings Before the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities of the United States Senate, Phase I: Watergate Investigation, Book 5. Washington: GPO, 1973

Reference: Hearings Before the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities of the United States Senate, Phase I: Watergate Investigation, Book 5. Washington: GPO, 1973

Reference: Public Papers. Statement Announcing Measures to be Taken under Phase IV of the Economic Stabilization Program (207) and Executive Order 11730

Reference: Information Please Almanac Atlas and Yearbook 1974. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973, p. 24 and Lyons, Richard L. "Impeachment Move Offered." Washington Post, August 1, 1973, p. A1

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on Signing the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act of 1973 (231)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks at the Swearing In of Henry A. Kissinger as Secretary of State (268)

Reference: Kissinger, Henry. Years of Upheaval. Boston: Little Brown, 1982 pgs. 450-575

Reference: Public Papers. Letter to Spiro T. Agnew about his Decision to Resign as Vice President (290)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks Announcing Intention to Nominate Gerald R. Ford to be Vice President (294)

Reference: Public Papers. Letter Accepting the Resignation of Elliot L. Richardson as Attorney General (308) and Letter Directing the Acting Attorney General to Discharge the Director of the Office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force (309)

Reference: Public Papers. Veto of the War Powers Resolution (311)

Reference: Public Papers. Appendix B, December 6, "The President accompanied Gerald R. Ford to the House Chamber at the Capitol where Mr. Ford took the oath of office as the 40th Vice President of the United States."

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Signing a Bill Establishing the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (356) and (87 Stat. 697)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on Signing the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act (3)

Reference: Watergate: Chronology of a Crisis. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1975, p. 521 Ford Library Watergate Exhibit and House Resolution 803

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks Following a Meeting with Arab Foreign Ministers to Discuss Prospects for Peace in the Middle East (52)

Reference: Public Papers. Veto of the Energy Emergency Bill (69)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement on Signing the Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1974 (104)

Reference: Public Papers. Address to the Nation Announcing Answer to the House Judiciary Committee Subpoena for Additional Presidential Tape Recordings (122)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Signing the Federal Energy Administration Act of 1974 (130)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Departure for the Middle East (170). See also items (171)-(193)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Departure for Belgium and the Soviet Union (198). See also items (199)-(211)

Reference: Public Papers. Statement Announcing Intention to Comply with Supreme Court decision Requiring Production of Presidential Tape Recordings (228) and 418 U.S. 683 (1974)

Reference: Watergate: Chronology of a Crisis. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1975, p. 752 and Ford Library Watergate Exhibit

Reference: Public Papers. Address to the Nation Announcing Decision to Resign the Office of the President of the United States (244)

Reference: Public Papers. Remarks on Departure from the White House (245) and Nixon Presidential Materials. Daily Diary, August 9, 1974, Box RC 14


That Time the Middle East Exploded—and Nixon Was Drunk

Tim Weiner is a former New York Times correspondent and the author of five books. This article is adapted from his latest, One Man Against The World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Tim Weiner. All rights reserved.

The Nixon administration began disintegrating—the president unable to play his role as the leader of the nation and the free world—at 7:55 p.m. on October 11, 1973.

The newly appointed secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, picked up his telephone. His trusted aide at the National Security Council, Brent Scowcroft, was on the line from the White House. The Arab-Israeli war of 1973 was in its fifth day, escalating toward a global crisis and a potential nuclear conflict.

SCOWCROFT: The switchboard just got a call from 10 Downing Street to inquire whether the president would be available for a call within 30 minutes from the prime minister. The subject would be the Middle East.

KISSINGER: Can we tell them no? When I talked to the president he was loaded.

President Richard Nixon—ravaged by more than four years of war in Vietnam, 15 months of Watergate investigations and countless nights of intense insomnia—was incapacitated.

