The end was approaching faster than expected.

The end was approaching faster than expected.
The end was approaching faster than expected.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – NBC News – March 18, 1975 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

Drawing comparisons to the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, news for this March 18th, 40 years ago was about widespread panic and escape from the Central Highlands of South Vietnam.

Some quarter-million civilians and South Vietnamese troops, who threw away their uniforms to avoid capture by North Vietnamese, jammed roads and highways heading south in the wake of a decision of the Thieu government to abandon those provinces to on-coming North Vietnamese and Vietcong.

Called a “tactical withdrawal” by government sources, the action caused panic among the civilian population and a heightened state of anxiety to the people of Saigon. President Thieu called the tactical withdrawal necessary in order for South Vietnamese troops to concentrate on defending more densely populated areas, since the Central Highlands were less populated.

At last report, Vietnamese and Vietcong troops were some 50 miles outside of Saigon and had cut nearly all the main highways leading to the Capitol. The picture was looking bleaker by the hour.

Rebels in Cambodia were increasing their shelling of Phnom Phen, with government troops engaged in heavy fighting on this, the fifth anniversary of the ouster of Prince Norodom Sihanouk and the installation of the government of Marshall Lon Nol. Nearly all of Cambodia was in the hands of rebel forces.

The subject of Cambodia prompted discussion on Capitol Hill where support for the country wasn’t slated to continue past June of 1975. President Ford and several Congressional Republicans argued against a cut-off. But Democrats saw Cambodia as a lost cause and commitment of further military aid and assistance would be pointless. President Ford also argued for a $300 million aid package to Saigon, saying the current situation was due to lack of fuel and ammunition for South Vietnamese troops. Arguing the thread-bare Domino Theory, Ford got little support from the Senate who said “enough was enough”.

Reverend Billy Graham reported that former President Richard Nixon had “found religion” during, what Graham termed President Nixon’s time of disappointment and illness. The revelation was made during a two-hour prayer and discussion meeting between Graham and Nixon at San Clemente earlier in the month. Graham went on to add that the word Watergate was never mentioned once.

And Aristotle Onassis, Greek Shipping magnate and former husband to Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis and father to Christina Onassis was buried on this day on the island of Skorpios.

All that, and a lot more for this March 18th in 1975 as reported by NBC News.

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