National Archives and Records Administration

"I hereby resign the Office of President of the United States."
--Richard M. Nixon, August 9, 1974

During the night of June 17, 1972, five burglars broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. Investigation into the break-in exposed a trail of abuses that led to the highest levels of the Nixon administration and ultimately to the President himself. President Nixon resigned from office under threat of impeachment on August 9, 1974.

The break-in and the resignation form the boundaries of the events we know as the Watergate affair. For 2 years public revelations of wrongdoing inside the White House convulsed the nation in a series of confrontations that pitted the President against the media, executive agencies, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. The Watergate affair was a national trauma--a constitutional crisis that tested and affirmed the rule of law.

Security officer's log of the Watergate office building, showing entry for June 17, 1972
National Archives, Records of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force

During the early hours of June 17, 1972, Frank Wills was the security guard on duty at the Watergate Office Building. This log shows that at 1:47 a.m. he called the police, who arrested the five burglars inside the Democratic National Committee Headquarters. The burglars had evidence that linked them to the Committee to Re-Elect the President. You can see a close-up image of Wills's entry.

Richard M. Nixon's letter resigning the Presidency, August 9, 1974

You can see a high-resolution image of the resignation letter (35K JPEG).

On the morning of August 9, 1974, the day following President Nixon's televised resignation speech, White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig presented this letter to President Nixon to sign. The President's resignation letter is addressed to the Secretary of State, in keeping with a law passed by Congress in 1792. The letter became effective when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger initialed it at 11:35 a.m.
National Archives, General Records of the Department of State

Richard Nixon delivering the "V" sign upon his final departure from the White House, photograph by Robert L. Knudsen, August 9, 1974
National Archives,
Nixon Presidential Materials Project

National Archives records relating to the Watergate affair are in the Nixon Presidential Materials Project, Records of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, Records of District Courts of the United States, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Records of the U.S. Senate. The resignation letter of President Nixon is among the General Records of the Department of State.

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Last updated: March 1996