As Nixon sank deeper into the swamp of the Watergate scandal, Kissinger gained an imperial power over foreign policy. And his former underling, Gen. Alexander M. Haig, now the White House chief of staff, behaved like the acting president of the United States. “Actually Al Haig was the president of the United States,” said William Lloyd Stearman, the NSC’s leading Indochina expert.

Nixon occasionally unburdened himself on the telephone after midnight—exhausted, intoxicated or both. He talked to Haig about quitting in one taped conversation back in May 1973, 15 months before he resigned, after he learned that Vice President Spiro T. Agnew was facing indictment for bribery and corruption.

“Wouldn’t it be better for the country, you know, to just check out?” Nixon said. Haig laughed. “No, no, seriously,” Nixon insisted. “You see, I’m not at my best. I’ve got to be at my best, and that means fighting this damn battle, fighting it all-out. And I can’t fight the damn battle,” not with bad news hammering him hour after hour. “The goddamn thing has gotten to me. … And you get to the point that, well, if you can’t do the goddamn job you better put somebody in there that can.”

But Nixon had to fight the damn battle himself—a battle that intensified in the fall of 1973.

On the afternoon of October 10, hours after Agnew’s resignation, Nixon told Elliot Richardson, the attorney general, “Now that we have disposed of that matter, we can go ahead and get rid of Cox.”

The Senate Watergate Committee hearings had revealed the existence of Nixon’s secret White House tapes the special prosecutor in the Watergate case, Archibald Cox, had subpoenaed nine conversations. The president refused to turn over the tapes, and was determined to oust Cox from his job.

But Nixon could not fire Cox. Under an agreement Nixon himself had struck, only Attorney General Richardson had that power.

“We’ve got an even worse problem than Agnew,” Richardson said to his newly appointed deputy William D. Ruckelhaus, five days after his afternoon conversation with Nixon.

“That’s not possible,” Ruckelshaus said.

“Yes, it is,” Richardson replied. “The president wants to fire Cox.”

Nixon had a new incentive for this improper demand: His ousted White House counsel, John Dean, had just agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of justice. Under the plea agreement, struck with Cox, Dean would first serve as a sworn government witness against the president’s men—and the president himself.

“The president all along intended either to force Cox’s resignation or induce Richardson to fire him,” Ruckelshaus said in 2009. “The reason was simple. Cox was getting too close. In the nine tapes in question, or those subsequently acquired by the special prosecutor, were several smoking guns. … The act of firing Cox was that of a desperate man. Adverse public reaction must have seemed preferable to handing your accuser the still-hot weapon with your fingerprints all over it.”

The showdown came on Saturday, October 20. Cox called a press conference: “I am certainly not out to get the president of the United States,” he said, but Nixon was not complying with the law or the legal agreement that gave Cox the right to follow the evidence where it led.

Richardson, after receiving an angry telephone call from Haig ordering him to fire Cox forthwith, requested a face-to-face meeting with Nixon. The meeting took place at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. It was short and ugly. Richardson refused and resigned. He was back in his office, beginning to describe the confrontation to Ruckelshaus and the third-ranking man in the Justice Department—the solicitor general, Robert Bork, whose job was to represent the president before the Supreme Court—when the phone rang again. Al Haig calling: This time for Ruckelshaus.

Their conversation was brief—and brutal, too. Fire Cox now, Haig said this is an order from your commander in chief. Ruckelshaus declined. He was fired forthwith. Bob Bork was now the acting attorney general of the United States—and Haig wanted him to carry out the president’s command. “Both Elliot and I had urged Bork to comply if his conscience would permit,” Ruckelshaus remembered. “We were frankly worried about the stability of the government. Bork indicated to us that he believed the president had the power to fire Cox, and he was simply the instrument of the exercise of that power.” In exchange, Bork wrote in a posthumously published memoir, Nixon offered him the next available seat on the Supreme Court. (Bork would never get that seat. Ten months later, the Supreme Court unanimously ordered Nixon to unhand the tapes, which proved that the president tried to obstruct justice in the FBI’s Watergate investigation.)

