January 1973 Tapes Chronology | List of January 1973 Tapes
This release comprises conversations involving the President and a variety of participants primarily in January 1973. The most frequent participants are White House staff members H. R. Haldeman, Henry A. Kissinger, Charles W. Colson, Ronald L. Ziegler, John D. Ehrlichman, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Stephen B. Bull, and Richard T. Kennedy. Others include members of the Cabinet, foreign dignitaries, members of Congress, the President’s friends and family, journalists, celebrities, and members of the White House staff and federal agencies. While the conversations document the entire scope of issues in which the Nixon White House engaged in early 1973, these conversations particularly concern the peace settlement ending United States involvement in the Vietnam War and the return of American prisoners of war from Southeast Asia. Other major topics include visits from foreign dignitaries for former President Harry S. Truman’s memorial services, maintaining US access to oil produced in the Middle East in the face of tighter controls by the Organization for Oil Producing Countries (OPEC), and the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion rights in Roe v. Wade.
The Library reviews individual tapes in their entirety. The US Secret Service, which operated the taping system in 1973, only replaced tapes when they had been fully recorded. As a result a few of the tapes from the end of January 1973 include conversations from February. Those have been included in this release.
In late January 1973, the United States reached an agreement to end American involvement in the war in Vietnam. The New Year began with the Nixon White House considering additional negotiations with North Vietnam following the decision in late December to halt the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong harbor. Besides speculation about the resumption of negotiations, recorded
conversations in early January shed light on the participants’ evaluations of the December bombing and reveal growing Congressional support for cutting off funding for the war.
On January 3, President Nixon and his National Security Advisor Dr. Kissinger met in the Oval Office to set strategy for the next round of negotiations and to discuss the likely future of Nguyen Van Thieu’s government in South Vietnam. The two men continued this discussion on January 4. That same day the tapes captured a briefing for the President by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, on the military situation in Vietnam and the effectiveness of the December bombing campaign.
Four days later US-North Vietnamese negotiations resumed in Paris. On January 9, President Nixon’s birthday, Dr. Kissinger sent word from Paris that so much progress had been made that he believed a settlement was imminent. The tapes provide a glimpse of the President’s reaction to Dr. Kissinger’s cable. In conversations with Dr. Kissinger’s new deputy Colonel Richard T. Kennedy and his former deputy General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., who had recently been appointed as Army Vice Chief of Staff, President Nixon considered the possible timing of a settlement with Hanoi, and the need to consult with Saigon.
There are no tapes from January 13-18 because the President spent that period in Key Biscayne, Florida.
When the President returned to the White House, the Paris negotiations were reaching their final stages. The tapes suggest presidential concern that President Thieu of South Vietnam would reject the settlement. On January 20, in a telephone conversation with his aide Charles Colson, the President considered the possibility of pushing ahead with an agreement with Hanoi even if President Thieu were to reject it. President Thieu did resist and other conversations from January 20-23, involving Dr. Kissinger and General Haig indicate the President’s reaction to President Thieu’s attempts to insist on additional changes in the settlement. Ultimately, the South Vietnamese government accepted the agreement which was initialed by Dr. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in Paris. And on January 23, President Nixon announced the peace settlement to the world. The tapes from that day reveal the President working on the Vietnam settlement speech and his consultations with the Congressional leadership. The tapes also show a reflective President who shares with aides thoughts on the nature of the ceasefire and the future prospects for peace in Southeast Asia.
Tapes from January 23 and the days that follow also reveal White House discussions about press strategy and approaches to take with prominent critics of the war. On January 30, the President met with South Vietnamese Foreign Minister Tran Van Lam and Ambassador Tran Kim Phuong in the Oval Office to discuss future relations between South Vietnam and the United States. Historians may find interesting both his personal assurances to the Thieu government and the obligations he delineated on behalf of the United States. The next day the President and Dr. Kissinger discussed the future prospects for the Saigon government. Also on January 31, the President discussed the Vietnam settlement with former Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, in a conversation that also touched on US-Japanese relations.
This release also includes a number of notable telephone conversations from February 1973 that bear on the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam settlement. These conversations include President Nixon discussing expectations for the cease-fire and peace settlement with Senate Majority Leader Michael J. Mansfield, Secretary of State Rogers, and Dr. Kissinger. In mid-February, the President spoke with several wives of American prisoners of war about their husbands’ impending release and return.
The 1973 Inauguration and the Second Term
The tapes contain many conversations about President Nixon’s second inauguration, writing his inaugural address, and the events surrounding the occasion. The issue of reorganizing the executive branch for the second term, a theme present in the November 1972 and December 1972 tapes, appears in several January conversations.
The Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade
On January 22, the Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in the abortion rights case Roe v. Wade. The next day, President met with Charles Colson in the President’s office in the Executive Office Building. The recording, though difficult to hear, includes a discussion of Roe v. Wade. The President and Colson consider the problem of abortion, its justification, and the implications of the decision on families and sexual mores. They also briefly speculated on the identity of the two justices who dissented from the opinion.
