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Watergate Chronology – 1968-72

The chronology of the Watergate scandal can be confusing.

The story of Watergate has an intriguing historical and political background, arising out of political events of the 1960s such as Vietnam, and the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

But the chronology of the scandal really begins during 1972, following the break-in at the Watergate Hotel.

By 1973, Nixon had been re-elected, but the storm clouds were building. By early 1974, the nation was consumed by Watergate. In August, Nixon resigned.


August 08, 1968: Richard Milhous Nixon accepts the Republican Party nomination for president at the party’s convention in Miami Beach, Florida.

November 05, 1968: Nixon, the 55-year-old former vice president who lost the presidency for the Republicans in 1960, reclaims it by defeating Hubert Humphrey in one of the closest elections in U.S. history.


January 20, 1969: Nixon was sworn in as the 37th President of the United States.

July 20, 1969: Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men to land on the moon, an initiative first proposed by President Kennedy.

November 30, 1969: Nixon delivers his Silent Majority speech, an address to the nation on the Vietnam War.


January 22, 1970: President Nixon delivers his first State of the Union Address before a joint session of the Congress.

July 23, 1970: Nixon approves a plan for greatly expanding domestic intelligence-gathering by the FBI, CIA and other agencies. He has second thoughts a few days later and rescinds his approval.


June 13, 1971: The New York Times begins publishing the Pentagon Papers — the Defense Department’s secret history of the Vietnam War. The Washington Post begins publishing the papers later in the week.

September 09, 1971: The White House “plumbers” unit – named for their orders to plug leaks in the administration – burglarizes a psychiatrist’s office to find files on Daniel Ellsberg, the former defense analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers.


May 28, 1972: Bugging equipment is installed at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington DC. It transpires later that this is not the first Watergate burglary.

June 17, 1972: Five burglars are arrested at 2.30am during a break-in at the Watergate hotel and office complex: Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, James W. McCord and Frank Sturgis. James W. McCord is the security director for the Committee for the Re-election of the President (CREEP).

June 19, 1972: A GOP security aide is among the Watergate burglars, The Washington Post reports. Former attorney general John Mitchell, head of the Nixon reelection campaign, denies any link to the operation.

June 23, 1972: President Nixon has a conversation with his Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman. Two years later, the tape of the conversation is released, following an order by the Supreme Court. The Smoking Gun tape reveals that Nixon ordered the FBI to abandon its investigation of the Watergate break-in.

August 01, 1972: A $25,000 cashier’s check, apparently earmarked for the Nixon campaign, wound up in the bank account of a Watergate burglar, according to a report in the Washington Post.

August 30, 1972: Nixon claimed that White House counsel John Dean had conducted an investigation into the Watergate matter and found that no-one from the White House was involved.

September 15, 1972: The first indictments in Watergate are made against the burglars: James W. McCord, Frank Sturgis, Bernard Barker, Eugenio Martinez and Virgilio Gonzalez. Indictments are also made against E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy.

September 29, 1972: The Washington Post reports that John Mitchell, while serving as Attorney-General, controlled a secret Republican fund used to finance widespread intelligence-gathering operations against the Democrats.

October 10, 1972: FBI agents establish that the Watergate break-in stems from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of the Nixon reelection effort, according to a report in The Washington Post.

November 07, 1972: Nixon is re-elected in one of the largest landslides in American political history, taking more than 60 percent of the vote and crushing the Democratic nominee, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota.

November 22, 1972: Walter Cronkite devoted 15 minutes to Watergate on the CBS Evening News. The scandal becomes a mainstream media issue.
Malcolm Farnsworth
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