At 8:00 p.m. on October 20, the White House announced that Richardson had resigned and Ruckelshaus and Cox had been fired. The special prosecutor’s office was abolished by presidential order and sealed by FBI agents. Thus ended the Saturday Night Massacre and began a political conflagration. When asked what he would do next, Cox’s spokesman James Doyle said, “I’m going home to read about the Reichstag fire.”

The night that the battles of Watergate became a constitutional cataclysm, the war in the Middle East almost went global.

On October 20, the Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria had been going on for nearly two weeks. Syria and Egypt, who wanted to regain territories lost in the Six-Day War, launched a joint surprise attack on Sinai and the Golan Heights on October 6 and gained the upper hand in the first days of the war thanks to the element of surprise. Israel and the United States, which relied heavily on Israeli intelligence, were caught unaware.

“All our intelligence said there would be no attack,” Kissinger said at an emergency Cabinet meeting on October 18th. “Why did Israel not figure there would be an attack?” He answered his own question, as was his style. The Israelis thought “there was no threat. The Arabs are too weak. So they interpreted the intelligence this way. We did the same.”

The Israelis pleaded for American arms to help repel the invaders. Kissinger, Haig, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Thomas Moorer tried to mobilize a covert airlift of American weapons. Owing to a series of snafus, secrecy was lost. Giant U.S. Air Force cargo planes, their insignias visible, landed in Tel Aviv, as television cameras whirred and Israelis cheered.

Both the Soviets and the Saudis had warned the Americans that this war in the Middle East was coming. The Saudis had explicitly told William Casey, the undersecretary of state for economic affairs and future CIA director, that they would use oil as a weapon unless America used its influence to pacify the Israeli army in its continuous conflicts with the Arabs. It had been only six years since the Arabs and Israelis last clashed.

A few months earlier, Casey’s assistant Willis C. Armstrong had attended a lunch with Casey, the Saudi foreign minister and the Saudi oil minister. He vividly recalled that the Saudis had said, “If you don’t do something to restrain the Israelis, there’s going to be a war in the Middle East. When the war breaks out, we’re going to have to put an embargo on oil to the United States.”

Armstrong remembered: “Casey and I looked at each other after the lunch, and I said, ‘Shall we write that up?’ He said, ‘Nobody would believe us.’ ”

But the embargo started shortly after the American arms shipments arrived in Israel. The world price of oil soon quintupled. Millions of Americans would spend hours sitting in their cars, waiting in line to fill their gas tanks.

The Soviets, meanwhile, became deeply involved in the war, resupplying their allies in Syria and Egypt. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sent Nixon an increasingly tense series of messages in mid October, the first proposing they work together diplomatically to stop the war, the second strongly suggesting that a joint U.S.-Soviet military task force serve as peacekeepers. A brief ceasefire had stopped the war, but then the Israelis broke it by striking at Egyptian forces.

The third message from Moscow was a threat: The Soviet military might act unilaterally in the Middle East.

The threat was real. American intelligence sensors in the Dardanelles, the narrow strait connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, detected Soviet ships carrying nuclear arms. This startling fact was confirmed 30 years later by David Michael Ransom and Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC staffers under Kissinger.

“The Soviets were shipping warheads to Egypt,” said Ransom, later a U.S. ambassador in the Middle East. “That sent Kissinger into an extraordinary series of moves to bring the fighting to an end.”

These moves began one hundred hours after the Saturday Night Massacre, in the White House Situation Room. The president was not present. “Nixon was in his family quarters,” Sonnenfeldt said. “There were rumors that he was drunk.” They were not rumors.

Kissinger, Schlesinger, Admiral Moorer, Al Haig and CIA director Bill Colby were the principals. Their midnight conclave was recorded only in Moorer’s diary, which was declassified in 2007 until then, the meeting remained one of the more mysterious events in modern American history.

