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Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume X, Vietnam, January 1973–July 1975


Preface

The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the official documentary historical record of major foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity of the United States Government. The Historian of the Department of State is charged with the responsibility for the preparation of the Foreign Relations series. The staff of the Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, under the direction of the General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, plans, researches, compiles, and edits the volumes in the series. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg first promulgated official regulations codifying specific standards for the selection and editing of documents for the series on March 26, 1925. These regulations, with minor modifications, guided the series through 1991.

Public Law 102–138, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, established a new statutory charter for the preparation of the series which was signed by President George H.W. Bush on October 28, 1991. Section 198 of P.L. 102–138 added a new Title IV to the Department of State’s Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 U.S.C. 4351, et seq.).

The statute requires that the Foreign Relations series be a thorough, accurate, and reliable record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity. The volumes of the series should include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation of major foreign policy decisions and actions of the United States Government. The statute also confirms the editing principles established by Secretary Kellogg: the Foreign Relations series is guided by the principles of historical objectivity and accuracy; records should not be altered or deletions made without indicating in the published text that a deletion has been made; the published record should omit no facts that were of major importance in reaching a decision; and nothing should be omitted for the purposes of concealing a defect in policy. The statute also requires that the Foreign Relations series be published not more than 30 years after the events recorded. This volume meets all regulatory, statutory, and scholarly standards of selection and editing.

Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. This specific volume covers U.S. policy towards Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from the signing of the Paris Peace Accords (January 1973) to the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh (April 1975). The final chapter covers the SS Mayaguez incident (May 1975).

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume X

This volume addresses the ending of the Vietnam war; a story central to the U.S. experience in the 20th century. Similar to other Foreign Relations volumes, this collection of documents emphasizes the formation of policy over day-to-day diplomacy. Several themes dominated U.S. policy and policy objectives in Indochina during this period: the relationship between force and diplomacy, the struggle between the President and Congress in the formation and implementation of U.S. policy, U.S. credibility in the world, and the limits of American power. These themes dictated the selection of documents in this volume. Soon after the fall of Saigon in April 1975, American officials in several agencies began looking back at U.S. policy toward and political and military actions in Vietnam in an effort to understand and learn from the American experience in Indochina beginning in the early 1960s. This volume places those analyses within the broader documentary context.

This volume concludes with documentation covering the May 1975 seizure by Cambodia of the SS Mayaguez and the successful recovery by U.S. forces of the ship and its crew. The documents cover the crisis deliberations in Washington among civilian and military officials that led to President Ford’s decision to use military force to recover the ship.

Editorial Methodology

The documents are presented chronologically according to Washington time. Memoranda of conversation are placed according to the time and date of the conversation, rather than the date the memorandum was drafted.

Editorial treatment of the documents published in the Foreign Relations series follows Office style guidelines, supplemented by guidance from the General Editor and the Chief of the Declassification and Publishing division. The documents are reproduced as exactly as possible, including marginalia or other notations, which are described in the footnotes. Texts are transcribed and printed according to accepted conventions for the publication of historical documents within the limitations of modern typography. A heading has been supplied by the editor for each document included in the volume. Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are retained as found in the original text, except that obvious typographical errors are silently corrected. Other mistakes and omissions in the documents are corrected by bracketed insertions: a correction is set in italic type; an addition in roman type. Words or phrases underlined in the source text are printed in italics. Abbreviations and contractions are preserved as found in the original text, and a list of abbreviations is included in the front matter of each volume.

Bracketed insertions are also used to indicate omitted text that deals with an unrelated subject (in roman type) or that remains classified after declassification review (in italic type). The amount and, where possible, the nature of the material not declassified has been noted by indicating the number of lines or pages of text that were omitted. Entire documents withheld for declassification purposes have been accounted for and are listed with headings, source notes, and number of pages not declassified in their chronological place. All brackets that appear in the original text are so identified in footnotes. All ellipses are in the original documents.

The first footnote to each document indicates the source of the document, original classification, distribution, and drafting information. This note also provides the background of important documents and policies and indicates whether the President or his major policy advisers read the document.

Editorial notes and additional annotation summarize pertinent material not printed in the volume, indicate the location of additional documentary sources, provide references to important related documents printed in other volumes, describe key events, and provide summaries of and citations to public statements that supplement and elucidate the printed documents. Information derived from memoirs and other first-hand accounts has been used when appropriate to supplement or explicate the official record.

The numbers in the index refer to document numbers rather than to page numbers.

