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, plans, researches, compiles, and edits the volumes in the series. Official regulations codifying specific standards for the selection and editing of documents for the series were first promulgated by Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg on March 26, 1925. These regulations, with minor modifications, guided the series through 1991.
A new statutory charter for the preparation of the series was established by Public Law 102–138, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993, which was signed by President George 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 USC 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.
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 the 5 years (1964–1968) of the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. The subseries presents in 34 volumes a documentary record of major foreign policy decisions and actions of President Johnson’s administration. This volume documents U.S. policy toward Vietnam [Page IV] from January to August 1968. Volumes I–V cover Vietnam from 1964 through 1967; volume VII will cover September 1968 through January 1969.
Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, Volume VI
The editor of the volume sought to present documentation that explained and illuminated the major foreign policy decisions on Vietnam of the President, as counseled by his key foreign policy advisers. The documents include memoranda and records of discussions that set forth policy issues and options and show decisions or actions taken. The emphasis is on the development of U.S. policy and on major aspects and repercussions of its execution rather than on the details of policy execution.
President Lyndon Johnson relied upon his principal foreign policy advisers, Secretary of State Rusk, Secretary of Defense McNamara (and his successor Secretary of Defense Clifford), Assistant to the President Rostow, and many other official and unofficial advisers for counsel and recommendations on Vietnam policy. Because the editor’s primary focus was on the policy process of recommendation, discussion, and then final decision by the President, the locus of the volume is Washington, but it also covers events and developments in South Vietnam, as they affected the policy process.
The volume contains a number of major themes. Of primary importance to President Johnson was his and the Department of State’s continuing efforts to find a negotiated end to the war. The volume covers U.S. diplomatic contacts with Romania, Norway, and the Vatican to explore possible negotiation formulas with Hanoi in the hopes that they would lead to formal peace negotiations. Also covered are continued tentative prisoner of war contacts with the National Liberation Front in the hopes that they might lead to a separate political settlement. These diplomatic efforts were overshadowed by another major theme of the volume, the Tet Offensive and the resulting policy debate in Washington on whether to raise the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam. This debate led to a broader reassessment of U.S. policy in Vietnam, which culminated in the President’s order for a partial bombing halt of North Vietnam, his decision not to run for reelection, and an announcement of U.S. willingness to meet anywhere to negotiate peace. The search for a venue for the talks and attempts by advisers to convince the President to institute a full bombing halt comprise the final focus of the volume. Two other themes are evident in the volume, yet they are captured in only a few documents: the growing anti-war movement in the United States and the upcoming presidential elections of 1968. These two events affected discussions within the Johnson administration.[Page V]
The documents are presented chronologically according to Washington time or, in the case of conferences, in the order of individual meetings. 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 technical editor. The source text is 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 in the limitations of modern typography. A heading has been supplied by the editors for each document included in the volume. Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are retained as found in the source text, except that obvious typographical errors are silently corrected. Other mistakes and omissions in the source text 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 source 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 of material not declassified has been noted by indicating the number of lines or pages of source text that were omitted. Entire documents withheld for declassification purposes have been accounted for and are listed by headings, source notes, and number of pages not declassified in their chronological place. All brackets that appear in the source text are so identified by footnotes.
The first footnote to each document indicates its source, 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.[Page VI]
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 attempt to review the contents of individual volumes in the series, but it makes recommendations on problems that come to its attention.
The Advisory Committee has not reviewed this volume.
The Information Response Branch of the Office of IRM Programs and Services, Bureau of Administration, Department of State, conducted the declassification review of the documents published in this volume. The review was conducted in accordance with the standards set forth in Executive Order 12958 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 final declassification review of this volume, which began in 1999 and was completed in 2002, resulted in the decision to withhold about one-tenth of 1 percent of the documentation proposed for publication; no documents were withheld in full. The information was excised to protect intelligence sources and methods, in keeping with requirements of Executive Order 12958. The issue of covert funding for a grass-roots political party to support South Vietnam President Nguyen Van Thieu was appealed successfully to a High-Level Panel consisting of senior representatives from the Department of State, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency. The panel, established in 1998, determines whether or not the Foreign Relations series can acknowledge a covert activity or other intelligence activity and provides general guidelines for declassification review. The Panel arrived at a determination that resulted in the release of the relevant documentation, with some excisions. The editor is confident, on [Page VII] the basis of the research conducted in preparing this volume and as a result of the declassification review process described above, that the documentation and editorial notes presented here provide an accurate account of U.S. policy toward Vietnam from January through August 1968.
The editor wishes to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library of the National Archives and Records Administration, especially Regina Greenwell, and Charlaine Burgess, who provided key research assistance. The editor also wishes to acknowledge the assistance of historians at the Central Intelligence Agency, the staff of the Center for Military History, Sandra Meagher at the Department of Defense, and David Phelps at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the staff of the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, for their valuable assistance in expediting research of this volume.
Kent Sieg collected documentation for this volume and selected and edited it, under the supervision of Edward C. Keefer, Chief of the Asia and Americas Division, and David S. Patterson, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. Rita M. Baker and Vicki E. Futscher did the copy and technical editing, and Susan C. Weetman coordinated the declassification review. Max Franke prepared the index.
Bureau of Public Affairs