The publication Foreign Relations of the United States constitutes the official record of the foreign policy of the United States. The volumes in the series include, subject to necessary security considerations, all documents needed to give a comprehensive record of the major foreign policy decisions of the United States together with appropriate materials concerning the facts that contributed to the formulation of policies. Documents in the files of the Department of State are supplemented by papers from other government agencies involved in the formulation of foreign policy.
The basic documentary diplomatic record printed in the volumes of the series is edited by the Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, Department of State. The editing is guided by the principles of historical objectivity and in accordance with the following official guidance first promulgated by Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg on March 26, 1925:
There may be no alteration of the text, no deletions without indicating the place in the text where the deletion is made, and no omission of facts which were of major importance in reaching a decision. Nothing may be omitted for the purpose of concealing or glossing over what might be regarded by some as a defect of policy. However, certain omissions of documents are permissible for the following reasons:
- To avoid publication of matters that would tend to impede current diplomatic negotiations or other business.
- To condense the record and avoid repetition of needless details.
- To preserve the confidence reposed in the Department by individuals and by foreign governments.
- To avoid giving needless offense to other nationalities or individuals.
- To eliminate personal opinions presented in dispatches and not acted upon by the Department. To this consideration there is one qualification: in connection with major decisions it is desirable, where possible, to show the alternative presented to the Department before the decision was made.
Document selection for this volume proceeded on the basis of a research plan developed by the editors after a preliminary review of repositories in both governmental and private agencies. From the outset the editors also approached their research with the recognition of the need to supplement the written record of U.S. policy during the Vietnam war with interviews of officials who participated in the policy process. Early attention was also given to those oral history interviews of participants already in existence and available in various locations.
On the basis of their preliminary research and the review of already-published documentation, including the “Pentagon Papers” of 1971, the editors developed the following five major general areas of focus for the research and selection of documents for inclusion in this volume: 1) Discussion and formulation of policy in Washington; 2) Policy implementation; 3) Reports from the Embassy in Saigon; 4) U.S. military involvement in Vietnam; and 5) Intelligence activities.
Discussion and formulation of policy in Washington: President John F. Kennedy made the basic policy decisions on Vietnam, based on advice from the Washington foreign affairs community, either at meetings or in documents submitted to him. The records of these meetings with the President and advice provided to him in writing are at the center of this volume. The editors are confident that they have had complete access to all the Presidential records bearing on Vietnam policy. The primary source for these records is the John F. Kennedy Library. The records of the Department of State, to which the editors had the fullest access, include a large segment of Presidential and National Security Council documentation, but the Kennedy Library document holdings remain the single most comprehensive source. The papers of the Presidentʼs Military Representative, General Maxwell D. Taylor, at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. are also of unusual importance. Largely unduplicated at any other repository, the Taylor Papers provide a unique record of Taylorʼs advice to the President on Vietnam and records of some meetings both at the White House and at the Department of Defense for which there are no other accounts.
Policy implementation: The editors also selected documentation that covered the implementation of Presidentially established policy and involved a range of lesser policy decisions that did not reach the White House or were resolved at the Department of State or other agencies in the foreign affairs community. The files of the Department of State and the Kennedy Library are the primary documentary sources for these matters.[Page V]
Reports from the Embassy in Saigon: The editors selected a representative portion of telegrams from the Embassy in Saigon that reported on important meetings with Vietnamese leaders and furnished policy-makers in Washington with information on the impact of U.S. policy decisions and programs. The editors also included in this volume some of the more important telegraphic reports from the Embassy in Saigon on the Vietnamese attitude toward the United States and U.S. officials as well as on internal developments in Vietnam.
U.S. military involvement in Vietnam: The editors did not attempt to include in this volume any documentation on the U.S. military involvement in the war in Vietnam. They did, however, seek to include that portion of the official documentation that illustrated the main relationships between military planning and strategy and the conduct of U.S. diplomatic relations with Vietnam and other countries. The Taylor Papers are at the center of the editors’ selection of this documentation as are the files of the Secretary of Defense and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs at the Washington National Records Center of the National Archives and Records Administration. The Department of State was not a principal party in the military planning for Vietnam, and its files include no significant record of this part of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Intelligence activities: The editors sought to include in this volume a representative selection of major intelligence appraisals and estimates on the basis of which foreign policies were formulated. They did not make any effort to research any alleged covert operations conducted in Vietnam. Most of the intelligence documentation included in this volume was obtained from the files of the Department of State and the Kennedy Library. These documents and those furnished by the Central Intelligence Agency provided a wide range of intelligence-related information on Vietnam. The editors believe that they have satisfactorily documented the more significant aspects of the role of intelligence in the formulation and implementation of U.S. policy toward Vietnam.