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, established under the Foreign Relations statute, reviews records, advises, and makes recommendations concerning the Foreign Relations series. The Advisory Committee monitors the overall compilation and editorial process of the series and advises on all aspects of the preparation and declassification of the series. The Advisory Committee does not necessarily review the contents of individual volumes in the series, but it makes recommendations on issues that come to its attention and reviews volumes as it deems necessary to fulfill its advisory and statutory obligations.

Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act Review

Under the terms of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA) of 1974 (44 U.S.C. 2111 note), the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has custody of the Nixon Presidential historical materials. The requirements of the PRMPA and implementing regulations govern access to the Nixon Presidential historical materials. The PRMPA and implementing public access regulations require NARA to review for additional restrictions in order to ensure the protection of the privacy rights of former Nixon White House officials, since these officials were not given the opportunity to separate their personal materials from public papers. Thus, the PRMPA and implementing public access regulations require NARA formally to notify the Nixon Estate and former Nixon White House staff members that the agency is scheduling for public release Nixon White House historical materials. The Nixon Estate and former White House staff members have 30 days to contest the release of Nixon historical materials in which they were a participant or are mentioned. Further, the PRMPA and implementing regulations require NARA to segregate and return to the creator of files private and personal materials. All Foreign Relations volumes that include materials from NARA’s Nixon Presidential Materials Project are processed and released in accordance with the PRMPA.

Nixon White House Tapes

Access to the Nixon White House tape recordings is governed by the terms of the PRMPA and an access agreement with the Office of Presidential Libraries of the National Archives and Records Administration and the Nixon Estate. In February 1971, President Nixon initiated a voice activated taping system in the Oval Office of the White House and, subsequently, in the President’s Office in the Executive Office Building, Camp David, the Cabinet Room, and White House and Camp David telephones. The audiotapes include conversations of President Nixon with his Assistant for National Security Affairs, Henry Kissinger, other White House aides, Secretary of State Rogers, other Cabinet officers, members of Congress, and key foreign officials. The clarity of the voices on the tape recordings is often very poor, but the editor has made every effort to verify the accuracy of the transcripts produced here. Readers are advised that the tape recording is the official document; the transcript represents an interpretation of that document. Through the use of digital audio and other advances in technology, the Office of the Historian has been able to enhance the tape recordings and over time produce more accurate transcripts. The result is that some transcripts printed here may differ from transcripts of the same conversations printed in previous Foreign Relations volumes. The most accurate transcripts possible, however, cannot substitute for listening to the recordings. Readers are urged to consult the recordings themselves for a full appreciation of those aspects of the conversations that cannot be captured in a transcript, such as the speakers’ inflections and emphases that may convey nuances of meaning, as well as the larger context of the discussion.

Declassification Review

The Office of Information Programs and Services, Bureau of Administration, conducted the declassification review for the Department of State of the documents published in this volume. The review was conducted in accordance with the standards set forth in Executive Order 12958, as amended, on Classified National Security Information and applicable laws.

The principle guiding declassification review is to release all information, subject only to the current requirements of national security as embodied in law and regulation. Declassification decisions entailed concurrence of the appropriate geographic and functional bureaus in the Department of State, other concerned agencies of the U.S. Government, and the appropriate foreign governments regarding specific documents of those governments. The declassification review of this volume, which began in 2006 and was completed in 2009, resulted in the decision to withhold 1 document in full, excisions of a paragraph or more in 9 documents, and minor excisions of less than a paragraph in 7 documents.

The Office of the Historian is confident, on the basis of the research conducted in preparing this volume and as a result of the declassification review process described above, that the record presented in this volume presented here provides an accurate and comprehensive account of the United States foreign policy towards Vietnam.

Acknowledgments

The editor wishes to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project of the National Archives and Records Administration (Archives II), at College Park, Maryland. The Richard Nixon Estate allowed access to the Nixon recordings; the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace facilitated research. The Gerald Ford Library, Central Intelligence Agency, and National Security Council provided full access to their records. Henry Kissinger granted the editor permission to employ the Kissinger Papers at the Library of Congress, including transcripts of telephone conversations. John Haynes of the Library of Congress expedited work with the Henry Kissinger Papers. Finally, Sandy Meagher helped with Department of Defense files.

Bradley Lynn Coleman collected, organized, and annotated the documents under the supervision of Edward C. Keefer, former General Editor of the series, and Erin Mahan, former Chief of the Asia, General, and Africa Division. John M. Carland contributed to the preface. Dean Weatherhead coordinated the declassification review under the direction of Susan C. Weetman, Chief of the Declassification and Publishing Division. Mandy A. Chalou did the copy and technical editing. Do Mi Stauber prepared the index.

Ambassador Edward Brynn
Acting Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
September 2010