Haiphong is the major port and third largest city in North Vietnam. The majority of North Vietnam’s imports arrive through the port of Haiphong, which is connected by railroad with Hanoi. During the Vietnam War, Haiphong was a major supply depot and was heavily bombed from 1965 until 1968, when bombing was curtailed by President Johnson. During the attacks, much of the population was evacuated and the industry dispersed.
In 1972, the Nixon administration kindled a major controversy when the president ordered the renewal of bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong (April 16) and the mining of Haiphong Harbor as well as other harbors and inland waterways in North Vietnam (May 9). In addition, U.S. naval forces increased raids against coastal installations and put into effect a naval blockade of the North Vietnamese coastline. In a televised speech to the nation on May 8, 1972, Nixon defended his escalation of the air and sea war as crucial to cut off the flow of supplies to North Vietnamese troops fighting in the South and to protect the lives of American forces still in Vietnam. Also, Nixon contended that the raids and the mining’s were calculated to pressure the North Vietnamese government into resuming critical negotiations to achieve peace in Vietnam.
In Congress, most Republican conservatives defended the president’s actions, but moderate Republicans joined with the Democratic majority’s disapproval of the escalation. Resolutions were introduced to end all U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Across the United States, Nixon’s actions revived the quiescent antiwar movement, and protest demonstrations were renewed.