On June 17, 1972, five men, all speaking Spanish, wearing dark glasses and surgical gloves were caught breaking into the Democratic National Party headquarters in the Watergate office complex along the Potomac River in downtown Washington, D.C. The break-in, derided as a "third-rate burglary" by White House officials, triggered an investigation, cover-up and impeachment proceedings that would force President Richard Nixon to resign and forever change The Washington Post and Ben Bradlee.
Two Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, emerged as the most public and consistent investigators into the break-in. Their reporting, aided by others at the paper and fueled by competition with The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, soon tied the crisp new $100 bills found on the burglars to the Committee to Re-elect the President.
Only 48 hours after the break-in, President Nixon told his chief of staff Bob Haldeman to tell the CIA, "They should call the FBI and say that we wish for the country 'Don't go any further into this case. Period.'" A tape of that conversation would emerge nearly two years later, after Woodward and Bernstein helped spur more than two dozen impeachment inquiry resolutions in the House and became stars doing it.
The Nixon tapes came to light only after the administration lost a legal appeal to keep them hidden. On Aug. 9, 1974, facing an impending impeachment vote in the House, Nixon resigned.
Throughout their reporting, Woodstein, as Bradlee started calling the duo, were aided by an anonymous source known as "Deep Throat." This source helped guide their coverage, urging them to focus on the money trail from the burglars to the Committee to Re-elect the President to the White House and into the administration's ornate dirty tricks campaign. The source would remain anonymous for more than 30 years until Mark Felt, the No. 2 man at the FBI, admitted to his role as the source in a June 2005 Vanity Fair article.
The paper earned the 1973 Pulitzer Prize and many other awards for its investigation. Woodward and Bernstein's book "All the President's Men" was made into a film starring Robert Redford, which turned the reporters and their editor into stars and forever tied The Washington Post to the story of Watergate.