On 5 November 1968, Richard Milhous Nixon beat Hubert Humphrey in the US general election to secure his Republican nomination for the 37th President of the United States.
For the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon’s appointment as president would usher in a new era of Vietnamisation. Under this policy, it was understood that the Nixon administration would begin a period of expanding, equipping and training Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops and assigning to them ever-increasing combat roles, while at the same time steadily reducing the number of US combat troops – army, navy and airforce alike.
Nixon envisaged two parts to the Vietnamisation policy. First was strengthening the armed force of the South Vietnamese in numbers, equipment, leadership and combat skills. Second was the extension of the pacification program to provide military aid to the civilians of South Vietnam.
Vietnamisation was part of Nixon’s overall Détente foreign policy. In it, the US no longer regarded the containment of communism as its fundamental foreign policy strategy. Instead, Nixon’s administration would work towards a new world order, in which advisors were focused on the broader network of world powers. Under this new plan, Nixon opened up diplomatic negotiations with the Soviet Union and China. Nixon regarded US relations with the Soviet Union and China as more important than relations with South Vietnam. On 2 December 1968, Henry Kissinger was appointed as National Security Advisor and worked closely with developing relations between the US and the Soviet Union and China.
Nevertheless, by the end of the year, American troop strength in Vietnam reached a new high of 540,000 combat troops from the Army, Navy and Airforce. In the coming years, American troop strength in Vietnam would decrease alongside constantly renewed and increased efforts to bomb People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) positions in North Vietnam.