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The Largest Dinner in White House History

 

On May 24, 1973, the President and Mrs. Nixon hosted the returned Vietnam Prisoners of War and their guests at the largest dinner ever held at the White House – before or since.  Nearly 1,300 people filled the enormous tent erected on the South Lawn.
China and crystal was rented to set the 126 tables.  Two aluminum canoes were filled with ice to chill the champagne.  And because of heavy rains that day, straw was spread on the grass in an unsuccessful effort to keep the guests from sinking into the soggy lawn.
A star-studded group of the biggest names in Hollywood entertained after dinner, with Bob Hope serving as emcee.  Each of the stars had previously traveled to South Vietnam to entertain the troops during the war, many of them as part of Bob Hope’s annual Christmas shows there.
After years of confinement, the returned POWs fully enjoyed this special evening at the White House.  Dancing went on well after two o’clock the following morning.



The fact sheet outlines the menu, entertainment, and seating arrangements for the President’s, Mrs. Nixon’s, and the Vice President’s tables. It also discusses the importance of the flag flown over the White House for the event as well as information on the prisoners of war.

 

For more information, contact us at 714-983-9120 or Nixon@nara.gov.

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