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 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. The editor is 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 one of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that document the most important issues in the foreign policy of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. The subseries presents a comprehensive documentary record of major foreign policy decisions and actions of both Presidents. This specific volume documents U.S. policy toward the war in Vietnam from January 20 to October 7, 1972.

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The Easter Offensive, and its ramifications, represents the most significant event in Indochina for U.S. policy in this period, and documentary coverage of the event dominates the volume, concentrating mainly on what happened in North and South Vietnam, policy formulation and decision making in Washington, and the negotiations in Paris. Only a very small number of documents relate to events and policy in Laos and Cambodia, and then only as they relate to events and policy in Vietnam.

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

Documents in this volume examine the link between force and diplomacy in U.S. national security policy toward the Vietnam war. In the period the volume covers, force drove diplomacy. Only by recognizing this can the process by which America’s Vietnam war policy was formulated and implemented be fully understood. Controlling the process was a small circle of men, led by President Richard M. Nixon, and which included the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, Henry A. Kissinger; the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs, Major General Alexander M. Haig; and a few National Security Council officials trusted by Kissinger. The themes and subthemes that provided the focus of the research and the principles of selection for this volume are as follows.

When Nixon became President in 1969, a war-weary and increasingly disillusioned U.S. Government began to question its long involvement in the Vietnam war and, consequently, its objective of creating a stable, independent, non-Communist South Vietnam. Upon taking office, Nixon declared he would continue the U.S. commitment to secure “peace with honor” but would do so differently than his predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson. That is, while preparing the South Vietnamese to take over the fighting and gradually turning the ground war over to them (a policy Nixon called Vietnamization), he would also withdraw U.S. troops and continue providing military advice and support to South Vietnam. A negotiated settlement was also a critical objective of Nixon’s. In his view, to simply leave South Vietnam, as many critics demanded, would destroy American credibility around the world. He therefore authorized Kissinger to initiate secret negotiations with North Vietnam in Paris to find a way out of the war as well as to safeguard South Vietnam’s independence.

By early 1972, Nixon’s approach had not succeeded. To be sure, he had withdrawn most American ground forces from the South and turned over the fighting to the South Vietnamese. However, military and diplomatic stalemate persisted. A powerful anti-war movement in the United States placed additional pressure on him to disengage. As a result, America’s broad purpose gave way during 1972 to narrow objectives: [Page V] extricating the United States from the war without seeming to abandon South Vietnam; freeing American prisoners of war captive in North Vietnam, mostly airmen whose aircraft had been shot down while conducting missions over the North; and supplying South Vietnam the wherewithal to maintain a strong military establishment.

Meanwhile, believing that time was on their side, North Vietnam’s leaders refused to negotiate seriously. Indeed, on March 30, 1972, they attempted to bypass negotiations altogether with a full-scale invasion of the South. Called the Easter Offensive by the United States, the invasion initially almost overwhelmed the South. By late spring, however, Nixon’s decision to mine North Vietnam’s harbors and the massive application of American air power against infrastructure targets in the North and operational ones in the South, plus the tenacious defense of South Vietnam by its own armed forces, had blunted the offensive.

As a result, the North Vietnamese began to signal that they were ready to negotiate. After increasingly amiable sessions in Paris in July, August, and September, they seemed on the cusp of making what Kissinger considered breakthrough concessions. That is, they were prepared to agree to a cease-fire and a settlement that separated military and political issues. What this meant was that they no longer linked readiness to negotiate an American withdrawal with a demand that the Americans support the removal from office of their chief ally, Nguyen Van Thieu, President of the Republic of Vietnam, and to dismantle Thieu’s government. Additionally, the nature of South Vietnam’s political future would be determined by the Vietnamese parties themselves.

The reason for this change was that the Communists had become convinced by American air power, especially the B–52 bombing against Hanoi and the port city of Haiphong, that they could not win if the United States remained in the war. Thus the Hanoi leadership consciously decided to make concessions along the above lines to persuade the Americans to depart. At the same time, the North Vietnamese would not agree to withdraw their troops in the South. They would serve as the basis for future Communist military activity against South Vietnam.

President Thieu believed America’s continued presence and commitment were critical to his country’s survival and for these reasons argued against a settlement. Despite strong signs that Thieu might act to disrupt such a settlement, Kissinger looked forward to the next round of negotiations, beginning in Paris on October 8, believing that the talks would produce an agreement that the United States could live with and one that he was confident he could sell to the South Vietnamese.

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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 technical 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 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 original 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 the 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 this and 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 [Page VII] 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 USC 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 [Page VIII] 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 2010, resulted in the decision to excise a paragraph or more in 3 documents and make minor excisions of less than a paragraph in 20 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 [Page IX] volume provides an accurate and comprehensive account of the U.S. policy toward Vietnam.


The editor wishes to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project of the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland (Archives II). He also wishes to acknowledge the Richard Nixon Estate for allowing access to the Nixon Presidential recordings and the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace for facilitating that access. Thanks are due to members of the History Staff of the Center for the Study of Intelligence in the Central Intelligence Agency, who helped to arrange access to the files of that agency, and to James Van Hook, the former Joint CIA–State Historian, who was an able guide through a murky finding aid. John Haynes of the Library of Congress was responsible for expediting access to the Kissinger Papers. The editor was able to use the Kissinger Papers, including the transcripts of telephone conversations, with the kind permission of Dr. Henry A. Kissinger. The editor would like to also thank Sandy Meagher, for her valuable assistance in expediting the use of Department of Defense files, and Michael Johnson, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for making research in the Moorer Diary, while it was still at the Pentagon, convenient and productive under difficult circumstances. Finally, the editor wishes to express his appreciation to Craig Daigle, Richard Moss, and Edmond Pechaty for their work in transforming the often technically imperfect Nixon tape recordings into useful transcripts. They toiled long, hard, and well to produce readable transcripts that substantially enhance the value of this volume.

John M. Carland collected the documents, made the selections, and annotated the documents, under the supervision of Edward C. Keefer, General Editor of the series, and Erin Mahan, Chief of the Asia, General, and Africa Division. Chris Tudda coordinated the declassification review, under the supervision of Susan C. Weetman, Chief of the Declassification and Publishing Division. Keri Lewis and Aaron W. Marrs did the copy and technical editing. Do Mi Stauber prepared the index.

Bureau of Public Affairs
June 2010

Ambassador Edward Brynn
Acting Historian