Moorer’s diary for the night of October 24 begins at 10:30 p.m., when Kissinger’s high-ranking aide Larry Eagleburger called Moorer for an urgent meeting in the Situation Room. The record begins: “We had just received a real piss-swisher from Brezhnev regarding the Arab/Israeli Conflict.” ( Piss-swisher is navy slang its polite equivalent is pot-stirrer.)

“The Brezhnev letter proposed that the USSR/US urgently dispatch to Egypt, Soviet and American military contingents to ensure implementation of the Ceasefire and, further, containing the threatening sentence: ‘ … it is necessary to adhere without delay. I’ll say it straight. If you find it impossible to act jointly with us in this matter we should be faced with the necessity urgently to consider the question of taking appropriate steps unilaterally.’ ”

All agreed that what the Soviets proposed in the Middle East was a potential disaster. If U.S. and Soviet soldiers started landing in the middle of the battle, each side standing with its allies, it could look like the opening day of World War III.

“This would not be a NATO war,” Moorer wrote (his italics are verbatim). “Any direct confrontation on the ground with the Soviets would be very difficult. In short, the Middle East is the worst place in the world for the US to get engaged in a war with the Soviets.” No one disagreed.

“The big question then became Why did the Soviets suddenly reverse themselves and without any warning all day then ‘bang’ we receive the Brezhnev threat?”

Nobody had any clear answers. But they all surmised that the Soviets were responding to Israel’s violating the brief cease-fire. That broke the camel’s back, Kissinger agreed.

Kissinger had bigger thoughts, recorded word for word by Moorer: “the Soviets were influenced by the current situation the President finds himself in … if the Democrats and the US public do not stop laying siege to their government, sooner or later, someone will take a run at us. … Friday the Pres US was in good shape domestically. Now the Soviets see that he is, in their mind, non-functional. … The overall strategy of the Soviets now appears to be one of throwing détente on the table since we have no functional President, in their eyes, and, consequently, we must prevent them from getting away with this.

In the absence of a functioning president, these five men, led by Kissinger, decided to send strong signals to the Soviets to back off. They raised America’s global nuclear alert level to DEFCON III, one step short of imminent nuclear war. They dispatched three warships to the Mediterranean, alerted the 82nd Airborne Division, and recalled 75 B-52 nuclear bombers from Guam. Since that entailed the immediate movement of many thousands of American soldiers, sailors and airmen, Moorer said the decisions would immediately be leaked—not a bad thing, since the Americans wanted to signal to the Soviets how seriously they took the threat.

“At 0400 we went to bed to await the Soviet response,” Moorer’s record ended, save for one last thought: “If the Soviets put in 10,000 troops into Egypt what do we do?”

The United States might have gone to war—or it might have done nothing. As Larry Eagleburger, who served as secretary of state under President George H. W. Bush, later noted, “One of the things that I recall now with a great deal more equanimity than I did at the time is what was never really understood: the degree to which the Watergate crisis, particularly in its final months, meant that if we had been put to the test somewhere in the foreign policy arena, we would not have been able to respond. We were a ship dead in the water.”

This story was excerpted from Tim Weiner's book One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, out in hardcover from Henry Holt & Co. on June 16.

Through good luck and, perhaps, blind fortune, Moscow and Washington backed away from the specter of a Third World War. Kissinger, to his great credit, began a three-year attempt to try to negotiate peace in the Middle East. To his discredit, when word of the nuclear alert leaked, as it did almost instantly, he deceived the press, saying the president had saved the day, when Nixon had spent the night in a drunken stupor.

The other question raised by reporters was how a handful of unelected officials could raise a global military alert and send nuclear bombers aloft in a secret midnight meeting without consulting Congress. In the charged atmosphere created by the Saturday Night Massacre, it looked like the Nixon administration might indeed become a government of men, not laws.