The January tapes include several conversations relating to Watergate, most of which were already made public as part of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF) tapes release in 1991 and the Abuse of Government Power (AOGP) tape releases in 1993 and 1996. The first Watergate trial, involving the break-in and presided over by Judge John J. Sirica, began on January 10 and ended January 30. Among these are discussions about White House knowledge of Donald Segretti and campaign activities against Democratic presidential candidates and about warrantless wiretapping. Two of the January conversations between the President and Charles Colson relating to possible clemency for E. Howard Hunt were previously released. This release, however, includes a previously unopened conversation between the two men on January 6, involving the question of Hunt’s state of mind, the death of his wife in a December 1972 plane crash and the course of the Watergate trial. This release also includes new discussions involving the President and his aides about using Executive privilege as a defense against future investigations, and one between the President and Charles Colson about former Attorney General John Mitchell and former Deputy Director of the Committee to Re-Elect the President Jeb Stuart Magruder.
The Middle East
In the early 1970s, oil producing nations launched an effort to acquire greater control over their reserves. A landmark agreement by OPEC, brokered by the Saudi government in the summer of 1972, and the announcement of a new Iranian policy on January 23, 1973 set the tone for White House conversations that same month about the security of American oil supplies and the future of US-Iranian relations. Saudi success in requiring 51% participation in the oil profits of the Seven Sisters oil companies in 1972 inspired the Shah of Iran to seek a better deal from the western oil consortium that had controlled Iranian reserves since 1954. In January Iran presented western companies with a stark choice: either immediate nationalization of the oil fields in return for long-term preferential purchasing contracts; or the continuation of the existing relationship, with some modest adjustments, until 1979, when Iran would nationalize its fields and the oil companies would lose all special privileges. Concerned about the strategic consequences of this new regional reality, President Nixon chose a new ambassador for Teheran who was familiar with the geopolitical implications of the Shah’s relationships with both Washington and the oil companies. In a telephone conversation with former CIA director and US ambassador-designate Richard Helms on January 25, 1973, President Nixon outlined the key role he expected his new envoy to play. Former Treasury Secretary John Connally met with President Nixon on January 31, to recommend an aggressive US strategy to secure as much control of Middle Eastern oil reserves as possible.
The tapes in this release contain a little about preparations for Prime Minister Golda Meir’s March 1973 visit to Washington, DC. On January 25, President Nixon met with Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin in the Oval Office to discuss the upcoming visit and developments in the Middle East.
The Death of President Harry Truman
Memorial services for former President Harry S. Truman, who died in late December 1972, brought a number of visiting foreign dignitaries to Washington, DC. On January 5, President Nixon met with Israeli President S. Zalman Shazar, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Chong-pil, Prime Minister of Ireland John Lynch, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P. Romulo, and the Taiwanese Vice President Yen Chia-Kan. Prime Minister Lynch discussed the growing sectarian violence in Northern Ireland with President Nixon. The President and Secretary Romulo shared their thoughts on Philippine President Marco’s commitment to order and the feasibility of American-style democracy for countries in East Asia and Latin America, and Secretary Romulo reassured President Nixon that the United States’ efforts to normalize relations with the People’s Republic of China would not alienate American allies in East Asia. In a January 10 Oval Office conversation with H. R. Haldman and Rose Mary Wood, the President discussed former President Truman’s leadership, particularly his conduct of the Korean War and removal of General Douglas MacArthur.
The Death of President Lyndon Johnson
On January 22, 1973, former President Lyndon B. Johnson died, and a number of conversations address his death and arrangements for memorials.
Other Topics and Notable Participants
The tapes include many other noteworthy conversations. At the end of the month, Senator John C. Stennis was shot and wounded during a robbery in front of his home in Washington, DC, and the tapes capture the President’s response to the news. Several conversations also address the subject of affirmative action and hiring quotas, particularly at universities. Other notable topics include economic and tax policy, creating a “New Majority,” drug policy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation of the journalist Daniel Shorr, race relations, environmental policy, gun control, busing, John F. Kennedy’s leadership, a memorial fund for baseball legend Roberto Clemente, the purpose of the White House taping system, the earthquake in Nicaragua, broadcasting licensing and the development of cable television, defense research funding for universities, United States relations with Canada, the Washington Redskins, the President’s taste in classical music, the President’s opinion of American cities, and the President’s sixtieth birthday interview with journalists Helen Thomas and Fran Lewine in which he comments on the role of age in politics.
The tapes contain a number of conversations with notable individuals besides the ones already mentioned above. On February 1, President Nixon met with British Prime Minister Edward R. G. Heath, however, the audio quality of this conversation recorded in the Executive Office Building is very poor. On February 15, the President spoke with the comedian Bob Hope over the telephone, and the two of them discussed the end of the Vietnam War, the significance of the December 1972 bombing of North Vietnam, and Americans’ need for heroes like the returning prisoners of war. On February 21, the President talked to Reverend Billy Graham about a variety of topics including the President’s success in Vietnam, the Israeli shoot down of a civilian Libyan airliner, the forthcoming visit by Prime Minister Golda Meir, Jewish-Christian relations, anti-Semitism, American prisoners of war returning from Vietnam, the World Council of Churches, and Catholicism. Other notable individuals on these tapes included Republican National Committee Chairman (and future President) George H. W. Bush, House Minority Leader (and future President) Gerald R. Ford, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, journalist Barbara Walters, film director John Ford, professional golfer Arnold Palmer, conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra Eugene Ormandy, “Truck driver of the year” Curtis C. Stapp, and Washington Redskins football coach George Allen and his family.