In preparing this volume the editors emphasized the political and economic aspects of the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. They did not seek to document the full range of U.S. relations with Vietnam in the military, cultural, or informational spheres. The editors did take careful account of the documentation in the complete “Pentagon Papers”, both the published and unpublished volumes of documents on diplomatic relations. The editors have, in general, sought to avoid reprinting here documents already published in the “Pentagon Papers”.
The declassification review process for the documents prepared for this volume, outlined in more detail below, resulted in withholding from publication only an insignificant percentage of the original manuscript. [Page VI]No documents of major significance to the understanding of the policy discussions and decisions presented in the volume were withheld for security reasons. The editors of the volume are confident that the documents printed here provide a comprehensive and accurate foreign affairs record of United States involvement in the Vietnam war in 1962.
The editors wish to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the National Archives and Records Administration; the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, in particular Suzanne Forbes; the Department of Defense; and other specialized document repositories who assisted in collection of documents for this volume.
The documents are presented chronologically according to Washington time. Incoming telegrams from U.S. missions are placed according to the time of receipt in the Department of State, rather than the time of transmission; memoranda of conversations 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 Editor in Chief and the chief technical editor. The source text is reproduced as exactly as possible, including marginalia or other notations, which are described in footnotes. Obvious typographical errors are corrected, but other mistakes and omissions in the source text are corrected by bracketed insertions: a correction is set in italic type; an omission in roman type. Brackets are also used to indicate text that has been omitted by the compiler because it deals with an unrelated subject. Ellipses are inserted to replace material that remained classified after the declassification review process. Ellipses of three or four periods identify excisions of less than a paragraph; ellipses of seven periods spread across the page identify excisions of an entire paragraph or more. All ellipses and brackets that appear in the source text are so identified by footnotes.
The first footnote to each document indicates the documentʼs source, original classification, distribution, and drafting information. The source footnote also provides the background of important documents and policies and indicates if the President or Secretary of State read the document. Every effort has been made to determine if a document has been previously published and this information has been included in the source footnote.
Editorial notes and additional annotation summarize pertinent material not printed in this volume, indicate the location of additional documentary sources, provide references to important related documents printed in other volumes, describe key events, and provide [Page VII]summaries of and citations to public statements that supplement and elucidate the printed documents. Information derived from memoirs of participants and other first-hand accounts, available when this volume was originally compiled in 1983, has been used where possible to supplement the official record.
Declassification Review Procedures
Declassification review of the documents selected for publication was conducted by the Division of Historical Documents Review, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Department of State. The review was made in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, and the criteria established in Executive Order 12356 regarding:
- military plans, weapons, or operations;
- the vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, projects, or plans relating to the national security;
- foreign government information;
- intelligence activities (including special activities), or intelligence sources or methods;
- foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States;
- scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to national security
- U.S. Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities;
- cryptology; and
- a confidential source.
Declassification decisions entailed concurrence of the appropriate geographic and functional bureaus in the Department of State and of other concerned agencies of the U.S. Government, and communication with foreign governments regarding documents of those governments. The principle of declassification review is to release as much information as is consistent with contemporary requirements of national security and sound foreign relations; some documents originally selected and portions of documents presented have been withheld.
David M. Baehler and Charles S. Sampson compiled the volume under the supervision of Editor in Chief John P. Glennon. Suzanne E. Coffmann of the Historianʼs Office prepared the lists of sources, names, and abbreviation. Vicki E. Futscher and Althea W. Robinson of the Editing Division of the Historianʼs Office performed the technical editing under the supervision of Rita M. Baker. Barbara A. Bacon of the Publishing Services Division (Paul M. Washington, Chief) oversaw production of the volume. Max Franke prepared the index.
Bureau of Public Affairs