December 18, 1972, after peace talks had broken down President Nixon started a massive bombing campaign over north Vietnam. These bombings came to be known as the Christmas Bombings. They continued until the 29th of December at which time the North Vietnamese agreed to resume negotiations.
Also, in 1972, President Nixon mined Haiphong Harbor and other waterway inlets in order to interdict the flow of supplies from Russia to the North Vietnamese troops who were fighting in the South.
One of the famous landmarks of Hanoi and touted as the best hotel in the city is the Sofitel Metropole. At the risk of sounding like a shill for this grand hotel, its historical backdrop during the Christmas bombings has become an important symbol in large part due to a Life Magazine front page layout of the manhole bomb shelters running the length of its eastern facade. Jane Fonda took up residence here in June of 1972 during her infamous trip to Hanoi, and Joan Baez traveled with an American peace delegation the same year in December to the hotel only to find herself trapped in the Christmas bombings. “Where Are You Now, My Son?” was partially recorded by Joan in the bomb shelter during one of the night bombings. The song is played in the Hotel’s bomb shelter as a feature of the free tour.
Three and one-half hours (by car) to the east of Hanoi and consisting of thousands of islands jutting out from the Gulf of Tonkin waters is Halong Bay. Its breathtaking beauty will belie its historical struggles. These limestone islets provide a serene ambiance and majesty in which to aimlessly navigate preferably on an old Chinese styled Junk.
However, as the entrance to Haiphong Harbor located west of Halong Bay, its 1972 mining represented an important pressure-lynchpin in breaking the will of a recalcitrant north at the Paris peace talks. Mindful that the ground fighting took place south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and never in the North–the Americans in conjunction with the South Vietnamese Army fought a war of attrition. Kill as many NVA (North Vietnamese Army) and VC (Viet Cong) until they cry Uncle. In contrast, the NVA invaded the south consistently with personnel and supplies (Via the Ho Chi Minh Trail) and with its Southern Vietnamese Nationals they took the fight to the South with the intention of reuniting the entire country.
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