It seemed worse to Elliot Richardson, the sacked attorney general. He reflected in a memoir: “A government of laws was on the verge of becoming a government of one man.”

Nixon had reasons to drink himself to sleep on the night of October 24th. The president had told Kissinger that day that his enemies wanted “to kill the president. I may physically die.”

Real threats faced Richard Nixon along with his roiling fears.

Just hours before the Situation Room meeting, the House of Representatives, for the first time since 1868, had begun formal proceedings to impeach the president of the United States.


The American nuclear “football,” officially known as the Presidential Emergency Satchel, first came into use in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. “What would I say to the Joint War Room to launch an immediate nuclear strike?” asked President John F. Kennedy. “How would the person who received my instructions verify them?” Evidently, he did not receive a satisfactory answer.

American military officials solved this problem by creating a briefcase that would give the president the means to quickly receive information and authorize a nuclear strike. It was first photographed in the hands of a military aide on May 10, 1963, when President Kennedy was on a trip in Massachusetts. A nuclear war plan at the time was code-named “Dropkick”—a sequence that naturally would require a “football”—hence the briefcase’s nickname.

Contents and Operation

President John F. Kennedy returns to the White House in 1962. Courtesy of Abbie Rowe, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Bill Gulley, the former director of the White House Military Office, revealed its contents in his 1980 book Breaking Cover: “There are four things in the Football. The Black Book containing the retaliatory options, a book listing classified site locations, a manila folder with eight or ten pages stapled together giving a description of procedures for the Emergency Broadcast System, and a three-by-five inch card with authentication codes [which the president usually carries separately from the football].”

President Jimmy Carter, however, found the retaliatory options inside the football overly complicated, so he ordered the creation of a simplified set of war plans. Colonel Robert “Buzz” Patterson, a military aide to President Bill Clinton, explained that the resulting list was similar to a “Denny’s breakfast menu. It’s like picking one out of Column A and two out of Column B.”

Contrary to popular belief, the football does not contain a nuclear button nor can the president launch a strike directly from the briefcase. Instead, the president can authorize a nuclear attack which is then carried out by the military. The president cannot authorize a strike, however, without the nuclear codes—or Gold Codes—written on a plastic card known as “the biscuit.”

Once the president orders an attack, the nuclear codes are confirmed by the Pentagon and are carried throughout the chain of command, including the bombers, submarines, and missile silos that make up the nuclear triad. A “two-man rule” during each step ensures that no single person is ever responsible for launching a nuclear attack. The first bombs will strike their targets within 30 minutes of the president’s command.

The Secretary of Defense is legally required to comply with the president’s orders, and a strike can only be stopped if multiple people in the chain of command disobey the order. As former Vice President Dick Cheney explained in 2008, “[The president] could launch a kind of devastating attack the world’s never seen. He doesn’t have to check with anybody. He doesn’t have to call the Congress. He doesn’t have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in.” In the fall of 2017, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to consider the requirement of congressional approval for a preemptive nuclear attack. Senator Ed Markey also introduced a bill to Congress entitled “No Unconstitutional Strike Against North Korea,” but it remains unlikely to pass in the near future.

The Utah company Zero Halliburton manufactures the footballs, which are made from a modified aluminum briefcase and wrapped in black leather. Once filled with the necessary equipment and documents, each football weighs approximately 45 pounds. When the president is away from the White House, a military aide carrying the football is never more than a few steps away, even in elevators. Five military aides, who are also designated to brief the president in the event of a nuclear attack, rotate this responsibility. Colonel Patterson recalled the thrill of carrying the football: “You’re always kind of on edge. I opened it up constantly just to refresh myself, to always be aware of what was in it, all the potential decisions the president could possibly make.”

A second football is kept close to the vice president, while a backup resides at the White House. A retired, empty football is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Notable Incidents

Since the creation of the football, there have been a number of incidents which theoretically could have impeded the president’s ability to launch a nuclear strike.

