Melvin Laird (1922 - 2016)

Melvin Laird, the defense secretary who oversaw the 1973 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, died Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, according to multiple news sources. Laird was 94.

Bob Williams, a friend and former campaign aide to Laird, confirmed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the former U.S. House member had died and said he had kept a clear mind and concern for the nation in his final days. He said Laird had been thinking in recent months about ways to ensure that either presidential candidate, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, picked a capable secretary of defense to oversee the nation's military.

“Oh my, yes, he took that so seriously because of the power you had and the power to influence the president," Williams said of the defense secretary job.

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Laird, who was born Sept. 1, 1922, was a U.S. congressman from Wisconsin from 1953 until 1969 until he was appointed secretary of defense under President Richard M. Nixon. He was instrumental in creating the administration’s policy of withdrawing soldiers from the Vietnam War.

Laird enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and he received a Purple Heart for his bravery in the Pacific theater.

He was the chairman of the House Republican Conference when Nixon tapped him to serve as secretary of defense. Laird did not believe in an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. He implemented a gradual disengagement of soldiers.

On Jan. 27, 1973, two days before Laird left office, negotiators signed a Vietnam settlement in Paris. They agreed to an in-place cease-fire to begin Jan. 28, 1973, along with the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces within 60 days.

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