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. The editors are convinced that 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 the administrations of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. This volume documents U.S. policy towards the war in Vietnam, Laos, [Page IV] and Cambodia from July 1970 to January 1972. It is the second of five volumes covering the Vietnam war under Presidents Nixon and Ford, 1969–1975.

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

During the period covered by this volume, July 1970–January 1972, the Nixon administration expanded the Vietnam war into Cambodia and Laos as part of its strategy. This volume covers South Vietnam in the context of this larger war in Southeast Asia. The volume begins in July 1970 in the aftermath of the Cambodian incursion. At the time, a variety of topics dominated the policy discussions of President Nixon and his principal advisers—Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger and his NSC Staff; Kissinger’s Deputy, Brigadier General Alexander M. Haig; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer; Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker in Saigon; Commander of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, General Creighton Abrams; Ambassador G. McMurtie Godley in Vientiane; Ambassador Emory C. Swank in Phnom Penh; and chief Paris Peace Talks negotiator, David K.E. Bruce. Among these topics were U.S. troop withdrawals, Vietnamization, negotiations in Paris (both the public plenary sessions and the secret talks between Kissinger and North Vietnamese Politburo member, Le Duc Tho), and possible South Vietnamese operations in Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam.

Throughout the rest of 1970 these themes moved forward on separate paths that occasionally intersected with one another. South Vietnamese operations, first in Cambodia and then in Laos, were seen in policy terms as providing South Vietnam additional time to develop a more effective military, to generate economic growth, and to achieve some degree of political stability. The operations were also to demonstrate the success of Vietnamization and justify the continuing withdrawal of U.S. troops.

In late 1970 and early 1971, the focus shifted to decision making regarding plans to implement a major South Vietnamese out-of-country operation called Lam Son 719. The strategic purpose of the operation was to halt or slow the flow of military supplies to Communist forces in South Vietnam via the panhandle of Laos. At the same time, it would demonstrate the growing military prowess of the South Vietnamese Army.

On the negotiating front, Kissinger continued in 1970 and throughout 1971 to meet periodically in Paris with Le Duc Tho and other senior Vietnamese Communist functionaries, but made no progress. At the same time, representatives of both sides also met publicly in the [Page V] plenary meetings. Each side used the public Paris meetings to exchange carefully calibrated propaganda, making the meetings, if possible, less productive than the secret talks. The volume focuses on the KissingerLe Duc Tho talks with only occasional documentary coverage of the public talks.

This volume also documents President Nixon’s penchant for secret operations and covert warfare: his continued support for secret bombing campaigns in Cambodia and Laos, and his approval of the November 1971 Son Tay raid into North Vietnam to rescue American prisoners of war. Nixon also signed off on new and continuing information gathering initiatives and propaganda that supported intelligence operations against Communist forces, organizations, and governments in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Additionally, he approved clandestine support for South Vietnamese political entities friendly to the United States. These operations are documented in some detail to demonstrate the role of covert actions in support of overt political and military operations.

In the waning months of the period covered by this volume, deadlock had set in. Neither side appeared able to win militarily, or even to weaken his adversary sufficiently to make him negotiate in good faith. There were signs, however, that Hanoi might be preparing to mount a major military effort in 1972. Its purpose would be to breakthrough this impasse without having to travel a diplomatic path. The volume concludes at this point.

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. 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 editors 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 originals are printed in italics. Abbreviations and contractions are preserved as found in the [Page VI] 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 Historical 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 Historical 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 [Page VII] 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 to formally 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 clarify 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.

[Page VIII]

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 2010, resulted in the decision to excise a paragraph or more in 1 document and make minor excisions of less than a paragraph in 11 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 documentation and editorial notes presented here provide an accurate and comprehensive account of the Nixon administration’s Vietnam War policy from July 1970 to January 1972.


The editors wish 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. Additionally, the editors are grateful to the Richard Nixon Estate for allowing access to the Nixon presidential recordings and the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace for facilitating that access. Furthermore, the editors are also grateful to Michael Johnson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for making research in the diary of Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs, 1970–1974, while it was still at the Pentagon, convenient and productive. The Diary has since moved to the National Archives. Special thanks are due to James Van Hook, formerly Joint State-CIA Historian, who was extremely helpful in arranging full access to the files of the Central Intelligence Agency. John Haynes of the Library of Congress was responsible for expediting access to the Kissinger Papers, including the transcripts of Henry Kissinger’s telephone conversations. The editors were able to use the Kissinger Papers, including the transcripts of telephone conversations, with the kind permission of Henry Kissinger. The editors would like to also [Page IX] thank Sandy Meagher for her valuable assistance in expediting the use of files of the Department of Defense.

David Goldman and Erin Mahan collected the documents for this volume. Goldman made most of the initial selections and annotations, while Mahan carried out additional research, and made final selections and annotations. Mahan did the initial review of the volume and Edward C. Keefer, former General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, did the final review. John M. Carland drafted the front matter and provided an additional reading of the volume. Chris Tudda and Susan C. Weetman, Chief of the Declassification and Publishing Division, coordinated the declassification review. Renée Goings did the copy and technical editing. Juniee Oneida prepared the index.

Ambassador Edward Brynn
Acting Historian

Bureau of Public Affairs

September 2010