In the summer of 1974—the final days of Richard Nixon’s presidency, when he was depressed and drinking heavily—the president reportedly announced at a meeting with congressional leaders, “I can go in my office and pick up a telephone, and in 25 minutes, millions of people will be dead.” A shocked Senator Alan Cranston warned Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger about “the need for keeping a berserk president from plunging us into a holocaust.” In response, Schlesinger allegedly gave top military officials an unprecedented standing order: should the president authorize a nuclear attack, they were to check with him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before continuing. Historians, however, continue to debate the accuracy of this episode.

There have also been a series of incidents involving “the biscuit” which contains the nuclear codes. President Jimmy Carter, who served in the White House from 1977 to 1981, once left his codes in the pocket of a suit jacket that was sent to the dry cleaners. After the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981, his biscuit was tossed into a trash can at the George Washington University hospital when medical staff stripped off his clothes. The FBI recovered it soon after, and returned the codes to the White House. Perhaps most infamously of all, President Bill Clinton reportedly lost his biscuit for several months. “The codes were actually missing for months,” said General Hugh Shelton. “That’s a big deal—a gargantuan deal.”

In 1999, Clinton left a NATO meeting in such a hurry that the football was actually left behind. The military aide responsible carried the nuclear briefcase a half mile back to the White House without incident. During President Donald Trump’s visit to China in 2017, Chinese officials tried to stop the military aide carrying the football from entering the auditorium in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, although the situation was quickly resolved.


Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Posted On April 29, 2020 15:49:51

Body armor for your average infantry troop has come a long way. Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are issued amazing technology designed to stop the most common threat they will likely face in combat: the rifle round. But the tech that will stop a lethal bullet isn’t just one miracle material that they can wear all over their bodies. There is a combination of forces at work, working to stop another combination of forces.

Soldiers don the Interceptor Armor before going on patrol in Iraq.

Kevlar itself is a plastic material five times stronger than steel. Everything about the material, from how it’s woven, right down to its molecular structure just screams strength. Its tensile strength is eight times that of steel. It doesn’t melt, it doesn’t get brittle with cold, and is unaffected by moisture. Kevlar is an awesome antiballistic material because it takes incredible amounts of kinetic energy to pass through it. Its molecular structure is like that of rebar through solid concrete, and forces a bullet to fight its way through at every level.

When layered, the material can sort of “soak up” a lot of the kinetic energy from a projectile. For most low-velocity handguns and even some of the more powerful handguns, a few layers of Kevlar is enough protection. But for high-velocity rifles, it needs some help. That’s where ceramic plates come in.

The standard AK-47 fires with a muzzle velocity of 716 meters per second. For Kevlar alone to protect a soldier from that kind of kinetic energy, the Kevlar would have to have more layers than a troop could carry while retaining the mobility necessary to perform his or her job functions. Kevlar is lightweight, but it’s not weightless, after all. The standard-issue Interceptor body armor was not tested to stop rounds at that velocity, which is classified as Level III protection. The Interceptor Armor does have pockets on the outside of the vests, so ceramic plates can be inserted to upgrade the armor to Level-IIIA.

Just like the Kevlar, the ceramic plates redistribute the kinetic energy of an incoming rifle round, slowing it down enough that it would not be able to penetrate the Kevlar, if it passed through the ceramic at all. It also prevents blunt force trauma from other rounds that may not penetrate the Kevlar, but still cause indentations in the material. The impact from bullets that don’t penetrate the Kevlar can still cause internal injuries. Ceramic inserts are rated to stop whatever projectiles are listed on the plate, and can take up to three hits before failing.

The ESAPI plate saved Sgt. Joseph Morrissey when he was hit in the chest with a 7.62mm round from about 30 meters while deployed to Afghanistan.


Watch the video: Nixon Intervenes in Postal Strike (October 2022).

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